The Latest: Delta variant represents 20% of U.S. infections

WASHINGTON — The so-called COVID-19 delta variant which was first detected in India now represents more than 20% of coronavirus infections in the U.S. in the last two weeks, or double what it was when the Centers for Disease Control last reported on the variant’s prevalence.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, warned that the U.S. could be following the United Kingdom’s course, where the variant has become the dominant strain due to rapid spread among youth.

Fauci says indications are that the COVID-19 vaccines remain effective against the variant.

The variant is accounting for half of new infections in the regions that include Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming.

___

MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:

— US finds deaths among Medicare patients in nursing homes soared by 32% last year

— WHO plans technology transfer hub for coronavirus vaccines in South Africa

— Follow more of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine

___

HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

HONOLULU — Uncertainty remains about when Hawaii will drop its requirement for vaccinated arriving travelers to have a negative coronavirus test to avoid quarantine.

Hawaii Lt. Gov. Josh Green wants the state to drop the testing requirement for fully vaccinated travelers ahead of the July 4th holiday, but Gov. David Ige is reluctant.

Ige would not commit to dropping the travel test during a Monday news conference. The governor said earlier this month that testing requirements for vaccinated domestic travelers would end once 60% of Hawaii residents are fully vaccinated.

Lt. Gov. Josh Green said there could be confusion and conflict if the state doesn’t drop the requirements soon.

___

BERLIN — The German government says Chancellor Angela Merkel has received her second dose of vaccine against COVID-19.

The government said Tuesday that Merkel was vaccinated a few days ago. The 66-year-old received a first shot of the AstraZeneca vaccine on April 16. For the second shot, she received the Moderna vaccine.

Germany recommended in April that younger people who have received a first dose of AstraZeneca should switch to a different vaccine for the second shot.

___

JERUSALEM — Israel’s prime minister says the country is in the grip of a “new outbreak” of the coronavirus after a spike in cases in the past week, most of them minors with the highly infectious Delta variant of COVID-19.

Naftali Bennett said Tuesday after touring Israel’s main international airport that masks would be mandatory in Ben Gurion Airport and there would be more stringent testing of incoming travelers.

“We made an initial decision to treat this like a new outbreak, and our aim is to sever it,” he said. Bennett called on Israelis to avoid all non-essential summer travel abroad.

Israel’s Health Ministry reported 125 new coronavirus cases Tuesday, the highest daily number since late April. Over 55% of the country’s 9.3 million citizens have received two vaccine doses, but Bennett said several of the new cases reported were in vaccinated individuals.

___

MOSCOW – The mayor of Moscow announced new coronavirus restrictions on Tuesday, saying that “the situation with the coronavirus remains very difficult” in the Russian capital.

The country’s state coronavirus task force reported 6,555 new COVID-19 cases in Moscow on Tuesday and 16,715 new infections across Russia, both tallies twice as high as a month ago.

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin banned all entertainment and sports events at which more than 500 people are present.

Starting next Monday, all restaurants, cafes and bars in Moscow will only allow in customers who have been vaccinated against COVID-19, recovered from the virus within the past six months or can provide a negative coronavirus test carried out within 72 hours prior to the visit. To prove their eligibility, customers will need to obtain a QR code at one of several government websites.

Coronavirus infections surged in the Russian capital two weeks ago, prompting the city authorities to order mandatory vaccinations for workers in retail, education and some other service sectors. Russians have been widely resistant to vaccinations and only less than 13% of the population has received at least one shot of a coronavirus vaccine.

___

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Western Michigan University said it will hold a series of drawings, from August to December, to give away more than $100,000 to students who have been vaccinated against COVID-19.

There will be 60 winners. The biggest prizes are five worth $10,000 each. The money can be used for tuition, fees, campus housing and campus dining.

“Students need help with the cost of college, and so we felt like those would really be incentives that would speak to students,” said Diane Anderson, vice president of student affairs.

Students, of course, need to show proof of vaccination..

___

LONDON — Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says she is aiming to lift most remaining coronavirus restrictions in Scotland on Aug. 9.

She also told Scottish lawmakers that changes to current restrictions will be postponed by three weeks to July 19 as a result of a sharp spike in new infections that are largely due to the delta variant first identified in India.

She said 2,167 cases have been recorded in Scotland in the past 24 hours, the highest level since Jan. 8 when the U.K. as a whole was in the midst of a catastrophic second wave of the pandemic.

The U.K. as a whole recorded 11,625 new cases on Tuesday, the highest daily figure since Feb. 19.

She said her government will make a final assessment nearer the time to see whether this could include the lifting of social distancing rules both indoors and out. l as outdoors.

The other nations of the U.K. — England, Wales and Northern Ireland — are moving out of lockdown at different speeds.

___

ISTANBUL — Turkey’s president has announced the country’s first local vaccine in development against COVID-19 would be called TURKOVAC.

