The Latest: Pfizer: US regulators OK 'priority review'

Health

Associated Press 16 July, 2021 - 04:20am 5 views

NEW YORK — Pfizer announced U.S. regulators have agreed to a “priority review” of whether its COVID-19 vaccine should be fully approved, with a decision set for no later than January.

More than 186 million doses of the vaccine made by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech have been administered in the U.S. alone since December. Many more doses have gone to other countries that have authorized emergency use of the vaccine during the pandemic.

Vaccines cleared for emergency use still must undergo the stringent full approval process, a step that might help persuade some people who aren’t yet immunized to roll up their sleeves.

The Food and Drug Administration’s January deadline is a formality. The decision could come far sooner given how closely the agency has been monitoring the vaccine’s widespread use.

Pfizer’s application, submitted in late May, includes the latest data from a large study that tracked participants 16 and older for six months after their second dose. The vaccine is given to people as young as 12, and Pfizer also intends to submit data needed for full approval in that age group.

— CDC leader: US in ‘pandemic of the unvaccinated’

— Russia hits another record daily virus deaths at 799

WASHINGTON — The White House says it’s in no hurry to lift COVID-19 international travel restrictions, a day after President Joe Biden said he hoped to have an updated timeline for easing them.

Speaking during a White House briefing, COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients said: “We must remain vigilant, particularly about the spread of variants and we’ll reopen when the medical folks and health experts believe it’s safe to do so.”

Zients adds any decision about opening international travel will be guided by a review of coronavirus cases, vaccination rates and virus variants.

European allies have chaffed at the restrictions, given in some places their vaccination and case rates are better than the U.S., and other parts of the world are not subject to the stiff entry requirements. German Chancellor Angela Merkel pressed Biden on the matter Thursday during their Oval Office meeting.

WASHINGTON — The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S. is becoming “a pandemic of the unvaccinated.”

Speaking during a White House briefing, Dr. Rochelle Walensky says cases in the U.S. are up about 70% over the last week, hospital admissions are up 36% and deaths rose by 26%. Nearly all hospital admissions and deaths, she says, are among the unvaccinated.

White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients echoed the pandemic is “one that predominantly threatens unvaccinated people.”

He says the Biden administration expects cases to increase in the weeks ahead because of spread in communities with low vaccination rates. Four states accounted for 40% of new cases last week, with one in five coming from Florida.

But Zients says there are signs that increased cases are driving more people in those communities to seek vaccination at rates faster than the national average.

TOKYO — Japan’s top medical adviser for Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s government urged authorities to step up virus measures ahead of the Olympics and asked the people to avoid trips.

Tokyo registered 1,271 new cases Friday, the day after recording a six-month high of 1,308.

Dr. Shigeru Omi, who heads a government COVID-19 taskforce, says the next two months will be the “most crucial stage” in Japan’s fight against the pandemic. He urged people to watch the Olympics on TV at home with family members or close friends in small groups.

Omi says the ongoing upsurge in the Tokyo region is likely to accelerate, with the summer vacation, the Olympics and the Buddhist holiday week in August when people are likely to travel.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga last week declared a fourth state of emergency in Tokyo, which started Monday and lasts until Aug. 22. Nationwide, Japan has reported 830,000 cases and 15,000 confirmed deaths.

PARIS — The Eiffel Tower is reopening for the first time in nine months even though France is under new rules aimed at taming the delta variant.

This week, President Emmanuel Macron announced COVID-19 passes would be required to enter restaurants and venues such as the Eiffel Tower. Starting Wednesday, all visitors over 18 will need to show a pass proving they’ve been fully vaccinated, had a negative virus test or recently recovered from COVID-19.

The “Iron Lady” of Paris was ordered shut in October as France contended with its second virus surge of the pandemic. The tower stayed shut for renovations after most of the major tourist draws reopened last month.

MOSCOW — Daily coronavirus deaths in Russia have hit another record, with the authorities reporting 799 deaths. It’s the fourth straight day of record number of deaths.

