Israel, Bahrain recognize vaccine certificates
JERUSALEM — Israel and Bahrain say they have reached an agreement to recognize each other’s coronavirus vaccination certificates, allowing travelers between the countries to forgo quarantine and other restrictions.
The agreement builds on a U.S.-brokered normalization accord reached last year and marks a further improvement of ties between Israel and the small Arab country in the Persian Gulf.
Bahrain’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement Thursday that the latest deal “represents a global precedent for a bilateral agreement on mutual recognition of vaccination certificates.”
Israeli Tourism Minister Orit Farkash Hacohen welcomed the agreement in a tweet, calling it “an important step in Israel’s reopening to tourists.” She said she looked forward to hosting her Bahraini counterpart again and invited him to go diving in Eilat, on the Red Sea.
Israel has carried out one of the most effective vaccination campaigns in the world, leading to a sharp drop in infections and allowing it to reopen schools and businesses, including restaurants, hotels and museums.
But it remains largely closed off to international visitors. Israel plans to allow a limited number of tour groups to enter starting May 23, with individuals allowed at a later stage. All visitors will need to be tested before boarding flights to Israel and show proof of vaccination.
THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— Drop in vaccine demand has some places turning down doses
— India’s hospitals desperately plea for oxygen, fire kills 13
— Oregon: CDC investigating woman’s death after J&J vaccine
— California has gone from worst to first in the rate of coronavirus infections. Data from Johns Hopkins University shows the state surpassed Hawaii on Thursday with the lowest average number of COVID-19 cases per capita.
— Dutch caretaker Prime Minister Mark Rutte has defended his decision to ease his country’s lockdown next week even after the Netherlands recorded 9,648 new coronavirus infections.
— Since the COVID-19 vaccines haven’t been around that long, it’s not yet known how long their protection lasts. Experts are still studying vaccinated people to determine if and when boosters might be needed.
Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
LONDON — Scientists at Oxford University have released more data that confirm coronavirus vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca both significantly cut the risk of infection after a single dose.
In studies published on Friday, researchers said there was no apparent difference in the vaccines’ ability to reduce COVID-19 infection rates.
The research has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal but is based on data from nose and throat swabs taken from more than 370,000 participants in England and Wales between December and April.
The scientists said that three weeks after people had been given a single dose of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or AstraZeneca vaccine, the rates of all COVID-19 infections fell by 65%. The reduction was bigger after a second dose and the vaccines appeared to protect people against the variant that was first identified in the U.K.
Dr. Koen Pouwels, a senior researcher at Oxford University, noted there was some evidence of vaccinated people catching COVID-19 and that there was some limited spread of the disease from people who had been immunized.
“This emphasizes the need for everyone to continue to follow guidelines to reduce transmission risk, for example through social distancing and masks,” Pouwels said in a statement.
BANGKOK — Thailand’s health authorities announced Friday they have confirmed 2,070 new COVID-19 cases, a new daily record that brings the country’s total to 50,183.
The rising numbers are severely straining the supply of hospital beds and ICU capacity.
The record number of new infections came a day after a new daily high of seven deaths was announced. Four more deaths were announced Friday, bringing Thailand’s total to 121.
At the beginning of March, Thailand had 26,031 cases with double-digit daily increases, but a new outbreak sent the numbers skyrocketing.
Taweesilp Visanuyothin, a spokesman for the Center for COVID-19 Situation Administration, said Bangkok, with the highest number of cases, has only 69 empty ICU beds left out of a total of more than 400. He said that is enough for the next six to eight days according to the projected demand of 10-13 additional ICU beds per day. Nationwide demand, forecast at 52 ICU beds per day, would use up the capacity in 19 days, he said.
Under Thai law, infected patients must be held in hospital facilities, but even with the addition of field hospitals there are not enough beds. There are 19,873 people in hospitals and field facilities nationwide, but in some areas that are short of beds, infected people are isolating at home.
ISLAMABAD — Pakistan has imported half a million doses of Chinese Sinovac vaccine after relying on donated vaccines, as its coronavirus cases surge, officials said Friday.
