China Economic Pain; Moderna Shot for Young Kids: Virus Update



Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said many Covid-related restrictions will be eased, with group sizes doubled to 10, masks made optional outdoors and most restrictions lifted for fully vaccinated visitors.

China is facing a temporary hit to factory production and a lingering consumer slump amid the strictest Covid controls since the initial outbreak two years ago.

Moderna Inc. said its Covid-19 vaccine produced a strong immune response in children under age six in initial results from a large final-stage trial.

Singapore to Ease Curbs; Moderna Shot for Kids: Virus Update

Singapore Significantly Eases Virus Curbs (11:15 a.m.)

Singapore is moving ahead with a plan to significantly ease longstanding Covid-19 curbs, lifting “most restrictions” for fully vaccinated visitors and removing a requirement to wear masks outdoors, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.  

With the latest wave of the virus subsiding, the prime minister said that Singapore will double the group size from the current five persons to 10 and allow up to 75% of employees who can work from home to return to their workplaces, he said. The city-state will also “drastically streamline” testing and quarantine requirements for travelers.

The changes will take effect March 29, Lee said.

Singapore’s Straits Times index extended gains, with shares of Singapore Airlines and other reopening-linked stocks advancing.

Hong Kong Requests More Chinese Medical Staff (11:10 a.m.)

Hong Kong is requesting another batch of Chinese medical staff, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said in a briefing. 

China Cases Show Some Stabilization (9:50 a.m. HK)

China reported 4,732 Covid infections on Thursday amid signs outbreaks in northeastern Jilin and Shanghai are stabilizing. 

About 10% of new infections are from areas not cordoned off in Shanghai, indicating omicron’s community spread is coming under control and a turning point for the Shanghai outbreak may be near, according to the city’s Covid adviser and infectious disease doctor, Zhang Wenhong. 

Meanwhile, cases in southern tech hub Shenzhen is falling to single digits, days after it lifted lockdown restrictions.

NYC Will Drop Athlete/Performer Vaccine Rule (9:15 a.m. HK)

New York City Mayor Eric Adams will no longer require proof of vaccination for professional athletes and performers, according to people familiar with the matter. He is expected to announce the change Thursday at Citi Field, home of the New York Mets, and it will immediately take effect. 

The rule change comes ahead of the NBA playoffs for Kyrie Irving, a star who has been ineligible to play in Brooklyn because he refused to get a shot. It also arrives two weeks before the start of the Major League Baseball season, meaning that unvaccinated players on the Mets and Yankees can appear in home games.

Japan Cases Surge to More Than 40,000 (8:50 a.m. HK)

Daily confirmed new cases in Japan more than doubled to 40,928 on Wednesday from a day earlier, reversing a fall of the past week. 

The number of deaths also rose for a second day to 122 cases. Japan lifted the state of quasi-emergency in Tokyo and some other prefectures Tuesday. Japan immunized 35% of the population with a booster shot, exceeding the level of the U.S., according to Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker.

Airline CEOs Want U.S. Covid Mandates Nixed (6:38 a.m. HK)

The largest U.S. airlines urged President Joe Biden to immediately end federal requirements for masks on airplanes, along with mandated vaccinations and testing for international passengers coming to the country. 

“It is past time” to eliminate the policies, the Airlines for America lobbying group said in a letter Wednesday, citing the level of Covid-19 vaccinations in the U.S. and the end to mask mandates across much of the country. The testing and shot rule “creates a competitive disadvantage for U.S. tourism,” the carriers said.

China’s Factories, Consumers to Take Hit (5 a.m. HK)

China is facing a temporary hit to factory production and a lingering consumer slump amid the strictest Covid controls since the initial outbreak two years ago.

Company statements and high-frequency indicators suggest a drop in output and spending in March after China imposed lockdowns in key cities like technology hub Shenzhen and Changchun, a center for automakers. Official activity data won’t be available for several weeks still. 

Moderna Shares Fall After Kid Trial Results (4:15 a.m. HK)

Moderna said its Covid-19 vaccine produced a strong immune response in children under age 6 in initial results from a large final-stage trial that showed modest effectiveness in reducing omicron infections.

Based on the positive results and the need for Covid shots for young children, Moderna will submit the data to regulators in the U.S. and overseas as soon as possible, according to a statement. The company also said it would also apply for U.S. clearance of its vaccine in 6- to 11-year-olds, after consultation with regulators.

However, shares slid 4.3% in the U.S. on Wednesday as the efficacy response trailed expectations.

Sweden’s Premature WHO Announcement (11:30 p.m. HK)

Sweden’s announcement that Anders Tegnell, the mastermind behind the Scandinavian country’s controversial Covid-19 strategy, had been hired by the World Health Organization has turned out to be premature.

The March 9 report by Sweden’s Public Health Agency FHM said that Tegnell had resigned as state epidemiologist to become a senior expert in a group that will coordinate the work between the WHO, the UN Children’s Fund UNICEF and vaccine organization Gavi. Svenska Dagbladet first reported that the announcement was met with “surprise and confusion” within the WHO.

Maersk: Less China Covid Impact Than Feared (8:30 p.m. HK)

Chinese ports are functioning surprisingly well despite an uptick in Covid-19 cases, ShippingWatch quoted a regional manager at container line Maersk as saying. 

Disruptions in harbors in China are less dramatic than feared because the Chinese government prioritizes maintaining economic growth and keeping key logistics areas open, Anne-Sophie Zerlang Karlsen, head of Maersk’s operations in Asia, told ShippingWatch.

Singapore to Outline Next Steps (5:22 p.m. HK)

Singapore’s Covid-19 situation “has been improving, with the Omicron wave subsiding,” Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Facebook.

He is set to speak about Singapore’s virus situation, as well as next steps, at 11 a.m. local time on Thursday.


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