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The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention raised its Covid-19 travel advisory for Canada by one step to Level 4, the highest possible, and advised against travel to the country. 

New York’s Broadway theaters will extend their mask and vaccine requirements through April 30. At the same time, the city’s infections may have reached a peak, about a month after the first case of the omicron variant was identified there.

Pfizer Inc. is developing a hybrid vaccine that combines its original shot with a formulation that shields against the omicron variant. A new study showed high levels of protective immune cells that fight some common colds also made people less likely to contract Covid-19

European Union member states have agreed to lift their air travel ban on southern African countries. Germany may need to tighten restrictions before its next scheduled pandemic-policy meeting, a health expert said. 

CDC Raises Alert for Canada; Pfizer Hybrid Vaccine: Virus Update

Pfizer Working on Hybrid Vaccine (4:10 p.m. NY)

Pfizer Inc. is developing a hybrid vaccine that combines its original shot with a formulation that shields against the highly transmissible omicron variant, the drug giant’s top executive said. 

While research continues, Pfizer will evaluate the new hybrid formulation against an omicron-specific shot, and determine which is best suited to move forward by March, Chief Executive Officer Albert Bourla said at the JPMorgan Healthcare Conference on Monday. Pfizer will be ready in March to approach U.S. regulators for clearance of the modified vaccine and bring it to market, and it has already begun production, Bourla said.

CDC Raises Alert for Canada; Pfizer Hybrid Vaccine: Virus Update

CDC Raises Travel Alert for Canada (3:23 a.m. NY)

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention raised its Covid-19 travel advisory for Canada by one step to Level 4, the highest possible, and advised against travel to the country. 

The new guidance and the threat of the omicron variant underscore the notion that normal travel will likely not resume for some time, even between close politically and economically allied countries. 

The CDC also recommends against travel to France, Spain and Sweden. The omicron outbreak led the agency last month to discourage Americans from getting on cruise ships, regardless of the vaccination status.

N.J. Now Expects Smaller Peak (2:10 p.m. NY)

New Jersey may have 8,000 Covid-related hospitalizations, nearing the state’s pandemic peak, in the third week of January, according to Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli.

“We do believe we are going to have high levels for a couple of weeks,” Persichilli said Monday during a virus briefing. She said daily cases were expected to hit 20,000 to 30,000 through January.

An earlier prediction, based on modeling, suggested as many as 9,000 hospitalizations by Jan. 14. New Jersey had more than 8,000 virus-infected inpatients in April 2020. 

Keeping Italy Schools Open Is Priority: Draghi (2:05 p.m. NY)

Prime Minister Mario Draghi said the Italian government’s priority is to avoid closing schools and blamed those yet to get vaccinated against Covid-19 for the nation’s pandemic woes.

“Most of the problems we have today stem from the fact that there are people who are not vaccinated,” Draghi said at a press conference in Rome on Monday. “It doesn’t make sense to close schools before everything else.”

The government successfully challenged in court a decision by the southern Campania region to keep schools closed after the Christmas vacation amid rising infections. Italy recorded more than 100,000 new cases and over 700 new hospitalizations on Monday.

Gilead Says 10 Million Received Its Treatment (1:05 p.m. NY)

More than 10 million Covid patients worldwide have now received Gilead Sciences Inc.’s Veklury treatment, Chief Executive Officer Daniel O’Day said in a presentation. The infused drug, better known by its generic name, remdesivir, is a standard five-day treatment for hospitalized Covid patients.

In the U.S., more than 3 of 5 hospitalized Covid patients are receiving it, O’Day said in a presentation at the JPMorgan Healthcare Conference on Monday.

Gilead is also working on a three-day course of the drug that can help patients outside of the hospital. Last year, it was shown in a big trial to lower risk of hospitalization by 87% when given to to high-risk patients. The data have been submitted to U.S. regulators.

“It is effective against all variants so far,” O’Day said. In the future, the shorter course “will be one more piece of the armamentarium” for people who get Covid outside the hospital.

CDC Raises Alert for Canada; Pfizer Hybrid Vaccine: Virus Update

Merck Delivers 900,000 Pill Courses (1 p.m. NY)

Merck & Co. delivered 900,000 courses of its antiviral pill to the U.S. in December and is set to provide 3 million courses ordered by the government by the end of January, Chief Executive Officer Rob Davis said.

Despite the supply-chain issues that have plagued companies around the world, Davis said Merck was able to make 10 million courses of the drug, molnupiravir, as expected last year. They just need to be labeled and shipped, he said.

“We’re confident we’re going to deliver the product,” Davis said in an interview with Bloomberg Television on Monday. “We’re not seeing issues.”

Molnupiravir, which Merck makes in partnership with biotech Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, was authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use in high-risk adults in late December. Merck has said it will make at least 20 million courses of molnupiravir in 2022.

