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Friday May 7th, 2021 8:40PM

The Latest: Germany eases some limits for those vaccinated

By The Associated Press
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BERLIN — The German government says people who are fully immunized or have recovered from a coronavirus infection will be exempt from contact restrictions and curfews.

Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht says the two groups will be treated the same as people who have tested negative. This means they can go to places, such as the hairdresser, without taking a test.

Cabinet approved the rule changes amid growing pressure to ease pandemic restrictions as more people get vaccinated. Several German states are planning to open tourism in areas with infection rates below 100 weekly cases per 100,000 inhabitants.

More than 8% of the population in Germany have received two shots, while 28.7% have received at least one dose of vaccine.

The government says full immunization kicks in two weeks after people receive their second dose of vaccine, and people who have recovered from the coronavirus need to provide proof of a positive PCR test no more recent than between 28 days and six months ago.

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THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— ‘Horrible’ weeks ahead as India’s virus catastrophe worsens

— EU leader: Quarter of all European Union residents receive 1st shot

— FDA expected to OK Pfizer vaccine for teens within week

— Virus cases plunge and LA, San Francisco come back to life

— 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:

THE HAGUE, Netherlands —The Dutch government says it is too soon to further ease its coronavirus lockdown because coronavirus admissions to hospitals and intensive care units are still too high.

The government says it will decide in a week whether to take the second step in its roadmap for reopening society. The step may involve reopening outdoor public venues, such as zoos and theme parks, as well as some indoor cultural events.

In its weekly update, the country’s public health institute says positive coronavirus tests fell by 6% compared with the previous week while hospital admissions declined 8%. Admissions to ICUs were nearly unchanged at 377.

Last week, the government allowed bars and restaurants to reopen their outdoor terraces for the first time in six months and eased restrictions on non-essentials shops.

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The Gulf state of Oman has barred public health care workers from quitting amid a major surge in coronavirus cases.

The ban applies to doctors, nurses and other health workers in the public sector and is meant to ensure “the efficiency of the health system” in its fight against COVID-19, local media reported, citing an order from the Health Ministry.

Infections have skyrocketed in recent weeks, prompting authorities to impose a one-week nightly curfew that forbids people from venturing outside their homes from 7 p.m. to 4 a.m. starting May 8.

The government also has restricted all business activity during the day next week, except for grocery stores and pharmacies. Those restrictions cover one of Islam’s biggest holidays, the three-day Eid al-Fitr that marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. Traditionally, it’s a time of shopping, feasting and mass gatherings.

Daily cases are now edging toward 1,000. Oman has registered more than 197,800 infections and 2,062 confirmed deaths from the coronavirus.

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BRUSSELS — The president of the European Union’s executive arm says a quarter of all EU residents have now received a first dose of coronavirus vaccine.

After a slow start to its vaccination campaign, the European Union has sped up the pace of immunization as vaccine supplies in the 27-nation region increased in recent weeks.

“Vaccination is gaining speed across the EU: we have just passed 150 million vaccinations,” Ursula von der Leyen said in a message posted on Twitter. “A quarter of all Europeans have had their first dose. We’ll have enough doses for vaccinating 70% of EU adults in July.”

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NEW DELHI — India’s health ministry reported 357,229 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours and 3,449 deaths on Tuesday.

India’s official average of daily confirmed cases has soared from 65,000 on April 1 to about 370,000. The average daily deaths have increased from 300 to more than 3,000.

The infections and deaths are mounting with alarming speed. A top U.S. health expert warns the coming weeks in the country will be “horrible.”

Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of Brown University’s School of Public Health, says he is concerned Indian policymakers believe things will improve in the next few days.

“I’ve been ... trying to say to them, `If everything goes very well, things will be horrible for the next several weeks. And it may be much longer,’” he said.

India’s official count of coronavirus cases surpassed 20 million Tuesday, nearly doubling in the past three months. The confirmed deaths passed 220,000 in a country of 1.4 billion people, but it is considered an undercount.

The U.S., with one-fourth the population of India, has recorded more than 2 1/2 times as many deaths with 577,000.

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BELGRADE, Serbia — The European Union has started delivering EU-funded coronavirus vaccines across the Balkans, where China and Russia have for months been supplying the much-needed shots.

