Virus surge fears, UK leader’s quarantine, mar ‘Freedom Day’

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Corks popped, beats boomed out giddy revelers rushed onto dancefloors when England’s nightclubs reopened Monday as the country lifted most remaining coronavirus restrictions after more than a year of lockdowns, mask mandates other pandemic-related curbs on freedom.

For clubbers nightclub owners, the moment lived up to its media-given moniker, “Freedom Day.” But the big step out of lockdown was met with nervousness by many Britons concern from scientists, who say the U.K. is entering uncharted waters by opening up when confirmed cases are not falling but soaring.

As of Monday, face masks were no longer legally required in England, work-from-home guidance ended and, with social distancing rules shelved, no limits existed on the number of people attending theater performances or big events.

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Nightclubs were allowed to open for the first time in almost 18 months, from London to Liverpool, thousands of people danced the night away at “Freedom Day” parties starting at midnight.

July 19, 2021: People drink on the dance floor shortly after the reopening, at The Piano Works in Farringdon, London.
((AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali))

“I’m absolutely ecstatic,” clubgoer Lorna Feeney said at Bar Fibre in the northern Englcity of Leeds. “That’s my life, my soul — I love dancing.”

At The Piano Works in London, patrons packed the area around the cordoned-off dance floor on Sunday as a host led a countdown to midnight.

Once a ceremonial ribbon was cut, the crowd ran toward the dance floor as confetti canons went off a disco ball spun above. Soon, unmasked clubgoers dancing to a live band’s rendition of Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” filled the floor.

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One of the people attending The Piano Works party, Mark Troy, called the return of nightclubs “a most joyous occasion.”

But while entertainment businesses ravers are jubilant, many others are deeply worried about scrapping restrictions at a time when COVID-19 cases are on a rapid upswing because of the highly infectious delta variant first identified in India. Cases topped 50,000 per day last week for the first time since January. Deaths remain far lower than in the winter thanks to vaccines, but have risen from less than 10 a day in June to about 40 a day in the past week.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has dialed down talk of freedom in recent weeks, urged the public to exercise “prudence respect for other people the risks that the disease continues to present.”

In a reminder of how volatile the situation is, the prime minister was spending “Freedom Day” in quarantine. Johnson Treasury chief Rishi Sunak are both self-isolating for 10 days after contact with Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who tested positive for COVID-19 on Saturday.

Johnson initially said he would take daily tests instead of self-isolating — an option not offered to most people — but U-turned amid public outrage.

The prime minister is among hundreds of thousands of Britons who have been told to quarantine because they have been near someone who tested positive. The situation is causing staff shortages for businesses including restaurants, car manufacturers public transport.

Globally, the World Health Organization says cases deaths are climbing after a period of decline, spurred by the delta variant. Like the U.K., Israel the Netherlands both opened up widely after vaccinating most of their people, but had to reimpose some restrictions after new infection surges. The Dutch prime minister admitted that lifting restrictions too early “was a mistake.”

In the U.S., many areas abandoned face coverings when the Centers for Disease Control Prevention said fully vaccinated people didn’t need to wear them in most settings. Some states cities are now trying to decide what to do as cases rise again.

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British officials have repeatedly expressed confidence that the U.K.’s vaccine rollout — 68.3% of adults, or just over half of the total population, has received two doses — will keep the threat to public health at bay. But leading international scientists described England’s move as a threat to the whole world, 1,200 scientists backed a letter to British medical journal The Lancet criticizing the Conservative government’s decision.

“I can’t think of any realistic good scenario to come out of this strategy, I’m afraid,” said Julian Tang, a clinical virologist at the University of Leicester. “I think it’s really a degree of how bad it’s going to be.”

Tang said nightclubs in particular are potent spreading grounds, because they increase close physical contact among a core customer base — people 18 to 25 — that hasn’t yet been fully vaccinated.

“That’s the perfect mixing vessel for the virus to spread to even generate new variants,” he said.

The government wants nightclubs other crowded venues to check whether customers have been vaccinated, have a negative test result or have recovered from the disease.

