The Latest: UK gears up to lift all lockdown restrictions

Monday, July 12, 2021 | The Associated Press


A health worker prepares to administer the Covishield vaccine to a woman at a government hospital in Noida, a suburb of New Delhi, India, Monday, July 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to confirm that all remaining lockdown restrictions in England will be lifted in a week’s time while urging people to remain cautious amid a huge resurgence of the coronavirus.

Johnson is expected to say at a news conference that face masks and all social distancing measures will be lifted in England on July 19. But he is also set to downplay talk of “Freedom Day” given the sharp rise in new cases.

The U.K. as a whole has seen infections soar in recent weeks as a result of the delta variant. Daily infection levels are running at over 30,000, their highest rates since January.

Though the government has warned that daily case numbers will rise further, potentially hitting 100,000 at some point this summer, it is pressing on with the unlocking because of the rapid rollout of vaccines. As of Sunday, 87% of U.K. adults have received at least one vaccine dose while 66% have had two jabs.

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MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:

— US doses arrive as Nepal struggles to vaccinate population

— Explainer: How will the virus emergency affect the Olympics?

— UK’s Johnson set to confirm England unlocking will go ahead

— France’s Macron tries to slow delta variant, boost vaccine uptake

— Pfizer to discuss vaccine booster with US officials Monday

— South Africa ramps up vaccine drive, too late for this surge

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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:

WASHINGTON — Pfizer says it plans to meet with top U.S. health officials Monday to discuss the drugmaker’s request for federal authorization of a third dose of its COVID-19 vaccine as President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser acknowledged that “it is entirely conceivable, maybe likely” that booster shots will be needed.

The company said it was scheduled to have the meeting with the Food and Drug Administration and other officials Monday, days after Pfizer asserted that booster shots would be needed within 12 months.

Pfizer’s Dr. Mikael Dolsten told The Associated Press last week that early data from the company’s booster study suggests people’s antibody levels jump five- to 10-fold after a third dose, compared to their second dose months earlier — evidence it believes supports the need for a booster.

On Sunday, Dr. Anthony Fauci didn’t rule out the possibility but said it was too soon for the government to recommend another shot. He said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the FDA did the right thing last week by pushing back against Pfizer’s assertion with their statement that they did not view booster shots as necessary “at this time.”

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BEIJING — China’s two major COVID-19 vaccine makers have signed agreements to provide up to 550 million doses to COVAX, the U.N.-backed program that aims to deliver vaccines to poor countries and others that need them.

Gavi, the vaccine partnership playing a leading role in COVAX, announced that it would buy 110 million doses from Sinopharm and Sinovac between now and October. In addition, it has the option to buy 440 million more doses by mid-2022.

The World Health Organization has approved the companies’ vaccines for emergency use. Their inactivated vaccines are already in widespread use in China and in many other countries.

Inactivated vaccines are made with killed coronavirus. Most other COVID vaccines in use, particularly in the West, are made with newer technologies that target the “spike” protein that coats the surface of the virus.

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SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea’s professional baseball league has suspended its regular season as the largely unvaccinated country grapples with the worst wave of the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic.

The Korea Baseball Organization announced the decision following an emergency board meeting attended by the top executives of the league’s 10 teams. The decision postpones at least 30 games that were scheduled through Sunday before the league goes on a previously planned break through Aug. 9 during the Tokyo Summer Olympics.

The KBO said in a statement that it still hopes to maintain a 144-game regular season for each team and that the postponed games will be rescheduled for later in the year. The league plans to still hold its all-star game on July 24, but without spectators.

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KATHMANDU, Nepal — A shipment of 1.5 million doses of Johnson and Johnson vaccine donated by the United States has arrived in Nepal, which is struggling to inoculate its population against the coronavirus.

The health minister says the shipment of the single-dose vaccine, obtained through the U.N.-backed COVAX vaccine facility, will be given to people between the ages of 50 and 54.

