The Latest: Mexico president gets coronavirus vaccine
MEXICO CITY — Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador got a coronavirus vaccine on Tuesday.
López Obrador got a dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine from a military nurse live at his daily morning press conference.
“It doesn’t hurt, and what is more, it protects us all,” says López Obrador, urging all Mexicans over age 60 to get vaccinated.
The president had said in March he would hold off on getting the shot because he still had antibodies after being infected in January. But he later changed his mind upon the recommendation of his doctor to get vaccinated. He also said he wanted to set an example for others to get the shot.
The 67-year-old president was scheduled to get his shot in the first week of April, along with other over-60s in central Mexico City.
While López Obrador sought to set an example with the vaccine, he has expressed disdain for face masks. He’s refused to make them mandatory in public spaces, saying it would violate individual liberties.
THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— EU regulator OKs warning labels for J&J vaccine
— Osaka seeks tougher virus state of emergency amid virus spread
— Learning to breathe: German clinic helps COVID-19 long haulers
— Asian Americans wrestle with returning to classrooms amid rising harassment
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Saudi Arabia’s daily coronavirus cases have soared to their highest peak in over eight months at 1,070 infections, even as the kingdom accelerates its mass vaccination campaign.
The surge comes as Saudi Arabia marks the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, a holiday rooted in gatherings of families and friends in mosques, malls and streets.
To prevent the spread of the coronavirus, the government is allowing only vaccinated worshippers to enter the Grand Mosque in Mecca, one of Islam’s holiest sites. Mosques are banned from serving public fast-breaking evening meals known as “iftar” and pre-dawn suhoor meals.
Saudi Arabia, a country of some 34 million, has administered more than 20 vaccine doses made by Pfizer or AstraZeneca for every 100 residents.
There’s been 407,000 confirmed cases and 6,846 confirmed deaths in the country, according to government figures.
LOS ANGELES — More than 6 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered to people in Los Angeles County, where case numbers have stabile for several weeks.
More than 4 million were first doses and 2.2 million were second doses, according to county Department of Public Health statistics released Monday afternoon.
On April 11, the county had a daily average of 414 new cases, down from 15,933 at the peak of the surge. Hospitalizations decreased to 478, down from their peak daily average of 8,065.
The average daily deaths declined from a peak of 274 average daily deaths to seven. The daily test positivity rate was 0.9% on Monday.
Meanwhile, Los Angeles County public health officials say there’s high compliance with COVID-19 safety protocols as schools reopen for in-person instruction in phases. There have been only a handful of outbreaks.
Currently, 77% of public school districts are open, along with 43% of private and charter schools. That amounts to more than 1,600 schools.
Since the start of the pandemic, Los Angeles County has registered 1.2 million confirmed cases and 23,641 confirmed deaths.
ATHENS, Greece — The Church of Greece says it will allow the faithful to attend next week’s Orthodox Easter services, holding them earlier to conform with a government curfew, and with crowd limits. Worshippers were not allowed to attend last year’s Easter services because of concerns it would spread the pandemic.
The decision Tuesday comes despite the country’s high number of COVID-19 infections and deaths — both much larger than a year ago — while hospitals are struggling to cope with unprecedented numbers of intubated patients.
The Church’s governing body says after a virtual meeting that worshippers “must by no means be deprived of participation,” in the Orthodox Easter, which is the most popular date on Greece’s religious calendar.
LONDON — The agency that regulates drugs for the European Union says a warning about rare blood clots should be added to labels for Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine.
The European Medicines Agency says these rare blood disorders should be considered as “very rare side effects of the vaccine.”
Last week, Johnson & Johnson halted its European roll-out of the vaccine after U.S. officials recommended a pause in the vaccine, when they detected six very rare blood clot cases among nearly 7 million people who had been vaccinated.
European officials say they considered all currently available evidence from the U.S. of the rare blood clots associated with low blood platelets, including one death.
NEW DELHI — India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has called off a visit to Portugal next month for a meeting with the European Union leaders amid surging coronavirus cases in the country.
India’s External Affairs Ministry says it’s been decided in consultation with the EU and Portugal leadership to hold the meeting in a virtual form on May 8.
