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Friday September 24th, 2021 2:56AM

The Latest: Spain nearing 5 million fully vaccinated people

By The Associated Press
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MADRID — Spain’s health minister said Monday that authorities expect to reach within 24 hours the milestone of 5 million people fully inoculated against COVID-19.

Health Minister Carolina Darias told reporters that Spain is on track for its goal of vaccinating before the summer 70% of the adult population, or around 33 million people.

Vaccination centers are working seven days a week, Darias, said, and by the first week of June some 10 million people will be fully inoculated.

Darias urged continuing caution. She said Spain’s COVID-19 incidence rate per 100,000 people over 14 days — an important measure of the pandemic’s spread — is 229 but varies widely between regions, with some lower than 70 and others in the range of 400-500.

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THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— Russia lags behind others in its COVID-19 vaccination drive

— Russia is turning to multiple Chinese firms to manufacture Sputnik vaccine as demand soars

— Residents in Madrid vote Tuesday for a new regional assembly in an election that tests people’s resistance to lockdown measures

— Nurses wearied by pandemic duty incensed by request to help at Tokyo Olympics

— Follow more of 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:

KATHMANDU, Nepal — Nepal is halting all domestic and international flights because of spiking cases of COVID-19 in the Himalayan nation.

Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Oli said domestic flights would be stopped from Monday while all international flights would cease to fly in and out of Nepal from Thursday.

He appealed to other countries for vaccines, diagnostic equipment, oxygen and other supplies to help combat the pandemic.

India donated 1 million doses of vaccine followed by China providing another 800,000. However, India’s ban on exporting vaccines has hindered Nepal’s vaccine campaign, which began in January.

Nepal is still waiting for the 1 million doses from an Indian company which it already paid for in March.

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STOCKHOLM — Sweden plans to donate 1 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccines to India via the U.N.-backed COVAX, an initiative devised to give countries access to coronavirus vaccines regardless of their wealth.

The Scandinavian country’s International Development Cooperation Minister Per Olsson Fridh announced it Monday on Swedish broadcaster SVT, adding “we see how the pandemic is raging around the world. People are dying, poverty is spreading, and children are still not back at school.”

“We need to do everything we can to face this pandemic and fight it across the world.”

The donation will have no impact on the rollout in Sweden which has decided to only administer the AstraZeneca shots to people 65 and over.

The country’s vaccine coordinator Richard Bergstrom said there are enough spare vaccines that Swedes can give away, adding “This is just a million ... we actually have another 4 or 5 million more of Astra Zeneca’s vaccine that we can share later.”

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PARIS — France’s secondary and high schools have reopened and a ban on domestic travel has been lifted as part of the government’s plan to gradually reopen the country.

The French are now allowed to go further than the 10-kilometer (six-mile) from home limit that has been applied for four weeks in efforts to slow down the spreading of the virus. A curfew from 7 p.m. until 6 a.m. is still in place.

Last week, President Emmanuel Macron has presented the key dates of the plan to move out of the country’s partial lockdown, as numbers of infections and hospitalizations have started decreasing.

Restaurants and cafes will be able to serve customers outdoors at tables seating a maximum of six people starting May 19, when the nightly curfew will be pushed back to 9 p.m.

Nonessential shops also reopen, as well as cultural sites and sport facilities, which will have occupancy limits of 800 people indoors and 1,000 outdoors.

On June 9, tourists from abroad will be allowed to come to France on the condition they are vaccinated or can show a negative test. The final stage of the plan will see the end of the nighttime curfew and the lifting of most restrictions on June 30.

France has reported almost 105,000 COVID-19 deaths.

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GENEVA — Moderna and vaccine promoter Gavi have announced a firm deal by which the pharmaceutical company will provide up to 500 million doses for the U.N.-backed program to ship coronavirus vaccines to needy people in low- and middle-countries by the end of 2022.

The advance purchase agreement announced Monday comes just days after the World Health Organization, after weeks of delays, announced an emergency approval for the Moderna vaccine that will pave the way for its rollout in the U.N.-backed COVAX program.

