Mayor Says NYC Can’t Run Remotely; German Record: Virus Update
Bloomberg Quint|3 days ago

(Bloomberg) -- New York City Mayor Eric Adams urged businesses to bring workers back and parents to send their kids to school. “We cannot run a city as complex as New York remotely,” he said.

General Electric Co. is suspending implementation of the Biden administration’s vaccine-or-test mandate for large employers after the Supreme Court blocked the federal rule.

The U.K. reported fewer than 100,000 new cases for the first time since late December, raising hopes that the country is past the worst of its omicron wave. Germany reported record cases for the third straight day.

The pandemic could start moving into an endemic phase in 2022, according to Moderna Inc. co-founder Noubar Afeyan. At least a dozen Hong Kong-based managing directors at banks ranging from Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Bank of America Corp. are stranded because of the flight bans.

Key Developments: 

  • Virus Tracker: Cases near 320.9 million; deaths pass 5.5 million
  • Vaccine Tracker: More than 9.64 billion shots administered
  • Biden agenda collides with Supreme Court willing to flex power
  • Omicron surge gives bosses reason to order shots Biden can’t
  • Chaos at Hong Kong quarantine camp leaves some detainees trapped
  • Canada plays dangerous game demanding U.S. truckers have shots
Mayor Says NYC Can’t Run Remotely; German Record: Virus Update

GE Halts Vaccine Rule After Court Decision (12:32 p.m. NY)

General Electric Co. is suspending implementation of the Biden administration’s vaccine-or-test mandate for large employers after the Supreme Court blocked the federal rule.

The maker of jet engines, wind turbines and medical scanners confirmed the decision Friday via email. GE is the first major company to announce a halt after the court’s decision Thursday to block the centerpiece of President Joe Biden’s push to boost Covid-19 vaccinations. 

U.K. Daily Cases Dip Below 100,000 (12:23 p.m. NY)

The U.K. reported fewer than 100,000 new cases for the first time since late December, raising hopes that the country is past the worst of its omicron wave.

The 99,652 infections recorded on Friday compare with almost 200,000 a day at the peak of the outbreak. 

Hospitalizations in London, the early center of the U.K. omicron onslaught, are below the recent high reached on Jan. 5., and show signs of decline elsewhere in the country as well. While the average number of fatalities is creeping upward, deaths have stayed relatively low compared with earlier waves.

Maryland Begins Distributing 20 Million Masks (11:44 a.m. NY)

Maryland began distributing the first of what it says will be a total of 20 million more-protective N95 and KN95 masks. Maryland, part of the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, has hit record cases and hospitalizations, though some health experts say the state’s omicron wave may be peaking. 

Finland to Help Hurt Businesses (11:14 a.m. NY)

Finland is planning to compensate companies hit by restrictions intended to limit the spread of Covid-19.

Sports facilities, gyms, spas and swimming pools and indoor playgrounds are among companies that will receive the aid, Economy Minister Mika Lintila told reporters on Friday. The package will be about 200 million euros ($230 million) in size, he said, depending on the duration of the curbs.

Adams Says NYC Can’t Function Remotely (11:06 a.m. NY)

New York City Mayor Eric Adams urged businesses to bring workers back and parents to send their kids to school. 

“We cannot run a city as complex as New York remotely,” Adams said at a press conference at the Steinway & Sons factory in Astoria, Queens. 

The mayor, who spoke on a podium in the middle of the factory as employees worked, continued his bid to will the city back to regular activity despite a daily average of more than 25,000 cases due to the omicron variant. 

China’s Zhuhai Finds Seven Cases: TV (10:20 p.m. HK)

China’s Zhuhai city in Guangdong province found seven confirmed Covid-19 cases from the mass testing, state broadcaster CCTV reports, citing a local government briefing. 

Preliminary result from genetic sequencing shows the cases are infected with the omicron variant. Six of the cases are asymptomatic.

More U.K. Babies Hospitalized (9:30 p.m. HK)

Omicron has resulted in a higher hospitalization rate for babies in the U.K. than seen for previous variants of Covid-19, though most hospital stays were short, researchers said. 

Infants under the age of one accounted for 42% of children hospitalized during the omicron wave, compared with 30% in May to mid-December when the delta variant was prevalent, the research team said in data presented on Friday. Outcomes for the hospitalized babies have been positive, however, with no deaths, less need for oxygen and proportionally fewer intensive-care admissions than during the delta wave. 

Germany Warns Against Giving Covid Free Rein (9:11 a.m. HK)

Germany warned that letting Covid-19 spread uncontrollably would lead to otherwise avoidable deaths even if the omicron strain is less severe than previous variants of the virus.

“There is still no reason to sound the all-clear,” Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said on Friday in Berlin. If authorities give the virus free rein, “the number of victims that we would then be mourning is unknown and certainly would be too high.”

EU Regulator Links Spinal Illness to J&J, Astra (8:30 p.m. HK)

European Medicines Agency’s safety committee has recommended a change to the product information for AstraZeneca’s Vaxzevria and Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 Vaccine Janssen, according to statement.

Product information to include a warning of very rare cases of transverse myelitis (TM) reported following vaccination. TM is a rare neurological condition characterized by an inflammation of one or both sides of the spinal cord.

