(Bloomberg) — Pfizer Inc. and partner BioNTech SE agreed to double the supply of their Covid-19 vaccine to the U.S., as the pandemic continues to wreak havoc in many nations. The U.S. government agreed to pay Merck & Co. $356 million for tens of thousands of doses of an experimental treatment.
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson imposed tougher regulations across a swath of England in an effort to rein in the mutant strain of coronavirus that’s spreading quickly across the country. Germany’s coronavirus deaths rose by 986, the most since the start of the pandemic.
South Korea and the Philippines moved to temporarily suspend U.K. flights, while Japan is strengthening entry regulations for people traveling from Britain. Air travel from Britain to France resumed after a two-day halt, although with eligibility restrictions and a virus testing requirement. Italy uncovered the new Covid-19 strain in an infected person, with no apparent links to the U.K.
One Severe Allergic Reaction Reported in NYC (12:05 p.m. NY)
One of the more than 30,000 New York City health-care workers who have received the Covid-19 vaccine so far has had a severe adverse reaction.
City Health Commissioner Dave Chokshi declined to identify the worker, who he said was treated for anaphylaxis after getting the Pfizer shot, and is in stable condition.
The reaction was a unique but serious “adverse event with a health-care worker, who had a significant reaction,” Chokshi said. Such reactions are uncommon in vaccines, which are very safe overall, he said Wednesday at a press briefing.
“For the vast number of New Yorkers who have allergies, the Covid vaccine will be safe for you,” Chokshi said. “If you have had an allergic reaction to a vaccine or any medicine you took by injection, it’s important for you to have a conversation with your doctor before you get vaccinated.”
Jay Varma, de Blasio’s health adviser, said small risks have to be balanced against the risks of infection, which include deaths and long-term complications.
U.K. Reports Record Number of Cases (11:30 a.m. NY)
The U.K. reported the most new cases of the coronavirus since the pandemic began as it sent more areas of the country into its toughest level of virus restrictions
Nearly 40,000 new cases of the virus were reported on Wednesday, and 744 new deaths were reported within 28 days of a positive test, the highest since the end of April.
“The rapid rise in cases is hugely worrying,” Yvonne Doyle, medical director at Public Health England, said in a emailed statement, warning that each new case is a someone who could become seriously unwell.
Earlier on Wednesday the U.K. government said more areas of England will enter its tier 4 virus restrictions, and said it had found new cases of a second type of a more infectious Covid-19 strain.
NYC Enforces Quarantine on Arrivals (11:05 a.m. NY)
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city will strictly enforce quarantine rules for all travelers arriving in the city during the holidays, particularly those from the U.K., where a highly contagious new Covid-19 strain has been detected.
All visitors arriving at New York City’s airports will fill out forms that will be forwarded to the state. Every traveler also will receive a city health department order to quarantine via certified mail to their home or hotel. All travelers from the U.K. will have sheriff deputies visiting their homes and hotels, he said. Visitors may avoid extended quarantine by getting tested before they travel and after they arrive, he said.
Travelers ordered to quarantine will be offered support services including free hotel stays and food delivery, if necessary. Violators will be subject to $1,000 fines per day, the mayor said. Motorists coming into the city will also be checked. About 10,000 car-stops have already been made in recent weeks. Those checks will be conducted more intensively over the holidays, the mayor said.
“If you violate the quarantine you are endangering everyone in the city,” de Blasio said. “We will collect those penalties.”
Moderna Shot Approved in Canada (10:40 a.m. NY)
Canada’s public health authorities approved Moderna Inc.’s coronavirus vaccine, the second shot to be licensed in a country that’s secured more doses per person than any other around the world.
Approval of the Moderna shot will allow Canada to expand its vaccination campaign beyond initial inoculation sites in urban centers. Northern regions have specifically requested doses from the Massachusetts-based company due to less-cumbersome refrigeration requirements.
NYC Records Most Hospitalizations Since May (10:35 a.m. NY)
New York City is seeing the biggest surge in Covid-related hospitalizations since May.
The number of people admitted on Monday jumped to 224, above the city’s early-warning marker of 200, from 196 the prior day. The city’s seven-day average hospitalization rate also is climbing, to 3.19 per 100,000.
During the height of the outbreak earlier this year, New York had an average of 13 new admissions per 100,000 a day and more than 12,000 hospitalized at one time. As of Monday, about 2,200 were in city hospitals for Covid illness.
Merck in $356M Deal With U.S. for Therapy (10:30 a.m. NY)
The U.S. government agreed to pay Merck & Co. $356 million for tens of thousands of doses of an experimental treatment for severe Covid-19, adding to its arsenal of potential therapies at the same time that a mass immunization effort is getting underway.
