GENEVA — A top official from the World Health Organization says Europe has surpassed 1 million deaths from COVID-19.
Dr. Hans Kluge says the situation remains “serious” with about 1.6 million new cases reported each week in the 53 countries that make up its European region.
Addressing recent concerns about vaccines, Kluge says the risk of people suffering blood clots is far higher for people with COVID-19 than people who receive AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine.
Kluge pointed to “early signs that transmission may be slowing across several countries” and cited “declining incidence” among the oldest people. He says the proportion of COVID-19 deaths among people over 80, who have been prioritized for vaccines, had dropped to nearly 30%.
Worldwide, a tally by Johns Hopkins University shows nearly 3 million deaths have been linked to COVID-19 — with the Americas hardest hit, followed by Europe. The United States, Brazil and Mexico have reported the highest number of deaths, collectively, at more than 1.1 million.
THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— J&J vaccine to remain in limbo while officials seek evidence
— With 200,000 new infections in 1 day, India skyrockets past 14M virus cases
— French families decry toll of pandemicas nation nears 100,000 deaths
—Bangkok nightlife clusters expose Thailand’s virus stumbles
— Homeless Americans who have been left off priority lists for coronavirus vaccinations are finally getting their shots as vaccine supplies increase.
— A look at which U.S. states are leading at vaccinating and which states are struggling resembles America’s electoral map.
Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
TOKYO — Japan’s western metropolis of Osaka reported a record 1,208 new coronavirus cases.
Tokyo reported a two-month high of 729 daily cases. A virus alert status began in Tokyo on Monday, allowing the authorities to issue binding orders for shorter hours at bars and restaurants.
Osaka and four other prefectures are also on alert, and the government is expected to add a few more areas for the elevated measures Friday.
The rapid resurgence in Japan comes less than three months before the Olympics. On Thursday, a top ruling party official suggested an option of canceling the Olympics if the infections make it impossible.
Officials are concerned that the sense of urgency is not shared by the people. Experts on a Tokyo metropolitan government taskforce warned that the new variant could replace the conventional coronavirus virus and trigger more infections by early May.
Dr. Shigeru Omi, head of a government taskforce, urged municipal leaders to take action quickly to curb the spread of the infections. Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike urged the residents to take maximum protection and asked non-Tokyo residents, except for essential workers, not to visit the area. She also asked the people to avoid traveling during the upcoming “Golden week” holidays beginning at the end of April.
Overall, Japan added 4,300 new cases Wednesday for a total of about half a million and 9,500 confirmed deaths.
BELGRADE, Serbia — Serbia has announced it will begin packing and later producing Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine, which would make it the first European state outside Russia and Belarus to begin manufacturing the jab.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic on Thursday visited an institute in the Serbian capital, Belgrade, where he said the Russian vaccine will be manufactured in a “few months.” He said for now, the vaccine will be packed in Belgrade after receiving its components from Russia.
Although the European Union drug regulator, EMA, has not yet approved Sputnik V, the vaccine has been registered for use in dozens of countries worldwide.
Serbia has one of the highest inoculation rates in Europe, mainly thanks to the government’s large purchases of the Sinopharm vaccine from China and the Sputnik V vaccine. The country also is administering the vaccines developed by Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca.
Serbia also plans to start producing the Sinopharm vaccine.
PARIS — France is expected Thursday to pass the grim milestone of 100,000 COVID-19 deaths, after a year of hospital tensions, on-and-off lockdowns and personal loss that have left families nationwide grieving the pandemic’s unending, devastating toll.
The country of 67 million will be the eighth in the world to reach the symbolic mark, and the third in Europe after the United Kingdom and Italy.
The cumulative death toll since the start of the epidemic totaled 99,777 on Wednesday evening. In recent days, French health authorities have been reporting about 300 new daily deaths from COVID-19.
Lionel Petitpas, president of the association “Victims of COVID-19,” told the Associated Press that the number of 100,000 deaths is “an important threshold.”
After months of people getting accustomed to the virus, the figure “is piercing a lot of minds. It is a figure we thought would never be reached,” he said.
France plunged into a third, partial lockdown at the beginning of April, as new infections were surging and hospitals getting close to saturation. An overnight nationwide curfew has been in place since mid-December, and all France’s restaurants, bars, gyms, cinemas and museums have been closed since October.
HONG KONG — Hong Kong is expanding its vaccination drive to include residents below 30 as it sought to boost the city’s slower-than-expected uptake of COVID-19 vaccines.
Residents between 16 and 29 will be able to register to get inoculated beginning April 23, according to Secretary for the Civil Service Patrick Nip.
The expansion of the vaccination program comes amid widespread hesitancy among residents towards getting inoculated and a deepening mistrust in its government, following the deaths of several chronically ill patients after they received the vaccines as well as reports of residents getting the wrong jab.
As of Wednesday, only about 8.4% of residents in the city of 7.5 million have received vaccines.
Hong Kong began administering COVID-19 vaccines to residents starting in late February, and its vaccination rate has lagged behind countries like Singapore, which started vaccinating just a week before Hong Kong but has since achieved a nearly 20% vaccination rate.
Currently, Hong Kong is offering residents the choice of the Chinese-made Sinovac vaccine and the Pfizer vaccine, known as BioNTech in the city.
NAIROBI, Kenya — The Africa CDC director says he hopes India will lift export restrictions on COVID-19 vaccines as soon as possible, warning that “India is not an island.”
