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Tuesday June 22nd, 2021 6:17AM

The Latest: US to pay more to vaccinate older adults at home

By The Associated Press
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WASHINGTON—Medicare is announcing a significant increase in what it will pay to vaccinate homebound older people against COVID-19, part of the Biden administration’s “last mile” effort to get shots in the arms of as many Americans as possible.

Officials said Wednesday the program will pay roughly $35 more per dose when enrollees are vaccinated at home. For a two-shot regimen that means Medicare will pay $150, or about $70 more than currently.

Medicare estimates that 1.6 million people 65 and older may have trouble getting to pharmacies or vaccination centers because of obstacles to leaving home. These can include physical impairments as well as neurologic disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Local health departments in many communities have already launched efforts to locate and vaccinate homebound older people, who remain at risk because visitors may unwittingly bring the virus into their homes. Medicare said the higher reimbursement should translate to a bigger incentive.

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MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:

— AP source: US to buy 500M Pfizer vaccines to share globally

— France is back: Borders reopen to American tourists, others

— Haiti fights large COVID-19 spike as it awaits vaccines

— Pandemic shows risk of obesity, challenge of weight loss

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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:

LAHAINA, Hawaii — Hawaii’s restaurants are having a hard time serving an influx of tourists returning to the islands as pandemic restrictions across the nation ease.

Restaurants in Hawaii are operating at 50% capacity. Gov. David Ige says that limit will not be increased until 60% of Hawaii residents are vaccinated. When that benchmark is met, restaurants will be able to operate at 75% capacity. But capacity increases won’t help some restaurants with limited space.

Some restaurants won’t be able to serve many more people until social distancing rules are changed.

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TORONTO—Canada’s health minister says fully vaccinated Canadian citizens and permanent residents who test negative for COVID-19 will soon be exempt from a two-week quarantine when returning to the country.

Officials expect that to happen in early July.

Air travelers who have received shots at least 14 days before entering Canada will be able to skip a stay in a government-approved quarantine hotel but will still have to stay in isolation until a COVID-19 test comes back negative.

Currently, arriving air travelers are required to spend three days in quarantine at a hotel at their expense and then complete their two weeks of self-isolation. But they will be required to take a COVID-19 test upon arrival in Canada, and remain in isolation until the test comes back negative.

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, says she would like to see 75% of eligible Canada residents fully vaccinated before advising that border restrictions be loosened for tourists and business travelers who aren’t citizens or permanent residents.

Canada’s procurement minister expects to have enough vaccine doses delivered for 80% of eligible Canadians to be fully vaccinated by the end of July.

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WASHINGTON — The U.S. will buy 500 million more doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to share through the COVAX alliance for donation to 92 lower-income countries and the African Union over the next year.

That’s according to a person familiar with the matter.

President Joe Biden is expected to make the announcement Thursday in a speech before the start of Group of Seven summit. According to the person, 200 million doses — enough to fully protect 100 million people — would be shared this year, with the balance to be donated in the first half of 2022.

The person confirmed the announcement on the condition of anonymity. The news was first reported by the Washington Post.

The announcement comes days after the White House unveiled its plans to begin sharing the existing U.S. vaccine surplus with the world.

— By Zeke Miller

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- A dozen major California business organizations have called on Gov. Gavin Newsom to change recently adopted workplace regulations requiring all workers to wear masks unless everyone in a room is vaccinated.

The California Retailers Association and organizations representing manufacturers, farmers, tourism interests and other industries sent a letter to Newsom asking him to issue an emergency order rescinding the regulations adopted last week.

Those regulations came from the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board and run counter to Newsom’s plan to lift nearly all mask rules for vaccinated people next Tuesday. The board called a special meeting for Wednesday to reconsider the masking rules.

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MOSCOW — The Russian capital has recorded a steep uptick in coronavirus infections this week and authorities say enforcement measures for wearing masks and gloves will increase.

On Wednesday, the national coronavirus task force reported 4,124 new cases in Moscow, a 40% increase from Sunday’s tally of 2,936. The head of the directorate that oversees control of public services for the city, Yevgeny Danchikov, says enforcement of masks and gloves on public transport, in shopping centers and in other public places will be tightened. Violators could be fined up to 5,000 rubles ($70).

