Sydney Tightens Rules; Apple Restores Mask Mandate: Virus Update

(Bloomberg) — Sydney added further restrictions on travel and increased penalties for non-compliance as outbreaks of the Covid-19 delta variant reached a new peak in the Australian city of almost 6 million.


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Beijing reported one local coronavirus case on Thursday, the first in six months, while authorities in Ho Chi Minh City and surrounding provinces estimate it may take months to contain the worst outbreak in Vietnam’s commercial hub. New Zealand granted provisional approval for AstraZeneca Plc’s vaccine while Nikkei reported that Japan may use it on middle-aged adults. 

Plans for U.S. businesses to get workers back into the office have been upended with Lyft Inc. postponing a return until February and Twitter Inc. closing recently reopened offices. Apple Inc. reinstated a mask mandate at most U.S. stores and Walt Disney Co. is again required face coverings at its parks in Florida and California.

Key Developments:

Global Tracker: Cases top 195 million; deaths surpass 4.18 millionVaccine Tracker: More than 3.98 billion doses administeredCovid strains hospitals in U.S. south, echoing pandemic peakWhy U.S. Advice on Wearing Masks Became ‘On Again’: QuickTakeVirus surge upends plans for companies trickling back to officeYounger, sicker, quicker: The changing face of the U.S. pandemicThe best and worst places to be as reopening, variants collide

Sydney’s Delta Case Surge Prompts Tougher Lockdown Restrictions (9:26 a.m. HK)

Sydney’s delta-outbreak cases reached a new peak even as the city nears the end of its fifth week under strict stay-at-home orders, triggering authorities to implement further restrictions and penalties to enforce compliance.

New South Wales, Australia’s biggest state economy, recorded 239 new cases Thursday — the highest tally since this outbreak started in Sydney in mid-June. At least 70 cases were active in the community while infectious, concerning health officials that the delta variant may further spread in the city.

Mask-wearing in public will be mandated for the city’s worst-hit areas, with penalties increased from a A$200 ($147) fine to A$500, New South Wales state Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters on Thursday. Stricter travel restrictions will be implemented, and thousands of additional police officers are being tasked with ensuring compliance.

Disney to Require Masks Again at Florida, California Parks (9:23 a.m. HK)

Walt Disney Co. is requiring masks again at its theme parks in Florida and California, a response to surging cases of the new delta variant, joining other companies in reinstating mask mandates after new guidance from U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Disney, the world’s largest theme-park operator, reopened its Florida resorts last year and its California parks in April. It and other resort operators lifted mask requirements for vaccinated guests at the start of the summer as inoculations rose nationally. Now, all visitors aged 2 and up will be required to wear masks in all indoor locations at the parks starting Friday, regardless of vaccination status, Disney said in an emailed statement.

Beijing Reports First Local Virus in Six Months (9:15 a.m. HK)

Beijing reported one locally transmitted coronavirus case on Thursday, breaking a six month streak of zero community infections in the Chinese capital.

Local media said the confirmed case is linked to cases in the central China tourist city of Zhangjiajie where an outbreak at a theater has already seeded infections in multiple provinces across the country. Beijing has sealed off the residential compound where the confirmed patient is, according to reports on social media, although no official information has been provided so far.

Recent flareups are testing China’s aggressive efforts to contain the coronavirus. The outbreak that started in the airport of Nanjing in China’s east has sickened more than 150 people in less than 10 days, with the highly-contagious delta variant posing challenges to the country’s contact tracing and mass testing approaches.

Ho Chi Minh City May Need Months to Contain Covid-19 Outbreak (9:09 a.m. HK)

Authorities in Ho Chi Minh City and surrounding provinces estimate it may take months to contain the region’s worst Covid-19 outbreak, the government website reported, citing Deputy Premier Vu Duc Dam.

Eleven of 12 Mekong Delta provinces followed Ho Chi Minh City by imposing night curfews, Tuoi Tre newspaper reported. Multiple localities, including Ho Chi Minh City, have put in place stay-home orders.

Thailand Reports Record 17,669 Covid Cases, 165 Deaths (8:43 a.m. HK)

Thailand reported 17,669 new infections on Thursday, the highest single-day increase since the pandemic began, taking the nation’s total cases to 561,030, according to the Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration.

