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WHO Backs Sinovac Vaccine; Thailand Adds Stimulus: Virus Update

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(Bloomberg) -- China is rolling out Covid-19 vaccine doses at a furious pace -- more than 80% of people in Beijing have received at least one dose -- but the country is in no hurry to signal any intention of easing border curbs. The World Health Organization meanwhile validated the Chinese-made Sinovac Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use.

For the first time, the U.K. reported zero daily deaths of people within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test. New York City’s positivity rate dropped over the Memorial Day weekend to its lowest point since the pandemic began. Thailand approved a $4.5 billion stimulus package to counter the latest outbreak.

Companies are finding varying ways to envision the post-Covid workplace. Bank of America Corp. wants all of its Hong Kong staff back at their desks by the end of June, while Deutsche Bank AG unveiled its hybrid model for remote work.

Key Developments:

Global Tracker: Cases top 170.9 million; deaths pass 3.55 millionVaccine Tracker: More than 1.94 billion doses givenHong Kong protests fall silent under never-ending covid rulesSinovac shot controlled Covid in Brazil town after 75% coveredEven with 20 million Covid shots a day, China chooses isolationWhy the mutated coronavirus variants are so worrisome: QuickTake

U.S. to Unveil Plan on Global Vaccine Distribution (7:00 p.m. NY)

The U.S. will detail its previously announced plan for distributing about 80 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine globally “in the next week or so,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken told a press conference in San Jose, Costa Rica.

“Among other things, we will focus on the equitable distribution of vaccines,” Blinken said. President Joe Biden had promised to make the vaccine doses available before the end of June.

Sao Paulo State Declines to Host Copa America Games (5:45 p.m. NY)

Sao Paulo Governor Joao Doria told the Brazilian Football Confederation to look for other locations to host Copa America games, as controlling the spread of Covid-19 remains a top priority for the state government.

Scientists from the Contingency Center for Covid-19 consider that hosting the matches would send “a bad signal.”

Chile to Create $2 Billion Fund to Fight Covid (4:35 p.m. NY)

The Chilean government will create a $2 billion fund to finance the fight against Covid-19 and strengthen health services, President Sebastian Pinera said in his annual speech to Chile’s congress.

The government will resort to increased public debt and state savings to pay for emergency funding, the president said.

Trudeau Covid Aid Favored High Earners (4:18 p.m. NY)

Canada’s highest-earning families were the biggest beneficiaries of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s pandemic aid, opening his government to criticism that its programs were wasteful.

The top 20% of income-earning families received an average of C$6,728 ($5,577) from emergency Covid-19 assistance programs, according to Statistics Canada data. The lowest-earning households got C$4,097 in aid, on average.

All told, the bottom 20% of earners got just 14% of the C$95.2 billion in direct government transfers related to Covid-19 last year, data from the statistical agency show. The numbers have fueled concerns that Canada’s pandemic support -- among the world’s most generous, and financed with hundreds of billions in new debt -- was inefficient as cash was funnelled to dozens of different groups, and ended up being hoarded in bank accounts.

Booster Study to Mix Vaccines (3:59 p.m. NY)

The National Institutes of Health has started a year-long clinical trial to determine if vaccinated people can safely get booster shots using vaccines that are different from the ones they received initially.

The trial will also monitor the effectiveness of changing vaccines in this manner. It’s designed to include about 150 individuals who have received a vaccine regimen now available under emergency use authorization in the U.S.

“We need to prepare for the possibility of needing booster shots to counter waning immunity and to keep pace with an evolving virus,” Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in a statement. “The results of this trial are intended to inform public health policy decisions on the potential use of mixed vaccine schedules should booster doses be indicated.”

U.K. Reports Zero Deaths (11:11 a.m. NY)

The U.K. reported no additional deaths within 28 days of a positive Covid-19 test. Britain’s official death toll remains at 127,782, according to government data. There were 3,165 new cases, bringing the total to 4.49 million.

It’s the first time the U.K. reported zero daily deaths within 28 days of a positive test since the start of the pandemic, the BBC reported.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson faces a dilemma of whether to proceed with a highly-anticipated easing of restrictions later this month at a time when scientists are increasingly worried about another surge of cases.

Vaccine Seen Safe in Pregnancy (10:55 a.m. NY)

Two new studies confirm that messenger RNA vaccines available in the U.S. “appear to be completely safe for pregnant women,” according to Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, writing in a blog post.

The studies were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association and the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology. The tesearch also indicated vaccines might offer protection to infants born to vaccinated mothers.

NYC Positivity Rate Hits Low (10:42 a.m. NY)

New York City’s Covid positivity rate on Sunday dropped to its lowest point since the pandemic began, crossing an important milestone for a city desperate to jump start its depressed tourism industry and boost its battered economy.

Only 0.83% of New York City tested positive for the coronavirus over the last seven days, Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Tuesday. The seven-day average of hospitalizations per 100,000 has also dropped below 1% and deaths have fallen to single digits for the first time since last summer. There was an average of 7 deaths over the last seven days, according to city data.

De Blasio said the city would reopen indoor activities at senior centers on June 14, bringing back one of the last city-operated programs that closed during the pandemic.

WH0 Validates Sinovac Vaccine (10:34 a.m. NY)

The World Health Organization has validated the Sinovac-CoronaVac for emergency use.

The validation is aimed at “giving countries, funders, procuring agencies and communities the assurance that it meets international standards for safety, efficacy and manufacturing,” according to an emailed statement by the group.

Abbott Cuts Forecast as Testing Slows (10:06 a.m. NY)

Abbott Laboratories fell after the company warned that profits for the year would be lower than expected because of eroding demand for Covid tests.

The health-care company said it expects full-year adjusted earnings from continuing operations to range from $4.30 a share to $4.50. In January, the company forecast at least $5 per share.

Testing for Covid-19 is declining in the U.S. as vaccination rates grow, infections wane and pandemic restrictions loosen. Early this year, Laboratory Corp of America Holdings said testing demand could decline by as much as half this year while Quest Diagnostics Inc. in late April only provided guidance for the first half of the year,

Scotland Delays Easing of Restrictions (9:43 a.m. NY)

Scotland will keep a swathe of the country under tighter coronavirus restrictions because of concern about the number of cases of the variant first identified in India.

Edinburgh, the capital, will remain in the current level rather than seeing a further easing of some rules on household mixing and on businesses on June 7 as planned, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday. Glasgow, the biggest city, will drop to the same level as Edinburgh after a surge in cases had kept restrictions there for longer.

Moderna Seeks Full FDA Approval (8:18 a.m. NY)

Moderna Inc. is seeking full approval for its vaccine, a move that could make the shot a stable source of revenue for years. The company said it will submit data to the Food and Drug Administration on a rolling basis in coming weeks to support the application for use in people 18 and older.

Moderna’s shot, like rival Pfizer Inc.’s, is based on messenger RNA technology and has been a linchpin of the U.S. immunization campaign.

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