The Latest: Abu Dhabi announces sudden overnight lockdown
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The capital of the United Arab Emirates has announced a sudden overnight lockdown over the coronavirus pandemic, even as the rest of the country remains open for tourism.
The state-run WAM news agency announced late Thursday the lockdown would begin Monday and last each day from 12 a.m. to 5 a.m. It comes just ahead of the long Eid al-Adha holidays in the UAE, which begins Monday as well.
Abu Dhabi’s Emergency, Crisis and Disasters Committee euphemistically described the lockdown as being part of “the National Sterilization Program.” The UAE, a federation of seven sheikhdoms, used the same term during lockdowns in 2020 amid the start of the pandemic.
Abu Dhabi has struck a hard line after Dubai reopened for tourism a year ago, requiring PCR tests for those coming over the border. Dubai, like other emirates, have remained open to spur tourism and business even as daily reported new coronavirus case remain around 1,500 a day despite a mass vaccination program.
MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:
— Surgeon general urges US fight against COVID-19 misinformation
— WHO wants more access to virus data from China
— Virus cases at 6-month high in Tokyo before Olympics
— COVID-19 takes toll on Catholic clergy, nuns in hard-hit countries
— Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles County will again require masks indoors even when people are vaccinated.
Meantime, the University of California system announced Thursday it will require coronavirus vaccinations for students, faculty and staff to return to campuses this fall.
The moves are prompted by a sharp increase in virus cases, many of them the highly transmissible delta variant.
Muntu Davis, LA County’s public health officer, said the mask requirement will go into effect at 11:59 p.m. Saturday. Davis said the county has been recording more than 1,000 new cases each day for a week and there is now “substantial community transmission.”
On Thursday, there were 1,537 new cases and hospitalizations have now topped 400.
WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden says he hopes to know in the next several days when the U.S. will be lifting COVID-19 travel restrictions on much of Europe.
Speaking during a joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Biden acknowledged that she had pushed him on the matter. The Schengen Zone has continued to face stricter requirements than parts of the world that are now seeing more significant outbreaks of the virus.
Pressed on how that squared with his commitment to follow the science on reopening international travel, Biden said his coronavirus team was studying the issue and that he hoped to be able to announce “in the next several days” how soon unimpeded travel between the U.S. and much of Europe could resume.
Said Biden: “I’m waiting to hear from our folks in our COVID team, as to when that should be done.”
SANTA ROSA, Calif. — At least 59 residents at a homeless shelter in Northern California have tested positive for the coronavirus.
Officials are also reviewing another 26 potential cases at Sonoma County’s largest shelter, Samuel L. Jones Hall.
Officials say that fewer than half of the shelter’s 153 residents had received at least partial vaccination.
Nine of those infected were hospitalized.
Sonoma County health officer Dr. Sundari Mase says that congregate settings are at much higher risk, compounded by the large number of unvaccinated residents.
The outbreak is only the second time the coronavirus has been detected at Sam Jones.
“Something is different. This is different than what we’ve seen the entire pandemic,” said Jennielynn Holmes, head of homelessness services at Catholic Charities in Santa Rosa, which manages the shelter.
PHOENIX — Arizona reported 1,014 daily coronavirus cases amid increasing hospitalizations.
The seven-day rolling average of daily cases increased in the past two weeks from 550 on June 29 to 795 on Tuesday, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
The state Department of Health services reported 689 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized as Wednesday, up from 602 on Sunday, 643 on Monday and 669 on Tuesday. Arizona’s COVID-19 hospitalization counts ranged between 500 and 600 during most of May and June.
Public health officials have attributed recent increases in COVID-19 cases to several factors, including the delta variant, lagging vaccinations and Fourth of July gatherings.
The new infections and seven deaths reported Thursday raised the totals to 904,865 confirmed cases and 18,083 confirmed deaths.
PORTLAND, Maine — Maine residents age 50 and older who are fully vaccinated for the coronavirus has topped 80%.
