Global Deaths Near 2 Million; Germany Record Surge: Virus Update

Healthcare workers care for a Covid-19 patient in the ICU ward at the Robert Bosch Hospital in Stuttgart, Germany, on Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021. Chancellor Angela Merkel warned that Germany faces hard lockdown measures into late March if authorities fail to contain a fast-spreading variant of the coronavirus.
Healthcare workers care for a Covid-19 patient in the ICU ward at the Robert Bosch Hospital in Stuttgart, Germany, on Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021. Chancellor Angela Merkel warned that Germany faces hard lockdown measures into late March if authorities fail to contain a fast-spreading variant of the coronavirus.

(Bloomberg) -- The world’s about to hit a frightening Covid-19 benchmark, with 2 million people dead and few expectations for infections to start dropping any time soon. The U.S. is leading all countries in deaths, with Brazil, India, Mexico and the U.K. next in line.

President-elect Joe Biden has called U.S. vaccine efforts a “dismal failure” and vowed to accelerate them. In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel wants to tighten the lockdown as the country reported a record number of daily virus deaths.

China’s northeastern Covid clusters are growing as an outbreak expands to at least eight other provinces. Peter Daszak, the only American in a 15-person World Health Organization scientific team looking into the origins of the virus, has arrived in China, according to a spokesman for the EcoHealth Alliance, the research organization he runs.

Key Developments:

  • Global Tracker: Cases top 93 million; deaths near 2 million
  • Vaccine Tracker: More than 35 million shots given worldwide
  • How to Think About Traveling Now That Covid Vaccines Are Out
  • How fear of vaccine threatens to delay pandemic’s end: QuickTake
  • A year after Covid began, China’s economy is beating the world

Subscribe to a daily update on the virus from Bloomberg’s Prognosis team here. Click CVID on the terminal for global data on cases and deaths.

Indonesia Virus Cases Rise By New Record for Fourth Straight Day (4:40 p.m. HK)

Indonesia added the highest number of new Covid-19 cases for the fourth consecutive day, as the government kickstarts its mass vaccination program this week.

Southeast Asia’s largest economy reported 12,818 new cases in the 24 hours through midday Friday, the most since the outbreak began, taking total infections to 882,418. Some 238 people died over the same period to bring total fatalities to 25,484.

Germany’s Record Deaths Add Urgency to Push for Tougher Curbs (4:24 p.m. HK)

A record number of coronavirus deaths in Germany underscored the urgency facing Angela Merkel as the chancellor seeks to tighten lockdown restrictions.

The German leader is working to reach a consensus with state premiers on additional curbs amid fears that a more contagious variant may cause infections to spiral out of control, a government official said. A meeting to review pandemic measures, which was slated for Jan. 25, is expected to be moved forward.

Norway Warns of Vaccination Risks for Sick Patients Over 80 (4:12 p.m. HK)

Norway says that Covid-19 vaccinations may be too risky for the very old and terminally sick, after 23 people died within a short time of receiving their first shot. Of those deaths, 13 have so far been autopsied with the results suggesting that common side effects may have contributed to severe reactions in frail, elderly people, according to the Norwegian Medicines Agency.

Japan Seeks Mid-February Pfizer Vaccine Approval, Minister Says (3:38 p.m. HK)

Japan’s health minister said he’s hoping Pfizer Inc.’s coronavirus vaccine will be approved by mid-February under an accelerated process.

The comments from Norihisa Tamura came after Prime Minister Yoshihide Sugareiterated this week that the government was preparing to start the inoculation program in late February, and added that local governments were readying vaccination centers.

South Africa Delays Reopening of Schools (3:37 p.m. HK)

South Africa delayed the start of the new school year amid a resurgence in coronavirus infections. Public school pupils will return on Feb. 15, rather than Jan. 27, Deputy Basic Education Minister Reginah Mhaule told reporters in an online briefing.

WHO Experts from U.K., Qatar Had Been Denied Entry, China Says (3:35 p.m. HK)

The two World Health Organization team members denied entry as part of a mission to investigate the origins of the coronavirus were British and Sudanese from Qatar, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian tells briefing in Beijing on Friday.

World Edges Close to 2 Million Covid-19 Deaths, Led by U.S. (3:10 p.m. HK)

Led by the U.S., the world is about to hit a frightening Covid-19 benchmark, with 2 million people dead and few expectations for the numbers to start dropping any time soon.

With the rollout of the Pfizer Inc.-BioNTech SE vaccine and the Moderna Inc.shot going slowly in the U.S., and virtually non-existent in many parts of the world, the odds of controlling the outbreak before the summer at the earliest are slim, especially because it can take weeks for an infected person to die.

Covid has already killed more people than malaria and tuberculosis combined in the past year, and is nearing the those seen from AIDS, which peaked at 2.3 million in 2005.

Hungary’s Premier Urges Review of Chinese, Russian Vaccines (3:06 p.m. HK)

Hungary’s government has ordered authorities to review the efficiency of Russian and Chinese coronavirus vaccines as an option to boost the supply of shots, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said Friday.

The eastern European nation may buy vaccines beyond a European Union deal on joint procurements to expedite inoculation, he said on public radio. Hungary’s health authorities will soon start vaccinating elderly people who have pre-existing conditions, expanding the eligible group from medical and social workers.

