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Sunday April 11th, 2021 12:04AM

The Latest: Spain PM: Stepping up virus vaccination drive

By The Associated Press
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MADRID — Spain is stepping up its vaccination drive, according to Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez.

He says an increase in deliveries in the coming months will allow the country to vaccinate 70% of the adult population against the coronavirus by the end of August. To help the rollout pick up speed, some cities are opening mass vaccination centers.

Sánchez says “the priority now, more than ever, is to vaccinate without respite. Vaccinate, vaccinate and vaccinate.”

He expects 38 million doses between April and June, about 3.5 times more than in January-March when vaccine deliveries across Europe fell short of the anticipated amounts.

Spain aims to receive 87 million doses by September for the population of 33 million, with Sánchez saying, “Anyone who wants a vaccine will be able to get one.”

On Monday, Spain reported 2,247 new cases and 85 deaths. In total, there’s been 3.3 million cases and more than 75,000 confirmed deaths.

THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— AP source: All U.S. adults eligible for shots by April 19, two weeks sooner

— North Korea will skip Tokyo Olympics because of coronavirus fears, underscoring Japan's challenges in hosting Games during pandemic

— European Union approved $4.7 billion in aid for Air France as it struggles through the economic impact of the pandemic

— New Zealand soon will open a travel bubble with Australia in a long-anticipated step for 2 countries largely successful against the virus

— Follow 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:

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BERLIN — A German state on the border with France is allowing the limited reopening of businesses including cinemas, gyms and outdoor areas of restaurants, just as calls mount for stricter national lockdown rules amid a rise in coronavirus cases.

German authorities in areas where infection rates are relatively low can allow more businesses to open for people who have tested negative. Saarland, one of Germany’s smallest states, decided to apply that to the entire state on Tuesday and drew criticism.

Saarland officials contend their state has a relatively low infection rate and a relatively high number of vaccinations, and more testing will ensure that fewer infections go undetected.

Chancellor Angela Merkel and the country’s 16 state governors are due to meet Monday to decide how to proceed with coronavirus restrictions. There are increasing calls for tougher restrictions as the spread of a more contagious variant first detected in Britain has led to increasing infections across Germany.

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COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — The Sri Lankan government has lifted the one-year restrictions imposed on Sri Lankans, allowing entry into the country without prior approval but requiring quarantine.

Sri Lankans, dual citizens who travel on Sri Lankan passports, spouses and unmarried children of Sri Lankans and Sri Lankan seafarers arriving by air are now permitted to enter Sri Lanka without approval of the country’s Foreign Ministry and the Civil Aviation Authority.

However, those arriving are required to undergo a mandatory 14-days quarantine program -- seven-days at a government-run center or a selected hotel and another seven days at home.

Sri Lanka imposed restrictions on their citizens travelling from other countries a year ago, ordering them to get permission from the government agencies before landing in the country.

By Tuesday, Sri Lanka registered 93,595 total cases and 586 confirmed deaths.

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SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina — More than 1,000 Bosnians have marched in the capital Sarajevo demanding government resignation over poor handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

The protesters on Tuesday blocked traffic in a central street in Sarajevo while wearing masks and carrying banners that urged access to vaccines and virus testing. Hundreds more people backed the blockade in their cars, honking horns through the city.

The protesters are blaming the government for a high death rate in Bosnia and because they failed to acquire vaccines early on. The country has started vaccination with donations from abroad and a shipment through international COVAX mechanism.

Bosnia has had among the highest death rates in Europe, with nearly 7,000 dead in the country of 3.3 million.

The protesters gave the current authorities two weeks to resign, pledging more protests. One of the organizers, Maja Gasal-Vrazalica, tells the authorities to “move away if you don’t know how” to deal with the health crisis.

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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden is set to announce he’s shaving about two weeks off his May 1 deadline for states to make all adults eligible for coronavirus vaccines.

A White House official confirms Biden plans to announce every adult in the U.S. will be eligible to be vaccinated by April 19. Biden will make the announcement at the White House on Tuesday following a visit to a vaccination site in Virginia.

States have been gradually expanding eligibility beyond such priority groups as seniors and essential front-line workers. Biden announced just last week that 90% of adults would be eligible for one of three approved vaccines by April 19, in addition to having a vaccination site within 5 miles (8 kilometers) of where they live.

The White House said Monday that nearly 1 in 3 Americans and over 40% of adults have received at least one shot, and nearly 1 in 4 adults is fully vaccinated. Among older people, 75% have received at least one shot, and more than 55% are fully vaccinated.

The White House official spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss Biden’s plans before the formal announcement. CNN was first to report on Biden’s planned announcement. — Darlene Superville.

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NEW YORK — New Yorkers over 16 years old can sign up for COVID-19 vaccination starting Tuesday.

That’s a large expansion of eligibility as the state seeks to immunize as many people as possible. Gov. Andrew Cuomo expanded eligibility to 30 and over last week and announced people age 16 to 29 would be eligible on April 6.

Teens age 16 and 17 will be limited to receiving the Pfizer vaccine, since it is the only one authorized for use by people under 18. None of the available vaccines have been approved for people under 16.

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Vaccinating most Americans is plenty tough — and it’s worse for prisoners.