There is no legal requirement for them to do so, however, most say they won’t. Michael Kill, chief executive of the Night Time Industries Association, said many owners accuse the government of “passing the buck” to businesses.

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“Either mandate it or don’t mandate it,” Kill said. “This is putting an inordinate amount of pressure on us.”

Johnson’s decision to scrap the legal requirement for face masks in indoor public spaces — while recommending people keep them on — has also sowed confusion.

Some retailers said they would encourage customers to keep their masks on, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said they remain mandatory on the capital’s subways buses — though police can no longer be called in to enforce the rule.

Khan said Monday that more than 90% of passengers appeared to be wearing masks, “what I think that shows is that people are carrying on their great habits.”

But many believe implementing such policies will be tricky without legal backing.

Psychologist Robert West, who sits on a science panel that advises the government, said telling people to be careful without giving them thorough knowledge of risks was “like putting someone out on the road without having taught them to drive.”

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The end of restrictions in Englis a critical moment in Britain’s handling of the pandemic, which has killed more than 128,000 people nationwide, the highest death toll in Europe after Russia. Other parts of the U.K. — Scotland, Wales Northern Irel— are taking slightly more cautious steps out of lockdown keeping mask requirements for now.

At London’s Egg nightclub, clubber Alex Clark acknowledged feeling “a bit of apprehension uncertainty.”

Fellow clubgoer Kevin Ally felt no such qualms.

“There’s zero concern,” he said. “The only concern is why we haven’t been here for a year a half. It’s been a very long time since we’ve been out.

“It’s good to be back, we’re here to dance.”

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Dow drops 750 pts amid Covid surge, sees worst day since late Oct

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The Dow sank more than 2% on Monday as fears a spike in COVID-19 cases would halt a broader economic recovery pummeled economically sensitive travel stocks pushed bond yields to five-month lows. Dow is well on its way to seeing its worst day since late October last year.


New infections surged in parts of Asia England, while U.S. COVID-19 cases soared 70% last week, fueled by the Delta variant.





All 11 S&P sectors fell in morning trading, with the so-called value stocks including financial, industrial , materials energy dropping between 2.1% 4.2%.


The banking sub-index sank 2.6%, tracking a fall in the benchmark 10-year Treasury yield to mid-February lows.


“The global economy is barely surviving on life support another wave of infections may spur lockdowns that could signal the death knell for the tenuous recovery,” said Peter Essele, head of investment management for Commonwealth Financial Network.


The benchmark S&P 500 snapped a three-week winning streak on Friday, with only defensive sectors – perceived to be relatively safe during times of economic uncertainty – posting small gains.


On Monday, the technology-heavy Nasdaq index outperformed the broader market as investors again sought safety in the growth-linked stocks that led Wall Street’s recovery from its coronavrirus-lows last year.


Still, by 10:47 a.m. ET, the Nasdaq was down 1.31%. By comparison, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 2.08% on track for its worst session since October 2020, while the S&P 500 was down 1.63% set for its biggest one-day percentage fall since May.


The CBOE volatility index, dubbed Wall Street’s fear gauge, jumped to a two-month high.


Shares of travel-related companies, which had just begun to climb after suffering steep losses during pandemic-driven lockdowns last year, fell again on Monday. The S&P 500 Airlines index slumped 4.0%.


“Before the Delta variant started gaining traction, things were priced in for a very strong recovery,” said David Grecsek, managing director of investment strategy research at Aspiriant in New York.


“What we’re seeing today is any data or news that’s going to upset that sort of serene,


low-volatility-and-high-corporate-earnings scenario, the market is going to react to that.”


Cruiseliners Royal Caribbean Group, Carnival Corp Norwegian Cruise Line dropped more than 6%.


After strong quarterly reports from big banks last week, focus now shifts to tech earnings with companies including IBM , Netflix, Texas Instruments Intel set to report this week.


Analysts on average expect 72% year-on-year growth in earnings per share for S&P 500 companies, according to IBES estimate data from Refinitiv.


U.S.-listed shares of Alibaba Holding, Baidu ridesharing app Didi Global declined between 2.2% 6.1% on renewed fears of anti-monopoly action against major technology firms.


