The Latest: Australia reducing flights from India
CANBERRA, Australia — Australia will reduce the number of flights arriving from India due to the growing wave of COVID-19 cases in the world’s second-most populous country.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Thursday he had agreed with state and territory leaders that the numbers of Australian citizens and permanent residents returning in chartered flights would be reduced by 30%.
The government would soon announce a 30% reduction in scheduled commercial flights from India as well, he said.
Australian authorities were calculating what other countries should join India on a list of high-risk nations requiring added travel restrictions. Australians are only allowed to leave the country for a few exceptional reasons.
The restrictions would become even tighter for Australians who want to travel to high-risk countries in a bid to prevent them returning home with the coronavirus.
India reported a global record of more than 314,000 new infections Thursday in a surge that has overwhelmed a fragile health care system.
Before the meeting of Australian government leaders, Western Australia state Premier Mark McGowan had called for a pause on arrivals from India. State authorities are investigating how a couple from India staying in a Perth hotel infected a mother and daughter from Britain who shared a room across a corridor while they were all in quarantine.
THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— EXPLAINER: Why India is shattering global infection records
— Europe lines up more shots, hoping to beat back virus surge
— New data reassuring for COVID-19 vaccination in pregnancy
— U.S. regulators say the Baltimore factory contracted to make Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine was dirty, didn’t follow proper manufacturing procedures and had poorly trained staff.
— Tokyo Olympics organizers say a policeman tested positive for COVID-19 a day after his assignment last week at the Olympic torch relay.
— German lawmakers have approved a proposal by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government to mandate uniform restrictions in areas where the coronavirus is spreading too quickly.
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
TOKYO — The Tokyo Motor Show, which showcases cars from around the world, has been canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Toyota Motor Corp. President Akio Toyoda, who heads the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association, said “we decided it’s difficult to hold the main program under safe and secure conditions for all the people to enjoy the joys of mobility.”
The organization hosts the biannual auto show in Tokyo, last held in 2019, when it attracted more than 1.3 million people. JAMA groups Japan’s 14 manufacturers of cars, trucks, buses and motorcycles.
Toyoda said organizers had studied the possibility of holding the event online. The exact dates had not yet been set, but the show usually happens in October and November. Auto shows in Detroit and Geneva have also been canceled.
Japan has been hit hard with a surge in infections, while the vaccine rollout is among the slowest for a developed nation, with about 1% of its population inoculated.
ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey has announced that it is extending an upcoming weekend lockdown to include a public holiday on Friday, as it grapples with soaring infections.
An Interior Ministry statement said the lockdown will begin Thursday evening and end Monday morning.
Turkey has been posting record levels of infections and deaths since it eased COVID-19 restrictions in early March.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan placed the country under a partial lockdown on April 13, involving an extended evening curfew on weekdays, a return to online education and a ban on unnecessary intercity travel, in addition to weekend lockdowns, which were re-imposed earlier.
The government has blamed the rising numbers on faster-spreading variants.
NEW DELHI — India reported a global record of more than 314,000 new infections Thursday as a grim coronavirus surge in the world’s second-most populous country has overwhelmed a fragile health care system.
The new cases raise India’s total past 15.9 million cases, second to the United States.
A large number of hospitals across the country complained of acute shortage of beds, medicines and are running on dangerously low levels of oxygen.
The New Delhi High Court on Wednesday ordered the government to divert the oxygen supply from industrial use to hospitals. Responding to a petition by a New Delhi hospital seeking their intervention, the judges said, “Beg, borrow or steal, it is a national emergency.”
The government is rushing oxygen tankers to replenish hospitals.
The Times of India newspaper says that the previous highest daily case count of 307,581 was reported in the U.S. on Jan. 8.
SANTA FE, N.M. -- New Mexico health officials say they are preparing to respond to pockets of vaccine hesitancy in some communities as overall interest increases in receiving the vaccine for COVID-19.
State Health Secretary Tracie Collins said Wednesday that statistics on those trends are being reviewed this week. New Mexico is among the top states for immunization rates with nearly 40% of the population fully vaccinated.
Collins said the state is exploring the recruitment of “community champions” — trusted residents of regions with vaccine hesitancy who can address concerns about safety and efficacy. Question-and-answer style town halls are also a possibility. And video testimonials about coronavirus vaccines already have been recorded.
“We’ve got a lot of work we’re going to be doing these next few weeks to really get ahead of this vaccine hesitancy,” Collins said.
Human Services Secretary David Scrase added that physicians and other direct medical providers also have a crucial role to play in allaying fears.
