Latest: Putin: Dozens in inner circle infected with virus

MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin says dozens of his staff have been infected with the coronavirus and he’ll continue his self-isolation because of the outbreak.

The Kremlin announced this week he was self-isolating after someone in his inner circle was infected. Putin tested negative for the coronavirus. He was previously fully vaccinated with Russia’s Sputnik V.

Putin said Thursday the infections were extensive and “now we have to observe the self-isolation regime for several days.” He was speaking by video link to a summit of the Russia-led Collective Treaty Security Organization.

Russia was the first country to roll out a coronavirus vaccine, but less than 30% of the country is fully vaccinated. The national coronavirus task force says there’s been about 7.2 million cases in the country of 145 million and 195,835 confirmed deaths.

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MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:

— US working on new COVID-19 rules for international visitors

— World leaders must be vaccinated to speak at U.N. General Assembly meeting

— Long weekend holiday turns into 9-week lockdown for AP Vietnam reporter

— No scientific evidence masks do anything to kids but help stop virus spread

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— See AP coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

BRUSSELS — The European Union says it will fund its new heath preparedness and rapid response agency to the tune of 30 billion euros ($35 billion) over the next six years.

The Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority was officially launched Thursday. The aim of HERA is to make sure the EU will be ready when the next crisis strikes.

The 27-nation bloc lagged the U.S. and Britain in vaccination rates because of distribution issues before regrouping and meeting its goal of having 70% of EU adults vaccinated this summer.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who first announced plans for such a medical response agency last year, said this week that the overall total until 2027 could reach 50 billion euros ($59 billion) by 2027.

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LONDON — The World Health Organization’s Africa director says COVID-19 cases across the continent dropped 30% last week, but says it’s hardly reassuring given the dire shortage of vaccines.

WHO’s Dr. Matshidiso Moeti says only 3.6% of Africa’s population have been fully immunized, noting export bans and the hoarding of vaccines by rich countries has resulted in “a chokehold” on vaccine supplies to Africa. “As long as wealthy countries lock COVAX and the African Union out of the market, Africa will miss its vaccination goals,” Moeti said, referring to the U.N.-backed effort to share vaccines with other countries.

She says even if all planned vaccine shipments by COVAX and others arrive on the continent by the end of the year, Africa will still be at least 500 million doses short of African leaders’ initial target of vaccinating 60% of the population by the end of the year.

Dr Ayoade Olatunbosun-Alakija, Chair of the African Vaccine Delivery Alliance, says some countries donated vaccines that were set to expire within about six weeks, making it difficult for African countries to immunize people before the doses expired.

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KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Hundreds of holiday-makers flocked to Malaysia’s northern resort island of Langkawi as it reopened Thursday to fully vaccinated travelers.

Langkawi is the first holiday destination in the country to welcome visitors as part of a domestic tourism bubble. If successful, it could see other holiday destinations following suit in a bid to revive the economy.

Vaccination has picked up pace, with three-quarter of the country’s adult population fully inoculated. The government says a lockdown is no longer feasible and Malaysians must learn to live with the virus, which will soon be treated as endemic.

Malaysia has reported more than 2 million infections and confirmed deaths have surged above 21,000, despite a lockdown in June.

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Alaska reported its highest number of new coronavirus cases Wednesday, after the state’s largest hospital started rationing care because of a flood of COVID-19 patients.

Officials reported 1,068 new virus infections, which is 13% higher than last week. State officials say 201 Alaskans are hospitalized for COVID-19, and 34 of them are on ventilators.

The state’s chief medical officer says hospitals continue to be stressed and there isn’t capacity for patients who have COVID-19 as well as those with other needs. Statewide, there are about 1,100 non-intensive care unit beds in hospitals, with only 302 available Wednesday. Only 21 of the state’s ICU beds are open.

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TORONTO — The leader of the Canadian province of Alberta is apologizing for his handling of the pandemic and says he is reluctantly introducing a vaccine passport and imposing a mandatory work-from-home order two months after lifting nearly all restrictions.

Alberta is declaring a public health emergency as Premier Jason Kenney says the province might run out of beds and staff for intensive care units within 10 days.

Indoor dining at pubs and restaurants is now banned.

Kenney says it is clear the provincial government was wrong to end public health restrictions in the summer. He says COVID-19 is hitting Alberta harder than anywhere else in Canada because it has the lowest vaccination rate.

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RENO, Nev. — The Nevada Hospital Association is urging people to avoid going to emergency rooms except in true emergencies, especially in northern Nevada where a resurgence in coronavirus infections is running double the rate in the Las Vegas area.

Health officials say the 30-day average for daily new coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents has increased fivefold in the Reno-Sparks area over the past six weeks — from 354 at the beginning of August to 1,621 now. The statewide rate is 951, and it’s 720 in Clark County, which includes Las Vegas.

The head of the hospital association says that as a result, “many hospital emergency departments in northern Nevada are at capacity with patients.”

State officials said Wednesday that 1,090 people were hospitalized at the beginning of the week for confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19, the disease that can be caused by the coronavirus.

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WASHINGTON — The U.S. government will spend $470 million to learn more about long COVID-19, its causes and potential treatments.

The National Institutes of Health announced the plans Wednesday with a grant awarded to NYU Grossman School of Medicine and a goal of enrolling up to 40,000 adults and children. The effort, dubbed RECOVER, will involve researchers at more than 30 U.S. institutions.

‘’This is being taken with the greatest seriousness… at a scale that has not really been attempted with something like this,’’ Dr. Francis Collins, NIH director, said at a briefing Wednesday.

Collins says its estimated 10% to 30% of people infected with COVID-19 may develop persistent, new or recurring symptoms that can last months or perhaps years.

Long COVID is an umbrella term for symptoms that linger, recur and show up for the first time four weeks or more after an initial infection. It also includes heart inflammation and multisystem inflammatory syndrome, a rare but serious condition that can occur in children after a COVID-19 infection.

Pain, headaches, fatigue, brain fog, shortness of breath, anxiety, depression, chronic coughs and sleep problems are among the reported symptoms of long COVID. Possible causes include the virus lingers in tissues and organs or it overstimulates the immune system.

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LOS ANGELES — Public health officials in Los Angeles County will begin requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination for patrons and workers at indoor bars, wineries, breweries and nightclubs next month.

The new initiative in the nation’s most populous county begins Oct. 7, with proof of at least one vaccine dose required. According to the county’s Department of Public Health, proof of full vaccination will be mandatory by Nov. 4.

Health officials strongly recommend the same precautions for indoor restaurants but have not chosen to mandate proof of vaccination for them.

The new restrictions come ahead of the holiday season, which brought a massive surge in infections to Los Angeles last year.

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WASHINGTON — U.S. government advisers will debate Friday if there’s enough proof that a booster dose of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective.

It’s the first public step toward deciding which Americans may get an extra dose and when. The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday posted much of the evidence that it will ask outside experts to consider at Friday’s meeting.

But the agency struck a neutral tone in reviewing the data and discussing the rationale for boosters. That careful approach is notable given that White House officials have been previewing a booster campaign that they hoped to begin next week.

Pfizer is making the argument that while protection against severe disease is holding strong in the U.S., immunity against milder infection wanes somewhere around six to eight months after the second dose. The drugmaker is pointing to data from Israel, which began offering boosters over the summer.

The U.S. already offers an extra dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines to people with severely weakened immune systems.

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Categories: National & International News