The Latest: Japan looks to ease virus emergency in Tokyo
TOKYO — Japan is expected to ease a coronavirus state of emergency in Tokyo and most other areas this weekend, with the Olympics starting in just over a month.
Daily cases have since significantly declined and Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is expected to downgrade the state of emergency when it expires on Sunday to a less-stringent quasi-emergency for several weeks.
Despite concerns raised by medical experts and the public over the potential risks of holding the Olympics, Suga has said he is determined to hold a “safe and secure” games on July 23.
Japan since late March has struggled to slow a wave of infections propelled by more contagious variants, with daily cases soaring above 7,000 and serious patients overwhelming hospitals in Tokyo, Osaka and other metro areas.
In Tokyo, infections are now down to around 500 per day from above 1,100 in mid-May. Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike has said effective coronavirus measures need to be kept in place.
Health experts say it is crucial to accelerate the vaccine rollout to hold the Olympics safely in one of the world’s least vaccinated developed countries. As of Tuesday, only 5.6% of Japanese were fully vaccinated.
MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:
— France eases masks outdoors; will end nightly virus curfew
— European Union suggests lifting travel limits on U.S. tourists
— Fighting COVID-19 surge, South Africa increases restrictions
— California marks reopening with jackpots, Hollywood flair
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:
BRUSSELS — The European Union is recommending member countries start lifting restrictions on tourists from the United States.
EU members agreed Wednesday to add the United States to the list of countries from which restrictions on non-essential travel should be lifted. The move was adopted during a meeting in Brussels of permanent representatives to the 27-nation bloc.
The recommendation is non-binding, and national governments have authority to require test results or vaccination records and to set other entry conditions.
In addition to the U.S., the representatives of EU nations also added North Macedonia, Albania, Serbia, Lebanon and Taiwan to the tourist travel list. The recommendations are expected to be formalized on Friday.
ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s top health official has assured citizens there’s no shortage of COVID-19 vaccines.
Faisal Sultan says some citizens may have faced difficulty getting inoculated because of long lines. Sultan says additional doses of vaccines are being supplied to those vaccination centers where people responded positively to government appeals to get inoculated.
He says about 20 million doses of vaccines are available in Pakistan to meet growing demand. Pakistan plans to spend $1.1 billion in the next fiscal year to import COVID-19 vaccines to inoculate most of the 100 million adult population.
Authorities have reported a steady decline in deaths and confirmed cases from coronavirus. Pakistan, a nation of 220 million, has registered 944,065 confirmed cases and 21,828 confirmed deaths.
PARIS — France is easing mandatory mask-wearing outdoors and will halt an eight-month nightly coronavirus curfew on Sunday.
The announcement by French Prime Minister Jean Castex comes as France reports about 3,900 daily virus cases on average, down from 35,000 in the March-April peak.
Castex welcomed the “very good news,” saying the curfew will be lifted 10 days earlier than expected. Wearing a mask will still remain mandatory outdoors in crowded places like street markets and stadiums, he says. People are required to wear a mask indoors in public spaces, including at work — with an exception for restaurants and bars.
More than 58% of France’s adult population has received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose. On Tuesday, vaccinations opened to those ages 12 to 18 to help protect the nation as restrictions are gradually lifted.
Terraces at restaurants and cafes, theaters, cinemas and museums all reopened on May 19. Last week, France reopened indoor spaces in restaurants and cafes as well as gyms and swimming pools.
Major sports and cultural events can have a maximum of 5,000 people, and all need to show a vaccination certificate or a negative test within the last 48 hours.
The nation has reported 110,563 confirmed deaths, one of the highest tolls in Europe.
MOSCOW — Authorities in Moscow and the surrounding region on Wednesday made COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for those working in retail, education, health care, public transport and other trades that provide services to a large number of people.
Russian public health officials ordered businesses and institutions to ensure that 60% of staff get at least one shot of a coronavirus vaccine by July 15 and are fully vaccinated by August 15.
“We simply must do everything to carry out mass vaccination in the shortest time possible and stop the terrible disease,” Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said.
At the same time, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said there were no plans to order mandatory vaccinations nationwide.
Russia was among the first countries in the world to deploy a coronavirus vaccine, but its vaccination rates have lagged behind many other nations, with only 18 million people — or just 12% of the 146-million population — receiving at least one shot as of early June.
In Moscow, where coronavirus cases have soared in recent weeks, only 1.8 million people, or 14% of the population, have received a shot.
The Russian authorities have reported more than 5.2 million confirmed virus cases and over 127,000 deaths. On Tuesday, officials registered 13,397 new infections, nearly half of which were reported in Moscow.
ANKARA, Turkey — Long lines for vaccines formed outside hospitals and health clinics across Turkey as the country ramped up its inoculation drive following last month’s agreement with Pfizer for 90 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine — with an option for 30 million more.
Health Minister Fahrettin Koca announced on Twitter a record 1.24 million doses were administered in just one day on Tuesday.
With the arrival of new doses, the country of 84 million this week declared all workers registered with the state’s social security system — as well as anyone above 40 — eligible for the vaccine. Mobile vaccination units were sent to industrial zones to help speed up the inoculation campaign.
So far, 14 million people have been fully vaccinated and 22 million people have received a first dose.
NEW DELHI — India is reopening its famed marvel of love, the Taj Mahal, and several other monuments as the number of new coronavirus infections continues to decline.
