MADRID — With the number of new COVID-19 cases in Spain creeping higher, officials are urging people to prevent the pandemic from surging out of control by complying with restrictions on movements and gatherings over Easter.
Fernando Simón, who heads the country’s pandemic response, said he believed Spain can keep a lid on the slow but steady rise while a vaccination campaign continues, as long as people remain disciplined over the Easter break.
Spain reported an incidence rate of 149 cases per 100,000 people over 14 days. That’s up from 129 cases per 100,000 a week ago. That key pandemic indicator reached a peak of 900 at the end of January before dropping amid limits on travel and gatherings. This month the indicator levelled off and in recent days has started ticking higher.
THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
VACCINES: More than 93.6 million people, or 28.2% of the U.S. population, have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some 51.5 million people, or 15.5% of the population, have completed their vaccination.
CASES: The seven-day rolling average for daily new cases in the U.S. increased over the past two weeks from 53,670 on March 14 to 63,239 on Sunday, according to Johns Hopkins University.
DEATHS: The seven-day rolling average for daily new deaths in the U.S. decreased over the past two weeks decreased from 1,363 on March 14 to 969 on Sunday, according to Johns Hopkins University.
— Hungary first in European Union for vaccinations, and deaths
— ICU cases creep toward new peak in French virus surge
— AP Exclusive: Pandemic means far fewer eyes on kids’ welfare
— Merkel blames German ‘perfectionism’ for current virus woes
— AP Interview: Japan urges EU to ensure stable vaccine export
— Dear Normal: Were you really that great in the first place?
— Happy Monday: England embarks on major easing of lockdown
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. — Johnson & Johnson says it’s agreed to provide up to 400 million doses of its one-dose COVID-19 vaccine to African countries, starting this summer.
The drugmaker said under its agreement with the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust, the company will provide up to 220 million vaccine doses for the African Union’s 55 member countries, with delivery beginning in the July-to-September quarter. The trust will be able to order 180 million additional doses from J&J, for a total of up to 400 million shots through 2022.
The company’s vaccine still must receive authorization from regulators in the African countries, but the World Health Organization approved it for emergency use on March 12.
In late-stage testing, J&J’s vaccine prevented about 67% of symptomatic infections with the coronavirus and was 85% effective at preventing severe disease, beginning 28 days after vaccination.
WASHINGTON — CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky is making an impassioned plea to Americans not to let their guard down in the fight against COVID-19, warning of a potential “fourth wave” of the virus as cases in the U.S. rose 10% over the last week.
Speaking during a White House briefing, Walensky grew emotional as she reflected “on the recurring feeling I have of impending doom.”
She added: “We have so much to look forward to, so much promise and potential of where we are and so much reason for hope. But right now, I’m scared.”
Walensky appealed to elected officials, community leaders and everyday Americans to maintain social distancing measures and mask-wearing. She said, “Just please hold on a little while longer.”
She added: “We are not powerless, we can change this trajectory of the pandemic.”
BOSTON — Hotels in the Boston area were hit harder by the coronavirus pandemic than just about any other major U.S. city, and hospitality industry officials said the recovery could take years.
The Boston Globe reported that the occupancy rate in Boston and Cambridge fell to less than 26% last year, driving revenue per available room — the performance measure used in the industry — down more than 80%, according to the hotel consultant Pinnacle Advisory Group.
Only New York fared worse. The area’s hotels are projected to hit 42% occupancy this year, half of what it was in 2019, while hotel revenues aren’t expected to get back to pre-pandemic levels until 2025.
About 8,000 hotel employees in the area are still out of work. More than a dozen hotels in Boston and Cambridge remain closed, including the 1,200-room Sheraton Boston Hotel, the biggest property in the city.
RAMALLAH, West Bank — The Palestinian Authority received a shipment of 100,000 doses of Sinopharm vaccine donated by China.
Health Minister Mai al-Kaila said the Sinopharm vaccines that arrived in Ramallah will “greatly contribute to speeding up the community vaccination campaign.”
Earlier this month the PA received 62,000 coronavirus vaccine doses through a World Health Organization partnership designed to help poor countries. The PA has also received 2,000 doses from Israel and 10,000 doses of the Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine. Authorities in the Gaza Strip, which is ruled by the Islamic militant group Hamas, have received 60,000 doses from a political rival of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who is based in the United Arab Emirates.
Israel has come under international criticism for not sharing more of its vaccines with the Palestinians. Israel has said its priority was vaccinating its own citizens, but recently began vaccinating the estimated 100,000 Palestinians from the West Bank who work in Israel and Jewish settlements.
The PA has said it would secure its own supplies of vaccines.
WASHINGTON — The Biden administration is extending a federal moratorium on evictions of tenants who have fallen behind on rent during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention moved to continue the pandemic-related protection, which had been scheduled to expire on Wednesday. The moratorium is now extended through the end of June.
The moratorium, initially put in place last year, provides protection for renters out of concern that having families lose their homes and move into shelters or share crowded conditions with relatives or friends during a pandemic would further spread the highly contagious coronavirus.