About 45% of Maine’s population is at least 50 years old, and the state has one of the highest median ages in the country. The office of Maine Gov. Janet Mills says more than two thirds of the state’s eligible population is fully vaccinated for coronavirus, among the highest in the nation.
Cumberland County, which is the largest county in Maine, is 92% fully vaccinated in the 50 and older age group.
All but one county is above 70% vaccinated in the over 50 age group, according to the governor’s office.
WASHINGTON — U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy is urging technology companies, health care workers and everyday Americans to do more to stop the spread of misinformation about COVID-19 and vaccines.
In a 22-page advisory as President Joe Biden’s surgeon general, Murthy on Thursday called misinformation about health matters a “serious public threat” and requested a nationwide response.
Bogus claims about coronavirus vaccines have led some people to reject masks, social distancing and immunizations, worsening the pandemic. Murthy urges tech companies to reduce the spread of such claims.
Teachers, he said, should expand education on media literacy and critical thinking. Journalists should work to responsibly debunk health misinformation without inadvertently spreading it further. And public health officials and doctors can do a better job answering questions and explaining why public health guidelines sometimes change based on new information.
The suggestions come as the pace of COVID-19 vaccinations has slowed throughout the U.S. The confirmed death toll in the U.S. recently surpassed 600,000.
LONDON — Coronavirus infections in the Britain hit another six-month high, while the number of COVID-19 deaths was the highest since late March.
Government figures showed 48,553 confirmed cases, the biggest daily figure since Jan. 15. Cases have spiked sharply in recent weeks from the spread of the more contagious delta variant. The government has warned that daily infections could hit 100,000 this summer, a level not previously reached during the pandemic.
The government, which is lifting all remaining legal restrictions on social gatherings in England on Monday, is hoping the rapid rollout of vaccines will keep a lid on the number of people requiring hospital treatment for COVID-19.
The data Thursday showed another 63 virus-related deaths, the biggest daily increase since March 26, taking the confirmed total to 128,593.
BERLIN — The head of the World Health Organization says he’s hoping for better cooperation and access to data from China in the search for the origins of the coronavirus.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says getting access to raw data had been a challenge for the international expert team that traveled to China this year to investigate the cause of the outbreak, which was first reported from Wuhan.
Tedros says the Geneva-based body is “asking actually China to be transparent, open and cooperate, especially on the information, raw data that we asked for at the early days of the pandemic.”
He also says there had been a “premature push” to rule out the theory that the coronavirus might have escaped from a Chinese government lab in Wuhan.
“I was a lab technician myself, I’m an immunologist, and I have worked in the lab, and lab accidents happen,” he said. “It’s common. Checking what happened, especially in our labs, is important and we need information, direct information on what the situation of this lab was before and at the start of the pandemic, then, if we get full information, we can exclude that.”
Tedros says the world owed it to the millions who had died “to know what happened and to prevent the same crisis from happening again. And that’s why we need cooperation.”
His words were echoed by Germany’s health minister, Jens Spahn, who urged Chinese officials to allow the investigation into the origins of the virus to proceed.
AMSTERDAM — A top official at the European Medicines Agency says a decision on whether to recommend that Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine be authorized for children is expected late next week.
It could become the first such license for the shot’s use in children globally. Dr. Marco Cavaleri, the EU drug regulator’s head of vaccines strategy, says its committee was currently evaluating Moderna’s application to extend the use of its coronavirus vaccine for children aged 12-17.
Moderna’s vaccine was given the green light for use in anyone 18 and over across the 27-nation European Union in January. It has also been licensed in countries including Canada and the U.S. But so far, its use has not been extended to children.
Last week, EU president Ursula von der Leyen said the bloc had delivered enough vaccines to immunize 70% of its adult population. Many countries are looking to inoculate children, despite the significantly lower risk they face from COVID-19.
Although Britain’s regulatory agency has authorized the Pfizer vaccine for children, its vaccine advisory group has yet to recommend children be immunized. Many health officials say millions of people in developing countries at high risk of the disease have yet to receive a single shot.
