SANT JOAN DESPÍ, Spain — A senior European Union official says 55 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine will be delivered to EU member states in the second quarter of this year, starting next month.
The EU’s internal market commissioner, Thierry Breton, says the bloc will receive another 120 million doses of the single-shot jabs between July and September.
Breton spoke Friday during a visit to a plant in northeastern Spain where the vaccine developed by the pharmaceutical company Janssen, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, is being bottled. It is one of four vaccines approved for use in the EU.
Across the bloc, 52 factories are currently churning out vaccines, according to Breton. He says the EU will be producing 2 or 3 billion doses by end of year, making it the world’s top vaccine manufacturer, and allow 70% of the EU population to be inoculated by mid-July.
THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— China outlines COVID-origin findings, ahead of WHO report
— France’s Macron: No regrets for rejecting new virus lockdown
— Mexico’s pandemic death toll passes 200,000
— Lebanon’s private sector importing Russian vaccines to speed up national campaign
— Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic, https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
BEIJING — Chinese officials have briefed diplomats in Beijing on the research into the origin of COVID-19, ahead of the expected release of a long-awaited report from the World Health Organization.
The briefing appeared to be an attempt by China to get out its view on the report. The U.S. and others have raised questions about Chinese influence and the independence of the findings, and China has accused critics of politicizing a scientific study.
The report is based on a visit by WHO team of international experts last month to Wuhan, the city in China where COVID-19 cases were first reported in late 2019.
The experts worked with Chinese counterparts and both sides must agree on the final report. It’s unclear when it will come out.
BUCHAREST, Romania — New restrictions will start Friday in Romania as the country faces a surge of COVID-19 infections amid a third wave of the coronavirus.
This week Romania has recorded its highest number of daily infections in three months, hospital intensive care units have reported record patient numbers and more than 600 people have died of the coronavirus in the last five days.
Officials are tightening restrictions in localities based on the COVID-19 incident rate to try to slow the spread while avoiding a complete lockdown.
Six counties in Romania are currently above the four in 1,000 threshold, while only the western Timis County is above 7.5. In Bucharest, the infection rate reached 6.67 on Friday.
Romania has recorded more than 926,000 cases and 22,835 confirmed deaths. It has administered 2.6 million doses of vaccine.
KRNJACA, Serbia — Serbia has started vaccinating migrants amid a coronavirus outbreak despite a widespread inoculation campaign.
The first of some 530 registered migrants who have applied for the coronavirus shots received their first doses of the AstraZeneca jabs in a suburb of Serbia’s capital Belgrade on Friday.
Serbia, a top European nation in the number of administered coronavirus shots per capita, is among the first Western Balkan country to start vaccinating migrants who are considered a highly vulnerable group in the pandemic.
Earlier this month, a migrant camp in neighboring Bosnia experienced a major COVID-19 outbreak.
There are thousands of migrants from the Middle East, Africa and Asia stuck in Serbia and Bosnia as they attempt to cross into neighboring European Union member Croatia on their way to Western nations.
LISBON, Portugal — Portugal’s government is extending its mandatory work-at-home order through the end of the year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The government says even if the current state of emergency decree allowing lockdowns is lifted, people must still work from home if they can.
Also, companies must have staggered working hours for staff to avoid large gatherings.
NEW YORK — Coronavirus contact tracing programs across the U.S. scaled back their ambitions as cases surged in winter, but New York City has leaned into its $600 million tracing initiative.
The city hired more tracers during the holiday season surge and in early March hit its goal of reaching at least 90% of people who test positive, a mark it hadn’t reached since around Thanksgiving. Last week, the number hit 96%.
Overwhelmed tracing programs elsewhere confronted the wave by switching to automated calls, limiting the types of cases they trace or telling infected people simply to reach out to their contacts themselves.
There’s some debate among public health experts over whether local governments should cut back on contact tracing and focus more on vaccination. However, contact tracing follow-up could help answer whether vaccinated people can transmit the virus.
NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. — Rutgers University says it will require all students be vaccinated for the coronavirus before arriving for classes in the fall.
The university says assurances from the federal government of vaccine supply for all Americans prompted them to make the decision. The university says students may request an exemption from vaccination for medical or religious reasons. Students participating in online-only classes will not be required to be vaccinated.
Brian Strom, chancellor of Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences and executive vice president for health affairs, says the vaccine is the key “to the return of campus instruction and activities closer to what we were accustomed to before the pandemic.”
Rutgers says it has received approval from the state of New Jersey to administer vaccines on campus to faculty, staff and students once vaccine supplies are available to the university.
Faculty and staff are strongly urged to receive the vaccination and students enrolling at Rutgers who are under 18 will be advised to receive the Pfizer vaccine because it’s approved for people age 16 and up.
BERLIN — The German air force is flying dozens of ventilators to Brazil, which has been severely hit by the coronavirus outbreak.
Soldiers loaded 80 ventilators onto an Airbus A310 MRTT at the military section of Cologne-Bonn Airport on Friday morning.
They are being flown to the Amazon metropolis of Manaus, where hospitals have been overwhelmed by the large number of COVID-19 patients requiring oxygen and ventilators.
ROME — The Vatican is providing shots to 1,200 local poor people during Holy Week.
Next week’s vaccine drive follows an initial round of inoculations by the Vatican health service for area homeless people using some of the Pfizer shots the Vatican city-state bought for the pope, Vatican employees and their families.