“It really is more, I think, about giving people the opportunity to have a conversation about what their concerns are ... and work through those,” Scrase said.
ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan says the state is stepping up efforts to get people vaccinated against the coronavirus.
The governor said Wednesday that the “No Arm Left Behind” initiative will involve all state agencies and a variety of private companies.
Hogan says Maryland has administered more than 4 million vaccine doses. He says 82% of Maryland residents older than 65 have been vaccinated and more than 55% of people over 18 have been vaccinated.
The governor says demand for shots is still high but the state is having to get more creative in using its vaccine supply.
ROME — The Italian government is opening cinemas, theaters and concert halls to limited numbers of spectators in regions with the lowest level of contagion starting next Monday, while confirming the opening of outdoor restaurant dining for lunch and dinner.
Limits were set with a maximum 500 people indoors and 1,000 outdoors.
This is the first national loosening of restrictions since the fall surge and the arrival of quick-spreading variants of the novel coronavirus. The level of contagion has slowed as the vaccine campaign progresses, but virologists are warning that the government is sending a message of “everything open” before the situation is under control.
Cabinet ministers meeting Wednesday also confirmed the current 10 p.m. curfew. That drew ire from the right-wing League, which said it would abstain when the measures come to parliament for a vote.
MIAMI — One of Florida’s largest hospital networks announced Wednesday it would no longer administer first vaccine shots to the public after the end of the month because of a “decrease in demand.”
Jackson Health, a public hospital, vaccinated more than 167,000 people, of which 15% were Black and 54% Hispanic.
Carlos A. Migoya, CEO of Jackson Health System, said the hospital network is still dedicating substantial resources to treating COVID-positive patients in its hospitals, emergency departments, and clinics.
SEATTLE — Washington state is upping its COVID-19 vaccine ambitions as cases increase, worrying variants spread, and vaccine demand softens in some areas.
The Seattle Times reports that state Health Secretary Dr. Umair Shah said Wednesday the state’s new goal is 90,000 vaccines daily if the federal government can provide them. Earlier this year, the goal was 45,000 shots daily.
Shah also said the state is hearing some concerns about the willingness of Washington residents to seek vaccines, with many scheduled appointments going unfilled. Everyone over age 16 is now eligible for vaccination and a third of the state’s residents have received at least one dose.
JOHNSTON, Iowa — Gov. Kim Reynolds implored Iowans on Wednesday to get vaccinated for COVID-19, but she refused to acknowledge that slowing demand for the shots is greatest in Republican parts of the state or that there’s a political aspect to the trend.
After 43 of Iowa’s 99 counties this week declined additional shipments of vaccine because of a decrease in demand, Reynolds, a Republican, promoted the vaccination effort by sharing the stage at her weekly news conference with National Guard Adjutant General Ben Corell, who is still recovering from a COVID-19 infection last winter. She also noted that Republican Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg would be vaccinated later this week in Sioux City.
Of the 43 Iowa counties to decline vaccines, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified 12 as having high rates of coronavirus transmission. Voter registration information shows that all 12 are heavily Republican counties
NEW YORK — Health officials have released more evidence that COVID-19 infections in fully vaccinated people are uncommon.
The latest study looked at recent infections in about 75 Chicago skilled nursing facilities. Nearly 8,000 residents and nearly 7,000 staff received two doses of vaccine at the facilities. In those fully vaccinated, health officials detected 22 breakthrough infections. Most experienced no symptoms, but two were hospitalized and one died.
Other statistics have suggested breakthrough rates are significantly lower. However, residents of nursing homes and other skilled nursing facilities tend to be older and more frail than the overall population, and some studies have suggested vaccine effectiveness can be lower in that group.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday posted the study online.
Last week, federal officials reported about 5,800 breakthrough infections have been seen in about 40 states that have reported such data. That count included 74 deaths.
MISSION, Kan. — About three-quarters of Kansas counties have turned down new shipments of coronavirus vaccine at least once over the past month and several have done so for four straight weeks, state data show.
Six counties have rejected allocations for all four weeks and 33 other counties paused shipments from the state for one week. Twenty-six other counties paused shipments for two weeks and 16 paused for three weeks. Only 24 counties, mostly the larger ones such as Shawnee, Johnson, Sedgwick and Johnson, haven’t turned down any shipments.
The numbers, however, don’t account for doses that may have been shipped through the federal government to pharmacies and some clinics.
Data show that Just 37% of the state’s residents are at least partially vaccinated. That percentage is far from where the state needs to get to reach a level of herd immunity that would make it difficult for the virus to spread.