The Latest: Italy offers vaccination for all by summer’s end

International

Women laying in coffins representing women killed in domestic violence during an event for upcoming International Women’s Day in front of Tel Aviv’s district court, Israel, Sunday, March 7, 2021. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

ROME — Italy’s health minister says that all Italians who want to be vaccinated against COVID-19 will be able to do so by summer’s end.

Minister Roberto Speranza told state TV on Sunday that Italy expects to receive delivery of more than 50 million doses in the second quarter of this year, including the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine, whose approval by European Union medicine authorities is expected soon.

As of Sunday, about 3.7 million people in Italy had received at least one injection of an anti-COVID-19 vaccine. That’s just over 5% of Italy’s population.

Health authorities in Lazio, the region including Rome, have expressed eagerness to produce Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine in pharmaceutical plants near the capital.

After months of a plateau in daily caseloads of coronavirus since late fall 2020, last week saw a steady climb in new infections in Italy.

Epidemiologists say Italy should brace for a new peak of infections in about two weeks, warning that daily caseloads could reach as high as 40,000 unless more severe restrictions of citizens’ movement and activities are swiftly put into place.

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THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— Biden, Democrats prevail as Senate OKs $1.9 trillion virus relief bill

— Russia scores points with vaccine diplomacy, but snags arise

— Europe staggers as virus variants spark infection surges across the continent

— Murder, but gentler: ‘Cozy’ mysteries a pandemic-era balm

— AP PHOTOS: Cyprus keeps Carnival spirit alive amid COVID-19

— Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic, https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

WASHINGTON — Dr. Anthony Fauci is projecting U.S. high school students will be able to get vaccinated early in the next school year and that elementary school students should be line for vaccinations in early 2022.

Fauci, who serves as President Joe Biden’s chief medical officer and director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, in an interview with CBS News’ “Face the Nation” predicted that vaccines for teens will be available “maybe not the first day but certainly in the early part of the fall.”

Currently, three vaccines are approved for use in the United States. The single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine and the two-shot Moderna vaccine are approved for individuals 18 and older. Pfizer’s vaccine is approved for 16 and up.

Trials are underway to determine the safety of vaccines on younger people.

Teenagers contract the coronavirus almost twice as often as younger children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.

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BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — Slovakia has become another country to have identified a fast-spreading coronavirus variant that is believed to originate in South Africa.

Slovakia’s Health Ministry spokeswoman Zuzana Eliasova says the variant has been detected in seven samples. Four of the people returned from abroad, one of them from the African island of Zanzibar. Three have been infected at home.

Slovakia is one of the hardest-hit European Union countries. It has been recently facing a surge of another highly contagious variant found in Britain.

The number of COVID-19 patients in Slovak hospitals surpassed a record of 4,000 earlier this week.

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LONDON — British children are gearing up to return to school on Monday after a two-month closure, part of what Prime Minister Boris Johnson said was a plan to get the country to “start moving closer to a sense of normality.”

As part of the plan, millions of high school and college students coming back to U.K. classrooms will be tested for the first few weeks. Authorities want to quickly detect and isolate asymptomatic cases in order to avoid sending entire schools home.

“We are being cautious in our approach so that we do not undo the progress we have made so far,” Johnson said as he urged people to get vaccinated.

High schools and colleges can reopen in phases to allow for testing. The U.K. government has distributed nearly 57 million rapid “lateral flow” test kits to schools across the country, but there are concerns about the accuracy of the tests, which may result in pupils being forced to self-isolate unnecessarily.

But Susan Hopkins, a director at Public Health England, told the BBC on Sunday that evidence from testing over the past eight weeks suggested less than 1 in 1,000 tests resulted in a false positive.

Britain has had Europe’s deadliest outbreak, with nearly 125,000 COVID-19 deaths.

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FLORIDA CITY, Fla. — A Florida vaccination site had so few eligible takers Saturday that it started inoculating any adult who wanted a shot rather than let the vaccine on hand go to waste.

Word spread and on Sunday the Florida City site was overwhelmed, particularly after local state Sen. Annette Taddeo incorrectly tweeted that the federally-run site would again take all comers. The Democrat, who was the party’s lieutenant governor candidate in 2014, later deleted that tweet and corrected herself.

Police had to calm the crowd when the site again enforced the state’s eligibility rules: 65 and older; frontline medical workers and police officers, teachers and firefighters over 50; and younger people with a physician’s note saying they would be endangered if they caught the virus.

According to the Miami Herald, a Florida City police officer through a megaphone told 200 people waiting in line, “If you do not meet the criteria, you will not be vaccinated today.” Vaccines must be refrigerated at extremely cold temperatures and used that day once they are removed.

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BUCHAREST, Romania — Around 3,000 anti-vaccination protesters from across Romania converged outside the parliament building in Bucharest on Sunday as authorities announced new restrictions amid a rise of COVID-19 infections.

It has been less than six weeks since COVID-19 restrictions were relaxed in Bucharest, but rising infections have prompted authorities to reimpose tighter restrictions for a 14-day period effective as of Monday.

The restrictions will see bars, restaurants, theaters, gambling venues, and cafes close indoor spaces as the capital’s infection rate rose above three cases per 1,000 inhabitants over a 14-day rolling period — effectively entering a “red scenario,” which the authorities use as a threshold to manage both restrictions and the spread of the virus.

