The Latest: Taiwanese urged to stay home as cases rise

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Taiwan reported 312 new confirmed cases on Friday as part of its worst outbreak since the beginning of the pandemic.

Health Minister Chen Shih-chung says most of the cases have a clear source, but 72 of the new ones were not apparently linked to the previous infections.

Chen urged the island’s residents to refrain from socializing and stay at home.

“On these two days, if everyone can reduce the flow of people to the lowest level, and if then we can gradually cut the line of transmission, it will be greatly helpful to us,” he told a daily briefing.

Taiwan raised its alert level this week, banning indoor gatherings of more than five people and outdoor gatherings of more than 10. Schools are shut for two weeks, and many are working from home.

More than 600,000 people are in quarantine.

The majority of the cases have been discovered in Taipei, the capital, and neighboring New Taipei city. Taiwan has reported an average of 200 to 300 cases in the last week alone, and has recorded a total of 3,139 confirmed cases.

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THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— ‘Like hell:’ As Olympics loom, Japan health care in turmoil

— Argentina resumes strict pandemic lockdown after case surge

— Nervous workers struggle to adjust to new mask policies

— European Union legislators and member countries have found a compromise for launching COVID-19 certificates before the summer holiday season to help boost travel and tourism following the restrictions of the coronavirus pandemic.

— Africa’s top health official says the continent’s vaccination campaigns to battle COVID-19 are facing significant delays because of the export ban imposed by India.

— Anyone who gets vaccinated at select state-run vaccination sites in New York next week will receive a lottery scratch ticket with prizes potentially worth millions, as the state tries to boost slowing vaccination rates.

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

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies says Asia faces a COVID-19 vaccine supply crisis amid grim record daily death tolls.

It said in a statement Friday that Nepal and Bangladesh have run out of vaccines while a majority of countries in the region are struggling with shortages. It says hospitals in India, Nepal, Malaysia and the Philippines are full to the brim with COVID-19 patients.

The organization said many richer countries have purchased enough vaccines to immunize every person several times over while most parts of Asia have only a fraction of that.

The group’s Asia Pacific director, Alexander Matheou, said sharing vaccine doses between countries and through the United Nations’ COVAX facility is now the only option to address the shortage and prevent a further catastrophe.

The Red Cross urged pharmaceutical companies and governments to work together to ensure better supply of vaccines in Asia, which is now the epicenter of the global pandemic with the most number of new cases.

It also called on rich countries to accelerate plans to ship out excess vaccine stocks. It said vaccines have become more critical with the spread of COVID-19 variants but vaccination rates remain very low in Asia.

India and Indonesia have both vaccinated around 3% of their populations while the Philippines has only fully vaccinated around 0.6%.

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NEW DELHI — India’s confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths remained below record levels in the last 24 hours, but authorities are worried about fungal infection that attacks those with weak immune systems.

Doctors suspect that the sudden surge in mucormycosis, or “black fungus” infection, may be linked to the use of steroids to treat COVID-19. It can result in breathing problems and coughing blood.

India reported 4,209 COVID-19 fatalities in the past 24 hours and 259,591 new confirmed cases. Experts believe both figures are an undercount.

Megacities such as Mumbai and New Delhi have seen signs of improvement in recent days. But there is growing concern about smaller towns and rural areas where the virus has made inroads, stretching the weak health system.

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KATHMANDU, Nepal — A repatriation flight is rescuing dozens of Spanish nationals who have been stranded in Nepal since a lockdown was imposed in the Himalayan nation to curb the spiking COVID-19 cases.

The charted flight arranged by the Spanish government was taking back 96 Spanish mountaineers, trekkers and tourists who arrived in Nepal to climb the mountain peaks or hike the trails before the country went on lockdown on April 29.

The plane arrived in Nepal on Thursday bringing in health aid materials given by the Spanish government. The shipment included respirators, 10 concentrators, face masks and antigen test kits.

Nepal has been recording its highest daily new cases and daily deaths this month, while struggling with shortages of hospital beds, medication and oxygen. The country so far has recorded 488,645 COVID-19 confirmed cases while 5,847 people have died.

