The Latest: Portugal sets curfews where coronavirus surging
LISBON, Portugal – Portugal will impose an 11 p.m. curfew in parts of the country with surging coronavirus cases.
Portuguese health authorities say the delta variant is pushing cases higher in the country of 10.3 million people.
“The situation is getting bad again,” Cabinet Minister Mariana Vieira da Silva said Thursday.
The curfew comes as the number of daily cases hits levels not seen since February, with almost 2,500 officially reported Thursday. Admissions of COVID-19 patients in hospitals are at a two-month high, at more than 500.
The government announced the curfew for 45 council areas, including the capital Lisbon and second-largest city Porto.
Restaurants, cafes and cultural venues can stay open until 10.30 p.m., with limits on how many people can sit together.
MORE ON THE PANDEMIC
— Britain registers nearly 28,000 daily cases, highest since January
— Turkey lifts most pandemic restrictions as new cases plateau
— Delta coronavirus variant exploits low global vaccine rates
— Africa’s COVID-19 envoy blasts EU, COVAX over vaccine crisis
— 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:
BERLIN — A German advisory panel is recommending people who get a first shot of the AstraZeneca vaccine be given a second shot with one of the mRNA vaccines.
Germany’s committee on vaccinations, known as Stiko, cited studies showing a “significantly superior” immune response from a mixture of AstraZeneca with a second shot of an mRNA vaccine compared with two shots of AstraZeneca. In Thursday’s draft recommendation, it called for a gap of at least four weeks between the different shots.
Germany uses the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines.
In April, German authorities decided people under 60 who had received a first shot of AstraZeneca should as a rule get a second shot of a mRNA vaccine.
That decision came after the AstraZeneca vaccine was linked to extremely rare blood clots.
RIO DE JANEIRO — Police started evicting hundreds of homeless families from a recently established tent city near Rio de Janeiro on Thursday, underscoring Brazil’s resurgent poverty during the pandemic.
Residents blocked the entrance to the campsite with bonfires as police launched tear gas and fired water cannons at the tents. With the Southern Hemisphere in the heart of its winter, the city was experiencing one of its coldest mornings on record.
The forced removal in Itaguai followed a court decision in favor of the land’s owner, Brazil’s state-run oil company Petrobras. The residents had occupied the plot since May and baptized it the “First of May Refugee Camp.”
Shantytowns have emerged in several cities across Brazil, reflecting a surge of poverty after the government pared back its pandemic welfare programs. That left many exposed to soaring inflation as the nation’s weak job market has yet to show signs of recovery.
BRANSON, Mo. — Health officials working to boost lagging coronavirus vaccination rates in Missouri are concerned as the Fourth of July weekend approaches, creating ripe conditions for the fast-spreading delta variant.
Missouri is second only to Nevada for having the worst coronavirus diagnosis rate in the past week. Its seven-day rolling average of daily cases has risen in the past two weeks from 576 per day on June 15 to 891 cases per day on Tuesday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
State data shows hospitalizations are up sharply, increasing by 38% from 637 on the last day of May to 882 on Wednesday. The situation is worse in southwest Missouri, where hospitalizations went from 134 to 317 during the same period.
ISTANBUL — Turkey has eased nearly all pandemic restrictions on businesses and events and lifted nighttime and Sunday curfews.
An interior ministry circular says restaurants and weddings no longer must limit the number of people but they still need to abide by social distancing rules. Only hookah shops are still closed.
Concerts and festivals can go ahead indoors and outdoors but music must end by midnight even though there is no longer a nighttime curfew.
Turkey’s vaccination drive has gathered speed, surpassing 50 million doses. But only 18% of Turkey’s 84 million population has been fully vaccinated with Pfizer and Sinovac. Coronavirus infections have been hovering around a seven-day average of about 5,500 cases.
LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says unspecified “extra precautions” to contain the spread of the pandemic will be needed in coming weeks, while voicing confidence the remaining restrictions on social contact can be lifted on July 19.
Infections in the U.K. have risen sharply in recent weeks, with government figures showing another 27,989 new cases on Thursday. That’s the highest level since the end of January.
Johnson says he is hopeful life will get back “as close to it was before COVID,” given the evidence showing vaccines are reducing deaths despite rising infections from the more contagious delta variant.
As of Thursday, 67% of the U.K. population has received at least one vaccine dose while 49% have had two. The daily virus-related death figures also remained relatively low at 22, increasing the confirmed death total to 128,162.
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden has come up well short on his goal of delivering 80 million doses of coronavirus vaccine to the rest of the world by the end of June.
The White House says logistical and regulatory hurdles have slowed the pace of U.S. vaccine diplomacy. The Biden administration had announced about 50 countries and entities would receive a share of the excess COVID-19 vaccine doses.
But an Associated Press tally shows the U.S. has shipped less than 24 million doses to 10 recipient countries. The White House says more will be sent in the coming days.
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Denmark is donating 2 million doses of AstraZeneca to Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo and North Macedonia plus an extra 1 million doses of the same vaccine to the COVAX program.
Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod says the Balkan nations were “experiencing a major vaccine shortage” and he was “glad that we can step in and assist our close partners with the absolutely crucial weapon against the pandemic, namely vaccines.”
Denmark’s Foreign Aid Minister Flemming Moeller says the donation to COVAX, which is an initiative to give countries access to coronavirus vaccines regardless of their wealth, was earmarked to countries in North Africa and Bhutan.
The Scandinavian country has donated AstraZeneca vaccines to Kenya and committed to give doses to Ukraine.
