Coronavirus latest: UK airline chiefs push for easing of travel restrictions
Total Covid-19 cases
US will not send vaccines to developing countries until supply improves
Aime Williams in Washington and Hannah Kuchler in New York
The US will not any donate any coronavirus vaccine doses to developing countries until there is a plentiful supply of jabs in the US, Biden administration officials said on Thursday in a firm rejection of a proposal made by French President Emmanuel Macron.
Macron told the Financial Times this week that Europe and the US should urgently donate up to 5 per cent of their current vaccine supplies to developing countries, including in Africa, where Covid-19 inoculation campaigns have barely started and China and Russia are offering to fill the gap.
“Our current focus is on vaccinating Americans, getting shots in arms here,” one official said during a briefing with reporters. Another official said US President Joe Biden had asked administration staff to look into options for donating “surplus” vaccines “once there is a sufficient supply” to meet domestic demand.
However, the second official said the US would make $2bn of funding available “almost immediately” to Covax, the global initiative to supply vaccines to developing countries, with a further $2bn over the next two years.
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UK airline chiefs push for easing of travel restrictions
Airlines have urged Boris Johnson to include a plan for the resumption of international travel when he sets out a roadmap out of lockdown next week.
The chief executives of the UK’s largest airlines including British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and easyJet have written to the prime minister to push for the progressive removal of restrictions as vaccination levels increase in the UK.
Without it, they said they will need government support following more than a year of disruption.
“The future of the British economy and the jobs of hundreds of thousands of people are at risk without a sensible and structured plan to safely restart international travel over the coming months,” BA’s chief executive Sean Doyle said.
Several chief executives said vaccine passports could be a way to help ease travel restrictions in the coming months, but none said they want them to become compulsory.
They sent a thinly veiled warning to Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon, who has imposed stricter curbs on international travel than elsewhere in the UK.
The chief executives of regional carrier Loganair and low-cost leisure airlines Jet2 both said they could move routes out of any nation that had tougher travel restrictions than its neighbours.
Ultra-cold freezer market on course to expand
The market for ultra-cold freezers will grow as much as 60 per cent amid a pressing need to store certain coronavirus vaccines at low temperatures, says one large supplier.
Soaring demand for freezers that can reach temperatures as low as -80C to store Covid-19 jabs has brought estimates for the market to grow to as much as $800m.
“We are still in the mode of increasing capacity,” Dusty Tenney, chief executive of Stirling Ultracold, told the Financial Times. “The overall market is in the order of half a billion dollars”, which will probably translate into “a $700m to $800m addressable market for us”.
BioNTech/Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine, which has shown 95 per cent efficacy, needs to be transported and stored at -75C, while Moderna’s jab must be kept at -20C, fuelling demand for the specialised infrastructure.
Tenney emphasised that government agencies and healthcare systems are buying ultra-low temperature freezers with a recognition that medicine is likely to see lasting changes beyond the end of the coronavirus pandemic.
He added that demand has grown into 2021, after quadrupling in the fourth quarter compared with pre-pandemic levels, as new orders come in from logistics companies and emergency preparedness groups. Stirling Ultracold is working with groups including UPS, Unicef and the US Federal Emergency Management Agency.
However, Tenney warned that deliveries to multinational customers who placed larger orders were being staggered to ensure that it can meet demand from customers ordering a small number of units.
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