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Friday April 16th, 2021 7:34AM

The Latest: UK starts administering Moderna vaccine

By The Associated Press
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LONDON — The U.K. is administering the first doses of the Moderna vaccine, the third authorized in the country against the coronavirus.

Patients at the West Wales General Hospital were receiving the jab on Wednesday.

Britain has ordered 17 million doses of the Moderna vaccine, enough for 8.5 million people.

The rollout comes as the U.K. medical regulator investigates another vaccine, made by Oxford University and AstraZeneca, which has been given to more than 18 million people in Britain.

Several countries have restricted the AstraZeneca jab’s use in younger people while scientists investigate a small number of cases of rare blood clots in people who have received the vaccine.

Britain, which has ordered 100 million doses of the AstraZeneca shot, has not restricted its use, but its medical regulator is reviewing the evidence.

Oxford University said late Tuesday it had stopped giving the shot to children involved in a clinical trial until it had received more information from the regulator.

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THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— Biden males all U.S. adults eligible for vaccines by April 19

— Nearly half of new US virus infections are in just five states

— North Korea tells WHO it’s still virus-free in latest report

— California plans to lift mos t pandemic restrictions June 15

— 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:

BUDAPEST — Hungary began loosening its lockdown restrictions on Wednesday even as another daily record in COVID-19 deaths was broken and a surge in the pandemic gripped the country’s hospitals.

A slow downward trend in the number of deaths was interrupted as authorities announced 311 new deaths, coming only hours after Prime Minister Viktor Orban said that certain lockdown restrictions would be lifted on Wednesday. Hungary’s government earlier decided that the lockdown could be loosened once 2.5 million Hungarians had received at least a first dose of a vaccine, a milestone reached on Tuesday.

While daily new infections continue to decrease in the hard-hit Central European country, the number of those being treated in hospitals remains over 12,000. Some medical experts have expressed reservations about the plans to lift the lockdown as the current pandemic surge continues to peak.

As of Wednesday, most businesses and services may reopen if they enforce maximum indoor capacity limits and observe social distancing. The start of an overnight curfew in effect since November will be extended by two hours, and the opening hours of businesses will also be extended.

Hungary has the third-worst COVID-19 death rate per 1 million inhabitants in the world, according to Johns Hopkins University.

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MADRID — Spain’s northwestern Castile and León region is temporarily halting use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine while European authorities evaluate links between the jab and rare blood clots.

Health services in the Spanish region of 2.4 million people said Wednesday the suspension would affect its mass vaccination rollout. No other Spanish regions announced a suspension.

Spain’s government recommends giving the jab to people between 18 and 65. It was one of the European countries that briefly halted use of the AstraZeneca vaccine last month over concerns about the rare blood clots.

The European Medicines Agency says its evaluation of the blood clot issue is not yet complete but plans an announcement as soon as the review is finished, possibly on Wednesday or Thursday.

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NEW DELHI — India has hit another new peak with 115,736 coronavirus cases reported in the past 24 hours. New Delhi, Mumbai and dozens of other cities are imposing curfews to try to slow the soaring infections.

The latest rise reported Wednesday overtook Sunday’s record of 103,844 infections. Fatalities rose by 630 in the past 24 hours, the highest since November, raising the total death toll in the country to 166,177 since the pandemic began.

Experts say the surge is blamed in part on growing disregard for social distancing and mask-wearing in public spaces. The latest surge in infections is worse than last year’s peak of more than 97,000 a day in mid-September.

India now has a seven-day rolling average of more than 78,000 cases per day and has reported 12.8 million virus cases since the pandemic began, the highest after the United States and Brazil.

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SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea continues to claim a perfect record in keeping out the coronavirus in its latest report to the World Health Organization.

In an email to The Associated Press on Wednesday, the WHO says North Korea has reported that it tested 23,121 people for the coronavirus as of April 1 and that all results were negative.

Outsiders have expressed doubt about whether North Korea has escaped the pandemic entirely, given its poor health infrastructure and a porous border it shares with China, its economic lifeline.

During the pandemic, North Korea has severely limited cross-border traffic, banned tourists, jetted out diplomats and mobilized health workers for quarantines of tens of thousands of people who showed symptoms.

