WASHINGTON — The U.S. is shipping more than 3.2 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine to the Philippines.
The White House tells the Associated Press the donated single-shot vaccines will begin arriving in the Philippines later this week through COVAX, the international program coordinating vaccine sharing with lower- and middle-income countries.
It’s one of the largest installments of shipments in the U.S.’s expanding vaccine diplomacy campaign, with the nation now sharing about 50 million doses with the world. More than 30 million doses are awaiting shipment to other countries, pending regulatory and logistical clearances.
The U.S. also will purchase 500 million Pfizer doses to share globally in the upcoming year, with the first doses delivered in August.
MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:
— Melbourne to lockdown for 5 days because of virus cases
— How the pandemic may have accelerated the creep of authoritarianism
— Vaccine deliveries in Asia finally picking up speed
— Summer setback: COVID-19 deaths and cases rising again globally
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
MELBOURNE — Australia’s second-largest city will lockdown for five days from Thursday night due to growing COVID-19 clusters.
Melbourne’s fifth lockdown of the pandemic will apply across Victoria state, Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said on Thursday.
The news came after officials announced on Wednesday that Australia’s largest city, Sydney, will remain in lockdown for five weeks.
A three-week lockdown of Sydney and surrounding communities in New South Wales state had been due to end on Friday. But it will now last until July 30 at the earliest.
Health authorities are concerned by how quickly the delta variant is spreading in a vulnerable Australian population in which fewer than 13% of adults are fully vaccinated.
MADRID — Spain’s king and queen and government have paid tribute to victims of COVID-19, with emphasis on the more than 100 health workers who have died from the new coronavirus.
The Cabinet joined King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia for an open-air ceremony Thursday at the royal palace in Madrid.
The monarch handed Order of Civil Merit medals to the families of the health workers who died.
“We cannot forget what happened,” Felipe said. “We must remember those who are no longer among us and show our respect and recognition of health workers.”
Some 130,000 Spanish health workers have been infected by the coronavirus, and officials fear a new surge among staff as the delta variant spreads.
In Catalonia, for example, more than 800 health staff were this week off work after testing positive.
Priority for vaccinations is now being given to anyone over 16 who lives with a health worker.
ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s planning minister on Thursday said the number of COVID-19 patients at hospitals had started rapidly increasing, weeks after health officials first detected the delta variant of the coronavirus in the country.
Pakistan reported 47 new deaths and 2,545 new cases in the past 24 hours, brining the country’s tally of deaths due to COVID-19 to 22,689 and number of total confirmed cases to 981,392.
Asad Umar urged people to follow social distancing rules and get vaccinated, saying that the delta variant, first identified in India, “has caused devastation in countries in the region.”
SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has added 1,600 more coronavirus cases, with infections spreading beyond the hard-hit capital area where officials have enforced the country’s toughest social distancing restrictions.
The number of cases reported Thursday nearly match the one-day record of 1,615 set only a day earlier and marks the ninth straight day with more than 1,000 new cases recorded.
More than 1,100 of the latest cases are in Seoul and nearby Gyeonggi Province and Incheon.
Infections are also rising outside the Seoul area, prompting calls for virus restrictions to be elevated nationwide. The 457 infections outside the capital region is the highest level since February 2020, when the country dealt with its first major outbreak, which was mostly limited to the southern city of Daegu and nearby areas.
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — An Army base in Alabama is requiring soldiers to show proof of vaccination to go without face masks as the state sees an uptick in coronavirus cases — a rise attributed to low vaccination rates in the state.
The measure was put in place Tuesday at Fort Rucker, the home of the Army’s aviation program. Any soldier not wearing a mask can be asked to show their vaccination card. In a video posted to Facebook, base officials say the measure is needed because of rising case numbers on the base and in surrounding counties.
Alabama is seeing an uptick in virus cases. State Health Officer Scott Harris says that is likely driven both by Alabama’s low vaccination rate and the spread of the contagious delta variant of the coronavirus.
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Argentina has reported more than 100,000 deaths from COVID-19, a heavy blow to a country that intermittently imposed some of the most severe lockdowns in the world, only to see erratic compliance by many people.
Recent coronavirus variants have helped spread the disease even faster and the vaccine program, while making progress, is still falling short.
The Health Ministry said Wednesday that 614 people died from the disease in the past 24 hours, bringing the total death toll to 100,250.
Large gatherings people that defied social distancing guidance and may have contributed to the health crisis in late 2020.
