Covid-19 travel update: Netherlands locks down again, Cuba eases curbs

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The Netherlands is entering a partial lockdown after a sharp increase in coronavirus infections. Shops, bars and restaurants will close early for three weeks, while crowds won’t be allowed at sporting events. 

Europe reported almost 2 million cases last week, the most in a single week in the region since the pandemic started. It also accounted for more than half of all Covid deaths globally last week. German health officials warned that there’s no sign a fourth viral wave will ease soon. Austria is seeing its highest infection numbers since the pandemic began, while Ireland reported the most since January. 

China’s wildlife trade is a pandemic “waiting to happen,” a study of more than a dozen species of game animals traded, sold and commonly consumed as exotic food in the country found. It identified 71 mammalian viruses, including 18 deemed “potentially high-risk” to people and domestic animals. Elsewhere in China, tens of thousands of university students are under lockdown on their campuses in the northeastern city of Dalian, which is battling the biggest flareup in the country’s current outbreak. 

Key Developments:

  • Virus Tracker: Cases exceed 252.5 million; deaths pass 5.08 million
  • Vaccine Tracker: More than 7.42 billion shots given
  • Covid pills may save lives, but they won’t end the pandemic
  • China’s wildlife harbor germs that could endanger people
  • Vaccine mandates are essential to stopping Covid-19: Editorial
  • How safe are Covid vaccines? Side effects in context: QuickTake

China’s Dalian Locks Down Thousands of Students (12:15 p.m. HK)

Tens of thousands of university students are under lockdown on their campuses in the northeastern Chinese city of Dalian, which is battling the biggest flareup in the country’s current outbreak, according to newspaper Dushikuaibao.

Two universities in Zhuanghe in Dalian have imposed the curbs since the port city discovered Covid cases on Nov. 4, the report said, citing university students. Students are having online classes from their dormitories, the paper said.

Dalian has become the country’s latest hotspot, reporting 40 local cases on Saturday out of the 57 new infections added nationwide. The city’s authorities have urged people not to leave their homes to reduce transmission, and have halted operations at public venues deemed non-essential.

Thailand to Get More Moderna Doses (11 a.m. HK)

Thailand will get 1.4 million doses of Moderna’s vaccine later this month, having received an initial lot of 560,000 shots on Nov. 1. Increasing vaccination has helped to control the current coronavirus outbreak, with new infections falling on Saturday to 7,057 cases, compared with its peak of 20,000 cases in August.

The government expects to get 155.6 million doses of vaccine this year, above its initial estimate of 100 million. Authorities have set a new target for 80% or more of the population to get at least one dose by December, aiming for at least 70% to be fully vaccinated. 

Japan Seeks Future Emergency Clause in Constitution (8:40 a.m. HK)

Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party aims to accelerate discussions to amend the nation’s constitution with an eye on giving more power to the government at a time of emergency, Secretary General Toshimitsu Motegi told the Yomiuri newspaper. 

Japan’s constitution has never been amended. During the pandemic, Japan has largely relied on voluntary measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus. Nonetheless, it has seen by far the fewest deaths of countries in the G-7. 

US Nursing Homes Can Receive Visitors (8:10 a.m. HK)

Nursing home residents can once again receive visitors inside the facilities whenever they want after the Biden administration lifted Covid-19 visitation restrictions Friday.

Noting the falling rates of nursing home infections as well as increasing staff vaccination rates, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said the time was right to let residents safely resume unrestricted visits.

Singapore Cases Rise From Day Earlier (8 a.m. HK)

Infections recorded in Singapore rose to 3,099 new cases as of noon on Nov. 12, compared to 2,396 on the day before, according to the Ministry of Health. Among the 3,093 cases, 2,965 were in the community and 128 were found in the migrant worker dormitories.

Cuba Eases Entry to Boost Tourism (3:56 p.m. NY)

The Cuban government is stripping away Covid-19 testing and quarantine requirements for incoming travelers to help jump-start a tourism-dependent economy drowning in raging inflation and shortages of basic goods.

Starting Monday, only tourists without proof of vaccination will need to show a negative PCR test.

“The government doesn’t have any other choice but to reopen — the whole economy is focused on tourism,” said Carlos Alzugaray, an independent political analyst in Havana and a former diplomat. “They’re betting on tourism being the locomotive that will bring the economy back in force.”

Netherlands Locks Down Again (1:22 p.m. NY)

The Netherlands is entering a partial lockdown after Covid-19 infections hit records last week, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said. 

