The Latest: German 'emergency brake' plan clears last hurdle
BERLIN — A plan by German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government to mandate uniform restrictions in areas where the coronavirus is spreading too quickly has cleared its final legislative hurdle.
Parliament’s upper house, where Germany’s 16 state governments are represented, could have held up the plan by seeking renegotiations, but let it pass on Thursday. It now goes to President Frank-Walter Steinmeier to be signed.
The legislation to apply an “emergency brake” consistently in areas with high infection rates is intended to end the patchwork of measures that has often characterized the pandemic response across highly decentralized Germany’s 16 states. The measures include closures and a 10 p.m.-5 a.m. curfew, the most controversial element.
THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— AP explains why India is shattering global infection records
— Nurse who underwent double-lung transplant confronts life after COVID-19
— Tokyo Olympics organizers say policeman tested positive for the virus after his assignment at Olympic torch relay
— Viral questions: How long does protection from vaccines last?
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
LONDON — Organizers say 4,000 people will be able to attend the ceremony for Britain’s leading music prize night next month as part of the government’s easing of coronavirus restrictions.
In a statement Thursday, the Brit Awards said audience members attending the indoor ceremony at London’s O2 Arena on May 11 will not have to socially distance or even wear face coverings once seated. It said the ceremony will be the first major indoor music event in the country to welcome back a live audience since the coronavirus pandemic erupted more than a year ago.
Instead, as part of the government’s pilot program for resuming live events, attendees will need to provide proof of a negative coronavirus test to enter the venue and will be required to provide details to test and trace authorities and follow travel guidance for getting to and from the venue.
Organizers said they are gifting 2,500 tickets to essential workers from the greater London area to honor their work through “the difficult times” of the pandemic.
The U.K. is slowly easing restrictions following a sharp fall in new coronavirus cases in the wake of a stringent lockdown and the rapid rollout of vaccines.
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — The Norwegian government said Thursday that it will “lend” all of its 216,000 Astra Zeneca vaccine doses to Sweden and Iceland as long as long as Norway has use of the vaccine on pause.
Health Minister Bent Hoeie said that if the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine is resumed, “we will get back the doses we lend as soon as we request it” and Iceland and Sweden “send back the doses from their first deliveries from AstraZeneca.”
Hoie also said that if the vaccine is taken out of Norway's vaccination program, “the doses we have been given can be donated to other countries in collaboration with the EU.”
Norway decided on March 11 to put the AstraZeneca vaccine on hold after reports of rare blood clots in a small number of vaccine recipients.
Hoeie said Sweden will borrow 200,000 doses, and Iceland 16,000 doses. The Norwegian doses have expiration dates in June and July.
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.
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.
BANGKOK — Laos locked down its capital and closed its international borders to most traffic Thursday after identifying a COVID-19 cluster connected to its bigger neighbor Thailand.
Residents of the capital Vientiane are barred from leaving the city and outsiders must get permission to enter. Its international borders were closed except to trucks carrying goods and in cases allowed by the nation’s COVID-19 taskforce, state news agency KPL reported.
It said the lockdown order signed by Prime Minister Phankham Viphavanh also prohibits all Vientiane residents from leaving their homes except for essential food shopping, hospital visits and other authorized tasks. The restrictions last until May 5.
The report said they were ordered after 28 new COVID-19 cases were confirmed Wednesday, bringing the country’s total to 88. The total population of Laos is about 7.5 million, including about 700,000 in Vientiane.
The government-owned Vientiane Times reported on its website that 26 of the 28 new cases are residents of the capital who had contact with a student at the National University of Laos who had caught the virus from a Thai man. It said the other two were workers who had returned from Thailand to the southern province of Champassak.
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.