Zoom Video Communications Inc slipped 4.0% after the teleconferencing services provider announced a $14.7 billion all-stock deal to buy cloud-based call center operator Five9 Inc . Five9’s shares jumped 4.6%.


Declining issues outnumbered advancers 7.70-to-1 on the NYSE 3.88-to-1 on the Nasdaq. The S&P index recorded 11 new 52-week highs no new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 13 new highs 224 new lows.

(Only the headline picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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Where to find COVID vaccines: How to search for providers find availability

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America is nearing the major milestone of 50% full COVID-19 vaccinations, finding a shot has never been easier. 

The Centers for Disease Control Prevention made vaccines widely available in April with the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program partnering with nearly two dozen national pharmacies independent pharmacy networks. 

MODERNA’S COVID-19 VACCINE TRIAL IN PREGNANT WOMEN SHOULD ‘REASSURE’ PUBLIC, EXPERT SAYS

Vaccines are available at CVS, Rite Aid Walgreens, as well as major retail chains including Kroger, Walmart Albertsons. Individuals can find the most convenient location available appointments using the federal tool at Vaccines.gov. Getting the jab is free for everyone.

The CDC also notes a number of resources available to help parents individuals manage how they can get a vaccine, including transport via Uber Lyft child care from the YMCA KinderCare. 

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Some areas are providing vaccines at special locations: New York City has used the Jacob Javits Center to distribute vaccines, it can be found at some travel centers, including train stations airports such as San Francisco International Airport LAX.

In most cases, vaccine sites at travel hubs will be the Johnson & Johnson vaccine so individuals do not need to return for the second shot. 

Veterans their families can even get the shot at their VA. 

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However, vaccines are not widely available at local hospitals or doctors’ offices, so checking the government website is the best way to ensure an appointment. 

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Sebi proposes swing pricing in open-ended debt schemes to protect investors

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The Securities Exchange Board of India (Sebi) on Monday proposed to introduce a swing-pricing mechanism to protect mutual fund investors in an event of market dislocation.


Swing pricing refers to the process of adjusting a fund’s net asset value (NAV) to effectively pass on transaction costs stemming from either inflows or outflows from the schemes.





In a consultation paper, Sebi has said keeping in mind regulatory practices followed by other jurisdictions, a hybrid model is proposed which is partial swing during normal times a mandatory full swing during times of market dislocation.


Sebi will determine ‘market dislocation’ either based on industry body Association of Mutual Funds in India’s (Amfi’s) recommendation or based on a combination of various factors like net redemption build up at industry level, global market indicators, Indian market indicators as well as bond market indicators.


The secondary bond market in India is not as liquid as the equity market can absorb only a limited amount of paper on any given day. Further, liquidity is concentrated in high quality paper during market dislocation, very high-risk aversion is observed in terms of yield of bonds, spread over benchmark spikes, particularly for relatively lower quality paper.


“There is a need for a mechanism that imposes certain costs on existing investors (since they are contributing to a downward spiral in NAV) while incentivizing entering investors (since they are helping to stem the downward spiral in NAV). This happens as the NAV is adjusted downwards during times when net outflows are more than the swing threshold this lower NAV is offered to the entering investors during such times,” said Sebi in the consultation paper.


If the net inflows are more than the swing threshold NAV will be adjusted upwards if net outflows are more than swing threshold the NAV will be adjusted downwards. Swing pricing mechanism shall be mandated only for all open-ended debt schemes that have high or very high risk on risk-o-meter.


For example, under Class I, if Macaulay Duration is less than or equal to one year if credit risk value of the scheme is more than or equal to 12 the swing factor will be optional. While under Class III, a scheme having any Macaulay Duration, but credit risk value of the scheme is less than 10—swing would be 2 per cent.


When swing pricing mechanism is triggered swing factor is made applicable (during normal time or market dislocation, as the case may be), both the entering exiting investors shall get NAV adjusted for swing pricing.


