The Latest: S Korea passes 1,000 new cases for 7th day
SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea’s streak of more than 1,000 daily coronavirus cases has reached a week as health authorities scramble to slow a viral surge that has brought Seoul’s thriving nightlife to a standstill and professional baseball to a halt.
Authorities said Tuesday that more than 800 of the 1,150 new cases are in the greater capital area, where officials have shut down nightclubs and prohibited private social gatherings of three or more people after 6 p.m.
There are signs the virus is spreading beyond the Seoul metropolitan area as the country enters its summer holiday period. Busan, Daegu, Daejeon and South Chungcheong Province are among the major cities and regions that reported dozens of new infections.
South Korea has added more than 13,000 cases this month alone, bringing its total for the pandemic to 170,296, including 2,046 deaths from COVID-19.
MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:
— France’s Macron orders all health workers to get vaccinated
— US doses arrive as Nepal struggles to vaccinate population
— Explainer: How will the virus emergency affect the Olympics?
— Pfizer to discuss vaccine booster with US officials Monday
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
SYDNEY — Australia has recorded a third COVID-19 death this year.
New South Wales state Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant on Tuesday declined to say whether the man, who was aged in his 70s, had been vaccinated. He died Monday in Sydney’s eastern suburbs where the current Sydney cluster began last month.
The New South Wales state government has said Sydney’s three-wee-old lockdown is likely to be extended Friday.
A woman in her 90s from southwest Sydney died Saturday, a day after testing positive for the coronavirus. An 80-year-old man died April 12 after becoming infected in the Philippines.
Australia had not previously recorded a COVID-19 death since Oct. 19.
BOISE, Idaho — Republican state senators in Idaho are discussing the possibility of convening a special session to consider legislation to block three large health care providers from requiring their employees to get vaccinated against the coronavirus.
Senate Pro Tempore Chuck Winder said Monday that the senators will meet online Friday amid growing calls for a special session.
Primary Health Group, Saint Alphonsus Health System and St. Luke’s Health System last week announced the vaccine requirement ahead of the cold and flu season and as coronavirus variants spread in parts of the U.S.
More than 195,000 cases of coronavirus have been detected in Idaho since the pandemic began, and more than 2,000 people have died from COVID-19.
OTTAWA — Canada will donate 17.7 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to lower-income countries through the U.N.-backed COVAX program for vaccine sharing.
Federal Procurement Minister Anita Anand said Monday that the doses are excess supply. The timing of the donation has yet to be worked out.
While at the G7 summit last month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledged Canada would give back 13 million doses it was set to receive through a contract with COVAX, on top of millions of dollars already set aside for the global vaccine effort.
Canada is on track to receive 68 million doses by the end of July, which would be enough to inoculate most Canadians.
WASHINGTON — U.S. health officials say Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine may pose a “small possible risk” of a rare but potentially dangerous neurological reaction.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday that it has received reports of 100 people who got the shot developing an immune system disorder that can causes muscle weakness and occasionally paralysis.
The reports represent a tiny fraction of the nearly 13 million Americans who have received the one-dose vaccine.
The government said the vaccines most used in the U.S., made by Pfizer and Moderna, show no risk of the disorder.
ATHENS — Health care workers in Greece will be suspended if they refuse to get vaccinated under a new mandatory policy announced Monday by the country’s prime minister.
Staff at nursing homes will be suspended starting Aug. 16 if they fail to book a vaccination appointment, with a similar policy to follow in September for workers at state-run and private hospitals.
Starting Friday, and until the end of August, all indoor commercial areas, including bars, cinemas, and theaters, will only be available for the vaccinated.
The new restrictions will apply nationwide, including the Greek islands and other key tourism destinations.
COVID-19 infections in Greece have surged since late June, with authorities blaming carelessness at bars and restaurants as well as the spread of the highly infectious delta variant.
PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday ordered all French health care workers to get virus vaccine shots by Sept. 15 and urged all of his compatriots to get vaccinated as soon as possible, to fight resurgent infections that are threatening the country’s economic recovery.
In a televised address, Macron also mandated special COVID-19 passes for anyone who wants to go to a restaurant, shopping mall or several other public places. To get a pass, people must be fully vaccinated, have a fresh negative virus test or have proof they recently recovered from the virus.
The delta variant is driving France’s virus infections back up again, just as the country kicked off summer vacation season after a long-awaited reopening process. Some 40% of France’s population is fully vaccinated but there are pockets of vaccine skepticism.
“The country is facing a strong resumption of the epidemic touching all our territory,” Macron said, speaking against the backdrop of the Eiffel Tower. He stopped short of any new lockdown-like measures, saying “we have to live with the virus.”
He said his centrist French government would declare a medical state of emergency again starting Tuesday, which allows more freedom to impose virus restrictions.
MADRID — Spanish regions are resorting back to curfews, caps on socialization and nightlife curbs to contain a sharp rise in coronavirus contagion as the fast-spreading delta variant infects mostly the unvaccinated youth.
Catalonia and Valencia, the two regions in the Mediterranean coast with major virus outbreaks, are limiting social gatherings to 10 people and bringing back late night curbs on all activities, while the northern Asturias region on Monday banned bar and restaurant activity indoors.
