The Latest: UN reports 10% global drop in new virus cases
GENEVA — The World Health Organization reported that the global number of new coronavirus cases and deaths continued to fall in the past week, with an estimated 3.3 million new infections and about 55,000 deaths, marking a 10% drop in both.
In its regular assessment of the pandemic issued on Tuesday, the U.N. health agency said the biggest drops in new cases were seen in the Middle East, the Western Pacific and the Americas.
WHO first reported a substantial decrease in cases in mid-September at 4 million new cases, with declines seen in all areas of the world, the first time in more than two months that COVID-19 cases had fallen.
WHO said all regions reported more than a 15% decline in deaths, except for Europe, where the number of deaths was similar to the previous week and Africa, where there was about a 5% rise.
In Asia, the number of deaths dropped by nearly a quarter. WHO warned there would likely be more spikes of COVID-19 as the Northern Hemisphere enters winter. The disease spreads more easily during winter as people spend more time indoors. Social distancing restrictions also are being relaxed in many countries that have a relatively high level of vaccination.
MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:
— Zimbabwe’s vaccine mandates squeeze some of world’s poorest
— Misinformation leads to animosity toward Idaho’s health workers
— NBA releases protocols to basketball teams for virus safety this season
— U.S. employer vaccine mandates convert some workers, but not all
See all of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
TEL AVIV, Israel – Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett says his priority is keeping the nation’s economy open and increasing vaccinations among the country’s Arab minority as Israel copes with a wave of coronavirus infections.
Bennett made his comments Wednesday before returning to Israel from New York, where he addressed the United Nations General Assembly this week. Israeli media reported that some health officials who favor tigher restrictions were upset over parts of the speech, in which Bennett said that doctors alone cannot be in charge of coronavirus policy.
Bennett says he “respects” those advisers and values their work. But, he added, “imposing more and more sweeping restrictions on all citizens of the state of Israel is not the policy of the government.”
He said data shows dozens of communities in Israel that are coronavirus hotspots are Arab communities and more than 90% of people hospitalized in critical condition are unvaccinated. Therefore, “despite the pressures” from the medical community, “we will at this stage avoid sweeping restrictions on the entire population,” he said.
CANBERRA, Australia — The Australian government is ramping up pressure on state governments to end pandemic lockdowns by outlining plans to end financial aid.
The government says in a Wednesday statement that its payments to workers who lose hours due to lockdowns will end two weeks after a state or territory reaches its vaccination benchmark. That benchmark is 80% of residents ages 16 and older being fully inoculated with a double dose of AstraZeneca, Pfizer or Moderna.
State and territory leaders agreed in July that lockdowns would no longer be necessary after that level was achieved. But with the delta variant outbreak worsening in Sydney and Melbourne, some leaders have suggested they may maintain restrictions until 90% are fully vaccinated.
Australia’s government reported Tuesday that less than 53% of the population is fully vaccinated.
WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand is reporting 45 new local cases of the coronavirus, the most in nearly a month as an outbreak in Auckland continues to grow.
Auckland remains under lockdown although officials have eased some restrictions since the outbreak began last month.
COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said Wednesday that people need to keep steady as officials continue efforts to tamp down the outbreak.
Officials say some of the cases have been spreading among homeless people living in transitional housing, a group that may be more reluctant than most to seek health services.
About 64% of New Zealanders have had at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine.
BOISE, Idaho — Health care workers in Idaho say they are facing increased animosity from some patients and community members, and they blame misinformation about the pandemic and coronavirus vaccines.
Officials at Kootenai Health in Coeur d’Alene, for instance, say some nurses are scared to go to the grocery store unless they have changed out of scrubs because they get accosted by angry people.
The Idaho Hospital Association says similar instances are happening across the state. State health officials say the state will help hospitals boost security if needed.
Some state lawmakers, political groups and local leaders have been dismissive of coronavirus vaccines, pushed the use of an anti-parasitic drug to treat COVID-19 and claimed that coronavirus case numbers are being inflated.
LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he’ll appoint a chair this year to the planned public inquiry into the coronavirus pandemic and bereaved families will have a role in the proceedings.
The COVID-19 Bereaved Families for Justice, which has around 4,000 members, have been calling for a public inquiry into the government’s handling of the pandemic so lessons can be learned to limit future virus-related deaths. It has criticized Johnson and his Conservative government for a lack of protective gear for health workers, delaying lockdowns and a too-lax travel policy.
Johnson confirmed in May a public inquiry will start to hear evidence next year. However, the group says, “we see no reason why preparations for the inquiry cannot begin now, particularly as nearly 1,000 people are still losing their lives each week.”
The U.K. registered 167 virus-related deaths on Tuesday. Britain has Europe’s second-highest pandemic death toll after Russia, with nearly 136,500 confirmed dead.
WASHINGTON — More than 400,000 Americans got Pfizer booster shots last weekend through local pharmacies in the opening days of the U.S effort to provide more protection for vulnerable populations.
White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients says an additional 1 million people have scheduled booster shots for the coming weeks. He adds: “We’re off to a very strong start with the booster campaign.”
As many as 25 million people qualify for the third dose of the Pfizer shot, which was authorized last week for those 65 or older, those with pre-existing conditions or facing an elevated risk at their workplace.
U.S. officials say their primary focus is ensuring the roughly 25% of eligible Americans who have yet to get their first shot do so.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, says a major priority is the vaccination rate among pregnant women, which stands at 30% nationally and at 15% among Black pregnant women. She encouraged them to seek out vaccinations, saying data shows they’re safe for mother and baby and can prevent needless illness or death.
PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron has announced psychology appointments in France will be funded by the government starting next year.
State health care systems in Britain, Germany and some other countries already fund therapy sessions. French health professionals say a national effort to improve access is long overdue, especially as the coronavirus pandemic has caused and aggravated psychological distress.
Macron acknowledged both the psychological impact of government virus restrictions and past government failures to make mental health a priority during a conference with mental health professionals on Tuesday. He described a spike in the number of children seeking psychological treatment and in attempted suicides, notably among teenagers.
The French government announced free therapy sessions for children and young people earlier this year, and on Tuesday pledged to extend it to everyone. Psychiatric treatment is already largely reimbursed by the state.
NEW YORK — Businesses with vaccine mandates say some workers who’ve been on the fence have gotten inoculated against COVID-19, with some holdouts.
Meanwhile, coronavirus cases are surging in the U.S. The seven-day average COVID-19 deaths climbed above 2,000 last week for the first time since March.
Even before President Joe Biden’s announcement on Sept. 9 that companies with more than 100 workers would have to require vaccinations, dozens of companies, including Amtrak, Microsoft, United Airlines and Disney, issued ultimatums to most workers.
United Airlines said 97% of its workers have been vaccinated even before its deadline took effect Monday. Alternatives for those employees include weekly testing, working remotely or away from other staff, or ultimately, termination.
Some bigger companies that require in-office workers be vaccinated now or in coming weeks include Google, McDonald’s (U.S.-based office workers), and Goldman Sachs, among others.
Biden wants to boost the vaccination rate in the U.S., where about 77% of American adults have had one dose of the vaccine, according to the CDC.