On Friday, officials reported 25,704 new coronavirus cases. Daily new infections in Russia have soared from around 9,000 in early June to more than 25,000 last week.

Officials blamed the surge on the spread of the delta variant and a sluggish vaccine uptake that has remained lower than in many Western countries. As of Tuesday, 28.6 million Russians -- or just 19.5% of the 146 million population -- have received at least one shot of a vaccine.

Russia’s state coronavirus task force has reported more than 5.9 million confirmed coronavirus cases and a total of 146,868 confirmed deaths in the pandemic. However, reports by Russia’s state statistical service Rosstat, which tallies coronavirus-linked deaths retroactively, reveal much higher numbers.

LONDON — The British government’s top medical adviser has warned that number of people in hospital with the coronavirus could reach “quite scary” levels within weeks as cases soar from the delta variant and the lifting of lockdown restrictions.

Professor Chris Whitty spoke on a webinar hosted by London’s Science Museum, saying the U.K. is “not out of the woods yet.” His comments came in the wake of government figures showing that coronavirus infections have struck another six-month high and the number of people in hospital with COVID-19 and subsequently dying are at their highest level since March.

There were 3,786 people in hospital with COVID-19 and another 63 virus-related deaths reported Thursday. Another 48,553 confirmed lab cases were reported Thursday, the biggest daily figure since Jan. 15. The government has stated that daily infections could hit 100,000 this summer.

At the height of the second wave earlier this year, some 40,000 people were in hospital with COVID-19 and deaths reached 1,500 people a day.

ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s planning minister asked countrymen to avoid gatherings during the upcoming Eid al-Adha holiday to help contain the spread of coronavirus.

Asad Umar also urged people to get vaccinated for their own safety and avoid becoming a source of the spread. He says the people who avoided the COVID-19 vaccine for any reason were risking their life apart from becoming a danger to their loved ones.

He says unvaccinated people won’t be allowed to visit tourist sites before and after Eid al-Adha or feast of sacrifice, which begins in Pakistan next week. Umar made these comments at a news conference amid a surge in COVID-19 cases and deaths.

Pakistan reported 31 new deaths and 2,327 new cases in the past 24 hours. That brings the totals to 22,720 confirmed deaths and 983,719 confirmed cases.

MOSCOW — Authorities in the Russian capital have walked back on their order for restaurants to only admit customers who have been vaccinated against the coronavirus or could produce a negative test.

The decision announced Friday by Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin becomes effective Monday. It retracts the measure that has been in place since late June, obliging restaurants and cafes to check. Sobyanin argued that the city officials were able to revise the decision because the pace of contagion has slowed down.

BUDAPEST, Hungary - Hungary’s government will provide citizens with the option to receive a third dose of COVID-19 vaccine beginning in August, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Friday.

The third shot will be made available to all people regardless of age, health or which vaccine they received initially, Orban said in an interview with public radio. The government recommends, but does not require, the third dose to be administered at least four months following the second, and doctors may choose whether to provide patients with a different vaccine than previously received.

“There is no reason to fear a third vaccine dose. If people don’t have to fear it and their sense of security is increased if they receive it, then why would we keep them from this option?” Orban said.

Hungary is the latest country to offer booster shots amid concerns that some jabs do not provide full protection from COVID-19 to all recipients. In May, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain announced they would offer third shots to some people who received China’s Sinopharm following concerns over insufficient development of antibodies, which protect against the virus.

In Hungary, which also uses the Sinopharm vaccine, some have also expressed worry that they are not fully protected from COVID-19, and have demanded third doses.

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lanka has received 1.5 million doses of the Moderna vaccine from the U.S. through the U.N.-backed COVAX facility.

It was the second shipment to Sri Lanka from the global COVAX effort after an AstraZeneca delivery in March.

Sri Lanka has given 36% of its population their first vaccine dose while 13% have received both doses.

Its vaccination campaign was set back by halted shipments of AstraZeneca from the Indian producer. It then turned to Sinopharm, Sputnik V and Pfizer to get its population inoculated.

Sri Lanka has confirmed 279,059 coronavirus infections with 3,611 fatalities.

