WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand medical regulators have approved use of the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine, after earlier in the year approving the Pfizer vaccine.
But New Zealand’s government intends to stick with its plan of primarily using the Pfizer vaccine to inoculate the population of 5 million.
The provisional approval for the J&J vaccine by regulator Medsafe applies to adults aged 18 and over and will need to be signed-off on by the Cabinet, which will likely happen next month.
New Zealand has an agreement to buy 2 million doses of the J&J vaccine. COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins says having a second vaccine will provide increased flexibility and it could be used in emergencies or in locations that are hard to reach.
MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:
— Tokyo Olympics approach, virus worries rise in Japan
— Bangladesh hits record 11,525 daily virus cases
— Israel to ship 700K Pfizer doses to South Korea in swap deal
— Unending grief of COVID-19 deaths causing problems for some
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
SYDNEY — A two-week-old pandemic lockdown in Australia’s biggest city is being extended for another week due to the vulnerability of a population largely unvaccinated against the coronavirus.
New South Wales state Premier Gladys Berejiklian said Wednesday that health experts recommended pushing the lockdown in Sydney on to midnight July 16.
The decision means most children in Sydney and some nearby communities will not return to school next week following their mid-year break.
Only 9% of Australian adults are fully vaccinated, heightening fears that the delta variant of the coronavirus could quickly spread beyond control.
There have been more than 300 coronavirus infections in Sydney linked to a limousine driver who tested positive June 16. He is thought to have been infected while transporting a U.S. flight crew from the airport.
SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea is reporting more than 1,200 new coronavirus cases, a level unseen since the worst of its outbreak in December as it slips into another virus surge with most of its people unvaccinated.
The 1,212 new cases reported Wednesday came close to South Korea’s largest daily increase during the pandemic, on Christmas Day, when officials listed 1,240 new cases.
The government had planned to raise the cap on private social gatherings from four to six people and allow restaurants to extend indoor dining by two hours starting this month. But officials in Seoul and nearby areas have held off as infections rise.
Just 30% of South Korea’s people have received the first dose of a coronavirus vaccine as of Wednesday.
Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum says officials will consider tougher social distancing rules if transmissions continue to grow over the next two or three days.
HARARE, Zimbabwe — Zimbabwe has returned to strict lockdown measures to combat a resurgence of COVID-19 amid vaccine shortages.
Infections have dramatically increased in recent weeks despite a night curfew, reduced business hours, localized lockdowns in hotspot areas, and bans on inter-city travel.
The country’s information minister announced the virus has spread to rural areas which have sparse health facilities.
Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa announced after a Cabinet meeting that most people must stay at home, similar to restrictions on movement adopted in March last year when towns and cities became almost deserted.
People will now need letters from employers to justify why they must venture out of their neighborhood.
Zimbabwe is one of more than 14 African countries where the delta variant s quickly spreading. The delta variant was first identified in India.
DENVER — The Denver Zoo will begin vaccinating some of its animals for COVID-19 as early as next week.
Zoologists say they have been working with the veterinary vaccine company Zoetis to receive doses for the animals, and primates and carnivores will be first on the list.
KMGH-TV reports the veterinary vaccine is being developed separate from the ones for human use.
Transmission is rare between humans and other species, but there have been several documented cases of COVID-19 in large cats, monkeys and certain rodent populations.
Veterinary scientists don’t think common house pets like cats or dogs are in significant danger of catching COVID-19.
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden says the rise of a more transmissible COVID-19 variant in the U.S. “should cause everybody to think twice.”
Speaking Tuesday at the White House as he outlined his administration’s summer plans to boost vaccinations, Biden said the delta variant first identified in India is now responsible for a majority of new virus cases in much of the country.
“It seems to me it should cause everybody to think twice, and it should cause reconsideration especially among young people,” he said, referencing the demographic least at risk of negative outcomes from the virus.
Biden says the surest way for Americans to protect themselves and their loved ones is to get vaccinated. He said the White House was working with state and local partners to support hyper-local vaccination drives in communities with low uptake.
BUCHAREST, Romania — Declining demand for coronavirus vaccinations in Romania has prompted authorities to close 117 vaccination centers and to reduce the schedule at 371 others, health officials said Tuesday.
“In the previous week we re-evaluated the efficiency of fixed vaccination centers. About 80% of fixed vaccination centers vaccinate less than 25% of the vaccination capacity allocated to each stream,” national vaccination committee chief Valeriu Gheorghita said at a press conference Tuesday.
The number of daily vaccinations in Romania has consistently dropped from a mid-May peak of around 120,000 a day to less than 20,000 a day over the last week. Just 24% of people in Romania — a country of more than 19 million — have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The number of daily coronavirus infections in recent weeks has dropped to record lows, but Gheorghita warned Tuesday of a possible resurgence due to the delta strain, which was first identified in India.
If a resurgence increased demand for vaccines, he said, the closed vaccine centers could quickly resume activities.
Authorities have reported more than a million infections since the pandemic began and 34,021 have died.
NIXA, Mo. — As the coronavirus surges in Missouri, a group opposed to masking and other public safety measures have gathered enough signatures to force a vote on whether to recall a mayor in a hard-hit region, even though the requirements have long since expired.