NEW YORK — The latest alarming coronavirus variant is exploiting low global vaccination rates and a rush to ease pandemic restrictions.
That’s adding new urgency to the drive to get more shots in arms and slow its supercharged spread. The vaccines most used in Western countries still appear to offer strong protection against the highly contagious delta variant. The mutation was first identified in India and now spreading in more than 90 other countries.
The World Health Organization warned this week that the trifecta of easier-to-spread strains, insufficiently immunized populations and a drop in mask use and other public health measures will delay the end of the pandemic.
The delta variant is positioned to take full advantage of those chinks in any country’s armor.
“Widespread vaccination remains even more critical, because the virus that we have circulating is in fact more transmissible than the original wild type,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Parts of Europe have reinstated travel quarantines, several Australian cities are in outbreak-sparked lockdowns — and just as Japan readies for the Tokyo Olympics, some visiting athletes are infected.
MOSCOW — Russian health authorities have launched booster coronavirus shots for those who had been immunized more than six months ago, amid a surge in new infections and deaths.
Moscow health authorities on Thursday started offering booster shots with the domestically produced, two-shot Sputnik V vaccine and its one-shot Sputnik Light version. Other Russian regions are also starting to offer booster shots.
The move comes as Russia has faced a surge in infections, with more than 20,000 new COVID-19 infections daily since last Thursday. That’s more than double the average in early June.
It recorded 672 deaths Thursday, the highest daily death toll since the start of the pandemic.
JAKARTA, Indonesia — Thousands of Indonesians have lined up at a sports stadium to receive a COVID-19 dose in a one-day, mass vaccination event.
At the stadium in Bekasi, outside Jakarta, local authorities aimed to vaccine 25,000 people. It’s part of a push to dramatically scale up the nation’s virus fight as hospitals fill with sick patients.
The event is part of an effort to administer 1 million doses per day in July and 2 million in August.
Meanwhile, President Joko Widodo announced new community restrictions and the mobilization of the National Police and other resources to combat the surging infections. The efforts follow a warning this week from the Red Cross that Indonesia is “on the edge of a COVID-19 catastrophe” and urgently needs to increase medical care, testing and vaccinations.
GENEVA — The World Health Organization says any coronavirus vaccines it has authorized for emergency use should be recognized by countries when they open their borders.
The move could challenge Western countries to broaden their acceptance of two Chinese vaccines, which the U.N. health agency has licensed but most European and North American countries have not.
In addition to vaccines authorized by Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, WHO has also given the green light to two Chinese vaccines made by Sinovac and Sinopharm.
In its aim to restore travel across Europe, the European Union said in May that it would only recognize people as vaccinated if they had received shots licensed by the European Medicines Agency, which doesn’t include the Chinese vaccines. However, it’s up to individual countries if they wish to allow entry to people who have received other vaccines, including Russia’s Sputnik V.
Although Western countries have largely relied on vaccines made in the U.S. and Europe, such as Pfizer and AstraZeneca, many developing countries have used the Chinese-made shots. This year, the head of China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention acknowledged the effectiveness of its home-grown shots was low and numerous countries that have used them extensively, including the Seychelles and Bahrain, have seen COVID-19 surges even with relatively high levels of immunization.
NAIROBI, Kenya — The African Union special envoy tasked with leading efforts to procure COVID-19 vaccines for the continent is blasting Europe as Africa struggles amid a crushing third wave of infections.
Strive Masiyiwa says “not one dose, not one vial, has left a European factory for Africa.”
Masiyiwa also took aim Thursday at the global COVAX effort to distribute vaccines to low-and middle-income countries, accusing COVAX of withholding crucial information including that key donors had not met funding pledges.
The African continent of 1.3 billion people is now in the grip of a third wave of infections the Africa CDC calls “extremely aggressive.”
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Malaysia will impose a curfew in most areas in Selangor and parts of Kuala Lumpur, where coronavirus cases remain high despite a national lockdown since June 1.
Defense Minister Ismail Sabri says the decision was made given the dense population and rising infectivity rate in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur, as well as the spread of more aggressive Covid-19 variants. Malaysia reported 6,988 new infections on Thursday, with Selangor and Kuala Lumpur accounting for nearly 60%.
Under the Enhance Movement Control Order starting Saturday for two weeks, Ismail says no one can leave home. He says only one person from a household can go out to buy groceries within a 10-kilometer radius, with a curfew after 8 p.m.
He says only essential services and factories producing food, medicines and masks can operate. Ismail says vaccinations will be intensified in the affected areas.
Daily cases nationwide have come down from a high of more than 9,000 at the end of May. However, they’ve climbed this week to above 6,000. Less than 10% of the nation’s 33 million people have been vaccinated.
BERLIN — A top German official says it was “absolutely irresponsible” of European soccer’s governing body to allow some 40,000 fans to watch England’s European Championship match against Germany at London’s Wembley Stadium.
The crowd for Tuesday’s second-round match, which England won 2-0, was the biggest in Britain since the pandemic began in March 2020. The event came as the more contagious delta variant is fueling a sharp rise in new COVID-19 cases in the U.K.
Asked about the capacity decision on Thursday, and about the prospect of more fans attending the final at Wembley, German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer replied: “I think this UEFA position is absolutely irresponsible.”
Seehofer, who is also responsible for sports, added: “I have the suspicion that this is about commerce again, and commerce must not outshine the protection of the population against infection.”
He appealed to UEFA “not to push this off on local health authorities — a sports association should say clearly, ’we don’t want it this way and we’re reducing the numbers of spectators.”