TORONTO — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Thursday Canada could start allowing fully vaccinated Americans into Canada as of mid-August for non-essential travel and should be in a position to welcome fully vaccinated travelers from all countries by early September.

Trudeau spoke with leaders of Canada’s provinces and his office released a readout of the call. He noted that if Canada’s current positive path of vaccination rate and public health conditions continue the border can open.

“Canada would be in a position to welcome fully vaccinated travelers from all countries by early September,” the readout said. “He noted the ongoing discussions with the United States on reopening plans, and indicated that we could expect to start allowing fully vaccinated U.S. citizens and permanent residents into Canada as of mid-August for non-essential travel.”

Trudeau noted Canada continues to lead G20 countries in vaccination rates with approximately 80% of eligible Canadians receiving one dose and over 50% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated. He said case numbers and severe illness continue to decline.

SEOUL, South Korea – South Korean officials are pushing for tightened pandemic restrictions beyond the hard-hit capital area as they wrestle with a record-breaking surge in coronavirus cases.

Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum during a virus meeting Friday called for all local governments outside the greater Seoul area to simultaneously enforce four-person limits on gatherings after 6 p.m. to slow the viral spread.

Permitted social bubbles are even smaller in Seoul and nearby Gyeonggi province and Incheon, where officials are enforcing the strongest “Level 4” restrictions that prohibit gatherings of three or more people after 6 p.m., ban visitors at hospitals and nursing homes, and shut down nightclubs and churches.

Lee Ki-Il, deputy minister of health care policy at South Korea’s Health Ministry, said national government officials will discuss Kim’s proposal with local governments and could announce a decision over the weekend.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency reported another new 1,536 coronavirus cases, the 10th straight day of over 1,000. The country’s caseload is now at 175,046, including 2,051 deaths.

Read full article at Associated Press

COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths: The unnecessary cost of vaccine hesitancy | TheHill

The Hill 16 July, 2021 - 01:10pm

In late June, the U.S. had the lowest number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths as a result of COVID-19 since the early days of the pandemic. Since then, we have witnessed an increase in all three metrics. Cases have increased over 100 percent, hospitalizations and deaths about 20 percent.

This increase has been the result of the appearance in the U.S. of the much more transmissible Delta variant that now represents 60 percent of the strains circulating in the U.S. However, the increase in cases is not homogeneous, with states like Arkansas, Florida, Missouri and Nevada all reporting now over 20 cases per 100,000 population compared to eight cases per 100,000 in the U.S. as a whole.

Similarly, the increase in hospitalizations is mostly driven by what is happening in four states, Nevada, Missouri, Arkansas and Florida, all reporting now over 13 hospitalizations per 100,000 population compared to six per 00,000 in the country. What is driving these differences? Undoubtedly the major factor is lower COVID-19 vaccination rates. While 48 percent of the country is now fully vaccinated, 29 states have lower vaccination rates and, it is in those states is where the surge is happening.

In fact, in the past week, states that have fully vaccinated over 50 percent of their population reported 2.8 cases per 10,000 population compared to 7.8 cases per 100,000 population in States that have vaccinated less than half of their residents. The impact of vaccines is even more striking in hospitalizations and deaths.

As I clinician, I can tell you that while we are still seeing hospitalizations in people with COVID-19, these are occurring mostly among younger and unvaccinated persons. As far as deaths are concerned, over 99 percent of the COVID-19 deaths now occurring in the U.S. are among unvaccinated persons.

Do vaccines then protect against the Delta variant? The short answer is yes. Available data suggest however that you need to be fully immunized to be protected against the Delta variant and that having just one shot of the mRNA vaccines is simply not enough. Several studies show that protection from vaccination against infection with the Delta variant is lower than against the alpha variant and that protection requires full immunization however there is still very good protection against hospitalization and death and thus, despite the surge in the Delta variant. If you are vaccinated — you are protected. If you are not vaccinated — you have a lot to worry about and the best thing you can do is to get vaccinated right away.

