The Latest: German Chancellor switches vaccine for 2nd dose

BERLIN — A spokesman for Angela Merkel says the German Chancellor received two different vaccines in a conscious effort to encourage people not to be afraid if they are advised to get a mix of shots.

Merkel’s office confirmed Tuesday that the 66-year-old received a first shot of the AstraZeneca vaccine on April 16. For the second shot, she received the Moderna vaccine.

Her spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said Merkel intentionally opted for the initial AstraZeneca shot at a time when there were concerns about possible serious side effects.

“And so she can now perhaps take away the fears of people…who were or are worried about this so-called cross-vaccination,” he said.

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MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:

— Italy is banking on a huge windfall of EU pandemic recovery funds to revamp its lagging economy. The future of the eurozone may depend on how well it does.

— Due to the pandemic, Tokyo is shaping up to be the ‘no-fun’ Olympics

— Colombia hits 100,000 confirmed COVID-19 deaths, president blames anti-government protests

— 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

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

BOISE, Idaho — Just over half of Idaho adults have now received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine — about two months after the 50% mark was reached nationwide.

Idaho Public Health Administrator Elke Shaw-Tulloch said during a press conference Tuesday that the state is unlikely to meet the national goal of at least 70% of adults with at least one vaccine dose by July 4.

Still, she said the state continues to make slow gains in vaccination rates. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says Idaho has the eighth lowest adult partial COVID-19 vaccination rate in the U.S.

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ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey’s health minister says anyone 18 years old and older will be eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines as of Friday, as the country ramps up its vaccination campaign.

Speaking after a meeting of the country’s scientific advisory council on Wednesday, Fahrettin Koca said the government aims to administer at least one dose to around 70% of the 55 million people that are eligible to be vaccinated, by mid-July.

So far, close to 30 million people in a population of 84 million have received their first dose and 14.6 million people have received both doses.

Meanwhile, Koca said 40,800 people would be involved in the late-stage trial of Turkey’s first local COVID-19 jab, which had been named TURCOVAC. The vaccine that uses the “inactivated virus” technology, was developed by Turkey’s Erciyes University.

Some volunteers would be administered the vaccine developed by China’s Sinovac pharmaceutical instead of a placebo, allowing researchers to compare the two inactivated vaccines’ safety and efficacy, the minister said. Volunteers in Hungary, Azerbaijan and Kyrgyzstan would also be involved in the trials.

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MOSCOW — Buryatia, a republic in Siberia, became the first Russian region on Wednesday to announce a lockdown because of a surge in coronavirus infections.

The lockdown will take affect on Sunday and last for two weeks, during which only essential services such as grocery shops, pharmacies, utility companies, public transport and media organizations will be allowed to operate.

Coronavirus infections in Russia have surged in recent weeks, with the daily tally of new cases growing from approximately 9,000 in early June to over 17,000 last Friday.

Buryatia is the only Russian region so far that imposed several lockdowns since the beginning of the pandemic. Last November, the region’s governor also closed all non-essential businesses for two weeks in an effort to cope with a resurgence of the outbreak.

Russia had only one, six-week nationwide lockdown last spring, and most coronavirus restrictions in the country were lifted over the summer. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Wednesday no plans to reimpose another nationwide lockdown were being discussed by authorities.

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LISBON, Portugal — The Lisbon region’s recent surge in COVID-19 cases is powering ahead, with new infections pushing Portugal’s number of daily cases to a four-month high.

Portugal on Wednesday reported almost 1,500 new cases, with two thirds of them in the region of the capital where some 2.8 million people live.

The national 14-day cumulative Covid-19 case notification rate per 100,000 people has risen to 130.

The pressure on hospitals remains manageable, with just 437 virus patients admitted and 100 in intensive care.

The Portuguese government has already banned travel into and out of the Lisbon region at weekends. Experts blame the Delta variant for the virus spread there.

It is widely expected to announce new restrictions for Lisbon after a Cabinet meeting on Thursday.

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GENEVA — Swiss authorities are vastly easing measures aimed to combat COVID-19 and relaxing some key requirements facing incoming travelers, as case counts and deaths from the pandemic have plunged in Switzerland in recent weeks.

Among the new steps effective Saturday, the Federal Council said work-from-home rules and the requirement to wear masks outdoors will be lifted. Restaurants will also no longer have to limit the number of patrons that can dine together.

The Swiss government said people from the European Schengen area — a vast zone that allows visa-free travel between countries — will no longer be required to quarantine upon entry to Switzerland.

Rules limiting entries of people from abroad will focus on countries with worrying levels of coronavirus variants in circulation.

The council — Switzerland’s executive branch — is also extending the estimated duration of vaccine effectiveness for mRNA vaccines like those from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna to 12 months, from six months.

Swiss health authorities said Wednesday that 154 new cases and 2 new deaths were recorded from Tuesday to Wednesday in the country of about 8.5 million. Overall, Switzerland has tallied over 700,000 cases and 10,000 deaths linked to COVID-19.

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PARIS — France is adding Russia to its “red list” of countries from which travels are banned unless imperious motives because they are struggling with virus surges and worrisome variants.

