• 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

* * *

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.

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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.

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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.

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?

Via Zerohedge