John Nkengasong spoke as the African continent of 1.3 billion people doesn’t know when second doses of key vaccines will arrive and India sees a resurgence in infections. The country is a major vaccine producer and a critical supplier to the U.N.-backed COVAX initiative that aims to bring shots to some of the world’s poorest countries.
“If you finish vaccinating your people before Africa or other parts of the world, you have not done yourself any justice because variants will emerge and undermine your own vaccination efforts,“ Nkengasong said.
He said the uncertainty around the arrival of second doses puts the African continent in a “very dicey situation.”
African officials aim to vaccinate 750 million people over the next two years but just under 14 million vaccine doses have been administered across the 54 countries.
BANGKOK, Thailand — Thailand’s coronavirus cases surpassed 1,500 on Thursday to set another record, sparking concerns the country’s outbreak may spiral out of hand.
More than 8,000 cases have been recorded since April 1 in a fresh outbreak linked to nightclubs and bars in central Bangkok. The 1,543 new cases pushes the country’s tally to 37,543, with 97 deaths.
Dr. Chawetsan Namwat from the Department of Disease Control said the outbreak appeared to have spread beyond entertainment venues with new cases now linked to seminars, office meetings and student field trips.
He said the National Infection Control Committee will meet later Thursday to discuss new measures. Up to 6,000 hospital beds will be added in Bangkok.
Mass travel for the Thai new year holiday this week is fueling the surge, said Dr. Opas Karnkavinpong, director-general of the Disease Control Department. More worrying is that infections include a more contagious variant of the virus first found in the U.K.
The outbreak as added pressure on the government to speed up its slow vaccination drive, which has seen less than 1% of its population inoculated.
SAN FRANCISCO — California Gov. Gavin Newsom is urging all schools in the state to reopen, saying there are no health barriers to getting children back into classrooms and ending distance learning.
Speaking Wednesday, he said: “Money is not an object now. It’s an excuse.”
His wishes remain an expectation rather than a mandate because California’s decentralized education system lets the 1,200 school districts govern themselves.
Some of the largest school districts are reopening, including Los Angeles and San Diego.
Newsom says more than 9,000 of California’s 11,000 schools have reopened or have set plans to reopen, but that is misleading because there is no uniformity in what it means for a school to be open. Some are offering one or two days of in-person instruction, mixed with distance learning on other days.
HONOLULU — State lawmakers in Hawaii are moving to delay pay raises scheduled for themselves, the governor and judges because of the economic damage from the coronavirus pandemic.
Pay raises of 10% were scheduled to take effect for state legislators July 1 as recommended by the state Salary Commission. Instead, a bill that the House initially approved Tuesday will defer the raises until January 2023.
Gov. David Ige says he supports suspending the pay raises. Ige says he already told his Cabinet that he wouldn’t accept his raise.
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The public school system in Albuquerque, N.M., is ramping up its efforts to get vaccines to students.
Operations chief Gabriella Duran Blakey says 50 students were included in a vaccine clinic Wednesday as part of a partnership between the school district and city health workers.
Next week, the school district says it will use the reach of its mailing lists and social media to encourage students to register for the vaccines being offered in New Mexico.
As soon as next Wednesday, students could be eligible for vaccine clinics aimed specifically at them. Parents are required to attend in order to sign release forms.
ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey posted another record of 62,797 confirmed coronavirus cases on Wednesday.
The ministry also reported 279 deaths in the past 24 hours, the highest since the start of Turkey’s outbreak. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday announced a partial lockdown during the first two weeks of the Muslim month of Ramadan in a bid to curb the infection rate. He also warned of more measures to come if the number of cases fail to decrease.
The measures include bans on intercity travel, a return to online education, closing sports and leisure centers and expanding the length of night-time curfews.
The health ministry says Turkey is going through its “third peak” in infections and about 85% of the cases in the country can be traced to the variant first detected in Britain.
Turkey has registered more than 4 million cases, seventh highest in the world. Confirmed deaths stand at more than 34,000.
MISSION, Kan. — Kansas health officials say the coronavirus variant from Brazil has been detected for the first time in the state.
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment’s announcement the P.1 variant has been detected in Sedgwick County. The agency says it is investigating how the person became infected and whether others may have been exposed. The state now has all three of the most widely spread variants.
Adrienne Byrne, Sedgwick County Health Director reiterated the importance of getting tested for the coronavirus.
This month, the South African variant was identified for the first time in Kansas in someone from Finney County. Another variant first identified in Britain was found in several Kansas counties.
DENVER — Colorado health officials say nearly 4,000 people who received COVID-19 vaccinations at a medical spa need to be re-vaccinated because they can’t verify the doses were properly stored.
The department announced Tuesday it had stopped vaccinations at Dr. Moma Health and Wellness Clinic in Colorado Springs on Friday after county health officials observed problems in vaccine storage.
The department says the shots given at the clinic are considered invalid and those who got one shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine there need to start the two-shot vaccination process over again. It says those who got two shots should get one more.
NEW YORK — U.S. health officials are weighing the next steps as they investigate a handful of unusual blood clots in women who received Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine.
The reports are exceedingly rare — so far, six cases out of more than 7 million inoculations. And it’s not clear if they are linked to the J&J vaccine.
European regulators have declared such blood clots a rare but possible risk with the similarly made AstraZeneca vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the U.S. will debate in a public meeting Wednesday how to handle the J&J vaccine while authorities investigate.
“Right now, we believe these events to be extremely rare, but we are also not yet certain we have heard about all possible cases as this syndrome may not be easily recognized,” says CDC Director Rochelle Walensky before the meeting.