The Latest: Daily infections soar in Russia; Moscow hard hit
By The Associated Press
MOSCOW — Russia’s national coronavirus taskforce on Saturday reported 17,906 new infections, more than double the daily tally from early June.
More than half of the new infections are in Moscow, where cases have tripled this month. The soaring case count has caused alarm among officials, who have increased measures to obstruct the spread.
Moscow, its outlying area and two other Russian regions this week ordered mandatory vaccinations for workers in retail, education and other service sectors. Moscow has closed food courts in shopping centers and restricted restaurants and bars in the capital to takeout orders from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Russians are widely resistant to vaccinations and only about 12% of the population has received a shot. Nearly 5.3 million cases have been reported in the country of 146 million, with 128,911 deaths, but experts consider both numbers undercounts.
MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:
— Afghanistan races to ramp up oxygen supplies as infections soar
— US families angered that coronavirus restrictions still keep them from loved ones in nursing homes even as elderly vaccinations are widespread
— 10,000 heavy metal fans enjoy UK music festival in late st COVID-19 crowd test
— Biden promotes milestone of 300M vaccine shots in 150 days
— Brazil still debating dubious virus drug as counted COVID-19 deaths hit 500,000
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
KABUL — Afghanistan’s is racing to ramp up supplies of oxygen as a deadly third surge of COVID-19 worsens, a senior health official told The Associated Press in an interview Saturday.
The government is installing oxygen supply plants in 10 provinces where up to 65% of those tested in some areas are positive, health ministry spokesman Ghulam Dastigir Nazari said. By WHO recommendations, anything higher than 5% shows officials aren’t testing widely enough, allowing the virus to spread unchecked.
Afghanistan carries out barely 4,000 tests a day and often much less.
Afghanistan’s 24-hour infection count has also continued its upward climb from 1,500 at the end of May when the health ministry was already calling the surge “a crisis,” to more than 2,300 this week.
ince the pandemic outbreak, Afghanistan is reporting 101,906 positive cases and 4,122 deaths. But those figures are likely a massive undercount, registering only deaths in hospitals — not the far greater numbers who die at home.
LONDON — Thousands of heavy metal fans were camping, singing — and even moshing — on Saturday at Britain’s first full music festival since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
The three-day Download Festival, taking place at Donington Park in central England, is one of a series of test events to see whether mass gatherings can resume without triggering outbreaks of COVID-19.
About 10,000 fans, a tenth of the festival’s pre-pandemic attendance, secured tickets to watch more than 40 U.K.-based bands including Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes, Enter Shikari and Bullet for My Valentine.
Attendees all took COVID-19 tests before the event, and don’t have to wear masks or follow social distancing rules during the festival.
Promoter Andy Copping said there was a “real sense of euphoria” at the event, which runs through Sunday, despite the wet weather lashing much of the U.K. after several weeks of warm sunshine.
PARIS — French police clashed with party-goers as they tried to break up an unauthorized rave in western France, authorities said Saturday. A 22-year-old man lost his hand and several others were injured amid the violence, including police.
The tensions erupted in a field near the Brittany town of Redon on Friday night, just two days before France lifts an overnight virus curfew that’s been in place for more than eight months and has prompted growing frustration among young people.
Police repeatedly fired tear gas and charged clusters of violent partygoers who hurled metal balls, gasoline bombs and other projectiles at security forces, according to images shared online and comments by the top government official in the region, prefect Emmanuel Berthier. Local authorities estimated about 1,500 people took part in the event despite a local ordinance banning it.
France is lifting the overnight curfew on Sunday.
ROCHESTER, New York — Pandemic restrictions are falling away almost everywhere — except inside many of America’s nursing homes. Rules designed to protect the nation’s most vulnerable from COVID-19 are still being enforced even though 75% of nursing home residents are now vaccinated and infections and deaths have plummeted.
Frustration has set in as families around the country visit their moms and, this Father’s Day weekend, their dads. Hugs and kisses are still discouraged or banned in some nursing homes. Residents are dining in relative isolation and playing bingo and doing crafts at a distance. Visits are limited and must be kept short, and are cut off entirely if someone tests positive.
Family members and advocates question the need for such restrictions at this stage of the pandemic, when the risk is comparatively low. They say the measures are now just prolonging older people’s isolation and accelerating their mental and physical decline.
“They have protected them to death,” said Denise Gracely, whose 80-year-old mother, Marian Rauenzahn, lives in a nursing home in Topton, Pennsylvania.
Rauenzahn had COVID-19 and then lost part of a leg to gangrene, but Graceley said what she struggled with the most was enforced solitude, going from six-day-a-week visits to none at all.
Rauenzahn’s daughters eventually won the right to see her once a week, and the nursing home now says it plans to relax the rules on visits for all residents in late June.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The sultanate of Oman has lurched back into a strict nightly lockdown as it struggles to curb a major surge in severe coronavirus cases that has overwhelmed hospitals.