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CARSON CITY, Nev. — Two Republican lawmakers in the Nevada statehouse were punished on Thursday for not complying with restrictions in place to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Assemblywomen Annie Black and Jill Dickman went mask-less on the Assembly floor but refused to make known whether or not they had received vaccines.

Dickman was escorted out of the Assembly floor after staff told her that she would have to prove that she had been vaccinated. She refused.

In a party-line vote, Black was stripped of her right to vote on measures and address the chamber until she apologized. She remained on the Assembly floor.

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HONOLULU — Hawaii’s governor says the state will once again require people receiving unemployment insurance benefits to search for work as a coronavirus testing program for travelers and growing vaccinations fuel a recovery of the tourism industry.

Anyone filing for unemployment will need to report at least three steps they took to look for work from May 30 through June 5 when they submit their weekly claim on June 6.

These steps can include filling out job applications, interviewing for jobs and registering at the jobs website HireNetHawaii.com.

The governor says Hawaii will maintain other pandemic-era unemployment insurance benefits, including a weekly $300 supplement to weekly benefits.

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HOUSTON — About 60% of the COVID-19 vaccine doses that have spoiled since Texas’ vaccination program began in December were wasted in the past two weeks, according to an analysis of state data.

According to a Houston Chronicle analysis of the roughly 60,000 vaccine doses spoiled since December, about 36,000 were lost in the past two weeks, indicating plummeting demand for the vaccine in Texas.

The number of wasted doses through spoilage of the highly perishable vaccine was still a minute fraction of the state’s vaccine allotment. The state is currently administering an average of about 144,000 vaccinations daily. Even so, that was less than half of the 290,000-vaccination-a-day peak last month.

Just one in three Texans were fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as of Thursday, mostly with the two-dose Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, while 42% have received at least one dose.

More than 51,000 people have died of COVID-19 in Texas during the 15-month pandemic out of the more than 3.2 million positive test results reported to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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RENO, Nev. — Nevada health officials admit the state’s goal of vaccinating 75% of the eligible population may not be realistic.

But they say progress toward that goal is continuing to pay dividends with the average number of new cases being reported statewide dropping to its lowest level since June 2020.

The state’s positivity also rate fell to 4.8% on Wednesday. That’s higher than an all-time low of 4.2% reached March 28, but down from 5.7% April 21 and far below the peak high of 21.3% in mid-January.

Of all Nevadans age 12 and older, 46% have had their first shot and 37% are now fully vaccinated.

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BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana’s state epidemiologist and her 12-year-old daughter were among those stressing the need for COVID-19 vaccinations Thursday at the state Capitol.

Theresa Sokol and her daughter Elise joined Gov. John Bel Edwards and health officials at a news conference.

Elise spoke about being part of a clinical trial for the Moderna vaccine. She said she’s grateful to be part of the effort to get more people vaccinated. State officials are now promoting vaccinations for children as young as 12.

Edwards, meanwhile, says the state’s vaccination rate remains too low. A little over 35% of the state’s eligible population have had a first shot; 30% have completed their vaccination dosages. “That’s not where we want it to be, quite frankly,” Edwards said. “I’m very disappointed in those numbers. We have to do better.”

Edwards said he is looking at possible incentive programs to encourage people to get vaccinated. He would not give details.

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SEATTLE – Despite recent guidance from federal and state officials, the top health official in Washington’s most populous county urged people Thursday to keep wearing face masks in public, indoor settings.

King County Health Officer Dr. Jeff Duchin issued a directive strongly recommending that residents age 5 and up wear face coverings whether or not they are vaccinated until 70% or more of the county’s residents 16 and older are fully inoculated. The agency projects the county will reach the threshold in late June.

Some 57% of those residents in King County — home to Seattle — were fully vaccinated on Thursday, according to the directive. The county is home to about 2.26 million people.

The directive applies to public indoor spaces including grocery and retail stores, government buildings and anywhere else members of the public can enter freely — unless a state-approved method of checking vaccination status is implemented. It does not apply to outdoor places.

Last week, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said fully vaccinated people can stop wearing masks outdoors in crowds and in most indoor settings and give up social distancing.

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