The Latest: Macron asks EU to help nearby areas get vaccines

PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron urged the EU to better help its European neighbors in the race to get COVID-19 vaccines, ahead of a meeting in Paris with Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic.

Macron, speaking from the Elysee presidential palace, acknowledged France and Europe “could have been more present” by Serbia’s side, in an apparent response to earlier criticism from Vucic, who said last week he had been counting on a lot more support from the EU.

Serbia, which sits at the heart of the Balkans region, received doses of China’s Sinopharm that enable the country to launch its vaccination campaign earlier this month.

Macron called on the EU to be “even more efficient” and “keep accelerating things” in the coming months to provide vaccines to the population in the bloc but also to better help its neighbors.

___

THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

AstraZeneca to send European Union 9 million more doses this quarter, tamping down huge public spat

Vaccine skepticism lurks in Tuskegee, Alabama, known for syphilis study

— WHO team in Wuhan visits provincial disease control center

— Thousands flout virus restrictions at funerals in Israel

— Even if schools reopen by late April, millions of students, many of them minorities in urban areas, may be left out

___

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

___

HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

BERLIN — German police have broken up an illegal Carnival procession in a region that currently has the country’s highest coronavirus infection rate.

Up to 90 people participated in the procession Sunday in the village of Juechsen, complete with horses, news agency dpa reported. Police said Monday that participants had organized the event via social media.

The Schmalkalden-Meiningen county in eastern Germany, where Juechsen is located, currently has an infection rate of some 326 new cases per 100,000 residents over seven days -- Germany’s highest. The national average on Monday was 91.

Local council leader Peggy Greiser said that the event in Juechsen “is absolutely irresponsible and intolerable in view of the current serious situation.”

Germany is currently in a nationwide lockdown, its second. Its many better-known Carnival processions have been canceled.

___

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The European Union’s police agency is warning nations to be on the lookout for fake COVID-19 test certificates, as crime gangs attempt to cash in on pandemic travel restrictions.

Many countries have introduced requirements for arriving passengers to show a negative COVID-19 test to slow the spread of the coronavirus brought in by people arriving from other nations.

Europol said Monday that recent cases reported by EU member states include a forgery ring selling negative test results to passengers at the Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris and a counterfeiter detained by Spanish police for selling fake test results.

British authorities also caught fraudsters selling COVID-19 documents for 100 pounds ($137) each.

___

RAMALLAH, West Bank — The World Health Organization says the Palestinian Authority will begin receiving tens of thousands of coronavirus vaccines later this month pending agreements with manufacturers and regulatory approval.

The announcement Monday came a day after Israel said it had agreed to transfer 5,000 doses of the coronavirus vaccine to the Palestinians to immunize front-line medical workers. Israel is leading one of the world’s most successful vaccination campaigns after securing millions of doses from major drug makers Pfizer and Moderna.

Rights groups say Israel is responsible as an occupying power to provide vaccines to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. Israel denies it has such an obligation and says it is prioritizing its own citizens. The Palestinians have not publicly requested vaccines from Israel and say they are seeking their own supplies elsewhere.

The WHO said Monday that the PA would receive 37,440 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine from mid-February “subject to approvals of supply agreements with manufacturers.” Those would go to frontline medical workers. It says the PA would receive another 240,000 to 405,600 AstraZeneca vaccine doses from mid- to late February subject to WHO emergency use approval.

The vaccines are being provided through COVAX, a WHO program to help poor countries acquire vaccines.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh told a Cabinet meeting Monday that vaccinations would begin later this month with the arrival of 50,000 doses, mostly purchased through COVAX.

___

JOHANNESBURG — South Africa has acquired 20 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine that are expected to arrive in the second quarter of the year, the government has confirmed.

The purchase is a significant boost to the government’s efforts to acquire vaccines to reach its goal of inoculating 40 million people, representing 67% of the country’s population, this year.

The cost of the Pfizer vaccines will be announced at a later date by Minister of Health Zweli Mkhize, said Lwazi Manzi, spokeswoman for the health ministry.

South Africa is eagerly awaiting the arrival Monday of its first delivery of vaccines, 1 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from the Serum Institute of India. That will be followed up by another 500,000 doses later this month. Those AstraZeneca vaccines will be used to inoculate frontline health workers.

In the coming months, South Africa is expecting to receive 6 million vaccine doses from the international COVAX facility, 9 million of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine when it is approved, and an additional 20 million from the African Union’s vaccine acquisition task team.

___

BERLIN — Germany’s health minister wants to press ahead with securing coronavirus vaccine supplies for 2022, preferably at the European Union level but if necessary nationally.

Jens Spahn said Monday that it’s important to secure production capacity in Germany and Europe in advance. He said it’s not yet clear whether or when booster vaccinations will be required, or whether vaccines will need to be adapted to new virus mutations.

He spoke at a videoconference in which German-based pharmaceutical giant Bayer, which last month announced it was linking up with German company CureVac to help develop and distribute that firm’s prospective COVID-19 vaccine, said it will help produce the vaccine.

CureVac’s vaccine contender is in advanced stages of development.

