Covid-19 Pandemic: Live Updates and News for Mar. 26, 2021

A person receives a dose of the Johnson & Johnson Janssen Covid-19 vaccine in New York on March 25. 

Photographer: Angus Mordant/Bloomberg

The EU’s controversial plan to curb the export of Covid-19 shots risks retaliatory measures, underlining the spiraling consequences from rising vaccine nationalism. Indonesia said that plans by major producers to keep more vaccines look set to disrupt its supplies over the coming months.

Mexico became the third country with more than 200,000 confirmed deaths due to Covid-19, with its official toll trailing only those of the U.S. and Brazil. Brazil reported more than 100,000 new infections in the last 24 hours, again setting a record as its outbreak worsens. Argentina plans to curb flights.

U.S. President Joe Biden set a goal of administering 200 million doses by the end of April, doubling his target as cases in the country start to increase again. More than half a billion Covid-19 vaccine doses have been administered worldwide, according to the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker.

Key Developments:

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Airlines at Risk of Another Lost Summer (6:05 a.m. London)

The latest setbacks to the return of air travel are stoking concern a fresh cash crunch is about to bear down on the airline industry. In just the past week, the optimism that took the Bloomberg World Airlines Index to the highest since the start of the pandemic has evaporated. And a second summer lost to the crisis would likely trigger a spate of airline failures and bankruptcy filings.

“The ground is shifting from one day to the next,” said Stuart Hatcher at consultants IBA Group. Governments are aware that pushing back the reopening of travel will mean more pain for the aviation industry but have been spooked by resurgent infection rates even as vaccine rollouts continue, he said.

Thailand to Reopen Phuket Resort Island (1:53 p.m. HK)

Thailand will waive quarantine requirements for vaccinated visitors arriving on the resort island of Phuket from July 1, the first key reopening for the tourism-reliant nation. A panel chaired by Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha has approved a proposal to inoculate at least 70% of the island’s residents, according to Tourism Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn.

Indonesia May Miss Out on Vaccine Supplies (1:49 p.m. HK)

Plans by major vaccine producers to keep more output for local use may disrupt supplies to Indonesia in the coming months, according to Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin. Separately, Airlangga Hartarto, coordinating minister for economic affairs, said the government will expand movement restrictions to more regions and impose stricter measures after April 5.

EU Vaccine Plan Runs the Risk of Retaliation (1 p.m. HK)

The EU’s plan to curb vaccine exports risks retaliatory measures that could jeopardize supplies for plants in Europe, and undercut the global effort to contain the pandemic. Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has made the case for a new, tougher mechanism to secure vaccines, given that the bloc has sent more shots to the rest of the world than it’s given its own people.

“There was a broad sense of agreement that if it needs to be used — and of course we hope it will not be used — broader consequences should be taken into account,” Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told reporters following an online summit. “Global supply and production chains need to remain intact.”

Poor Seen Hurt by Vaccine Nationalism (12:39 p.m. HK)

Growing vaccine nationalism in major producers India and the EU are hitting the most disadvantaged nations the hardest, leaving them waiting for doses promised through a World Health Organization-backed inoculation initiative.

The world’s top manufacturer, India’s Serum Institute, is a key supplier to Covax, the program through which 2 billion doses are supposed to be distributed to middle and low-income countries. But these plans are threatened by India’s decision to curb shipments, so more supply is kept for local use.

Developing nations from Kenya to Brazil — where deaths surged past 300,000 this week — have been left waiting for doses after only a fraction of those promised have been received, according to data from Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, one of WHO’s Covax partners.

Vietnam Warns on Fresh Outbreak Risk (12:47 p.m. HK)

Vietnam’s Health Minister Nguyen Thanh Long said that the nation faces a “high risk” of a new Covid-19 outbreak, according to a post on the ministry’s website. That warning hurt local stocks on Friday. The minister spoke at a conference as authorities searched for passengers who’d shared a flight and a boat ride with two people who crossed the border into the country illegally

N.Z. Aims for Cook Islands Travel Bubble (10:13 a.m. HK)

New Zealand and the Cook Islands are working toward a two-way travel bubble in May, Television New Zealand reported, citing Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. She spoke after a meeting with her Cook Islands counterpart, Mark Brown. New Zealand took top spot in the latest Bloomberg Covid Resilience Ranking.

World Bank Highlights Uneven Vaccine Access (9:29 a.m. HK)

A three-speed recovery from the pandemic is taking hold across East Asia and the Pacific, according to the World Bank, which warned inequality in access to vaccines underlies much of the unevenness. Developing countries ex-China are set to grow 4.4% after shrinking 3.7% last year, it said in a release, although there’s wide variation beneath the headline figure. Vaccine “rollout numbers we have seen recently are very low,” especially in the Philippines and Indonesia, said Aaditya Mattoo, chief economist for East Asia and the Pacific.

Vaccination of Soldiers at the Headquarters Philippine Army Grandstand

A Philippine Army medical officer administers a dose of the Sinovac Biotech Ltd. Covid-19 vaccine to a soldier in Manila on March 2.