Merkel Mulls Tougher German Lockdown (2:37 p.m. HK)

Chancellor Angela Merkel is pushing to tighten Germany’s lockdown, as the country’s death toll soared by more than 1,500 for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

Merkel aims to meet with regional leaders soon to discuss additional curbs amid fears that a more contagious variant may cause infections to spiral out of control, a government official said. The number of daily fatalities jumped by 1,589 in the 24 hours through Friday morning, taking the total to more than 45,000, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Merkel has yet to reach a consensus with the state premiers -- who have to agree on such measures in Germany’s federal system -- about further restrictions, added the person, who asked not to be identified discussing private deliberations.

The new curbs may include curfews, and the complete shutdown of all schools and public transport, Bild newspaper reported Thursday, without identifying the source of its information. The meeting with the regional premiers might take place on Jan. 20, it said.

China’s Northeastern Covid Clusters Continue to Grow (12:20 p.m. HK)

China’s northeastern Covid clusters are growing with the total number of confirmed cases now standing at more than 700 as of Friday, according to Bloomberg calculations based on official data. A further 500 infections were found without showing any symptoms.

The outbreak which originated in Hebei province, where most of the cases have been detected lately, has expanded to at least another eight provinces. The province has already completed the second round of mass testing for some cities, as officials vow to curb the virus urgently given its adjacency to Beijing.

A lockdown for some cities, including the provincial capital Shijiazhuang, is still in place as residents are restricted from leaving homes and public transportation within and out of the cities is cut off.

Indonesia May Let Vaccinated People Fly Without Covid-19 Test (12:15pm HK)

Indonesians who have completed a coronavirus vaccination may be exempted from having to show a negative test result to travel by plane.

The government will issue digital certificates stored on mobile phone apps that people can use as a waiver for the test requirement when they travel by plane, Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin said in parliamentary hearing on Thursday. The plan is meant to encourage people to get vaccinated.

Similar incentives could be allowed for other activities, including going to movies and concerts as well as other social gatherings, he added.

Global Death Toll Could Rise as High as 5.1 Million by March, Chinese Researchers Say (12 p.m. HK)

The global death toll from Covid-19 could reach somewhere from 2.2 million to 5.1 million by the beginning of March while cases can rise to 110 to 170 million by that time, according to a study by researchers from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and other research institutes and those affiliated with the Chinese military.

The study said that asymptomatic people are the key in controlling the spread of the disease. Viral loads are found to have peaked in nasal swabs taken from asymptomatic people, indicating that substantial viral shedding from them could have caused a covert spread that contributed to outbreaks.

One in Three Infected in Greater Los Angeles, Scientists Estimate (10:40 a.m. HK)

The Greater Los Angeles area may have had a far higher infection rate than expected, with county scientists estimating that one in three have had the disease since the start of the pandemic.

“Our numbers remain very high,” L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a briefing, estimating that more than 3 million were probably infected in the county. “We remain one of the epicenters of this disease across the country.” L.A. is part of the Southern California region, which has run out of ICU capacity.

U.S. Expert on WHO Origins Team Gets into China (9:56 a.m HK)

Peter Daszak, the only American in a 15-person World Health Organization scientific team looking into the virus’s origins, has arrived in China, according to a spokesman for the EcoHealth Alliance, the research organization that Daszak runs. Two members of the team were denied entry Thursday after failing to clear health-screening procedures in Singapore, the WHO tweeted Thursday without identifying who they were. Daszak has consistently tested negative for Covid-19, the spokesman said.

More than one year after the first infections emerged in Wuhan, the expert committee is visiting the central Chinese city to work with domestic scientists on the source of the pandemic. There’s still not much known about how the virus transmitted to humans, with some of the first known cases in seafood sellers at the Huanan market in Wuhan.

U.K.’s Sunak Faces Call From Tories, Business to Boost Virus Aid (9:15 a.m. HK)

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak came under pressure from a powerful bloc of Conservative lawmakers and one of the U.K.’s biggest business groups to step up coronavirus assistance, with the U.K. mired in its third lockdown.

Sunak should extend tax breaks and a temporary uplift in benefits, as well as borrow money to help fund an “infrastructure revolution,” 50 Tory lawmakers in the Northern Research Group said late Thursday in a letter to the chancellor. The group warned of a series of “cliff edges” faced by families and businesses, with various support programs due to close.

N.Y. Deaths Rise Above 200 for First Time Since May (1:18 p.m. NY)

New York state reported more than 200 daily Covid-19 deaths for the first time since May. The additional 202 fatalities bring the total to 32,379. Of 212,589 tests reported yesterday, 13,661, or 6.42%, were positive.

Both the cases and positive rate were lower than in recent days. Hospitalizations also declined, by 106 to 8,823, even as New York leads the Northeast in people hospitalized with Covid-19. “New York is pushing forward to conduct more tests, add to hospital beds and make it easier to get the COVID-19 vaccine across the state,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said.

The health department’s appointments for vaccinations are booked 14 weeks out as the state expanded the eligibility criteria.

France Extends Earlier Curfew Nationwide (12:21 p.m. NY)

France will extend tighter curfew measures across the country. The 6 p.m. curfew already in place across much of eastern France will become nationwide from Saturday, Prime Minister Jean Castex said at a news conference on Thursday. It will last at least 15 days.

The country’s cases increased by 21,228 to 2.85 million on Thursday, while the seven-day rolling average was little changed at close to 18,000. Deaths linked to the virus rose by 282 to 69,313.