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How Delta variant affects vaccinated and unvaccinated people

ABC Action News 16 July, 2021 - 01:10pm

The fourth wave of COVID-19 cases is here. Will we escape the UK's fate? It's too soon to know.

Yahoo News 16 July, 2021 - 09:14am

No one knows what the next month or two will bring, but the example of the United Kingdom suggests the infection rate could get quite high, while hospitalizations and deaths stay relatively low.

Instead of the virus raging through entire communities, it is expected to target the unvaccinated, including children, and if rates are high enough, also the most vulnerable of the vaccinated – the elderly and the immunocompromised.

"Since the majority of our population is now immune, it's unlikely that we're going to return to the massive nationwide waves we saw back in January," Dr. David Dowdy, an infectious disease epidemiologist with the Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health said in a Wednesday webinar with media.

But major outbreaks can still occur, particularly in areas with low vaccination rates.

"We're going to be living in two pandemic worlds, the world that's vaccinated and the world that's unvaccinated," said Dr. Luis Ostrosky, chief of infectious diseases at UTHealth and an infectious disease specialist at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center in Houston.

The three vaccines authorized for use in the United States, from Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech and Johnson & Johnson, have all been shown to be highly effective against variants of the virus, including Delta, which now accounts for most of the cases in the U.S.

More than 99% of those currently hospitalized with COVID-19 are unvaccinated. Ostrosky said virtually all his patients are unvaccinated and all regret not getting the shots.

COVID-19 may not be as deadly in this new wave, because older people are largely vaccinated and younger people are less likely to die from an infection, said Ravina Kullar, an infectious disease specialist and epidemiologist and adjunct faculty member at UCLA Medical Center.

But the Delta variant is substantially more contagious than previous ones, though it's still unclear whether it makes people any sicker than previous variants.

"The concern about Delta is well placed," said Dr. Yonatan Grad, an infectious disease specialist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. "We're certainly seeing that this wave is something to contend with and not to take lightly."

In the U.K., which has roughly the same rate of vaccinations as the U.S., the seven-day average number of infections is back to where it was on Jan. 20, when the country was just a few weeks past its peak.

But hospitalizations there are hovering around 500 a day compared to 4,500 at their January height and deaths remain far lower, with only 26 reported across the country on Tuesday compared to the Jan. 19 peak of over 1,300.

In the U.S. infections have more than doubled since the week of June 22, with total cases rising in 48 states, and deaths are also beginning to climb. Still, the infection rates are 90% below what they were at the January peak.

And there's still another spike expected sometime this fall. The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is likely a seasonal virus, which means, just as the flu, people are more vulnerable to it in the fall and winter. No one knows when that start date will be, Grad said.

With about 80% of those over-65 fully vaccinated in the U.S., younger people represent a higher percentage of those falling ill. And while children under 12 are unlikely to get a severe case of COVID-19, they are unable to get vaccinated so remain vulnerable to the Delta variant.

"By virtue of kids not having the opportunity to be vaccinated at the same level as adults, I think they are going to experience a disproportionate burden of infection and sickness from the delta variant," Dowdy said.

The vaccines are good, but not perfect. People who get infected with COVID after vaccination, even if their infection is so mild they don't notice, could be contagious though probably less than those who aren't vaccinated, Grad said.

Three Yankee pitchers – all of whom had been vaccinated – tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday, forcing the postponement of their first game after the All-Star break.

Those who get mild disease after vaccination could also suffer symptoms of so-called long-haul COVID, said Priya Duggal, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins, who was on the call with Dowdy.

People who have caught COVID-19 are also likely to be protected against reinfection for at least a year, according to a study published last month. Researchers found that getting vaccinated after infection boosted by 50-fold the activity of neutralizing antibodies needed to repel the virus and prevented infection with variants.

"There are still unknowns about the extent and duration of protection from natural infection and how well there's protection against new variants," Grad said. "Even people who have had COVID-19 are still advised to get vaccinated."

Although the vaccines appear effective against current variants, if the virus is spiraling out of control anywhere in the world, new variants can arise that could challenge immunity, Dowdy said.

