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Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine Begins Late-Stage Trial; Hong Kong Imposes Toughest Restrictions Yet As “Third Wave” Worsens: Live Updates

Courtesy of ZeroHedge View original post here.

Summary:

  • Bolton's replacement tests positive for COVID; highest ranking US official to test positive
  • European stocks slide, shaken by travel restrictions on Spain
  • Merkel's chief of staff says rise in COVID-19 cases is "cause for concern"
  • US CDC reported 64,582 cases yesterday
  • Australia's Victoria State reported another 532 new cases
  • Hong Kong suffers biggest daily jump in domestically transmitted cases
  • Vietnam evacuates tourists after COVID-19 cluster discovered
  • China reports another 61 cases on the mainland
  • Hong Kong imposes new restrictions
  • Masks must be worn indoors and outside when in public
  • 2 new deaths seen over the weekend
  • Moderna gets another ~$470 in US government funding; enters late-stage trail
  • More than 150 vaccine candidates are in trials around the world

* * *

Update (0900ET): John Bolton's replacement as the Trump Administration's National Security Advisor has reportedly tested positive for the virus, according to Bloomberg.

In other news, Hong Kong officials have just decided to postpone all driving tests being offered in the city.

  • HONG KONG TO SUSPEND DRIVING TESTS FROM WEDNESDAY DUE TO VIRUS

* * *

Update (0805ET): Here's a rundown of all the big COVID-19 news from yesterday (much of which we initially reported here) and the overnight session.

The CDC reported 64,582 new cases (vs.+74,818 a day earlier) and 929 deaths (vs. +1,145 a day earlier) on July 26 (remember, these numbers are reported with a 24-hour delay).

Texas reported 5,810 new COVID-19 cases (vs.+8,112 a day earlier) and deaths rose by 153 (vs. +168 a day earlier), current hospitalization +248 (vs. -209 a day earlier). Florida reported 9,344 new COVID-19 cases (vs. +12,199 a day earlier) and deaths increased by 78 (vs. +126 a day earlier) while hospitalizations fell by 88 (vs -285 a day before) on Sunday.

Arizona reported 1,973 new COVID-19 cases (vs. +3,748 a day earlier) and deaths increased by 19 (vs. +144 the day before) on Sunday.

LA County reported 1,730 new COVID-19 cases (vs. +3,628 a day before) and deaths rose by 10 (vs. +53 a day earlier) on Sunday with hospitalizations at a record high (although the data is incomplete due to delays in State electronic lab reports, per the County Health Department).

California said current hospitalizations fell by 69, per the Cali Department of Health.

California coronavirus cases increased by at least 4,372 on Sunday, with deaths rising by at least 21.

Australia's Victoria State reported 532 new coronavirus cases (vs. 459 a day earlier) as the outbreak in the country's second-most-populous state continues to grow despite lockdown orders and other measures.

In another big story from last night, US Treasury Secretary Mnuchin said the next COVID-19 relief package will be introduced on Monday. Mnuchin added that he and White House Chief of Staff Meadows worked on technical issues on Saturday and said the entire relief plan is ready and worth about $1 trillion. Mnuchin conceded that President Trump’s payroll tax cuts didn't make it into the final package, but stated the package will contain extended unemployment benefits with 70% "wage replacement".

As far as the economy goes, Mnuchin says he expects a big rebound in the second half of the year.

China reported 61 new COVID-19 cases in Mainland (vs. 46 a day earlier). These included 4 new imported cases (vs. 11) and 44 new asymptomatic cases (vs. 68).

Hong Kong reported 145 (vs. Sunday's 128) new cases Monday, of which 142 were likely locally transmitted. That's a new daily high for locally transmitted cases.

Vietnam has evacuated 80k tourists from the central city of Danang following a COVID-19 outbreak there that has ruptured a months-long streak of no new cases in the southeast Asian country.

Germany reported 340 new COVID-19 cases (vs. +305 the day before), while deaths rose by 0. Chief of Staff to Chancellor Angela Merkel said Monday that signs of rising daily cases are "a cause for concern" as officials keep a vigilant eye out for any signs of a resurgence following what many described as western Europe's best-managed outbreak.

