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U.S. Cases Hit Pandemic Low; China Denies Lab Link: Virus Update

New coronavirus infections in the U.S. rose at the slowest pace of the pandemic in the past week, a sign the nation’s vaccination campaign is cutting down on the spread of the deadly pathogen.

China accused the U.S. of promoting theories that the coronavirus escaped from a high-security lab in Wuhan, as a fresh report about sick workers at the facility prompted Beijing to reaffirm denials.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that under-vaccinated areas in the U.S. could become hot spots for a mutation of the coronavirus first detected in India and is increasing surveillance of the more-transmissible variant.

Singapore approved a Covid breath test that gives results within a minute, while Japan has opened large-scale vaccination centers in Tokyo and Osaka, and Malaysia is rolling out new curbs.

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Key Developments:

  • Global Tracker: Cases stand at 167.2 million; deaths exceed 3.46 million
  • Vaccine Tracker: More than 1.66 billion doses have been given
  • World’s supply of chips is in danger unless Taiwan gets vaccines
  • What’s the best Covid vaccine? Why it’s not so simple: QuickTake
  • Asia’s Covid Surges Should Worry Us All: Clara Ferreira Marques
  • Virus Outlook Now Far More Positive Than Markets Seem to Realize

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

U.S. Issues Do-Not-Travel Advisory on Japan (1:45 p.m. NY)

The U.S. raised its travel advisory on Japan to say Americans shouldn’t visit the country, where sections are under a state of emergency that could be extended.

The State Department issued the upgraded travel advisory on Monday. The move is another blow to Japan’s plans to host the Olympic Games starting on July 23.

N.J. to Drop Indoor Masking (1:20 p.m. NY)

New Jersey will discontinue mandatory indoor masking rules for fully vaccinated residents on Friday ahead of the Memorial Day holiday weekend that kicks off vacation season, Governor Phil Murphy said Monday.

Health-care settings, long-term care facilities, child-care settings, schools and public transit will still require masks, he said. Masks should still be worn in public-facing state facilities.

Seychelles Says Cases Fall 38% (12:01 p.m. NY)

Seychelles, which has vaccinated a greater proportion of its people against Covid-19 than any other nation, said active cases of the disease fell 38% in the week to May 22 as a recent surge in infections continues to abate.

The Indian Ocean archipelago has 1,179 active cases, the health ministry of the nation of 98,000 people said in a statement on Monday. Hospitalizations declined and to date no one who has been fully vaccinated has died of the disease, it said.

N.Y. Tops 10 Million Vaccinated (11:55 a.m. NY)

Governor Andrew Cuomo said New York has surpassed 10 million vaccined residents, more than half the state, but that the rate of shots has dropped off precipitously as the “youthful and the doubtful” resist the shots. Only 43% of residents age 16 to 25 are vaccinated, compared with 85% among people age 65 to 74. Cuomo said the state would set up vaccine centers across state parks ahead of the Memorial Day holiday weekend.

Chile Eyes ‘Mobility Pass’ (11:30 a.m. NY)

Chile will grant citizens who are fully vaccinated against coronavirus greater freedom in the form of a “mobility pass,” as the South American nation oversees one of the world’s fastest inoculation drives.

The electronic pass will allow greater mobility for people living under full or partial quarantines, President Sebastian Pinera said on Sunday. The permit will also make it easier for Chileans to travel around the country, he said.

U.S. Cases Slow to Pandemic Low (10:10 a.m. NY)

With more than 61% of U.S. adults having received at least one vaccine dose, the rate of new coronavirus infections continues to slide. New cases rose 0.5% in the past week, the slowest increase since the pandemic began in March 2020, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg.

The total number of infections in the week ended Sunday, 175,990, was the lowest since the seven days ended June 14. Sunday’s total of 13,310 new cases was the lowest for any single day March 25, 2020, as the nation was heading toward lockdowns.

NYC to End Remote-School Option (10 a.m. NY)

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said all public school students will return to their school buildings come September and that a remote option will no longer be available.

Reopening the largest school system in the U.S. for the roughly one million students represents a big move toward the city’s full reopening and will be crucial to the economic recovery of New York, which has been battered by the pandemic.

IOC to Offer Shots for 20,000 (9:28 a.m. NY)

The International Olympic Committee will offer vaccines for 20,000 in Japan as part of the Tokyo Olympics, Kyodo reported.

