BERLIN — Germany’s health minister says the country will open up coronavirus vaccinations to everyone starting on June 7. Health Minister Jens Spahn told reporters on Monday that the current system of prioritization in which the most vulnerable groups are to be vaccinated first will no longer be valid then.
The minister said, “this does not mean that everyone will get an appointment within days, but … everyone who wants to get vaccinated will get an offer.”
Spahn said that the vaccination campaign has picked up speed in recent weeks and that by the end of May about 40 percent of all people in Germany will have received at least one shot. He said 70 percent of those above the age of 60 have received one shot, about one-quarter of them are fully vaccinated. All in all, 40 million doses of coronavirus vaccines have been given and around nine million people are fully vaccinated, in this country of 83 million.
After months of lockdown, the infection rate has been dropping in Germany and some states are slowly starting to open up outdoor dining and various shopping possibilities.
THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— A dip in cases is bringing a glimmer of hope in India, but shortage of beds, oxygen show virus crisis isn’t over yet
— Joy in UK as pubs, restaurants and museums reopen but new variant sparks worry
— Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline’s vaccine candidate triggered strong immune responses; production to begin soon
— Eurovision song contest gears up in Rotterdam for 1st time since the pandemic began, hopes virus bubbles will ensure safety
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
NEW YORK — Vaccinated people no longer have to wear masks or social distance in New York starting Wednesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday.
The governor said the state is adopting the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released last week.
“Let’s get back to life,” Cuomo said. “If you are vaccinated, you are safe, no masks, no social distancing.”
Cuomo urged people who are unvaccinated and immunocompromised to continue to wear a mask and social distance.
BISMARCK, N.D. — The North Dakota Department of Health on Monday issued new guidance on coronavirus masks.
State health officer Nizar Wehbi says the department is aligning with U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that fully vaccinated individuals can resume activities without wearing a mask indoors and outdoors.
The risk of being infected or spreading COVID-19 once fully vaccinated is very low, and therefore wearing a mask if you are fully vaccinated is no longer a recommendation, the health department said in a statement.
Individuals are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after the second dose of Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or two weeks after a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
A recommendation remains that everyone wears masks when they are in a health care setting, when they are traveling on public transportation, including airplanes, and when they are in a business or employer that requires masks, health officials said.
BRATTLEBORO, Vt. — Vermont is preparing to hold its first jury trials since the coronavirus pandemic hit last year.
Jury draws were planned Monday for a number of cases in Windham County criminal court. Among them are cases involving drug crimes. According to court documents, social distancing and masking will be part of the proceedings.
Vermont Chief Superior Judge Brian Grearson told the Brattleboro Reformer that the judiciary picked cases that were not very complicated, meaning they did not involve a large number of witnesses and could be tried within a couple of days because of the virus-related protocols.
An upgrade to the building’s heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system for proper airflow could lead to fluctuating temperatures, according to a court flyer sent to jurors.
The trial arrangements were planned in consultation with an infectious disease expert to comply with virus guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Vermont Health Department, the newspaper reported.
GENEVA — The head of the World Health Organization is calling on some of the world’s top COVID-19 vaccine makers to do more to get doses to needy people around the world, especially in the developing world — and more quickly.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus appealed in particular to U.S.-based Moderna to accelerate its planned timetable for doses of its vaccine to be available to the U.N.-backed COVAX program, which aims to get vaccines to low- and middle-income countries.
“Moderna has signed a deal for 500 million doses with COVAX, but the majority has been promised only for 2021,” Tedros said Monday. “We need Moderna to bring hundreds of millions of this forward into 2021 due to the acute moment of this pandemic.”
The WHO chief also said COVAX was working toward a deal with U.S.-based Johnson & Johnson that could get doses to the program by the second half of this year, “but this has not been finalized and we do not know when they will arrive.”
Tedros said “we appreciate the work of AstraZeneca” — the British-Swedish manufacturer that has been the main pillar so far of COVAX and the source of the vast majority of doses in the program that has now deployed some 65 million doses.
U.S.-based Pfizer, along with German partner BioNTech, has committed to 40 million doses this year to COVAX, “but the majority of this would be in the second half of 2021,” he said.
