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The Latest: Bosnia sets record for daily COVID-19 deaths

By The Associated Press
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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.

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THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— 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

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— Follow 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 — 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%.

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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.

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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.

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GREEN BAY, Wisconsin — Dozens of high schools in the U.S. state of Wisconsin are playing football this spring after opting out of the fall season because of the coronavirus pandemic.

According to the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association, about 250 high schools played football last fall, but more than 100 schools are playing this spring, including about 50 games this past weekend.

The association’s deputy director, Wade Labecki, said teams will play seven games during the alternate spring season. There’s no postseason since football is set to start again in the fall, Wisconsin Public Radio reports.

At Notre Dame Academy in Green Bay, head coach Mike Rader said there are some logistical challenges with playing football in the spring. His football squad will have to start sharing its turf with the soccer and lacrosse teams.

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ISLAMABAD — Pakistani authorities on Monday imposed a partial lockdown in several more high-risk areas in the capital, Islamabad, and elsewhere in the country after the positivity rate from coronavirus infections jumped to over 11%.

Pakistan is facing another surge in coronavirus infections which officials say is worse than last year’s outbreak when Pakistan had to impose a nationwide lockdown.

On Monday, authorities in the eastern Punjab province also announced a two-week long partial lockdown in high-risk cities from April 1 in an effort aimed at containing the spread of the virus.

So far, Pakistan’s government has avoided a nationwide lockdown to spare the country’s ailing economy from more damage.

On Monday, Pakistan reported 41 additional deaths and 4,525 coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours.

Pakistan has reported 659,116 cases in total, and 14,256 deaths, since last year.

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PARIS — The number of patients in intensive care units in France is fast approaching a new peak.

The French government count of COVID-19 patients in ICUs and hospital surveillance units climbed to 4,872 on Sunday night. That is just short of the last peak of 4,919 ICU cases on Nov. 16, when France was also gripped by a virus surge and was locked down in response.

The inexorable latest climb in ICU cases is again putting pressure on doctors, who are sounding the alarm that they may have to start turning patients away for ICU care.

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LISBON, Portugal — Portugal is tightening its flight restrictions due to COVID-19, introducing stricter limits on arrivals from other European Union countries where the pandemic has worsened.

The Interior Ministry announced Monday that people arriving from countries with an incidence rate of more than 500 per 100,000 population over 14 days must quarantine for two weeks and can only come on essential business.

That measure covers 11 EU countries, including France and Italy.

For another 15 EU countries with a case rate of more than 150 per 100,000, only essential travel is permitted to Portugal. Those countries include Germany and the Netherlands.

All arriving passengers must show a negative PCR test from the previous 24 hours.

Flights to and from the U.K. and Brazil remain prohibited except for repatriation flights.

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BELGRADE, Serbia — Officials say around 22,000 foreign citizens have received coronavirus vaccine shots in Serbia over the weekend after authorities offered free jabs to anyone who showed up.

The vaccine seekers from neighboring Bosnia, North Macedonia, Montenegro and even Albania and Croatia received AstraZeneca shots at two vaccination centers in the Serbian capital, Belgrade.

Most of Serbia’s Balkan neighbors have been struggling with shortages and have barely started mass vaccination drives, while Serbia boasts of having ample supplies and one of Europe’s highest per capita vaccination rates.

Critics of populist Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic contend he is trying to spread his influence in the Balkans and to polish the ultranationalist image he acquired during Yugoslavia’s bloody breakup in the 1990s.

Serbian officials have denied that the invitation for vaccination of foreigners was politically motivated.

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TOKYO — The government minister tasked with overseeing Japan’s coronavirus vaccination campaign has urged the European Union to ensure stable exports of European-made vaccines, warning that any attempt to suspend shipments amid a shortage in Europe would harm relations.

Vaccine Minister Taro Kono’s comments in an interview with The Associated Press come as it looks increasingly uncertain that Japan will be able to source the number of vaccine doses it wanted before hosting the Olympics in four months.

Japan’s domestic vaccine development has lagged behind other nations, leaving it reliant on imports. But sourcing enough imported vaccines is a major concern because of supply shortages and export red tape in Europe, where many are manufactured.

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LONDON — England is embarking on a major easing of its latest coronavirus lockdown that came into force at the start of the year, with families and friends able to meet up in outdoor spaces and many sports permitted once again.

Under Monday’s easing, groups of up to six, or two households, can socialize in parks and gardens once more, while outdoor sports facilities can reopen after the stark stay-at-home order, which has seen new coronavirus cases fall dramatically over the past three months, ended.

After months of being cooped up at home, many are relishing the prospect of being able to to enjoy their outdoor sport of choice. Organized team sports, such as children’s football clubs, can start up, too.

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BERLIN — German Chancellor Angela Merkel has blamed her country’s difficulties during the coronavirus pandemic on “a tendency toward perfectionism.” In a lengthy television interview late Sunday she called for greater flexibility to tackle the latest surge in cases.

Merkel acknowledged on public broadcaster ARD that mistakes were made by her government, including on plans for an Easter lockdown.

The longtime leader also expressed frustration over the actions of some of Germany’s state governors, including members of her own party, who have resisted tougher restrictions they had previously agreed to. But Merkel said she stands by her pledge to offer every adult a vaccine by the end of the summer and insisted Germany still compares well with most of its neighboring countries.

—-

LANSFORD, Pennsylvania — An Associated Press analysis has found that reports of child abuse plummeted during the coronavirus pandemic, as children are out of the public eye and away from usual reporters of welfare problems.

The AP analyzed more than a dozen indicators in 36 states. The findings reveal how the pandemic has ripped away systemic safety nets and showed signs in various states that officials are dealing with more urgent cases. AP found that child abuse reports, investigations, substantiated allegations and interventions dropped.

More than 400,000 fewer child-welfare concerns were reported during the pandemic compared with the same time period of 2019. There were 200,000 fewer child abuse and neglect investigations and assessments. That’s a national total decrease of 18% in each category.

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MANILA, Philippines — Philippine officials placed Metropolitan Manila and four outlying provinces, a region of more than 25 million people, back to a lockdown Monday at the height of the Lenten and Easter holiday travel season as they scrambled to control an alarming surge in coronavirus infections. Only workers, government security and health personnel and residents on urgent errands would be allowed out of homes during the weeklong restrictions, which prohibited leisure trips and religious gatherings that forced the dominant Roman Catholic church to shift all its Holy Week and Easter activities online. The renewed lockdown brought President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration under fire for what critics say was its failed handling of the pandemic.

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BRISBANE, Australia — Australia’s third-largest city Brisbane will enter a three-day lockdown Monday evening after the coronavirus was found spreading in the community.

Queensland State Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk told reporters that health authorities had identified four new cases of community transmission overnight and the lockdown was necessary for them to get on top of contact tracing.

Australia has so far been largely successful in stamping out the spread of the virus. However, vaccination efforts have only just begun with less than 1% of the nation’s population vaccinated.

Authorities are requiring people in Brisbane to stay home except for essential purposes and to wear masks. Brisbane, the capital of Queensland state, is home to more than 2.5 million people.

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