(Bloomberg) -- China’s northern city of Harbin will suspend schools for a week starting Wednesday and move all teaching online to control a Covid-19 outbreak, CCTV reported. Singapore had another day with more than 1,000 infections.

Vietnam is getting 796,000 more shots of the AstraZeneca Plc shot from Italy, whose total donation to the nation will top 1.6 million doses. Malaysia reached a target of immunizing 80% of its adult population, while Thailand eyes more tourists as cases slump. 

The head of the United Nations called global vaccination inequity “an obscenity.” The U.S., which has faced criticism over boosters, is planning to donate 500 million doses of Pfizer Inc.’s shot.

A booster dose of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine provided 100% protection against severe disease when given two months after the first one in a trial. Mauritius will offer booster shots starting Thursday.

Key Developments:

  • Global Virus Tracker: Cases pass 229.4 million; deaths exceed 4.7 million
  • Vaccine Tracker: More than 6 billion doses administered
  • FDA is expected to decide on Pfizer booster shots on Wednesday
  • Biden plans donation of 500 million shots, doubling goal
  • It’s time to get tactical about masking: Bloomberg Opinion
  • Religious lawsuits over Covid shots reveal private-public divide
  • Why the delta variant is giving more children Covid

China’s Harbin Suspends Schools for a Week (7:41 a.m. HK)

China’s northern city of Harbin will suspend kindergartens, primary and middle schools for one week starting Sept. 22 to control a Covid-19 outbreak, CCTV reported. All the teaching will be moved online.

The city reported three confirmed cases as of 6 p.m. local time, state broadcaster CCTV reported, citing a government briefing. Harbin shut mahjong places, bathhouses, cinemas, massage parlors, arcades, religious venues and indoor sporting venues earlier Tuesday.

New Zealand ‘May Not Get Back to Zero’ Cases (7:35 a.m. HK)

New Zealand may not get back to zero cases of Covid-19 as it continues to battle an outbreak of the highly contagious delta variant, Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said on Monday. However, that doesn’t mean the country has abandoned its elimination strategy, which means trying to stamp out the virus whenever it is found, Bloomfield told Radio New Zealand.

“We may not get back to zero, but the important thing is we’re going to keep finding any infections and basically continue to contact trace, test, isolate people so that we stop the virus circulating in the community, and that is the aim,” he said.

Auckland, the largest city, has been in lockdown for five weeks and won’t exit for at least another two, while social distancing and mask-wearing requirements are in place for the rest of the country. Although a handful of new cases continue to be reported daily, health officials are on top of the current outbreak and are aiming to get the vaccination rate over 90% so that restrictions can be eased, Bloomfield said.

Idaho Hospital Says Covid Dominates ICU (5:15 a.m. HK)

An unprecedented 70% of intensive care unit patients have Covid-19 at a hospital network in Idaho, a state where vaccination rates are low, medical care is being rationed and virus hospitalizations are setting records.

The Covid-19 ICU mortality rate is up to 43% at St. Luke’s health system, higher than the prior peak, and 98% of ICU patients suffering the deadly malady are unvaccinated, James Souza, chief physician executive of the statewide network of six hospitals, told an online news briefing.

Utah Warning on Ivermectin (5 a.m. HK)

Utah’s health department said ivermectin poisonings are up and a person was hospitalized recently with “serious health effects” after ingesting the veterinary drug in a bid to treat symptoms of Covid-19. The state’s poison control center reports the ivermectin exposure rate is 4.5 times higher than a year ago.

“Fifty percent of people who called us after using ivermectin as a way to treat or prevent Covid-19 have received medical help,” said Amberly Johnson, director of the poison control center.

U.S. to Buy 187 Million Rapid Tests (3:30 p.m. NY)

The federal government is spending nearly $1.2 billion to purchase 187 million rapid tests from Abbott Laboratories and Celltrion Inc., according to a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services official.

The deals, which include options to buy more, are part of an investment of about $2 billion announced by the Biden administration earlier this month to make the rapid tests more widely available. The government is also using the Defense Production Act to build out manufacturing capacity. 

The products, known as antigen tests, return results in about 15 minutes on-site, without needing to be sent out to a laboratory. Demand for tests, including the rapid products, has surged amid the latest wave in the U.S.

Plane Travel ‘Incredibly Safe’: American CEO (3:15 p.m. NY)

An aircraft flown by a U.S. carrier is “an incredibly safe place to be” during the pandemic because of stepped-up air filtration and cleaning measures and mask requirements, American Airlines Group Inc. Chief Executive Officer Doug Parker said Tuesday. 

“We don’t see the need to require people to be vaccinated to travel within the United States, simply because it’s a much safer place to be” than other areas where people congregate, he said in an interview with the Washington Post. The carrier will abide by any such mandate if one is issued, Parker said.

Biden Plans Donation of 500 Million Pfizer Shots (2 p.m. NY)

President Joe Biden plans to announce an order of 500 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech SE vaccine Wednesday, according to two people familiar with the matter, as the president looks to increase donations of shots abroad and ward off criticism about U.S. plans for boosters.

Negotiations between the administration and manufacturers are continuing but a deal is poised to be unveiled at a virtual vaccine summit, said the people, who asked not to be named ahead of the announcement.

UN Chief Gives World ‘F’ on Vaccine Equity (12:45 p.m. NY)

The world has passed the science test on the coronavirus but gets an “F in ethics” due to an inequitable vaccine rollout, said United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres. 

Addressing the 76th session of the UN General Assembly in New York, Guterres told world leaders that the planet “must wake up” as it faces the “greatest cascade of crises in our lifetimes,” including Covid. 

Guterres said the pandemic had “supersized glaring inequalities” and criticized the inequitable distribution of vaccines, highlighting that 90% of Africans were still waiting for their first dose. 

“This is a moral indictment of the state of our world,” said Guterres. 

FDA Booster Decision May Come Wednesday (11 a.m. NY)

The Food and Drug Administration is expected to decide as soon as Wednesday on a recommendation for boosters made by Pfizer and BioNTech, two people familiar with the matter said, the latest step in a process that could open the door to extra shots in the coming days.

The agency’s decision would tee up consideration by an advisory panel of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has scheduled a meeting for Wednesday and Thursday to discuss boosters.

On Friday, an FDA advisory panel rejected a call for boosters for all adults, instead deciding to urge them for a narrower group: people 65 and older, those at risk of severe Covid-19 and those at risk of occupational exposure. Those parameters could be tweaked by the FDA. 

Connecticut Governor Wants School Masks (9:20 a.m. NY)

Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont said he wants to extend the statewide school mask mandate from its Sept. 30 expiration date. 

“We’re going to do that a little bit longer,” Lamont said in a Tuesday interview on Bloomberg Television. “I got to work with my friends in the legislature on that.”

Sussexes to Join NYC Vaccine-Equity Event (7 a.m. NY)

Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, will join an event in New York’s Central Park on Sept. 25 to spur support for global vaccine equity, the international advocacy organization Global Citizen said in a statement. The campaign is calling for the Group of Seven and the European Union to share at least 1 billion doses immediately with needy countries, it said.  

Others due to appear as part of the broadcast event include World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

J&J Booster Prevents Severe Disease (6:30 a.m. NY)

A booster dose of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine provided 100% protection against severe disease when given two months after the first inoculation, according to widely anticipated data that suggests it increases the potency of the one-time shot. 

The booster was 94% effective at preventing symptomatic infections in the U.S. portion of the Phase III trial, and 75% effective overall when it was given 56 days after the initial dose, the company said in a statement. A second study found the additional shot spurred a 12-fold increase in production of antibodies when it was given six months after the first.  

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