The Latest: State of emergency may be extended in Tokyo area

The Latest: State of emergency may be extended in Tokyo area

TOKYO — Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga says he is considering extending an ongoing state of emergency for the Tokyo region for about two weeks, amid concerns that infections have not slowed enough and are continuing to strain health systems in the region.

Suga had declared a month-long state of emergency in Jan. 7 for Tokyo, Kanagawa, Saitama and Chiba, then extended the measure through to March 7. The measure issued for up to 10 other urban prefectures later in January was lifted last week, underscoring the government’s eagerness to allow businesses to return to normal as soon as possible.

“Our anti-infection measures are at a very important phase,” Suga told reporters Wednesday. “In order to protect the people’s lives and health, I think we need to extend (the state of emergency) for about two weeks.”

His comment comes after Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike and heads of the neighboring prefectures raised concerns that infections have not slowed enough and lifting restrictive measures this weekend could trigger a quick rebound of infections.

Daily new cases in Tokyo have significantly decreased after they peaked at around 2,000 in early January, but the slide has slowed recently. Tokyo on Wednesday reported 316 new cases, up from 232 the day before, for a prefectural total of 112,345. Nationwide, Japan has more than 434,000 cases and about 8,000 deaths as of Tuesday, the health ministry said.

Suga said medical systems in the region are still burdened with COVID-19 patients and that more hospital beds need to be freed up.

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THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— European countries seek vaccine ‘overdrive’ to catch up

— Biden vows enough vaccine for all US adults by end of May

— Texas and other states ease COVID-19 rules despite warnings

— San Francisco leaders cheer reopenings as COVID-19 cases fall

— Biden urges Senate Democrats to rally behind $1.9 trillion virus bill

— Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic, https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

STOCKHOLM — A top health official in the Swedish capital says a third wave of the coronavirus pandemic has hit Stockholm after a drop in cases after the New Year. Cases in the capital have been rising sharply for the past three weeks.

“We do not want to see a development where the need for health care increases sharply,” said Johan Bratt, the capital city’s health director.

The last week of February saw 6,336 new cases, almost double the 3,225 new cases recorded three weeks earlier.

Officials in neighboring Norway said restaurants and gyms in some areas would be closed after pockets of virus outbreaks in the capital Oslo and elsewhere. The move comes after more cases of the virus mutations have been reported in Norway. The changes apply as of Wednesday.

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MADRID — Spain has imposed a 10-day quarantine on travelers arriving from Colombia, Peru, and eight African countries, in addition to maintaining the quarantine on arrivals from Brazil and South Africa due to concerns over new variants of the coronavirus.

Spain’s government gazette published the order on Wednesday, imposing the obligatory quarantine on those arriving from Colombia, Peru, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Ghana, Botswana, Tanzania, Zambia, Mozambique and Comoras.

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Visitors can reduce the quarantine to seven days if they provide a negative result for a COVID-19 test.

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HELSINKI — Estonia has issued additional coronavirus restrictions and will close restaurants and all non-essential shops for weekends to curb the worsening pandemic situation in the small Baltic country.

Effective March 6, eating establishments and most shops will close for Saturday and Sunday but will remain open during the week, the Estonian government said.

During week days, restaurants and stores need to comply with a maximum of 25% percent occupancy rate requirement. The new restrictions will remain in place until March 28.

Estonia, a nation of 1.3 million, has seen a rapidly increasing number of COVID-19 cases in the past weeks as the pandemic has spread across the nation.

On Wednesday, the country reported 1,467 new confirmed cases putting total tally to over 58,000 cases with 615 deaths. The 14-day average rate for new infections per 100,000 inhabitants stands now at over 1,100.

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ANKARA, Turkey — Turkish researchers say the vaccine developed by China’s Sinovac Biotech company has a 83.5% efficacy rate, according to the results of a late-stage trial conducted in Turkey.

The trial also showed the vaccine to be 100% effective in preventing the hospitalization of COVID-19 sufferers, professors Murat Akova and Serhat Unal of Ankara’s Hacettepe University told reporters on Wednesday. A total of 10,220 people participated in the late-stage trial, they said.

Turkey authorized the Sinovac vaccine’s emergency use on Jan. 13 and began administering shots the next day. So far, more than 9 million doses of the two-shot vaccine have been administered.

Unal said no serious side-effect has been reported so far.

Turkey is set to receive some 100,000 doses of the vaccine. Ankara has also ordered 4.5 million doses of the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine. Health Minister Fahrettin Koca has said Turkey aims to vaccinate 52.5 million people by the end of May.

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BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — Slovakia is tightening restrictive measures in a bid to halt the spread of a highly contagious coronavirus variant first found in Britain.

Starting Wednesday, Slovakia, one of the hardest-hit European Union countries, is imposing a nationwide curfew between 8 p.m. and 1 a.m.

Authorities are also tightening rules for international travelers Wednesday to try to prevent virus variants from spreading or entering the country. Police and military officers are set to enforce the new measures by re-imposing border checks for 24 hours a day on all major border crossings with Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland.

In Slovakia’s already tight lockdown, people in counties where the virus situation is considered serious need to take a test every seven days to be able to go to work.

