WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden says the U.S is determined to help India as it grapples with a surge in coronavirus cases.
In a tweet Sunday, Biden said, “Just as India sent assistance to the United States as our hospitals were strained early in the pandemic, we are determined to help India in its time of need.”
The president didn’t offer specifics in the brief message. But earlier Sunday the White House said the U.S. is “working around the clock” to immediately deploy to India drug treatments and rapid diagnostic COVID-19 testing kits. Also coming are ventilators and personal protective equipment, and the U.S. will seek to provide oxygen supplies as well.
The White House says it has identified sources of raw material urgently needed for India’s manufacture of the Covishield vaccine and will make that available. The U.S. also intends to pay for an expansion of manufacturing capability for the vaccine manufacturer in India, BioE, so it can ramp up and produce at least 1 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines by the end of 2022.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Fans attending the West Virginia girls and boys state basketball tournaments will have the chance to get vaccinated against the coronavirus.
The Kanawha-Charleston Health Department says the shots will be administered starting Tuesday at the Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center. Anyone age 16 and older can receive one.
In the words of Dr. Sherri Young, the department’s health officer: “We understand that parents and teenagers are busy, so this is one way we hope to make the process more convenient for them.”
State data show that 31% of West Virginia’s eligible residents are fully vaccinated and 39% have received at least one dose. Gov. Jim Justice said last week that a statewide mask mandate may stay in place until 70% of eligible residents have been vaccinated.
THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— India’s crematoriums overwhelmed as virus ‘swallows people’
— Death toll in fire at Iraqi COVID-19 hospital surpasses 80
— Michigan became hotspot as variants rose and vigilance fell
— Morocco scolds Spain over virus help for independence leader
— While much of the world remains hunkered down, the band Six60 has been playing to huge crowds in New Zealand, where social distancing isn’t required after the nation stamped out the coronavirus.
Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
JUNEAU, Alaska — Alaska Airlines has banned an Alaska state senator from its flights, saying she refused to follow mask requirements.
An airline spokesman says that state Sen. Lora Reinbold of Eagle River had been informed and that the suspension was effective immediately.
Reinbold told the Anchorage Daily News that she had not been notified of a ban and that she hoped to be on an Alaska Airlines flight in the near future.
Reinbold was recorded last week at Juneau International Airport apparently arguing with airport and Alaska Airlines staff about mask policies. Reinbold told the newspaper she was inquiring about a “mask exemption with uptight employees at the counter.” She said she was reasonable with all employees.
Alaska Airlines has banned over 500 people.
WASHINGTON — The U.S. is pledging immediate medical aid to India to help combat its surge in coronavirus cases.
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan spoke by phone Sunday with his Indian counterpart, Ajit Doval, and expressed sympathy and support.
According to the White House statement, the U.S. is “working around the clock” to immediately deploy to India drug treatments, rapid diagnostic COVID-19 testing kits, ventilators and personal protective equipment and will seek to provide oxygen supplies as well.
The White House says it had identified sources of raw material urgently needed for India’s manufacture of the Covishield vaccine and will make that available. The U.S. also intends to pay for an expansion of manufacturing capability for BioE, the vaccine manufacturer in India, so it can ramp up and produce at least 1 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines by the end of 2022.
A team of U.S. public health advisers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and USAID will also be sent to assist Indian officials.
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lanka’s government on Sunday banned all private functions including meetings and parties and also halted all state functions for the next two weeks as COVID-19 cases are steadily rising across the country.
“All state festivals planned for the next two weeks have been halted,” a statement from the President’s office said, adding that, “ the government had decided to ban all private sector functions, meetings and parties under quarantine regulations.”
The number of positive cases have gone up by three times in the last two days in Sri Lanka. For several weeks, the number of cases stood below 300 and on Sunday, the figure rose to 895.
Sri Lanka is still in the midst of a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic that erupted in October after two clusters — one centered on a garment factory and other on the fish market — emerged in the capital Colombo and its suburbs.
ROME — With spring weather bursting upon Italy, many Italians didn’t wait for Monday’s partial lifting of COVID-19 restrictions on social activities in much of the country.
Starting Friday evening and spanning the sunny and warm weekend, people in Rome, Milan, Turin, Naples and other cities turned out in droves to picnic or hang out in parks or at beaches. They also swarmed, with drinks in hand, through trendy piazzas or promenade down popular shopping streets in historic centers. Many ignored safety-distancing measures or mandatory outdoor mask-wearing.
This week, after government-ordered restrictions that were imposed ahead of Easter holidays, restaurants and cafes will be allowed to resume table service in regions where COVID-19 transmission rates, ICU bed capacity and other pandemic parameters have sufficiently improved.
But only outdoor service, and no inside table or counter service, will be allowed for now to the frustration of many eatery owners. Theaters, cinemas and museums can also re-open in those regions starting on Monday but with strictly reduced capacity.
LONDON— Britain says it is sending 600 pieces of medical equipment including ventilators to India to help the country in its fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said Sunday the first of nine plane-loads of kit would arrive in New Delhi on Tuesday.
The move follows discussion with the Indian government. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who had been due to visit India this week before the worsening situation there forced him to cancel, said Britain stands “side by side with India as a friend and partner” and would do whatever it could to support India through the crisis.
The assistance package includes 495 oxygen concentrators, 120 non-invasive ventilators and 20 manual ventilators from surplus U.K. stocks.
