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NYC Pitches Vaccine Tourism; India Breaks Records: Virus Update

(Bloomberg) — New York City is in talks to offer free vaccines to tourists as a way to encourage them to visit, Mayor Bill de Blasio said. Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE have capacity to make as many as 3 billion doses of their vaccine this year, more than double the amount the partners predicted six months ago.Illinois is set to fully reopen without capacity limits as soon as June 11, Governor J.B. Pritzker said, while Los Angeles eased limits on theme parks, bars and gyms as it moves to the state’s least restrictive tier. India reported its highest-ever daily tally of 412,262 new virus cases and also a record 3,980 deaths. German Chancellor Angela Merkel weighed in against a U.S. proposal to waive patent protections for Covid-19 vaccines, casting doubt on whether the idea has enough international support to become a reality.Key DevelopmentsGlobal Tracker: Cases near 155.4 million; deaths exceed 3.24 millionVaccine Tracker: More than 1.21 billion doses have been givenModerna Covid booster shots prove effective against variants (Video)Vaccines work on this India variant. Experts fret about the nextA new wave of vaccines is coming, and they’re not all also-ransBroken ventilators add momentum to ‘right to repair’ movementSubscribe 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.Illinois Plans to Fully Reopen as Soon as June 11 (3:08 p.m. ET)Illinois is on track to fully reopen without capacity limits as soon as June 11, Governor J.B. Pritzker said. The state will move to the bridge phase of the reopening on May 14, he said, though plans could change if the metrics worsen.“For restaurants, and bars and retail and weddings and public gatherings, this means higher capacity limits and a very hopeful move toward full reopening,” Pritzker said regarding the bridge phase. “Barring any significant reversals in key Covid-19 statewide indicators, Illinois will move to phase 5, normal business operations, free of pandemic-related mitigations, as soon as Friday, June 11.”Illinois is expanding its Covid-19 vaccination rollout to include private doctors’ offices and small medical providers. So far, about 60% of adult Illinois residents have received their first dose, including 85% of residents ages 65 and older, according to the state.England Uncovers Indian Variant, Raising Concerns of Spread (3:05 p.m. ET)The Indian variant of the virus was found across England, the Guardian reported, citing leaked emails on the latest case count.The variant was uncovered in care homes, the paper said, raising concerns that it’s spreading quickly across communities. Public Health England is set to escalate one of the variants to one “of concern,” the paper said.Los Angeles Eases Restrictions on Theme Parks, Restaurants (3 p.m. ET)Los Angeles County is easing restrictions on capacity limits from theme parks to restaurants starting Thursday after meeting the threshold to move to the least restrictive yellow tier. The county’s test positivity rate on Wednesday was 0.7%.Theme parks will now be able to boost their capacity to 35% and open their doors for fully-vaccinated out-of-state visitors. Bars will be able to operate indoors at a 25% cap, with that limit rising to 50% for breweries and wineries. The capacity limit for restaurants, gyms and movies theaters will also increase to 50%.Indoor live events and performances can have as many as 1,500 guests, with the capacity limit set at half for those tested or fully vaccinated, while outdoor venues can fill two-thirds of the capacity.Texas Offers Mobile Vaccine Teams to Offices, Homes (2:19 p.m. ET)Texas plans to dispatch mobile vaccination teams to offices, homes and civic organizations on request beginning Friday.Companies and civic groups with at least 10 employees or members, as well as individual residents, will be able to call a hotline to arrange a visit, Governor Greg Abbott said in a statement on Thursday.Until now, the state’s mobile vaccination efforts were focused on large-group settings such as nursing homes and meatpacking plants, which were among the hardest hit venues earlier in the pandemic. The hotline will go live at 8 a.m. Central time.Alcohol Deaths in England, Wales Rise (1:43 p.m. NY)Deaths related to alcohol in England and Wales last year reached the highest level in two decades, according to data from the Office for National Statistics. The number rose by almost 20%, with deaths from alcoholic liver disease and poisoning accelerating after March, when virus lockdowns began.Colorado Reports India Variant (1:33 p.m. NY)Colorado’s highest Covid-19 transmission rate is among junior high school and high school students, ages 11-17, state epidemiologist Rachael Herlihy said Thursday.Colorado has recorded five cases of a B.1617.2 virus variant from India, all in Mesa County in the western part of the state, Herlihy said during an online briefing.Hospitalizations statewide are among the highest since December at 666, she said.Separately, Colorado Governor Jared Polis announced more than 2 million of the 4.7 state’s residents eligible for the vaccine have been fully vaccinated. In Denver, Mayor Michael Hancock said 45% of eligible residents are fully vaccinated.Merkel Opposes Waiving Patents (11:55 a.m. NY)German Chancellor Angela Merkel weighed in against a U.S. proposal to waive patent protections for Covid-19 vaccines, casting doubt on whether the idea has enough international support to become a reality.The U.S. plan would create “severe complications” for the production of vaccines, a German government spokeswoman said Thursday in an email. Without the incentive of profits from research and development spending, drugmakers might not move as aggressively to make vaccines in the future, the industry has argued.“The limiting factor in the manufacture of vaccines is production capacity and the high quality standards, not the patents,” the spokeswoman said. “Protecting intellectual property is the wellspring of innovation and must remain that way.”NYC Pitches Vaccine Tourism (10:41 a.m. NY)New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said he is working with state officials to offer free vaccines to visitors as a way to encourage them to visit and spur tourism.Mobile vans will bring Johnson & Johnson one-dose shots to Times Square, Brooklyn Bridge Park and other popular locations, de Blasio said Thursday during a virus briefing.