(Bloomberg) — Worldwide Covid-19 infections exceeded 24 million as cases continued to climb in Europe and Asia, with Italy, France and South Korea reporting the most new infections in months. New U.S. testing guidelines drew criticism from state leaders and public-health experts, while a top Trump administration official defended the move.
Moderna Inc. presented new safety data from an early trial that provides the first evidence that its vaccine stimulates the immune systems of older people. Abbott Laboratories won U.S. clearance for a 15-minute Covid test that will be priced at just $5.
The World Economic Forum postponed its annual gathering of business and political leaders in the Swiss resort of Davos to early summer 2021. The European Union’s trade chief stepped down after growing criticism that he broke virus regulations in his native Ireland.
Global Tracker: Cases top 24 million; deaths pass 822,000Italy, Spain, France reject lockdowns despite rising casesWhite House vaccine program hedges bets on different technologiesVirus in vacant apartment suggests role of toilets in spreadWHO team didn’t visit Wuhan during investigation, FT reportsSurging demand for China flights gives travel industry hopeVaccine Tracker: Where we are in the race for protection?
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South Korea Sees Most Cases Since March (9:20 a.m. HK)
South Korea had 441 more coronavirus cases confirmed in the past 24 hours, the biggest gain since early March, according to data from the Korea Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. That compared to 320 the previous day. Of the new cases, 154 were confirmed in Seoul, 100 in Gyeonggi province and 59 in Incheon.
Vice Finance Minister Kim Yongbeom said he believed that the nation can handle the resurgence of the coronavirus with current social distancing rules. Still, so-called Level 3 rules would be needed if the situation worsens, he added at a briefing.
WHO Team Didn’t Visit Wuhan, FT Says (8:50 a.m. HK)
A World Health Organization team that was meant to investigate the origin of the coronavirus concluded their trip to China without a visit to Wuhan, the Financial Times reported, citing the UN agency. The WHO told the FT that its advance team had remote conversations with senior scientists from the Wuhan Institute of Virology but declined to comment on whether the team had planned to visit the city.
The organization said the initial team had been laying groundwork before a larger international investigation but didn’t provide details on whether the bigger task-force would travel to Wuhan. China’s foreign ministry called concerns over the credibility of the inquiry “totally unjustified,” according to the FT.
Singapore to Provide Tests for China-Bound Travelers (7:55 a.m. HK)
Singapore will offer Covid-19 tests for travelers to China prior to departure, in an effort to align with new Chinese requirements aimed at stemming the growing number of imported virus cases.
The new travel rules were instituted after China earlier registered dozens of passengers arriving from the Singapore who tested positive for the coronavirus. In response, the world’s second largest economy had temporarily suspended a number of flights from Singapore as a precautionary measure.
Texas Deaths Rise, Hospitalizations Decline (7:25 a.m. HK)
Texas virus deaths rose by 229, a number that has remained persistently high as new cases and hospitalizations have declined since July. A total of 11,805 people have died from Covid-19, according to state death certificate data, since the outbreak began. Cases climbed to 592,137 after the state added another 5,507 to the tally Wednesday, including some backlogged data. Hospitalizations declined to 4,806, continuing a two-month downward trend.
Abbott Cleared for $5, 15-Minute Test (6:40 a.m. HK)
A 15-minute Covid test from Abbott Laboratories that will be priced at just $5 won emergency authorization for use in the U.S., a breakthrough that could ease the bottleneck that has crimped much of the nation’s testing capacity.
The product, dubbed BinaxNOW, works without relying on laboratory equipment at a time when labs can take as long as two weeks to produce results. It uses a nasal swab and a small reactive card, and it can be administered by a range of health-care workers, including pharmacists, at almost any location.
Abbott will start shipping the test within two weeks and intends to manufacture 50 million tests a month by the end of October.
Fauci Concerned Over New Test Guidelines: CNN (6:20 a.m. HK)
Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. top infectious disease doctor, told CNN that he is concerned that the CDC’s new coronavirus testing guidelines will make people believe “that asymptomatic spread is not of great concern, when in fact it is.”
Fauci said in the CNN interview that he was in surgery when the new testing recommendations were discussed.