The country purchased the vaccine developed by China’s Sinovac Biotech, the National Command and Control Center said. It said a plane carrying 500,000 doses arrived at an airport Thursday.
Previously, Pakistan largely relied on vaccines donated by China.
Pakistan is currently in the middle of a new wave of cases which are flooding hospitals, mainly because of widespread violations of social distancing rules.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday was expected to approve new COVOD-19-related measures.
So far, the government has resisted demands from doctors that it impose a nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of the virus.
Pakistan on Friday reported 144 deaths in the previous 24 hours. It has reported 16,842 deaths among 784,108 cases since last year.
PERTH, Australia — The Australian west coast city of Perth will lock down for three days after a returned traveler was apparently infected with the coronavirus while in hotel quarantine.
Western Australia state Premier Mark McGowan said on Friday masks will also become compulsory in the city of 2 million people for three days from midnight.
“I know this is hard to take and I wish we didn’t need to be doing this. But we can’t take any chances with the virus, we just can’t,” McGowan told reporters.
The cause of concern was a 54-year-old man who arrived in Perth on April 3 on a flight from China and went into mandatory 14-day hotel quarantine.
A couple from India on the same floor of the hotel were infected with a virus variant identified in that country as more contagious. The variant spread to a mother and daughter from Britain who shared a room across a corridor.
The man was released from quarantine on April 17 after testing negative but tested positive after flying to the east coast city of Melbourne on Wednesday. The test result was announced on Friday.
It is not yet known if he has the same variant as the other infected people on his hotel floor.
Authorities assume he was infectious during the five days he was free to move around Perth before flying to his hometown.
A friend he stayed with overnight in Perth tested positive for the coronavirus on Friday, becoming the first case of community transmission in Western Australia in more than a year.
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Authorities in Sri Lanka have imposed lockdowns on several villages and postponed the reopening of state universities amid a sharp increase of COVID-19 cases.
According to a government statement, a small town and a village in the Kurunegala district, about 103 kilometers northeast of the capital Colombo were placed on lockdown. The local Lankadeepa newspaper reported five other villages in the area have been isolated.
Separately, the Education Ministry said the reopening of state-run universities will be postponed by another two weeks based on instructions from the health department. They had been scheduled to reopen April 27 after several months of being closed.
The number of positive cases rose to 672 on Thursday, pushing the nation’s total to 98,721 people infected with 634 fatalities.
BEIJING — China says three of its citizens working in the United Arab Emirates tampered with the results of their coronavirus tests required to return home.
A statement from the Chinese Embassy said the three, working in the main business center of Dubai, altered information provided by local clinics to show they had not been infected.
It said they were referred to UAE authorities for “seriously interfering with the prevention of epidemics and posing a significant risk to the health and safety of other passengers on the same flight.”
China has largely stamped out domestic infection but continues to report citizens arriving from abroad who test positive for the coronavirus. That comes despite demands that travelers prove they are virus-free, leading to speculation that test results are being falsified by citizens desperate to return home after more than a year of travel restrictions and demands they be quarantined for as many as 21 days.
China reported 19 new cases on Friday, all of them brought from overseas and most arriving in the major travel hubs of Shanghai and Guangdong.
LAS VEGAS — Topless dancers can shed coronavirus restrictions beginning next weekend in Las Vegas and get face-to-face with patrons again.
But masks still will be required for adult entertainment employees and recommended for customers under rules accepted Thursday by a state pandemic task force.
Sin City strip clubs that went dark when Gov. Steve Sisolak ordered casinos, clubs and nonessential businesses closed more than a year ago can reopen May 1 at 80% of under strict social distancing guidelines.
The rules will allow strip club entertainers to get closer than 3 feet to patrons if the entertainer has received at least a first dose of a coronavirus vaccine at least 14 days earlier or if the dancer tests negative in a weekly virus test.
AUSTIN, Texas — Texas health officials say the U.S. government has reported that a Texas woman is hospitalized with possible blood clots associated with Johnson and Johnson’s coronavirus vaccine.
