(Bloomberg) -- Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose Covid-19 vaccine made some progress toward approval in an early study. Australia defended its use of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The U.K. reported the most deaths in one day since the pandemic began. Turkey granted emergency approval to the vaccine developed by Sinovac Biotech Ltd. of China. Portugal and Mozambique clamped down. More countries reported cases of the dangerous variant.

The number of hospitalized patients in the U.S. was roughly flat this week, and probably will begin declining for the first time since September. California will start offering vaccine shots to residents 65 and older.

Key Developments:

  • Global Tracker: Cases top 92 million; deaths surpass 1.97 million
  • Vaccine Tracker: More than 32.4 million shots given worldwide
  • U.S. vaccine shift stirs fresh unease as 128 million join line
  • How Covid-19 has turned the spotlight back on obesity

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Australia Defends Its Vaccine Approach (7:02 a.m. HK)

The Australian government reaffirmed confidence in its “portfolio approach” to Covid-19 vaccines as the nation prepares to inoculate its population next month.

“That has been the best medical advice available to us. What we know with the AstraZeneca vaccine is that it’s safe, that it’s available, that it can be manufactured here, it can be transported at normal refrigeration levels,” Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said Thursday.

The clarification comes after some medical groups called for the government to pause the rollout of the AstraZeneca Plc vaccine because of concern that it may not be effective enough to generate herd immunity. “The AstraZeneca vaccine saves lives and it is important,” Frydenberg told Sky News.

J&J’s Shot Grants Lasting Response (7 a.m. HK)

Johnson & Johnson’s experimental one-shot Covid-19 vaccine generated a long-lasting immune response in an early safety study, providing a glimpse at how it will perform in the real world as the company inches closer to approaching U.S. regulators for clearance.

More than 90% of participants made immune proteins, called neutralizing antibodies, within 29 days after receiving the shot, according to the report, and participants formed the antibodies within 57 days. The immune response lasted for the full 71 days of the trial.

J&J’s progress is being closely watched because its vaccine has the potential to become the first that can protect people after just one shot, making mass-vaccination campaigns much easier.

Denmark Extends Its Lockdown (6 a.m. HK)

Denmark extended a lockdown that’s been in place since the end of last year, as health authorities warn that a British mutation of the coronavirus is spreading at an alarming rate.

With a 55% spike in the number of recorded cases of the U.K. variant -- B117 -- over the past four days, Denmark will keep its current restrictions in place until Feb. 7, Health Minister Magnus Heunicke said at a briefing in Copenhagen. He said authorities registered 208 cases of the mutation on Wednesday, though state broadcaster DR has reported that the true figure could be multiples of that.

Restrictions, which include the shutting of restaurants, bars and non-essential shops, as well as schools, were to expire Jan. 17.

California Expands Vaccines to 65-Year-Olds (4:55 a.m. HK)

California will start offering vaccine shots to residents 65 and older, joining New York, New Jersey and other states that are loosening requirements under new guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Until now, doses were available only to health-care workers and nursing-home residents, under a tiered system established by the state. But California has struggled to ramp up vaccinations, administering roughly a third of the doses shipped so far.

At the same time, the most-populous state is struggling through a surge in cases, with more than 22,500 people hospitalized, intensive-care units at capacity and daily death tolls averaging more than 450.

Mozambique Closes Bars, Casinos (4:10 a.m. HK)

Mozambique imposed stricter restrictions to curb a second wave of the coronavirus after the December holidays.

President Filipe Nyusi closed bars, casinos and beaches as the daily tally of new confirmed cases surged to a record 730, bringing the cumulative total to 23,726. Alcohol sales will also be restricted as coronavirus patients fill 80% of private hospital bed-spaces and half of those run by the government.

Portugal Tightens Curbs But Schools Open (4:06 a.m. HK)

The Portuguese government tightened restrictions while keeping all schools open. Shops will have to close with several exceptions including supermarkets and other food stores, Prime Minister Antonio Costa said in Lisbon on Wednesday.

From Friday, people will have a duty to stay at home and remote working will be mandatory when possible. Those measures may have to be in place for a month, he said.

In March, the government’s confinement measures included closing schools. Portugal on Wednesday reported the biggest daily increase in confirmed virus cases since the start of the outbreak -- 10,556 new cases, more than the previous record of 10,176.

