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EU secures 160 million Moderna shots

The Moderna building in Cambridge.
The Moderna building in Cambridge.Lane Turner/Globe Staff


EU secures 160 million Moderna shots

The European Union said Tuesday it will sign a contract for up to 160 million doses of the experimental coronavirus vaccine developed by Moderna. Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the EU Commission, said the deal will be approved on Wednesday as the EU tries to build “one of the most comprehensive COVID-19 vaccine portfolios in the world.” The deal with Moderna is the sixth secured by the EU Commission with pharmaceutical companies, allowing its 27 member countries to buy more than one billion doses once the shots are ready. Earlier this month, Moderna said its vaccine appears to be 94.5 percent effective, according to preliminary data from the company’s study. The commission said that once a vaccine is ready, all EU countries will receive it at the same time on a pro rata basis. ― ASSOCIATED PRESS



Half the labor force in major US cities is working from home

In some US cities, about half the workforce is still working remotely almost nine months into the coronavirus pandemic, according to a survey by the US Census Bureau. Across the United States, 37 percent of employees were teleworking between late October and early November, according to the bureau’s Household Pulse Survey. The rates can vary widely by state and city, depending on factors such as the type of jobs, workplace polices, and government restrictions. In tech-heavy San Francisco, 56.2 percent of workers said they were doing their jobs remotely. Companies such as Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Facebook Inc., and Amazon.com Inc. have announced they will let employees work remotely into 2021. In the nation’s capital area, where Amazon is establishing a second headquarters, the federal government is also allowing for flexible work arrangements. About 55.6 percent of those surveyed in Washington, D.C., reported they were teleworking. The share of adults in Boston, Seattle, Los Angeles, New York, and Atlanta who say they were working from home ranged from 45 percent to 55 percent. Lower earners typically didn’t have the same flexibility as higher earners. More than 61 percent of households taking in more than $75,000 a year said they were able to substitute telecommuting for some in-person work, compared with about 21 percent of households earning less than $75,000. The divide is also geographical. In the poorest state, Mississippi, the percentage of adults teleworking at least part of the time was just 21 percent, compared with more than half of adults in more affluent Massachusetts and Colorado. — BLOOMBERG NEWS



Berlin lab seeks quicker virus tests using drones

A German lab is hoping to cut the time it takes to send coronavirus tests across Berlin by using drones, thereby avoiding the capital’s clogged roads. California-based company Matternet is currently testing drone deliveries between a hospital and Labor Berlin, one of the largest laboratories in Europe. The route from drone to lab is about 11 kilometers (7 miles) as the drone flies, and officials expect to cut standard delivery times from about an hour to around 10 minutes when service on the route begins in January. Eventually, the hope is that drones will provide regular deliveries to the lab from six points around Berlin, shaving vital minutes off the turnaround time for COVID tests. Each route will be served by two drones that can theoretically fly 24 hours a day. The batteries in the drone simply get switched when they are running low, eliminating charging time. Each drone can carry about 40 samples. It won’t just be COVID tests that are transported, but any samples that need to be examined in a lab. According to Germany’s disease control agency, the Robert Koch Institute, 175 laboratories in Germany have a combined COVID-19 test capacity of 307,000 tests per day. Matternet is already running similar drone delivery systems in Switzerland and the United States, but Berlin will have the first such system in the European Union. The company is waiting for new drone regulations to come into effect on Dec. 30 before starting regular operations. ― ASSOCIATED PRESS



EU testing waters for leaders’ deal on stricter climate goal

Europe is moving to a decisive stage in discussions to toughen the bloc’s 2030 climate target and put into law the ambition to be the first climate neutral continent by the middle of the century. On Wednesday European Union governments will discuss plans to reduce greenhouse gases by at least 55 percent by 2030, from 1990 levels. Draft guidelines include assurances to finance the transition away from fossil fuels and the acknowledgment of differing national conditions in member states. That move is aimed at convincing Poland and other countries to drop their reservations about the radical environmental policy. At stake is the EU’s global leadership on climate change and investor certainty at a time when the 27-nation bloc is gearing up for a green economic overhaul that will impact every area of life from transport to agriculture. ― BLOOMBERG NEWS



Another warm winter set to weaken natural gas prices

It’s shaping up to be another warm winter, which could be bad news for natural gas prices. A collection of long-range government and commercial forecasts all point to the southern and eastern United States being warmer than normal through December, January, and February. Northern Europe will likely have milder temperatures too. If the forecast holds, the 2020-2021 season will be the latest in a series of abnormally mild winters across the Northern Hemisphere, and more proof that the climate is changing. December through February of the 2019-2020 season was the world’s second warmest in the 141-year record, according to the US National Centers for Environmental Information, while 2015-2016 was the warmest ever. This will have consequences for the natural gas market. Another mild season will knock out supports for higher prices if demand falls along with the prospect of a deep winter chill. Few winters in recent years have really provided a strong demand to push prices high. Natural gas contracts for March and April are already indicating the market is expecting a bearish winter. Futures prices have already plunged more than 20 percent in November as investors unwind bullish bets. This winter will be the 13th warmest for energy demand going back to 1950, according to Maxar, a commercial forecaster. ― BLOOMBERG NEWS



UK eases restrictions so families can gather over holidays

British authorities gave the green light Tuesday to holiday reunions, relaxing restrictions on social mixing over Christmas and offering arriving international travelers a way to cut short quarantine if they test negative for COVID-19. The UK government and administrations in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland struck a deal that will ease limits on travel and socializing over the festive period so that friends and families can get together. Over the five days between Dec. 23 and 27, up to three households can form a “Christmas bubble” and members can move freely between them. Those travelling to and from Northern Ireland will be permitted to travel for an additional day either side. People are currently barred from visiting members of other households in much of the UK, and there are limits on travel to high-infection areas. Government scientific advisers have signed off on the holiday plan, though scientists have warned it will likely lead to an increase in coronavirus infections. In a boost to holiday travel, the 14-day quarantine requirement for travelers arriving in England from most destinations will be reduced to as little as five days if they test negative for COVID-19. Under the new rules, passengers from places not on the government’s travel corridor list can reduce the 14-day quarantine period by paying for a test from a private firm on or after Day 5 of their arrival at a potential cost of around 100 pounds ($133). Results normally take a day or two. ― ASSOCIATED PRESS


Musk passes Gates as second-richest person in world

Elon Musk’s year of dizzying ascents has hit a new apex as the Tesla cofounder passed Bill Gates to become the world’s second-richest person, with a net worth estimated at almost $128 billion. The 49-year-old entrepreneur has added $100.3 billion to his net worth this year alone, the most of anyone on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, a ranking of the world’s 500 richest people. In January he ranked 35th. His advance up the wealth ranks has been driven largely by the electric automaker, whose market value hit $500 billion this week. About three-quarters of his net worth is comprised of Tesla shares. Musk’s milestone marks only the second time in the index’s eight-year history that Microsoft cofounder Gates has ranked lower than number two. He held the top spot for years before being bumped by Amazon.com Inc. founder Jeff Bezos in 2017. Gates’s net worth of $127.7 billion would be much higher had he not donated so prodigiously to charity over the years. He has given more than $27 billion to his namesake foundation since 2006. ― WASHINGTON POST