The announcement by Texas quotes the FDA and CDC as saying the adult woman has “symptoms that appear to be consistent with those few other reported cases” of a rare blood clotting disorder developed after receiving the J&J vaccine. No other information is being released, because of patient privacy and confidentiality.
Federal and state agencies have paused the J&J vaccine rollout due to concerns about blood clots. Federal officials already were examining six reports of the unusual clots, including a death, out of more than 6.8 million Americans given the one-dose vaccination so far.
HARTFORD, Conn. — Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont says the state is seeing a slowdown in demand for coronavirus vaccinations, prompting officials to look for new ways to encourage people to get the shots and move closer toward herd immunity in the state.
Among the ideas is reaching out to major state employers such as submarine-maker Electric Boat Shipyard to hold clinics for workers. Requests for vaccine doses are now being accommodated for individual work sites that can put together a critical mass of people.
About 60% of the adults in Connecticut have received at least one dose.
Lamont said Thursday that he would ultimately like at least 70% to be vaccinated in Connecticut, noting that 89% of residents age 65 and older have received at least one dose.
DENVER — Colorado Gov. Jared Polis says the state has administered first doses of coronavirus vaccines to at least half of the eligible population and now needs to target people who have been hesitant to get a shot or have just procrastinated.
He says the state will look to make vaccine access easy, convenient and quick. The governor says three of Colorado’s mass vaccination sites will start offering walk-in and drive-in vaccination in addition to the same-day vaccine appointments that are already available.
Polis says that “the number of people who don’t want the vaccine is small.”
TORONTO — Canada is banning all flights from India and Pakistan for 30 days due to the growing wave of COVID-19 cases in that region.
The announcement came Thursday, hours after India reported a global record of more than 314,000 new infections in the previous 24-hours.
Canada’s health minister says half the people who are testing positive for the coronavirus after arriving in Canada by airplane came from India. Flights from India account for about one fifth of the country’s air traffic.
There are than 1 million people who live in Canada who have Indian descent. There are 100,000 Canadians who have Pakistani ancestry.
JUNEAU, Alaska — Organizers say a four-day dance and cultural event billed as the largest gathering of Alaska Natives in the southeast region of the largest state will return next year as an in-person event after widespread immunizations.
The Sealaska Heritage Institute says the Celebration event celebrating Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures will be held in Juneau from June 8-11, 2022. It was held virtually in 2020, and another event planned for this past January was scrapped.
Institute president Rosita Worl says the cancellation was necessary “to protect our people” and officials look forward to celebrating in 2022.
Worl said in a Thursday statement: “We survived this pandemic. We are still here.”
The event first held in 1982 draws thousands of people to Alaska’s capital.
PARIS — France’s prime minister is offering some good news to a nation living under numerous pandemic restrictions, saying the country’s third wave appears to have crested and outdoor café terraces, some shops and sporting and cultural activities may be able to open around mid-May.
Jean Castex said at a news conference that there has been a “real lowering of the viral circulation” in recent days in 80 percent of French territory.
Cafes — a major part of social life in France — have been closed since the fall.
Castex says a nightly curfew from 7 p.m. will remain in place for now. But travel restrictions will be lifted May 3.
Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer says some schools will open as of Monday, with middle and high schoolers sticking with distance learning until they too go back to class May 3.
SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Gov. Spencer Cox says the state’s vaccine supply is beginning to outpace demand in some counties, and he’s urging everyone who may be hesitant to get their shots.
Cox said during his weekly coronavirus news conference that Utah has prioritized putting as many needles into arms as possible at mass vaccination sites and will start transitioning to focus on more regional and community-oriented sites.
Cox added that authorities are starting to move some doses to Salt Lake County, Utah’s most populated, where demand remains high.
State epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn urged vaccine-reluctant people to speak with their doctor or pharmacist about the vaccine’s safety and efficacy.
She said it is “not totally unexpected” that demand for vaccines is softening, and “now we’re starting to work into those populations who might have some hesitancy or are just taking their time to get vaccinated.”
More than 840,000 people in Utah have been fully vaccinated, or 51.8% of residents aged 16 and over.
Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine