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Monday April 19th, 2021 9:27AM

The Latest: Serbia welcomes AstraZeneca vaccine shipment

By The Associated Press
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BELGRADE, Serbia — Serbia has received a first shipment of 150,000 AstraZeneca vaccines, adding to the three other vaccines already in use.

The Balkan nation of 7 million has administered more than 1 million doses so far, which is among the top results in Europe. Most Serb citizens have received Chinese Sinopharm vaccines, followed by Pfizer-BioNTech and Russia’s Sputnik V.

President Aleksandar Vucic on Sunday was at the airport to welcome the AstraZeneca shipment from India. He said more than 750,000 people have received the first shot and expressed hope that vaccinations will continue at current pace.

Health authorities, meanwhile, threatened toughen anti-virus measures following a spike in daily new cases and hospitalizations.

Epidemiologists say that's due to nightclubs and cafes flouting virus restrictions and because Serbia’s ski resorts worked at full capacity all winter.

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THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— Britain speeds up vaccination plan; all adults to get 1st jab by July 31

— What’s safe after a COVID-19 vaccination? Don’t take the masks off yet, scientists say

— Governors Andrew Cuomo of New York and Gavin Newsom of California are embroiled in political woes from the pandemic

— Airlines plan to ask passengers for contact-tracing details

— With no crowds during a coronavirus lockdown, the Louvre in Paris is using the down time to refurbish

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Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic, https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

LONDON — The British government says it aims to give every adult in the country a first dose of coronavirus vaccine by July 31, a month earlier than its previous target.

The goal is for everyone over 50 or with an underlying health condition to get a shot by April 15, rather than the previous target of May 1.

The makers of the two vaccines Britain is using, Pfizer and AstraZeneca, have both experienced supply problems in Europe. But U.K. Health Secretary Matt Hancock said Sunday that “we now think that we have the supplies” to speed up the vaccination campaign.

More than 17.2 million people have been given the first of two doses of vaccine since the U.K. inoculation campaign began on Dec. 8.

The news comes as Prime Minister Boris Johnson meets with senior ministers Sunday to finalize a “road map” out of that national lockdown that is due to be announced on Monday.

Britain has had more than 120,000 coronavirus deaths, the highest toll in Europe.

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AUSTIN, Texas -- The number of deaths in Texas due to coronavirus increased by more than 200 on Saturday while the number of people hospitalized with the virus declined, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.

There were an additional 227 COVID-19 deaths, more than 4,900 new cases and 7,535 hospitalizations, a decline of 222 people hospitalized, the department reported.

Texas has had more than 2.5 million coronavirus cases since the pandemic began, and more than 42,000 deaths due to COVID-19, the third highest death count in the United States, according to Johns Hopkins University.

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LOS ANGELES -- A skateboarding world champion is among five people prosecutors in Southern California have charged with organizing parties that were possible superspreader events amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Los Angeles Times reports Nyjah Huston, a four-time world skateboarding champion, and Edward Essa, the owner of a home in the Fairfax District, held a party last month with at least 40 people that was shut down by police after receiving a complaint.

Huston and Essa were both charged with creating a nuisance, a misdemeanor.

Neither could be reached for comment.

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JERUSALEM -- Israel has unveiled a plan to allow people who have been vaccinated against the coronavirus to attend cultural events, fly abroad and go to health clubs and restaurants.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced the plan at a news conference on Saturday night, saying those who have been vaccinated will be able to download the “green badge” in the coming days.

“The green badge is gradually opening up the country,” Netanyahu said.

Israel has conducted the world’s speediest vaccine campaign over the past month and a half, inoculating nearly half of its 9.3 million people. But with the coronavirus still spreading rapidly among the unvaccinated, the country only recently began emerging from a two-month lockdown.

On Sunday, retail stores, shopping malls, gyms, some middle school grades and other public services for limited crowd sizes are set to start back up.

Netanyahu said the government could not keep unvaccinated residents from places like medical clinics, pharmacies and supermarkets. But he said other services would be allowed only for those who have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Israel’s main international airport, for instance, remains closed to nearly all air traffic because of concerns of foreign variants of the virus entering the country.

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PODGORICA, Montenegro — Tiny Montenegro has launched vaccinations against the coronavirus with doses of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccines that were donated by neighboring Serbia.

Health authorities said the first person to receive a shot on Saturday was a 66-year-old resident of a care home in the coastal town of Risan. Two doctors working at the same nursing home came next.

A nation of some 620,000 people, Montenegro has reported more than 70,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 939 known deaths.

Montenegrin authorities say they plan to acquire supplies of China’s Sinopharm vaccine and the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

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MEXICO CITY — The official leading Mexico’s response to the pandemic says he has tested positive for the coronavirus.

Assistant Health Secretary Hugo López-Gatell tweeted Saturday that he had light COVID-19 symptoms on Friday night and an antigen test came out positive. He was awaiting the results of a PCR test, which takes longer to process and is generally more accurate..

“I’ll be working from home,’’ López-Gatell said, adding that he was involved in Mexico’s vaccination program.

Some 200,000 doses of China’s Sinovac vaccine arrived in Mexico from Hong Kong on Saturday. A total of 10 million Sinovac vaccines are expected.

Mexico has approved several other coronavirus vaccines and has administered 1.5 million shots so far.

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HONOLULU -- The Hawaii Department of Health says it has temporarily extended the window incoming travelers have to get a pre-arrival coronavirus test that comes back negative.

The state says travelers can now take the tests up to 96 hours before their scheduled flights instead of 72 hours because of winter storms that have ravaged the continental U.S.