Photographer: Veejay Villafranca/Bloomberg

Mexico Tops 200,000 Deaths (9:10 a.m. HK)

Mexico became the third country with more than 200,000 confirmed deaths due to Covid-19, with its official toll trailing only those of the U.S. and Brazil. Deaths increased 584 to 200,211, according to Health Ministry data. Still, hospital occupancy — which had hovered near 90% for weeks in the capital — has also fallen, with no states reporting more than half of their beds full.

Labor Secretary Vows to Tackle Covid Rule (9:01 a.m. HK)

New U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh said that he’s inserting himself into the agency’s stalled rule-making to protect workers from Covid-19. The planned emergency regulation would require businesses to take steps to safeguard their workers against virus spread. “The priority of the Department of Labor, and the priority of the president, is making sure that the workers’ health and safety is a top priority,” Walsh told reporters on Thursday.

Argentina to Curb Flights Amid Latam Spike (8:32 a.m. HK)

Argentina’s government will suspend flights arriving from Brazil, Mexico and Chile amid a spike in virus cases in parts of Latin America. The curbs will start on March 27, according to a government official, who asked not be identified because the decision hasn’t been officially published.

U.K. Job Ads See Two Best Weeks In Pandemic (8:06 a.m. HK)

The U.K. had its best two weeks for job advertisements since the start of the pandemic, according to REC, a group representing recruiters and employers. Some 146,000 new jobs were posted last week and 179,000 the week before, the two highest readings since March 2020. The findings are a sign companies are beginning to prepare for lockdown rules loosening in the coming weeks.

Disney Parks Eye Post-Covid Growth (6:59 a.m HK)

After the pandemic shut down its California theme parks for more than a year, Walt Disney Co. is now looking to shift into growth mode. The company announced plans Thursday to expand its properties in Anaheim, California, by adding attractions across the street from the existing parks. The project, which hasn’t been assigned a price tag or a target date, is called DisneylandForward.

relates to EU’s Vaccine Plan Stokes Risks; Phuket to Reopen: Virus Update

Artist illustration of the DisneylandForward project.

Macron Warns of ‘Tough’ Weeks Ahead (6:54 a.m. HK)

French President Emmanuel Macron said new measures to contain the epidemic might be needed in the coming weeks. More than a third of France, including Paris, is already locked down, in addition to a national curfew. “The next few weeks will be tough,” he said after a European Council summit Thursday.

He spoke the same day France extended the lockdown to three more regions, as the government battles a surge that is increasingly affecting younger people. For four weeks from this weekend, the Nievre, Rhone and Aube areas will follow Paris and several other regions with tougher restrictions.

India Restricts Vaccine Exports (6:21 a.m. HK)

India is restricting coronavirus vaccine exports, a move that will likely hit the world’s most disadvantaged nations hardest and exacerbate what the World Health Organization’s head this week called a “grotesque” supply chasm between rich and poor countries.

The world’s biggest vaccine exporter, the country is a key supplier to Covax, a program backed by WHO and partners to deploy shots to every corner of the globe, and India’s decision to pare back shipments threatens the group’s plans to inoculate 2 billion people before the end of the year.

Covid Vaccine Production and Logistical Facilities at Serum Institute, the World's Largest Vaccine Maker

Employees monitor the production of line for vials of Covishield, the local name for the Covid-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca Plc. and the University of Oxford, at the Serum Institute of India Ltd. Hadaspar plant in India

Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg

Brazil Breaks Record (5:37 p.m. NY)

Brazil reported more than 100,000 new infections in the last 24 hours, again setting a record as the outbreak there continues to worsen. Total cases neared 12.3 million, the most after the U.S.

Latin America’s top economy also reported 2,777 fatalities, totaling 303,462, the Health Ministry reported, as leaders remained at loggerheads. President Jair Bolsonaro criticized lockdown measures again while Vice President Hamilton Mourao said virus deaths have risen above any acceptable level.

Astra Told to Supply EU Doses First (5:32 p.m. NY)

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said AstraZeneca Plc must meet its commitments for supplying vaccines to the European Union before it will be allowed to export any doses. Von der Leyen spoke at a press conference following a virtual summit with EU leaders.

Global Vaccinations Pass 500 Million (4:52 p.m. NY)

More than half a billion Covid-19 vaccine doses have been administered worldwide, according to the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker. So far, shots have been given in 140 countries, with the vast majority going to developed nations.

Biden Doubles Vaccine Goal (1:35 p.m. NY)

President Joe Biden set a goal of administering 200 million Covid-19 vaccine doses by the end of April, doubling his target for his first 100 days in office. “I know it’s ambitious,” Biden said at the White House. “I believe we can do it.”

President Biden's News Conference Debut Puts Border, Guns, Covid In Focus

Joe Biden speaks during a news conference on March 25.

Photographer: Oliver Contreras/Sipa/Bloomberg

U.K. Approves Plan to Lift Lockdown (1:19 p.m. NY)