EMA’s safety committee says causal relationship between these two vaccines and transverse myelitis is “at least a reasonable possibility.”

Moderna Chair Sees Possible Shift to Endemic (8:03 p.m. HK)

The pandemic could start moving into an endemic phase in 2022, though countries will need to stay vigilant as the omicron variant spreads, according to Moderna Inc. co-founder Noubar Afeyan.

While some countries slowly begin to consider treating Covid as an endemic disease, like the flu, World Health Organization officials have said it’s too early to make that call as cases surge. 

Hong Kong Extends Restrictions (6:42 p.m. HK)

Hong Kong extended social distancing measures and the city’s flight ban on eight countries to stem an outbreak of the infectious omicron variant, while announcing economic relief to help businesses cope.

The ban on bars, beaches, gyms and cinemas, as well as dining-in after 6 p.m., will continue until Feb. 3, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said at a regular press briefing Friday. The Asian financial hub will also extend its passenger flight ban on Australia, Canada, France, India, Pakistan, the Philippines, the U.K. and the U.S., until Feb. 4, she added.

Gene Linked to Severe Covid (6 p.m. HK)

Polish scientists have discovered a gene that they say more than doubles the risk of falling severely ill with, or even dying from Covid-19.

The Health Ministry in Warsaw expects the discovery to help identify people who are most at risk from the disease, which has already killed more than 100,000 people in Poland alone. It also plans to include genetic tests when it screens patients for potential Covid-19 infections as soon as the end of June.

Sweden’s Prime Minister Tests Positive (5 p.m. HK)

Sweden’s prime minister, Magdalena Andersson, has tested positive for Covid-19 with a so-called quick test, her press secretary told news agency TT. 

The prime minister is feeling well, under the circumstances, the news agency reported. Elsewhere in Swedish politics, Center Party leader Annie Loof and Green Party spokesman Per Bolund both tested positive following a debate of party leaders in parliament earlier this week.

Omicron Deaths in S. Africa Peaked at 15% of Delta (4:07 p.m. HK)

The death rate for those infected with the omicron coronavirus variant in South Africa peaked at 14% to 15% of the rate seen when the country was experiencing a wave caused by the delta variant, Waasila Jassat, a researcher at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases said.

Hospital admissions peaked at about 60% of the delta wave, she said in an online presentation on Friday

Omicron Less Severe for Unvaccinated: S. African Study (4:04 p.m. HK)

The omicron coronavirus variant causes less severe disease than the delta strain even in those who are unvaccinated or who haven’t had a prior Covid-19 infection, a study from South Africa’s Western Cape province showed. 

The findings add to growing evidence that while more infectious, omicron may be less virulent than predecessors. Data from South Africa, the first country to have a major outbreak caused by the strain, has so far shown lower hospitalization and death rates.

Japan Trims Isolation for Essential Workers (3:09 p.m. HK)

The Japanese government is preparing to cut the period of time that essential workers need to isolate at home after being designated as close contacts of cases of the omicron variant of Covid-19, FNN reports without attribution. The isolation period will be cut to six days from the current 14, provided the workers test negative on day six.

No Need to Wear Masks Outdoors in Paris (2:23 p.m. HK)

Parisians are no longer obliged to wear masks outdoors after an administrative court struck down a local rule put in place from Dec. 31 to try to stem the spread of omicron, Les Echos reported Friday. The court decision followed another in the neighboring department of Versailles that found the measure to be an “excessive” and disproportionate intrusion on individual rights, the newspaper said.

Hong Kong Bankers Stuck Overseas (1:53 p.m. HK)

Those stranded include division heads in investment banking, wealth and asset management and other functions, the people said, asking not to be identified discussing internal business. The barring of flights from eight countries, part of an outlier Covid Zero strategy, is threatening the city’s appeal as a regional financial hub.

Auto Factories in China Shuttered (11:33 a.m. HK)

Global automakers have been caught in the latest coronavirus outbreak in the Chinese city of Tianjin. A factory operated by Volkswagen AG’s joint venture with FAW Group has been shut since Monday, along with a gearbox supplier controlled by the German giant. They join a Toyota Motor Corp. factory that has been closed for five days.

Cases in Germany Soar to Record (10:41 a.m. HK)

Infections surged by 92,223, the highest one-day increase since the start of the pandemic, according to numbers released Friday by the country’s RKI public-health institute. The seven-day incidence rate per 100,000 people climbed to a record high of 470.6.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz this week issued a strong appeal for Germans to get vaccinated, saying failing to do so puts others at risk as the nation grapples with omicron. More than 72% of the population is fully vaccinated with two shots, and over 45% have had a booster shot, according to the latest RKI data. But there remain pockets of intense opposition to inoculations.

Airlines Slash Services to China (9:58 a.m. HK)

China is more cut off from international travel than at any other stage during the pandemic as it tries to stamp out Covid with tight controls on movement. Airlines from key markets have reacted by slashing services from already low levels, with fewer than 500 inbound China flights scheduled this week versus about 10,000 this time two years ago.

Mayor Says NYC Can’t Run Remotely; German Record: Virus Update

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