District Magistrate Prabhu Narain Singh says 650 tourists with online bookings will be allowed a day to visit the white marble Taj Mahal from Wednesday. Temperatures will be checked at the gates, face masks must be worn and social distancing must be observed.
The monument was closed in April amid a surge of new infections in India.
The Health Ministry on Wednesday reported 62,224 new infections in the past 24 hours, which is down from a peak of more than 400,000 new infections a day in April. It also reported 2,542 more deaths, raising total fatalities to 379,573. Both figures are believed to be vast undercounts.
The city of Agra, where the Taj Mahal is located, reported 10 new infections on Tuesday, down from a peak of 500 a day in April.
In New Delhi, authorities are reopening shops, malls and restaurants this week. Restrictions also have been eased in Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai and other cities with a drop in new infections.
WASHINGTON — U.K. researchers say initial results from a large study show an antibody treatment reduces death in hospitalized COVID-19 patients who face the greatest risk from the coronavirus.
The drug combination from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals cut patient deaths from 30% to 24% among those who hadn’t already developed an immune response against COVID-19. Regeneron’s drug and similar treatments supply lab-made versions of antibodies that can help fight the virus.
Smaller studies previously showed that the drug helped reduce the risk of hospitalization and death when given to patients with earlier, milder cases of COVID-19.
The 10,000-patient study led by Oxford University also found the drug shortened hospitalization times and reduced the chances of needing a ventilator in the same group of patients. Among patients with natural antibodies against COVID-19, adding the drug had no significant benefit on survival.
Regeneron’s two-antibody combo is currently available for patients with mild-to-moderate COVID-19 in the U.S. and Europe. It is not authorized in the U.K.
ORLANDO, Fla. — Disney plans to restart fireworks shows at its theme parks in Florida and California in the latest move by the company to ease up on pandemic restrictions implemented last year.
The company says firework shows would resume at the beginning of July at Walt Disney World in Florida and on the Fourth of July at Disneyland in California. The fireworks shows had been put on hold in order to discourage people from gathering together after the parks reopened following virus-related closures last year.
This week, face masks were made optional for visitors to Disney World in Florida, provided they are vaccinated, though Disney workers weren’t requiring proof of vaccination.
LOS ANGELES — California Gov. Gavin Newsom has doled out $1.5 million each to 10 vaccinated winners at Universal Studios to mark the end of the state’s coronavirus restrictions.
The $15 million awarded Tuesday was the final part of Newsom’s $116.5 million so-called “Vax for the Win” program. The effort encourages residents to get vaccinated and speed up California’s recovery amid the COVID-19 pandemic that has killed 3.8 million globally and 600,000 nationwide.
California on Tuesday hailed its reopening and the end of many coronavirus-related restrictions, including masks, social distancing and capacity limits in most settings.
California has reported 3.6 million confirmed cases and more than 62,000 confirmed deaths.
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Vaccine supplies have eclipsed demand in New Mexico even as the state makes a hard push toward meeting a key vaccination goal.
Health officials have confirmed to The Associated Press that New Mexico’s inventory includes nearly 493,000 doses that are being stored in freezers around the state. Expiration dates range from this week through September. The state also has donated 372,600 doses of its undelivered allocation back to the federal government.
Health Department spokesman David Morgan has said New Mexico is adapting to shrinking demand for the vaccine in several ways. That includes ordering only a minimal number of doses as requested by providers.
New Mexico is just shy of meeting its goal of having 60% of residents 16 and older fully vaccinated. Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham wants to hit that mark this week so she can follow through with plans to fully reopen the state by July 1.
The latest data from the state puts the vaccination rate at 58.5%.
The state is offering cash incentives for people who get either their second shot or the one-time Johnson & Johnson shot by Thursday. Those who are vaccinated also can participate in a sweepstakes that includes a grand prize of $5 million.
BRUSSELS — The European Commission proposed the 27-nation bloc appoint a European chief epidemiologist by the end of the year to better respond to future health crises.
The EU’s executive arm presented a list of 10 lessons learned from the coronavirus pandemic, focusing on improvements for next time.
The Commission also proposed creating a global surveillance system to ensure faster detection, allowing the activation of an “EU pandemic state of emergency.” The proposals will be discussed by EU leaders during a summit next week in Brussels.
Meanwhile, the European Commission says it has raised $24.2 billion through a 10-year bond to finance the 27-nation bloc’s recovery from the coronavirus crisis.
EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen says the inaugural transaction of the NextGeneration EU program is the largest institutional bond issuance in Europe. The money will help finance the national recovery plans devised by member states to get their economies back on track.
NEW YORK — The U.S. death toll from COVID-19 has topped 600,000, as the vaccination drive has decreased daily cases and deaths.
That’s according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. The number of lives lost is greater than the population of Baltimore or Milwaukee. It is about equal to the number of Americans who died of cancer in 2019.
With the advent of the vaccines, COVID-19 deaths per day in the U.S. have plummeted to an average of 340 from a high of more than 3,400 in mid-January. Cases are running at 14,000 a day on average, down from a quarter-million per day during the winter.
Worldwide, the COVID-19 confirmed death toll stands at 3.8 million. The actual totals in the U.S. and around the globe are thought to be significantly higher, with many cases overlooked or possibly concealed by some countries.