Propelled by parties to mark the end of the school year and the first summer celebrations, the two-week COVID-19 caseload is currently over three times higher among residents under 30 than the average among the total population.
The closely watched variable rose nationally on Monday to 368 cases per 100,000 residents according to Fernando Simón, who coordinates Spain’s response to health emergencies.
Simón said that although younger patients typically don’t need intensive care treatment, the high number of cases among those under 30 was slowly pushing up the rate of hospital admissions.
LONDON — All remaining lockdown restrictions in England will be lifted in a week despite a sharp rise in coronavirus cases, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed Monday. He said it was “the right moment to proceed” as schools close for summer vacation but urged people to “proceed with caution.”
Johnson said although risks of the pandemic remain, legal restrictions will be replaced by a recommendation that people wear masks in crowded places and on public transport. Nightclubs and other venues with crowds should use vaccine passports for entry “as a matter of social responsibility,” he added.
“This pandemic is not over. This disease, coronavirus, continues to carry risks for you and your family. We cannot simply revert instantly from Monday July 19 to life as it was before COVID,” Johnson said.
At that time, all restrictions on social gatherings will be removed and social distancing measures will be scrapped. Nightclubs can reopen for the first time since March last year, and there will no longer be limits on people attending concerts, theaters, weddings or sports events.
As of Monday, 87% of the U.K.’s adult population have had their first dose, and 66% have had both doses. At the same time infections have soared in recent weeks, running at over 30,000 new cases daily, driven by the delta variant.
BERLIN — With COVID-19 cases again on the rise, German officials said Monday said that authorities need a “broader focus” beyond the country’s infection rate to fully gauge the impact the pandemic is having on the health system and the kind of measures that should be taken.
For much of the past year the incidence rate — how many COVID-19 cases are confirmed per 100,000 people each week — has been key to the government’s decisions over what restrictive measures to impose.
The relevance of that figure is increasingly being called into question by those who argue that a sharp rise in new cases — already seen in other European countries such as Britain and the Netherlands — doesn’t necessarily mean many more seriously ill patients.
“Because the at-risk groups are vaccinated, a high incidence doesn’t automatically mean an equally high burden on intensive care beds,” Health Minister Jens Spahn said on Twitter. “The incidence is increasingly losing significance, we now need more detailed information on the situation in clinics.”
His ministry said that as of Tuesday, hospitals will need to transmit more data on their COVID-19 patients, including names, the type of treatment and their vaccination status. The government says 58.5% of the population have received at least one dose of vaccine, and 42.6 % are fully vaccinated.
HARTFORD, Conn. — Connecticut lawmakers will meet on Wednesday to consider whether Gov. Ned Lamont’s emergency declarations first issued in March of 2020 during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic should be extended again.
The Democratic governor has asked the Democratic-controlled General Assembly to renew his declarations of public health and civil preparedness emergencies through Sept. 30, noting he is only seeking to extend 11 executive orders. That’s compared to a high of more than 300 at one point during the crisis.
He says these orders “still needed to protect the public and continue critical measures to provide healthcare access and economic relief and respond to evolving changes,” noting they’re “narrowly targeted.”
The list includes orders requiring face masks in certain settings, providing tenants additional time to repay back rent, and allowing state-owned commuter lots to be used for vaccination clinics – a new initiative that’s scheduled to launch on July 30.
Also, he said several federal funding sources for food, housing and other initiatives require emergency declarations to remain in place.
Conservative Republicans have been pushing back on Lamont’s request. They contend it’s unwarranted, given the progress Connecticut has made with curbing the pandemic.
GENEVA — The head of the World Health Organization called on drugmakers to prioritize supplying their COVID-19 vaccines to poor countries instead of lobbying rich countries to use even more doses, just as some pharmaceuticals are seeking authorization for a third dose to be used as a booster.
At a press briefing on Monday, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the massive disparity in vaccines between rich and poor countries means that “we are making conscious choices right now not to protect those in need.” He said the priority now must be to vaccinate people who have received no doses.
Tedros called on Pfizer and Moderna to “go all out to supply COVAX, the Africa Vaccine Acquisition Task Team and low and middle income countries with very little coverage,” referring to the U.N.-backed initiative to distribute vaccines globally. Both Pfizer and Moderna have agreed to supply small amounts of their vaccine to COVAX, but the vast majority of their doses have been reserved by rich countries.
Last week, Pfizer said it would seek authorization for a third dose of its COVID-19 vaccine, saying a booster shot could dramatically boost immunity and perhaps help ward off worrisome variants.
JERUSALEM — Israel has started dispensing third doses of the coronavirus vaccine to individuals with weakened immune systems.
The Health Ministry said in a statement Monday that in light of the rise in new infections in Israel, it was allowing the immunocompromised to receive a third dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.
Though much of the country is vaccinated, Israel has seen a steady increase in new cases of coronavirus in recent weeks. Most of the new cases are among children who are not eligible for the vaccine, and the government has pushed for teenagers to go get vaccinated. Most of the newly reported cases are mild.
Israel has vaccinated over 61% of its 9.3 million citizens with at least one dose and almost 56% with two doses, the vast majority with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, since launching its vaccination drive in December.