Argentina was struggling economically even before the pandemic and many citizens ignored quarantine regulations so they could make a living and support their families.
LANSING, Mich. — Michigan has announced the first four $50,000 winners in a sweepstakes the state is running to encourage more people to get vaccinated against the coronavirus.
The winners announced Wednesday will be followed by a $2 million jackpot, a $1 million prize and daily drawings of $50,000 in the weeks through July 30. Residents who have gotten at least one vaccine dose are eligible.
Over 1.7 million Michigan adults have signed up for the cash prizes and 78,000 12- to 17-year-olds have signed up for nine $55,000 scholarships.
As of Monday, the state had reached a 62.4% vaccination rate of residents age 16 and older.
WASHINGTON — The 18-year-old Disney Channel pop star and internet sensation, Olivia Rodrigo, wants people to know that the COVID-19 vaccines are “good 4 u.”
Rodrigo was at the White House on Wednesday to meet with President Joe Biden and Dr. Anthony Fauci as part of the administration’s efforts to encourage younger Americans to roll up their sleeves to get a coronavirus shot.
Rodrigo’s visit comes as the Biden administration is focusing its efforts on turning out people ages 12 to 27 to get a shot.
She also made an appearance at the daily White House press briefing.
HARTFORD, Conn. — Connecticut lawmakers voted Wednesday to again extend Gov. Ned Lamont’s emergency declarations first issued in March 2020 during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, though some lawmakers argued it’s time to get back to normal.
The House of Representatives and Senate passed separate resolutions during Wednesday’s special session.
The resolution in the House passed on a 73-56 vote. In the Senate, the resolution passed on a 19-15 vote.
The governor asked the General Assembly to renew his declarations of public health and civil preparedness emergencies through Sept. 30.
LONDON — The British government has made changes beginning at 4 a.m. Monday, where passengers traveling from Croatia, Bulgaria, Hong Kong and Taiwan won’t have to self-isolate upon arrival in the U.K.
At the same time, the Balearic islands of Ibiza, Mallorca, Menorca and Formentera as well as the British Virgin Islands will be downgraded to “amber” status, meaning travelers who aren’t fully vaccinated against COVID-19 will have to quarantine for 10 days after they return to Britain.
However, the updated travel lists will have little impact on many people because they coincide with the previously announced relaxation of quarantine rules. Under the new rules, adults who are fully vaccinated, as well as British residents under age 18, will no longer have to self-isolate when returning from amber list countries, opening up travel to the U.S., European Union and many other countries around the world.
MADRID — Some regions in Spain aim to put restrictions back in place because of a spike in coronavirus cases.
Northeast Catalonia, home to Barcelona, and northern Cantabria issued orders for nightly curfews that must be approved. The two regions want people off the streets after 1 a.m. A court on the Canary Islands knocked down a request by regional authorities on the archipelago to apply a similar curfew.
Spain is witnessing an increase of infections in recent days as the delta variant sweeps through the younger segments of the population, which have a lower vaccination rate.
Catalonia is among the most hard-hit areas in Europe, with more than 1,000 cases per 100,000 inhabitants over 14 days. The rate is 3,300 cases for those between ages 20-29.
NEW YORK — New York City officials are touting a recent Yale study they say concludes the city’s aggressive vaccine rollout over the past six months has saved thousands of lives.
They’re hoping the findings will help convince holdouts to get shots and fend off the rise in the delta variant.
“If you have been waiting, if you have been on the fence, sign up and get that shot as soon as possible,” Dr. Dave Chokshi, the city’s health commissioner, said Wednesday at a briefing with Mayor Bill de Blasio.
The city is deploying mobile vaccine units, door-to-door canvassing and scheduling home visits in a push to get people vaccinated, the mayor says.
LONDON — Daily coronavirus cases in Britain have risen above 40,000 for the first time in nearly six months.
Government figures showed another 42,302 infections, the highest daily figure since Jan. 15 when the country was in strict lockdown following a lethal second wave of the pandemic.
Cases are expected to spike higher, with the government warning an unprecedented 100,000 daily infections may be possible this summer.
The sharp uptick in cases in recent weeks from the more contagious delta variant has prompted concerns about the coming easing of restrictions on Monday in England, which will remove legal limits on social contact and mask-wearing.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan wants mask-wearing required on London’s transport network.
Other transportation bodies across England and health care providers, care homes and some retailers are expected to maintain the mask-wearing requirement.