The tests still have to be conducted by a state-approved provider. Hawaii News Now reports the extension will be in effect through Sunday.

Alternatively, visitors can quarantine for 10 days after arriving in Hawaii.

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- Alaska public health officials say 3,000 doses of the coronavirus vaccine will arrive later than expected because of a winter storm that has ravaged the continental U.S.

The state’s immunization program manager, Matt Bobo, said some vaccine appointments may be postponed until next week. The doses were supposed to reach 21 different providers.

State officials say they have been communicating with officials at the White House and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control about the delay.

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PHOENIX -- Enrollment at U.S. community colleges dropped 10% from fall 2019 to fall 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic.

That’s according to The National Student Clearinghouse, which says community colleges were hit the hardest among all types of colleges in terms of enrollment drops.

Four-year universities in the U.S. fared better than many had expected, seeing only slight enrollment decreases.

There are myriad reasons for the community college downturn. Fewer freshmen are enrolling and some are delaying college until campuses fully reopen. But the pandemic has also taken a heavy toll on older adult students. Many lost jobs or have no time for their own schooling as they supervise their children’s online classes.

More Americans typically turn to community college education amid economic downturns, seeking to learn new job skills or change careers. But education experts say the pandemic seems to have upended usual trends.

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PHOENIX — Arizona's Maricopa County plans to close two of its six regional COVID-19 vaccination sites in coming weeks as public health officials put increased emphasis on smaller sites and events to give more shots.

The county’s site in north Phoenix, operated by Honor Health, will last operate on Feb. 28. and the site run by Dignity Health in Chandler will close in early March.

Officials say current appointments will be honored at both locations. Arizona on Saturday reported 2,047 additional confirmed COVID-19 cases and 59 deaths, increasing the state’s pandemic totals to 806,163 cases and 15,480 deaths.

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LONDON - The British government has announced a small step out of lockdown -- allowing nursing home residents to have a single friend or family member visit them indoors.

Residents and their visitors will be able to hold hands, but not hug. The change takes effect March 8. For months, nursing home residents have only been able to see loved ones outdoors or through screens.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he will announce a “road map” out of lockdown on Monday. The government has stressed that reopening will be slow and cautious, with store reopenings or outdoor socializing unlikely before April, though children will go back to school from March 8.

Johnson’s Conservative government has been accused of reopening the country too quickly after the first lockdown in the spring. Britain has had about 120,000 coronavirus deaths, the highest toll in Europe.

The new measures apply in England. In other parts of the U.K., nursing home visiting rules vary, with Scottish residents able to have two visitors from March 8.

—-

PORTLAND, Oregon — Despite historic winter weather across the country causing shipment delays and forcing mass vaccination sites to reschedule appointments, Oregon health officials say the state’s vaccination timeline is still on schedule.

While more than 10,000 vaccine appointments were canceled last week, beginning Monday people 70 and older will be eligible to receive doses of vaccine and people 65 and older will be eligible March 1.

During the past week, Oregon averaged more than 14,000 vaccinations per day. As of Thursday, 12% of the state’s population has been vaccinated with first doses and 5% of residents have been fully vaccinated.

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HELSINKI — Denmark has temporarily closed some border crossing points with Germany and stepped up checks at others due to a spike in COVID-19 cases and a rise in virus variants in the the northern German town of Flensburg, just off the Danish border.

The Danish justice ministry said late Friday that an increasing number of infections and virus mutations have been detected in Flensburg, just some seven kilometers (4 miles) from the border with Denmark.

The Danish justice ministry said officials police will significantly intensify border controls at the Danish-German border. Local authorities in Germany said Saturday on Flensburg’s webpage that the town’s coronavirus incidence rate was running at 193 per 100,000 people.

Dozens of cases of mutated coronavirus, mostly the variant first detected in Britain, have been detected in Flensburg, a town with some 90,000 inhabitants, in the past days.

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UNITED NATIONS — Britain has circulated a draft resolution to the U.N. Security Council demanding that all warring parties immediately institute a “sustained humanitarian pause” to enable people in conflict areas to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

The proposed resolution reiterates the council’s demand last July 1 for “a general and immediate cessation of hostilities” in major conflicts from Syria and Yemen to Central African Republic, Mali and Sudan and Somalia, an appeal first made by U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on March 23, 2020, to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

The draft, obtained Friday by The Associated Press, “emphasizes the need for solidarity, equity, and efficacy and invites donation of vaccine doses from developed economies to low- and middle-income countries and other countries in need, including through the COVAX Facility,” an ambitious World Health Organization project to buy and deliver coronavirus vaccines for the world’s poorest people.

The British draft stresses that “equitable access to affordable COVID-19 vaccines, certified as safe and efficacious, is essential to end the pandemic.”

It would recognize “the role of extensive immunization against COVID-19 as a global public good for health in preventing, containing, and stopping transmission, in order to bring the pandemic to an end.”

The draft follows up on British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab’s appeal to the 15-member Security Council on Wednesday to adopt a resolution calling for local cease-fires in conflict zones to allow the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines.

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LOS ANGELES -- The University of Southern California expects to reopen campuses this fall, joining the state’s major public universities in planning to resume on-campus life curtailed by COVID-19.

USC President Carol Folt issued an online letter Friday that said she is “cautiously optimistic” because virus cases are down and vaccinations are ramping up. USC and other universities nationwide were forced to switch to online learning last March.

Both the University of California and California State University systems also have said they plan to reopen their campuses this fall if conditions permit.

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