In a statement Friday, the office noted Francis has urged everyone to get vaccinated as an exercise in collective well-being. Francis has also called for society’s most vulnerable and fragile to have priority since they are among the most exposed to the virus and least able to get medical care if they get sick.
PARIS — France’s president says he has nothing to be sorry about for refusing to impose a third virus lockdown earlier this year, even as his country is now facing surging infections that are straining hospitals and more than 1,000 people with the virus are dying every week.
Emmanuel Macron’s government has stressed the importance of keeping children in school and businesses afloat as the pandemic stretches into a second year.
“We were right not to implement a lockdown in France at the end of January because we didn’t have the explosion of cases that every model predicted,” he said late Thursday night. “There won’t be a mea culpa from me. I don’t have remorse and won’t acknowledge failure.”
For months, France has championed a “third way” between confinement and freedom, including a nationwide curfew and closing all restaurants, tourist sites, gyms, large shopping malls and some other businesses.
Many doctors and scientists have been urging the French government for weeks to impose stronger restrictions, notably because of the more contagious and more dangerous virus variant first identified in Britain.
“We’re not an island, and even the islands who’d protected themselves sometimes saw the virus come back,” Macron said.
France has recorded the fourth-highest number of virus infections in the world, and among the highest death tolls, at 93,378. Intensive care units are again at or beyond capacity in Paris and several other regions because of a new surge of critically ill virus patients.
MADRID — Spain’s official statistics institute says the country’s GDP contracted by almost 11% last year in its worst performance in at least 50 years.
Spain recorded zero growth in the fourth quarter as the economy reeled from pandemic restrictions, the statistics agency said Friday.
It was the first full-year contraction since 2013.
The only economic sector to show growth last year was agriculture, which expanded by 5.3%, while construction felt the sharpest contraction with a 14.5% drop. The agency began collecting statistics in 1970.
BUDAPEST — Officials in Hungary will loosen pandemic lockdown restrictions despite daily COVID-19 deaths breaking previous records for the fifth time this week.
New daily cases in Hungary reached 11,265 on Friday, breaking a record set less than a week ago. A new high of 275 deaths was recorded in the country of fewer than 10 million inhabitants. The surge has given Hungary the highest per capita death rate in the world in the last two weeks.
“We are living through the most difficult weeks of the pandemic,” Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orban, said in a radio interview Friday morning as he announced the numbers.
Hungarian officials nevertheless are loosening lockdown restrictions currently in place. In the Friday interview, Orban announced that non-grocery shops, which are currently closed, will be allowed to reopen with area-based maximum capacity limits.
Store opening hours will be extended by two hours to 9 p.m., and a night time curfew beginning at 8 p.m., in place since Nov. 11, will be extended to 10 or 11 p.m., Orban said.
As of Friday, 1.8 million people had received at least a first dose of a vaccine, giving Hungary the second-highest vaccination rate in the European Union.
ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s prime minister is supposed to be under quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19 last week. But now he’s facing criticism on social media for meeting with his media team only five days after testing positive.
A photo of Imran Khan and members of his media team, all wearing masks, was tweeted by Information Minister Shibli Faraz on Thursday.
Criticism of the face-to-face meeting as irresponsible continued as Pakistan on Friday reported one of its highest number of virus cases in the past eight months, with
Cabinet member Faisal Javed has responded to critics by saying the prime minister was fine and will soon start coming to his office.
LONDON — British lawmakers have agreed to prolong coronavirus emergency measures for six months, allowing the Conservative government to keep powers to restrict U.K. citizens’ everyday lives.
The House of Commons voted to extend the powers until September and approved a road map for gradually easing Britain’s strict lockdown over the next three months.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s large majority in Parliament guaranteed success but some Conservative lawmakers say the economic, democratic and human costs of the restrictions outweighed the benefits.
The Coronavirus Act, passed a year ago as Britain went into lockdown, gives authorities powers to bar protests, shut businesses, restrict travel and detain people suspected of having the virus.
Britain has recorded more than 126,000 coronavirus deaths, the highest toll in Europe. The U.K. says its vaccination program has given at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to more than half the adult population.
GENEVA — The U.N.-backed program to ship COVID-19 vaccines worldwide has announced supply delays for up to 90 million doses from an Indian manufacturer.
It’s a major setback for the ambitious rollout aimed to help low- and middle-income countries fight the pandemic. Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, says the delays come as India is facing a surge of coronavirus infections that will increase domestic demands on the Serum Institute of India, a pivotal vaccine maker behind the COVAX program.
The move will affect up to 40 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccines being manufactured by the Serum Institute that were to be delivered for COVAX this month, as well as 50 million expected next month.
Gavi, which runs COVAX jointly with the World Health Organization and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, has already distributed 31 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine. There’s been 28 million from the Serum Institute and another 3 million from a South Korean contractor producing the vaccine.
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Cambodia says it will train dogs to detect the presence of the coronavirus in humans.
Heng Ratana, director general of the Cambodian Mine Action Center, said on his Facebook page that Prime Minister Hun Sen suggested his agency work with the Health Ministry on training the dogs. The initiative comes as Cambodia is fighting a third wave of coronavirus infections.
Heng Ratana says his agency’s trainers, with 22 years of experience handling dogs to sniff out land mines, would have no problem teaching dogs to sniff out the coronavirus.
Tests using dogs to detect the virus are reported to have a high success rate, often above 90%. Dogs have been used in pilot projects at airports in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates and Helsinki, Finland.