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THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Dutch police say a blast smashed windows at a coronavirus testing center in a small town north of Amsterdam in the early morning. Nobody was hurt.

Police in the North Holland province tweeted that “an explosive went off” near the test center in Bovenkarspel just before 7 a.m. (0600 GMT) on Wednesday.

Police have taped off the area about 60 kilometers (40 miles) north of Amsterdam and are investigating the cause of the blast.

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In January, rioters torched a coronavirus test facility in the fishing village of Urk on the first night of a 9 p.m. to 4:30 a.m. nationwide curfew imposed as part of the government’s lockdown.

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TAIPEI, Taiwan — The first batch of COVID-19 vaccine has arrived in Taiwan.

Taiwan has signed contracts securing 10 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, 5.05 million doses of the Moderna vaccine and 4.76 million doses of vaccines through COVAX. Wednesday’s delivery had 117,000 AstraZeneca doses, which was transported from the airport with a police escort.

Health care workers, especially those who have direct contact with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases, will be the first to get the shots, Taiwan’s Health Minister Chen Shih-chung said at a news briefing. The island has yet to announce a mass vaccination campaign for the general public.

The island is planning to give the first dose to 117,000 individuals, the minister said, with the first dose providing an efficacy rate of 71%. The second dose is meant to be given eight weeks later, boosting effectiveness to 81%.

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TORONTO — The health minister of Canada’s most populous province says Ontario seniors won’t receive the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine since there’s limited data on its effectiveness in older populations.

Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott says Ontario plans to follow the advice of a national panel that’s recommended against using the newly approved vaccine on people aged 65 and older.

Elliott says for anyone over that age, it’s recommended that they receive either the Pfizer or the Moderna vaccine.

There are no concerns that the vaccine is unsafe for use, but Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization said this week that the vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna are preferred for seniors due to “suggested superior efficacy.″

France said this week it will allow some people over 65 to receive the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine, after initially restricting its use to younger populations because of limited data on the drug’s effectiveness.

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WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand reported no new community cases of the coronavirus for a third consecutive day as the latest outbreak in Auckland appears to have been brought under control.

The government placed the nation’s largest city into a weeklong lockdown Sunday after several new community cases were found.

Top lawmakers in the Cabinet are meeting Friday to review the lockdown. Also, health officials announced they had given the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine to more than 9,000 people, including more than half of the 12,000 people who work at the border.

New Zealand currently has a supply of about 200,000 doses. The country has been slower than many to begin its vaccination campaign but is seen as lower risk after eliminating community spread of the virus.

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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden is directing states to prioritize vaccinating all teachers during the month of March, and announced that the federal government will help in the effort through its partnership with retail pharmacies.

Biden said his goal is for every pre-kindergarten through 12th grade educator, school staff member and childcare worker to receive at least one shot by the end of March.

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To achieve this, Biden announced that qualifying individuals will be able to sign up this month to be vaccinated at a pharmacy near them.

Biden said that while schools are safe to reopen even before staff have been vaccinated, “time and again, we’ve heard from educators and parents that have anxieties about that,” so to “accelerate” the safe reopening teachers should be prioritized.

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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said that the U.S. will have enough coronavirus vaccine supply to cover every adult in America by the end of May, two months earlier than anticipated.

Biden said that to accelerate production of the vaccine, drugmaker Merck & Co. will help produce rival Johnson & Johnson’s newly-approved shot. The administration is invoking the Defense Production Act, a wartime measure that gives the federal government authority to direct private companies to meet the needs of the national defense, to equip two Merck facilities to produce the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Biden said Johnson & Johnson will operate 24/7 to produce the vaccine. He also said the Defense Department will provide daily logistical support for the company in its efforts.

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SALEM, Ore. – The Brazilian variant of coronavirus has emerged in Oregon, the first known such case on the U.S. West Coast, medical authorities said Tuesday.

The sample was sent to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at the end of January by medical officials in Douglas County, Oregon. They said they received the results back on Monday night, showing the P.1 variant.

“The P.1 variant … appears to be related to business travel outside the United States to and from Brazil,” the Douglas County COVID-19 Response Team said in a statement Tuesday.

The variant, which was originally traced to Brazil, appears to be more contagious than the original COVID-19 strain. It can potentially be contracted by someone who was already infected or who has been vaccinated.

There have been 10 other cases of the P.1 variant reported in the United States, with five in Florida, two in Minnesota and one each in Oklahoma, Alaska and Maryland, the CDC says.

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JACKSON, Miss. — The governor of Mississippi has said he is getting rid of most mask mandates previously imposed to try to slow the spread of the coronavirus. He is also lifting most other restrictions, including limits on seating in restaurants.

Republican Gov. Tate Reeves said he is issuing a new executive order that takes effect at 5 p.m. Wednesday and remains in place until March 31.

Reeves said the number of people hospitalized because of the virus has decreased in recent weeks, and vaccination numbers are increasing.

Until now, most of Mississippi’s 82 counties had been under a mask mandate for months.

Reeves said he is encouraging other people to wear face coverings but is not requiring it. He is asking people to follow recommendations from the state health officer, Dr. Thomas Dobbs.

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