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The Latest: Britain's Johnson OKs 2nd vaccine dose sooner

The Canadian Press logo The Canadian Press 2021-05-14
a group of people riding on the back of a bicycle © Provided by The Canadian Press

LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says second doses of coronavirus vaccines will be accelerated in response to the rise of the virus variant first identified in India.

Johnson says people over age 50 can receive their second COVID-19 shot eight weeks after their first, rather than the previous 12 weeks. Current vaccines are expected to be effective against the virus variant known as B.1.617.2.

“I believe we should trust in our vaccines to protect the public whilst monitoring the situation as it develops very closely, because the race between our vaccination program and the virus may be about to become a great deal tighter,” Johnson said. ”And it’s more important than ever, therefore, that people get the additional protection of a second dose.”

On Monday, Britain will ease lockdown measures for pubs and restaurants. Johnson couldn’t say “for sure” whether the final easing of all measures on June 21 will go ahead as planned.

Scottish authorities say Glasgow and the island of Moray won’t engage in the reopening on Monday because of higher infection levels.

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THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— States, business sort out what new CDC mask guidance means

— Delta Airlines will require new hires get vaccinated against virus

— UK jubilant as lockdown restrictions to be lifted next week

— Disney CEO says more people allowed into parks

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— Follow more of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

CINCINNATI — National grocery store chain Kroger says it will continue to require masks in its stores.

The Cincinnati-based company operates some 2,760 stores nationwide, including under other banners such as Ralphs, Dillons, Fry’s and King Soopers.

Spokesperson Sheila Regehr says in an email: “As we have throughout the pandemic, we are reviewing current safety practices, the CDC’s latest guidance, and soliciting feedback from associates to guide the next phase of our policy.” Kroger offers its workers $100 to get vaccinated.

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ATLANTA — Delta Air Lines will require new employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 starting on Monday.

The airline won’t impose the same requirement on current employees, of whom more than 60% are vaccinated, a spokesman said Friday. The airline says the policy for new hires is designed to protect other employees and passengers as travel demand recovers from last year’s pandemic low levels.

Meanwhile, some airline stocks rose after the CDC’s new guidance for people who are fully vaccinated. United Airlines was up 4% in early Friday trading, and other U.S. airlines rose by smaller amounts.

The federal requirement for wearing face masks on planes remains in place. A spokesman for trade group Airlines for America says carriers will continue to enforce the rule.

The Transportation Security Administration announced 1.74 million people passed through U.S. airports on Thursday, a new pandemic-era high. However, those airport crowds were still 33% smaller than on the comparable day in 2019.

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BERLIN — Germany is putting the Britain back on a list of “risk areas” because of the emergence there of cases of a coronavirus variant first detected in India.

Britain currently has a lower rate of coronavirus infections than Germany. But Germany’s disease control center, the Robert Koch Institute, says the United Kingdom is going back on the list effective Sunday because of “the at least limited appearance” of the variant known as B.1.617.2.

The institute says Spain’s Canary Islands, a popular tourist destination, and the Spanish exclave of Ceuta in North Africa were being removed from the list of “risk areas,” the lowest of three levels of risk classification.

Under new rules this week, fully vaccinated people don’t need a test to enter Germany or to go into quarantine -- unless they’re coming from somewhere designated as a “virus variant area” such as India or Brazil. Others coming from a “risk area” can avoid a mandatory 10-day quarantine by showing a negative test result.

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BOSTON — Neither Massachusetts nor Rhode Island made any immediate changes to their mask regulations after the CDC’s decision Thursday suggesting fully vaccinated Americans no longer need to wear masks or practice social distancing in most settings.

A spokesperson for Republican Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said he “welcomes the new CDC guidance and will be updating Massachusetts’ COVID restrictions in the near future. In the meantime, the current mask order remains in place.” Massachusetts requires people to cover their faces while in indoor public places and outdoors if they are unable to maintain 6 feet of distance from others.


Video: Coronavirus: Canada approves single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine (Global News)

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“We are going to review the CDC’s updated guidance on social distancing and masking and determine what the best approach is for Rhode Island,” state Health Department spokesperson Joseph Wendelken said.

Currently, the state requires people to wear masks in indoor public places, and outdoors when within 3 feet of others not in their immediate circle.

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LONDON — Britain is saying goodbye to months of tough lockdown restrictions, thanks to an effective vaccine rollout program.

Starting Monday, all restaurants, bars and museums can largely reopen, and people can socialize indoors. It’s the biggest step yet to reopen the country following a sharp drop in new infections and deaths.

Many credit Britain’s universal public health system for getting hundreds of thousands vaccinated every day. Experts say that infrastructure was key, helped by the government’s early start in securing vaccine doses and its decision to delay the second dose.

Almost 38 million people, approximately 68% of the adult population, have received their first dose. Almost 19 million have had both doses. Experts say the National Health Service can target the population and easily identify those most at risk because almost everyone is registered with a local general practitioner.

Deaths in Britain have come down to single digits in recent days. In January, there were up to 1,477 deaths a day amid a second wave driven by a more infectious variant first found in Kent, in southeastern England.

New cases have plummeted to an average of 2,000 a day, compared with nearly 70,000 a day during the winter.

However, Prime Minister Boris Johnson expressed concerned this week about a resurgence because of variants of the virus, including one from India. Britain has totaled nearly 128,000 confirmed deaths, the highest toll in Europe.

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WARSAW, Poland — Restaurants, bars and pubs in Poland plan to open their doors to dine-in customers for the first time in seven months on Saturday.

That means many business owners will open to customers at midnight between Friday and Saturday, expecting many people will rush to enjoy a night on the town.

Pandemic restrictions limited restaurants, cafes and other establishments to offering only take-away food and drinks since last fall. Not all of them have financially survived.

More restaurants in Warsaw are creating outdoor seating while ensuring that physical distancing can be maintained between tables.

Vaccinations are finally picking up in Poland as the numbers of new infections and hospitalizations have decreased in recent weeks.

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MOBILE, Ala. — A Carnival cruise ship was arriving in Mobile, Alabama, on Friday so crew members can get vaccinated against COVID-19.

The Carnival Sensation will dock at the Mobile Cruise Terminal, where staff members from USA Health will go on board to provide first doses for 110 crew members, the city announced. The ship will return in three weeks for second doses.

U.S. ports are closed to cruise lines because of the global pandemic, but Mayor Sandy Stimpson says such vaccinations are a major step toward getting the industry back in business.

Carnival says crew members have received vaccines at other ports, including Miami and Port Canaveral in Florida and Galveston, Texas.

Sensation will be based in Mobile, offering trips to the western Caribbean, once cruises resume. But it’s unclear when that will happen.

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TOKYO — Japan is further expanding a coronavirus state of emergency to three additional areas ahead of the Tokyo Olympics.

The state of emergency is currently in Tokyo and five other prefectures. The additions include Japan’s northern island state of Hokkaido, where the Olympic marathon will be held, as well as Hiroshima and Okayama in western Japan.

Bars, karaoke parlors and most entertainment facilities are required to close. Business owners who comply will be compensated; those who don’t could face fines.

The expansion of the state of emergency is a major shift from the government’s initial plan that relied on less stringent measures. Japan has been struggling to slow coronavirus infections ahead of the postponed Olympics, which are scheduled to start July 23.

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BERLIN — Germany’s coronavirus infection rate has dropped to its lowest level in nearly two months.

Meanwhile, the health minister says the country had the most successful day yet of its vaccination campaign this week. Still, he called for caution as authorities move toward allowing a more normal life. He urged officials to hold off on fully reopening restaurants and called for Germans to carefully choose vacation destinations.

The national disease control center says the number of weekly new cases per 100,000 inhabitants stood at 96.5 — the first time since March 20 it has been lower than 100.

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COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — The World Bank says it signed an agreement with Sri Lanka to provide $80.5 million to help the island nation’s vaccination drive against COVID-19.

The funding comes as Sri Lanka is facing a severe shortage of vaccines because of the current crisis in neighboring India, which had promised to give the vaccines to Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka began it’s vaccination drive on Jan. 29. In the first round, 925,242 people were vaccinated using Oxford-AstraZeneca shots.

Currently, Sri Lanka’s health ministry has about 350,000 doses of AstraZeneca. It has a shortage of 600,000 doses to complete administering second doses. Sri Lanka is currently using 600,000 doses of Sinopharm vaccine and 15,000 of Sputnik V to give a first dose.

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ROME — Italy has relaxed its coronavirus quarantine requirement for visitors from the European Union, Israel and Britain in a bid to jump-start its pandemic-devastated tourism industry heading into the peak season.

Health Minister Roberto Speranza signed an ordinance Friday allowing the quarantine-free visits with proof of a negative virus test starting Sunday.

Italy had imposed the five-day quarantine on EU travelers to deter visitors over the Easter holiday and to discourage Italians from taking advantage of a loophole that made it easier to travel abroad than from Rome to Milan.

Speranza also announced expanded airport testing services for quarantine-free flights coming into Italy from Canada, Japan and the United Arab Emirates. Currently airports in Rome and Milan provide the rapid test services for some flights from the U.S.; the new ordinance expands the service to airports in Venice and Naples.

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NICOSIA, Cyprus — Cyprus’ health minister says nightclubs are scheduled to reopen June 10 as the tourism-reliant country aims to lure vacationers and reinvigorate the beleaguered economy.

Constantinos Ioannou says a strict, two-week lockdown coupled with the country’s hastened vaccination pace has produced a noticeable drop in the coronavirus infection rate and a decrease in the number of hospitalized patients.

Ioannou says the positive results have allowed the government to further loosen up remaining restrictions including shortening a nighttime curfew from six hours to five.

A vaccination certificate, a negative test taken in the previous 72 hours or proof of convalescence from COVID-19 are still required to enter indoor areas where people gather in numbers, including shopping malls, theaters and cinemas.

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The Associated Press

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