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Monday May 17th, 2021 8:38PM

The Latest: White House adapts Easter tradition to pandemic

By The Associated Press
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WASHINGTON — The White House was forced to scratch the annual White House Easter Egg Roll for the second straight year due to the coronavirus pandemic, but that didn’t stop President Joe Biden from giving a nod to the tradition.

The president on Monday delivered brief remarks from the White House to mark the holiday with his wife, Jill Biden, and the Easter Bunny by his side. The mythical creature was played by the president’s military aide, Air Force Lt. Col. Brandon Westling.

“We look forward to next year when the White House will ring with joy the season once again and there will be an Easter Egg Roll again, God willing,” Biden said.

The event, typically held the day after Easter, usually brings 30,000 children and parents to the White House grounds. This year the Bidens had to settle for sending out thousands of 2021 commemorative Easter Egg Roll eggs to vaccination sites and local hospitals.

President Rutherford B. Hayes started the White House egg roll tradition in 1878. There have been a few other times when the event was either moved off the White House grounds or canceled.

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THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— A pandemic year in the life of seven New Yorkers

— Greece reopens stores despite virus surge

— India’s daily virus cases soar past 100,000 for first time

— Polish hospitals struggle with surge of virus patients

— China sees rise in coronavirus cases in city near Myanmar border

— Christians observe second Easter shaped by pandemic

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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:

MADRID — Spain’s coronavirus contagion rate and hospitalizations are gathering speed, but a top health official says the latest data may not be showing the full picture because of limited testing over the Easter holiday period.

Fernando Simón, who heads Spain’s response to the pandemic, said Monday that keeping contagion at bay is key now that Spain is receiving more supplies of virus vaccines. Over 1.2 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine that Spain uses for immunizing the elderly were distributed to regional officials on Monday.

Simón said that 14% of Spain’s 47-million-strong population had received at least one dose of the jab.

The 14-day cumulative incidence — a key contagion metric monitored by experts and policymakers — increased to 163 cases per 100,000 from 151 on Thursday, the first day of bank holidays over the Easter period.

Spain has recorded 3.3 million coronavirus cases and at least 75,783 deaths for COVID-19 since the beginning of outbreaks in early 2020, 85 of them reported on Monday.

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WASHINGTON — A top U.S. public health official says young people are driving the latest uptick in COVID-19 cases, as the increasing rate of vaccination in older Americans is preventing the most serious cases among seniors.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said during a briefing Monday that “cases are increasing nationally, and we are seeing this occur predominately in younger adults.”

She cites the increasing spread of variants, but also a rise in youth sports and extracurricular activities as contributing to the steady increase in cases over the last four weeks.

But Walensky pointed to positive developments among the most vulnerable age group, saying senior citizens’ virus deaths have reached their lowest levels since the early fall. Greater than 75% of those aged 65 or older nationally have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and nearly 55% are fully vaccinated.

“What we’re seeing is both a decrease in emergency department visits as well as hospitalizations associated with that demographic,” Walensky said.

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SKOPJE, North Macedonia — North Macedonia is tightening pandemic restrictions until April 20, as its hospitals fill up following a record high of new COVID-19 infections and deaths last week.

Prime Minister Zoran Zaev says the nationwide curfew will be extended for two hours — from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. — from Tuesday. All bars, restaurants, fitness centers and betting clubs will be closed from Wednesday.

Authorities recorded 50 deaths and 1,320 new confirmed infections Saturday. The country of just over 2 million has reported nearly 135,000 infections in total and about 4,000 deaths. North Macedonia has delayed mass immunization amid vaccine shortages.

Health Minister Venko Filipce said hospitals “are overloaded as never before."

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Starting Monday, any adult in Florida is eligible to receive the coronavirus vaccine.

In addition, the state announced that teens ages 16 and 17 can also get the vaccine with parental permission.

In an effort to get students inoculated, the University of Florida’s Athletics Department is working with UF Health and the local health department to administer the vaccine at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. University and health officials plan to inoculate up to 5,000 people, starting at 11 a.m. Monday.

Officials hope to meet a goal of vaccinating 20,000 per week, a news release said.

On Sunday, the state reported that 3,660,880 Floridians had been completely inoculated, and another 2,638,758 had received the first dose of the vaccine, according to the state’s Department of Health dashboard.

The opening of vaccine eligibility comes days after Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order banning businesses from requiring customers to show proof they have been vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to get service.

New Mexico is also joining the growing list of U.S. states that are opening up coronavirus vaccine eligibility to any person 16 and older, with Monday marking the start of expanded eligibility there.

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PARIS — France’s health minister warned Monday that the number of COVID-19 patients in the country’s intensive care units could reach levels seen during the first crisis a year ago.

France’s hospitals have already surpassed the number of virus ICU patients seen during the second surge in November, and Olivier Veran said on TF1 television that “it’s possible we could approach” the ICU saturation levels of April 2020.

At that point, French ICUs held more than 7,000 virus patients, many in temporary facilities because demand far outstripped the country’s pre-pandemic ICU capacity. As of Sunday night, French ICUs held 5,341 virus patients, and Veran said the country has 8,000 beds ready if needed.

Veran expressed hope that France’s new infections “could reach a peak this week,” thanks to new partial lockdown measures imposed to relieve hospitals and slow fast-growing cases of the more contagious virus variant first identified in Britain.

