UK records highest virus cases since February

LONDON — The U.K. has recorded its highest coronavirus infections since late February, the majority from the delta variant first identified in India.

Government figures on Friday showed 8,125 new cases, the highest since Feb. 26. The delta variant, which is considered about 40% more transmissible than the previous dominant strain, accounts for more than 90% of all new infections in the U.K.

There are concerns the next planned lockdown easing in England on June 21 may be delayed because of the increase in cases. Prime Minister Boris Johnson will announce Monday whether social distancing restrictions will be lifted.

The hope is the rapid rollout of vaccines will break the link between new cases and deaths, especially as most cases are among younger age groups. On Friday, another 17 coronavirus-related deaths were announced, taking the confirmed total to 127,884, the highest in Europe.

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MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:

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— AP source: J&J doses to be released, some tossed

China’s children may be next in line for COVID-19 vaccines

— Leaders of G-7 nations gather to pledge 1B vaccine doses for world

— Reports of rising coronavirus cases in Russia

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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:

ROME — Italy is recommending the AstraZeneca vaccine only for people over age 60, saying younger people who received a first AstraZeneca shot should get Pfizer or Moderna for their second shot.

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The government’s scientific committee revised its vaccine strategy after reviewing the latest data on cases of rare blood clots in people who received AstraZeneca. It’s acting now because the virus has drastically decreased, thanks to months of restrictions and a vaccine campaign that inoculated 45% of the population with at least one shot.

While cases of blood clots after a second dose are “extraordinarily rare,” the committee is recommending a different vaccine for a second dose for people under age 60, according to Dr. Franco Locatelli, head of the scientific committee.

Other countries, including France and Canada, have made similar recommendations. The European Medicines Agency still recommends people who received a first AstraZeneca vaccine to follow up with the same shot.

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COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lanka extended its lockdown for another week, amid a surge of coronavirus deaths in recent weeks.

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Sri Lanka is under a nearly three-week lockdown, scheduled to end on June 14. But on Friday, the government announced it will remain until June 21.

The new restrictions come as the coronavirus death toll crossed the 2,000 mark on Friday. It took 14 months to reach the first 1,000 deaths, while the second 1,000 deaths came in just 23 days.

People are banned from leaving their homes, while food and other essentials will be distributed through mobile vendors. However, the government says the ban will not apply to those engaged in essential service such as health, food supply, communications and power sectors. Factories, construction sites and agriculture sectors can operate.

Doctors and health workers have urged the government to keep the existing travel ban to contain the spreading of the coronavirus. Sri Lanka’s total confirmed cases have reached 216,134.

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WASHINGTON — U.S. regulators are allowing the release of 10 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine from a troubled Baltimore factory.

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However, material to make many more doses must be thrown out because of possible contamination, according to a person familiar with the decision.

The FDA announced Friday it had determined that two batches from the plant could be released. But it says several other batches are not suitable for use and additional batches are still under review. The doses originated at an Emergent BioSolutions factory, known as Bayview, that is making the vaccine for J&J.

A second person familiar with the decision confirmed it would allow for 10 million doses to be released. Both people spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to release details about it ahead of its announcement.

— By Zeke Miller and Linda A. Johnson

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TOKYO — The question of allowing any local fans into Tokyo Olympic venues is still being debated, with a decision not expected before the end of the month.

Fans from abroad have already been banned in what is shaping up as a largely made-for-television Olympics.

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Tokyo organizing committee president Seiko Hashimoto originally said she would announce a decision in April but has repeatedly postponed it.

Ticket sales were to account for $800 million in income for the organizing committee. Most of that income will be lost and have to be made up by Japanese government entities.

The postponed Tokyo Olympics are scheduled to open on July 23.

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BELGRADE, Serbia — Serbia’s medical agency has approved the use of Pfizer vaccines against coronavirus for youth ages 12 to 15.

The Medicines and Medical Devices Agency of Serbia on Friday says it gave the approval after a “rigorous control” of the scientific data about the clinical trials in other countries.

A senior government health official, Mirsad Djerlek, says a priority would be children with chronic diseases who are at greater risk from COVID-19. Djerlek says Serbia has vaccinated about 37% of adult population in the country of 7 million. He says authorities hope to reach 50% vaccination by the end of this month.

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Serbia has mostly used China’s Sinopharm vaccines, along with Pfizer, Sputnik V and AstraZeneca.

Serbia has relaxed rules against the coronavirus after a drop in daily cases and hospitalizations. The Balkan nation has confirmed more than 700,000 infections since the start of the pandemic and nearly 7,000 deaths.

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ISLAMABAD — Pakistan will spend $1.1 billion in the next fiscal year to import COVID-19 vaccines to inoculate most of the 100 million adult population.

This announcement was made by finance minister Shaukat Tareen on Friday while presenting the annual budget for fiscal 2021-22 in the parliament. Pakistan’s fiscal year begins on July 1.

Pakistan, a nation of 220 million, has so far mainly relied on vaccines import from neighboring China. The latest development comes two days after Pakistan said it has administered 10 million vaccine doses amid a decline in COVID-19 cases and deaths from coronavirus.

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Tareen also set a target of achieving 4.8 percent GDP growth in the next fiscal year. Pakistan’s economy has been under pressure since last year when it imposed weeks-long nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of coronavirus.

Pakistan has registered a total of 938,737 confirmed cases and 21,576 confirmed deaths.

