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Singapore Closes Schools; U.S. Near 11-Month Low: Virus Update

·10-min read

(Bloomberg) --

Any mandates in the U.S. to require people to be vaccinated against Covid-19 will be set at the local level by companies and institutions such as colleges, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. The U.S.’s rolling one-week average of new virus cases fell to the lowest level since June.

United Food and Commercial Workers, the union that represents more than 1 million food and retail employees, criticized the CDC’s guidance last week saying fully vaccinated people could mostly stop wearing masks.

Singapore plans to close public schools this week and move to home-based learning, as a spike in unlinked cases poses the biggest challenge since last year in the city’s efforts to tackle the pandemic.

Key Developments:

Global Tracker: Cases pass 162.6 million; deaths exceed 3.37 millionVaccine Tracker: More than 1.45 billion doses have been givenSmall town reporters reveal coronavirus carnage in IndiaCDC’s big mask change went from science to secret to surpriseThere’s no hidden U.S. vaccine stockpile ready to send abroadAsia’s Covid success stories, Taiwan and Singapore, face threats

Subscribe to a daily update on the virus from Bloomberg’s Prognosis team here. Click CVID on the terminal for global data on cases and deaths.

Frontline Workers’ Union Criticizes CDC (3:14 p.m. NY)

United Food and Commercial Workers, the union that represents more than 1 million food and retail employees, praised the governors of New Jersey and Hawaii for maintaining stricter indoor mask rules.

The union criticized guidance last week from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention saying fully vaccinated people could mostly stop wearing masks, though those rules can be overridden by localities. Union President Marc Perrone said New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and Hawaii Governor David Ige “are doing the right thing by keeping these life-saving mask mandates in place.”

The union said that 462 frontline workers in the U.S., including in grocery stores and meatpacking plants, have died of Covid-19 and more than 93,000 were infected.

California’s Deaths Double (2:25 p.m. NY)

California’s deaths doubled to 55 from 27 the day before, with the fatalities still low at 0.1 deaths for every 100,000, based on the state’s seven-day average.

The positive test rate dipped slightly to 1%, the health department’s website said. The state reported 1,370 Covid-19 cases yesterday, a rate of 3.3 new cases per 100,000, a decrease from the day before. California has administered more than 34.4 million vaccines in total.

Singapore Faces Vaccine Delays (2 p.m. NY)

Singapore may be facing slower vaccine deliveries over the next couple of months, as the country considers delaying second shots.

Ho Ching, the wife of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, cited the scarcity in a Facebook post Sunday. “Yes, our vaccine deliveries are slow this month and possibly next 1-2 months,” said Ho, who is also the outgoing CEO of Singapore’s state-owned investor Temasek Holdings Pte.

New Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said the government is studying holding off the second shots in order to give more people at least one vaccine dose.

“There have been many international studies and it shows that even with one dose, it confers good protection without compromising efficacy,” Ong said. “Our scientists have been studying this.”

Italy Daily Deaths Drop (12:46 p.m. NY)

Italy recorded 93 coronavirus deaths on Sunday, the lowest count since late October. New infections were 5,753, close to the seven-month low registered last week. Italy has been accelerating its vaccination campaign to over 500,000 shots per day, and infections have continued falling even with the loosening of restrictions on the economy and social life.

CDC Shuns Federal Vaccine Mandate (12:25 p.m. NY)

Any mandates in the U.S. to require people to be vaccinated against Covid-19 will be set at the local level by companies and institutions such as colleges, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

“It may very well be that local businesses, local jurisdictions, will work towards vaccine mandates,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “That is going to be locally driven and not federally driven.”

Separately, on “Fox News Sunday,” Walensky cited colleges or universities that may enforce vaccine mandates for students, and that the cruise ship industry may also consider it for people about to embark on multiday journeys at sea.

Walensky spoke days after the CDC announced that Americans vaccinated against Covid-19 were clear to shed their face masks in public at most times.

20 Million Fully Vaccinated in U.K. (12:16 p.m. NY)

More than 20 million people, or 38% of the British adult population, are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, the government said Sunday. Over 36.5 million, or 69%, have had one dose. The U.K. will open inoculations to everyone 35 and older this week as it combats cases of a highly transmissible variant that originated in India. The country reported another 1,926 cases and four deaths on Sunday. Both figures are up about 9% over the last seven days.

Hong Kong Tightens Travel Rules (10:55 a.m. NY)

Hong Kong will increase restrictions on arrivals from Taiwan and Singapore, the South China Morning Post reports.

Taiwan, Singapore and Japan are to be classified high risk according to the city’s vaccine bubble travel arrangements. Unvaccinated travelers arriving from those places will have to quarantine at designated hotels for 21 days as well as present proof of a negative test.

Singapore Shuts Schools (7:59 a.m. NY)

All primary, secondary, junior college and Millennia Institute students will shift to full home-based learning from May 19 till the end of the school term on May 28, Singapore’s Ministry of Education said on Sunday. Preschools and student care centers remain open to support parents who have to work.

New Attack Hits Irish Health System (8:07 a.m. NY)

Ireland’s Department of Health has been hit by a cyber attack similar to the ransomware one carried out last week on the country’s Health Service Executive, RTE News said on Sunday.

