Mon. 10:05 a.m.: Latest world virus headlines — Colo. governor extends statewide mask mandate
Here are summaries of the latest Associated Press stories worldwide on the coronavirus pandemic, including:
— Colo. governor extends statewide mask mandate;
— India’s leader weakened by coronavirus crisis as nation sets record for daily cases;
— U.S. public transit hopes to win back riders after crushing year;
— Russia, facing lags, turns to China to produce Sputnik shots;
— Spain nearing 5 million fully vaccinated people;
— New Zealand to open second travel bubble;
— Puerto Rico staggers under latest surge of the virus;
— ‘London to Delhi’ stationary biking raises cash for India’s virus crisis.
— Nepal halts all flights because of COVID-19 spike;
— Paris reopens schools;
— U.S. trade reps to begin talks on overcoming intellectual property issues hampering vaccine distributions;
— White House says Biden still wears mask outdoors by ‘habit.’
MADRID — Spain’s health minister said today that authorities expect to reach within 24 hours the milestone of 5 million people fully inoculated against COVID-19.
Health Minister Carolina Darias told reporters that Spain is on track for its goal of vaccinating before the summer 70 percent of the adult population, or around 33 million people.
Vaccination centers are working seven days a week, Darias, said, and by the first week of June some 10 million people will be fully inoculated.
Darias urged continuing caution. She said Spain’s COVID-19 incidence rate per 100,000 people over 14 days — an important measure of the pandemic’s spread — is 229 but varies widely between regions, with some lower than 70 and others in the range of 400-500.
KATHMANDU, Nepal — Nepal is halting all domestic and international flights because of spiking cases of COVID-19 in the Himalayan nation.
Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Oli said domestic flights would be stopped from today while all international flights would cease to fly in and out of Nepal from Thursday.
He appealed to other countries for vaccines, diagnostic equipment, oxygen and other supplies to help combat the pandemic.
India donated 1 million doses of vaccine followed by China providing another 800,000. However, India’s ban on exporting vaccines has hindered Nepal’s vaccine campaign, which began in January.
Nepal is still waiting for the 1 million doses from an Indian company which it already paid for in March.
STOCKHOLM — Sweden plans to donate 1 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccines to India via the U.N.-backed COVAX, an initiative devised to give countries access to coronavirus vaccines regardless of their wealth.
The Scandinavian country’s International Development Cooperation Minister Per Olsson Fridh announced it today on Swedish broadcaster SVT, adding “we see how the pandemic is raging around the world. People are dying, poverty is spreading, and children are still not back at school.”
“We need to do everything we can to face this pandemic and fight it across the world.”
The donation will have no impact on the rollout in Sweden which has decided to only administer the AstraZeneca shots to people 65 and over.
The country’s vaccine coordinator Richard Bergstrom said there are enough spare vaccines that Swedes can give away, adding “This is just a million … we actually have another 4 or 5 million more of Astra Zeneca’s vaccine that we can share later.”
PARIS — France’s secondary and high schools have reopened and a ban on domestic travel has been lifted as part of the government’s plan to gradually reopen the country.
The French are now allowed to go further than the 10-kilometer (six-mile) from home limit that has been applied for four weeks in efforts to slow down the spreading of the virus. A curfew from 7 p.m. until 6 a.m. is still in place.
Last week, President Emmanuel Macron has presented the key dates of the plan to move out of the country’s partial lockdown, as numbers of infections and hospitalizations have started decreasing.
Restaurants and cafes will be able to serve customers outdoors at tables seating a maximum of six people starting May 19, when the nightly curfew will be pushed back to 9 p.m.
Nonessential shops also reopen, as well as cultural sites and sport facilities, which will have occupancy limits of 800 people indoors and 1,000 outdoors.
On June 9, tourists from abroad will be allowed to come to France on the condition they are vaccinated or can show a negative test. The final stage of the plan will see the end of the nighttime curfew and the lifting of most restrictions on June 30.
France has reported almost 105,000 COVID-19 deaths.