Though situated between India and China, which are among the biggest producers of vaccines, Nepal has been struggling to obtain doses. It began its vaccination campaign in January, but less than 3% of its population has been fully inoculated. The campaign stalled after India was hit by a devastating coronavirus outbreak and cut off vaccine exports.

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PARIS — Is France’s summer over already?

The country threw open its nightclubs only three days ago. That completed a protracted national reopening effort just in time for summer vacation.

But potential new restrictions loom with the delta variant now driving resurgent infections. President Emmanuel Macron is hosting a top-level virus security meeting and then giving a televised speech.

He’s expected to announce a law requiring health care workers to get vaccinated. He also may require special COVID-19 passes for restaurants or other day-to-day activities.

Any new measures are likely to be relatively mild for now. But they are aimed at reminding the French that the pandemic isn’t over yet.

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TOKYO — A virus state of emergency has begun in Japan’s capital, as the number of new cases is climbing fast and hospital beds are starting to fill just 11 days ahead of the Tokyo Olympics.

The main target of the new state of emergency is alcohol served at bars and restaurants as authorities want people to stay home and watch the games on TV and not gather in public.

Like past emergencies, most of the measures are requests because the government lacks a legal basis to enforce hard lockdowns. The state of emergency will cover the entire duration of the July 23-Aug. 8 Olympics and its main impact will be in barring fans from stadiums and arenas in the Tokyo area.

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BEIJING — Mass testing in a Chinese city bordering Myanmar has found nine more COVID-19 cases, bringing the total to 59 in a week-old outbreak involving the delta variant.

Authorities have locked down Ruili, blocking people from entering or leaving the city in Yunnan province and restricting residents in the urban area to their homes in a bid to contain the spread.

The latest confirmed cases include four Chinese and five Myanmar nationals, including an 11-year-old girl.

On the Myanmar side of the border, more than 250 people have tested positive in the city of Muse in June and July, the Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper reported Sunday, citing an unnamed official.

Myanmar, in the midst of a severe outbreak, reported 3,461 new cases nationwide and 82 deaths in the latest 24-hour period.

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DENPASAR, Indonesia — Indonesia has ordered four foreign tourists to leave the resort island of Bali after violating health protocols as the country endures a devastating wave of COVID-19 illnesses and deaths.

A justice ministry official in Bali says a Russian visitor escaped isolation after testing positive for the coronavirus. She was recaptured and will be deported when she recovers. Also, an American, an Irish citizen and a Russian were accused of defying mask mandates.

They were placed in a detention room at the immigration office while waiting for their flights to their countries later Monday.

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TAIPEI, Taiwan — Two Taiwanese high-tech companies have announced a donation of 10 million doses of anti-coronavirus vaccine made by Germany’s BioNTech to the island’s government, which faces political obstacles in fighting the pandemic.

Taiwan’s health minister suggested in February that Beijing might have disrupted efforts to obtain vaccines for the island democracy, which the mainland’s ruling Communist Party has never controlled but claims as its territory.

A Chinese company, Fosun Pharma, owns BioNTech distribution rights for Greater China. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp. and Hon Hai Precision Electronics said they would buy the vaccine through Fosun Pharma.

TSMC said doses would be shipped from a factory in Germany directly to Taiwan’s anti-disease agency.

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SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has reported more than 1,000 coronavirus cases for the sixth straight day as the greater capital area entered stringent social distancing restrictions to slow transmissions.

The 1,100 new cases reported by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency were the highest ever for a Monday, when the daily increase is usually smaller because of reduced tests during the weekends.

More than 780 of the cases were from capital Seoul and nearby Incheon and Gyeonggi Province, areas where officials have enforced the country’s strongest social distancing measures starting Monday.

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CompanyMarketRank™Current PricePrice ChangeDividend YieldP/E RatioConsensus RatingConsensus Price Target
Pfizer (PFE)2.8$45.19-1.1%3.45%19.39Hold$43.08
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