Last update on latest bullish and bearish COVID-19 developments

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By Marshall L. Stocker, Ph.D., CFACo-Director, Portfolio Manager Emerging Markets Team, Eaton Vance Management

Boston - Since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic on March 11, 2020, we have tracked the headlines driving investor sentiment and monitored key reports to gain visibility into when the global economy will fully reopen. Eaton Vance started to return to the office several weeks ago, and Massachusetts is lifting all remaining COVID-19 restrictions on May 29.

While the Emerging Markets team will continue to follow the coronavirus news worldwide, this will likely be our last update on the latest bullish or bearish developments, the health policy responses and the economic impacts related to the pandemic.

Bullish virus developments

  • Immunity to COVID-19 may persist for years, as important immune cells survive in the bone marrow of people who were infected with the virus or were inoculated against it.
  • Studies suggest that most people who have recovered from COVID-19 and who were later immunized will not need boosters. Vaccinated people who were never infected most likely will need the booster shots, however, as will a minority who were infected but did not produce a robust immune response.
  • Moderna says its COVID-19 vaccine is 100% effective in teens (ages 12 to 17) and plans to seek FDA approval in early June.
  • In 25 states, more than half of adults are fully vaccinated. In Massachusetts, 77% of adults have received at least one vaccine dose, but that's not half the population.
  • The CDC says COVID-19 infections are exceedingly rare after full vaccination.

Bearish virus developments

  • The Economist estimates there have been 7 to 13 million excess deaths worldwide since the pandemic began, suggesting COVID-19 deaths are at least two times greater the reported 3.5 million figure.
  • Brazil's COVID-19 deaths are approaching 450,000. That's one in 500 Brazilians who have died from COVID.
  • The Washington Post found that in some parts of the U.S., the infection rate among unvaccinated people was as high as it was in January near the pandemic's peak.
  • Despite having one of the highest per capita fully vaccinated populations, Bahrain is experiencing its worst wave of infections yet. Bahrain relied on Chinese-made vaccines and is now offering booster shots.
  • The variant first seen in India is rapidly outpacing all others in Britain, putting pressure on the country to shorten people's wait for second doses. The Indian variant, which is believed to be more transmissible, has been found in at least 49 countries.

Health policy responses

  • The European Union will invest one billion euros to build vaccine manufacturing hubs in Africa.
  • Pakistan implemented an "all but necessary" curfew after 8pm.
  • Taiwan extended strict COVID-19 guidelines by three weeks, as the country's first significant outbreak continues to spread.
  • Saudi Arabia has made COVID vaccination mandatory for Haj pilgrims.
  • The UAE said vaccinations against COVID-19 will be mandatory for people attending all live events from June 6.
  • Russia has exported almost as much vaccine as it has used domestically. One explanation is that only 40% of Russians polled said they were prepared to take the Sputnik V vaccine, making for a domestic surplus.
  • Hungary will lift most remaining COVID-19 curbs, including a night-time curfew, once five million Hungarians (50% of population) are vaccinated. That threshold will likely be met during the last weekend of May.
  • More lotteries: Poland will launch a lottery with prizes of as much as one million zlotys ($273,000) to encourage people to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
  • The E.U. may seek billions in penalties if AstraZeneca fails to deliver tens of millions of vaccine doses that it is contractually required to supply.
  • Australia reintroduced social-distancing restrictions in Melbourne following the discovery of a COVID-19 cluster
  • New Zealand suspended its travel bubble with Melbourne, Australia.
  • Kaiser Family Foundation survey suggests the one in four people who do not plan to get vaccinated will not comply with CDC guidelines to wear masks indoors. That is 5% of the survey's total respondents.
  • New York City will end its remote school option in September, and New Jersey is also eliminating remote schooling this fall; 61% of NYC public school students are still taking classes remotely.
  • Wisconsin clergyman who preached against COVID-19 vaccine was ordered to step down by the Roman Catholic Church.
  • COVID-19 vaccine makers are pressing countries to oppose patent waivers, after the Biden administration threw its support behind a proposal to waive the manufacturers' property rights.

Economic impacts and other developments

  • Fauci says he is "not convinced" that COVID-19 developed naturally.
  • President Biden called for U.S. intelligence agencies to "redouble" investigative efforts into the origins of the coronavirus.
  • At offices that have begun return-to-office, Thursdays are proving to be the most popular in-office day, creating high demand for meeting rooms and collaboration spaces. The firm's chief people officer commented that "Thursday's the new Monday."
  • United Airlines is offering the chance to win a year of free travel to customers who are vaccinated.

Source of all data: Eaton Vance Research as of May 27, 2021 unless otherwise specified.