GENEVA — Moderna and vaccine promoter Gavi have announced a firm deal by which the pharmaceutical company will provide up to 500 million doses for the U.N.-backed program to ship coronavirus vaccines to needy people in low- and middle-countries by the end of 2022.
The advance purchase agreement announced today comes just days after the World Health Organization, after weeks of delays, announced an emergency approval for the Moderna vaccine that will pave the way for its rollout in the U.N.-backed COVAX program.
However, deliveries aren’t set to begin until the fourth quarter of this year, and the vast majority of the doses in the deal — 466 million — are planned for next year. The remaining 34 million are expected this year.
Financial terms weren’t disclosed.
Many experts say the COVID-19 crisis is acute now, with India in particular facing an unprecedented surge in cases. The Moderna vaccine has generally been considered among the most effective so far in combating new variants, like one that is spreading in India.
ISLAMABAD — A top Pakistani health official says his country will import 30 million doses of coronavirus vaccines and out of which 9 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines will reach Pakistan by June.
Faisal Sultan, however, didn’t say from which country the vaccines will be purchased.
But Pakistan had mostly relied on vaccines donated by China until recently. Now, it is planning to purchase vaccines from China and other countries.
Pakistan is currently in the middle of another surge of infections which authorities say is more dangerous compared to previous ones.
Today, Pakistan reported 79 single-day deaths from COVID-19 in the past 24 hours amid a spike in infections. Since last year, Pakistan has reported 18,119 deaths from COVID-19 among 834,146 cases.
SYDNEY — Australia has expanded its coronavirus vaccine eligibility to include all people 50 and older.
Until today, eligibility had been limited, in most cases, to people 70 and older, as well as those with frontline jobs or medical conditions.
Health authorities say AstraZeneca shots for those 50 and older will be available immediately at special clinics, although people will have to wait another couple of weeks before they can get the shots at the clinics of their regular doctors.
Australia’s vaccine rollout has been running far behind schedule, in part because Europe temporarily blocked some vaccine exports. About 2.3 million vaccine doses have been administered among Australia’s population of 26 million.
NEW DELHI — India recorded 368,147 new coronavirus cases today, including 3,417 deaths, as a catastrophic surge ripples through the country.
The latest numbers came after leaders of 13 opposition parties penned a letter to urge the government to launch a free vaccination drive as well as ensure uninterrupted flow of oxygen to all hospitals.
Several hospital authorities over the weekend sought court intervention over oxygen supplies in New Delhi, where a lockdown has been extended by a week to contain the wave of infections. The New Delhi High Court said it would start punishing government officials if supplies of oxygen allocated to hospitals were not delivered.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has been severely criticized over the handling of the surge, which has pushed India’s already fragile and underfunded health system to the brink.
WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand will open a second travel bubble this month with the tiny Cook Islands, after last month opening a travel bubble with Australia.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said if all goes well, two-way quarantine-free travel with the Cook Islands will begin on May 17.
The Cook Islands has a population of just 8,000 and relies on New Zealand tourists to power its economy.
New Zealand has stamped out the spread of the coronavirus, while the Cook Islands has yet to record a single case.
Ardern said New Zealand would supply and help administer doses of the Pfizer vaccine to people in the Cook Islands.
Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown said the country could begin its journey of recovery as it prepared to once again welcome tourists to its shores.
DENVER — Colorado’s governor has extended a statewide mask mandate for another 30 days, but loosened face covering requirements for groups who are vaccinated against COVID-19.
Under Gov. Jared Polis’ new executive order, people gathering inside in groups of 10 or more are no longer required to wear masks if at least 80 percent of the group is vaccinated.
The order states people must show proof of vaccination, but his statement did not elaborate on what proof is considered acceptable.
Residents are still required to wear masks at schools, child care centers, public government facilities, prisons and health care centers.
About 1.9 million people in Colorado are fully vaccinated.
KALISPELL, Mont. — About 96 percent of Montanans who have received their first COVID-19 vaccine have been returning to get their second dose, state health officials said.
Jim Murphy, administrator of the health department’s Communicable Disease Control and Prevention Bureau, told Montana Public Radio he’s pleased that nearly all Montanans who get a first dose are following up and getting their second one.
