North America Update: February 23
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TOPLINE PERSPECTIVE: february 23, 2021
- The United States is on track to report 500,000 deaths from COVID-19 this week. Despite this tragic milestone, there are reasons for optimism that the virus is being brought under control. The rate of new cases is falling sharply across the country, down by a quarter week-on-week. The vaccine effort is ramping up. More than 63 million vaccine doses have been administered and President Biden says there will be enough vaccines available for every American by the end of July.
- The fast decline in COVID-19 cases – reflecting the decrease in cases following the holiday season surge – is increasing pressure for a swifter return to business and school re-openings. Some states have already eased restrictions on restaurants and retail industries. However, some public experts warn that declaring victory too fast is unwise and could create the conditions for existing and evolving mutations of the virus to find a foothold and lengthen the pandemic.
- Studies suggest that the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines authorized in the United States may also prevent infection and not just symptomatic disease, a key factor in ending the pandemic. The arrival of spring in a few weeks, with warmer weather, may make it harder for the virus to spread.
- Canada will receive a record number of vaccine doses this week, as the country looks to speed up its vaccination efforts. The Public Health Agency of Canada says it expects more than 640,000 vaccinations this week, which would represent Canada’s largest delivery to date. As a result of the increased supply, several provinces have moved to expand their vaccination offerings beyond the priority groups in long-term care homes and front-line health workers. Three provinces – Nova Scotia, Ontario and Alberta – have announced plans for getting vaccines to seniors.
- Canada’s new rules for incoming air travelers came into effect this week and are off to a bumpy start. Most air passengers will now have to take a COVID-19 test after landing in Canada and spend up to three days of their 14-day quarantine period in a designated hotel to await their test results. All “quarantine hotel” reservations must be made through a dedicated phone line, and travelers have complained about spending hours on hold and calls getting disconnected.
- This evening, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has set out a plan to end England’s lockdown in four stages with a minimum of five weeks between each stage beginning March 8th. The plan will call for children to return to school.
- Chancellor Angela Merkel addressed the German population Monday about potentially easing the lockdown measures in Germany. More details will be revealed on March 3rd.
- On Wednesday, the European Commission revealed new measures to combat COVID-19. The measures include accelerating the approval of vaccines designed to counter virus variants and implementing an EU-wide emergency authorization process. Other efforts up for consideration include a “clinical trial network” as well as additional vaccine orders placed through the EU’s joint procurement scheme.
- With the Asia Pacific remaining in a state of flux, the food and beverage (F&B sector is facing the prospect of reconfiguration. Customized food and recreating the restaurant experience at home will continue to remain attractive. With food delivery growing in popularity, there have been calls for the reduction of commission fees charged by delivery platforms to help F&B outlets cope.
- The Tet holiday typically generates additional income for Vietnam’s F&B sector. However, this year, restaurants in Ho Chi Minh City were closed following an outbreak in the city’s airport. Restauranteurs put away chairs, tables, and festive decorations in line with government directives calling for the closure of non-essential businesses.
- In Singapore, restaurants failed to receive a boost during a Lunar New Year due to restrictions on group dining and foreign labor shortage, despite residents remaining in town this festive season.
- Mexico began vaccinating various populations with the Chinese Sinovac vaccine and is waiting for a shipment from Russia’s Sputnik V. Up until now, authorities have used the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines. The government announced that it is considering using a mixture of vaccinations to comply with its program.
- Hugo López-Gatell, Mexico’s undersecretary of health who is leading the fight against COVID-19 along with the president, has tested positive for COVID-19. On Saturday, López-Gatell tweeted that he has mild symptoms of the virus and that he will continue working from home.
- Mexico reached 180,107 deaths caused by COVID-19 and the total case count is 2,041,380.
- Brazil’s Butantan Institute kicked off a campaign on Wednesday to vaccinate the adult population of a city to see if it’s possible to reduce the number of cases. The study will involve the city of Serrana, in the southeastern State of Sao Paulo.
- Authorities in Rio de Janeiro and several other Brazilian cities have said they would pause their vaccination program due to a shortage of vaccines. City officials in Rio said they will continue to deliver second doses to those who have already been injected once but have paused new shots for the elderly.
- Government officials announced a plan for its upcoming emergency aid. The aid will have up to four installments in the amount of up to BRL 250. The goal is for the installments to be paid between March and June.
Insights & Intel
- The Food and Drug Administration said that modified COVID-19 vaccines against new, emerging variants may be authorized without the need for new sets of lengthy clinical trials. The new guidance would clear the use of approved vaccines as an amendment to a company’s original emergency use application. The company would need to submit new data that shows the modified vaccine produces a similar immune response and is safe, similar to the process for annual flu vaccines.
- The updated guidance comes as U.S. health officials, including White House Chief Medical Advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci, are concerned the virus potentially could mutate enough to evade the protection of current vaccines and reverse the progress made on the pandemic. In recent weeks, officials have pushed Americans to get vaccinated as quickly as possible before potentially new and even more dangerous variants of the virus emerge from around the world. The FDA authorized Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccines for emergency use in December and both drug makers have since announced plans to modify their shots to target the new variants.
- Virtual Programming: New virtual events from FORTUNE, the Washington Post and FT continue to cover COVID-19-related issues, such as vaccine development and distribution and changes to the manufacturing industry post-pandemic, shining a light on current topics of the day and what to expect as we proceed through the pandemic.
- MWC Barcelona: Mobile World Congress Barcelona reported that it still plans to hold its June 28-July 1 event in-person and will require negative tests for all attendees. Organizers are using the MWC Shanghai event this week as a proof point, despite a discrepancy in COVID-19 cases in China and Spain and differences in international travel expected for participants. Organizers anticipate 20,000 people at the Shanghai show, down from 60,000 in 2019, and up to 50,000 at the Barcelona show, down from 110,000 in 2019.
- Ivy League: The Ivy League conference canceled all spring sports due to the COVID-19 pandemic, marking the second-straight year they will not be held.
- Carnegie Hall: Carnegie Hall will cancel all events at its three performance venues from April 6 through July 2021.
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