Pfizer Booster Thumbs Up; Moscow Tightens Lockdown: Virus Update

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(Bloomberg) — Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE said a booster shot of their Covid vaccine restored full protection in a large study, bolstering the argument for giving a third dose more widely. 

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Moscow will implement its harshest lockdown since the early days of the pandemic, last year, more severe than the “non-working days” announced by President Vladimir Putin across Russia. Among other eastern European countries battling a resurgence, Ukraine also reported a record number of new daily infections and deaths.

India reached the milestone of 1 billion Covid vaccines administered, though its inoculation campaign still faces major challenges.

Key Developments:

Virus Tracker: Cases top 242 million; deaths surpass 4.92 millionVaccine Tracker: More than 6.75 billion shots givenEurope confronts another winter of hard choicesLockdowns are back as Eastern Europe pays for low vaccination ratesAs U.K. cases surge, Israel offers a lesson in boostersHow Delta Is Bolstering the Case for Covid BoostersIs this one Covid vaccine more than we need?: Raphael and Fazeli

Pfizer Booster Restores Protection (6:45 a.m. NY)

Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE said a booster shot of their Covid-19 vaccine restored full protection in a large study.

A booster was 95.6% effective against symptomatic Covid in the study, which tracked 10,000 people aged 16 and older, the companies said on Thursday. The data may help guide regulators trying to decide how widely to use boosters, as the fast-spreading delta variant drives infection rates up.

Separate research by Israel’s Clalit Research Institute and Harvard University showed adolescents who receive two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine have a much lower risk of contracting symptomatic Covid-19, with the risk of infection dropping by 90%. 

Moscow Goes Into Tighter Lockdown (5:29 p.m. HK)

Moscow will implement its harshest lockdown since the early days of the pandemic, last year, as Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said that the virus situation was developing according to the “worst-case scenario.”

Most shops and businesses except for essential services will shut down from Oct. 28 to Nov. 7, while schools and kindergartens will be placed on vacation, according to Sobyanin. 

The restrictions are more severe than the nationwide non-working days ordered by President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday. Russia posted record numbers of new infections and deaths on Thursday amid a surge in cases unimpeded by low vaccination levels. 

Tokyo to Loosen Restaurant Curbs (5:20 p.m. HK) 

Tokyo is set to roll back restrictions that limited the operating hours and alcohol service of bars and eateries from Monday, as coronavirus cases drop nationwide and authorities look to open more parts of the economy.

Daily recorded Covid-19 cases in Tokyo have dropped to double digits from Oct. 9 after hitting over 5,000 several days in August during a wave powered by the delta variant.

© Bloomberg Visitors Crowd Harajuku and Shibuya Area of Tokyo As Covid Cases Continue To Fall

Indonesia Tightens Air Travel Measures (4:48 p.m. HK)

Indonesia is tightening air travel measures to ensure an anticipated jump in the number of passengers ahead of year-end holidays won’t lead to a resurgence in infections.

Airlines must allocate dedicated seats for any passengers who show symptoms during the flight, even when they have tested negative for the virus before departure, according to Covid-19 taskforce spokesman Wiku Adisasmito.

EU Decision on Sputnik Not This Year (2:26 p.m. HK)

The European Medicines Agency is unlikely to decide on approval for Russia’s Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine before the first quarter of next year because some data needed for review is missing, Reuters reported, citing an unidentified person with knowledge of the matter.

Ukraine Deaths, Infections Rise to Record (2:25 p.m. HK)

Ukraine, among eastern European countries battling a coronavirus resurgence, reported a record 22,415 new daily infections and 546 deaths. Hospitalizations and the number of Covid patients needing intensive care are also increasing, with almost 90% of hospital beds occupied in some regions.

The government has no plans for a full lockdown, though access to places of business and public services is available only to those vaccinated or recently tested. The prime minister has set a target of 1.5 million vaccinations per week; so far about 6.7 million people have received two doses.

India Reaches Billion-Dose Mark (12:38 p.m. HK)

India has given out 1 billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines, a key milestone in an inoculation campaign that still faces significant challenges. But while 51% of the population has received at least one shot, only 21% are fully vaccinated with both the doses, underscoring a wide disparity.

The gap means there are large swathes of India’s population that could be still vulnerable to Covid infections, potentially triggering outbreaks in a country that earlier this year experienced one of the world’s most devastating virus waves. 

China Northwestern Flareups Continue to Grow (10:23 a.m. HK)

China reported 20 local infections on Thursday following a flareup in the northwestern provinces, with cases spreading across the country to areas including Beijing. At least eight provinces have reported infections in the past week, fueling concerns that China could see yet another widespread outbreak.

Lanzhou, the capital of northwestern province Gansu, shut down schools on Thursday after a handful of cases were detected. Local authorities also closed entertainment venues, conferences and scenic spots, and residents were asked not to leave the city unless necessary. Many cases reported in other provinces were linked to Gansu.

Yunan province in the southwest reported three asymptomatic cases amid growing concern of infections spreading from neighboring Myanmar.

Canada to Introduce Vaccine Passport for Travel (8:40 a.m. HK)

Canada plans to reveal details of its planned proof-of-vaccination system for international travel, CBC News reported, citing an unidentified senior government official.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is set to make the announcement at 10 a.m. in Ottawa on Thursday, CBC said.

Australian State Sees Cases Jump (6:50 a.m. HK)

New virus cases in New South Wales, Australia’s most-populous state, jumped 89 from the day before to hit 372 infections Thursday. The spike is the biggest daily increase since mid-September, and comes 10 days after the state lifted a widespread lockdown that lasted more than 100 days. 

Meanwhile, Victoria recorded 2,232 cases. The state is due to start unwinding lockdown measures overnight, after it hit a 70% double vaccination rate for residents aged 16 and over.

© Getty Images via Bloomberg Sydney Residents Enjoy Eased COVID-19 Restrictions As State Surpasses 80 Per Cent Vaccination Target

U.K. Resists Calls for New Restrictions (2:11 p.m. NY)

The U.K. will not yet be bringing back restrictions, despite a surge in infections and a rise in hospitalizations and deaths, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said.

Javid put the onus on the general public to get vaccinated and behave responsibly, as he warned that new daily virus cases could rise to 100,000.

Latvia Resumes Shutdowns (12:51 p.m. NY)

Latvia became the European Union’s first member to resume significant shutdowns as soaring infections — the world’s highest per capita during the past week — threatened to overwhelm hospitals. For the next month, the country will close bars and shops, impose curfews and resume distance learning for students.

Neighboring Estonia said it may follow if its situation gets much worse. Romania — where less than a third of the population is vaccinated — has turned to the World Health Organization for help after deaths and new cases hit records.

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