Even if infections subside, hospitalizations will continue to grow for another two or three weeks, he said. Still, he sought to remain optimistic, insisting, “We will manage.”

Internal projections by the Paris public hospitals authority last week suggested that ICUs in the region of 12 million people may soon have to find space for more critically ill patients than ever.

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KYIV, Ukraine — Authorities in Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, introduced tighter lockdown restrictions on Monday following a recent spike in coronavirus cases.

For two weeks starting Monday, all schools and kindergartens in the city of 3 million people will be closed, and only those with special passes will be allowed on public transport. According to Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko, only 400,000 people – doctors and rescuers, social, transport and utility workers, law enforcement officers and those involved in retails — will get the passes.

In Kyiv, 458 new cases of the virus and 32 new deaths were registered on Monday. Over 10,000 new infections were confirmed over the past 24 hours in the nation of 41 million.

Ukraine began vaccinations against the coronavirus in late February. So far only 291,822 people have received the shots, due to widespread reluctance.

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LONDON — The British government says all adults and children will be able to have routine coronavirus tests twice a week as a way to stamp out new outbreaks as the U.K. emerges from lockdown.

The lateral flow tests, which will be available by mail or from pharmacies, give results in minutes but are less accurate than the PCR swab tests used to officially confirm cases of COVID-19. The government insists they are reliable and will play an important role in opening up society.

The tests are being introduced as Prime Minister Boris Johnson announces the next steps in the country’s road map out of its three-month lockdown.

Johnson is unlikely to tell Britons when they will be able to go abroad on vacation — currently banned by law — though the government has said it will not be before May 17.

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LISBON, Portugal — A half-million children are going back to school in Portugal as the southern European country continues to ease more of its pandemic measures.

On Monday, children up to 15 years old returned to classes for the first time since the lockdown came into force in January, when Portugal was the worst-hit country in the world by size of population.

Mainland Portugal’s 14-day incidence rate of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people has fallen to 63. At the end of January, it was 1,628.

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TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s capital is once again facing the highest level of restrictions imposed to curb the spread of coronavirus as the country struggles with a new surge in daily deaths.

State media say the measure on Monday is the third time Tehran faces a so-called code red since the pandemic began. A code red involves a ban on any travel by personal cars to and from cities, and limits working hours of many business and offices to prevent the spread of the virus.

The report comes as Iran’s daily death toll again reached three digits, after months of being under 100. On Sunday, 161 deaths were reported, bringing the registered death toll in Iran to more than 63,000, the highest in the Middle East. Iran has reported some 1.9 million confirmed cases of the virus

Also on Monday, Iran said it received the first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines from the Netherlands through the global COVAX initiative. The country’s Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour says the first batch includes 700,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

So far, Iran has vaccinated less than 2% of its more than 80 million people with vaccines imported mainly from Russia, China and India.

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DHAKA, Bangladesh — Bangladesh began enforcing a weeklong nationwide lockdown Monday, shutting shopping malls and transportation as authorities try to stop a surge in coronavirus infections and deaths.

The decision came after health authorities said that they were facing overwhelming pressure in intensive care units in recent weeks because of severe infections. This is the second time the South Asian nation has enforced a virus lockdown after the first last March.

On Monday, authorities suspended operations of all domestic flights, river transport, and trains. Only emergency services will remain operational.

The government has asked people not to go out from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.

Owners and workers of shopping malls in Dhaka’s Elephant Road area took to the streets Monday, demanding that authorities allow them to run their shops.

Bangladesh has reported 637,364 virus cases since the pandemic began, with 9,266 deaths.

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TOKYO — Special coronavirus measures started Monday in Osaka and its neighboring prefectures as Japan tries to minimize the impact to specific areas where infections are rising ahead of the Tokyo Olympics.

Osaka, Hyogo and Miyagi in the north have had sharp increases in daily cases since early March.

Osaka Gov. Hirofumi Yoshimura said he was alarmed by the fast-spreading new variants and urged the residents to use caution and cooperate. Serious cases are on the rise and flooding hospitals and that medical systems in Osaka are under heavy pressure, Yoshimura said. He has proposed canceling a torch relay scheduled to pass Osaka City on April 14 and is now discussing a route change.

Under the measures, effective for one month until May 5, restaurants and bars in Osaka, Nishinomiya, Amagasaki, Ashiya, Kobe and Sendai are asked to close by 8 p.m. Residents are requested to stick to basic safety measures including mask-wearing, social distancing and avoiding non-essential outings.

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NEW DELHI — India has reported its biggest single-day spike in confirmed coronavirus cases since the pandemic began, and officials in the hard-hit state home to Mumbai are returning to the closure of some businesses and places of worship in a bid to slow the spread.

The Health Ministry on Monday reported 103,558 new COVID-19 infections in the last 24 hours, topping the previous peak of 97,894 daily cases recorded in late September. Fatalities rose by 478, raising the country’s death toll to 165,101.

India now has a seven-day rolling average of more than 73,000 cases per day and infections in the country are being reported faster than anywhere else in the world.

The biggest contributor to the surge has been the western state of Maharashtra, home to the commercial capital of Mumbai. The state has contributed more than 55% of total cases in the country in the last two weeks.

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