(Bloomberg) -- Indonesia is reopening the tourist island of Bali to travelers from countries including China, India and Saudi Arabia. Infections in Singapore remained high, while China reported its first local case in a week.

Australia is considering approving Pfizer Inc.’s vaccine for children as young as five, Bangladesh is starting to inoculate 12 to 17-year-olds, while Malaysia is giving booster shots to the elderly and front-line workers. India is getting close to 1 billion first doses and is building a stockpile of vaccines for export. 

Mixing shots produces as much or more antibodies as using the same vaccine as a booster, according to preliminary results of a widely awaited U.S. government-sponsored trial. The World Health Organization proposed a fresh team of scientists to lead an investigation into the origins of Covid-19 and other diseases after the last effort was wracked by controversy.

Key Developments:

  • Virus Tracker: Cases top 239 million; deaths exceed 4.87 million
  • Vaccine Tracker: More than 6.58 billion shots given
  • Ivermectin is unproven for Covid, but drugmakers are cashing in
  • Almost 20% of U.S. households lost entire savings during Covid
  • Biden confronts supply-chain crisis stretching past his grip
  • Why impact of ‘long Covid’ could outlast the pandemic: QuickTake


New Zealand Prepares for Surge in Cases (8:59 a.m. HK)

New Zealand is preparing its health system to cope with an influx of Covid-19 patients as it concedes it can’t stamp out the delta variant and begins to transition away from its elimination strategy.

Health Ministry modeling forecasts a worst-case scenario of more than 5,000 cases per week in the Auckland and Northland regions next year, assuming 90% of the eligible population is vaccinated, Health Minister Andrew Little said on Thursday. The figure doesn’t include the rest of the country, where modeling is still being conducted.

Thailand Reports Most New Cases Since Oct. 2 (8:53 a.m. HK)

Thailand reported 11,276 new Covid-19 cases, the highest daily total since Oct. 2, the government said Thursday. Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha will chair the main Covid-19 panel at 10 a.m. in Bangkok and may release on details on the reopening plan.

China Reports First Local Case in a Week (8:39 a.m. HK)

China’s autonomous region of Inner Mongolia reported one local Covid-19 case Thursday morning, after the country found no local infections for a week. Erenhot, a city with a population of around 70,000, said one logistics worker tested positive for the virus. Local authorities will start citywide mass testing at noon Thursday, and will aim to finish the first round by the end of the day.

Japan to Favor Pfizer Over Moderna for Young Men (7:26 a.m.)

Japan’s health ministry is planning to recommend Pfizer’s vaccine over Moderna Inc.’s for men in their teens and 20s because of concerns over side effects, including Myocarditis, the Nikkei newspaper reported, without attribution. The ministry plans to also recommend switching the second dose of vaccination to Pfizer’s for those who already received Moderna’s as the first one. The recommendations will be discussed at a panel meeting Friday.

The ministry will offer drug companies 3.8 billion yen ($34 million) to support their coronavirus drug development, Asahi reported, without attribution.

Australia Looking at Pfizer Shot for 5-year-olds (7:06 a.m. HK)

Pfizer will make an expedited application to Australia’s medical regulator for its Covid-19 vaccine to be considered for use in children aged five to 11, Health Minister Greg Hunt said. The company is expected to submit data on its vaccine to the Therapeutic Goods Administration within weeks, Hunt said at a press conference on Thursday. 

If the TGA approves the vaccine, the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunization then needs to green light the shot before it can be provided, he said. The country’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer Sonya Bennett said it was a welcome step which would help protect children and their families, as well as helping keep schools open.

Westpac First Australian Bank to Mandate Vaccines (7:02 a.m.)

Westpac Banking Corp. moved to mandate vaccines for all staff working at its offices and branches, becoming the first of the big banks to require the jab for its employees across Australia.

The country’s second-largest bank said Thursday that it expects all employees entering a workplace in the eastern states of New South Wales, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory to be fully vaccinated by Dec. 1, while staff in other parts of the nation have until Feb. 22.

Infections High and Rising in English Children (7:01 a.m. HK)

Coronavirus infections among school-aged children in England are “high and rising,” according to a major study that is likely to exacerbate concerns about the pace of the vaccine rollout.

Rates of Covid-19 is growing in those aged 17 and younger, the React-1 study led by Imperial College London found. The reproduction rate in that age group was 1.18, meaning that on average every 10 young people infected are passing it on to about 12 others. That’s driven up the national rate, even though prevalence is falling in the 18-54 age group.