French government spokesperson Gabriel Attal said Wednesday that Russia, Namibia and Seychelles are being added to the list of now 21 countries.

The “red list” notably includes India, South Africa and Brazil and implies that vaccinated travelers arriving in France must justify their trip, show a negative test and self-isolate for a week. Those not vaccinated must go on a quarantine for 10 days, risking a 1000-euro fine, equivalent to $1,194.

Attal also called for enhanced vigilance about the more contagious delta variant, first identified in India.

The delta variant is estimated to represent 9 to 10% overall in France, he said. But authorities are closely monitoring the situation in a region of southwestern France, the Landes, where 70% of confirmed infections are due to the delta variant, he added.

The epidemic situation in France has rapidly improved in recent weeks, with about 2,300 new daily infections reported each day, down from 35,000 in the March-April peak.

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BRUSSELS — Teenagers in Belgium aged from 12 to 15 with underlying conditions will be able to get vaccinated with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

The move was adopted Wednesday following a meeting of the country’s health ministers.

They said COVID-19 shots will be offered to youngsters affected by pathologies such as leukemia, Down syndrome or liver and kidney diseases because the risk they face to develop a severe form of coronavirus requiring a stay in hospital higher than the general population.

A decision has yet been taken on the vaccination of others in that age group.

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THE HAGUE, Netherlands — A telephone line set up to allow people in the Netherlands to book a Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccination has been overwhelmed with callers.

Health Minister Hugo de Jonge tweeted Wednesday that more than 130,000 people had attempted to call the line a total of more than 2 million times on the first morning that the government allowed anybody over the age of 18 to make an appointment for a J&J vaccination.

The J&J single-dose shot has largely been removed from the Dutch COVID-19 vaccination program because of the tiny risk of an extremely rare blood clotting disorder.

However, the government has about 200,000 J&J shots available over the next two weeks and is making them available to the public on a first-come-first-served basis.

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COPENHAGEN, Denmark — The Swedish and Danish economies are recovering quickly after last year’s deep downturn due to the coronavirus.

Sweden’s Finance Ministry said Wednesday that she expects the gross domestic product to grow by 4.7% in 2021 while Denmark’s Central Bank said in its prognosis that the GDP will increase by 3.3%.

As the spread of the virus decreases and restrictions are relaxed, household consumption in Sweden is expected to increase by 4.7% — an upward revision of 1.3 percentage points compared with the previous forecast.

Exports from Sweden also are contributing to the growth and are expected to increase by 8.9%, Andersson said.

She warned there is a risk that the shortage of certain input products and bottlenecks in transport chains may slow global trade and thus also Swedish exports.

In neighboring Denmark, the Nationalbanken boss said “the reopening of the Danish economy is in full swing” with the overall activity recovering to more or less recovered to pre-pandemic levels.

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BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — Slovakia’s government decided to donate or sell 160,000 doses of Sputnik V amid low interest to get vaccinated by the Russia-made coronavirus vaccine.

The country started to administer the vaccine on June 8 as the only the second European Union country.

Hungary was the first EU nation to use Sputnik V, which has not been authorized by the European Medicines Agency.

The government’s decision on Wednesday comes as only 14.214 people have registered to receive the two-shot vaccine in the nation of 5.4 million. Slovakia has 200,000 doses of Sputnik V available.

Slovakia will donate some of the vaccines to western Balkan countries, including Bosnia, North Macedonia and Albania. Argentina expressed an interest to buy Sputnik V from Slovakia.

A secret deal for Slovakia to purchase 2 million Sputnik V shots orchestrated by then-Prime Minister Igor Matovic triggered a political crisis in March that resulted in the Slovak government’s collapse.

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ROME — Italy’s leader is pitching for tourists to start coming from the United States, Canada and Japan to give a vitally needed boost to Italian hotel and restaurant businesses.

In a speech to lawmakers on Wednesday, Premier Mario Draghi noted that Italy has recently allowed people from those three countries to now come for tourism, previously not allowed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tourists must be vaccinated, have certification that they have recovered from the illness or have a negative COVID-19 test taken within 48 hours of entering Italy.

“We want to allow them to come safely into Italy to help our hoteliers and restaurateurs bounce back after a year-and-a-half of difficulty,’’ Draghi said.

Tourism accounts for 13% of Italy’s GDP. Many restaurants and hotels were closed for months, and some hotels, including those who cater heavily to U.S. tourists, have yet to re-open.

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BOGOTA — Colombia reached 100,000 confirmed deaths from COVID-19 this week, becoming just the tenth country in the world to hit the unwanted milestone.

The South American nation of 50 million has been registering a growing number of daily cases since April and over the past seven days it had the world’s third-highest per capita death rate from COVID-19, according to data published by Oxford University.

President Iván Duque blamed antigovernment protests that began at the end of April for many of the fatalities, saying that “more than 10,000 deaths could have been avoided” if Colombians had not held large gatherings over the past seven weeks.

But epidemiologists in Colombia said it’s too soon to tell how much of an impact the protests had on the current surge in COVID-19 deaths.

“The protests definitely played a role” in coronavirus contagion, said Diego Rosselli, a professor of epidemiology at the Javeriana University in Bogota. “But at this moment putting any number on how many deaths they caused is mere speculation.”

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