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BRUSSELS —The Belgian government issued a decree Sunday that will allow for some relaxation of the strict coronavirus measures as fears for a new spike in infections abate somewhat.

The measures, which were approved on Friday, increase the number of people allowed to meet outside from four to 10 but still keep social distancing rules in place. Funerals will be allowed to have 50 people attend instead of 15.

The Belgian government stressed that social distancing remained a key part of any relaxation measure. It hoped that restaurants and bars would be allowed to open again, under certain conditions, beginning May 1.

Both hospital admissions and new infections have tapering off while they were increasing by 25% on a weekly basis only 9 days ago.

Over 22,000 people in Belgium have died of COVID-19 since the pandemic struck.

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NOUMEA, New Caledonia — Local authorities ordered New Caledonia, a French archipelago in the South Pacific, to be placed under lockdown for at least two weeks to try to prevent the virus from spreading.

The decision comes after nine new infections were confirmed on Sunday. The president of the Caledonian government, Thierry Santa, said “there’s a very strong risk that the virus starts circulating” on the archipelago.

Beginning Monday, a ban all nonessential activities will apply and all schools and universities will be closed.

The territory of 270,000 people went under a one-month lockdown at the beginning of the pandemic, which successfully prevented the virus from spreading. Since then, restrictions had been lifted.

New Caledonia has kept its borders almost completely closed, suspending nearly all flights with only few exceptions and imposing a mandatory 14-day quarantine and testing for travelers.

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MOSCOW — Russia’s boast in August that it was the first country to authorize a coronavirus vaccine led to skepticism at the time because of its insufficient testing. Six months later, as demand for the Sputnik V vaccine grows, experts are raising questions again — this time, over whether Moscow can keep up with all the orders from the countries that want it.

Slovakia got 200,000 doses on March 1, even though the European Medicines Agency, the European Union’s pharmaceutical regulator, only began reviewing its use on Thursday in an expedited process. The president of the hard-hit Czech Republic said he wrote directly to Russian President Vladimir Putin to get a supply. Millions of doses are expected by countries in Latin America, Africa, the former Soviet Union and the Middle East in a wave of Russian vaccine diplomacy.

“Sputnik V continues to confidently conquer Europe,” anchor Olga Skabeyeva declared on the Russia-1 state TV channel.

The early criticism of Sputnik V has been blunted by a report in the prestigious British medical journal The Lancet that said large-scale testing showed it to be safe, with an efficacy rate of 91% against the virus.

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JERUSALEM — Israel has opened most of its economy as part of its final phase of lifting coronavirus lockdown restrictions, some of them in place since September.

Bars and restaurants, wedding halls, sporting events, hotels and all primary and secondary education were reopening Sunday, with some restrictions on entry and capacity. The move comes after months of government-imposed shutdowns.

The Israeli government approved easing the limitations Saturday night, including reopening the main international airport to a limited number of passengers.

Most large public activities, including dining at restaurants, are available to people vaccinated against the coronavirus. Israel has sped ahead with its immunization campaign. Over 52% of its population has received one dose and almost 40% have had two doses of the Pfizer vaccine, one of the highest rates in the world.

Israel has confirmed at least 799,000 infections overall, including 5,856 deaths.

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KATHMANDU, Nepal — Nepal has received 248,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine under a United Nations-backed program known as the COVAX.

The shipment, the first of 1.92 million doses to be sent to Nepal, was flown to Kathmandu’s airport on Sunday as the country begins inoculating its elderly population.

Nepal has already received 2 million AstraZeneca doses and 1 million more are due to arrive within a week. Another 800,000 vaccine doses donated by the Chinese government are also shortly.

Nepal has recorded 274,655 cases of the coronavirus, including 3,010 deaths.

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NICOSIA, Cyprus —Carnival is usually the highlight of the year for Cyprus, when residents let loose in bizarre and colorful costumes, joyfully dancing and celebrating during the Mediterranean island nation’s biggest annual party scene.

But in the COVID-19 era, the revelry has taken a backseat to lockdowns and bans on public gatherings. Although the parade went ahead last year, this year carnival’s floats, huge puppets and other decorations are sitting in warehouses.

But Limassol city authorities aren’t letting the festive spirit completely wither away, organizing some events that comply with virus restrictions. The culmination of this is the secret outing of King Carnival, the lead float that marks the season’s annual theme.

Skevi Antoniadou, a city official, said the float, which has an abstract figure frozen in a dancing pose, will make the rounds of Limassol’s main thoroughfares without prior notice to avoid mass gatherings.

The exact route will remain a secret and police will be out to discourage people from gathering in large numbers. One foray already took place on Thursday.

“The message to all is that we’re looking forward to having you back next year, because we’ll bounce back from this even stronger,” Antoniadou said.

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COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lanka has received its first batch of COVID-19 vaccines under the COVAX program.

It received 264,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, which will be given to the most vulnerable people over 60 in the most high-risk areas.

The vaccines, which were delivered through UNICEF, mark the first allocation of 1.44 million doses of vaccines from the COVAX program that the island nation will receive. Sri Lanka is expected to get the rest in stages through May.

Sri Lanka has so far received 1 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured in neighboring India, which donated half of the doses. Sri Lanka purchased the balance from India’s Serum Institute.

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