(Bloomberg) — Japan will end its state of emergency as planned on March 21, according to media reports, after an improvement in the number of Covid-19 hospitalizations.
Seoul began requiring foreign workers to get tested, as coronavirus cases in the region plateau. HSBC’s main office in Hong Kong will be closed from Wednesday until further notice after three people working in the building tested positive for the coronavirus.
In the U.S., former President Donald Trump said he would urge his supporters and others wary of the vaccine to get it. Meanwhile in Europe, French and Italian leaders said they were ready to restart use of AstraZeneca’s dose if the European Union’s drug regulator advises that it’s safe.
Trump Recommends Getting Coronavirus Vaccine (8:20 a.m. HK)
Former President Donald Trump said he would urge his supporters and others wary of the coronavirus vaccine to get it, while also saying that personal freedoms must be respected.
“I would recommend it to a lot of people that don’t want to get it, and a lot of those people voted for me, frankly,” Trump said in a telephone interview with Fox News on Tuesday night.
South Korea to Continue Using Astra Vaccine (8:05 a.m. HK)
South Korea said it will keep using AstraZeneca vaccine as scheduled, having failed to observe any reports of blood clots. Around 570,000 people in the country have received the vaccine so far.
Japan to Lift State of Emergency (8 a.m. HK)
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is set to lift the coronavirus state of emergency for the Tokyo area when it expires on March 21, local media including the Sankei newspaper reported.
The country first imposed a state of emergency for Tokyo and nearby areas in early January, before later expanding it to other parts of the country. While it has since been lifted in other areas, the emergency was extended in the Tokyo region as cases plateaued despite early success in reducing new infections.
The emergency was less disruptive than in many other countries, with steps mainly focused on early closing hours at bars and restaurants and encouraging remote work, with little disruption to schools and stores.
Seoul Testing Foreign Workers (6:55 a.m. HK)
South Korea’s capital city of Seoul, where about half of the country’s population lives, is requiring foreign workers to get tested for Covid-19 as sporadic cluster outbreaks among migrants have stymied efforts to lower the number of daily new coronavirus patients.
Seoul’s mandate follows that of adjoining Gyeonggi Province which last week required testing of foreign workers and their employers, a move that some foreigners have decried as xenophobic. South Korea’s daily new cases have hovered around 400 for the past two weeks despite strict social distancing measures and vaccine roll out.
Australia Concerned Over PNG Outbreak (6:50 a.m. HK)
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison expressed concern over a resurgence of a Covid-19 outbreak in Papua New Guinea, saying it raises risks for his country.
Australia suspended passenger flights from Papua New Guinea to Cairns. Morrison also said Australia would provide more aid to Papua New Guinea, including the donation of 8,000 vaccine doses to the country’s health care workers.
Brazil Reports Record Number of Deaths (6:30 a.m. HK)
Brazil reported a record number of deaths from Covid-19 as new Health Minister Marcelo Queiroga takes office. He is the fourth to occupy the role since the pandemic started. Latin America’s largest country saw the number of deaths rise by 2,841 in the last 24 hours, the Health Ministry said, pushing the total to 282,127. Confirmed cases increased by 83,926 to 11,603,535.
Queiroga, who is replacing General Eduardo Pazuello, shunned lockdowns as a government tool, saying simple measures can avoid economic stall. The minister also said that it’s President Jair Bolsonaro who’ll continue to dictate policies to fight the pandemic.
Nationalism Threatens WHO Goal (6:01 p.m. NY)
Vaccine nationalism in countries including the U.S. and India is likely to derail efforts by the World Health Organization to deliver 2 billion doses to poorer and middle-income nations by the end of the year, according to the head of the world’s biggest vaccine maker.
Countries are holding tight to their supplies and restricting access to materials needed to make more, said Adar Poonawalla, chief executive officer of the Serum Institute of India Ltd.
Poonawalla’s comments highlight the continuing challenge of vaccine inequality. Few African nations received a single shipment of shots before March, while more than 20% of the population in countries including Israel, the U.K., Bahrain and the U.S have received at least one shot.
France Weighs Paris Weekend Lockdown (4:42 p.m. NY)
France is considering imposing tougher restrictions in the Paris region to contain the coronavirus.
Prime Minister Jean Castex declined to be specific but said on television Tuesday that worsening indicators were pushing the government to work on a potential lockdown during weekends. The government will discuss possible restrictions at a cabinet meeting Wednesday, Castex said.
More than 400 people out of every 100,000 people in the Paris region have tested positive over the past week, a threshold Castex has described as alarming. Intensive-care units in and around the capital are almost full, forcing the state to transfer patients to other hospitals around the country.
France, Italy Signal They Will Allow Astra Shot (2:30 p.m. NY)
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and French President Emmanuel Macron are ready to allow the use of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine again if the European Union’s drug regulator advises that it’s safe, the Italian government said after the two leaders spoke by telephone.
The European Medicines Agency, which is reviewing the shot after several countries suspended it on health concerns, is due to give a definitive assessment Thursday. Draghi’s office said the initial guidance from the EMA was encouraging.
In unscheduled comments on Tuesday, the EMA reiterated that the vaccine’s benefits outweigh the risks, and there was no indication that it had caused blood clots in a number of people. But it also warned about a negative impact on public perception and a risk of increased hesitancy about taking vaccines.
EU Nations Told to Speed Vaccinations (1:15 p.m. NY)
European Union countries were warned on Tuesday that the slow pace of vaccinations, as well as moves to block the use of some doses, could put the recovery effort at risk and increase the likelihood of prolonged lockdowns.
The European Commission on Tuesday pushed back against member states’ attempts to dodge any blame over the EU’s lackluster vaccination rollout, which has been plagued by slow regulatory approvals and delivery disruptions by AstraZeneca Plc. The bloc’s health chief, Stella Kyriakides, told EU ministers in a call that out of the 70 million doses delivered to member states so far, only 51 million have been administered.
HSBC Closes Main Office in Hong Kong (10 a.m. NY)
HSBC Holdings Plc’s main office in Hong Kong has been closed until further notice after three people working in the building tested positive for Covid-19.
Visitors who stayed at the building for more than two hours between March 2 and 15 would be required to undergo mandatory coronavirus tests, according to an internal memo seen by Bloomberg.
The bank’s iconic main building in Hong Kong is located at 1 Queen’s Road Central.