"As long as the virus is circulating, mutating in other countries, it's going to be a threat to us, too," he said.

To reverse the increase in infections, what's needed, "is really injecting a sense of urgency into the equation," Ostrosky said, recommending that people get vaccinated and resume wearing masks indoors when in public.

"If we don't act now, we're just going to be in the same situation we were in a year ago with closures, with disruptions with deaths," he said. "It's very discouraging."

Ostrosky said he thinks there are two types of people still declining vaccination: those who remain greatly misinformed and those who need more reassurance that they are not going to be harmed by the shots, which have now been given to more than 185 million Americans. "Access is really not the issue right now, it's more reluctance," he said.

Unfortunately, he said, the people who are most reluctant to get vaccinated are also those most reluctant to wear masks.

On Thursday, Los Angeles County announced that it would be reinstituting a mask mandate for indoor public spaces.

Kullar said she wishes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had waited longer before saying that masks are unnecessary for the fully vaccinated. Instead of providing an incentive to get vaccinated, the CDC's move simply encouraged everyone, including the unvaccinated, to take off their masks, she said. "It confused the public even more."

She thinks people should continue wearing masks indoors in public places until at least 70% of those in their community or county are vaccinated, "and if you're immunosuppressed, I wouldn't remove your mask."

Outdoors remains safe, she said, particularly if people keep their distance from others.

The one thing that will remain most important in the battle against COVID-19, Ostrosky said, is for people to get vaccinated.

"We can do this," he said. "We have no time to waste."

Thailand’s Thonburi Healthcare Group Pcl (THG) doubled down on its outspoken chairman's claim to be buying Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines on Friday, helping its share price rise despite denials by both drugmakers. Dr. Boon Vanasin's claim that his group, a more than $800 million private medicine empire, was close to signing a deal for 20 million Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccines to import to Thailand was swiftly denied on Thursday by both companies, one day after a government agency filed a defamation suit against Boon, 82. Boon even told local media an agreement would be signed by Friday afternoon.

Low vaccination coverage in parts of the U.S. is putting people at risk, the head of the CDC warned.

More than 400 nightlife establishments that have pivoted into food and beverage (F&B) outlets will be suspended for two weeks from Friday (16 July) amid a rise in locally transmitted COVID-19 cases linked to KTV lounges/clubs that were operating as F&B outlets.

As Americans start packing bars and live venues once again in the age of mass COVID-19 vaccination -- with many abandoning masks and social distancing measures -- a concerning reality check is taking place. Health officials and front-line workers, particularly in pockets of the country with relatively low vaccination rates, are again warning the public that they are seeing an influx of unvaccinated patients who are becoming severely ill. The average number of new COVID-19 hospital admissions has also increased dramatically -- to nearly 2,800 admissions a day -- up by 35.8% in the last week.

The rapper, 33, tweeted about his diagnosis on Wednesday, but added that he's still feeling healthy

(Bloomberg) -- The Biden administration warned investors about the risks of doing business in Hong Kong, issuing an advisory saying China’s push to exert more control over the financial hub threatens the rule of law and endangers employees and data.The advisory published Friday said Hong Kong’s “new legal landscape” posed particular risks for businesses, investors, individuals and academic institutions operating in the city.The threats cited fall into four areas: risks for businesses following C

How to think through travel decisions right now.

"I've been vaccinated and I give credit to that for getting me through this as quickly as it did," he said in an Instagram video Thursday

Car dealers are notorious for trying to upsell buyers with all kinds of pricey add-ons, but that shoe can be worn on both feet. You might be able to get a lot of those same items for free as part of...

At the upcoming Olympic and Paralympic Games​, track and field couple Hunter Woodhall​ and Tara Davis​ will both be representing Team USA.

Karlee Camme, 24, was not sick enough to suspect she had COVID-19 after getting fully vaccinated. She got tested when she lost her sense of smell.

In Australia, development has sometimes been undertaken without support from local communities. But a $75 billion green energy project has set out to change that dynamic.

Kids under 12 depend on everyone else getting vaccinated, one expert said as some states report children in the ICU with COVID-19.