Tedros cited figures from UNICEF, which is helping the deployment, that COVAX is facing a “huge shortfall” of 190 million doses in its planned rollout because of tight supplies and a surge in cases.
TORONTO — All adults in Canada’s most populous province will be eligible to book a COVID-19 vaccine starting Tuesday.
The Ontario government says those turning 18 this year will be allowed to book shots. The provincial government had initially said it would lower the vaccine eligibility age to 30 this week.
The province will also now send shots to regions on a per-capita basis, after two weeks of sending half the vaccine supply to COVID-19 hot spots.
Canada expects to get 3.5 million Pfizer and Moderna vaccines this week. More than 55% of the population in Ontario aged 18 and over have received at least one dose.
AMSTERDAM — The European medicines regulator says it is safe to store thawed Pfizer vaccines in a regular fridge for up to 31 days, a ruling that will make handling the vaccine easier around the European Union.
The European Medicines Agency said Monday that its human medicines committee has recommended changing the storage guidelines for unopened, thawed vials of the Pfizer vaccine from five days to a month at normal fridge temperatures after they have been taken out of deep freeze.
The change came after Pfizer and BioNTech submitted “additional stability study data” to the Amsterdam-based agency.
The European Union agreed a massive contract extension for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine this month for a potential 1.8 billion doses through 2023.
ROME — The number of calls placed to Italy’s national domestic violence hotline increased nearly 80% last year in a sign that coronavirus-induced lockdowns created a “detonator” effect in already violent homes.
Italy’s national statistics agency issued a comprehensive report Monday on the requests for help last year to the hotline and shelters.
The report said the number of calls to the toll-free 1522 number and related texting option hit a peak in April and May, during the first wave of COVID-19, which hit Italy first in Europe. Another peak came around Nov. 25.
ISTAT said the data confirmed it was accurate to speak of a “double pandemic” — one that was epidemiological and one fueled by domestic violence.
NEW YORK — Target and CVS are the latest retailers to no longer require vaccinated shoppers or workers to wear a mask in its stores.
The announcement comes after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention eased mask-wearing guidance for fully vaccinated people last week, allowing them to stop wearing masks outdoors in crowds and in most indoor settings. On Friday, Walmart, Costco and several other large retailers said that those who have been vaccinated don’t need to wear masks.
Target and CVS said Monday that they will still recommends those who aren’t vaccinated to wear masks in its stores. Target said it is offering paid time off to workers to get a COVID-19 vaccine.
ROME — The first European visitors have started arriving in Italy after the government lifted a coronavirus quarantine requirement for travelers from the European Union, Britain and Israel.
People arriving on a flight Monday from Greece had to test negative before boarding. Among the passengers was Greek tourist Aris Mandatakis, who said the no-quarantine rule was great. He said it was just like being “a normal person.”
Italy announced last week it was relaxing its COVID-19 quarantine requirement for visitors from the EU, Israel and Britain in a bid to jumpstart its pandemic-devastated tourist industry.
Italy had imposed the five-day quarantine on EU travelers to deter visitors over the Easter holiday and to discourage Italians from taking advantage of a loophole that had made it easier to travel abroad than from Rome to Milan.
Italy, where the coronavirus outbreak first erupted in Europe, has seen its confirmed caseload fall to fewer than 10,000 a day after a winter of lockdowns and an accelerating vaccination campaign. The country though is still seeing around 200 deaths a day, and has the second-highest confirmed COVID-19 toll in Europe after Britain.
HONG KONG — Hong Kong authorities said Monday that quarantine restrictions for arrivals from countries like Singapore, Japan and Malaysia would be tightened beginning Friday amid a surge in coronavirus infections
From Friday, unvaccinated travelers from “high-risk” countries including Argentina, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Malaysia, the Netherlands and Singapore will have to serve 21 days in a designated hotel in Hong Kong and undergo four coronavirus tests.
Vaccinated travelers from these countries will undergo quarantine for 14 days in a designated hotel and have to take three coronavirus tests. They are also required to self-monitor and take further coronavirus tests on their 16th and 19th days of arrival.
