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Monday August 2nd, 2021 8:21PM

The Latest: Summer travel begins with excitement, delays

By The Associated Press
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TOLEDO, Ohio — After a year of coronavirus lockdowns, the start of summer beckons with vacation plans made possible by relaxed COVID-19 restrictions.

But labor shortages mean some travelers should expect delays and pack a little patience. Lifeguards and hotel housekeepers are in short supply. So are rental cars.

A survey of 4,000 travel and tourism workers this year showed many found jobs with higher pay, predictable schedules and more plan on leaving the industry soon, according to Peter Ricci, director of Florida Atlantic University’s hospitality and tourism management program.

Ricci says the travel sector as a whole faces a moment of change and will need to offer better wages and benefits and rethink how it treats employees.

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MORE ON THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— AMA Journal: 2 China vaccines appear safe and effective

— Britain's Johnson defends virus record after ex-aide’s attack

— Ohio announces $1 million Vax-a-Million lottery winner

— Can employers make COVID-19 vaccination mandatory?

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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:

MENLO PARK, California — Facebook says it will no longer remove claims that Covid-19 is man-made or manufactured from its apps.

The change comes “in light of ongoing investigations into the origin of Covid-19 and in consultation with public health experts,” Facebook says.

The company based in Menlo Park, California, has long battled a tide of coronavirus-related misinformation. It said in December it would remove vaccine-related misinformation.

“We’re continuing to work with health experts to keep pace with the evolving nature of the pandemic and regularly update our policies as new facts and trends emerge,” said Guy Rosen, Facebook’s vice president of integrity, in a statement Wednesday.

Facebook doesn’t usually ban misinformation outright on its platform, instead adding fact-checks by outside parties, which includes The Associated Press, to debunked claims. The two exceptions have been around elections and COVID-19.

President Joe Biden recently ordered U.S. intelligence officials to “redouble” their efforts to investigate the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, including any possibility the trail might lead to a Chinese laboratory.

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BERLIN — Germany plans to allow children age 12-15 to get vaccinated against COVID-19 starting June 7, stepping up its inoculation campaign.

Chancellor Angela Merkel says the European Medicines Agency is likely to approve the use of the Pfizer vaccine in the 12-15 age group. Germany already had decided to open vaccinations to all adults by that date.

Merkel says after consultations with Germany’s 16 state governors on Thursday, children age 12-15 can seek an appointment. She stressed safe schooling will be “completely independent of the question of whether a child is vaccinated or not vaccinated.”

Germany has given at least one vaccine shot to 41.5% of its population, while 15.7% of the population has been fully vaccinated.

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TEL AVIV, Israel — Israel welcomed its first group of foreign tourists since largely shutting down air travel because of the coronavirus pandemic more than a year ago.

Tourism Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen welcomed a group of Christian theology students from Missouri, telling them: “Everything is open here, from restaurants to hotels, to resorts to holy places.”

Israel has vaccinated around 85% of its adult population and has fewer than 500 active cases. Most places have reopened in recent months, including indoor dining, gyms and sporting and concert venues. But Israel has been hesitant to welcome foreign tourists, partly out of concern over new variants.

The group that arrived Thursday is part of a pilot program, with other groups set to arrive in the next two weeks. All visitors must show proof of vaccination and take a COVID-19 test before departure and upon arrival.

Flights were cancelled or rerouted during Israel’s 11-day war with Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers. A cease-fire that went into effect on May 21 has held so far.

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BUCHAREST, Romania — Romanian authorities say another round of coronavirus relaxation measures will take effect next week, following a sharp drop in confirmed infections in the last month.

On June 1, bars and clubs will be able to reopen indoors at 50% capacity to fully vaccinated people, providing the coronavirus incident rate in a county is below 3 per 1,000 inhabitants. All 41 counties are currently below 1 infection per 1,000 people.

Cultural establishments such as theatres and cinemas can operate at 70% capacity with mandatory masks.