The Delta variant might be able to cut through the protection given by the vaccines, but most of those cases seem to be asymptomatic or mild.

Hall of Fame running back Ladainian Tomlinson thinks that Horn will have a Jalen Ramsey-type impact on Carolina's defense.

Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily BeastTOKYO—The Olympic president pitched up in Hiroshima on Friday attempting to add a veneer of global peacemaking to a Games that is already mired in controversy and rejected by the citizens of the host country.As Thomas Bach lowered his head to pay tribute to those who died in the nuclear bombing of August 6, 1945, the voices of angry protesters punctured the silence.The locals were not having it.A cluster of protesters held up signs denouncing the

The Biden administration is expected to issue a blanket warning to U.S. firms about the risks of doing business in Hong Kong as China continues to clamp down on political and economic freedoms in the territory. President Joe Biden told reporters Thursday that the alert would point out deteriorating free market conditions in Hong Kong, which was once one of Asia’s main financial hubs, and the potential for further erosion. “The situation in Hong Kong is deteriorating, and the Chinese government is not keeping its commitment that it made, how it would deal with Hong Kong," Biden said.

COVID-19 vaccine makers Pfizer and its partner BioNTech said it could be months before they receive full approval for their vaccine. Live COVID news.

Covid-19 Immune Response Could Be Long Lasting, but Variants Present Risks

The Wall Street Journal 16 July, 2021 - 07:42am

Variants including the Delta strain that is now dominant in the U.S. can partially evade the immune response from prior infection and vaccination, recent research shows. Full vaccination still appears to offer solid protection against them.

The combination of immunity from infection and vaccination will likely serve as a buffer as the Delta variant takes hold in the U.S., epidemiologists say. But there is still opportunity for the virus to spread.

“There will be pockets of individuals, sometimes entire towns and cities, that do not have enough immunity through vaccination or prior infection to prevent cases from growing into local surges,” said Samuel Scarpino, an assistant professor at Northeastern University and director of the Emergent Epidemics Lab.

Covid-19 hospitalizations are rising in the U.S. after a long decline, with a seven-day average of more than 2,700 admissions per day as of July 13, according to federal data. New cases are ticking up as well. Most people who are getting infected and falling ill are unvaccinated, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director has said.

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The Latest: Pfizer: US regulators OK 'priority review'

Associated Press 16 July, 2021 - 04:11am

NEW YORK — Pfizer announced U.S. regulators have agreed to a “priority review” of whether its COVID-19 vaccine should be fully approved, with a decision set for no later than January.

More than 186 million doses of the vaccine made by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech have been administered in the U.S. alone since December. Many more doses have gone to other countries that have authorized emergency use of the vaccine during the pandemic.

Vaccines cleared for emergency use still must undergo the stringent full approval process, a step that might help persuade some people who aren’t yet immunized to roll up their sleeves.

The Food and Drug Administration’s January deadline is a formality. The decision could come far sooner given how closely the agency has been monitoring the vaccine’s widespread use.

Pfizer’s application, submitted in late May, includes the latest data from a large study that tracked participants 16 and older for six months after their second dose. The vaccine is given to people as young as 12, and Pfizer also intends to submit data needed for full approval in that age group.

— CDC leader: US in ‘pandemic of the unvaccinated’

— Russia hits another record daily virus deaths at 799

WASHINGTON — The White House says it’s in no hurry to lift COVID-19 international travel restrictions, a day after President Joe Biden said he hoped to have an updated timeline for easing them.

Speaking during a White House briefing, COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients said: “We must remain vigilant, particularly about the spread of variants and we’ll reopen when the medical folks and health experts believe it’s safe to do so.”

Zients adds any decision about opening international travel will be guided by a review of coronavirus cases, vaccination rates and virus variants.

European allies have chaffed at the restrictions, given in some places their vaccination and case rates are better than the U.S., and other parts of the world are not subject to the stiff entry requirements. German Chancellor Angela Merkel pressed Biden on the matter Thursday during their Oval Office meeting.