Mayor Sergei Sobyanin says the city plans to open new hospitals for treatment of COVID-19 but didn’t give details. Russia has reported 5.1 million confirmed coronavirus infections and 124,895 confirmed deaths.

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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Haiti has perplexed experts with low infection and death rates from COVID-19 despite its rickety public health system, a lack of vaccines and fewer enforced safety measures.

That’s no longer the case. The few Haitian hospitals treating COVID-19 cases report turning away patients. There were 2,271 cases and 62 deaths recorded in the past month. Health experts say those figures miss the true scale of what they consider the largest spike in cases since the coronavirus arrived.

The government declared a health emergency on May 24 and imposed a curfew and safety measures — though few Haitians appear to follow them. Most shun, or can’t afford, face masks and it’s difficult to keep a distance while shopping in bustling marketplaces or riding crowded buses.

A total of 15,700 confirmed cases and more than 330 confirmed deaths have been reported in a nation of more than 11 million.

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LONDON — The U.K. has recorded its highest daily coronavirus cases since late February, suggesting the Delta variant is spreading widely across the country.

Government figures Wednesday showed that the U.K. recorded 7,540 new infections, the biggest daily increase since Feb. 26. Cases have been rising over the past few weeks as a result of the Delta variant first identified in India. The concern is the increase will pressure the health system once again.

Another 123 people entered the hospital with symptoms related to coronavirus, taking the total to 1,024. The number of people dying after testing positive for COVID-19 rose by six to 127,860 confirmed deaths.

Health experts hope the rapid rollout of vaccines will break the link between new cases and deaths. So far, a large proportion of the people infected are within the less vulnerable younger age groups, many of whom have yet to receive a first dose.

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GENEVA — World Trade Organization member nations have agreed to intensify talks toward geared at improving access to COVID-19 products.

Developing nations are pushing for a proposal to ease patents and other intellectual property protections for coronavirus vaccines, but some wealthier countries remain opposed. A panel focusing on intellectual property wrapped up a two-day meeting on Wednesday with an agreement to start a process for pulling together proposals to improve the fight against COVID-19 through the WTO’s intricate system of rules.

Intellectual property includes patents on technological know-how regarding vaccines. WTO members plan to start discussions next week in hope of sending a report to the Geneva-based trade body’s ambassadors in July.

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COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lanka has requested Japan provide 600,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine in an attempt to complete administering the second dose to citizens.

Sri Lanka is facing a severe shortage of AstraZeneca vaccines as the producer in the neighboring India failed to provide the promised stock due to the crisis in that country.

On Wednesday, the president’s office announced that president Gotabhaya Rajapaksa requested Prime Minister of Japan Yoshiihide Suga provide 600,000 doses of AstraZeneca.

The request “has been met with positive responses,” according to a statement from the president’s office. Sri Lanka is currently using China’s Sinopharm and Rusian Sputnik V vaccines.

Sri Lanka has witnessed an increase of positive cases and deaths since April, partly caused by celebrations and shopping during last month’s traditional new year festival. Sri Lanka has registered more than 210,000 cases and 1,843 confirmed deaths.

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BEIRUT — Lebanon’s caretaker health minister has inaugurated the country’s largest vaccination center at a shopping mall in Beirut as the government speeds up the inoculation campaign against the coronavirus.

Hamad Hassan says the center run by the Lebanese Red Cross can vaccinate more than 5,000 persons a day and aims to encourage more people to take the vaccines outside hospitals and clinics.

Lebanon, a nation of about 6 million people, including a million Syrian refugees, has vaccinated more than 600,000 people with a first shot.

After hitting a record of more than 6,000 cases and nearly 100 deaths in one day earlier this year, lockdowns and strict measures by the government helped bring down the numbers. Lebanon’s health ministry reported 139 new cases and six deaths on Wednesday.

The nation has registered more than 540,000 confirmed cases and 7,780 deaths.

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PARIS — France’s government spokesman says the coronavirus situation in France “clearly improved” and the country on Wednesday reopened indoor spaces in restaurants and cafes as well as gyms and swimming pools.

Gabriel Attal says, “That is not only a foretaste, but the taste of the life we once had that we are getting back.”

The nighttime curfew is pushed back from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m.