The German government faces criticism for the sluggish start to the country’s vaccination campaign. The European Union, which has ordered vaccines for the entire 27-nation bloc, its also facing criticism.

___

TOKYO — A Japanese vice education minister has been dismissed from his Cabinet post over his recent visit at an expensive Tokyo hostess club, defying an ongoing coronavirus state of emergency.

Taido Tanose told reporters Monday that Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga reprimanded and dismissed him as vice education minister over the hostess bar visit. He then submitted his resignation from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, along with two other senior LDP lawmakers who were clubbing with him.

Earlier Monday, another senior lawmaker, Kiyohiko Toyama, announced his resignation as legislator to take responsibility for a separate Tokyo hostess club visit last month. He belongs to Komeito, a junior partner of Suga’s ruling coalition.

The four lawmakers defied an ongoing coronavirus state of emergency request for the people to restrain nightlife and bar visits, and for restaurants to close early.

Suga on Jan. 7 placed the Tokyo region — and added seven other urban prefectures a week later — under a state of emergency through Feb. 7. Japan has seen about 5,700 virus deaths.

___

BERLIN — The European Union says vaccine maker AstraZeneca has agreed to supply 9 million additional doses to the 27-nation bloc during the first quarter.

The new target of 40 million doses by the end of March is still only half what the company had originally aimed for, triggering a spat between AstraZeneca and the EU last week.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said late Sunday that the British-Swedish pharmaceutical maker will also begin deliveries one week sooner than scheduled and expand its manufacturing capacity in Europe.

The EU is far behind Britain and the United States in getting its population of 450 million vaccinated against the virus. The slow rollout has been blamed on a range of national problems as well as slower authorization of the vaccines and an initial shortage of supply.

___

CANBERRA, Australia — Australia’s prime minister says he expects all Australians will have been offered a free COVID-19 vaccine by October, but has no timeline yet for sharing vaccines with Southeast Asian and South Pacific island neighbors.

Australia last month approved the Pfizer vaccine and expects to start vaccinating in late February.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison told the National Press Club of Australia that his government has secured 140 million vaccine doses, enough to cover its population of 26 million “several times over.”

He said Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Minister for International Development and the Pacific Zed Seselja were working with the leaders of Australia’s developing neighbors to share vaccines.

___

ISLAMABAD — A top Pakistani health official says half a million doses of Chinese Sinopharm vaccine have arrived from Beijing in a special plane.

Monday’s announcement by Faisal Sultan, who advises Prime Minister Imran Khan on health issues, comes days after the government said it will receive 17 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine under the WHO’s COVAX Facility.

Pakistan hopes up to 7 million doses of coronavirus vaccines under the WHO’s COVAX Facility would arrive by March.

Sultan’s comments came hours after a special plane loaded with 500,000 doses of Sinopharm’s vaccine landed at the Islamabad airport.

Sultan in a tweet Monday paid tribute to frontline health workers over the response to coronavirus, saying they would be the first to get vaccinated. Pakistan plans to start vaccinations this week.

On Monday, Pakistan reported 26 additional deaths amid 1,615 new cases. It has seen over 11,000 deaths since February 2020.

___

PERTH, Australia — The city of Perth has been locked down for five days after Western Australia state’s first case of local COVID-19 infection in almost 10 months.

The city of 2 million people and coastal towns to the south were locked down from Sunday night until Friday night.

This followed a security guard who worked at a Perth quarantine hotel contracting a highly contagious British variant of the virus. Overseas travelers who arrive in Perth must isolate in hotel quarantine for 14 days.

The last previous known case of someone being infected with COVID-19 within Western Australia was on April 11.

Western Australia, Australia’s largest state by area, has remained virus-free for months by enforcing the nation’s toughest border restrictions in an elimination strategy. Those within the state have enjoyed some of Australia’s least restrictive pandemic measures.

Schools which were due to resume on Monday will remain closed for another week.

___

JERUSALEM — The Israeli Cabinet has voted to extend a nationwide lockdown for at least five more days as it struggles to bring a raging coronavirus outbreak under control.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office announced early Monday that the restrictions, which have forced nonessential businesses and most schools to remain closed for the past month, will remain in effect until at least Friday. A ban on nearly all incoming and outgoing flights will remain in effect for another week.

The Cabinet is to meet on Wednesday to decide whether to extend the restrictions even longer.

Israel has launched one of the world’s most aggressive vaccination campaigns, inoculating more than one-third of its population in just one month.

But the vaccine has had little effect so far in controlling the outbreak, which has spread quickly with the arrival of foreign variants of the coronavirus and continued violations of lockdown restrictions. Thousands of ultra-Orthodox Israelis thronged a pair of funerals Sunday, defying a ban on large public gatherings.

Israel, a country of 9.3 million people, has been reporting an average of some 6,000 new cases of the coronavirus each day. Nearly 4,800 people have died.

Bg pattern light

UPGRADE TO PREMIUM

Subscribe to Samoa Observer Online

Enjoy access to over a thousand articles per month, on any device as well as feature-length investigative articles.

Ready to signup?