To be eligible for protection, renters must earn $198,000 or less for couples filing jointly, or $99,000 for single filers; demonstrate that they’ve sought government help to pay the rent; declare that they can’t pay because of COVID-19 hardships; and affirm they are likely to become homeless if evicted.
INDIANAPOLIS — State health officials opened up COVID-19 vaccination eligibility to all Indiana residents 30 and older.
The Indiana Department of Health said the state’s latest vaccine expansion makes the vaccine available to more than 840,000 additional Hoosiers.
Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb had announced last week that the state would also open up vaccine eligibility for all residents 16 and older, starting Wednesday.
Indiana had previously limited eligibility to Hoosiers who are 40 and older, along with healthcare workers, long-term care residents, first responders and educators up to grade 12. Other school workers such as classroom aides, bus drivers and cafeteria workers are also eligible.
BERLIN — Germany’s medical regulator says it has received reports of 21 cases of rare blood clots in people who had recently received AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine.
The Paul Ehrlich Institute said in an email Monday to The Associated Press that seven people affected by the blood clots have died.
The incidence of an unusual form of blood clot in the head, known as sinus vein thrombosis, prompted several European countries to temporarily halt the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine earlier this month. After a review by medical experts. the European Union’s medical regulator EMA recommended that warnings about possible rare side effects should be added to the vaccine information provided for patients and doctors.
Most EU countries have since resumed use of the vaccine.
The Paul Ehrlich Institute said that of the 21 cases reported in Germany until March 25, 12 also involved an abnormally low level of platelets in the patients’ blood.
Of the 21 cases, 19 were in women ages 20 to 63, while two were in men ages 36 and 57.
During the period covered by the reports, some 2.27 million first doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine were administered in Germany.
WARSAW, Poland — Poland is transferring new COVID-19 patients from the region of Silesia to neighboring Opole amid a sharp rise in cases.
Health Ministry spokesman Wojciech Andrusiewicz said there was also increasing numbers of cases in the central Mazovia region that includes Warsaw, and in the south-central Kielce region, with more than 80% of beds taken.
A temporary hospital was to be opened Monday at the Pyrzowice Airport, in Silesia’s main city of Katowice.
The temporary hospital at Warsaw’s National Stadium is also ready to take in more patients and is urging better triage and logistics, said hospital director Artur Zaczynski. Reports speak of patients having to wait for long hours in ambulances to be admitted to COVID-19 hospitals. The Health Ministry said it was increasing the total number of COVID-19 beds by 3,000 this week, to around 39,000, while almost 30,000 of them were taken Monday.
SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina — Bosnia has set a record daily number of fatalities from COVID-19 as the Balkan nation struggles to contain a surge in infections.
Authorities on Monday said that 93 people have died in the past 24 hours after being infected with the new coronavirus, while 856 people tested positive.
Bosnia has reported among the highest death rates from the virus in the Balkans and wider Europe. This is partly because the country’s health system remains weak after the war in 1992-95. The country has recorded 6,220 deaths from the virus since the start of the pandemic in the country of 3.3 million.
Also on Monday, health authorities in the Serb-dominated part of Bosnia started mass vaccination at a sports hall in the northern town of Banja Luka of people who are older than 65.
LONDON — New official figures from Britain’s statistics agency show that among adults over age 70, all ethnic minority groups were less likely to have received the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine compared to white Britons.
Lawmaker Layla Moran, who chairs a parliamentary group on the coronavirus, said the figures were “deeply alarming” because research has shown that many ethnic minorities face a higher risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID-19.
More than 30 million people in the U.K. — or about 57% of all adults — have received a first vaccine dose. But concerns remain about lower vaccination uptakes and hesitancy to take the jab among some ethnic minority groups.
The Office for National Statistics said Monday the lowest rates were seen among people identifying as Black African, at 58.8% and Black Caribbean, at 68.7%. The vaccination rate among Bangladeshis was 72.7% and for Pakistanis it was 74%.
That is markedly lower than the rate among white British people in the same age group, which stood at 91.3%.
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lanka on Monday reopened all schools for the second term in the capital and its suburbs, after they remained closed for several months because of COVID-19.
Two weeks ago, education authorities permitted to open schools in all other parts except Colombo and surrounding areas where students of only three grades were allowed to attend classes.
Health officials delayed the opening of all the schools and grades in Colombo and its adjoining two districts, Gampaha and Kalutara, since most of the COVID-19 cases are being detected there.
Sri Lanka still faces the brunt of another surge of COVID-19 which erupted in October after two clusters — one centered in a garment factory and the other in a fish market — emerged in the capital Colombo and it’s suburbs.
BUDAPEST, Hungary — Hungary has vaccinated more of its population than any other country in the European Union, but continues to be among the world’s worst in the number of COVID-19 deaths per capita.
The Central European country has given at least a first dose of a vaccine to nearly 22% of its population, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
The EU average is 12.3%. But the high rate, a product of Hungary’s purchase of doses from China and Russia as well as from the EU, has been unable to slow a surge in the pandemic.