LONDON — Health officials in Britain say more than three-quarters of adults in the U.K. have received both doses of a coronavirus vaccine, a milestone that Prime Minister Boris Johnson described as a “huge national achievement.”
Latest figures from the Department of Health and Social Care on Tuesday showed that 39.7 million people have now been double-jabbed. More than 47 million, or 89% of the adult population, have received a first dose.
The U.K. has seen its average number of daily confirmed cases fall in recent weeks. A further 25,161 cases were reported on Monday. Health Secretary Sajid Javid said Tuesday that the vaccine rollout has created a “wall of defense” that’s “massively reduced” hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19.
Javid also said that officials are preparing to offer coronavirus booster jabs from early September to the most vulnerable groups. He said the plan is for the seasonal flu jab to be offered at the same time as COVID-19 booster jabs to those over 50.
MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:
— Bangladesh vaccinating Rohingya refugees amid virus surge
— Pandemic prompts changes in how future teachers in US are trained
— COVID-19 vaccines to be required for military under new US plan
— Governor of Texas appeals for out-of-state help against COVID-19
— Find more AP coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
MONTREAL — U.S. drug maker Moderna has signed an agreement with the Canadian government to build an mRNA production plant in Canada.
Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel signed a memorandum of understanding with federal Innovation Minister François-Philippe Champagne in Montreal on Tuesday.
Moderna was founded 11 years ago to research and produce messenger RNA, or mRNA, vaccines and therapeutics, and its COVID-19 vaccine is its first product ever authorized for widespread use.
Canada was entirely reliant on imported vaccines to slow COVID-19 but is now one of the most fully vaccinated populations in the world. Champagne says every country in the world wants a COVID-19 vaccine made in their country.
Bancel says they will open the first Moderna plant outside of the U.S. in Canada. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to call a federal election soon.
PARIS — Local authorities in the French Caribbean island of Martinique have asked tourists to leave as the territory is tightening its lockdown amid a rapid surge of COVID-19 cases.
The prefecture of Martinique announced on Tuesday that non-essential shops would close down, as well as hotels and holiday rentals.
Beaches will also be closed, except for individual sporting activities. People are requested to stay within 1 kilometer (0.6 mile) from their homes, except if they need to buy essential goods or go to a medical appointment.
Martinique now registers over 1,200 confirmed cases per 100,000 inhabitants, as the highly contagious delta variant is gaining ground on the island.
Neighboring Guadeloupe island has also been placed under a lockdown, yet with less restrictions than in Martinique.
Only 21% of the population have received a first dose of vaccine in both Caribbean islands — to compare with over 66% in France as a whole.
France has called on volunteer doctors and nurses to travel to the overseas territories to help taking care of patients in almost saturated hospitals.
CHICAGO — Lurie Children’s Hospital will require its 7,500 workers to get COVID-19 vaccines, making it the latest Chicago-area hospital to mandate the shots as the highly contagious delta variant spreads nationwide.
The hospital’s requirement will apply to employees, students, contractors, many vendors and volunteers, who will be expected to be vaccinated by Oct. 18. Lurie may make exceptions for religious or medical reasons.
The requirement comes as the delta variant spreads and case numbers continue to grow in Illinois. The number of children being hospitalized with COVID-19 across the U.S. has been growing in recent weeks.
With the mandate, Lurie joins a growing list of hospitals and businesses requiring vaccines for workers. Advocate Aurora Health, which has 10 hospitals in Illinois, announced last week that it was mandating vaccines for its 75,000 workers in Illinois and Wisconsin.
Many care providers and organizations across the nation have implemented such requirements based on conclusive evidence that vaccines are safe, effective and critical to saving lives and ending the pandemic.
BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana’s chief public health officer says the situation at hospitals around the state, which are overrun with COVID-19 patients, is grim with non-emergency surgical procedures on hold and facilities struggling to operate with depleted staffing levels.
“God forbid if we don’t peak within a week or two. It’s just simply going to be a catastrophic situation for hospitals. There’s just no way to remotely sustain that,” Dr. Joe Kanter told Louisiana’s higher education officials Tuesday.
Kanter said: “The numbers really are just shocking. There’s more COVID being diagnosed on a day-by-day basis now than there ever has been.”
He said the delta variant of the coronavirus is difficult to model, so it’s hard to determine when Louisiana’s latest coronavirus surge will peak. But he warned that the models are worrisome, painting a “doomsday picture where we’re only a quarter of the way up to where we’re eventually going to go” and Louisiana faces another month or more of increasing COVID-19 caseloads. But Kanter said he’s “very hesitant” to believe that modeling.
The state has hit new record-breaking benchmarks of hospitalized COVID-19 patients each day for nearly a week.
“It’s a real dire situation, not so much for physical space. Hospitals will make physical space where they can. They will double up rooms where they have to,” Kanter said. “There’s just not enough qualified staff in the state right now to care for all these patients.”
VILNIUS, Lithuania — Some five thousand people rallied outside Lithuania’s parliament to protest COVID-19 health passes that Lithuanians will need shortly to enter cafes, shops, public transportation and other venues as the Baltic government ponders new restrictions.
The government in Vilnius plans to impose the restrictions mid-September that could also mean that those who get infected without vaccination may lose the right for free medical treatment.
Protesters threatened to disobey the new regulations. Some wore brown costumes with yellow stars reminding those worn by Jews in ghettos during the Nazi occupation. Jewish organizations in Lithuania have expressed dismay over the decorations.