The European Commission last month announced that 651,000 Pfizer doses will be delivered to Serbia, Bosnia, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Albania and Kosovo in weekly instalments from May to August.

The vaccines are funded from a 70 million euro ($85 million) package adopted by the Commission in December.

Most Balkan countries have struggled to get vaccines, except for Serbia, which had launched a successful inoculation campaign mostly because of large deliveries of China’s Sinopharm vaccine and Russia’s Sputnik V shots.

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COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Denmark, which has been gradually reopening because vaccinations are under way, will allow elementary schools to fully reopen and a range of indoor activities to resume this week.

On Thursday, people must show proof they’ve been vaccinated or had a negative test in the past 72 hours, typically by presenting a so-called corona passport to enter theaters, cinemas, indoor sports facilities and gyms.

The deal reached by lawmakers Tuesday maintained a ceiling of a maximum 2,000 people at gatherings until Aug.1. A slew of large event postponements was announced, including at some music festivities.

However, an exception will allow about 4,000 soccer fans to attend each of four Copenhagen soccer games at the upcoming European Championship in June at Parken stadium.

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SEOUL, South Korea — South Korean officials say North Korea has told Asia’s soccer governing body it would not participate in World Cup qualifiers scheduled to be played in South Korea next month because of coronavirus concerns.

Kim Min-soo, an official from South Korea’s Football Association, said Tuesday that the Asia Football Confederation has asked the North’s soccer association to reconsider its decision. He said the North notified the AFC of its intent to drop out of the matches on Friday.

The North’s Olympic committee said last month that it had decided to drop out of this summer’s Tokyo Olympics to protect its athletes from COVID-19.

An official from South Korea’s Unification Ministry, which deals with inter-Korean affairs, said Seoul still has hope the North will participate in the soccer matches, saying the events would provide a rare opportunity for sports exchanges during a period of poor bilateral relations.

The North has virtually stopped all cooperation with the South and resumed testing of short-range weapons amid a stalemate in larger nuclear negotiations between Pyongyang and Washington.

The two Koreas belong to Group H in the second round of Asian qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup. Following a monthslong delay due to the pandemic, the remaining group matches were set for June in South Korea.

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AMSTERDAM — The European Union’s drug regulator announced Tuesday that it has started a rolling review of China’s Sinovac coronavirus vaccine to assess its effectiveness and safety, a first step toward possible approval for use in the 27-nation bloc.

The European Medicines Agency said Tuesday that its decision to start the review is based on preliminary results from laboratory studies and clinical studies.

“These studies suggest that the vaccine triggers the production of antibodies” that fight the coronavirus “and may help protect against the disease,” the agency said in a statement.

The EMA, which so far has approved four coronavirus vaccines, added that no application seeking marketing authorization for the Sinovac vaccine has been submitted yet.

The agency said its experts will “evaluate data as they become available to decide if the benefits outweigh the risks” of the vaccine. The rolling review will continue until “enough evidence is available for a formal marketing authorization application,” the EMA said, adding that it could not predict timelines.

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SEOUL, South Korea — The chairman of one of South Korea’s biggest dairy companies has resigned after his company was accused of deliberately spreading misinformation that its yogurt help prevent COVID-19.

Hong Won-sik and other members of his family will still retain their commanding share of Namyang Dairy Products.

“I express my sincere apology for causing disappointment and anger to our country’s people with the Bulgaris-related controversy at a time when the nation is undergoing a hard time because of COVID-19,” Hong said Tuesday, tearing up.

Namyang financed research it aggressively promoted through the media and a symposium last month which claimed that its “Bulgaris” yogurt drinks were proven as effective in lowering risks of coronavirus infections.

Namyang’s stock prices temporarily rose before South Korea's Ministry of Food and Drug Safety sued the company for false advertising, saying that the research was dubious and never involved any animal testing or clinical trials.

Police searched Namyang’s Seoul headquarters last week. Namyang’s CEO, Lee Kwang-bum, has offered to resign.

Hong said he would take “all responsibility” by stepping down as chairman. He promised not to pass on management rights to his children, which is a much-criticized traditional practice at South Korea’s family-owned businesses.

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Kuwait’s government is barring unvaccinated residents from traveling abroad starting later this month, the latest attempt to tame the spiraling coronavirus outbreak in the Gulf Arab sheikhdom.