The country reported 165 fatalities, the highest single-day increase since the pandemic, with 9,798 recoveries.

Twitter Closes Offices it Had Reopened, NYT Says (8:32 a.m. HK)

Twitter Inc. is closing its newly reopened offices in San Francisco and New York and indefinitely postponing other reopening plans, the New York Times reported.

Twitter made no announcement about when it would allow employees to return and the decision was made after the company considered the latest advice from the CDC, the newspaper said. The social media company had allowed employees to return to its San Francisco and New York offices on July 12.

New Zealand Provisionally Approves AstraZeneca Vaccine (7:42 a.m. HK)

New Zealand’s regulatory authority Medsafe provisional approved AstraZeneca’s vaccine for people age 18 or older, the country’s Acting Minister for Covid-19 Response Ayesha Verrall said Thursday.

New Zealand has secured 7.6 million doses (enough for 3.8 million people) through an advance purchase agreement with AstraZeneca last year. It’s the third vaccine to get provisional approval in the country. 

Hospital Capacity Fears Prompted Tighter Singapore Virus Curbs (7:42 a.m. HK)

a person standing in front of a building: Singapore Under New Restrictions After A Surge of Cases

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Singapore Under New Restrictions After A Surge of Cases

Singapore moved back to tighter Covid-19 restrictions in recent weeks to prevent the nation’s hospital capacity from getting overwhelmed due to rising infections, local media reported, citing comments from Health Minister Ong Ye Kung.

“The odds of a large surge in cases are stacked against us: We knew that when a cluster grows uncontrollably, infection numbers would double every seven to 10 days, which meant that hospital beds could fill up in a week,” a Today report cited Ong as saying.

Singapore has increased the number of isolation beds in hospitals to 1,000 and can open up almost a similar quantity of ICU beds for critically ill Covid-19 patients if needed, Ong said.

Japan Mulls Use of Astra Vaccine on Middle-Aged Adults: Nikkei (7:19 a.m. HK)

Japan’s health ministry is considering using AstraZeneca’s vaccine on middle-aged adults, amending earlier plans of administering it to those age 60 and above, Nikkei reported, without attribution.

Inoculation of the middle-age group has become a key focus as the demographic represents the biggest share of serious Covid cases in Tokyo. The ministry will hold a panel meeting “soon” to make an official decision.

Philippines Keeps Loose Curbs in Capital (6:45 a.m. HK)

The Philippines will keep its capital under the second-loosest restrictions even with rising coronavirus infections partly due to the highly contagious delta variant.

The Manila capital region, which accounts for about a third of the economy, will remain under general community quarantine with heightened restrictions from Aug. 1 to Aug. 15, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said in a statement Thursday. Most businesses can operate on limited capacity.

More Than Half of South Africans Believe in Prayer Instead of Vaccine (6:15 a.m. HK)

About 54% of South Africans say they are unlikely to get a Covid-19 vaccine and almost half say they believe prayer provides more protection than the shots against contracting the disease, a survey showed.

The Afrobarometer survey of 1,600 South Africans highlights a hurdle for the government’s drive to inoculate two thirds of its 60 million people in a bid to curb infections in the country, which is Africa’s worst hit by the disease, according to official statistics.

a person in a blue room: South African Vaccinations in Sandton Business District

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South African Vaccinations in Sandton Business District

Lyft Pushes Office Return Date to February, Citing Virus Concern (6:08 a.m. HK)

Lyft Inc. postponed the date for employees to return to most of its offices by six months, saying in an email to staff on Wednesday that it now expects employees to return on Feb. 2. 

The decision follows an advisory from the CDC advising even vaccinated people to wear masks inside in some parts of the country. Lyft’s offices will remain open for employees who want to come in, and company will require those currently working there to be vaccinated started Aug. 2.

U.S. Labor Secretary Sees Delta Lasting Months (5:45 p.m. NY)

Labor Secretary Marty Walsh said that the U.S. will likely be living with the Covid-19 delta variant for at least a few months, and encouraged people to get vaccinated to be able to get back to work.

“The reality of the current situation,” Walsh said on Bloomberg Radio, “is that we still are living with the coronavirus.”

“In the period essentially the next couple months now — maybe even longer than that — we’re going to be living with the variant.”