“We think this is a positive message to send to tourists,” the mayor said. “Come here and we’re going to take care of you.”The city plans a $30 million marketing blitz to recharge its tourism industry. Capacity restrictions on restaurants, stores and shows will be lifted on May 19 as Covid-19 cases decrease and vaccinations increase, Governor Andrew Cuomo said this week. Broadway tickets for September shows went on sale today.Pfizer Ups Production Target (10:38 a.m. NY)Pfizer and BioNTech have capacity to make as many as 3 billion doses of their Covid-19 vaccine this year, more than double the amount the partners had predicted less than six months ago.The partners will further increase their capacity for 2022 to more than 3 billion doses, BioNTech said in an e-mailed statement.The increase is the latest in a series of production target boosts and comes amid increased demand for messenger RNA Covid vaccines around the world.India Variant Spreads in Africa (10:31 a.m. NY)The coronavirus strain circulating in India has been detected in three African countries, according to the head of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.Authorities in Kenya, Uganda and Morocco have reported the presence of the variant known as B.1.617 that is overwhelming the health system in India, Africa CDC’s director, John Nkengasong, said in an online briefing Thursday. Five cases have been found in Kenya and one in Uganda, while the Moroccan government is “investigating some cases there,” he said.Fearing an influx of infections and mindful of B.1.617, Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania are among countries that have temporarily banned flights from India.Rwanda Eyes Vaccine Plant (10:07 a.m. NY)Rwandan President Paul Kagame said his country is in talks to establish the first mRNA vaccine plant in Africa as the continent battles the coronavirus pandemic. He did not give details.Africa has few manufacturing facilities of any kind and most that do exist can only package and distribute the inoculations — so called fill-finish facilities — rather than make the ingredients needed for the shots.Vaccines Donated to Olympics (9:30 a.m. NY)Tokyo Olympic athletes and delegations will be able to receive Covid-19 vaccine doses donated by Pfizer and BioNTech as organizers push ahead with preparations for the delayed games.The International Olympic Committee signed an agreement with the companies to donate the doses, with the first delivery expected to begin at the end of this month, according to a statement from the drugmakers on Thursday. The statement did not specify the number of doses.Hungary’s Population Falls (9:15 a.m. NY)Hungary’s 2020 population drop, as measured by deaths exceeding births, was the biggest in more than a century with the eastern European Union one of the world’s worst-hit by the coronavirus pandemic.The plunge of 48,667 was the highest since 1918, when the Spanish flu and World War I were the biggest contributing factors, figures released Wednesday showed.Russia Approves One-Dose Shot (7:59 a.m. NY)Russia approved a single-dose version of the Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine after it showed almost 80% efficacy, according to the state-run fund that backed its development.The 79.4% efficacy rate of the vaccine, called Sputnik Light, is based on an analysis of real-world data rather than a standard clinical trial, and interim results from final-stage study are expected later this month, according to a statement from the Russian Direct Investment Fund. Early and mid-stage studies showed no serious adverse events, RDIF said.U.S. Patent Shock Roils Pharma (7:21 a.m. NY)The U.S.’s sudden support for a waiver of patent protections for Covid-19 vaccines headed to the World Trade Organization, setting the stage for potentially thorny negotiations over sharing the proprietary know-how needed to boost global supplies of the life-saving shots.“In terms of how soon the WTO can deliver — that literally depends on the WTO members, collectively, being able to deliver,” U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai said in an interview Wednesday. “I am the first one to admit that what we are leaning into is a process that is not going to be easy.”With the European Union and China signaling a willingness to take part in the debate after the Biden administration’s shock announcement, stock prices tumbled worldwide.Moderna Reported Effective for Teens (7:18 a.m. NY)Moderna Inc. said studies of its Covid vaccine in teenagers showed that it was 96% effective and raised its product sales projections for the year as it reported its first-ever profitable quarter.Germany Backs Lockdown Exemptions (7:17 a.m. NY)German residents who have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus will be exempt from most lockdown rules under legislation approved Thursday in the lower house of parliament.The law, which also covers people who have recovered from Covid-19, is set to be voted on by the upper house on Friday and will likely take effect this weekend. For people considered immune, mandatory tests for trips to the hairdresser and non-essential stores will no longer be required, and the need to comply with curfews and quarantine rules will be waived.EU Defends Vaccination Drive (6:15 a.m. NY)The head of the European Union’s executive arm mounted a spirited defense of the bloc’s Covid-19 vaccination campaign, taking a swipe at countries like the U.S. and the U.K. as she hailed her region as the world’s top vaccines exporter.“It is clear that our European vaccination campaign is a success,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told an online conference. “What counts is the steadily increasing daily delivery of vaccines to our people — and to the world.”Biden’s Vaccine Path Gets Tougher (6 a.m. NY)President Joe Biden’s government is now giving an average of 2.13 million shots a day, down from 3.37 million about three weeks ago. And on Tuesday, which has the lowest shots of any day of the week, fewer than a million were given for the first time since February.In response, the administration announced this week that it would concentrate more on smaller clinics and mobile sites in rural areas, while planning to wind down mass-vaccination sites. (An earlier version of this story corrected the name of the virus)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.