The Cabinet decision, to take effect May 22, sparked instant anger and confusion, coming just after health authorities announced that global vaccine supply shortages would force them to delay distribution of second vaccine doses. Those who received the first Pfizer-BioNtech dose must wait six weeks for their second, and Oxford-AstraZeneca recipients must wait 3-4 months.

The government said those unable to get the shot for any reason would be exempt from the new travel ban. Already, authorities have banned the entry of expatriates into the Gulf state, stranding many foreign workers and their families abroad.

Kuwait is grappling with a surge in virus cases despite its vaccination campaign and tough restrictions, including a prolonged nightly curfew. The country has recorded over 277,800 infections and 1,590 deaths.

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COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lanka has received its first batch of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine following a delay in getting COVID-19 vaccines from India.

The 15,000 doses were flown in early Tuesday. Sri Lanka has ordered 13 million Sputnik doses, and Channa Jayasuma, the state minister for drug regulation, said he was hopeful Sri Lanka would receive the total order in the future.

Sri Lanka is short 600,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. It has administered the first shot to 925,242 people, but the health ministry has about 350,000 doses, leaving people short the required second dose after a delay in getting the vaccines ordered from India.

Meanwhile, coronavirus infections have spread rapidly. Sri Lanka has banned public gatherings and parties, schools are closed, and supermarkets and shopping complexes are limited to 25% of their customer capacity. It has counted 111,753 cases with 696 fatalities.

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SEOUL, South Korea — Isolated North Korea is warning its people to brace for a prolonged struggle against the coronavirus, claiming that broadening outbreaks and muddled immunization programs in other countries show vaccines aren’t the ultimate solution.

The column published by Pyongyang’s official Rodong Sinmun newspaper came amid questions on when and how vaccines would arrive in North Korea.

The U.N.-backed program to ship COVID-19 vaccines worldwide said in February that North Korea could receive 1.9 million vaccine doses in the first half of this year. However, COVAX has since warned of global shortages because the Serum Institute of India, which is licensed to produce the AstraZeneca vaccine, is putting its supplies into domestic demand while India’s virus caseload is surging.

The North has claimed a perfect record in keeping out COVID-19, but outside experts have doubted the claim, given its poor health infrastructure and a porous border it shares with China, its economic lifeline.

The state newspaper took an apparent shot at India’s anti-virus campaign without naming the country. It said a certain nation that had “exported vaccines it produced while publicly insisting that it considers the evil virus as defeated,” was now experiencing an explosive surge.

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OLYMPIA, Wash. — More people will be allowed at indoor and outdoor spectator events and indoor religious services if there are designated COVID-19 vaccination sections, under new guidance issued by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee.

The change that took effect Monday affects capacity at sporting events, graduations and other events for counties in the second and third phases of the state’s economic reopening plan.

A vaccination card or other documentation that proves vaccination status will be needed for access to vaccination sections.

While previously there were only limited circumstances where spectator events were allowed to reach 50% capacity, under the new guidance, outdoor facilities may add vaccinated sections until their total capacity — including vaccinated and unvaccinated sections — is at 50% or 22,000 people, whichever is lower. There can be no more than 9,000 unvaccinated people at the outdoor event.

For indoor facilities, vaccinated sections can also be added until their total capacity is 50% maximum, though the maximum number must not exceed 2,000 people, and the number indoor unvaccinated spectators varies depending on the size of the room and what phase of the state’s economic opening plan a county is in.

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GENEVA — The World Health Organization is set to decide this week whether to approve two Chinese vaccines for emergency use against COVID-19, a top WHO official says.

Such an approval would mark the first time that a Chinese vaccine had ever been granted a so-called emergency use listing from the U.N. health agency, and would trigger a broader rollout of Chinese vaccines that are already being used in some countries other than China.

Mariangela Simao, assistant director-general for access to medicines, vaccines and pharmaceuticals, says some “final arrangements” remain to be made before the crucial word from a WHO technical advisory group comes on the Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines.

“We expect that we’ll have both decisions by the end of this week,” she said.

WHO has said it expects a decision on the Sinopharm vaccine to come first, and Sinovac afterward.

“We know that some countries depend on this decision to proceed with their vaccination,” Simao said.

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