“We have a very difficult message tonight combined with drastic measures,” Rutte said at a press conference in The Hague Friday. The country will enter a partial lockdown with bars and restaurants that need to shut down effective from Saturday 8 p.m., Rutte added. Non-essential shops must close at 6 p.m. and supermarkets may stay open until 8 p.m.

Ireland Reports Most Cases Since January (12:39 p.m. NY)

Ireland reported the most new cases since Jan. 10, with government health advisers suggesting people should work from home where possible. 

There were 5,483 newly confirmed cases on Friday, the health ministry said in a statement. That is more than 1,500 cases above the previous peak in recent weeks. 

The jump in case numbers is “another indication of the very significant increase in the incidence of disease in almost all age-groups across the population,” chief medical officer Tony Holohan said. Health ministry advisers have recommended people return to working from home, state broadcaster RTE reported on Friday. The government has yet to decide whether to go along with that recommendation.

Covid Rebounds in US Northeast (12:35 p.m. NY)

Early signs of a Covid-19 resurgence are emerging in the U.S. Northeast, with cases increasing in seven of the region’s nine states, including in New York. 

The seven-day average of reported Covid-19 cases in the region has climbed 11% in the past week to 14,318 on Thursday, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Until last week, the region’s numbers had trended steadily downward for about six weeks.

The aggregate numbers are still well below last year’s winter peak, and the Northeast isn’t yet seeing hospital pressure akin to hot spots in the Southwest, Rocky Mountains and upper Midwest. But the upswing bears watching as the winter virus season approaches.

Ex-FDA Head Califf Nominated Again (12:21 p.m. NY)

Robert Califf was nominated Friday by President Joe Biden to run the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, a move that is likely to put a one-time commissioner back at the health agency’s helm in the midst of a still-raging pandemic.

Califf, a doctor and widely published scientist, is currently head of clinical strategy and policy at Alphabet Inc.’s Verily and Google Health units. He previously served as FDA commissioner during the final year of the Obama administration.

Deaths Tragic Because Preventable, WHO Says (11:18 a.m. NY)

When governments ease public health and social measures and when rules around masking, distancing and avoiding crowds are lifted, the virus thrives amid variants, socializing and limited vaccinations, a WHO official said at a media briefing Friday.

Europe reported almost 2 million cases last week, the most in a single week in the region since the pandemic started. It also accounted for more than half of all Covid deaths globally last week.

“In the northern hemisphere, we’re entering the winter months: look at your situation, critically assess the situation you’re in right now and make adjustments, use the tools you have right now,”said Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical lead officer on Covid. “The deaths happening now are absolutely tragic because they can be prevented, because we have tools.”

Astra Moves to Profit From Vaccine (6:40 a.m. NY)

AstraZeneca is moving to profit from the vaccine it developed with the University of Oxford.

The UK drugmaker will start generating modest profits from the shot as new orders are received, it said in a statement Friday. The vaccine will continue to be sold at cost for developing nations.

Norway to Roll Out Third Dose (6:38 a.m. NY)

A jump in infections is prompting Norway to roll out a third dose to everyone over 18. 

“The infection will remain among us for several years to come, and there is a lot we can do together to prevent the virus from spreading, but we also need the protection vaccines provide,” Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store told reporters in Oslo on Friday.

German Fourth Wave Shows No Sign of Easing (6:21 a.m. NY) 

Germany’s fourth wave of infections is hitting Europe’s biggest economy with full force and there’s no sign of record infection rates easing anytime soon, according to the country’s top health officials.

Some hospitals are already overwhelmed with patients, and efforts to speed up vaccinations won’t bring relief for weeks at the earliest, Lothar Wieler, the head of the RKI public-health institute, said Friday in Berlin. “The situation is serious,” Health Minister Jens Spahn said at a news conference with Wieler.

The number of new cases in Germany jumped by 48,640 and the seven-day incidence rate per 100,000 people climbed to a record 263.7, according to the latest daily data from the RKI public-health institute.

Czech Republic, Austria Sees Cases Surge (6:12 p.m. HK)

The Czech Republic, a nation of 10.7 million, reported 10,395 cases on Thursday, an increase by a fifth from a week ago. 

The outgoing government postponed announcing curbs for next week as it seeks an agreement of the next administration that maybe in power before the end of the year. The cabinet announced today that it plans blanket testing of all pupils at schools on Nov. 22 and Nov. 29.

Meanwhile, Austria has been recording record new infections, with almost 12,000 cases reported overnight. Health officials are warning that intensive-care stations are nearing capacity limits. Germany is designating its Alpine neighbour a high-risk zone, requiring all unvaccinated travellers returning from Austria to quarantine from Sunday. 

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