Over 332,000 Montanans were fully immunized as of Saturday, or nearly 39 percent of the 865,000 people who are eligible, health officials said.
WASHINGTON — The White House says the U.S. trade representative will begin talks with the World Trade Organization on ways to overcome intellectual property issues that are keeping critically needed COVID-19 vaccines from being more widely distributed.
The White House has been under intense pressure to join an effort to help waive patent rules for the vaccines so that poorer countries can begin to make their own generic versions.
White House chief of staff Ron Klain said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai will be starting talks “on how we can get this vaccine more widely distributed, more widely licensed, more widely shared.”
Klain and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said the administration would have more to say on the matter in the coming days.
LONDON — Britain rushed to increase aid for India’s teetering health care system on Sunday, promising more ventilators and expert advice as doctors grapple with a surge in coronavirus infections that is killing thousands of people a day.
The U.K. government said it will send an additional 1,000 ventilators to India. In addition, England’s National Health Service, which has battled one of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks in Europe, is creating an advisory group to share its expertise with Indian authorities.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson plans a video meeting with his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi, on Tuesday to discuss further cooperation between the two countries, the U.K. government said in statement.
India recorded 392,488 new infections, down from a high of more than 400,000 in the previous 24 hours. It also reported 3,689 deaths, raising overall virus fatalities to 215,542. Experts believe both figures are undercounts.
TAIPEI, Taiwan — Russia is turning to multiple Chinese firms to manufacture the Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine in an effort to speed up production as demand soars for its shot.
Russia has announced three deals totaling 260 million doses with Chinese vaccine companies in recent weeks. It’s a decision that could mean quicker access to a shot for countries in Latin America, the Middle East, and Africa that have ordered Russia’s vaccine, as the U.S. and the European Union focus mainly on domestic vaccination needs.
Earlier criticism about Russia’s vaccine have been largely quieted by data published in the British medical journal The Lancet that said large-scale testing showed it to be safe, with an efficacy rate of 91 percent.
Yet, experts have questioned whether Russia can fulfill its pledge to countries across the world. While pledging hundreds of millions of doses, it has only delivered a fraction.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has said demand for Sputnik V significantly exceeds Russia’s domestic production capacity.
ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s national body to control coronavirus decided Sunday to temporarily restrict the country’s borders to people coming in from Afghanistan and Iran.
Inbound pedestrian movement from those two countries will halt at midnight May 4 until May 20 with the exception of Pakistani citizens in Afghanistan and Iran who want to return home and extreme medical emergency cases.
The development comes after Pakistan reported another 113 deaths and 4,414 new cases amid the third wave of the virus, taking the country’s death tally to 18,070.
Authorities said the decision aimed to limit the spread of new COVID-19 variants. It said border terminals with both the countries will remain open seven days a week with increased health staff and there will be no restrictions on outbound passengers or cargo movement.
NEW DELHI — Preliminary voting trends released by India’s electoral body on Sunday indicate Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist party failed to make gains in four recent state elections, a sign his political strength may be slipping as the country struggles to contain an unprecedented surge in coronavirus cases.
Health experts say the massive electoral rallies and marches held as voters cast their ballots in March and April are partly to blame for the subsequent spike in COVID-19 infections.
Public anger for allowing the elections to go forward despite the risk has been directed at both Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and the independent Election Commission. The commission will release the final voting results later Sunday.
Following the disappointing results, Modi stands weakened but faces no threats to staying on as prime minister until his term ends in 2024.
WASHINGTON — A top White House adviser to President Joe Biden is suggesting that he still wears a mask outdoors because it has become a “matter of habit.”
Anita Dunn told CNN’s “State of the Union” that she still wore her mask outdoors after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said fully vaccinated people like herself and the president don’t need to, especially if they’re outside alone and away from other people.
Said Dunn: “I myself found that I was still wearing my mask outdoors this week because it has become such a matter of habit.”
Biden wore a mask outside several times last week as he approached the microphone for speeches.
The CDC recently said fully vaccinated Americans don’t need to cover their faces anymore unless they’re in a big crowd of strangers.
