The Latest: Infections, deaths continue to soar in Russia
MOSCOW — Coronavirus infections continue to soar in Russia, with the authorities reporting 20,182 new cases on Thursday and 568 further deaths. Both tallies are the highest since late January.
A surge in infections that hit Russia earlier this month comes as the authorities struggle to overcome widespread vaccine hesitancy and immunize its 146 million people. As of Wednesday, only 20.7 million — or just 14% of the the population — have received at least one shot of the vaccine, while 16.7 million — 11% — have been fully immunized.
In response to the soaring contagions, authorities in 14 Russian regions have made vaccinations mandatory for certain groups of people, such as state officials, those employed in retail, healthcare, education, restaurants and other service-providing businesses. In most of those regions, eligible companies are required to ensure vaccination of at least 60% of their staff in the coming months.
Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova said Wednesday that over the past week, vaccinations rates have increased nearly two-fold.
Russia’s state coronavirus task force has reported a total of over 5.3 million confirmed coronavirus cases in the pandemic and more than 131,000 deaths.
MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:
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— Italy is banking on a huge windfall of EU pandemic recovery funds to revamp its lagging economy. The future of the eurozone may depend on how well it does.
— Due to the pandemic, Tokyo is shaping up to be the ‘no-fun’ Olympics
HERE'S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Danish health officials are urging soccer fans who attended the Euro2020 game between Denmark and Belgium in Copenhagen on June 17 to be tested after they found at least three people who afterward tested positive with the delta variant.
On Twitter, Denmark’s Health Minister said Wednesday that some 4,000 people sat in the same area as those who tested positive — six sections of the C stands at Copenhagen’s Parken stadium.
Since April 2 when the Delta variant — known for being more infectious — was first discovered in Denmark, 247 cases have been reported.
SYDNEY, Australia — A state government minister has been infected with COVID-19 and another minister is in isolation as a cluster in the Australian city of Sydney worsens.
New South Wales Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall said he was told on Thursday that he had tested positive after dining with three government colleagues on Monday at a Sydney restaurant after an infected diner.
All four lawmakers had been attending Parliament as recently as Tuesday.
Health Minister Brad Hazard said he was self-isolating after being exposed to a potential case at Parliament House.
Hazzard said while standing next to Premier Gladys Berejiklian at daily pandemic media briefings, that he thought she was “fairly safe.”
Pandemic restrictions tightened in Sydney on Thursday as a cluster of the Delta variant increased and states banned travel from either parts of Sydney or from anywhere in New South Wales.
The cluster began last week when a Sydney airport limousine driver tested positive. He was not vaccinated and is suspected to have been infected while transporting a foreign air crew. The cluster had grown to 31 cases by Wednesday.
JERUSALEM — Israel’s government has postponed the planned reopening of the country to vaccinated tourists over concerns about the spread of the infectious delta variant of the coronavirus.
Israel was set to reopen its borders to vaccinated visitors on July 1, after having largely closed the country during the pandemic. It had already started allowing groups of vaccinated tourists to enter in May. All visitors will need to be tested before boarding flights to Israel and show proof of vaccination.
But after a rise in infections in the past week, the government said Wednesday that it would be pushing that date until Aug. 1. Israel’s Health Ministry recorded 110 new cases of coronavirus in the past day.
Israel has suffered a major economic blow due to the coronavirus pandemic, but even as the country has gradually recovered after a speedy vaccination campaign, the tourism industry has remained blighted.
ALBANY, N.Y. — New York will lift more COVID-19 restrictions when the state of emergency expires later this week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday.
New Yorkers will still have to wear masks on public transit, hospitals, nursing homes, correctional facilities and homeless shelters, in accordance with federal guidance.
But Cuomo’s announcement Wednesday means public meetings, for example, no longer must occur virtually.
“Fighting COVID & vaccinating New Yorkers are still top priorities, but the emergency chapter of this fight is over,” Cuomo tweeted.
It’s the governor’s latest announcement about lifting COVID-19 restrictions at a time when rates of new positives are dipping to record lows as more New Yorkers get vaccinated. And it follows months of pushback from Republicans and business groups who have called for Cuomo’s executive power to be reined in.
BERLIN — Germany’s disease control center says the delta variant accounted for more than 15% of coronavirus infections in the country by mid-June, with its share roughly doubling in a week.
The Robert Koch Institute said in a weekly report Wednesday that the more contagious delta variant’s share in sequenced samples rose to 15.1% in the week ending June 13. That compares with 7.9% a week earlier.
The alpha variant, first detected in Britain, remained dominant in Germany, though its share declined to 74.1% from 83.5%.
Overall cases in Germany have declined to their lowest level in months. On Wednesday, the disease control center said that 1,016 new cases were reported over the previous day — a rate of 7.2 new cases per 100,000 residents over seven days.
Authorities have relaxed many restrictions but are pointing to surges in Britain, Portugal and Russia driven by the delta variant, first detected in India, as illustrating the need to remain vigilant.
MADRID — Spain is scrapping its requirement to wear face masks outdoors, as long as people can remain at least 1.5 meters (5 feet) apart, from next Saturday.
Health Minister Carolina Darias said masks will still be needed at large gatherings, such as concerts, when people are on their feet instead of sitting on distanced chairs.
Masks remain mandatory indoors in public places and on public transport.
She said Wednesday that face coverings have been “tremendously efficient and useful” in helping curb the spread of COVID-19.
She noted that 32% of Spaniards have had two vaccine doses and 50% have had a single doses so far, allowing a relaxation of mask rules.
BERLIN — A spokesman for Angela Merkel says the German Chancellor received two different vaccines in a conscious effort to encourage people not to be afraid if they are advised to get a mix of shots.
Merkel’s office confirmed Tuesday that the 66-year-old received a first shot of the AstraZeneca vaccine on April 16. For the second shot, she received the Moderna vaccine.
Her spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said Merkel intentionally opted for the initial AstraZeneca shot at a time when there were concerns about possible serious side effects.
“And so she can now perhaps take away the fears of people...who were or are worried about this so-called cross-vaccination,” he said.
BOISE, Idaho — Just over half of Idaho adults have now received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine — about two months after the 50% mark was reached nationwide.
Idaho Public Health Administrator Elke Shaw-Tulloch said during a press conference Tuesday that the state is unlikely to meet the national goal of at least 70% of adults with at least one vaccine dose by July 4.
Still, she said the state continues to make slow gains in vaccination rates. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says Idaho has the eighth lowest adult partial COVID-19 vaccination rate in the U.S.