ROME — The delta variant is driving an uptick in caseloads around the globe, including Italy. There were 2,153 confirmed cases in the previous 24 hours, according to Italian Health Ministry figures on Wednesday. That’s more than double than the 1,010 confirmed infections a week earlier.
Health experts says the spike in cases hasn’t resulted in sharp increases in ICU admissions or deaths. That’s partly due to vaccinations and the average age of recently infected persons is 31 to 35, much younger than early in the pandemic.
The Foreign Ministry is advising travelers who are required to take coronavirus swab tests to enter or return to Italy to consider the result might be positive. That could mean the travelers, as well as those in close contact, could face quarantine.
Meanwhile, Malta has eased off a new rule requiring proof of coronavirus vaccination to enter the country after the European Commission raised concerns that it might impede the right to free movement within the 27-nation bloc.
GENEVA — The World Health Organization is reporting deaths climbed last week after nine straight weeks of decline. It recorded more than 55,000 deaths, a 3% increase from the week before. Cases rose last week by 10% to nearly 3 million.
WHO says more transmissible versions of the virus could emerge and “coupled with the relaxation and inappropriate use of public health and social measures and increased social mobility and mixing,” numerous countries will see higher cases, hospitalizations and deaths.
The overall death toll in hard-hit Argentina neared 100,000. Daily coronavirus deaths in Russia hit record highs this week. Infections in Belgium, driven by the delta variant among the young, have almost doubled in the past week. Britain recorded a one-day total of more than 40,000 cases for the first time in six months.
In the U.S., with one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, newly confirmed infections per day have doubled over the past two weeks to an average of about 24,000. Deaths are still on a downward trajectory at around 260 a day.
WASHINGTON — More than 2 million people have signed up for subsidized health insurance plans through the Affordable Care Act since President Joe Biden reopened health insurance markets this year as part of his pandemic response plan.
The Department of Health and Human Services says 1.5 million enrolled through the federal HealthCare.gov marketplace while another 600,000 signed up through state-run insurance exchanges.
Since April 1, all “Obamacare” customers have been eligible for much more generous financial assistance with their coverage, a temporary benefit boost that Biden and congressional Democrats hope to make permanent through legislation later this year.
The current special enrollment period is scheduled to end on Aug. 15. But HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra hinted Biden may revisit the issue and decide to extend the deadline.
MIAMI — Norwegian Cruise Line is challenging a new Florida law that prevents cruise companies from requiring passengers to show proof of vaccination against the COVID-19 virus.
The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Miami federal court, contends that the law jeopardizes safe operation of cruise vessels by increasing risk of contracting the virus. Norwegian intends to restart cruises from Florida ports Aug. 15 with vaccinations required for all passengers. Norwegian wants a judge to lift the ban by Aug. 6.
The law imposes a fine of $5,000 each time a cruise line mandates that a passenger provide vaccination proof.
The lawsuit names as a defendant Florida’s surgeon general, Dr. Scott Rivkees, who is head of the state Health Department. Rivkees is an appointee of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, whose spokeswoman said the cruise line’s policy discriminates against children under 12 and others who are not vaccinated.
Other cruise lines, including Carnival and Royal Caribbean, have already begun voyages from Florida with a variety of policies regarding COVID-19 vaccination.
JAKARTA, Indonesia — Indonesia hit a record of more than 54,000 new coronavirus cases, surpassing recent daily infections in India.
Officials fear the more highly transmissible delta variant is spreading from the islands of Java and Bali, where outbreaks prompted a partial lockdown that closed places of worship, malls, parks and restaurants.
The Health Ministry reported 54,517 confirmed new cases on Wednesday, up from about 8,000 a month ago. India reported fewer than 39,000 cases on Wednesday, far below its peak of more than 400,000 daily cases in May.
There were 991 confirmed deaths in Indonesia on Wednesday, bringing the number of cases since the pandemic began above 2.6 million and confirmed deaths to more than 69,000.
PARIS — France has celebrated its national holiday with thousands of troops marching in a Paris parade and traditional parties around the country.
Last year’s Bastille Day events were scaled back because of virus fears. The government decided to go ahead with the parade on the Champs-Elysees on Wednesday as part of a broader effort to return to pre-pandemic activity.
The number of spectators was limited. All had to show special passes proving they had been fully vaccinated, recently recovered from the virus, or had a negative virus test.
Many doctors and scientists, meanwhile, are urging tougher measures to contain the coronavirus. France has lost more than 111,000 lives to the pandemic.