However, deliveries aren't set to begin until the fourth quarter of this year, and the vast majority of the doses in the deal — 466 million — are planned for next year. The remaining 34 million are expected this year.

Financial terms weren't disclosed.

Many experts say the COVID-19 crisis is acute now, with India in particular facing an unprecedented surge in cases. The Moderna vaccine has generally been considered among the most effective so far in combating new variants, like one that is spreading in India.

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ISLAMABAD — A top Pakistani health official says his country will import 30 million doses of coronavirus vaccines and out of which 9 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines will reach Pakistan by June.

Faisal Sultan, however, didn't say from which country the vaccines will be purchased.

But Pakistan had mostly relied on vaccines donated by China until recently. Now, it is planning to purchase vaccines from China and other countries.

Pakistan is currently in the middle of another surge of infections which authorities say is more dangerous compared to previous ones.

On Monday, Pakistan reported 79 single-day deaths from COVID-19 in the past 24 hours amid a spike in infections. Since last year, Pakistan has reported 18,119 deaths from COVID-19 among 834,146 cases.

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SYDNEY — Australia has expanded its coronavirus vaccine eligibility to include all people 50 and older.

Until Monday, eligibility had been limited, in most cases, to people 70 and older, as well as those with frontline jobs or medical conditions.

Health authorities say AstraZeneca shots for those 50 and older will be available immediately at special clinics, although people will have to wait another couple of weeks before they can get the shots at the clinics of their regular doctors.

Australia’s vaccine rollout has been running far behind schedule, in part because Europe temporarily blocked some vaccine exports. About 2.3 million vaccine doses have been administered among Australia’s population of 26 million.

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NEW DELHI — India recorded 368,147 new coronavirus cases on Monday, including 3,417 deaths, as a catastrophic surge ripples through the country.

The latest numbers came after leaders of 13 opposition parties penned a letter to urge the government to launch a free vaccination drive as well as ensure uninterrupted flow of oxygen to all hospitals.

Several hospital authorities over the weekend sought court intervention over oxygen supplies in New Delhi, where a lockdown has been extended by a week to contain the wave of infections. The New Delhi High Court said it would start punishing government officials if supplies of oxygen allocated to hospitals were not delivered.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has been severely criticized over the handling of the surge, which has pushed India’s already fragile and underfunded health system to the brink.

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WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand will open a second travel bubble this month with the tiny Cook Islands, after last month opening a travel bubble with Australia.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said if all goes well, two-way quarantine-free travel with the Cook Islands will begin on May 17.

The Cook Islands has a population of just 8,000 and relies on New Zealand tourists to power its economy.

New Zealand has stamped out the spread of the coronavirus, while the Cook Islands has yet to record a single case.

Ardern said New Zealand would supply and help administer doses of the Pfizer vaccine to people in the Cook Islands.

Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown said the country could begin its journey of recovery as it prepared to once again welcome tourists to its shores.

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DENVER — Colorado’s governor has extended a statewide mask mandate for another 30 days, but loosened face covering requirements for groups who are vaccinated against COVID-19.

Under Gov. Jared Polis’ new executive order, people gathering inside in groups of 10 or more are no longer required to wear masks if at least 80% of the group is vaccinated.

The order states people must show proof of vaccination, but his statement did not elaborate on what proof is considered acceptable.

Residents are still required to wear masks at schools, child care centers, public government facilities, prisons and health care centers.

About 1.9 million people in Colorado are fully vaccinated.

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KALISPELL, Montana — About 96% of people who live in the U.S. state of Montanan and have received their first COVID-19 vaccine have been returning to get their second dose, state health officials said.

Jim Murphy, administrator of the health department’s Communicable Disease Control and Prevention Bureau, told Montana Public Radio he’s pleased that nearly all Montanans who get a first dose are following up and getting their second one.

More than 332,000 Montanans were fully immunized as of Saturday, or nearly 39% of the 865,000 people who are eligible, health officials said.

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