Under the deal, Operation Warp Speed, the U.S. accelerator for coronavirus therapeutics and vaccines, will fund manufacturing and secure supply of 60,000 to 100,000 doses of the drug, called MK-7110, through the end of June.
Johnson Imposes Tougher Rules on Swath of England (10:20 a.m. NY)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson imposed tougher regulations across a swath of England in an effort to control the mutant strain of coronavirus that’s spreading quickly across the country.
Sussex, Oxfordshire, Suffolk, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire, Most of Hampshire and the remainder of Essex will now face the strictest rules under the government’s 4-tier system, from 12:01 a.m. on Dec. 26, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Wednesday in a press conference.
U.K. Daily Infection Rate Accelerates (9:50 a.m. NY)
In the U.K., cases are increasing by as much as 6% a day, new guidance shows. Last week, new daily infections were rising by as much as 4%. The most recent reproduction range, or R number, for the virus is 1.1-1.3, compared with 1.1-1.2.
Denmark Orders an Additional 2.6 Million Pfizer/BioNTech Doses (9:10 a.m. NY)
Denmark ordered an additional 2.6 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine outside of the European Union’s purchasing agreement. Austria exercised an option to purchase another 1 million shots.
Croatia said it will start vaccinations on Dec. 27 with the first 9,000 doses from Pfizer-BioNTech. The country of 4.2 million has ordered 5.9 million doses of vaccine.
U.S. to Get Extra Vaccine Doses (7:34 a.m. NY)
Pfizer and BioNTech SE agreed to supply an additional 100 million doses of their vaccine to the U.S. The agreement brings the total number of doses to be delivered to the U.S. to 200 million, the companies said Wednesday. The drugmaker expects to deliver all the doses to U.S. vaccine and drug accelerator Operation Warp Speed by July 31.
Italy Finds New Strain With No British Link (7:15 a.m. NY)
The new Covid-19 strain was found in an infected person in Italy’s Adriatic region of Marche, Ansa newswire reported, citing an Ancona hospital virologist. The person didn’t have any direct contacts with the U.K. and is in quarantine. It’s the first Italian case involving the new strain with no apparent British links.
Thailand Omits New Cases Among Migrant Workers (6 a.m. NY)
Thailand reported 46 new cases on Wednesday, down 89% from Tuesday’s tally, as it omitted new infections among migrant workers who comprised the majority of cases in an outbreak reported earlier this week.
“We’re not going to report the number of cases found during proactive search operations among the migrant workers,” Taweesilp Witsanuyotin, Covid-19 center spokesman, said on Wednesday, while not disclosing a reason for the omission.
Visitors to Ireland From Great Britain Must Quarantine (6:38 p.m. HK)
It’s “inconceivable” that the new coronavirus strain that emerged in the U.K. isn’t in Ireland, though the variant hasn’t yet been confirmed in the country, Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin told RTE Radio, citing the recent growth in new cases. Travelers to Ireland from Great Britain should now stay in their accommodation for 14 days, even if they have tested negative, he said.
Seprately, an Irish cabinet member tested positive and all ministers are now restricting movements while awaiting test and result.
Switzerland Starts Covid-19 Vaccinations (5:48 p.m. HK)
Switzerland on Wednesday gave its first coronavirus shot, made by Pfizer/BioNTech, to a 90-year-old woman who lives in a care home in Lucerne, the local government said in a statement.
Poland Has Most New Cases in a Week (5:44 p.m. HK)
Poland registered 12,361 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, the most in a week and up from 7,192 on Tuesday. It takes the total number of infections close to 1.23 million, according to the Health Ministry. The death toll rose by 472, for a total of 26,255.
Bulgaria Restores U.K. Flights (5:41 p.m. HK)
Bulgaria will restore flights from the U.K. and Northern Ireland at noon local time, the government said. The Balkan country had initially shut its borders for arrivals from the U.K. until Jan. 31 to limit the spread of the new virus strain.
Arrivals will be tested with quick antigen tests and placed under a 10-day quarantine, and from Jan. 1 they will be required to present a negative PCR test made within 72 hours before arrival.
Germany Targets Broad Vaccination by Summer (5:30 p.m. HK)
Germany should be able to make a Covid-19 vaccine available to all its citizens toward the European summer, though it depends how fast vaccines come onto the market, according to Health Minister Jens Spahn.
Asked about reports that Germany hasn’t secured enough vaccine, Spahn said that more than 1.3 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech shot will be delivered to the federal states by the end of this month, and that vaccinations in care homes will begin Sunday as planned.
Swiss Threaten U.K. Tourists With $11,000 Fine (4:44 p.m. HK)
Switzerland has sent text messages to travelers from the U.K. and South Africa, asking them to adhere to the mandatory 10-day quarantine and not leave their residences to help prevent the spread of the mutated strain. Non-compliance will result in fines of as much as 10,000 francs ($11,249).
