Japan Set to End Emergency; Biden Gets Booster: Virus Update

Japan is set to lift a state of emergency across the whole country at the end of September as new infections recede, with Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga scheduled to hold a news conference later on Tuesday.

U.S. President Joe Biden received a booster shot Monday and said he’d press for more vaccination mandates to improve the U.S. inoculation rate. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also said he had received a booster. New York City may begin to bar thousands of unvaccinated school personnel from their jobs after a court ruling. 

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention raised its travel advisories for Hong Kong and Singapore by one notch each. Hong Kong has a moderate level of Covid-19, the agency said, while the level is high in Singapore, where all travelers may be at risk for getting and spreading variants.

Japan to Lift Emergency As Virus Cases Plummet (8:12 a.m. HK)

The state of emergency in Tokyo is being lifted for the first time in more than two months, as new cases in Japan fell to 2,129 on Sunday compared with levels above 25,000 in mid-August. 

The country’s vaccination program has also proceeded steadily, with more than 57% of the population fully immunized, putting Japan just ahead of the U.S. Restrictions on restaurants and bars will be gradually lifted, Suga told reporters Monday. 

New York School Vaccine Mandate Ban Lifted in Surprise Ruling (8:19 a.m. HK)

In a surprise ruling, a three-judge federal appellate court panel in New York lifted a temporary injunction against a vaccine mandate, paving the way for the city to bar thousands of unvaccinated school personnel from their jobs.

The court gave no reasons for the decision, other than saying the injunction that had been entered Friday was “for administrative purposes.” The practical effect is that the largest school district in the U.S. may now insist that all school employees and contractors be vaccinated.

Brazil’s Fiocruz Completes Production of First Vaccine Inputs (6:50 a.m. HK)

Fiocruz said it completed production of the first two batches of national inputs for a Covid-19 vaccine as it looks toward the delivery of vaccines with Brazilian inputs in the fourth quarter.

The material, which is being tested with AstraZeneca, still needs to be approved by Brazilian regulators.

Rutgers Mandate Can Be Enforced, Judge Rules (5:04 a.m. HK)

A federal judge rejected a motion for a temporary restraining order that would have blocked Rutgers University from demanding that students be vaccinated before returning to campus. Plaintiff Children’s Health Defense isn’t likely to succeed on the merits of its case against the New Jersey school, the judge held, saying that rights to informed consent and to refuse unwanted medical treatment “are not absolute.”

“Given the severity and number of cases and deaths during the Covid-19 pandemic so far, there is a real and substantial relation between the policy and the need to protect public health,” the judge held.

United Airlines Notches 98.5% Vaccination Rate (3:39 p.m. NY)

United Airlines Holdings Inc. said 98.5% of its U.S.-based employees have been vaccinated and expects the figure to exceed 99% in its final tally of compliance with its mandate. The carrier had set a Monday deadline for all U.S.-based workers to receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine or an initial dose of a two-shot vaccine. Failure to comply could result in termination.

U.S. Boosts Travel Warnings for HK, Singapore (3:06 p.m. NY)

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention raised its travel advisories for Hong Kong and Singapore by one notch each. Hong Kong has a moderate level of Covid-19, the agency said, while Singapore’s is high.

Unvaccinated travelers should avoid nonessential travel to Singapore, where all travelers may be at risk for getting and spreading variants, the CDC said.

Biden Gets Booster, Presses for Mandates (1:57 p.m. NY)

Biden received a booster shot made by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE and said he would press for more vaccination mandates to improve the inoculation rate.

Americans who have refused to be vaccinated are causing “an awful lot of damage for the rest of the country,” he said at the White House. “This is a pandemic of the unvaccinated. That’s why I’m moving forward with vaccination mandates wherever I can.”

Biden, 78, meets federal guidelines that those over age 65 get a third shot. The president received his second in January, putting him well past the six-month threshold for getting another.

Japan Set to End Emergency; Biden Gets Booster: Virus Update

Chile to Use Sinovac Shot for Children 6-11 (12:46 p.m. NY)

Chile began vaccinating children ages 6 to 11 with a vaccine made by Sinovac Biotech that won emergency use approval from the government this month. Previously, Pfizer’s vaccine, approved for people 12 to 17 years old, had been Chile’s only shot available to young people. The country has vaccinated 82.4% of its residents, behind only Uruguay in Latin America, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Crowdsourced Pill Research Gets $11 Million (12:32 p.m. NY)

A crowdsourced effort to design a Covid-19 pill won 8 million pounds ($11 million) in funding from the Wellcome Trust. About 250 people submitted to the Covid Moonshot effort more than 4,500 potential molecular designs intended to block a key protein that helps the virus replicate. 

“It is a way of working that none of us realized was possible,” said University of Oxford Professor Frank von Delft, a leader of the project. It has been “an express train on tracks we have had to lay down as we go.” 

The Wellcome funding will help pay for the expensive last step of research needed to bring the project into human clinical trials but is unlikely to beat big pharmaceutical companies. Pfizer is in late-stage trials on an oral antiviral.

Pfizer Starts Advanced Trial of Oral Drug (11:01 a.m. NY)

Pfizer advanced testing of an experimental oral antiviral drug. The medicine, PF-07321332, is intended to be given at the first sign of exposure or infection, without requiring patients to be hospitalized first.

Pfizer’s new trial is enrolling as many as 2,660 adults who live in the same household as someone with a confirmed infection. Participants will get either a placebo or a combination of the experimental drug plus ritonavir twice daily for five or 10 days, the company said.

Monoclonal antibodies from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Eli Lilly & Co. are authorized in the U.S. for preventing Covid-19 in high-risk individuals who have been exposed, but no oral drugs have been approved yet.

Slow J&J Deliveries Hobble South Africa (10:35 a.m. NY)

Slow delivery of Johnson & Johnson vaccinations is hampering South Africa’s inoculation drive, Business Day reported, citing Nicholas Crisp, acting director-general of the country’s health department. While South Africa has ample supply of Pfizer vaccines, it needs J&J’s for people in remote areas, since those shots can be stored with normal refrigeration and only one dose is needed.

“We don’t have plenty of J&J vaccines, and that is a problem for us because there are communities that are very hard to get back to a second time,” Crisp said. No doses were delivered in May and June and only 1.5 million were in July, Crisp said. South Africa has agreed to buy 31 million. 

Harvard Moves Some MBA Students Online (10:06 a.m. NY)

Harvard Business School moved its first-year MBA students to remote learning this week amid a “steady rise” in infections in students, despite high vaccination rates and frequent testing. Remote learning will be in place for this week and the school asked all students to eliminate unmasked indoor activities.

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