Romania — a country of more than 19 million — has administered 7.5 million vaccine doses, and 3.5 million are fully inoculated.

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LONDON — Prime Minister Boris Johnson has rejected claims by his former chief aide that he botched Britain’s coronavirus response and is unfit for office.

Johnson denies an allegation by Dominic Cummings that his government oversaw tens of thousands of needless deaths. The prime minister says, “at every stage, we’ve been governed by a determination to protect life, to save life.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock also hit back after Cummings singled him out for criticism in an excoriating attack on the government. Cummings accused Hancock of lying to the public, saying he “should have been fired.”

The U.K. has recorded almost 128,000 confirmed coronavirus deaths, the highest toll in Europe.

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MOSCOW — UNICEF says it has signed a conditional supply agreement with the Russian Direct Investment Fund to procure up to 220 million doses of the Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine by later this year.

The deal is contingent on the vaccine being approved for emergency use by the World Health Organization and on vaccines alliance Gavi signing a purchase agreement to buy vaccines on behalf of the U.N.-backed initiative known as COVAX.

Sputnik V is currently being assessed by the U.N. health agency for safety and efficacy. Research published in the journal Lancet this year suggested the vaccine is about 91% effective. The shot is currently used in numerous countries.

In a statement on Thursday, UNICEF says it is “ready to deliver as soon as regulatory milestones have been met.” The announcement could help bolster the amount of vaccines for the COVAX effort, which aims to distribute doses to developing countries.

The vast majority of COVAX vaccine supplies are from the Serum Institute of India, which is keeping most of its vaccines to deal with a coronavirus surge of cases and deaths.

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STOCKHOLM — Sweden, with coronavirus cases declining, is easing some restrictions.

Longer opening hours at restaurant and bars will start June 1, along with changes to the maximum number of people who can gather indoors and outdoors.

Prime Minister Stefan Lofven says, “Let’s continue to do this together, until the day when this is over.”

The Scandinavian country didn’t go into lockdowns or closed businesses, relying instead on citizens’ sense of civic duty to control infections. Sweden has registered more than a 1 million cases and 14,451 confirmed deaths.

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JAKARTA, Indonesia — Two vaccines made by China’s Sinopharm appear to be safe and effective against COVID-19, according to a study published in a medical journal.

The report, published online in the Journal of the American Medical Association, concluded the two vaccines are about 73% and 78% effective, as Sinopharm has previously claimed.

Scientists have been waiting for more details about the two vaccines, even though they already are used in many countries and one recently won the backing of the World Health Organization.

Researchers from Sinopharm and its local partners in the Middle East say the trial involved 40,380 participants with the company’s two vaccines — one developed by the Wuhan Institute of Biological Products and the other by the Beijing Institute of Biological Products — and a placebo. The trial was carried out in Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Jordan. However, the study provided data for just Bahrain and the UAE.

Health experts say there’s not enough data in the study to show whether the vaccines provide protection against severe disease. The study also involved many more men than women, which means there is not enough data to determine if there are safety concerns that impact women.

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ST. PAUL, Minn. — Gov. Tim Walz hopes new giveaways will pick up the pace of coronavirus vaccinations in Minnesota, which has slowed recently.

Walz is expected to announce a list of incentives Thursday, including tickets to the Minnesota State Fair, fishing licenses and state park passes. According to Walz spokesman Teddy Tschann, 100,000 people who are vaccinated between Memorial Day weekend and the end of June will be eligible for the items.

The goal is to have 70 percent of Minnesotans 16 and older vaccinated by July 1, a target President Joe Biden has set for the country. About 64 percent have received at least one shot of a COVID vaccine.

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INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb wants all state employees to return to the office by early July.

The transition from a March 2020 stay-at-home order starts with senior staff who must return by June 7. Other employees should spend at least 50% of their time at the office by June 21 and return full-time by July 6, the Indianapolis Star reported.

