The Latest: Romanians protest restrictions as cases top 1M
BUCHAREST — Marchers have taken to the streets of the Romanian capital of Bucharest to protest restrictive measures to fight the spread of COVID-19 even as new daily infections and deaths rise in the European Union nation.
About 1,000 people converged Saturday on Victory Square and University Square, expressing frustration with an earlier curfew and shop closures that took effect at the end of March. Many demonstrators waved tri-color Romanian flags and chanted “Freedom!” and “Down with the government!”
“We came to fight against this state of alert that buries all our rights and freedoms,” Dumitru Balan, leader of the civic movement Action for the Nation, told The Associated Press.
The protest was held on the same day that Romania passed 1 million confirmed COVID-19 cases. Hospital intensive care units are struggling to cope with the record demand of just under 1,500 COVID-19 patients; 12,000 others are in other wards.
“There are now very severe patients admitted in our clinical ward that normally would require intensive care … we don’t have enough ICU beds available and patients are waiting with sub-optimal care,” Dragos Zaharia, a pneumologist at Marius Nasta Institute, told the AP. “We are at risk of being accused of malpractice.”
THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— More Black Americans say they are open to taking vaccine
— Delayed vaccine shipments could stall progress against COVID-19 in some of world’s poorest countries
— Supreme Court tells California it can’t enforce coronavirus-related restrictions that have limited home-based religious worship
— Iran enforces 10-day lockdown amid fourth wave of pandemic
— Lawmakers seek long-term limit on governors’ emergency power
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
NEW YORK — State lawmakers across the U.S. are taking actions to limit the emergency powers of governors — not just in the current coronavirus pandemic, but for any future emergencies.
The pushback is coming primarily from Republican lawmakers but is not entirely partisan. GOP lawmakers are targeting both Democratic and Republican governors.
When the pandemic hit a year ago, many governors and their top health officials temporarily ordered residents to remain home, limited public gatherings, prohibited in-person schooling and shut down dine-in restaurants, gyms and other businesses. Many governors have been repealing or relaxing restrictions after cases declined from a winter peak and as more people get vaccinated.
The potential remains in many states for governors to again tighten restrictions if new variants of the coronavirus lead to another surge in cases.
The U.S. has recorded 31 million coronavirus cases and more than 561,000 confirmed deaths, the most in the world.
WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez has vetoed a a resolution to reopen tribal roads on the Navajo reservation to tourists and other visitors amid the pandemic.
Nez says he vetoed the resolution approved March 31 by the Navajo Nation Council because COVID-19 variants are spreading in the region and more people need to be vaccinated “to move closer to herd immunity and this will take time.”
“I understand that people want to travel and visit our sites here on the Navajo Nation, but we have to prioritize the health and well-being of our people,” Nez added.
The closure doesn’t impact state highways that pass through the reservation, which includes parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.
SPOKANE, Wash. — Nearly 70 state business organizations are urging Washington Gov. Jay Inslee to delay for three weeks any decision to return some counties to more restrictive coronavirus standards.
Currently, all counties in the state are in Phase 3. Inslee says he’ll announce Monday if any counties must return to Phase 2 because of rising coronavirus cases.
LONDON — As many as 60 countries might be stalled at the first shots of their coronavirus vaccinations because nearly all deliveries through the global program are blocked until as late as June.
The COVAX initiative is designed to provide vaccines to countries lacking the clout to negotiate on their own for scarce supplies. In the past two weeks, only 2 million doses were cleared for shipment to 92 countries through the program, the same amount injected in Britain alone.
Internal World Health Organization documents obtained by The Associated Press say uncertain deliveries are causing some countries to lose faith in COVAX.
The vaccine shortage stems mostly from India’s decision to stop exporting vaccines from its Serum Institute factory because of a surge of coronavirus cases in that country. The factory produces the majority of the AstraZeneca doses that COVAX counted on to supply about a third of the global population.
WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreysus says while one in four people in rich countries had received a vaccine, only one in 500 people in poorer countries had received a dose.
CLARKSDALE, Miss. — About 80 older adults have received a COVID-19 vaccination in the first mobile vaccination event hosted by the state of Mississippi.
Participants were picked up by bus at senior apartment complexes in Clarksdale and driven to a community health center. Department of Human Services spokesperson Danny Blanton says places like Clarksdale are especially important to reach because of the state’s focus on vaccinating minorities and older adults — two groups disproportionately affected by the virus. Clarksdale is more than 80% Black.
More than half a million people have been fully vaccinated in Mississippi, a state with a population around 3 million. At least 45% of those are people 65 and older.
MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. — More Black Americans say they are open to taking the coronavirus vaccine.
A poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research in late March found about 24% of Black American adults say they will probably or definitely not get vaccinated. That’s down from 41% in January.
The executive director of the American Public Health Association,Dr. Georges Benjamin, says attitudes toward the vaccine among Black Americans have taken “almost a 180-degree turnaround” as outreach campaigns have sought to combat misinformation.
Mattie Pringle had doubts about taking the coronavirus vaccine. The 57-year-old from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, feared her underlying health conditions might heighten her chances of a severe reaction to the shot. The speedy development and approval of the vaccines also fed her skepticism.
She made an appointment to get a vaccine after a member of her church, who is a local NAACP leader, shared a news story about Kizzmekia Corbett, a Black government scientist who played a key role in developing the Moderna vaccine.
The latest number shows Black Americans leaning against getting shots is now nearly the same as white Americans at 26% and Hispanic Americans at 22%.
