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

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.

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.

Amazon.com Inc. and one of India’s largest renewable energy companies are boosting supplies of oxygen concentrators to the country in desperate need of the life-saving medical equipment as a brutal second wave sweeps through its towns and cities.

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Key Developments:

  • Global Tracker: Cases pass 162.6 million; deaths exceed 3.37 million
  • Vaccine Tracker: More than 1.43 billion doses have been given
  • Small town reporters reveal coronavirus carnage in India
  • CDC’s big mask change went from science to secret to surprise
  • There’s no hidden U.S. vaccine stockpile ready to send abroad
  • Asia’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.

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.

Ireland hasn’t published national coronavirus infection case numbers since Thursday.

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.

Hyderabad-based Greenko said on Sunday that it had airlifted the first batch of 1,000 large medical-grade concentrators.

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.

“This is a hopeful sign but we still need to be careful,” Health Minister Jens Spahn said in a tweet.

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 Vaccination Cuts 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.

EU Travel Pass May Arrive Soon (4:50 p.m. HK)

A health travel pass in the EU will be available from around June 20, French junior minister for European Affairs Clement Beaune said in an interview Sunday on Europe 1 radio interview. The pass will show either proof of vaccination against Covid-19, immunity due to past infection or the result of a negative PCR test.

Beaune says he’s pushing for quarantine measures to be lifted once the pass is operational. Only vaccines approved by the European Medicine Agency will be accepted as proof of vaccination. That would exclude Russian and Chinese vaccines, he said.

France will implement its own health pass from June 9 for major gatherings of more than 1,000 such as festivals and concerts, Beaune said.

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