WASHINGTON — The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S. is becoming “a pandemic of the unvaccinated.”

Speaking during a White House briefing, Dr. Rochelle Walensky says cases in the U.S. are up about 70% over the last week, hospital admissions are up 36% and deaths rose by 26%. Nearly all hospital admissions and deaths, she says, are among the unvaccinated.

White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients echoed the pandemic is “one that predominantly threatens unvaccinated people.”

He says the Biden administration expects cases to increase in the weeks ahead because of spread in communities with low vaccination rates. Four states accounted for 40% of new cases last week, with one in five coming from Florida.

But Zients says there are signs that increased cases are driving more people in those communities to seek vaccination at rates faster than the national average.

TOKYO — Japan’s top medical adviser for Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s government urged authorities to step up virus measures ahead of the Olympics and asked the people to avoid trips.

Tokyo registered 1,271 new cases Friday, the day after recording a six-month high of 1,308.

Dr. Shigeru Omi, who heads a government COVID-19 taskforce, says the next two months will be the “most crucial stage” in Japan’s fight against the pandemic. He urged people to watch the Olympics on TV at home with family members or close friends in small groups.

Omi says the ongoing upsurge in the Tokyo region is likely to accelerate, with the summer vacation, the Olympics and the Buddhist holiday week in August when people are likely to travel.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga last week declared a fourth state of emergency in Tokyo, which started Monday and lasts until Aug. 22. Nationwide, Japan has reported 830,000 cases and 15,000 confirmed deaths.

PARIS — The Eiffel Tower is reopening for the first time in nine months even though France is under new rules aimed at taming the delta variant.

This week, President Emmanuel Macron announced COVID-19 passes would be required to enter restaurants and venues such as the Eiffel Tower. Starting Wednesday, all visitors over 18 will need to show a pass proving they’ve been fully vaccinated, had a negative virus test or recently recovered from COVID-19.

The “Iron Lady” of Paris was ordered shut in October as France contended with its second virus surge of the pandemic. The tower stayed shut for renovations after most of the major tourist draws reopened last month.

MOSCOW — Daily coronavirus deaths in Russia have hit another record, with the authorities reporting 799 deaths. It’s the fourth straight day of record number of deaths.

On Friday, officials reported 25,704 new coronavirus cases. Daily new infections in Russia have soared from around 9,000 in early June to more than 25,000 last week.

Officials blamed the surge on the spread of the delta variant and a sluggish vaccine uptake that has remained lower than in many Western countries. As of Tuesday, 28.6 million Russians -- or just 19.5% of the 146 million population -- have received at least one shot of a vaccine.

Russia’s state coronavirus task force has reported more than 5.9 million confirmed coronavirus cases and a total of 146,868 confirmed deaths in the pandemic. However, reports by Russia’s state statistical service Rosstat, which tallies coronavirus-linked deaths retroactively, reveal much higher numbers.

LONDON — The British government’s top medical adviser has warned that number of people in hospital with the coronavirus could reach “quite scary” levels within weeks as cases soar from the delta variant and the lifting of lockdown restrictions.

Professor Chris Whitty spoke on a webinar hosted by London’s Science Museum, saying the U.K. is “not out of the woods yet.” His comments came in the wake of government figures showing that coronavirus infections have struck another six-month high and the number of people in hospital with COVID-19 and subsequently dying are at their highest level since March.

There were 3,786 people in hospital with COVID-19 and another 63 virus-related deaths reported Thursday. Another 48,553 confirmed lab cases were reported Thursday, the biggest daily figure since Jan. 15. The government has stated that daily infections could hit 100,000 this summer.

At the height of the second wave earlier this year, some 40,000 people were in hospital with COVID-19 and deaths reached 1,500 people a day.

ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s planning minister asked countrymen to avoid gatherings during the upcoming Eid al-Adha holiday to help contain the spread of coronavirus.

Asad Umar also urged people to get vaccinated for their own safety and avoid becoming a source of the spread. He says the people who avoided the COVID-19 vaccine for any reason were risking their life apart from becoming a danger to their loved ones.

