The Latest: Britain recruits for clinical trial of boosters

Health

A woman takes selfie as she receives the Covishield vaccine against COVID-19 in Gauhati, Assam, India, Monday, May 17, 2021. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)

LONDON — The British government says about 3,000 people will be given a third dose of a coronavirus vaccine in a clinical trial to determine if booster shots provide additional protection against COVID-19 and its variants.

The COV-Boost trial will test seven existing vaccines to see what shots could be used in any upcoming vaccination program later this year. Some 2,886 people age 30 and older are being recruited at 18 sites across the U.K., with the first booster shots to be administered in early June.

Most people vaccinated in Britain have been given the Pfizer or AstraZeneca shots. Other vaccines to be tested in the booster trial are Moderna, Novavax, Johnson & Johnson, Valneva and CureVac.

British Health Secretary Matt Hancock says the data “from this world-first clinical trial will help shape the plans for our booster program later this year.”

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THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— Spain, in bid to rally economy, wants tourists within weeks

— India reaches global record of 4,529 confirmed daily deaths

— Grandday for theFrench: Cafe and bistro outdoor terraces reopen

— ‘City in transition’: New Yorkvies to turn page on pandemic

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Follow more of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemicand https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Norwegian Cruise Line has resumed sales for cruises to Alaska after the U.S. Senate passed a bill last week that could save the state’s upcoming cruise season.

That’s raising summer tourism hopes for a state that depends heavily on the sector. The Alaska Tourism Restoration Act that passed unanimously in the U.S. Senate would temporarily allow large cruise ships to skip required stops in Canadian ports as they travel between Washington and Alaska.

If the bill passes in the House and is signed by President Joe Biden, cruise ship companies could avoid Canada’s ban on stops by passenger vessels that lasts until 2022.

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NATCHEZ, Miss. — Several immigrants’ rights groups filed a complaint against those running a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center in Mississippi, saying it’s experiencing the largest COVID-19 outbreak at any ICE facility in the country because safety policies aren’t being followed.

In a letter sent to U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials on Monday, 15 organizations said the New Orleans field office is violating COVID-19 policies issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — and ICE itself.

The civil rights and liberties complaint says detainees are grouped close together in holding rooms at the Adams County Detention Center, making social distancing impossible, and they don’t have consistent access to soap or disinfecting supplies. The groups also wrote guards refuse to wear facemasks and ICE hasn’t made an effort to vaccinate incoming detained immigrants.

Spokesperson Sarah Loicano say ICE has taken a “strategic approach” to combat the virus and protect everyone at its facilities. Loicano says in an email that “ICE and the on-site medical professionals continue to take the necessary steps to quickly isolate the exposed detainees, provide proper medical care and prevent further spread infection.”

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Saudi Arabia says starting in August, residents must show proof of vaccination to enter government offices, use public transportation, attend schools and other activities.

The move is the first by the kingdom to tie the economic reopening to its vaccination campaign. It follows similar steps by other Gulf Arab emirates, including the city-state of Dubai and island nation of Bahrain.

The brief statement from the official Saudi Press Agency, citing the Interior Ministry, declared on Aug. 1 that vaccination would be obligatory for those wishing to attend sporting and entertainment events, participate in cultural activities and enter various private and public establishments.

It didn’t say how authorities would implement the restrictions in the country of more than 30 million beyond that residents would need to show their vaccination status on the government-approved health app. Saudi Arabia, relying on Pfizer and AstraZeneca shots, has vaccinated some 11.5 million residents with at least one dose.

This week, the kingdom loosened a yearlong, virus-induced travel ban, allowing vaccinated Saudis to leave the kingdom. Despite the inoculation campaign, the daily case count rose above 1,200 on Wednesday for the first time in several months.

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BUCHAREST, Romania — Romania’s Prime Minister Florin Citu says new relaxation measures will start June 1, regardless of how many people are vaccinated.

During the past month, Citu has repeatedly expressed a goal to vaccinate 5 million people by June 1, a date earmarked for new relaxations. Reaching that target now looks uncertain, but in recent weeks coronavirus infections have significantly dropped in the Eastern European nation.

“We can reach five million (vaccinated), but the goal, in fact, is not to reach a certain figure,” Citu said after a government meeting Wednesday. “The goal is to overcome the pandemic, and this is only possible through vaccination. I believe Romanians have understood the message and will get vaccinated.”

So far, Romania has administered 7 million vaccine doses, with about 3 million people fully vaccinated.

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BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Argentina is hitting records of coronavirus infections and deaths, despite managing to get at least one dose of vaccine to nearly 20% of its people.

The Health Ministry reported 745 more deaths and 35,543 new infections on Tuesday in the country of about 45 million people. Those were the worst figures yet in the pandemic for Argentina, which has more than 71,000 total confirmed deaths.

The government recently imposed a nighttime curfew, closed schools and suspended other activities. Intensive care beds remain 72% occupied nationally, according to officials.

“The situation is desperate,“ said Claudio Belocopitt, president of the Argentine Union of Private Health Entitities.

The country has given at least one vaccination to more than 10 million people, although only about 2 million have received both shots.

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ISLAMABAD — Pakistan is easing coronavirus-related restrictions amid a steady decline in infections and deaths.

The announcement comes hours after Pakistan reported 104 single-day deaths from coronavirus in the past 24 hours. According to a government announcement, schools will reopen Monday in those districts where positivity rates are less than 5%.

The government will allow outdoor marriages and outdoor dining at restaurants, with adherence to social distancing rules. The closure of cinemas, gyms, shrines and a ban on indoor dining will remain in place.

Pakistan has reported more than 886,000 infections and 19,856 confirmed deaths.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina is getting billions of dollars more from the federal government through another COVID-19 relief package.