U.S. School Closings Hit Record (11:35 a.m. NY)

U.S. school closures reached a record high for the academic year last week as omicron-fueled coronavirus cases caused staff shortages and disrupted classes, but the shutdowns are about to ease as more schools are set to reopen in-person.

At least 5,409 schools had canceled class or switched to virtual learning as of the end of last week, more than triple the count at the end of December, according to data from Burbio, which tracks closures. 

Broadway Extends Vaccine, Mask Policy (11 a.m. NY)

New York’s Broadway theaters will extend their mask and vaccine requirements through April 30, according to a statement posted on the website of the Broadway League.

The 41 theaters will also require full vaccination for children ages 5 to 11 starting Jan. 29, in accordance with New York City guidelines.

Moderna Has $18.5 Billion in 2022 Orders (10:40 a.m. NY)

Moderna Inc. said it has signed vaccine purchase agreements worth $18.5 billion for this year, along with options for another $3.5 billion, including booster shots.

In a statement on Monday, the company also said 2021 product sales would be $17.5 billion, slightly higher than the average analyst estimate of $17 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Additionally, the company said that it shipped 807 million vaccine doses in 2021. Previously, it had said it would deliver between 700 milion and 800 million doses.

Djokovic ‘Grateful’ for Australia Visa Ruling (10 a.m. NY)

Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic, who refuses to get vaccinated against Covid-19, reacts after an Australian court quashed the cancellation of his visa and ordered his immediate release from detention in a hotel.

Novavax Says Vaccine Shipments to EU Started (10 a.m. NY)

Novavax Inc. has shipped the first doses of its Covid-19 vaccine to Europe, marking the drug company’s entry into a potentially large new market.

Chief Executive Officer Stanley Erck announced the shipments during a presentation on Monday at the JPMorgan Healthcare Conference. The company also said in a statement that it and its partner Serum Institute of India Pvt. Ltd. had filed for an emergency-use authorization for the shot in South Africa.

India’s Capital Shuts Restaurants, Bars (9:32 a.m. NY)

Only one weekly market will be allowed per day per zone in Delhi, Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal tweeted Monday. The capital’s health department has been advised to beef up manpower at hospitals and scale up the vaccination drive, even among the 15-18 year age bracket.

Baltimore Shifts Some Schools Online (8:23 a.m. NY)

Baltimore said some 60 of its 155 schools shifted to virtual learning on Monday because of staffing shortages caused by the pandemic or the inability to conduct testing for the virus. Maryland is among the hardest hit states by the surge in omicron cases.

Ikea Cuts Sick Pay for Unvaccinated U.K. Staff (8:19 a.m. NY)

Ikea has imposed a financial penalty on U.K. employees who don’t get Covid-19 shots and miss work because they have to self-isolate.

The furniture retailer is cutting sick pay for staff who can’t work because of close contact with an infected person to 96.35 pounds ($131) a week for the required 10-day isolation period — less than a fourth of average weekly wage before taxes, The Guardian newspaper reported on Monday. Ikea said it couldn’t immediately comment.

Bangladesh Introduces New Virus Restrictions (8:15 a.m. NY)

The Bangladesh government has ordered people to show vaccine certificates to dine in restaurants and stay in hotels, starting Jan. 13, as virus cases surge. Buses and trains must operate at half capacity, according to a notice issued by the Cabinet Division on Monday. The government also banned all open-air social, political and religious events and made it compulsory to wear masks outdoors. Covid-19 cases rose by 2,231 in a day to about 1.6 million on Monday.

Japan PM May Extend Ban on Foreign Arrivals (7:47 a.m. NY)

Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is expected to announce an extension to the ban on foreign arrivals this week, Nikkei reported, without saying how it obtained the information.

EU Replaces Africa Travel Ban With Testing (7:45 a.m. NY)

The decision lifts the so-called emergency brake introduced in November, the French government, which holds the rotating EU presidency, said in a tweet. Travelers from the region will still be subject to health measures applicable to travelers from third countries.

European nations had suspended most air travel from Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe as scientists scrambled to assess the severity of the omicron variant. 

Sweden Orders Restaurants to Close Early (7:05 a.m. NY)

Sweden will introduce new restrictions to curb an unprecedented surge in Covid infections, Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said Monday. 

Restaurants won’t be allowed to seat groups larger than eight and will have to close by 11 p.m. Public events with more than 50 people are only permitted if attendees present proof of vaccination. The curbs take effect on Wednesday.

Cold-Triggered T Cells Fend Off Covid (6:01 a.m. NY) 

Researchers found higher levels of T cells against certain colds in people who didn’t develop Covid while living with someone who had the disease, according to a study led by the U.K.’s Imperial College London. The prior illnesses were caused by other coronaviruses related to SARS-CoV-2.

The findings provide further evidence of the protective effects of T cells, an arm of the immune system that’s gaining attention as the pandemic stretches into its third year and new variants like omicron erode vaccine protection. 

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