N.Z. Businesses to Import 300,000 Rapid Tests (5:40 a.m. HK)

New Zealand’s government gave the green light for 300,000 rapid antigen tests to be imported, Auckland Airport CEO Adrian Littlewood said in an emailed statement on behalf of a coalition of businesses.

The tests are expected to start arriving in New Zealand from Oct. 21. More than 25 companies sought emergency approval from the government last week to allow rapid surveillance testing to get underway.

ConocoPhillips to Defy Texas Ban (5:30 a.m. HK)

ConocoPhillips will require employees with “significant Covid-19 exposure risk” to be vaccinated in Texas and elsewhere, despite a Lone Star state ban on such mandates. 

New employees in the U.S. and workers relocating to the country also will have to be fully vaccinated by Dec. 8, ConocoPhillips said in an emailed statement on Wednesday. 

International Business Machines Corp., American Airlines Group Inc.and Southwest Airlines Co. are among U.S. corporations that are sticking by vaccine mandates despite Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s prohibition against such measures in the second-largest U.S. state. The order earlier this week pits the Republican Abbott against President Joe Biden, a Democrat who recently called for companies with 100 or more workers to require shots or weekly testing.

Vaccine Mix Bolsters Antibodies, Study Finds (1:45 p.m. NY)

Mixing Covid vaccines produces as much or more antibodies as using the same shot as a booster, according to preliminary results of a widely awaited U.S. government-sponsored trial.

The trial is the first major U.S. study to compare the effects of using different vaccines as boosters from the initial shot or shots. The complicated, 9-arm trial involved more than 450 people and measured the effects from giving a booster shot of the Moderna Inc., Pfizer Inc.-BioNTech SE or Johnson & Johnson vaccines to those who had originally gotten a different vaccine.

N.Y. Says Vaccine Mandate Is Working (11:20 a.m. NY)

New York’s vaccine mandates for health-care workers have led to only a small reduction in staff, Governor Kathy Hochul said at a briefing Wednesday. The state is seeing a 3% reduction in its health-care workforce, including staff at nursing homes and hospitals, as a result of the requirement. That includes those who have been terminated for not complying. 

The governor said that the mandate is working, with 97% of nursing home staff and 96% of hospital workers statewide having received one dose of the vaccine.

Indonesia Reopening Bali to Tourists (10:40 a.m. NY)

Indonesia is ready to reopen tourist hot spot Bali to countries that comply with World Health Organization’s Level 1 and 2 Covid-19 case levels and low positivity rates, according to a statement from the coordinating ministry for investment and maritime affairs.

The countries include Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, New Zealand, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, China, Japan, India, South Korea, Liechtenstein, Italy, France, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Poland, Hungary and Norway.

United Airlines Mandate Limited by Court (10:15 a.m. NY)

A federal judge barred United Airlines Holdings from placing unvaccinated workers with a religious or medical exemption on unpaid leave, as part of its mandatory vaccination program for employees.  

U.S. District Judge Mark Pittman issued a two-page temporary restraining order Tuesday, noting that the two sides in the dispute agreed last month that the airline would refrain for now from placing exempted workers on leave for failure to comply with the mandate. Without court action, which restrains United from carrying out the program until Oct. 26, Pittman said that the agreement would expire before he can rule on whether an extended hold on the mandate is warranted.

India Builds Up Vaccine Stockpiles (9:19 a.m. NY)

India is building up a stockpile of vaccine doses, with 250 million shots prepared and three more vaccines under development, a government official said. 

Most of these doses will be given to neighboring countries and will also meet India’s commitments to the WHO’s Covax initiative for poorer nations, said V. K. Paul, a member of a government think-tank that advises Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

WHO Names New Team on Covid’s Origin (8:46 a.m. NY)

The World Health Organization proposed a new team to lead an investigation into the pandemic’s origins.

The 26 proposed members of the group have expertise in a range of areas from epidemiology to biosecurity, the WHO said. They include Marion Koopmans from Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands, Christian Drosten from the Institute of Virology at Charite in Berlin and Yungui Yang, the deputy director at the Beijing Institute of Genomics. 

Sputnik Light Shot Protects Against Delta (8:30 a.m. NY)

Russia’s Sputnik Light, a one-shot version of its homegrown vaccine, was 70% effective against the Delta variant during the first three months after vaccination, according to new data.

The protection against severe disease and hospitalization was higher, the Russian Direct Investment Fund said, citing research from vaccine developer Gamaleya. 

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