North Korea this week became the first country to drop out of the Tokyo Olympics because of coronavirus fears.

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SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has reported its highest daily jump in new coronavirus cases in nearly three months as concerns grow about another huge wave of the virus as the country wrestles with a slow vaccine rollout.

The 668 infections reported Wednesday were the most since Jan. 8 when officials reported 674 new cases. Since the pandemic began, South Korea has had 106,898 confirmed cases, with 1,756 deaths related to COVID-19.

South Korea had been struggling to keep transmissions under control following a major winter surge that erased months of hard-won gains.

There is also concern over the pace of the country’s vaccine rollout that is slower than many other developed economies after officials insisted on a wait-and-see approach because the outbreak wasn’t as dire as in America and Europe.

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HONOLULU -- The University of Hawaii is placing 81 football players in quarantine after eight players tested positive for the coronavirus over the past week.

The school says most players will quarantine at their places of residence. Thirteen players who live on campus will move off-campus temporarily. None of the eight who have tested positive live on campus or have in-person classes this semester.

The team started a month-long spring practice March 25. But the team will put practice on hold until April 14, when the quarantine is finished. A total of 33 student-athletes at the school have tested positive for the coronavirus since March 2020.

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PHOENIX — Arizona’s attorney general has issued a new opinion saying that Pima County can continue to enforce its pandemic face mask mandate in spite of Gov. Doug Ducey’s order blocking such local rules.

Tuesday’s opinion from Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s office says the governor could order the state health department to issue rules barring local mandates.

Or the governor could ignore the opinion and try to enforce his executive order on his own.

The developments come as Arizona’s daily rate of new confirmed coronavirus infections continues to creep upward, though the daily rate of COVID-19 deaths is down.

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BOZEMAN, Mont. — The wife of Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte has tested positive for a coronavirus infection a day after her husband announced he has COVID-19.

The governor’s office announced the results of Susan Gianforte’s test Tuesday. On Monday evening, the office reported the governor was tested after experiencing unspecified symptoms Sunday.

The governor has notified his close contacts since his last public event Thursday, including a staff member, a member of his security detail, family members and friends with whom he had dinner. Twenty-five members of the governor’s staff have been tested and all received negative results.

The Gianfortes plan to isolate for 10 days on the advice of doctors and public health guidance. The governor will be working from their home in Bozeman.

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee is joining other Republican governors who are speaking against so-called coronavirus vaccine passports, which are being developed in some areas to let inoculated people travel, shop and dine more freely.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Lee said: “I think vaccine passports are a bad idea. I do not believe that government should impose vaccine requirements or mandates in any way.”

The governor is urging Tennessee’s General Assembly to advance legislation this year to prohibit such requirements.

Lee adds that he hopes private businesses don’t impose vaccine passport mandates, but says he doesn’t believe “that government should impose itself in the private affairs of business practices.”

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PHILADELPHIA — Coronavirus vaccinations in Philadelphia will be open to anyone 16 and older starting April 19, but city health officials are still asking younger healthy adults to wait to schedule appointments.

The city’s health commissioner announced the moved-up date for opening vaccines to the general public Tuesday.

Department officials had said previously that they wanted to wait until May 1 because they worried younger, tech-savvy Philadelphians would schedule appointments quickly, making it more difficult for those at most risk from COVID-19 to find appointments.

The announcement came a day after Philadelphia opened vaccinations to the last of its priority groups, which includes sanitation workers, postal workers and others.

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SANTIAGO, Chile — With new COVID-19 infections rising and hospital space critical, Chilean lawmakers approved postponing an election to select an assembly tasked with rewriting the country’s dictatorship-era constitution.

Under the approval Tuesday, the assembly election, along with local and gubernatorial elections, will be postponed until mid-May.

The elections had been originally scheduled for April 10-11, but with Chile experiencing the worst days since the arrival of the pandemic and intensive care units at 96% capacity, President Sebastián Piñera proposed delaying voting until May 15-16.

In an Oct. 25 plebiscite, nearly 80% of Chilean voters supported seating an assembly to rewrite the constitution inherited from the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet when the South American country returned to democracy.

Delays in approving the postponement of next weekend’s voting came after the opposition conditioned their acceptance of the proposal on expanding pandemic economic aid to more vulnerable groups and parts of the middle class.

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