Malaysia to Double AstraZeneca Order Through Covax Deal (3:50 p.m. HK)
Malaysia is set to secure an additional 6.4 million doses of the Astrazeneca Plc vaccine through the Covax facility, enough to inoculate 10% of the country’s population, Science and Technology Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said. This means the Southeast nation is doubling its order from the company, with the first batch expected in the second quarter of 2021, Khairy said.
U.K. to Discuss Bringing More Areas Under Strict Curbs (3:30 p.m. HK)
The government will meet Wednesday to discuss moving more areas of the country into the highest Tier 4-level restrictions, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said in an interview with Sky News. Prime Minister Boris Johnson will make a decision in the “next couple of days,” Jenrick said.
Current regulations may change, he said. “If we need to change that in light of new variant, then we won’t hesitate to do so.”
France’s Griset: Restaurants’ Reopening Could Be Delayed (3:18 p.m. HK)
France could push back its target for a Jan. 20 reopening of restaurants, depending on how the pandemic develops, Small and Medium-Sized Enterprise Minister Alain Griset said in an interview with RTL radio.
German Virus Deaths at Record High (2:16 p.m. HK)
Germany reported a record 986 coronavirus deaths in the 24 hours through Wednesday morning, and cases jumped by 36,153, the second-biggest gain since the start of the pandemic.
The number of new infections took the total to 1.57 million, while fatalities climbed above 28,000, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The seven-day incidence rate has risen sharply in recent weeks and is at 195 per 100,000 inhabitants, close to a record, according to the RKI public health institute. Officials have said the rate needs to come down to 50 per 100,000.
Germany aims to start vaccinating on Dec. 27, with the very elderly and staff in care homes first in line.
Singapore Airlines Trials Digital Verification (12:26 p.m. HK)
Singapore Airlines Ltd. started trials on a new digital verification process that offers customers the ability to store and present information related to their coronavirus tests or vaccination status. The verification process will be the first to be based on the International Air Transport Association’s Travel Pass framework.
Asian Nations Suspend U.K. Flights, Tighten Entry Rules (10:25 a.m. HK)
South Korea is suspending flights to and from the U.K. from Wednesday through Dec. 31, while the Philippines will halt U.K. flights from Thursday through Dec. 31 on concern about the new virus variant.
Japan will strengthen its entry regulations for travelers from the U.K. starting Thursday. New entry by foreigners traveling from the country won’t be allowed. Foreign nationals returning from the U.K. who are residents of Japan will be required to isolate for two weeks.
Returning Japanese citizens will need proof of a negative virus test conducted 72 hours before departure. Those who fail to do so will be asked to quarantine for two weeks at a facility indicated by the government.
Hong Kong will require U.K. visitors to quarantine for 21 days.
Mexico to Start Vaccinations (10:04 a.m. HK)
Mexico will receive an initial batch of Pfizer’s vaccine on Wednesday, putting the country in a race with Chile to become the first Latin American nation to apply the life-saving treatment.
Pfizer will send more than 1.4 million vaccines to Mexico by the end of January, Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said at a press briefing in Mexico City. The first vaccinations will start on Thursday, Deputy Health Minister Hugo Lopez-Gatell said.
South Korea Cases Rise (8:49 a.m. HK)
South Korea reported 1,092 new cases in 24 hours, after infections briefly dipped below 1,000 in the previous two days. Infections jumped above 1,000 for the first time earlier this month.
Trump Indicates He Might Not Sign Virus Relief Package (8:42 a.m. HK)
President Trump signaled that he may not sign the $900 billion coronavirus relief package just one day after it was passed in Congress. In a video posted on his Twitter account, Trump said the bill included “wasteful and unnecessary” items and demanded that lawmakers increase the stimulus checks from the “ridiculously low” amount of $600 to $2,000, or $4,000 for a couple.
“I am asking Congress to amend this bill,” Trump said, adding he wanted Congress to “send me a suitable bill or else the next administration will have to deliver a Covid relief package and maybe that administration will be me and we will get it done.”
Sydney Cluster Grows to 97, Lockdown Is Extended (8:33 a.m. HK)
The cluster of Covid-19 infections in Sydney’s Northern Beaches has grown to 97, and a lockdown will be extended over Christmas to prevent the virus from spreading across the city, authorities announced Wednesday.
NYSE to Have Designated Market Makers to Work Remotely (8:19 a.m. HK)
The New York Stock Exchange plans to have designated market makers work remotely again amid a surge in cases around the city. The temporary measure will take effect Monday with some exceptions, the venue said in an emailed statement.