Covid-19 vaccination appointments and testing are underway, but there may be some delays in getting results back, the HSE said. Contact tracing is also operating, though it may take longer than usual, it said.

U.S. Cases Now Fewest Since June (7:55 a.m. NY)

The U.S. added slightly more than 30,000 cases on Saturday, sending the nation’s rolling one-week average to the lowest level since late last June, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg.

Even so, another 480 people died of illness related to Covid-19. That compares with peaks of more than 5,000 deaths a day in January and February.

Amazon Sends More Oxygen to India (7:33 a.m. NY)

Amazon.com Inc. and Indian renewable energy company Greenko Group are boosting supplies of oxygen concentrators to the country.

The U.S. company is working with “sellers on its marketplace to help them bring in about 9,000 oxygen concentrators for customers in India,” it wrote in a blog on Saturday. The first batch of 1,000 oxygen concentrators have landed and are available for purchase while the rest are expected in the second half of May, it said.

Turkey Eases Curbs (6:51 a.m. NY)

Turkey will ease its virus restrictions from Monday as new cases of Covid-19 decline following a three-week lockdown, offering a glimmer of hope for the summer tourist season.

Infections plummeted to 11,472 on Saturday from a record high of 63,082 a month ago, though that’s still above the target of no more than 5,000 cases set by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan when he announced the national lockdown from April 29.

Most travel restrictions will be lifted but nighttime and weekend curfews will remain in place, and restaurants will only open for food deliveries, according to an Interior Ministry decree on Sunday.

German Infection Rate Continues to Fall (6 a.m. NY)

Germany’s contagion rate fell further below a key level, a trend that could trigger a loosening of some pandemic restrictions.

Infections dropped to 83.1 per 100,000 people over the past seven days, according to the RKI public-health institute. The incidence rate dipped under 100 on Friday and regional governments can start to lift restrictions if it remains below that level for five consecutive working days.

Taiwan Local Cases Hit Record (5:38 p.m. HK)

Taiwan registered a record 206 new local cases on Sunday, after adding 180 infections the previous day. The country is racing to contain its worst outbreak of the coronavirus, while averting a full lockdown.

Italy Vaccinations Cut Infections (5 p.m. HK)

Covid-19 vaccines are highly effective even after the first dose, according to a large-scale study by Italy’s national health institute. Infections, hospitalizations and deaths all declined significantly about 14 days after the first shot. After 35 days, infections were 80% lower than among those who hadn’t received any dose, while hospitalizations were 90% lower and deaths 95% lower.

More than 7 million Italians who had received at least one vaccine dose between Dec. 27 and April 4 were surveyed. Two-thirds were given the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine, while 29% received AstraZeneca Plc’s shot.

Cyclone Heads to India (3:15 p.m. HK)

A cyclone is set to hit the western coast of India -- the country’s industrialized belt with big refineries and ports -- prompting authorities already grappling with a deadly second virus wave to start preparations for evacuating citizens.

Cyclone “Tauktae,” currently about 500 kilometers (310 miles) from the financial hub of Mumbai, is expected to make landfall Tuesday morning in the southern districts of Gujarat, with wind speeds touching 175 kilometers per hour, according to the India Meteorological Department. It has intensified into a “very severe cyclonic storm,” the national weather forecaster said in a tweet Sunday.

Local authorities in Mumbai have already moved hundreds of Covid-19 patients to other facilities. Prime Minister Narendra Modi told senior government officials to ensure “maintenance of all essential services such as power, telecommunications, health and drinking water,” according to a May 15 statement from Press Information Bureau.

India Virus Cases Ease (1:50 p.m. HK)

India reported 311,170 new infections Sunday, continuing the downward trajectory seen in the past few days, bolstering hopes that cases may have peaked after a deadly second wave that overwhelmed hospitals and crematoriums. The case tally has crossed 24.6 million, according to the India’s health ministry. More than 182 million vaccine doses have been administered.

While the daily surge in cases is ebbing, there’s no let up in deaths with the Asian nation reporting 4,077 more casualties, pushing the total to 270,284. Those death toll numbers might be understated, according to local media reports of bodies floating along river banks in the northern states.

The Dainik Bhaskar, a Hindi newspaper popular across India’s crowded heartland, fanned 30 of its reporters along the banks of the river Ganga in Uttar Pradesh state. They found -- and photographed -- more than 2,000 corpses across some 1,140 kilometers (708 miles). The state government claims only about 300 are dying daily.

Their findings make grim reading: authorities are piling silt over more than 350 bodies lying in shallow graves in Kannauj, the reporters say; they see dogs gnawing at some of the 400 corpses just a short distance from a crematorium in Kanpur; they count 52 corpses floating down the river in Ghazipur, often crossing state borders.

Singapore to Vaccinate Children (11:30 a.m. HK)

Singapore plans to vaccinate under 16 year-olds after a recent rise of Covid-19 infections among students in the island state, according to Education Minister Chan Chun Sing.

The ministries of education and health are working out plans for the “vaccination of our students,” Chan wrote on his Facebook page. “Once the approval for use is granted, we will roll out vaccinations to those below 16.”

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