TEHRAN, Iran -- State TV reports that Iran has begun a 10-day lockdown amid a fourth wave of coronavirus infections. Iran’s coronavirus task force ordered most shops closed and offices were restricted to one-third capacity in cities declared as “red-zones.”
The Health Ministry says there were more than 19,600 new infections on Saturday and 193 confirmed deaths. More than 85% of the country has either a red or orange infection status, authorities say.
The severe surge in infections follows a two-week public holiday for Nowruz, the Persian New Year. Millions traveled to the Caspian coast and other popular vacation spots in defiance of government health guidelines.
Only some 200,000 doses have been administered in the country of 84 million, according to the World Health Organization. The confirmed death toll has reached more than 64,200.
BUCHAREST, Romania — Romania passed one million confirmed COVID-19 infections since its first recorded case in February last year.
The bleak milestone comes as hospital intensive care units (ICU) in the country — which has a population of more than 19 million — are struggling to cope with record numbers of ICU patients, currently just short of 1,500. Another 12,000 COVID-19 patients are receiving hospital care.
“It’s a situation we haven’t encountered until now in Romania,” Beatrice Mahler, the manager at the Marius Nasta Institute of Pneumology, told The Associated Press. “Extremely ill patients who arrive with low (oxygen) saturation levels and need an ICU bed — but the number of beds is really limited.”
Romania has administered more than 3.5 million vaccine doses. There have been more than 25,000 total confirmed coronavirus deaths.
WARSAW, Poland — At least six people were detained Saturday during anti-lockdown protest in Warsaw by about 100 angry businessmen.
They held the protest near a downtown square where state ceremonies were taking place to mark the 2010 plane crash that killed then-president, Lech Kaczynski, and 95 others.
Participants in the protest, coming from across Poland, threw smoke grenades and chanted to vent their ire at the lockdown that they say is threatening their livelihoods.
They were confronted by police on foot and on horseback and at least six persons were detained, according to Warsaw police spokesman Sylwester Marczak.
NEW DELHI — Multiple Indian states are warning the federal government of COVID-19 vaccine shortages as another spike in cases threatens to overrun the country and its already-feeble medical infrastructure.
Authorities in New Delhi and in Punjab and Rajasthan states said Saturday that they would not be able to continue vaccinations in the coming days unless stocks were replenished. Earlier this week, western Maharashtra state, the epicenter of the country’s outbreak, closed some vaccination centers and turned people away due to inadequate vaccine supplies.
Indian Health Minister Harsh Vardhan has said the country has enough doses and urged state governments to put an end to “fearmongering.”
India, a major vaccine manufacturer, has so far administered 97 million shots but is facing major supply snags as it works to inoculate a huge population of nearly 1.4 billion people. Vaccine shots are currently limited to people over age 45 and frontline workers.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s opponents have blamed his government for exporting tens of millions of vaccine doses instead of focusing on immunizations at home. India has exported 64.5 million vaccine doses of vaccines to other nations. It stopped exports last week to prioritize domestic needs.
BEIJING — China reported 14 new confirmed coronavirus cases and no deaths on Saturday.
All the new infections were believed to have been acquired abroad, the National Health Commission said.
The country’s death toll stood at 4,636 out of 90,400 confirmed cases.
WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — The Navajo Nation has issued a stay-at-home order for the weekend after reporting 26 more confirmed COVID-19 cases.
The latest figures bring the total number of cases on the tribe’s reservation, which includes parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, to 30,239.
No additional deaths were reported. The current death toll is 1,260.
The weekend stay-at-home order follows an increase of infections and the announcement this week of the first confirmed case of the COVID-19 B.1.429 variant on the Navajo Nation. The variant was first identified in the state of California and has since been detected across the southwest U.S.
NEW YORK — Pfizer wants to allow more adolescents to receive the vaccine.
New York-based Pfizer and BioNTech SE of Germany have asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to expand the emergency use authorization for their vaccine to include adolescents ages 12 through 15. Back in mid-December, the two-dose shot received emergency clearance for vaccinating people ages 16 and up.
Pfizer and BioNTech said they are working closely with the FDA and regulators in other countries to get emergency or conditional authorization as quickly as possible for kids ages 12 through 15.
The companies noted in a statement that preliminary results through March 31 from late-stage testing in that age group found the vaccine safe and 100% effective in blocking infections. They said side effects were consistent with those from testing of volunteers ages 16 through 25: pain and swelling at the injection site, fatigue, headaches, fever and nausea.
All participants in the study of 12- through 15-year-old volunteers will be monitored for two years, starting after they received their second dose, to watch for any safety issues and determine how long the vaccine protects recipients.
GENEVA — European regulators are reviewing Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine for unusual blood clots similar to the possible risk from another vaccine, the one made by AstraZeneca.
Earlier this week, the European Medicines Agency cited a possible link between the AstraZeneca vaccine and a rare clotting disorder. The J&J vaccine is made with a similar technology, prompting questions about the possibility of similar side effects.
The European group said Friday that it is investigating four reports of unusual clots, one in a J&J study and the others during the U.S. rollout of the one-dose vaccine.
Before clearing the J&J shot for U.S. use, the Food and Drug Administration investigated the clot that occurred during testing. At the time, the FDA said it would monitor for any red flags as the vaccine was used more widely.
Earlier this week, the European regulators said there have been three additional U.S. reports of clots with “some similarities,” out of almost 5 million vaccine recipients.
The EMA on Friday reiterated that it’s not clear if the small number of J&J reports are linked to the vaccine, which is expected to roll out in Europe in a few weeks.
In a statement Friday, J&J said “no clear causal relationship has been established between these rare events” and the vaccine, but that it continued to work closely with regulators to assess the data.