Protesters also erected gallows near the Seimas assembly with the text “For Lithuania’s Traitors.”
“This is anti-constitutional. I have a right not to get these fishy jabs and live my life as I like,” Jonas Grabnys, an unemployed teacher said.
The rally is the latest in a series of protests in several European countries that have implemented virus passes, each with different rules.
Lithuania has seen its infection rate continue to rise for the third consecutive week, and 49% of the population have received at least one jab, according to official statistics.
MADRID — Health authorities in Spain’s capital have announced a ban on bull runs and street festivals in the Madrid region for the rest of August.
Antonio Zapatero, deputy health chief of the Madrid region, said Tuesday the current COVID-19 situation meant that such large street gatherings would not be permitted.
The announcement came as many Spanish regions opened up vaccination slots to children aged 12 years old and up ahead of schools reopening.
Spain announced Monday that 60% of the population is now fully vaccinated against COVID-19, while 70% have received at least one vaccine dose.
FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. — COVID-19 cases have filled so many Florida hospital beds that ambulance services and fire departments are straining to respond to emergencies.
In St. Petersburg, some patients wait inside ambulances for up to an hour before hospitals can admit them — a process that usually takes about 15 minutes, Pinellas County Administrator Barry Burton said.
While ambulances sit outside emergency rooms, they are essentially off the grid.
“They’re not available to take another call, which forces the fire department on scene at an accident or something to take that transport. That’s caused quite a backlog for the system,” Burton said.
He stressed that the most serious cases, like heart attacks and strokes, still get prompt attention in emergency rooms. And he says the county is working with fire rescue officials to find more ambulances and have extra staff on hand.
The strain is being felt across Florida, where COVID-19 hospitalizations surpassed the pandemic’s worst previous surge in late July and set a new record of 13,600 on Monday, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The pandemic is already leaving its fingerprints on the education of future teachers in the United States. Across the country, teaching programs are giving more emphasis on how to plan and implement quality virtual learning.
Though formal changes to standards and curriculums happen more slowly, many teacher preparation programs are incorporating more about digital tools, online instruction and mental and emotional wellness.
The focus reflects takeaways from the pandemic experiences of schools even as they are resuming in-person classes. Changes are happening not just in what aspiring educators are learning, but how.
More programs are using tools such as computer simulation training and virtual field supervision of student-teaching, and they say they might continue to do so regardless of whether circumstances require it.
While school system leaders are hoping to offer in-person instruction as widely as possible this year, experts say the emphasis on technology will have benefits regardless of the pandemic’s course.
MADISON, Wis. — Nearly 70% of eligible inmates in Wisconsin prisons have been fully vaccinated for the coronavirus, according to the state Department of Corrections.
DOC Secretary Kevin Carr said cases of COVID-19 have declined sharply since the early months of the pandemic because of the high vaccination rate for eligible youth and adult prisoners.
The vaccination rate is about 20% higher than the rate for the general population statewide, according to the latest statistics from the Department of Health Services.
There haven’t been more than three active COVID-19 cases in state prisons on any day since mid-June, Carr said. The department reported having only one active case as of Monday afternoon.
Early in the pandemic, the coronavirus spread rapidly through some prisons, including the Green Bay Correctional Institution where more than a quarter of inmates tested positive for the virus.
Prisoners were among the first groups prioritized for shots in Wisconsin, because of their close living quarters.
There are about 20,000 inmates currently in Wisconsin prisons, according to state statistics.
LISBON, Portugal — Portugal is expanding its COVID-19 vaccine rollout to all children between the ages of 12 and 15.
The General Directorate for Health’s announcement Tuesday came after days of uncertainty about the move. Authorities initially limited shots in that age group to children with chronic illnesses.
Officials said the hesitancy was due to a lack of data, but Director General for Health Graça Freitas said studies in the European Union and the United States have dispelled doubts in Portugal.
Classes are set to resume in Portugal’s schools in about four weeks. Officials estimate there are just over 400,000 children in the 12-15 age group.
The European Medicines Agency, the EU’s drug regulator, has recommended that the coronavirus vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna be expanded to children older than 12.
AUSTIN, Texas — Two more of the largest school districts in the U.S. state of Texas have announced mask requirements in defiance of Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order banning such mandates.
The Dallas and Austin school districts announced mask requirements Monday for students, staff members and visitors as COVID-19 cases surge in the state, fueled by the delta variant.
The announcement came the same day Abbott asked for out-of-state medical personnel to help overwhelmed Texas hospitals.
The schools superintendent of Houston has also announced plans for a school mask mandate, pending approval this week from the district’s school board.
Guidance issued last week from the Texas Education Agency reiterated that schools can’t require masks for students or staff under Abbott’s order. It also said schools are not required to conduct contact tracing when positive COVID-19 cases are identified.
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — A court in Norway sentenced a man to 10 years and six months in prison for smuggling 40 kilograms (88 pounds) of an amphetamine into the country inside a van with stickers for a company that developed a coronavirus vaccine.
Norwegian broadcaster NRK said Tuesday that the Polish man in his 50s had arrived from Denmark to southern Norway by ferry in a white van rented in Germany that had stickers with the name BioNTech on the front and sides.
A binder on the dashboard carried the logo of the German company that with American drugmaker Pfizer developed the first COVID-19 authorized for use in Britain, the United States and the European Union.
Inside the van, customs officers in Larvik found the amphetamine.
Prosecutor Christer Gangsoe told NRK that the amount represented about 10% of the amphetamine seized annually in Norway.