EU Trade Chief Quits After Virus-Rule Breach (4:55 p.m. NY)
Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg
The European Union’s trade chief, Phil Hogan, stepped down after growing criticism that he broke virus regulations in his native Ireland.
Hogan was under pressure over his attendance at a golf dinner last week that violated coronavirus regulations as well as his behavior during quarantine upon arrival in his home country. The resignation came a day after Ireland’s government said that Hogan’s “delayed and hesitant” response impaired public confidence.
U.S. Cases Rise 0.8% (4 p.m. NY)
Coronavirus cases in the U.S. increased 0.8% as compared with the same time Tuesday to 5.8 million, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg News. The increase matched the average daily gain over the past week. Deaths rose by 0.8% to 179,150.
Illinois reported 37 more Covid-19 deaths, up from 29 a day earlier and the highest count since July 7. The state reported 2,157 cases, up from 1,680 on Wednesday.Florida reported 608,722 cases, up 0.5% from a day earlier, compared with an average increase of 0.6% in the previous seven days. Deaths reached 10,733, an increase of 153, or 1.4%.Arizona reported 187 new virus cases, a 0.1% increase to 199,459 that was below the prior seven-day average of 0.3%. The state recorded 104 deaths, the most in a week, bringing the toll to 4,896.
French New Cases Hit Four-Month High (2:03 p.m. NY)
France reported 5,429 new Covid-19 cases over the past 24 hours, a four-month high that comes after similarly important surges in recent days. Prime Minister Jean Castex will hold a press conference on Thursday to address the health situation as infections rise.
Greece Reports Record New Cases (1:50 a.m. NY)
Greece reported a record-high 293 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number to 9280. The number is the highest daily increase since the beginning of the pandemic. The average age of people who tested positive is 39. The country also recorded five new deaths, bringing the total to 248.
Cuomo Blasts CDC Guidance as ‘Propaganda’ (12:59 p.m. NY)
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday said the state won’t follow recent guidance on the coronavirus from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, calling it “political propaganda.”
The CDC this week said that people who have potentially been exposed to the virus and are asymptomatic don’t need to be tested. The agency, contrary to its previous recommendations, also said that people traveling from hot spots no longer need to self-quarantine for 14 days.
“We’re not going to follow the CDC guidance,” Cuomo, a Democrat, said on a conference call with the media.
He accused Republican President Donald Trump of using the agency to “forward his political agenda,” saying it’s “frightening and it is alarming.”
Italy Reports Most New Cases in 3 1/2 Months (11:30 a.m.)
Italy recorded 1,367 new cases Wednesday, the highest number in three months and a half, on the day the government ruled out a new lockdown.
Many of the new infections involve Italians returning from vacations either within the country or abroad. The Lombardy region said two out of three of the latest cases are holidaymakers returning from outside of Italy.
In response to the surge, Italy is ramping up testing in ports and airports, with a record 93,529 tests carried out Wednesday. Still, the health minister said the country is ruling out a new nationwide lockdown.
Moscow Invites Residents to Join Vaccine Trials (10:58 a.m. NY)
Moscow is inviting all its residents to participate in Phase 3 testing of a Covid-19 vaccine that was approved for use earlier this month, Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said on his blog Wednesday.
Russia approved the use of the Sputnik V vaccine, which Moscow’s Gamaleya Institute is developing with the sovereign Russian Direct Investment Fund and the Defense Ministry, before it finished clinical trials. The testing will continue even as medical workers are vaccinated. Many members of the local elite, including one of President Vladimir Putin’s daughters, have already been inoculated.
The capital accounts for more than a quarter of Russia’s nearly 1 million cases.
Moderna Vaccine Produces Antibodies in Trial of Older People (10:51 a.m. NY)
Moderna Inc. presented new safety data from an early trial that provides the first evidence that its Covid-19 vaccine stimulates the immune systems of older people.
In a phase 1 trial, Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine produced “consistently high levels” of neutralizing antibodies — a key component of the body’s protective response — in older adults, the company said in a statement. Antibody levels produced in people more than 55 years old were comparable to those seen in younger adults, the company said in a statement.
The findings are important because older adults often don’t respond as well to vaccines as younger adults.
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