Now Gov. Roy Cooper is ready to tell lawmakers how he wants them to spend the money. Cooper scheduled a Wednesday news conference to unveil his recommendations for North Carolina’s share of American Rescue Plan funds. The state learned last week its portion would be $5.4 billion.

The Democratic governor and Republican lawmakers worked well in tandem last year when they agreed how to spend $3.6 billion in coronavirus relief funds. State government coffers are already flush with revenues from state taxes and fees.

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PORTLAND, Maine — Maine’s senators are joining a push to make the use of telehealth easier as the country moves beyond the coronavirus pandemic.

Republican Sen. Susan Collins and independent Sen. Angus King say the use of telehealth among Medicare beneficiaries increased dramatically during the pandemic. They want to expand coverage of telehealth services through Medicare and make COVID-19 telehealth flexibilities permanent.

The senators are supporting a proposal called the Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies for Health Act of 2021.

Also Wednesday, Maine officials say the number of daily coronavirus cases continued a downward trend. The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in the past two weeks decreased from 297 on May 3 to 236 on Monday. The seven-day rolling average of daily deaths remained at nearly two per day in the same period, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University.

About 55% of the eligible people have been fully vaccinated. The state reported more than 66,000 coronavirus cases and 807 total confirmed deaths.

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PARIS — It’s a grand day for the French. Cafe and restaurant terraces are reopening Wednesday after a pandemic shutdown of more than six months deprived people of what feels like the essence of life in France.

The French government is lifting restrictions incrementally to stave off a resurgence of the coronavirus and give citizens back some of their signature “joie de vivre.” As part of the first stage, France’s 7 p.m. nightly curfew is being moved back to 9 p.m. Museums, theaters and cinemas are reopening with limited capacity, along with outside areas of restaurants.

Starting June 9, France will welcome tourists from non-EU destinations provided they have some sort of coronavirus passport or health pass. The final phase of the three-stage reopening plan is scheduled for June 30, when the curfew will end and all other restrictions will be lifted, if pandemic conditions allow.

Belgium, Hungary and other nations already started allowing outdoor dining, while drinking and eating indoors began Monday in Britain’s pubs.

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BRUSSELS — The European Union has taken a step toward relaxing travel for visitors from outside the bloc, with EU ambassadors agreeing on measures to make it easier for fully vaccinated visitors to get into countries.

They also agreed on easing the criteria for nations to be considered a safe country, from which all tourists can travel. Up to now, that list included only seven nations. EU countries have yet to formally approve the measures.

The EU imposed strict measures last year to contain coronavirus outbreaks. The 27 ambassadors now say many of those measures for non-essential travel should lifted.

The European Council “will now recommend that member states ease some of the current restrictions” for those who have been vaccinated, says EU Commission spokesman Christian Wigand. He didn’t give a precise date for when the borders will reopen.

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NEW DELHI — India has recorded the highest single-day death toll since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Health Ministry reported 4,529 deaths on Wednesday as the coronavirus spreads beyond cities into the vast countryside, where health systems are weaker. The number is considered an undercount by health experts.

The U.S. held the previous record for daily deaths at 4,475 on Jan. 12, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

India also reported 267,334 new daily infections, with daily cases dropping below 300,000 for the third consecutive day. The number of daily administered doses has fallen by about half in the last six weeks because of shortages. It’s decreased from a high of 4 million a day on April 2 to around daily 2 million or fewer this week.

India has reached 25.4 million confirmed cases and 283,248 confirmed deaths, second highest in the world.

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TAIPEI, Taiwan — Taiwan recorded 267 new cases Wednesday and raised COVID-19 restrictions for the entire island.

Up until now, indoor gatherings of more than five people and outdoor gatherings of more than 10 had been banned in the capital Taipei and neighboring New Taipei city. They’re now in force elsewhere on the island.

Taiwan is facing its worst outbreak yet, with more than 1,000 confirmed cases since last week.

Since the start of the pandemic, Taiwan has largely kept the virus at its borders, but had faced a few outbreaks. Last week, it shut schools, restaurants, gyms and other public venues as it attempts to break the chain of transmission.

The most recent surge is likely driven by a variant first discovered in Britain.

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BERLIN — Restaurants, theaters, cinemas and sports facilities in Austria reopened Wednesday after more than six months of closure due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Hotels are allowed to receive guests as normal again, provided they can prove they’ve been vaccinated or tested negative. Digital or paper proof of one’s health status is required for anyone wanting to visit bars, spas, cinemas and other sites too. Children under 10 are exempt.

Customers are still required to wear masks, respect a 2-meter (6-foot) distancing rule and register their personal details to facilitate contact tracing. Up to 3,000 people can attend outdoor events with designated seating, or 1,500 people if the event is indoors. Events without seating are limited to 50 people.

To attract foreign visitors, Austria has also eased its quarantine requirements for people arriving from many European countries.

Official figures showed Austria had a rate of 62.2 new weekly cases per 100,000 inhabitants on Tuesday. About one in three Austrians have received a first vaccination for COVID-19.

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LAS VEGAS — The Las Vegas Strip and its surroundings will fully reopen to vaccinated diners, dancers, shoppers and club-goers on June 1.

Clark County lawmakers on Tuesday followed CDC guidelines and dropped plans to tie business occupancy to coronavirus vaccination rates.

The unanimous vote came after public speakers expressed anger and frustration with pandemic restrictions — especially their effects on schoolchildren.

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak on Friday aligned state requirements with CDC recommendations issued a day earlier. The CDC says fully vaccinated people can stop social distancing and mask-wearing outdoors in crowds and in most indoor settings.

Most Las Vegas casinos have already returned to 100% occupancy and no social distancing under oversight of the Nevada Gaming Control Board.

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