Indian media reports say Modi had planned to visit France after the Portugal meeting.
On Monday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called off a trip to New Delhi in view of the coronavirus situation in India. The two governments say Johnson and Modi would speak later this month and planned to meet in person later this year.
India’s Health Ministry on Tuesday reported 259,170 new infections and 1,761 confirmed deaths in the past 24 hours. India has reported daily infections above the 200,000 mark for six days.
NEW YORK — Schools can continue serving free meals to all students through June 2022 under more flexible rules that began during the pandemic.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture says it’s offering alternative meal pick-up options and the ability to serve meals in non-group settings. The flexibilities are intended to give schools a degree of certainty as they plan for the school year ahead, said U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
The USDA’s national school meal programs have long been a vital source of free and low-cost food for students. Families normally need to meet income requirements to qualify for free breakfasts and lunches. But as schools closed during the pandemic, the USDA eased restrictions so schools could distribute meals to all students at pick-up and drop-off locations.
To help schools get back to meeting the nutrition guidelines, the USDA says it is boosting the amount schools are reimbursed for each meal served.
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lankan health authorities says they’ll start giving the second shot of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine on May 1.
The announcement comes as the government is facing criticism for delaying giving of the second shot.
On Tuesday, State Minister of Primary Health Care, Epidemics and COVID Disease Control, Sudarshini Fernandopulle told parliament that Sri Lanka started giving the first shot on Jan. 29 and the new scientific data recommends to give the second dose 12 weeks after the first.
Sri Lanka has so far inoculated 925,242 people, using the AstraZeneca vaccine. Sri Lanka has received 1.2 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine. The country needs about 576,500 more vaccines to be given as the 2nd dose.
The government says they would receive the balance in the next few weeks from the manufacturer in India. Opposition lawmakers have criticized the government for delaying giving the second dose.
Sri Lanka’s total number of positive cases reached 97,104, with 620 confirmed deaths.
HELSINKI — Estonia will ease existing coronavirus restrictions and lockdown measures in two stages in the next few weeks, including partly lifting restrictions on stores, restaurants, schools and certain sports activities.
The Estonian government says the improved COVID-19 situation will allow instructed outdoor sports activities for up to 10 people to resume on April 26.
Restrictions on shops, eateries and schools would be partly lifted from May 3.
Prime Minister Kaja Kallas says the COVID-19 situation in small nation of 1.3 million “is better, the spread of the virus has slowed down” largely due to lock-down measures imposed in March.
Estonia daily coronavirus cases have decreased to about 300-500 from around 1,500-1,900 in late March and early April.
TOKYO — Japan’s western metropolis of Osaka has decided to ask the government to declare a state of emergency in the region after ongoing alert measures failed to control the spread of a more contagious coronavirus variant.
The decision by Osaka’s governor to request a third state of emergency comes just 50 days after a weaker state of emergency ended. A new state of emergency, under a law toughened in February, would allow authorities to issue binding orders for business owners to close or shorten service hours.
Measures for the general public, including mask wearing and staying at home, would remain non-mandatory requests. Osaka is expected to close theme parks, shopping malls and other commercial facilities to drastically reduce public activity for a few weeks.
Japan has recorded 537,317 confirmed cases and 9,671 confirmed deaths. Those are low numbers overall, but worse than some other Asian countries.
LONDON — Experts at the European Medicines Agency are preparing to present the conclusions of their investigation into possible links between the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine and rare blood clots.
Last week, Johnson & Johnson halted the European rollout of its one-dose vaccine after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommended officials pause its use while the rare blood clot cases were examined. Johnson & Johnson advised governments in Europe to store their doses until the European Union’s drug regulator issued guidance.
The European Union ordered 200 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson for 2021 and EU officials had hoped the one-shot vaccine could be used both to boost the continent’s lagging vaccination rates and to protect hard-to-reach populations, such as migrant workers and the homeless.
Widespread use of the one-dose vaccine has not yet started in Europe. The European Union experts are expected to present findings on Tuesday.
