The Newest: France sends medics, virus assist to Caribbean

Updated Friday, July 30th, 2021 | 5:58 am

PARIS – France is sending military medics and intensive care units to the French Caribbean to relieve hospitals facing a surge in coronavirus. Military planes are also bringing some seriously ill patients to mainland France for treatment.

The island of Martinique will be partially closed on Saturday. The current infection rate in Martinique is more than 1,000 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, according to the national health authority, the highest in France.

Citing “high tensions” in hospitals in Martinique, the French Defense Ministry says 50 military medical personnel will be traveling to the region and the military will bring 10 intensive care beds over the next week.

Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean is imposing new detention measures. The infections are also spreading rapidly in Guadeloupe.

The rising cases are partly blamed on travel between the islands and mainland France and summer festivals, as well as a much lower vaccination rate than on the mainland.

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MORE ABOUT PANDEMIC:

– Japan extends its emergency beyond Tokyo amid a record surge in infections as the capital hosts the Olympics

– States are vying to use COVID-19 vaccines before they expire

– President Biden orders strict new vaccination regulations for federal employees

– Olympia collects vials of spit to prevent the virus from spreading, but tests like this are hard to find anywhere else in Tokyo

– For more AP coverage, please visit https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine

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WHAT ELSE HAPPENS:

LONDON – The UK’s Bureau of Statistics says the rate of coronavirus infections has increased in most of the country, although the increase may be leveling off in England.

The National Statistics Bureau estimates that 1 in 65 people in England had the virus in the week ended July 24, up from 1 in 75 the week before. Infection rates also rose in Wales and Northern Ireland and declined in Scotland.

The numbers reflect the first days after the lifting of the remaining social restrictions, including the mask requirement, in England on July 19th. Infection rates were highest among high school students and young adults, who were less likely to be vaccinated.

The data is based on a randomized sample of people across the country. Separate numbers, showing confirmed positive tests each day, suggest that infections have recently decreased.

Statistics Duncan Cook says: “There are possible indications that the rate of increase may have slowed in England”. But it is still too early to say “whether the current wave of infections will stabilize or not”.

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JERUSALEM – Israeli health officials on Friday began giving coronavirus booster vaccinations to people over 60 who have already received both vaccinations to combat a recent surge in cases.

The decision was announced on Thursday by Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennet, making Israel the first country to offer its citizens a third dose of a Western vaccine on a large scale. The decision is made after increasing infections due to the delta variant.

More than 57% of the country’s 9.3 million citizens have received both doses of the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine, and over 80% of the population over 40 are vaccinated.

The Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine’s effectiveness wears off slightly over time, but remains highly protective for at least six months after the second dose, according to company data released Wednesday.

Neither the US nor the EU have approved corona booster vaccinations. The World Health Organization said this month that there isn’t enough evidence that a third dose is needed.

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NICOSIA, Cyprus – Cyprus will begin voluntary COVID-19 vaccination of children over 12 years old with Pfizer and Moderna syringes next week.

Health Minister Michalis Hadjipantela said Cyprus is following other EU countries such as France, Germany, Italy and Greece. The consent of parents and legal guardians is a prerequisite for all vaccinations of children.

Hadjipantela urged young people to get the injection, which he believes is the only way to contain the spread of COVID-19 and protect themselves from new variants. The average age of those infected in the last 14 days is 28 years.

Cyprus has seen cases surge last month to its highest level since the pandemic began.

There were more than 98,000 cases, which is more than 10% of the population of the island nation in the Eastern Mediterranean. Confirmed deaths stand at 415, with more than 80 people currently hospitalized in serious condition.

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BERLIN – To whet the hesitant German appetite for the coronavirus vaccination, a vaccination center is offering all newcomers a free bratwurst.

The public broadcaster MDR reported that 100 people showed up in the center in Sonnenberg in the first 4 hours on Friday, a higher rate than usual. Sonnenberg is located in the state of Thuringia, which is proud of its bratwurst tradition.

Official figures show that 61% of the population in Germany have received at least one vaccination and 51% are fully vaccinated.

But vaccination rates have slowed in recent weeks, leading to calls to incentivize more people to get the vaccination. They ranged from free food and drink to easing restrictions on people who can show they have been vaccinated.