SAN JUAN — Puerto Rico seemed to be sprinting toward herd immunity this spring before people began letting their guard down against COVID-19 and new variants started spreading across the U.S. territory.
Now, a spike in cases and hospitalizations has put medical experts at odds with the government, which is struggling to protect people’s health while also trying to prevent an economic implosion on an island battered by hurricanes, earthquakes and a prolonged financial crisis.
“The difficulty here is how do you find a Solomonic decision … to give people the opportunity to work and be responsible and also maintain health as a priority,” said Ramón Leal, former president of Puerto Rico’s Restaurant Association. “These are hard conversations.”
It’s a delicate balance for an island that imposed a lockdown and mask mandates ahead of any U.S. state and has some of the strictest entry requirements of any American jurisdiction.
Overall, the land of 3.3 million people has reported more than 115,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and 2,000 deaths.
LONDON — For British IT consultant Yogen Shah, India’s COVID-19 crisis is deeply personal.
The pictures of people hooked up to oxygen bottles on the streets of New Delhi and patients sharing beds in overcrowded hospitals remind him of his uncle in India, who recently contracted the disease.
So Shah joined volunteers from one of Britain’s largest Hindu temples who set out to raise 500,000 pounds ($690,000) by racking up 7,600 kilometers (4,722 miles) on stationary bikes — roughly the distance from London to Delhi — in 48 hours.
“I think every single person of Indian origin will have someone affected over there,” Shah, 40, said Saturday outside the temple in northwest London. “And anywhere around the world that you have COVID, you feel for that human being, you feel for that person, whether they’re Indian origin or not.”
The ride at Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in London’s Neasden neighborhood is one of many fundraising drives taking place across the U.K. as members of the Indian diaspora seek to help India battle the raging pandemic. The British Asian Trust, a charity founded by Prince Charles, has launched an emergency appeal to buy oxygen concentrators, which can extract oxygen from the air when hospital supplies run short.
India recorded more than 400,000 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday, the first time daily infections topped that milestone. The country reported 3,523 coronavirus-related deaths in the past 24 hours, raising overall virus fatalities to 211,853. Experts believe both figures are undercounts.
BUCHAREST, Romania — Romania will ease coronavirus-control measures in the capital of Bucharest beginning today, after its COVID-19 infection rate dropped below three per 1,000 residents for three straight days.
This will allow restaurants, cafes, cinemas and performance halls to reopen inside to 30 percent capacity after they were forced in late March to close indoor spaces to help curb rapidly rising COVID-19 infections. A 10 p.m. curfew will remain in place.
Bucharest prefect Alin Stoica said if the COVID-19 infection rate drops below 1.5 per 1,000 residents some venues could ramp up capacity to 50 percent, and that up to 300 people could be allowed at outdoor events. Authorities will review the epidemiological situation on May 13.
Since the pandemic started, Romania — a country of more than 19 million — has recorded more than 1 million infections and 28,282 deaths.
WASHINGTON — As President Joe Biden urges more federal spending for public transportation, transit agencies decimated by COVID-19 are trying to figure out how to win back passengers scared away by the pandemic.
It’s made more urgent by the climate change crisis. Biden has pledged to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions at least in half by the end of the decade. That aggressive target will require Americans to ditch gas-guzzling cars for electric vehicles or embrace mass transit.
“We have a huge opportunity here to provide fast, safe, reliable, clean transportation in this country, and transit is part of the infrastructure,” Biden said at an event to promote rail and public transportation.
With fewer transportation alternatives, lower-income people are more reliant on public transportation for commuting and their daily lives.
ISLAMABAD — Pakistan banned Shiite mourning processions on the martyrdom day of the fourth caliph of Islam due to the high risk of spreading coronavirus and asked aviation authorities to cut inbound international flights to 20 percent to avoid new virus variants.
The developments came after health authorities reported the presence of U.K., Brazilian and South African variants in patients who recently tested positive.
Authorities will allow congregations of Shiite mourners to gather on Ali Day on Tuesday if they follow social distancing rules and wear masks.
An increase in infections prompted authorities to lock down in most parts of its capital Lahore for the second day, as well as weekend lockdowns in the future.
