Singapore’s Resolve Tested; Indonesia Eases Curbs: Virus Update

Singapore’s daily Covid-19 case count topped 100 for the seventh straight day on Monday, testing its resolve to continue reopening its economy. Meanwhile, Indonesia further eased restrictions on movement as infections declined.

A third dose appeared to curb a delta-led surge in cases and prevent severe disease in a study in Israel. European Union countries voted to reimpose restrictions on non-essential travel from the U.S., which told citizens to reconsider trips to Germany and Canada. 

Moderna Inc. fell as Japan investigates the deaths of two people who received the company’s Covid-19 shots. South African scientists said they identified a new coronavirus variant that has a concerning number of mutations.

U.S. Raises Germany, Canada Travel Warning (4:25 a.m. HK)

The U.S. State Department told residents to reconsider travel to Germany and Canada amid a “high level” of Covid-19 in the two countries. It raised their travel advisories, separately, by one notch to Level 3.

Brazil Overtakes U.S. in First Doses (3:30 p.m. NY)

Brazil became the latest major country to pass the U.S. in the percentage of its citizens who have had at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine as the government’s inoculation campaign picks up speed and resistance to the shots fades away. 

About 63% of Brazilians have now received at least one dose, versus 62% of people in the U.S., according to Bloomberg’s Covid-19 Vaccine Tracker. Countries including Germany, France and the U.K. have vaccinated at least 65% of the population with one shot, the data show. 

White Houses Urges Shot Incentives for Poor (3:15 p.m. NY)

The Biden administration is encouraging states to offer gift cards or similar incentives to low-income people on Medicaid who get the Covid-19 vaccine, in a bid to boost inoculation rates that trail the broader public. 

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services issued new guidance Monday to state Medicaid directors, offering federal funding and other assistance to boost vaccination rates among people covered by the health plan. There’s been confusion about whether federal funding can support vaccination efforts in the program, an official familiar with the matter said.

Anti-Vax Talk Show Host Dies of Covid (2:20 p.m. NY)

A conservative talk radio host in Florida who said he wouldn’t get vaccinated has died from Covid-19, making him the third on-air personality who voiced skepticism about the shots to die in August, the New York Post reported.

Marc Bernier, 65, who had characterized himself as “Mr. Anti-Vax” on his weekday WNDB radio show from Daytona Beach, died after a three-week fight against the virus, station officials announced.

Bernier died about a week after Tennessee conservative talk radio host Phil Valentine, 61, died from a protracted battle against the virus. Weeks earlier, Newsmax anchor and conservative radio host Dick Farrel, who questioned the efficacy of vaccines, died from the virus on Aug. 4.

Africa’s Low Immunity Raises Variant Risk (1:50 p.m. NY)

The large number of people in Africa with a weakened immune system makes it ripe for the development of Covid-19 variants, the head of a South African genomics institute said. 

The study of an individual with advanced HIV and limited adherence to anti-retroviral treatment showed that a Covid-19 infection persisted for more than 200 days and “multimutational escape variants” developed, Tulio de Oliveira, the head of the institute said. 

Africa is home to the bulk of the world’s HIV infections, with South Africa alone having about 7.7 million affected individuals, and high burdens of diseases such as tuberculosis. 

Puerto Rico Adds Outdoor Mask Mandate (1:45 p.m. NY)

Puerto Rico is once again tightening restrictions amid a surge in cases. Starting Sept. 2, most public-facing businesses — including restaurants, shopping centers and nightclubs — must close from midnight to 5 a.m., and alcohol sales are prohibited during those hours. While masks are already required in enclosed areas, they will also now be required outdoors in spaces where there are more than 50 people.

Puerto Rico’s Health Department says 81% of the eligible population has at least one dose of vaccine and 70% have two doses. Even so, cases continue to be on the rise. 

The U.S. territory of 3.2 million people has reported more than 141,533 cases of the coronavirus and 2,832 deaths due to Covid-19 since the pandemic began.

U.S. Opens Civil-Rights Probe Over Mask Bans (1:10 p.m. NY)

The Education Department opened civil rights investigations in five Republican-led states asking whether bans on school mask mandates discriminate against students with disabilities at severe risk from contracting Covid-19.

The agency’s Office for Civil Rights sent letters to state education leaders in Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Utah Monday notifying them of the reviews.

EU to Reimpose Travel Curbs on U.S. (11:45 a.m. NY)

European Union countries voted to reimpose restrictions on non-essential travel from the U.S. amid a surge in new coronavirus cases, dealing a fresh blow to the tourism industry.

A qualified majority of ambassadors voted to reintroduce the curbs, which had been lifted in June, according to an EU statement.

The U.S. had 588 new Covid-19 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the two weeks ending Aug. 22, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, well above the limit of 75 set out in the EU guidelines.

The guidance from the bloc is a recommendation and any decision on who to let in, and what restrictions to impose, ultimately rests with the governments of each member state. Countries can also choose to accept proof of vaccination to waive travel restrictions. 

Moderna Drops as Japan Probes Deaths (10:40 a.m. NY)

Moderna Inc. fell as much as 5.1% Monday as Japan investigates the deaths of two people who received the company’s Covid-19 shots. Doses from three lots of Moderna’s shot have been halted following reports that foreign particles were found in one of the batches.

U.S. Monthly Deaths Highest Since March (10:35 a.m. NY)

The the number of U.S. Covid-19 fatalities in August is already the highest since March, underscoring the deadly nature of the delta variant. The nation recorded 24,274 deaths this month as of Sunday, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg. Confirmed cases of 3.8 million are the highest since January, which was part of the peak of the winter surge.

Singapore’s Resolve Tested; Indonesia Eases Curbs: Virus Update

Variant Batters Airline Bookings (10:20 a.m. NY)

U.S. airline passengers are planning fewer trips as the spread of the coronavirus delta variant continues to discourage travel.

Spending for the Labor Day holiday was down 16% from 2019 as of Aug. 21, while bookings were off 15%, according to the Adobe Digital Economy Index. The weekend typically marks the end of stepped-up summer travel for U.S. carriers and demand often rises as families seek to squeeze in a last trip before school resumes. 

Czechs Approve Booster Shots (9:38 a.m. NY)

The Czech Republic will start administering booster doses on Sept. 20 to people who were vaccinated at least eight months earlier, the government said Monday. Seniors and people with health problems will have a priority in getting the booster shots. 

With about 30,000 deaths in total, the country of 10.7 million had one of the highest Covid-related mortality rates in the world earlier this year, but new cases adjusted for population are now among the lowest in Europe.

Indonesia Relaxes Movement Curbs (8:32 a.m. NY)

Indonesia relaxed movement restrictions further in Java, Bali and other areas as the Covid-infectioon trend showed improvement, President Joko Widodo said in a briefing.

The Asian country added 5,436 cases in the past 24 hours, the lowest daily count since June 3, while recording 568 additional deaths. The positivity rate stood at 10.9%, compared with as high as 30% in July.

South Africa Identifies New Variant (7:09 a.m. NY)

South African scientists said they identified a new coronavirus variant that has a concerning number of mutations.

The so-called C.1.2. variant was first found in May in the provinces of Mpumalanga and Gauteng, where Johannesburg and the capital, Pretoria, are situated, the scientists said in a research paper published by groups including the KwaZulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform, and the National Institute for Communicable Diseases. It has since been found in seven other countries in Africa, Oceania, Asia and Europe.

The mutations on the virus “are associated with increased transmissibility” and an increased ability to evade antibodies, the scientists said. “It is important to highlight this lineage given its concerning constellation of mutations.”

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