The Latest: Pakistan bans unvaccinated from domestic flights
ISLAMABAD — Pakistan banned unvaccinated adults from flights Friday as it tries to push vaccinations and avoid further lockdowns to contain the coronavirus.
Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan announced the ban on Twitter, saying “only fully vaccinated passengers of age 18 years and above will be allowed to undertake domestic air travel within Pakistan.”
The government said last week unvaccinated people will not be allowed to work from offices and will not be eligible to enter shopping malls as of Friday. However, it was unclear how they would be stopped from entering such venues.
The bans don’t apply to children, who are not yet eligible for Pakistan’s vaccination campaign.
Nearly 30 million people are fully vaccinated in the country of 220 million. There is no shortage of vaccine, but many people have been hesitating, and the new measures are aimed at pushing them to get the shots.
Pakistan has reported 1.2 million COVID-19 cases and 27,785 deaths since the pandemic began last year.
MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:
— School boards ask Biden to help them investigate threats, which are rising over mask mandates and race policies
— Trains packed with commuters as Japan fully ends emergency for first time in more than six months
— It’s time to get vaccinated for flu season, even if you’ve had your COVID-19 shots
— Anchorage mayor apologizes for comments supporting use of Holocaust imagery likened to mask mandate
— See all of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
PORTLAND, Maine — Maine’s rural areas need better access to COVID-19 testing, the head of the state’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention said.
The percent positivity rate in some of Maine’s rural counties is much higher than it is in more densely populated areas such as Cumberland County. Federal data show the percent positivity rate in Cumberland is about 2% while in rural Somerset County it’s more than 9%.
Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Nirav Shah said Thursday that’s a product of a lack of testing. He said the state is working to get more tests to rural corners of the state. Maine has the lowest population density in New England.
The Maine Department of Health and Human Services also said Thursday that Maine child care facilities can now access pooled testing for children and staff through a federal program that provides the testing for free to some community organizations and schools. The agency said Walgreen is also expanding testing options at almost all of its Maine locations.
“Not enough testing happening in those parts of the state. We’re focusing on making community level testing more accessible,” Shah said.
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The Arkansas Supreme Court on Thursday said it wouldn’t allow the state to enforce its ban on mask mandates by schools and other government bodies, keeping in place a judge’s ruling temporarily halting the law.
Justices denied the request by the state to stay the August decision blocking enforcement of Arkansas’ mandate ban.
More than 100 school districts and charter schools have approved mask requirements since the ruling against the law. The requirements cover more than half the state’s public school students.
Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who signed the law but later said he regretted that decision, had separately asked the court to deny the request to stay the ruling.
ATLANTA — Gov. Brian Kemp on Thursday warned unvaccinated Georgians to not assume that COVID-19 is over, saying that the state could risk a fifth surge of the respiratory illness over the winter, even as cases decline steeply from a fourth surge that peaked a month ago.
“Today I want to emphasize the importance of not waiting until the next wave of COVID cases to get vaccinated,” Kemp said. “Given that our increase in cases and hospitalizations in 2021 was similar in timing to surges seen in 2020, we can only assume that a winter increase is also possible.”
Kemp says he still opposes federal plans to require employers with 100 or more workers to mandate vaccination and will explore legal action with state Attorney General Chris Carr.
Georgia’s vaccination rate has improved somewhat, with state data showing 47% of all residents are now fully vaccinated. Kemp and Public Health Commissioner Kathleen Toomey said that Georgia isn’t seeing a shortage of monoclonal antibodies for COVID-19 therapy because demand is declining.
HAVANA — Beaches and recreation centers have reopened in Cuba’s capital after authorities announced it is time to resume outdoor activities, including strolling on the Malecon coastal promenade that has long been a gathering place for Havana.
Officials say Thursday’s reopening was possible because 90% of the city’s residents are vaccinated against the coronavirus and the number of new cases has been declining. Some people were quick to take advantage of the announcement and headed to the beach to enjoy the sun and sand.
The Malecon filled up with people Wednesday night, with groups of young people with guitars and even street vendors for the first time since access was closed at the beginning of the year. The city announced last week that restaurants and bars can allow customers back in.