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Saudi Arabia will reopen its borders to tourists on Sunday for the first time in 18 months after imposing restrictions at the beginning of the pandemic to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

The historically closed kingdom introduced electronic visas for tourists in late 2019, just before the pandemic broke out.

Saudi Arabia is looking to rebrand itself as a unique tourist destination for nature lovers and curious travelers in an effort to increase revenue outside of the oil sector and create more jobs.

Citizens from 49 predominantly European countries as well as from the USA and China, among others, are allowed to enter the Kingdom without quarantine if they present a negative PCR test before the trip and have vaccination certificates, the two doses of the Oxford / Astra Zeneca , Pfizer / BioNTech, or Moderna vaccines, or a single dose of the vaccine manufactured by Johnson & Johnson.

Travelers vaccinated with the Chinese Sinopharm or Sinovac vaccines must have received a third dose of one of the other vaccines.

Earlier this week, the kingdom warned that any citizen traveling to Red List countries, such as the neighboring emirate of Dubai, where the Delta variant is present, could face a three-year travel ban.

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NEW YORK – U.S. health officials are expected to release new data on the spread of COVID-19 on Friday that led to their decision to recommend that vaccinated individuals wear masks in some situations, a reversal of previous guidelines.

The report, to be released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, comes from a recent investigation into a coronavirus outbreak in Provincetown, Massachusetts, according to a federal official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to disclose the plan.

Earlier this week, the CDC changed its masking guidelines, recommending that self-vaccinated people should return to wearing masks indoors in parts of the US where the delta variant of coronavirus is spiking in new cases.

Citing new – but unpublished – information about the spread of the variant among vaccinated people, the CDC also recommended all teachers, staff, students and visitors to schools nationwide, regardless of vaccination status, inner masks.

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. West Virginia will offer free antibody tests to some fully vaccinated people to see if some elderly and immunocompromised people should get a booster vaccination.

State officials said they are following the example of Israel, which said that fully vaccinated people over 60 would be offered a booster vaccination on Thursday.

West Virginia will offer the tests to residents aged 60 and over, especially those living in nursing homes who received their last dose of vaccination at least six months ago.

If their antibody levels are low, a booster vaccination may be recommended. The move comes as the more contagious Delta variant hits the United States and leads to the return of mask mandates in some parts of the country.

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The Republican governor of Arkansas is calling lawmakers back to the Capitol to lift the state’s ban on wearing masks in public schools.

Governor Asa Hutchinson said Thursday he is expected to convene the Republican majority legislature for a session next week to amend a state law that bans state and local government agencies from requiring face masks. Hutchinson said he would propose giving local school authorities the power to decide whether masks are required in K-12 schools.

“This is not a debate about mask mandates for those who can make their own decisions and have the resources to get vaccinated,” Hutchinson said at a state capitol press conference. “This is a discussion of the school environment where schools can make public health decisions for their school environment and the children they are responsible for protecting.”

Hutchinson also declared a new emergency two months after ending the declaration he put in place at the start of the pandemic last year.

Arkansas coronavirus cases have skyrocketed due to the Delta variant and the state’s low vaccination rate. The state reported more than 2,800 new cases on Thursday.

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ATLANTA – Georgia Governor Brian Kemp tried to blame President Joe Biden for Georgia’s poor vaccination rate on Thursday as COVID-19 infections and hospital stays continue to sprint upwards.

Speaking to reporters, the Republican accused the Democratic president of not doing enough to urge the Food and Drug Administration to upgrade its emergency approval for the vaccines to permanent approval. Kemp said asking people to return to using masks was a “mixed message” that could discourage vaccinations.

The governor reiterated his call for people to get vaccinated against the disease, saying he would only look for other solutions if Georgia hospitals became overwhelmed. Georgia ranks among the top ten countries in terms of vaccination rates.

“We know the vaccines are working,” said Kemp. “I want to encourage people to get vaccinated when they are comfortable with it.”

Democratic Senator Michelle Au, an anesthetist with a master’s degree in public health, said Kemp’s approach to increasing vaccination rates was unimaginative and passive.

Georgia recorded more than 4,800 cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, the worst number since February 5. The state peaked on January 8, with nearly 13,000 registered cases.

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