Thailand Extends Time Between Astra Shots (6:52 a.m. NY)

Thailand’s Health Ministry increased the period between the first and second dose of AstraZeneca Plc shots to 16 weeks from 10 weeks, Permanent Secretary of Public Health Kiattiphum Wongrajit said. The adjustment will allow more shots to be distributed to more people in a country that’s currently battling its worst coronavirus outbreak since the pandemic began.

Maldives to Extend Capital City Curfew (6:34 a.m. NY)

Maldives, which has the world’s fastest growing Covid-19 epidemic, plans to extend a 12-hour curfew in its capital in a bid to slow down the outbreak. The Indian Ocean archipelago has the highest number of infections per million people over the last 7 and 14 days, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“The initial restrictions have had an impact on the curve,” Mohamed Mabrook Azeez, spokesman for the president’s office, said in an interview on Monday. “We feel that more measures are needed to further slow down the number of positive cases.”

Croatia Eases Restrictions (6:31 a.m. NY)

Croatia said it will ease pandemic measures such as the size of gatherings and restaurant opening hours, Deputy Prime Minister Davor Bozinovic said.

Singapore Airport Tightens Measures (6:01 a.m. NY)

Singapore’s Changi Airport will impose stricter measures at its terminals to safeguard against further coronavirus transmissions after concluding investigations into an earlier outbreak, the Today newspaper reported.

The airport will separate staff handling both incoming and outgoing travelers into various zones and will implement stringent movement controls between these areas, Changi Airport Group Singapore Pte. Chief Executive Lee Siow Hiang was cited as saying. The new measures are set to be fully in place by June 13.

China Accuses U.S. of Hyping Virus Lab Theory (3:46 p.m. HK)

China accused the U.S. of promoting theories that the coronavirus escaped from a high-security lab in Wuhan, as a fresh report about sick workers at the facility prompted Beijing to reaffirm denials.

“The report that you mentioned about three people getting sick, that is not true,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a regular briefing Monday in Beijing. Zhao was responding to a Wall Street Journal report that a trio of researchers from the Wuhan Institute of Virology had fallen ill and sought hospital care in November 2019.

The facility previously denied claims of workers getting sick, including a U.S. State Department fact sheet published in January that asserts that several researchers from the institute became sick in autumn 2019. Zhao said the U.S. has been hyping the lab-leak theory.

Ireland May Announce Reopen Roadmap (2:44 p.m. HK)

Ireland may publish a new plan to reopen aviation, indoor dining, and to allow some spectators at sports and concerts. Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin is set to announce the so-called roadmap to reopen those three sectors by July in a speech scheduled for May 28, The Irish Times reported. There have been no crowds at sports or concerts for more than a year, while dining indoors has been banned since Christmas.

Melbourne Races to Contain New Virus Cases (2:40 p.m. HK)

Australian authorities are racing to determine the source of a small cluster of coronavirus cases in Melbourne, the first community infections in the nation’s second-most populous cities in almost three months.

The city of about 5 million people has largely contained the virus after enduring one of the world’s longest and most stringent lockdowns last year.

Taiwan Evaluates Extending Soft Lockdown (2:34 p.m. HK)

Taiwan is evaluating whether to extend a soft-lockdown, health minister Chen Shih-chung says at briefing in Taipei, after the country reported 334 local virus cases on Monday.

Meanwhile, the capital Taipei banned all on-site dining and drinking from May 24.. Outlets will only be allowed to serve takeout food or make deliveries. Operators who fail to comply will be fined as much as NT$15,000 ($536).

Thailand Detects Virus Variants (2 p.m. HK)

Thailand has detected eight new cases of a Covid-19 variant first found in South Africa, Supakit Sirilak, director-general of the Department of Medical Sciences, said on Monday. The number of cases of the variant initially found in India is still on the rise, he said, adding that authorities continue to collect samples from various construction worker camps in Bangkok.

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The majority of the infections during the current outbreak were of the variant first detected in the U.K., but hundreds of weekly illegal border crossings, bypassing the country’s mandatory quarantine, pose threats of the introduction of other variants.

India’s Death Toll Passes 300,000 (11:59 a.m. HK)

India reported 222,315 new coronavirus infections on Monday, the lowest since April 16, government data show. While cases have peaked, Covid-19 has now killed more than 300,000 people in the country. Almost 4,500 people died over the past 24 hours and fatalities continue at near-record levels.

Local media reports cite doctors as identifying gangrene among the complications resulting from Covid infections in the country

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