Swing pricing framework shall be implemented in a phased manner. In the first phase, it shall be mandated only during the times of outflow market dislocation across mutual funds as it is a high-risk scenario. Further, it is proposed that in subsequent phases, SEBI will examine the applicability of swing pricing mechanism to equity schemes, hybrid schemes, Solution oriented schemes other schemes like index funds exchange traded funds (ETFs).


Swing pricing shall be made applicable to all unitholders with an exemption for redemptions upto Rs 2 lakh for all unitholders upto Rs 5 lakh for senior citizens at mutual fund level in order to keep retail investor senior citizen insulated from the applicability of swing pricing to certain extent.


Proposed framework of swing pricing


  • It is proposed to implement the framework of swing pricing only for open-ended debt schemes for now.


  • Partial swing during normal times, mandatory full swing during times of market dislocation.


  • Applicability of swing pricing will be optional based on a predetermined minimum swing threshold maximum swing factor.


  • During market dislocation, all schemes to give effect to swing pricing; certain minimum uniform swing factors to apply across industry.


  • Swing pricing to be made applicable to all unitholders with an exemption for redemptions up to Rs 2 lakh for all unitholders up to Rs 5 lakh for seniors

Dear Reader,

Business Standard has always strived hard to provide up-to-date information commentary on developments that are of interest to you have wider political economic implications for the country the world. Your encouragement constant feedback on how to improve our offering have only made our resolve commitment to these ideals stronger. Even during these difficult times arising out of Covid-19, we continue to remain committed to keeping you informed updated with credible news, authoritative views incisive commentary on topical issues of relevance.

We, however, have a request.

As we battle the economic impact of the pandemic, we need your support even more, so that we can continue to offer you more quality content. Our subscription model has seen an encouraging response from many of you, who have subscribed to our online content. More subscription to our online content can only help us achieve the goals of offering you even better more relevant content. We believe in free, fair credible journalism. Your support through more subscriptions can help us practise the journalism to which we are committed.

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Coronavirus antibodies persist at least nine months after infection: study

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A study in northern Italy found coronavirus antibodies persisted in detectable levels for at least nine months after infection, regardless of a symptomatic or asymptomatic course of illness, though results differed depending on test used.

Researchers from Imperial College London the University of Padova published findings in Nature Communications on Monday, stemming from an analysis in Vo’, Italy, where a mass testing campaign saw 86% (2,602 people) of the community tested in February/March May 2020, about 6% of whom tested positive were tested again in November.

Results indicated 98.8% of COVID-positive individuals had detectable levels of antibodies by November, nearly 20% had increased levels or reactivity since May, suggesting potential reinfection. Scientists tracked antibody levels through three tests manufactured by Roche, DiaSorin Abbott found differing rates of decay in antibody levels. 

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“The May testing demonstrated that 3.5 percent of the Vo’ population had been exposed to the virus, even though not all of these subjects were aware of their exposure given the large fraction of asymptomatic infections,” Professor Enrico Lavezzo of the University of Padua said in a news release posted to EurekAlert.org on Monday.

“However, at the follow-up, which was performed roughly nine months after the outbreak, we found that antibodies were less abundant, so we need to continue to monitor antibody persistence for longer time spans.”

Other evidence has suggested antibodies linger at least six months after initial infection, while another team found detectable levels of antibodies 11 months later, claiming even a mild case of coronavirus could leave people with lifelong protection against the virus.

In the study at hand, lead author Dr. Ilaria Dorigatti, lecturer at Imperial College London, said the team “found no evidence that antibody levels between symptomatic asymptomatic infections differ significantly, suggesting that the strength of the immune response does not depend on the symptoms the severity of the infection.”

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She urged caution over comparing infection estimates among populations administered different tests at various time intervals.

A further analysis of household contacts suggested a 1 in 4 probability that an infected individual would transmit the virus to others, a minority of infections generated a large number of secondary infections.

“It is clear that the epidemic is not over, neither in Italy nor abroad,” Dorigatti said. “Moving forward, I think that it is of fundamental importance to continue administering first second vaccine doses as well as to strengthen surveillance including contact tracing. Encouraging caution limiting the risk of acquiring SARS-CoV-2 will continue to be essential.”

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