U.S. Hospitalizations on Brink of Decline (2:16 a.m. HK)

The number of hospitalized Covid-19 patients was roughly flat in the U.S. this week, and likely will begin declining for the first time since September.

The numbers are now dropping compared with a week earlier in both the Northeast and Midwest, according to the Covid Tracking Project. In the West, they were up 0.8%, the least since Oct. 1 on a percentage basis. The South has the most alarming momentum, with an increase of 4.2% from seven days earlier.

The most recent pandemic wave has packed medical facilities, which are desperate for a reprieve. Hospitals across the country are currently caring for more than 130,000 Covid patients, according to Tracking Project data, more than double the load at any earlier point.

French Vaccine Skepticism Wanes (1:30 a.m. HK)

French citizens are increasingly willing to get a Covid-19 shot, as the alarming spread of the coronavirus overcomes their skepticism of the vaccines.

The share of the population that plans to get vaccinated has increased to 47%, up 9 points from a week earlier, according to an Elabe survey on Wednesday. While vaccine resistance is a “French specificity,” acceptance of the Covid shot is growing, Prime Minister Jean Castex said in response to Senate questions.

Turkey Approves Sinovac Vaccine (1:09 a.m. HK)

Turkey granted emergency approval to the vaccine developed by Sinovac Biotech Ltd. of China.

Safety tests have been completed and the vaccine is “sufficiently safe,” said Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca, who became the first person to be officially inoculated in the country. He urged Turkish citizens to get the shots.

Turkey has received 3 million doses of CoronaVac, the official name of Sinovac’s vaccine, and expects to receive 10 million new doses over the next two weeks. In all, Turkey has contracted to buy 50 million doses from Sinovac. Chinese-developed vaccines have faced skepticism over a lack of safety and efficacy transparency.

U.K. Has Most Deaths Since Pandemic Began (12 a.m. HK)

The U.K. reported a further 1,564 deaths within 28 days of a positive test on Wednesday, the most since the pandemic began, as England enters week two of its third coronavirus lockdown.

It comes as the country’s hospitals are filling up with patients suffering from the disease, and amid growing concerns that its lockdown may not be strict enough to control the spread of the new strain of the virus.

On Wednesday, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said there are early signs the current measures are working but did not rule out tougher restrictions.

Two More U.K. Strains in NYC (11:46 p.m. HK)

Two new Covid-19 cases with the U.K. variant were found in New York City, bringing the state’s total to 12, Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a briefing Wednesday.

The city reported 279 new hospitalizations with Covid-19 symptoms, above the 200 public threshold, with hospital use in the city running at 4.62 persons per 100,000 in the population. The seven-day average positivity rate reached 8.89%, exceeding the public-health standard of 5%.

Meanwhile, de Blasio said the city was on track to reach its goal of vaccinating 1 million New Yorkers by the end of the month.

France Says Earlier Curfew Is Working (10:39 p.m. HK)

French government spokesman Gabriel Attal said that bringing forward the curfew to 6 p.m. from 8 p.m. in certain parts of the country has been effective against the spread of the virus.

Where the earlier curfew is in place, “the growth dynamic of the virus isn’t as speedy as in other areas,” he told reporters in Paris following a weekly cabinet meeting.

Astra to Boost Vaccine Deliveries for U.K. (10:17 p.m. HK)

AstraZeneca pledged to deliver 2 million doses a week of its coronavirus vaccine for the U.K. before mid-February as it ramps up production to help fuel the country’s immunization campaign.

“It does need to become a national priority to ensure that we have the right capacity and capability for vaccine manufacturing onshore here,” Tom Keith-Roach, president of Astra’s U.K. operations, said at a hearing at the House of Commons.

Countries Find Patients With U.K. Variant (8:45 p.m. HK)

The Philippines said it detected the Covid-19 variant first reported in the U.K in the samples of a male citizen who arrived from the United Arab Emirates on Jan. 7 via an Emirates flight.

Hungary, meantime, registered the first three cases of the strain, Chief Medical Officer Cecilia Muller said at a briefing on Wednesday. The mutated virus is considered much more transmissible than earlier strains.

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