The Springfield News-Leader reports that Nixa voters will have the option to recall Mayor Brian Steele at a special election set for Nov. 2.
Nixa, which has about 21,000 residents, is located about 10 miles (16.09 kilometers) south of Springfield, where hospitals are overflowing with COVID-19 patients.
Health officials are blaming low vaccination rates and the delta variant, first identified in India, for the surge. Just 44.8% of the state’s residents have received at least the first dose of the vaccine, compared to 54.9% nationally.
And the rate is even lower in southwest Missouri. Christian County, where Nixa is located, has a vaccine rate of 35.2%. Some nearby counties have rates in the teens.
PHOENIX — Arizona’s confirmed pandemic death toll reached 18,000 on Tuesday with 21 more deaths. There were 900 confirmed coronavirus cases after the three-day July 4 holiday weekend.
As of Sunday, Arizona ranked 12th highest among U.S. states in total COVID-19 deaths since Jan. 21, 2020. It’s sixth highest in the number of deaths per 100,000 population, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
On Monday, the state reported no additional deaths after only four on Sunday. The state’s seven-day rolling average of daily deaths registered at 9.4, down from 10.7 on June 20, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Arizona’s confirmed pandemic case total reached 897,910 on Tuesday. The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases increased in the past two weeks from 423 on June 20 to 492 on Sunday.
Nearly 50% of the population has had at least one dose of vaccine.
MOSCOW — Russian authorities allowed vaccinated Russians and those who have recovered from COVID-19 in the last six months not to get tested for the virus upon arrival from abroad.
Coronavirus deaths in Russia hit another daily record on Tuesday, with authorities reporting 737 more deaths and 23,378 confirmed cases.
Those who are not vaccinated and haven’t had coronavirus recently will be required to take a test within three days of arrival and self-isolate until receiving the results. The amended regulations, announced Tuesday by the country’s public health agency Rospotrebnadzor, will take effect on Wednesday. The rules in place since May 1 mandated all Russians to take two coronavirus tests within five days of arrival.
The eased regulations come amid reports of state and private testing facilities being overwhelmed with the increased demand.
DHAKA, Bangladesh — Bangladesh has reported 11,525 positive cases, the highest in a day since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
Another 163 people died in the last 24 hours, raising the total number to 15,392, according to the government. Bangladesh’s cases of new infections increased last month when the delta variant — first discovered in India — hit the country’s border regions in the northern and southwestern Bangladesh.
Bangladesh shares a large border with India and health experts say the actual number of both infections and deaths is likely higher. The country is facing a crisis in vaccination after India stopped exports of AstraZeneca shots because of its own outbreak in April. Bangladesh has a deal to get 30 million doses from India’s Serum Institute.
Only 4 million Bangladeshis have been vaccinated in a country of 160 million people. Authorities are hoping to start a new mass vaccination campaign with China’s Sinopharm and other vaccines.
LONDON — The British government is scrapping coronavirus rules for schools that have seen hundreds of thousands of pupils sent home to self-isolate.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson says starting July 19, schools will no longer group children in class or year-group “bubbles,” with all members of the group sent home if one person tests positive for the coronavirus.
With infections climbing in the U.K., the system has led to major disruption for schools and families. On July 1, 471,000 children in England were self-isolating because of potential contact with a virus case at school.
Williamson says in mid-August, close contacts of children who test positive will no longer have to self-isolate. He said the government plans to lift social distancing rules and other educational restrictions for the start of the new school year in September. However, “some protective measures -- including enhanced hygiene and ventilation -- will remain in place.”
JAKARTA, Indonesia — In Myanmar, the military has declared war on health care workers.
Medics were early and fierce opponents of the military’s takeover of the nation’s government in February. Security forces are arresting, attacking and killing medical workers and have dubbed them enemies of the state.
Medics have been driven underground amid a global coronavirus pandemic and the country’s already fragile health care system is crumbling. Myanmar is now one of the most dangerous places on earth for health care workers, with 240 attacks this year. That’s nearly half of the 508 globally tracked by the World Health Organization and by far the highest of any country.
The military has issued arrest warrants for 400 doctors and 180 nurses, with photos of their faces plastered over state media like “Wanted” posters. They are charged with supporting and taking part in the “civil disobedience” movement.
BEIJING — A Chinese city bordering Myanmar is stepping up efforts to fight a third coronavirus outbreak after several locally transmitted cases were reported this week.
Ruili, located in the southwestern province of Yunnan, has initiated mass testing and imposed a lockdown to prevent people from entering or leaving the city unless they can prove their travel is necessary, according to the local government.
More than 230,000 test samples have been collected since Monday, and the Jiegao border community was named a medium-risk area on Tuesday, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.
The large number of exchanges along the border at Ruili and Myanmar’s difficulties in handling the pandemic have made it particularly difficult to control new transmissions. Strict anti-pandemic measures have largely prevented local cases in other parts of China over recent months, leaving the country’s death toll from the pandemic static at 4,636 among almost 92,000 reported cases, according to official statistics.