All travelers from these countries must also present a negative coronavirus test within 72 hours of their scheduled flight to Hong Kong.
Hong Kong so far has had a slower-than-expected vaccination rate of about 16% of its population.
KENAI, Alaska — Alaska public health officials say nearly half of the state’s residents 16 and older have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
The Peninsula Clarion reports about 47% of people 16 and older had received both doses as of Friday, while about 53% had received at least one dose.
The milestones came days after Alaska opened up vaccination appointments for children 12 and up following the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention approval of Pfizer and BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine for use in the age group.
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The Dutch government will further relax the nationwide coronavirus lockdown on Wednesday, allowing zoos and theme parks to reopen.
The government said Monday that falls in hospital admission numbers of COVID-19 patients allowed the easing to go ahead.
Bars and cafes can also extend the opening hours of their outdoor terraces under strict conditions. Libraries will reopen on Thursday, though visitors will have to make a reservation and complete a health check.
The 7-day rolling average of daily new cases in the Netherlands has declined over the past two weeks from 40 to 32 cases per 100,000 people.
TOKYO — Dozens of protestors on Monday took one of Tokyo’s busiest streets and called for the cancellation of the Summer Olympics, which Japan is determined to host despite a resurgence of coronavirus infections.
With the number of hospitalized patients close to record-high levels, along with a slow vaccine rollout, more people in Japan are feeling uneasy about the prospect of carrying out the world’s biggest sports event in just 10 weeks.
The rally was originally planned as a protest to International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach’s cancelled May 17-18 visit to Japan.
“Medical workers in Japan are all exhausted, and there is no guarantee that the Olympics could be held safely,” Keiko Nakamori, a 65-year-old protester, said outside Shimbashi station.
A survey published Monday by the Asahi newspaper showed more than 80% of 1,527 respondents said the Olympic Games should be canceled or further postponed.
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lankan authorities on Monday allowed shops and public transport to reopen, easing a three-day travel restriction imposed across the country.
Sri Lankans were prohibited from leaving their homes since Thursday night to try to contain the spread of COVID-19. But authorities said those restrictions will now be imposed for five hours overnight for the next two weeks.
In addition, for the next two weeks, only one person from each household is permitted to leave the house. Authorities have banned all public gatherings, weddings, cinemas, parties, bars, musical shows and closed schools and universities.
MADRID — Spain is sending a plane to Nepal to pick up and bring home some 40 Spanish mountaineers, aid workers and others who have been affected by the travel bans imposed amid high coronavirus infection rates there.
Foreign Minister Arancha González Laya said Monday that the plane will also take ventilators and other medical supplies to Nepal to treat patients with COVID-19.
The mountaineers had called on authorities to repatriate them, a move met with criticism from those who said a pandemic is not a time to travel abroad to climb Mount Everest or other major Himalayan peaks.
Nepal is experiencing a coronavirus surge with record numbers of new infections and deaths. Authorities imposed a lockdown across most of the country last month and have extended it until the end of May.
China has also cancelled attempts to climb Mount Everest from its side because of fears of importing COVID-19 cases from Nepal.
LONDON — Pubs and restaurants across much of the U.K. opened for indoor service for the first time since early January on Monday, even as the prime minister urged people to be cautious amid the spread of a more contagious COVID-19 variant.
The latest step in the gradual easing of nationwide restrictions imposed on Jan. 4 also includes the reopening of theaters, sports venues and museums, raising hopes that the economy may soon start to recover from the devastating effects of the pandemic. The government is also relaxing guidance on close personal contact, such as hugging, and permitting international travel, though only 12 countries and territories are on the list of “safe” destinations.
But the rapid spread of a variant first discovered in India is tempering the optimism amid memories of how another variant swept across the country in December, triggering England’s third national lockdown. Public health officials and the government are urging people to continue to observe social distancing, even though they say the situation is different now because almost 70% of the adult population has received at least one dose of vaccine.
“Please, be cautious about the risks to your loved ones,’’ Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a video posted on Twitter. “Remember that close contact such as hugging is a direct way of transmitting this disease.”
Britain has Europe’s highest coronavirus death toll, at some 128,000 people.