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Author: Don Obrien

More countries plan Covid booster shots


Covid-19 vaccines updates

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Covid cases and vaccinations

Total global cases: 214.6m

Total doses given: 5.1bn

Get the latest worldwide picture with our vaccine tracker

Latest news

  • The US Federal Reserve’s preferred measure of inflation rose 3.6 per cent year on year in July, matching June’s reading, which was the highest since 1991

  • Former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi was admitted to hospital for a clinical evaluation linked to his recovery from coronavirus

  • The EU is reinstating Covid-19 travel restrictions for unvaccinated citizens of the US and five other countries (Reuters)

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More than nine in ten Britons would be happy to go for a booster jab to protect themselves against Covid-19, according to an official survey published today.

The UK, which will initially target the clinically vulnerable and the over-70s, joins countries such as France and the US that are planning to administer supplementary shots in the coming months.

Plans for boosters have been given extra impetus by new studies casting doubt over vaccines’ lasting efficacy and showing a rise in infections among the fully vaccinated. Israel, which was among the first countries to roll out a vaccination programme, is now busy administering top-ups after its researchers found waning immunity after taking the BioNTech/Pfizer jab, which the country has used almost exclusively.

Pharma companies are manoeuvring swiftly to get their boosters approved. Pfizer and BioNTech on Wednesday became the first to apply for full US regulatory approval for their supplementary shot, while Johnson & Johnson said preliminary data showed its booster provided a strong and rapid antibody response against the virus.

However, World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has queried whether boosters were “effective at all”, insisting that they should only go to those with weakened immune systems and that spare doses should go to countries that have received only minimal supplies. An FT analysis shows more boosters have been given out in a handful of countries than total doses administered in half a dozen African nations combined.

More booster jabs have been administered in Turkey, Israel and Chile than all doses in half a dozen African countries combined. Bar chart showing percentage of population given Covid-19 vaccinations

Read our explainer: Are vaccines becoming less effective at preventing Covid infection?

Global economy

US stocks hit record highs after Federal Reserve chief Jay Powell signalled the bank could begin winding down its emergency stimulus programme by the end of the year. In a highly-anticipated speech on “monetary policy in the time of Covid” to central bankers gathered in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Powell gave an update on the Fed’s twin goals for reducing its support for the US economy. “My view is that the ‘substantial further progress’ test has been met for inflation,” he said. “There has also been clear progress toward maximum employment.”

More evidence is emerging of supply chain disruption and its threat to the UK’s economic recovery. Brexit-related labour shortages have compounded global problems such as the lack of semiconductors and rising raw materials costs and have affected companies such as McDonalds and Greggs. Supermarkets have warned that Christmas supplies could fall short. Neil Carberry, chief executive of the Recruitment & Employment Confederation, said: “Post-pandemic, post-Brexit, we’re going to be in a different place than we’ve been in for decades.”

Foreign businesses are threatening to leave Hong Kong as criticism mounts of strict quarantine rules that mean frequent travel has virtually disappeared over the past year or so. The city’s approach contrasts sharply with rival Asian finance hub Singapore, which is planning to reopen to foreign travel from next month.

Business

British Airways’ plan for a new low-cost short-haul business is the latest example of how the pandemic is shaking up the travel industry. Parent company IAG has run up huge losses as flights were grounded and operated just a fifth of normal schedules in the first quarter.

Fitness technology group Peloton was a pandemic winner as consumers took to working out at home, but has been hit hard by the reopening of gyms and competition from rivals such as Mirror and Hydrow. Peloton said sales would be less than expected in the current quarter and warned that profitability would be hit by higher commodity costs and the decision to slash prices of its bikes.

A less high-tech business, the UK antiques market, was affected badly during the pandemic as the number of fairs and house clearances dwindled. The forced move online has helped some dealers, but it can make buying stock more difficult: “You’re facing a screen and, for all you know, the world. People jump in, Russians, Chinese, and starting prices are higher than I’d think of ending at,” said one person.

Markets

Brazil’s currency and stocks have come under pressure as investor concerns grow over economic recovery and public spending in Latin America’s largest economy. A leading investment executive blamed the government’s weakened political position: “They are having a very difficult time governing and the implication of their mistakes is that their popularity has been declining. Consequently, we have increasing radicalisation of speeches and acts. None of this is good for markets.”

Line chart of 10-year yield (%) showing Brazil's debt has come under selling pressure in 2021

US investors have cut the borrowing they used to buy shares for the first time since the pandemic began. Sentiment has taken a knock from factors such as the Chinese tech crackdown as well as economic data falling short of expectations.

South Korea on Thursday became the first big Asian economy to raise interest rates since the start of the pandemic in response to record household debt and soaring property prices. The country is set for GDP growth of 4 per cent this year thanks to export-led demand for electronics such as computer chips and smartphones.

Have your say

Confederacy of Dunces comments on Supply chain disruption threatens to hold back UK economic recovery:

Many economies are facing into the manifest challenges of the new normal as we adapt to life with Covid.

None has chosen to rupture decades old trading arrangements and destroy trust with its main trading partner. Simultaneously it seeks to renegotiate trade deals from a position of weakness having shown itself willing to renege on its own recently signed treaty obligations.

The reality is that things will sadly get a lot worse as much of the self-inflicted red tape has yet to be implemented.

Final thought

The urge to seek comforting experiences that sustained us during the pandemic could well stay with us once the virus has gone. Read about the phenomenon of “treat brain” and how Covid-19 may have rewired the way we think.

© Yeye Welle

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