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A commuter wears a protective mask, gloves, and a face shield while riding the subway during rush hour in New York, US, on Monday, June 8, 2020. (Photo: Bloomberg)

US plans three studies of experimental vaccines

A commuter wears a protective mask, gloves, and a face shield while riding the subway during rush hour in New York, US, on Monday, June 8, 2020. (Photo: Bloomberg)

Key Developments:

US Plans Three Studies of Experimental Vaccines

The US government plans to fund and conduct studies of three experimental coronavirus vaccines starting this summer, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing John Mascola, director of the vaccine research center at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Moderna Inc.’s vaccine is set to be first, starting in July, followed in August by one co-developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca Plc and in September by Johnson & Johnson’s, Mascola told the WSJ.

Germany Moves to Stem Spread Among Seasonal Farm Workers

Germany has agreed to a set of social-distancing rules for seasonal farm workers to stem the potential spread of the coronavirus among the vulnerable group after entry restrictions are lifted on June 15.

Even after Germany tightened border controls in response to the pandemic, some 39,000 seasonal workers, many from eastern Europe, have entered the country as part of an exemption since March. The new rules, in place until the end of the year, include directives such as dividing laborers into teams that work together and share living quarters, the ministry said in a statement.

Starbucks Sees Potential $3.2 Billion Sales Hit

Starbucks Corp. expects the pandemic to reduce sales this quarter by as much as $3.2 billion, dragging down the coffee chain’s performance as it sees a recovery stretching into next year. The company, which like other restaurants has had a difficult time offering guidance, said Wednesday it expects to report an adjusted loss of 55 to 70 cents a share when it next releases earnings.

The guidance underscores the depth of the challenges for customer-facing businesses. The coffee seller, which is exploring new store formats to stimulate demand, is being closely watched as a barometer of customers’ willingness to leave their homes and open their wallets as the pandemic subsides.

Travel to Europe Will Be Allowed Again Starting July 1

The EU plans a “gradual and partial” easing of a ban on most travel to the bloc as of July 1, the EU’s foreign-policy chief Josep Borrell told reporters on Wednesday in Brussels.

A curb on non-essential travel to the EU is due to lapse on June 15 after being introduced in mid-March for 30 days and extended twice as Europe stepped up the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

China Offers Experimental Vaccine to Workers Going Abroad

China is offering workers at some large state-run companies the option of being inoculated with two coronavirus vaccines currently in development, illustrating how quickly authorities are moving to test the viability of the shots.

Employees intending to travel overseas for work can volunteer to be administered shots developed by China National Biotec Group Co. or CNBG, a subsidiary of Beijing-based Sinopharm Group Co., according to people familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified as the offer hasn’t been made public. The proposal was relayed to state-owned companies by the government body that oversees them, the people said.

Austria to Drop Travel Restrictions From 31 Countries

Austria is lifting the health-related requirements for entering the country to most European nations. Arrivals from 31 more countries won’t need a negative coronavirus tests or else go into a 2-week self-isolation from June 16. Those restrictions will remain in place only for Sweden, Spain, Portugal and the UK, Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg told journalists in Vienna.

Among the borders opened next week is that to Italy, the only Austrian neighbor country to which they were still closed. A travel warning for the Lombardy region remains in place.

Schallenberg warned that despite the travel easing, the fight against the virus wasn’t open and tourists still needed to be careful.
“When you pack your bags, don’t forget your common sense,” Schallenberg said.

Iran Warns Public on Letting Guard Down

Iran’s health ministry warned the public against letting their guard down after a government assessment showed only 22% of the country’s population observed social distancing rules by June 4, down from 77% last month.

In Tehran, the city of over 12 million people, adherence to anti-virus measures fell to 10% by last week from 56% in May, Mohsen Farhadi, a deputy health minister, said on state TV.

Iran reported 81 deaths from the virus and 2,011 new cases in the past 24 hours, raising the total death toll to 8,506 in 177,938 infections so far.

COVID Pandemic is ‘Worst Nightmare,’ Fauci Says

The top US infectious disease specialist called the coronavirus pandemic his “worst nightmare” and warned that the deadly outbreak is far from over. In just four months, COVID-19 has devastated countries around the world, Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Tuesday in an online address to the Biotechnology Innovation Organization, an industry group.

Russia Nears 500,000 Cases, Moscow Infections Declining

Russia reported 8,404 new confirmed coronavirus infections, a 1.7% increase, in the past day, according to data from the Russian government’s virus response center.

Moscow reported 1,195 cases, or 14% of total, the lowest number since April 11.

Sweden to Drop Daily Briefings Amid Furor

Sweden’s top health authority will stop holding daily briefings on the country’s COVID-19 infection rate and death toll.

The decision comes amid a furor over Sweden’s strategy to fight the pandemic, after state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell acknowledged his approach was flawed. Instead of every day, updates for the press will now be provided only on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Sweden’s softer lockdown has resulted in one of the world’s highest death rates relative to its population. But both Tegnell and Prime Minister Stefan Lofven have insisted there’s no need to change strategy. The controversy had turned the briefings into public grillings during which Tegnell was increasingly pressed to explain himself.

Singapore to Start Trials on Potential Treatment

Singapore is set to start human clinical trials on Potenti on a potential treatment for COVID-19 next week, the Straits Times reported on Wednesday. Phase 1 trials on 23 healthy individuals will take about six weeks and will be conducted by the SingHealth Investigational Medicine Unit, the newspaper reported.

Developed by Singapore-based biotechnology company Tychan, a monoclonal antibody or immune system protein called TY027 that targets the virus causing Covid-19, called Sars-CoV-2, will be tested, the report states, citing a statement issued by the company.

Germany’s New Cases Hold Far Below Crisis Peak

Germany’s new cases held steady, remaining far below the thousands seen at the height of the crisis just over two months ago.

There were 397 new coronavirus cases confirmed in the 24 hours through Wednesday morning, bringing the total to 186,506, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. That compares with 359 the previous day and almost 7,000 at the peak of the pandemic in late March.

Fatalities increased by 41 to 8,736. The daily death toll has remained well below 100 since mid-May. Meanwhile, the reproduction factor of the virus, known as R-naught, rose to 1.11 on Monday from 1.05 the day before, according to the latest estimate from the Robert Koch Institute. The RKI didn’t publish a daily report on Tuesday.

The government is trying to keep the figure below 1.0 to prevent exponential growth in the number of cases and a second wave of infections.