Mere weeks after lifting most restrictions amid its vaccination campaign, the country on Saturday announced a wide-ranging movement ban and the shutdown of all public places and nonessential businesses from 8 p.m. to 4. a.m.
Daily coronavirus infections have more than tripled in the last month in the Gulf Arab state. Doctors struggling to handle the influx of new patients have reported bed and staff shortages at major hospitals.
Officials this week detected several cases of what’s known as “black fungus” in COVID-19 patients, a potentially fatal infection that also has spread quickly among virus patients in India.
Oman has recorded more than 242,700 infections and 2,600 deaths. Its inoculation campaign has lagged compared to Gulf neighbors as the government struggles to overcome vaccine skepticism.
ISTANBUL — Turkey’s health minister says people 30 and above are eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations starting Sunday.
Turkey’s vaccination program has gained momentum, with more than 1.5 million jabs administered Friday, as more people become eligible. More than 26.4 million people have received their first vaccine dose and 14.3 million people have received both doses.
Vaccines from the Chinese company Sinovac and Pfizer-BioNTech are being administered in the country of nearly 84 million people. Turkey has also announced it will use Russia’s Sputnik V.
The 7-day average of daily infections is nearly 5,800, a significant drop from the record high of 63,000 infections a week in mid-April.
ISLAMABAD — Pakistan on Saturday reported the lowest daily number of new COVID-19 cases and deaths in the past three months.
Federal authorities reported 27 deaths and 974 new confirmed cases. That brings the total deaths to 21,940 and more than 947,000 cases since the virus first appeared last year.
With a steady decline in cases, the worst-affected southern Sindh province announced Saturday that it was easing restrictions in the commercial hub, Karachi, other major urban centers and in rural areas. Authorities in Sindh said junior schools would reopen on Monday and all senior schools and higher educational institutions would follow shortly. Shrines, marriage halls and parks will also be allowed to open by next week.
Pakistan’s top health official rejected reports about a shortage of coronavirus vaccine, saying millions of more doses of vaccines will be arriving in the country during the next 10 days.
TOKYO — Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike says plans to hold mass public viewings of the Olympics at six sites have been canceled, as worries grow about the coronavirus pandemic amid one of the slowest vaccine rollouts in the developed world.
“These are necessary measures to make the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics a success,” she told reporters after meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.
The sites had included Inokashira and Yoyogi parks as well as a university in Tokyo to watch livestreaming of the games, which open July 23. Koike said the sites will instead be offered as vaccination sites.
Some medical experts have expressed concern about holding the games, with tens of thousands of athletes, officials and dignitaries entering the country.
Fans from abroad were banned several months ago, and organizers are expected to announce Monday whether local fans will be allowed. The recommendation Friday from advisers headed by Dr. Shigeru Omi was that having no fans would be safer.
Only about 6% of people in Japan are fully vaccinated. Companies, like automaker Toyota Motor Corp. and technology conglomerate SoftBank, start inoculating workers and their families in a massive drive starting Monday.
KAMPALA, Uganda — Uganda is tightening its lockdown measures to try to stem a surge in coronavirus infections in the East African country that is seeing an array of variants.
The measures announced late Friday by President Yoweri Museveni include a ban on private and public transportation within and across districts, including in the capital Kampala. Only vehicles carrying cargo and those transporting the sick or essential workers are permitted to operate on the roads.
The normally crowded shops in downtown Kampala have also been ordered shut. An ongoing nighttime curfew will stay in place. The new measures will last 42 days.
Uganda is among some African countries seeing a dramatic rise in the number of infections amid a vaccine shortage. It has confirmed 68,779 infections, including 584 deaths. The actual totals are believed to be much higher.
The Africa director of the World Health Organization spoke Thursday of a “sobering trajectory of surging cases” in Africa that she said “should rouse everyone to urgent action.”
Africa’s 1.3 billion people account for 18% of the world’s population, but the continent has received only 2% of all vaccine doses administered globally.
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The Dutch government is dropping almost all of its remaining coronavirus restrictions, with the exception of social distancing, starting June 26 as vaccinations gather pace and infection rates fall sharply.
Dutch caretaker Prime Minister Mark Rutte said Friday that from next Saturday people no longer need to wear face masks at indoor public places where social distancing is possible. Masks will still be mandatory on public transport and at the country’s airports.
Rutte says that the government also is dropping its advice to work from home, freeing employees to return to their offices if they can do so while observing social distancing.
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said Friday that all remaining pandemic-related public health restrictions on commercial and day-to-day activity in the state will be lifted July 1, clearing the way for restaurants and other venues to operate without any capacity limits and for cities to plan in-person Fourth of July celebrations.
The Democratic governor made the declaration as state health officials continued to crunch the vaccination numbers following a push that included a multimillion-dollar sweepstakes and other cash incentives.
Lujan Grisham had wanted at least 60% of residents 16 and older to be vaccinated two weeks ahead of the reopening. Her office said vaccinations stood at 59.4% on Thursday but that the state was expected to hit its goal with the inclusion of federal data.