“The numbers are heading in the wrong direction,” he said,

The new CDC mask guidance and workplace vaccination requirements aren’t likely hindering people’s desire to return to work. “I think a lot of people will come back to work,” Walsh said. “My fear is that people that aren’t vaccinated are currently working.”

California Joins Mask Recommendations (4:16 p.m. NY)

California is recommending mask use in all public indoor settings, regardless of vaccination status, following the CDC’s revised guidance. More than 90% of the state’s population is in areas with substantial or high transmission, the Department of Health said. Los Angeles County, the nation’s most populous, has made masks a requirement.

Apple to Restore Mask Mandate at Stores (3:30 p.m. NY)

Apple Inc. plans to restore a mask requirement at most of its U.S. retail stores on Thursday for both customers and staff, even those who are vaccinated, in a response to a resurgence in Covid cases.

The company informed retail staff of the move Wednesday in a memo obtained by Bloomberg News. Apple already started requiring masks for employees at select stores earlier this month, and it pushed back a return-to-office deadline for corporate employees. It also began requiring masks for customers in a few counties based on local guidelines.

Google to Require Employee Vaccines (1:40 p.m. NY)

Alphabet Inc.’s Google postponed its date for bringing employees back to its offices by a month, and will require returning workers to be vaccinated, Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai wrote on Wednesday.

The internet search giant will now ask most of its staff to return to campuses starting Oct. 18. Previously, the company had set September for the return. Employees who come back will be required to show proof of vaccination, Pichai wrote in a note to employees that was posted on a Google website.

Apple also extended its return to office to October earlier this month.

N.Y. Eyes Vaccine Mandate for Employees (11:34 a.m. NY)

New York state is working with unions to mandate employees be vaccinated or get tested, Governor Andrew Cuomo said. Officials aim to have that done by Labor Day, he said, and urged local governments do the same.

All patient-facing health-care workers in New York state hospitals must get vaccinated, and there will be no testing option, he said. In response to revised CDC guidance on indoor masking, Cuomo said he is reviewing the issue and speaking with federal and international experts. 

NYC to Offer $100 for Residents to Get Shots (10:55 a.m. NY)

a person riding on the back of a truck: NYC Covid Cases Rising As Delta Surges, Vaccines Slow

© Bloomberg
NYC Covid Cases Rising As Delta Surges, Vaccines Slow

New York City will give out $100 to any resident who gets their first Covid-19 vaccine in an effort to boost lagging vaccination rates. The cash incentive will start on July 30 at city run vaccination sites, Mayor Bill de Blasio said on a briefing.

England Drops Quarantine for U.S. Visitors (10:15 a.m. NY)

American and European Union travelers who have been fully vaccinated against coronavirus will no longer need to spend 10 days in quarantine after they arrive in England.

Under plans backed by British ministers on Wednesday, international leisure cruises will also resume after being put on hold for more than a year. The reforms to travel rules will allow visitors from the U.S. and most EU countries to enter the U.K. on the same basis as Britons who have received two Covid shots. U.K. residents are are no longer required to self-isolate when returning from most medium

Pfizer Raises Vaccine Revenue Forecast (6:46 a.m. NY)

Pfizer said the vaccine it developed with Germany’s BioNTech SE is bringing in more sales than expected, prompting the company to raise its revenue estimate for the year to about $33.5 billion. The drugmaker previously expected the vaccine to garner about $26 billion in sales this year.

The Covid shot is poised to set a record for sales of a drug in a single year. In the second quarter, the vaccine drew $7.8 billion, more than the $7.05 billion analysts expected.

Norway Leads Covid Resilience Ranking (5 a.m. NY)

Norway now leads a group of European nations that have leaped ahead of the U.S. in Bloomberg’s July Covid Resilience Ranking.

The U.S.’s reign as the No. 1 on the ranking was short-lived. Its vaccination drive has plateaued and cases, fueled by the delta variant, surged anew in July, triggering renewed restrictions in some parts of the country. Still, deaths remain a fraction of what they were during previous waves.

The U.K. is also facing uncertainty, dropping 16 rungs to 25th as cases at one point jumped the most in the world. Though deaths have so far stayed low thanks to high vaccine penetration, the resurgence has undermined confidence.


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