Major sport and cultural events are allowed with a maximum number of 5,000 people. They’ll need to show a vaccination certificate or a negative test within the last 48 hours. Terraces of restaurants and cafes, theaters, cinemas and museums reopened on May 19 after a six-month coronavirus shutdown.

About 54% of France’s adult population has received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose. France is registering 6,500 daily virus cases on average, down from 35,000 in the March-April peak.

The nation has reported 110,000 confirmed deaths, among the highest tolls in Europe.

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KAMPALA, Uganda — Billionaire philanthropist Mo Ibrahim is criticizing vaccine hoarding by wealthy nations, urging the international community to “walk the talk” as Africa desperately lags behind in vaccinating against COVID-19.

Ibrahim, a British mobile phone magnate who was born in Sudan, is hailed as a voice of moral authority across Africa. The 75-year-old earned his fortune by establishing the Celtel mobile phone network across Africa in the 1990s.

He is now using his fortune to promote democracy and political accountability on the continent, including through his sponsorship of the $5 million Ibrahim Prize for African leaders who govern responsibly and who give up their power peacefully. Speaking during a Zoom call with the Associated Press from London, where he is based, Ibrahim urged “at least a reasonable portion” of the vaccines should go to frontline workers in Africa.

“We need to hold our leaders accountable,” he said. “You deny and you pay the price... Unfortunately, your people also pay the price.”

Africa has administered vaccine doses to 31 million of its 1.3 billion people. Only 7 million people are fully vaccinated, according to World Health Organization Africa director Matshidiso Moeti. Health experts are concerned the continent will suffer greatly in the long term if more of its people are not vaccinated.

Africa has confirmed more than 4.9 million coronavirus cases and 132,000 deaths.

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BRUSSELS — Belgians are venturing out, many without face masks for the first time in months, as the government eased coronavirus restrictions on Wednesday.

Cafes, bars and restaurants can start inviting people indoors, rather than service only on terraces, and can stay open until 11:30 p.m.

Cinemas are opening again, with a maximum of 200 people allowed in if the numbers don’t exceed 75% of seating capacity. Bowling alleys, amusement arcades, casinos, gyms and markets are also back in business.

In the capital Brussels, people will be free to walk unencumbered in most places. Masks will be required in busy shopping areas or public transport where social distancing is more difficult.

New cases are down by 25% in the last week, to 1,315 per day, and hospital numbers continue to decline. About 67 people are still be admitted each day, with an average of 14 daily deaths.

The virus has killed more than 25,000 people in Belgium, which has a total population of 11.5 million.

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TOKYO — Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga says he is aiming to have everyone in the country vaccinated by November, a target he set with a general election scheduled for later this year.

Suga called vaccines “a trump card” of anti-virus measures and said Wednesday: “I want vaccines to be given by the October-November period to all the people who want to be vaccinated.”

The prime minister is desperately pushing to accelerate Japan’s COVID-19 vaccine program ahead of the Summer Olympics, which are scheduled to be held in Tokyo from July 23 to Aug. 8.

Suga is seeking to have 1 million shots administered a day so all of the country’s 36 million older adults will be fully vaccinated by the end of July. He also urged major companies to prepare to start vaccinating their employees later this month to accelerate the process ahead of the Olympics.

Less than 4% of Japan’s population was fully vaccinated as of Tuesday, according to government figures.

Slow vaccinations and concerns about holding the Olympics amid the pandemic has prompted protests and sent Suga’s approval ratings to their lowest levels since he took office in September.

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PARIS — France is back in business as a tourist destination after opening its borders Wednesday to foreign visitors from the United States, Britain and elsewhere who are inoculated against the coronavirus with vaccines approved by the European Union’s medicines agency.

France’s acceptance of only the Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines means tourism is likely to be slow to pick up from China and other countries that use vaccines not approved by the European Medicines Agency.

Without one of the those four vaccines, non-EU visitors will still need to prove that they have a compelling reason to visit France and quarantine on arrival.

Still, the potential return of vaccinated tourists from the United States, Britain and other countries was hailed as great news by French tourism workers.

Marc Vernhet, owner of the 2CVParisTour.com agency that rents out vintage cars to visitors, said he is already starting to get reservations from American and British tourists for July.

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  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Health, AP Business, AP Health - Senior Health, AP Business - Economy, AP Business - Industries, AP Business - Health Care, AP Business - Personal Finance
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