The first dose of the vaccine’s third phase trial was administered to a male volunteer Tuesday in a videoconference by the health minister, professors and Turkey’s president. The health minister said Phase 1 and 2 trials showed the vaccine’s safety and immune response.

TURKOVAC is using an “inactivated virus” technology and was developed at Erciyes University. Other vaccine developments continue in Turkey. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said it is imperative to have a local vaccine that Turkey would use in the country and export to others.

Turkey is currently using vaccines from China’s Sinovac and Pfizer-BioNTech. Russia’s Sputnik V will also be used. More than 43,5 doses have been administered with the age category lowered to 25 on Tuesday.

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said the vaccine is the “pride of the nation.”

___

PORTLAND, Maine — A program to help the U.S.’s bus companies survive the coronavirus pandemic that was championed by a Maine senator is now accepting applications.

Republic Sen. Susan Collins co-wrote the Coronavirus Economic Relief for Transportation Services grant program and said this week that the program is now open. The program is slated to provide $2 billion in coronavirus relief to bus, motorcoach and other passenger vessel companies.

The pandemic has hit the nation’s approximately 3,000 private bus lines hard. Nearly all of them were shut down in the early stages of the pandemic and many have struggled to recover since.

“Bus and motorcoach companies, ferries, and tour boats sustain good-paying jobs and provide critical transportation services. The COVID-19 pandemic took an enormous toll on these businesses, many of which are small and family owned,” Collins said.

Collins co-authored the proposal with Democratic Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island. The senators said that every bus and vessel company that meets eligibility criteria and submits a completed application will receive a grant.

___

AMSTERDAM — The European Union’s medicines regulator has approved two new manufacturing sites for the COVID-19 vaccine developed by BioNTech and Pfizer.

The move announced Tuesday by the European Medicines Agency will help increase production of the vaccine that has formed the backbone of many European nations’ vaccination programs.

The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control says that 242.6 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine have been distributed to European nations and nearly 223 million shots have been administered.

The EMA says its human medicines committee approved a site in Reinbek, Germany, that is operated by Allergopharma and another in the Swiss town of Stein that is operated by Novartis Pharma.

Last month, the EMA recommended expanding the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to children aged 12-15.

___

MERIDIAN TOWNSHIP, Mich. — Michigan is fully open again. After facing 15 months of capacity restrictions and being hit by the country’s worst surge of coronavirus infections this spring, restaurants, entertainment businesses and other venues can operate at 100% occupancy starting Tuesday.

Limits on indoor gatherings like weddings and funerals are gone. So is a broad requirement that the unvaccinated be masked indoors. Michigan is among the last states to lift capacity caps, which has frustrated the business community.

Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and public health officials say the restrictions were needed until enough residents could be vaccinated.

___

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine president has threatened to order the arrest of Filipinos who refuse COVID-19 vaccination and told them to leave the country if they would not cooperate with the efforts to contain the pandemic.

President Rodrigo Duterte, who is known for his public outbursts and brash rhetoric, said in televised remarks Monday night that he has become exasperated with people who refuse to get immunized then help spread the coronavirus.

“Don’t get me wrong. There is a crisis being faced in this country. There is a national emergency. If you don’t want to get vaccinated, I’ll have you arrested and I’ll inject the vaccine in your butt,” Duterte said.

“If you will not agree to be vaccinated, leave the Philippines. Go to India if you want or somewhere, to America,” he said, adding he would order village leaders to compile a list of defiant residents.

A human rights lawyer, Edre Olalia, raised concerns over Duterte’s threat, saying the president could not order the arrest of anybody who has not clearly committed any crime.

___

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — A coronavirus outbreak in Fiji is rapidly growing, with 180 new cases reported on Tuesday.

The current outbreak began in April and has resulted in seven deaths and numerous restrictions, although so far the island nation has resisted a nationwide lockdown.

New Zealand Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta said this week it was providing an additional 10 million New Zealand dollars ($7 million) for COVID-19 operations and food supplies in Fiji. New Zealand and Australia have also sent medical teams.

Located north of New Zealand, Fiji is home to 940,000 people. Its tourism-dependent economy had already been hard-hit by the pandemic before the latest outbreak. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Fiji has reported more than 2,200 cases and nine deaths.

___

HAVANA — Cuba’s government announced on Monday that its three-shot Abdala vaccine has proven to be 92% effective against the coronavirus.

It provided no details of the clinical testing. The Abdala is one of the vaccines Cuba is testing. It recently said its Soberana 2 vaccine has shown a 62% efficacy. The announcement came as Cuba faces its worst outbreak since the start of the pandemic with record new infections.

Dr. Francisco Durán, the island’s director of epidemiology, on Monday reported 1,561 new coronavirus cases for a total of 169,365 confirmed cases and 1,170 deaths.

Categories: National & International News