ROME — Italy is sending more than 25 tons of ventilators, masks, surgical gowns, disposable gloves and hand gel to Tunisia.
Last month, Tunisia had one of the highest per capital infection rates in Africa. The Italian Foreign Ministry says Thursday that several ships will ferry the aid to the nation across the Mediterranean, with the first vessel having departed from Naples.
The ministry says the assistance reflects its “friendship and solidarity to the Tunisian people.” Italy has good relations with Tunisia, which is one of the few countries that regularly accepts repatriated Tunisians who reach Italy on traffickers’ boats.
TAIPEI, Taiwan — Japan sent a third shipment of COVID-19 vaccines to Taiwan, bringing its total donation to 3.3 million doses.
A Japan Airlines flight landed at Taoyuan airport outside of Taipei on Thursday with 970,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Taiwan had a severe vaccine shortage after its worst outbreak of coronavirus this spring. Taiwan’s deputy interior minister, Chen Tsung-yen, said: “We thank our friends in Japan for their help at a time Taiwan needs it most.”
The donations also have geopolitical meaning, a sign of Japanese support for Taiwan, which has feuded with China over vaccine supplies. China claims self-governing Taiwan as its own territory.
The U.S. donated 2.5 million doses of the Moderna vaccine to Taiwan last month.
NAIROBI, Kenya — Africa director Matshidiso Moeti says some hospitals across the continent of 1.3 billion people are at the breaking point.
She says Africa has registered 1 million new coronavirus cases in the past month, the shortest time for such an increase in infections. The African continent has confirmed more than 6 million cases.
The highly infectious delta variant has been identified in 21 countries in the WHO Africa region. Meanwhile just over 1% of people across Africa have been fully vaccinated. Health officials are concerned about the slow arrival of doses.
The World Health Organization says another 190 million vaccine doses are needed to fully vaccinate 10% of Africa’s population. But it says some 450,000 vaccine doses have expired in about eight African countries because doses arrived late or were not used in time. WHO says that situation is improving.
TOKYO — Coronavirus cases in Tokyo have surged above 1,300 for a six-month high, just one week before the Olympics.
There are concerns a dramatic increase could flood hospitals during the Olympics, which start on July 23.
Tokyo is under a fourth state of emergency. It began Monday and requires restaurants and bars to close early and not serve alcohol through the Olympics, which end in early August.
The tally Thursday is the highest since 1,485 were recorded on Jan. 21, when Japan was under an earlier state of emergency. It’s an increase from 1,149 cases on Wednesday.
New daily cases have been steadily climbing since mid-June. Health experts say cases could hit several thousand during the games. Last week, organizers banned local fans at most Olympic events.
PARIS — Some French restaurant staff are concerned that new mandatory COVID-19 passes will turn them into coronavirus police instead of purveyors of culinary pleasures.
Starting next month, all diners in France must show a pass proving they’re fully vaccinated, or recently tested negative or recovered from the virus. Many restaurants are already struggling to respect France’s oft-changing virus rules.
Some 1,000 Paris restaurants were ordered to temporarily shut down for nine days for not respecting limits on visitors in recent weeks. President Emmanuel Macron’s government says the passes are necessary to protect hospitals from new virus waves and avoid lockdowns.
JAKARTA, Indonesia — Many Asian countries are experiencing their worst surge of coronavirus infections.
The slow flow of vaccine doses from around the world is finally picking up speed, giving hope that low inoculation rates can increase and help blunt the effect of the rapidly spreading delta variant.
Some 1.5 million doses of the Moderna vaccine arrived Thursday in Indonesia, which has become a dominant hot spot with record high infections and deaths. Vietnam, Thailand and South Korea have all imposed new lockdowns as they struggle to contain rapidly rising infections amid sluggish vaccination campaigns.
The U.S. has sent tens of millions of vaccine doses to Asia, part of President Joe Biden’s pledge to provide 80 million doses, including to Vietnam, Laos, South Korea and Bangladesh.
The International Red Cross warned this week of a “widening global vaccine divide,” saying wealthy countries need to increase the pace of following through on their pledges.