About half the country has opened up coronavirus vaccine eligibility beyond initial restrictions, vastly expanding the ability for most people to get a shot in the arm. But inside prisons, it’s a different story. Prisoners aren’t free to seek out vaccines and generally still lack access.

Data collected by The Marshall Project and The Associated Press show fewer than 20% of state and federal prisoners have been vaccinated. In some states, prisoners and advocates have resorted to lawsuits to get access.

Since the pandemic first reached prisons in March 2020, about 3 in 10 prisoners have tested positive and 2,500 have died. Prisons are often overcrowded, with limited access to health care and protective gear, and populations inside are more likely to have preexisting medical conditions.

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SEOUL, South Korea — Health officials in South Korea are considering measures to prevent a shortage in coronavirus vaccines and haven’t specifically ruled out curbing exports of AstraZeneca shots produced in the country.

Concern has been growing about delayed shipments of vaccines as the United States, European countries and India take steps to strengthen control over vaccine exports to deal with shortages at home.

When asked about the possibility of South Korea restricting vaccine exports, Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency official Jeong Yoo-jin said Tuesday she wasn’t yet able to comment on specific steps but added that officials were reviewing “as much possible measures” they could.

Jeong’s tone seemed different from a briefing last week when she said clearly that officials weren’t considering restricting exports of the AstraZeneca shots manufactured by South Korea’s SK Bioscience. She then said such a move could trigger an international backlash that would potentially disrupt the country’s efforts to secure vaccines from different sources.

South Korea has wrestled with a slower rollout of vaccines than many other developed economies after officials insisted on a wait-and-see approach because its outbreak wasn’t as dire as in America and Europe. The country’s mass immunization program has so far been mainly reliant on locally produced AstraZeneca shots, although it did secure a smaller volume of Pfizer shots that are now being used for elders.

About a million South Koreans have received their first doses of vaccines as of Tuesday. Officials hope to vaccinate 70% of the country’s 51 million people before the start of the new influenza season around November.

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ISLAMABAD — Pakistan will start coronavirus vaccinations for foreign health workers and other foreigners, including Afghan refugees, who are older than 60 as COVID-19 deaths surge in this impoverished nation.

The government is not charging for the vaccinations, which were being given only to Pakistani health workers and older people. That left foreigners relying on vaccines imported by the private sector, which are expensive.

After four decades of war and conflict in neighboring Afghanistan, more than 1.5 million Afghans live as refugees in Pakistan.

The government notification said vaccinations of foreign health workers will be handled on parity with Pakistani health workers. Dr. Rana Mohammad Safdar, a senior health official, said Tuesday that instructions have been issued to relevant authorities in this regard.

On Tuesday, Pakistan reported 103 deaths from COVID-19, one of the highest single-day fatalities since January.

Pakistan has had 696,184 cases and 14,924 deaths from the disease since last year.

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COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lanka has decided to buy 6 million more Sputnik V vaccines, raising the total it plans to purchase from Russia to 13 million doses.

The government plans to inoculate 14 million people out of Sri Lanka's population of 22 million, and so far has approved the vaccines from Oxford-AstraZeneca, Sputnik V and China’s Sinopharm.

Cabinet ministers approved the health minister's proposal for the purchase, Cabinet spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella said Tuesday. It comes two weeks after the government said it would buy 7 million Sputnik V doses at a cost of $69.65 million.

Sri Lanka has vaccinated 903,000 people with the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. It will use donated Sinopharm doses to inoculate Chinese workers in Sri Lanka but will not administer the vaccine to Sri Lankans without World Health Organization approval.

It has received 1,264,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and has said it would buy another 13.5 million.

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HELENA, Mont. — Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte has tested positive for COVID-19 a few days after receiving his first dose of a coronavirus vaccine.

The governor’s office released a statement Monday evening saying Gianforte was tested after experiencing mild symptoms a day earlier.

Gianforte plans to isolate for 10 days on the advice of his doctor and public health guidance. He also has notified all of the people with whom he has had close contact. All of the governor’s in-person events have been canceled, and he plans to work from his home in Bozeman.

Gianforte received his first dose of a coronavirus vaccine Thursday.

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SAN FRANCISCO — California will allow professional sports and other indoor events to resume April 15.

On that date, venues will be permitted to have live audiences with strict capacity limits. Larger private gatherings indoors will be allowed, too.

More people will be allowed inside if they show proof of vaccination or a recent negative coronavirus test. But some performance venues say the attendance caps won’t financially work for them.

The move comes as some states are seeing coronavirus infections surge. California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration believes it is safe to reopen since case rates are lower in California and vaccinations are increasing.

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WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Antony Blinken has appointed a former diplomat and humanitarian aid chief to be a special envoy for U.S. coronavirus vaccine and prevention efforts.

Gayle Smith will be charged with overseeing U.S. programs to prevent, detect and respond to disease outbreaks, including COVID-19, abroad.

“She’s tested. She’s highly respected. She will hit the ground running,” Blinken said in announcing the appointment Monday. “And I can say from having worked with Gayle and admired her for years, that no one will work harder, faster, or more effectively to get us to the finish line.”

Smith is a former director of the U.S. Agency for International Development and has held senior State Department and National Security Council positions focused on Africa.

She was active in the Obama administration’s initiatives to eradicate the Ebola virus and was most recently the president of the ONE Campaign, the organization founded by U2 frontman Bono and others to combat extreme poverty and diseases like malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS.

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