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TAIPEI, Taiwan — If China is to meet its tentative goal of vaccinating 80% of its population against the coronavirus by the end of the year, tens of millions of children are going to have to start rolling up their sleeves.

Regulators have taken the first steps by approving two domestically produced vaccines for use in children aged 3 to 17, though no date has been set for the shots to start.

Children have been largely spared the worst of the pandemic, becoming infected less easily than adults and generally showing less severe symptoms when they do contract the virus. But some experts say if countries are going to achieve herd immunity, inoculating children should be part of the plan.

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Few regulators around the world have evaluated the safety of COVID-19 shots in kids. The United States, Canada, Singapore and Hong Kong are allowing the use of the Pfizer vaccine in children as young as 12.

China has a population of 1.4 billion, meaning it needs to inoculate 560 million people to reach its goal of 40% vaccination by June and 1.12 billion people to get to the 80% goal. It will be hard to do the latter without vaccinating many of its 254 million children who are younger than 14.

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LONDON — The European Medicines Agency has approved a new manufacturing site for the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, in a move that could substantially boost production for the European Union.

In a statement on Friday, the EU drug regulator says it had approved a site in Monts, France, operated by Recipharm. In addition to the new site approval, the EMA authorized several other sites to conduct batch control and testing.

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This month, two locations in the U.S. were approved for production of vaccines destined for the 27-nation EU bloc. Any medicines or vaccines authorized for the EU market must first have their production facilities approved by the EMA.

The EMA says these new approved sites are expected to result in an additional 1 to 2 million vials of Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine every month.

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KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Malaysia’s government says a two-week nationwide lockdown due to end Monday will be extended for another two weeks as new daily infections remain high at more than 6,000.

Senior Minister Ismail Sabri said the National Security Council made the decision at its meeting Friday. Although daily cases have dropped from its peak of above 9,000 just before the lockdown, he said average daily cases since the lockdown was still high.

The health ministry on Friday reported 6,849 new infections, bringing the country’s confirmed total tally to 646,411. Another 84 deaths raised the confirmed death toll to 3,768.

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BERLIN — Germany is lifting a blanket travel warning for countries with high coronavirus infection rates starting July 1.

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas says “after many months of lockdown, we can look forward to greater normalcy, that includes travel.”

The general travel warning will be lifted next month for all countries that have fewer than 200 newly confirmed coronavirus cases per 100,000 inhabitants in a week.

But Maas cautioned that the pandemic isn’t over yet and the rise of new variants means risks remain.

Countries with infection rates above 200 or a large share of concerning variants among new cases, like Britain, will remain on the government’s list of risk areas. Germans are discouraged from traveling to such countries and people arriving in Germany from there will need to go into quarantine.

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LONDON — The European Medicines Agency says it’s recommending that people who have had a rare blood vessel syndrome not be immunized with AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine.

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In a statement on Friday, the EU drug regulator said it reviewed cases of six people who had capillary leak syndrome after they had received a shot of the AstraZeneca vaccine. The vaccine has previously been linked to rare blood clots, but health officials say its benefits still outweigh the small risks.

EMA experts also concluded that the capillary leak condition should be added to the product information as a new side effect of the vaccine.

The agency said it is continuing its review of heart inflammation in a small number of people who developed conditions after getting immunized with the vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna Inc.

The EMA said it is studying cases of myocarditis, inflammation of the heart, and pericarditis, inflammation of the membrane surrounding the heart. Symptoms include shortness of breath and chest pain; the problems are usually temporary.

“Further analysis is needed to determine whether there is a causal link with the vaccines,” the EU agency said.

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The EMA said it expects to finalize its review of such cases next month.

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MOSCOW — Confirmed coronavirus cases are continuing to rise in Russia, where authorities on Friday reported 12,505 new infections — a 25% increase from the number registered on Monday.

Moscow accounted for nearly half of the newly confirmed cases with 5,853, almost twice the number reported in Russia’s capital at the beginning of the week Despite the surge of infections, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin vowed earlier this week not to impose a lockdown.

In St. Petersburg, Russia’s second-largest city, hours-long lines of ambulances have been spotted this week near hospitals treating COVID-19 patients. The city hosted a massive economic forum last week and is scheduled to host several matches of soccer’s European Championship next week.

The Russian state coronavirus task force has reported a total of nearly 5.2 million virus cases and over 125,000 deaths in the pandemic. Most virus-related restrictions in Russia were lifted last summer, and authorities have shunned tough measures ever since.

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CARBIS BAY, England — Leaders from the Group of Seven industrialized nations are set to commit at their summit to sharing at least 1 billion coronavirus shots with struggling countries around the world — half the doses coming from the U.S. and 100 million from the U.K.

Vaccine sharing commitments from U.S. President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson set the stage for the G-7 meeting in southwest England, where leaders will pivot Friday from opening greetings and a “family photo” directly into a session on “Building Back Better From COVID-19.”

“We’re going to help lead the world out of this pandemic working alongside our global partners,” Biden said. The G-7 also includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan.

The leaders hope the meeting in the resort of Carbis Bay will also energize the global economy. On Friday, they are set to formally embrace a global minimum tax of at least 15% on corporations, following an agreement reached a week ago by their finance ministers. The minimum is meant to stop companies from using tax havens and other tools to avoid taxes.

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It represents a potential win for the Biden administration, which has proposed a global minimum tax as a way to pay for infrastructure projects, in addition to creating an alternative that could remove some European countries’ digital services taxes that largely hit U.S. tech firms.

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Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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