* * *

Update (0800ET): Perhaps the biggest COVID-19 news (at least as far as Europe is concerned) over the weekend were the myriad travel restrictions and advisories adopted by the UK, France, Norway and others targeting Spain and specifically those living in parts of Catalonia, including a large swath of the suburbs of Barcelona, along with most of the city itself.

The first travel restrictions were announced on Friday and Saturday, but these decisions were blamed for rattling the Stoxx Europe 600, which struggled for traction as airlines stocks were hammered over the UK's decision to quarantine passengers returning from Spain.

* * *

Locally, officials have dubbed the current resurgence of SARS-CoV2-2 in Hong Kong the "third wave", following the initial outbreak, and another surge in cases. But as new confirmed cases, and even a few deaths, have trickled in, city public health officials have ratcheted up safety protocols to their most restrictive levels yet.

On Monday, Hong Kong's Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung announced that face masks would be mandatory in both indoor and outdoor public places from Wednesday, with offenders facing fines of up to HKD$5,000 ($645), although he didn't say exactly whether these new measures would be enforced.

Hong Kong is also imposing more restrictive social-distancing measures, including limiting the number of people in public gathering to two from four, and banning all dine-in services at restaurants and food courts (previously, it had only banned dine-in service in the evenings and early morning hours).

The new rules will take effect Wednesday, Cheung said.

People with "reasonable excuses" such as medical conditions or children under the age of two will be exempt, he added.

As Hong Kongers bristle about a new national security law, the government in Beijing just committed to building a Wuhan-style makeshift hospital near Hong Kong's airport with a capacity of around 2,000 hospital beds.

Local stock markets took a hit on the news, as Hong Kong developers extended declines, as the number of new virus cases rose by more than 100 daily in the past five consecutive days in the city.

The epidemic situation is critical," Cheung said. "We are facing a high risk of community outbreak."

The restrictions come as the city faces a coronavirus outbreak dubbed locally as its "third wave," with the origin of many infections still unknown. Hong Kong had been lauded for its relative success in curbing the spread of the coronavirus. However, on Monday, Hong Kong authorities reported more than 100 new cases for the sixth straight day, bringing the city's total to more than 2,700.

* * *

Before Monday's numbers were announced, 1,163 new cases had been recorded over the past 14 days. The origins of 492 of these infections have not been traced.

Asked why the city stopped short of imposing a complete lockdown, Cheung said a lockdown would be "too inconvenient" and that these new measures would be "more appropriate."

Despite its proximity to China, Hong Kong has done an admirable job of keeping infection numbers low (evidenced by the relatively small numbers of patients who have had to seek medical treatment for the disease). Over the weekend, an elderly woman, 76, and an even older man, 92, succumbed to COVID-19. That raised the city's death toll to 20.

By comparison, Florida and Texas recently eclipsed 5,000 deaths.

Meanwhile, in the US, we saw some signs of a silver lining as more of the worst-hit Sun Belt states saw daily numbers for new cases decline.

Finally, Moderna shares are surging Monday morning in premarket trading on the news that the vaccine candidate would be proceeding to another government-backed late-stage trial. The trial is the first to be implemented under the US government's "Operation Warp Speed" – the Trump-approved quest to find a workable vaccine by the end of the year.

Moderna also revealed that the biotech darling had received another award from the US government for $472 million, taking Moderna's total government funding to just under $1 billion. Its shares were up 11% in premarket trading.

The trial will test the response to the vaccine in 30,000 adults who do not have the respiratory illness; more than 150 vaccine candidates are in various stages of development, with 23 prospects in human trials across the globe. Moderna and British firm AstraZeneca are leading the race with their candidates in late-stage studies.

During a morning interview with CNBC, Dr. Scott Gottlieb said the vaccines so far looked promising.

However, as Moderna executives sell more of their stock in "pre-planned sales", Gottlieb noted that he "wouldn't be trading in my stock right now" if he were in Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel's position. But then again, if Bancell had these sales set up prior to all of this happening, then it would also be wrong to change those plans.

We can't help but wonder…

…if that's accurate, then when were these stock sales scheduled, and why?

Moderna says it's on track to deliver about 500 million doses of its vaccine a year, and possibly up to 1 billion doses a year if the trials are successful beginning in 2021.


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