NEW DELHI — Rahul Gandhi, a top opposition Congress party leader and scion of Nehru-Gandhi family, says he’s tested positive for the coronavirus after experiencing mild symptoms.
Gandhi, 50, said in a tweet on Tuesday “All those who’ve been in contact with me recently, please follow all safety protocols and stay safe.”
India’s Health Ministry on Tuesday reported massive 259,170 new infections and 1,761 deaths in the past 24 hours. India has registered daily infections above the 200,000 mark for six days. The sick are facing a serious shortage of hospital beds, medical oxygen and medicines.
Gandhi last week called off his political rallies in West Bengal state where provincial elections are being held. He campaigned extensively in southern Kerala and Tamil Nadu states.
On Monday, another top Congress party leader and former Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, tested positive for the coronavirus and was hospitalized in the Indian capital as a precaution. Singh, 88, was detected with a mild fever on Sunday.
BUCHAREST, Romania — Romania recorded its highest number of COVID-19 deaths at 237 on Tuesday.
That topped the previous record of 213 in early December during the second wave of the coronavirus. Nearly 3,000 new daily cases were reported.
Tighter restrictions were enforced by authorities at the end of March to help curb the spread of the infections. The daily infections have been slowly dropping, but the number of intensive care unit patients and deaths has remained high.
Romania has recorded more than 1 million cases of coronavirus and there have been 26,618 confirmed deaths. Authorities have administered more than 4.3 million vaccine doses.
WARSAW, Poland — AstraZeneca has significantly cut vaccine deliveries to Poland this week.
The State Agency of Strategic Reserves says only 67,000 of AstraZeneca vaccine will arrive this week, instead of the contracted 268,000.
Government official in charge of the vaccination program, Michal Dworczyk, says the situation may “unfortunately” continue in the coming weeks. He gave no reason for the reductions.
Dworczyk says steps were being taken to prevent the reduced deliveries from slowing down the pace of nationwide inoculation in the nation of some 38 million people, mentioning the use of reserves for the second shots.
Poland is taking steps to speed up the vaccination, opening more age groups and more vaccination points. It plans to begin registration to vaccinate those age 18 and above on May 9.
Poland has administered more than 9 million shots of the Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. More than 2.3 million have received second doses or the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Malaysian opposition lawmakers led by former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad submitted a petition to the country’s king on Tuesday seeking an end to a coronavirus emergency so Parliament can resume.
The king approved Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s plan for an emergency in early January to curb the spread of the coronavirus, but critics said it was a political ruse to help the embattled leader stay in power amid challenges to his leadership.
The emergency involves no curfew or military powers but Parliament is suspended until Aug. 1. Muhyiddin’s government remains in control and has extraordinary powers to introduce laws without parliamentary approval.
Mahathir, 95, accused Muhyiddin of using the king’s name as a shield against critics, making many Malays angry with the monarch instead. He told reporters outside the palace gate that he hopes the king will heed the people’s voices. More than 39,000 Malaysians have signed an online petition since March for the king to end the emergency.
MEXICO CITY — For the first time in a year, Mexican school children have returned to classrooms — at least in the southern state of Campeche.
The Gulf coast state has been the state least affected by the pandemic in Mexico, and it was the first to get its teachers vaccinated.
So Campeche is the first, and so far the only, of Mexico’s 32 states to reopen its classrooms.
While it may have been good to get back to school Monday, the scene in Campeche was different from before: Grade-school children were allowed back in small groups to maintain social distancing, and they wore face masks and plastic face shields.
WELLINGTON, New Zealand — The Pacific nation of Fiji has closed schools and canceled sporting events as it deals with its first coronavirus infections outside quarantine cases in more than a year.
A soldier and a room cleaner at a quarantine facility have both tested positive, but there hasn’t been any indication so far the virus is spreading more widely in the community.
Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama says Fiji is again facing a “grave and present danger.” The government has ordered all gyms, bars and theaters within two containment zones closed and large gatherings across the nation canceled for at least two weeks.
Home to a little under 1 million people, Fiji has recorded just two COVID-19 deaths since the pandemic began, but experts fear its health system would be ill-equipped to deal with a major outbreak.