(Bloomberg) — Ghana received the first batch of vaccines shipped through the World Health Organization-backed Covax initiative as the West African country prepares an inoculation campaign.
Hong Kong pledged HK$120 billion ($15.5 billion) to support its economy and will give HK$5,000 in vouchers to residents to boost consumption.
Thailand received its first batch of doses from Sinovac Biotech Ltd., allowing it to start its vaccination campaign within a week. The country may also waive quarantine for vaccinated visitors to rebuild tourism, while Taiwan will ease its entry ban on non-residents next week.
Ghana Receives First Covax Vaccine Shipment (4:08 p.m. HK)
Ghana took delivery of its first consignment of Covid-19 vaccines on Wednesday, as the nation prepares to roll out an immunization program next month. The shipment was the first under the WHO-backed Covax initiative, which aims to deliver almost 2 billion doses this year.
Health Minister Kwaku Agyeman Manu received the 600,000 doses of AstraZeneca Plc vaccine at a ceremony in the capital, Accra. The nation has been allocated 2.4 million shots under the Covax program.
Vietnam Receives First Batch of Vaccines (3:23 p.m. HK)
The first batch of coronavirus vaccines arrived in Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City on Wednesday to kick off the vaccination of more than 50,000 people, according to a post on a government website. The vaccines are part of Vietnam’s deal with AstraZeneca to supply 30 million doses, it said.
Vietnam is also negotiating with Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE for 30 million vaccine doses in 2021, VnExpress news website reported Wednesday, citing Health Minister Nguyen Thanh Long.
Malaysia Starts Vaccinations (2:58 p.m. HK)
Malaysia started its Covid-19 vaccination program on Wednesday, two days ahead of schedule, with Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin the first to receive the shot.
The nation’s health director-general, as well as several medical staff, were also among the group to receive the first Pfizer-BioNTech shots.
Taiwan to Ease Entry Ban (2:44 p.m. HK)
A ban on non-resident foreign nationals will be eased from March 1, allowing short-term business travelers from lower risk areas to apply for five to seven days of quarantine, Taiwan Centers for Disease Control said. The entry ban has been in place since Jan. 1 and also applies to airline transit passengers.
Pace of Indonesia Vaccinations Lags Target (2:12 p.m. HK)
Six weeks into its vaccination program, Indonesia has administered more than 2 million Sinovac Biotech shots with no reports so far of serious adverse effects. The elderly are starting to get their doses after the country inoculated frontline workers, including those in healthcare and the military.
The pace of vaccinations remains slow at about 50,000 a day, far short of the 500,000 needed to reach Indonesia’s target of more than 180 million this year. Bureaucracy remains a hurdle as registration requires multiple steps and health facilities limit numbers to avoid crowds.
Philippines Expects Sinovac Shots Next Week (1:38 p.m. HK)
The Philippines is due to receive its first vaccine shipments from Sinovac Biotech by Feb. 28 and can start inoculations a day after, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said. The Chinese drugmaker said it needs a week to prepare the delivery and is coordinating with the Philippine customs bureau.
President Rodrigo Duterte is “perplexed” with the local regulator’s decision not to recommend Sinovac shots to health workers, Roque said.
Hong Kong Vaccination Rollout (1:15 p.m. HK)
Hong Kong is expected to start Pfizer-BioNTech vaccinations as early as March 8, with registrations starting next week, TVB reported, citing unidentified people. Meanwhile, appointments for the Sinovac shot, which arrived in the city first, are fully booked for the next two weeks.
China Accepts CanSino’s Vaccine Application (12:59 p.m. HK)
CanSino Biologic Inc. said its application for conditional approval of its Ad5-nCoV vaccine, jointly developed with the Chinese military, has been accepted by China’s drug regulator. A single dose has an overall efficacy of nearly 69% against all symptomatic Covid-19 disease after 14 days and a 95% rate against severe disease in the same period, the Tianjin-based company said.
Late stage trials have been carried out in Pakistan, Mexico, Russia, Chile and Argentina, and the vaccine has been approved for emergency use in Mexico.
Vaccines Arrive in Thailand (12:15 p.m. HK)
Thailand received its first vaccines from Sinovac Biotech, while another batch from AstraZeneca is due later in the day. The 200,000 doses from Sinovac and 117,000 from AstraZeneca allow the nation to start its vaccination drive within a week and will be distributed to healthcare and front-line workers. Thailand has ordered 2 million doses from Sinovac and 61 million from AstraZeneca.
Hong Kong Budget Pledges (11:53 a.m. HK)
Each permanent resident over the age of 18 will get coupons of HK$5,000 designed to be spent in shops, bars and restaurants, which have been badly hit by the pandemic and enforced closures. Financial Secretary Paul Chan’s budget also includes reductions to salaries tax and electricity subsidies.