NEW DELHI — India has opened vaccinations to all adults in hopes of taming a monstrous spike in COVID-19 infections.
The world’s largest maker of vaccines is still short of critical supplies — the result of lagging manufacturing and raw material shortages. Those factors delayed the rollout in several states.
Only a fraction of India’s population likely can afford the prices charged by private hospitals for the shot. That means states and the federal government will be in charge of immunizing 900 million Indian adults.
India set another global record Saturday with 401,993 daily cases, taking its tally to more than 19.1 million. There were 3,523 confirmed deaths in the past 24 hours, raising the overall death toll to 211,853, according to the Health Ministry.
BEIJING — Chinese tourists are expected to make a total of 18.3 million railway passenger trips on the first day of China’s international labor day holiday.
That’s according to an estimate by China’s state railway group. The start to the five-day holiday on Saturday included tourists rushing to travel domestically now that the coronavirus has been brought under control in China.
May Day is offering the first long break for Chinese tourists since the start of the year. A domestic outbreak of the coronavirus before the Lunar New Year holidays in February cancelled travel plans for many after the government advised people to refrain from traveling.
Border closures and travel restrictions mean tourists are traveling domestically. China in recent weeks reported almost no cases of locally transmitted infections.
BRUSSELS — Police have detained 132 people who took part in an illegal party in a Brussels park to protest COVID-19 restrictions, authorities said Sunday.
About 15 people, including protesters and police, were injured in clashes, police spokeswoman Ilse Van de Keere said.
About 2,000 revelers and protesters had massed in the park Saturday for the second time in a month, and police used water cannons and tear gas to disperse them, clashing for hours.
The government and police had warned people for a week to stay away from the party to no avail. Clashes erupted after big crowds started gathering late in the afternoon.
Belgium still has strict rules banning major gatherings and insists on people wearing face masks in large crowds.
VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis led a special prayer service in St. Peter’s Basilica on Saturday evening to invoke the end of the pandemic.
Francis, wearing white robes, sat in a chair and fingered the beads of a rosary, while about 200 people, including young children, sat spaced apart according to coronavirus safety protocols and recited the prayers aloud.
The pope prayed that “this hard trial end and that a horizon of hope and peace return.”
Every day, for the rest of the month, various Catholic sanctuaries in the world dedicated to the Virgin Mary will take turns holding a similar rosary service. The initiative ends on May 31, when Francis will lead the rosary recitation in the Vatican Gardens.
LAS VEGAS — Las Vegas has increased its casino capacity and more pandemic-weary tourists are arriving at the entertainment city.
Casino capacity on the Strip increased to 80 percent and person-to-person distancing drops to 3 feet on Saturday. The boom began in mid-March when casino occupancy went from 35 percent to 50 percent under state health guidelines.
Among the first arrivals were people ages 60 and older who were recently vaccinated. Analysts said pent-up demand, available hotel rooms and $1,400 pandemic recovery checks have contributed to the rush.
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority tallied more than 2.2 million visitors in March. The figure was down 40 percent from March 2019. Casinos closed from mid-March to early June last year, helping to drive the Nevada jobless rate in April above 30 percent — the highest in any state. The current state rate is 8.1 percent.
GENEVA — The World Health Organization has given the go-ahead for emergency use of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine.
The mRNA vaccine from the U.S. manufacturer joins vaccines from AstraZeneca, Pfizer-BioNTech and Johnson & Johnson in receiving the WHO’s emergency use listing. Similar approvals for China’s Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines are expected in the coming days and weeks, WHO has said.
The greenlight for Moderna’s vaccine, announced late Friday, took many months because of delays WHO faced in getting data from the manufacturer.
Many countries without their own advanced medical regulatory and assessment offices rely on the WHO listing to decide whether to use vaccines. U.N. children’s agency UNICEF also uses the listing to deploy vaccines in an emergency like the pandemic.
The announcement isn’t likely to have an immediate impact on supplies of Moderna’s vaccine for the developing world. The company struck supply agreements with many rich countries, which have already received millions of doses.