North America Update: November 24
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- Americans are flocking to airports for travel ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, even as the COVID-19 pandemic flares up across the country. The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention has urged Americans to celebrate the holiday at home (but not in large indoor gatherings) and not to travel. However, Sunday was the single-busiest day at U.S. airport checkpoints since the pandemic began in March. The American Automobile Association (AAA), which tracks national travel trends, projects that as many as 50 million Americans will travel this week more than 50 miles from their homes.
- This week is the start of the holiday shopping season, and manufacturers and retailers are watching how Americans will shop and spend in the midst of the pandemic. The holiday season is starting earlier than in past years and Americans are expected to spend a record amount of dollars online instead of visiting malls, some of which may have new restrictions imposed as the virus affects local communities. Retailers are urging shoppers to buy early to avoid last-minute logistical nightmares, such as shipping delays, that drive up costs and frustrate consumers. Retailers have been rushing to invest more in digital technologies to make sure they can meet the heightened traffic on their websites and mobile apps.
- Case numbers continue to rise to record heights across several provinces. The new infections, which now place Canada in its sixteenth day of daily-identified cases topping the 4,000 mark, bring the country’s total cases to more than 336,000.
- The rising cases have led to increased restrictions in infection hot spots. On Monday, the province of Ontario began a new 28-day lockdown for the Toronto and Peel regions that re-shuttered restaurants, gyms and salons, and limits non-essential retail to curbside pickup only.
- Europe could face a third wave of the coronavirus pandemic in early 2021 if governments repeat the mistakes that led to a second wave this year, a World Health Organization special COVID-19 envoy said Sunday.
- To date, Europe has seen 15,738,179 confirmed infections and 354,154 deaths attributed to the coronavirus, with only the Americas reporting higher region-wide figures, according to data from WHO. A large portion of those infections and deaths has been registered in the UK, Russia, France, Spain, Italy and Germany.
- In Europe, the UK has the highest death toll at 53,870, while France has the highest number of cases at 2,115,717. Infections in the Czech Republic have started to decline after a two-month rise to record-high levels. The number of people hospitalized also dropped below 8,000. The country has recorded an additional 7,874 cases, down from more than 15,000 last week. However, the country still has the EU’s highest 14-day incidence rate for COVID-19 deaths with 27.2 fatalities per 100,000 population. Of the country’s 5,755 deaths from the virus, around 2,270 occurred in November.
- While some markets in the Asia-Pacific are forging ahead with digital transformation, others are taking a more measured approach. Japanese Prime Minister Suga has announced that digital transformation of the public service is a priority, notably doing away with Hanko seals, and calling out mobile carriers for benefiting off public infrastructure investments.
- In a survey in South Korea, 92% of companies indicated that Internet of Things (IoT) was essential for them to reduce cost and develop new revenue streams. Over half (86%) of companies surveyed in Singapore have increased their adoption of IoT according to a Vodafone survey. Singapore is committed to luring experienced IT professionals to help develop its position as the leading technology hub in APAC with its new Tech.Pass work permit.
- Hong Kong SAR and Macau companies have the greatest competency in information and cybersecurity, with the financial services industry, in particular, making an effort to boost capabilities in the sector, according to research by EY. More than half (90%) of Hong Kong SAR businesses surveyed said that COVID-19 has further strengthened the role of AI in everyday life, as companies strive to remain competitive.
- After President Andrés Manuel proposed to ban subcontracting or outsourcing of jobs by private companies, the Mexican Government announced that it would accept modifications from people in business to protect the rights of workers.
- Mexico’s health ministry reported 9,187 additional cases of the novel coronavirus on Sunday, only the third time it has recorded more than 9,000 new infections in a single day. The total number of cases rose to 1,041,875.
- Mexico passed the 100,000 mark in confirmed COVID-19 deaths, becoming only the fourth country behind The U.S., Brazil and India, to do so.
- Cases of COVID-19 are rising again in Brazil again. Data from Johns Hopkins University shows new cases reached a seven-day rolling average of 28,600 a day on Thursday, up from about 13,700 two weeks earlier.
- With infections increasing from Brazil’s biggest cities to the Amazon, there has been rampant speculation the nation could be on track to follow the path of U.S. and Europe, where new cases are spiraling.
- The first 120,000 doses of CoronaVac, a COVID-19 vaccine developed by China’s Sinovac Biotech SVA.O that is being tested in Brazil, arrived at São Paulo’s international airport on Thursday morning, the state government said. The doses will be stored in an undisclosed warehouse as the state awaits approval for use in Brazil by the national health regulator known as Anvisa.
INSIGHTS & INTEL
- A third COVID-19 vaccine candidate has convincing evidence that it works, and it may be easier to distribute and cheaper than the two other vaccines already shown to protect people AstraZeneca, in partnership with the University of Oxford, says their vaccine has an average efficacy of 70 percent in preventing the disease. About 3 billion doses of the vaccine could be ready in 2021 if governments approve.
- The AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine does not have to be stored at freezer temperatures, making it potentially easier to distribute in emerging countries. No serious safety issues have emerged so far in the efficacy trials, AstraZeneca says. The company now plans to file for emergency use of the vaccine with the United Kingdom and other countries’ regulatory bodies.
- It will also be less expensive. AstraZeneca has reached agreements with governments and international health organizations that put its cost at about $2.50 a dose. Pfizer’s vaccine costs about $20, while Moderna’s will be $15 to $25, based on agreements the companies have reached to supply their vaccines to the U.S. government.
- Despite precautions, CBS reported 15 cases of COVID-19 at its headquarters amid a surge in cases in the U.S.
- BuzzFeed announced it would acquire HuffPost in an all-stock deal that will give Verizon Media a minority stake in BuzzFeed, The deal also includes an agreement to syndicate content between the two companies while collaborating on advertising and creating a joint innovation group to explore other monetization opportunities.
- Virtual Programming: New virtual events from Axios, Washington Post and Politico cover a variety of topics, including the importance of health care management and equity to the new presidential administration, economic inclusion, and strategies for improving the flow of information from scientists, doctors and epidemiologists during the public health crisis.
- Mardi Gras: The city of New Orleans announced there will be no parades permitted during Mardi Gras February 2021, however, with Mardi Gras being a religious holiday, the city cannot officially cancel it. As of now, half a dozen balls have also been cancelled.
- NCAA March Madness: The NCAA announced that it plans to relocate all 13 previously determined 2021 March Madness tournament preliminary round sites, with the likely goal of creating a “controlled environment” in one host city. Indianapolis is reportedly at the top of that list.
- NFL Pro Bowl: After the cancellation of the 2021 Pro-Bowl, the NFL and EA Sports announced a shift to a virtual platform. The newly reimagined Pro Bowl will pit celebrities, NFL Legends, current players and streamers against each other in Madden NFL 21 for a week leading up to the finale, where the 2021 Pro Bowlers will face off in the game.
- NFL: While the NFL is committed to finishing the season, they also remain intent on trying to do so without the use of a bubble environment. As the playoffs approach, however, the NFL is reportedly open to a bubble format if league leaders and medical advisers believe it will help ensure the postseason is played without interruption.
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