The budget “aims to alleviate the hardship and pressure caused by the economic downturn and the epidemic through the introduction of counter-cyclical measures costing over HK$120 billion,” Chan said. He also said Hong Kong would continue discussing travel bubbles with countries.
For more on the budget, please click here.
Record Loss for Top Singapore Developer (11:12 a.m. HK)
CapitaLand Ltd., the largest developer in Singapore, suffered a record full-year loss of S$1.57 billion ($1.2 billion) after writing down the value of some investment properties and residential projects during the pandemic. The Covid-19 crisis has battered Singapore’s property market, particularly office and hospitality assets.
China Denies Blocking Taiwan (10:50 a.m. HK)
The accusation that China is blocking Taiwan’s purchases of vaccines is groundless, China’s Taiwan Affairs Office spokesman Ma Xiaoguang told a briefing in Beijing.
Taiwan’s health minister suggested last week that the derailing of a purchase of five million doses from Germany’s BioNTech SE was due to political pressure from “external forces.”
New Zealand Central Bank Decision (10:05 a.m. HK)
The Reserve Bank of New Zealand signaled it is in no rush to remove monetary stimulus, saying inflation will slow next year and the economic outlook remains highly uncertain amid the pandemic.
“Prolonged monetary stimulus” is necessary and it will require “considerable time and patience” to meet inflation and employment targets, the central bank said.
Cambodia Sees Sudden Rise in Cases (9:58 a.m. HK)
Cambodia reported 40 new cases as infections continue to climb in the Southeast Asian country.
Japan Leisure and Travel Shares Rise (9:37 a.m. HK)
Stocks including Japan Airlines Co. and ANA Holdings Inc. rose following reports the Japanese government is considering lifting the state of emergency outside Tokyo earlier than planned as virus cases fall.
The decision could come as soon as Friday. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga will discuss the possible move Wednesday with virus czar Yasutoshi Nishimura and Health Minister Norihisa Tamura, according to public broadcaster NHK.
Colorado Deactivates Hospital Care Plan (8:23 a.m. HK)
Colorado ended its Crisis Standard of Care Plan that set emergency guidelines for allotting hospital care and recommended allocation of scarce resources such as ventilators and intensive care unit beds, the state’s Joint Information Center said. The deactivation was ordered earlier in the month but announced publicly Tuesday.
Biden Shelves Mask Shipments (7:40 a.m. HK)
Biden will announce a program to send cloth masks to disadvantaged U.S. communities to curb while shelving for now a proposal to send masks to every American, according to two administration officials familiar with the plans.
Chip Issue to Hit Ford, GM Results: Moody’s (7:01 a.m. HK)
The global semiconductor shortage exacerbated by the pandemic will slash earnings at General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co. by about one-third this year as supply constraints hamper production and profits, Moody’s Investor Service estimated.
The chip shortage will materially erode margins and could lower expected earnings before interest and taxes by as much as $2 billion for GM and $2.5 billion for Ford, the ratings agency said in a note published Tuesday.
U.S. Looks for a Surge in Vaccine Supply (4:15 p.m. NY)
Johnson & Johnson said it will be ready next month to ship 20 million doses of its one-shot vaccine, adding to a coming surge in vaccine availability in the U.S., according to Bloomberg analysis of drugmaker promises.
Along with vaccines from Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc., which both require two doses, the delivery targets through next month will be enough to fully vaccinate 130 million Americans.
A U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention committee scheduled a meeting for Sunday and Monday regarding J&J’s application for emergency use of its vaccine candidate. An authorization could swiftly follow the meeting.
Astra Cuts 2Q Delivery to EU by Half (2:45 p.m. NY)
A person familiar with the matter confirmed a report by Reuters that AstraZeneca is expected to deliver about half the Covid-19 vaccines it had committed to supply the European Union in the second quarter.
The shortfall wouldn’t impact the EU’s target of vaccinating 70% of the adult population by the end of summer, the person said.
Dutch Government Moves to Relax Lockdown (1:45 p.m. NY)
The Dutch government will take “a little bit more risk” in relaxing a few lockdown measures. Secondary schools will partly reopen, shopping with an appointment will be allowed and barbers and other so-called contact jobs can reopen. The government announced the new measures hours after case numbers showed an increase in the week ending Feb. 23. A much debated nighttime curfew will be extended until March 15.
Ireland to Stay in Lockdown (1:15 p.m. NY)
Ireland’s government will maintain its strict lockdown regime until at least April 5, Prime Minister Micheal Martin said in a national address. Non-essential stores, bars and personal services — which have been closed for over six weeks — will remain shuttered, and people will have to stay within 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) from home. In one change, schools will reopen on a phased basis next month. Offering some hope, Martin said over 80% of adults will have been given at least a first vaccine dose by the end of June.