WASHINGTON — West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore Capito says fellow Republican senator Ron Johnson’s recent statement that Americans shouldn’t care if their neighbors get the coronavirus vaccine was unhelpful.
Johnson, of Wisconsin, questioned the need for widespread COVID-19 vaccinations during an interview last week with conservative talk radio host Vicki McKenna. He said there’s “no reason to be pushing vaccines on people,” particularly very young people, at a moment when the federal government is trying to counter hesitancy among some Americans over getting inoculated.
Public health officials around globe are urging people to get vaccinated as soon as possible, saying that reaching herd immunity is the best shot at stopping the uncontrolled spread of the virus.
ORLANDO, Fla. — Shots using the Johnson & Johnson vaccine have resumed at federally supported mass vaccination sites throughout Florida, state emergency officials said.
The Florida Division of Emergency Management tweeted Sunday that it was resuming the Johnson & Johnson shots at the vaccination sites in Tampa, Orlando, Jacksonville and Miami after reviewing guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration.
The federal agencies on Friday called for the 11-day pause on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to be lifted after federal regulators reviewed data on blood clots and assessed risks associated with the vaccine.
BERLIN — Germany is considering sending emergency assistance to India to help the country cope with a surge in COVID-19 cases that threatens to overwhelm the country’s hospitals.
The German Defense Ministry said Sunday it’s examining the possibility of providing a mobile oxygen generator and other aid to India.
Chancellor Angela Merkel earlier expressed her sympathy to the people of India and said Germany was “urgently preparing a mission of support.”
The German military has so far conducted 38 support missions for other nations or international organizations during the coronavirus pandemic.
BERLIN — Germany’s Health Ministry says sharp increase in vaccine deliveries over the coming months means it will likely be able to begin offering the shots to all adults from June.
Like most countries, Germany currently prioritizes vaccination of people who are most vulnerable to serious illness from COVID-19 due to their age, preexisting conditions or exposure to potentially infected people.
In a briefing document issued by the Health Ministry ahead of a Cabinet meeting Monday, officials say that pending further delivery commitments from AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, “it should be possible to end the prioritization by June at the latest.”
They caution that not everyone will immediately be able to get a shot, however, and that the vaccination campaign will likely continue over the summer as planned.
CAIRO — Egypt’s president has received his first dose of coronavirus vaccine, although his office did not say what type of vaccine was used. Egypt in general uses China’s Sinopharm or the AstraZeneca vaccines.
Abdel Fattah el-Sissi got the dose as part of the national vaccination campaign, his office said in a Facebook post Sunday.
El-Sissi’s vaccination appeared aimed to encourage more people to get vaccinated, particularly health care workers.
Health Minister Hala Zayed on Saturday called for health workers to register to be vaccinated. She said only 50% of the targeted health care workers have signed up.
Egypt, the Arab world’s most populous country with over 100 million people, has reported at least 221,570 confirmed cases, including some 13,000 deaths.
However, the actual numbers of COVID-19 cases, like elsewhere in the world, are thought to be far higher, in part due to limited testing.
ISLAMABAD — India’s rival Pakistan is offering to send essential medical supplies to its neighbor that’s in the grip of a devastating coronavirus surge that has depleted oxygen stocks and other hospital needs.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs says that as a gesture of solidarity with the people of India, Pakistan has offered to provide relief support including ventilators, oxygen supply kits, digital X-ray machines, PPE and and related items.
It said authorities of both countries can work out modalities for a quick delivery of the items and can also explore possible ways of further cooperation to mitigate the challenges posed by the pandemic.
The offer came a day after Prime Minister Imran Khan in a tweet prayed for the “speedy recovery of the Indian people affected by the virus.”
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi says Pakistan, believing in a policy of humanity first, made the offer to India and is awaiting a response.
BANGKOK — Thailand on Sunday reported 2,438 new cases and 11 deaths, as Bangkok braced for the closure of entertainment and sport venues as part of measures health care workers say are not enough to relieve overburdened hospitals.
The Thai capital has seen a rapid rise in infections since early April, and its governor, Aswin Kwanmuang, announced the two-week closures starting Monday.
They include gyms, public parks, zoos, exhibition and meeting centers, nurseries and boxing stadiums. Those not wearing masks in public face penalties.
Shortages of hospital beds, stemming from a regulation that everyone testing positive for COVID-19 must be treated in a hospital, are causing frustration. Media reported two people died in their homes after they were turned down by hospitals.
Some health workers are calling for a general lockdown, saying the government’s hospital admission policies have exhausted the system.
The Thoracic Society of Thailand wrote an open letter demanding the government restrict the movement of people to reduce the number of new cases.
TOKYO — Japan’s department stores, bars and theaters shuttered Sunday as part of emergency measures to slow a surge in infections.
The 17-day restrictions are declared for Tokyo, Kyoto, Hyogo and Osaka, ahead of the “Golden Week” holidays, when Japanese usually travel extensively.
There’s doubt about the effectiveness of the effort, which focuses on eateries and theme parks staying closed or limiting hours. Trains and streets remain as packed as ever, and schools will stay open.
Japan has already declared three emergencies over the coronavirus. The vaccine rollout has been slow, with barely 1% of its population inoculated.
One setback is that Japan requires additional testing for vaccines approved overseas, and only the Pfizer vaccine is now in use.
Experts say the unfolding wave of infections includes more deadly variants. Japan has attributed about 10,000 deaths to COVID-19, among the worst in Asia. A domestically produced vaccine is not expected until next year or 2023.
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