He says unvaccinated people won’t be allowed to visit tourist sites before and after Eid al-Adha or feast of sacrifice, which begins in Pakistan next week. Umar made these comments at a news conference amid a surge in COVID-19 cases and deaths.

Pakistan reported 31 new deaths and 2,327 new cases in the past 24 hours. That brings the totals to 22,720 confirmed deaths and 983,719 confirmed cases.

MOSCOW — Authorities in the Russian capital have walked back on their order for restaurants to only admit customers who have been vaccinated against the coronavirus or could produce a negative test.

The decision announced Friday by Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin becomes effective Monday. It retracts the measure that has been in place since late June, obliging restaurants and cafes to check. Sobyanin argued that the city officials were able to revise the decision because the pace of contagion has slowed down.

BUDAPEST, Hungary - Hungary’s government will provide citizens with the option to receive a third dose of COVID-19 vaccine beginning in August, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Friday.

The third shot will be made available to all people regardless of age, health or which vaccine they received initially, Orban said in an interview with public radio. The government recommends, but does not require, the third dose to be administered at least four months following the second, and doctors may choose whether to provide patients with a different vaccine than previously received.

“There is no reason to fear a third vaccine dose. If people don’t have to fear it and their sense of security is increased if they receive it, then why would we keep them from this option?” Orban said.

Hungary is the latest country to offer booster shots amid concerns that some jabs do not provide full protection from COVID-19 to all recipients. In May, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain announced they would offer third shots to some people who received China’s Sinopharm following concerns over insufficient development of antibodies, which protect against the virus.

In Hungary, which also uses the Sinopharm vaccine, some have also expressed worry that they are not fully protected from COVID-19, and have demanded third doses.

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lanka has received 1.5 million doses of the Moderna vaccine from the U.S. through the U.N.-backed COVAX facility.

It was the second shipment to Sri Lanka from the global COVAX effort after an AstraZeneca delivery in March.

Sri Lanka has given 36% of its population their first vaccine dose while 13% have received both doses.

Its vaccination campaign was set back by halted shipments of AstraZeneca from the Indian producer. It then turned to Sinopharm, Sputnik V and Pfizer to get its population inoculated.

Sri Lanka has confirmed 279,059 coronavirus infections with 3,611 fatalities.

TORONTO — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Thursday Canada could start allowing fully vaccinated Americans into Canada as of mid-August for non-essential travel and should be in a position to welcome fully vaccinated travelers from all countries by early September.

Trudeau spoke with leaders of Canada’s provinces and his office released a readout of the call. He noted that if Canada’s current positive path of vaccination rate and public health conditions continue the border can open.

“Canada would be in a position to welcome fully vaccinated travelers from all countries by early September,” the readout said. “He noted the ongoing discussions with the United States on reopening plans, and indicated that we could expect to start allowing fully vaccinated U.S. citizens and permanent residents into Canada as of mid-August for non-essential travel.”

Trudeau noted Canada continues to lead G20 countries in vaccination rates with approximately 80% of eligible Canadians receiving one dose and over 50% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated. He said case numbers and severe illness continue to decline.

SEOUL, South Korea – South Korean officials are pushing for tightened pandemic restrictions beyond the hard-hit capital area as they wrestle with a record-breaking surge in coronavirus cases.

Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum during a virus meeting Friday called for all local governments outside the greater Seoul area to simultaneously enforce four-person limits on gatherings after 6 p.m. to slow the viral spread.

Permitted social bubbles are even smaller in Seoul and nearby Gyeonggi province and Incheon, where officials are enforcing the strongest “Level 4” restrictions that prohibit gatherings of three or more people after 6 p.m., ban visitors at hospitals and nursing homes, and shut down nightclubs and churches.

Lee Ki-Il, deputy minister of health care policy at South Korea’s Health Ministry, said national government officials will discuss Kim’s proposal with local governments and could announce a decision over the weekend.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency reported another new 1,536 coronavirus cases, the 10th straight day of over 1,000. The country’s caseload is now at 175,046, including 2,051 deaths.

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