The state will offer a vaccination clinic at the Indiana Government Center in Indianapolis on June 21-22. More than 2.4 million Indiana residents are fully vaccinated.

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WOONSOCKET, R.I. — CVS Health is betting a chance to win a trip to the Super Bowl, a Bermuda vacation or cash prizes will bring in more customers for COVID-19 vaccinations.

The drugstore chain officials say they’ll launch a sweepstakes on June 1 with weekly drawings and more than 1,000 potential prizes for customers who get shots through CVS or register for them. Other prizes include cash giveaways, Target gift cards, trips to Miami and stays in Wyndham hotels.

Customers ages 18 and older can enter the sweepstakes, which will run until July 10.

The CVS Health announcement comes as the pace of vaccinations begins to lag nationally, and several states have created lottery prizes to entice residents to get shots.

President Joe Biden has set a goal of delivering at least one dose of vaccine to 70% of adult Americans by July 4 and fully vaccinating at least 160 million by then.

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KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Malaysia has procured more vaccines and aims to accelerate inoculations starting next month as the government struggles to contain a worsening coronavirus crisis.

The science minister says the government has bought an additional 12.8 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine, bringing the total to 44.8 million doses, enough to cover 70% of Malaysia’s population.

More than 11 million people, or about a third of the population, have registered for vaccinations but only 1.7 million have received at least one dose.

The health ministry on Thursday reported 7,857 new infections, a record that pushed the country’s total confirmed cases above 541,000. It was the third straight day in which new cases soared above 7,000. Total deaths have spiked to nearly 2,500.

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MADISON, Wis. — The number of COVID-19 deaths has now surpassed 7,000 in Wisconsin, but data shows the number of coronavirus cases declining and more people being vaccinated.

The state Department of Health on Wednesday reported five new deaths and 330 new cases of the coronavirus, which has claimed the lives of 7,003 people in Wisconsin.

The average number of cases in the past seven days is 307, down from 394 daily cases a week ago.

A total of 5 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine have been administered in Wisconsin, with nearly 79% of residents age 65 and older having been fully vaccinated.

About 16% of the state’s 12- to 15-year-olds received their first doses of vaccine, according to health officials. That age group became eligible May 13.

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LONDON — The British government says a fast-spreading new coronavirus variant could delay its plans to lift remaining social restrictions next month.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson says “we may need to wait” beyond the planned date of June 21. Health Secretary Matt Hancock says it's “too early now to say” whether the step could take place.

Hancock says a variant of the virus first identified in India was spreading throughout the U.K. Scientists say the new strain is more transmissible than Britain’s previously dominant variant. They say existing vaccines appear to be largely effective against it.

The government has been lifting restrictions in stages, with indoor eating, drinking and entertainment venues reopening last week. Social distancing and mask-wearing rules are still in place.

Johnson says lifting the remaining measures would depend on how much the new variant drives an increase in cases and how quickly the population is vaccinated.

Almost three-quarters of British adults have had one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, and 45% have had both doses.

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SEOUL, South Korea -- South Korea is allowing younger adults who aren’t yet eligible to get coronavirus vaccines to use smartphone apps to sign up for spare doses as officials try to speed up vaccination.

Health officials didn’t immediately say how many people applied for leftover vaccines after the services went live on Thursday. But a flood of requests temporarily forced mobile chat service Kakao to reboot its servers, said Kim Ki-nam, an official from the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency.

Anyone 30 years or older could also use the mobile services of Naver, the country’s biggest website, to register on standby lists.

South Korea has so far administered first doses to just over 4 million people, which is less than 8% of its population. Priority groups have included medical workers, people in long-term care settings, and adults 75 and older.

Officials are hoping that the pace of vaccination will pick up in the coming weeks as they start to inoculate people in their mid-60s and early 70s.

South Korea reported 629 new cases of the virus on Thursday, bringing its caseload to 138,311 and 1,943 confirmed deaths.

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