The Latest: Virus outbreak straining Fiji’s medical system
WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Fiji’s medical system is showing signs of strain as a coronavirus outbreak grows. The Pacific island nation reported a record 791 new daily cases and three deaths.
The Ministry of Health says that due to the increase in cases, it will no longer test people for the virus in their homes in and around the capital. The ministry has also suspended all pregnancy services in and around Suva until July 26, saying people experiencing pregnancy emergencies or labor should go directly to Colonial War Memorial Hospital.
Fiji has reported 59 deaths from COVID-19 since the outbreak of the delta variant began in April. Home to 940,000 people, Fiji had reported just two COVID-19 deaths before that.
MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:
— Britain hits 30,000 daily virus cases, 1st time since January
— Indonesia faces virus surge, shortages of oxygen
— WHO warns Coronavirus rising in eastern Mediterranean region
— New York City honors essential workers at parade up Canyon of Heroes
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has reported its biggest daily jump in coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic as long lines snake around testing stations in the capital, where the virus has accelerated following months of complacency.
The 1,275 new cases announced Thursday marked the second straight day above 1,200 and exceeded the previous one-day record of 1,240 set Christmas Day.
More than 1,000 of the infections were in the greater Seoul area, which is home to half the country’s 51 million people.
The viral surge is a worrisome development in a country where 70% of the people are still waiting for their first vaccine shot.
The country has struggled to maintain public vigilance with warmer temperatures and months of fatigue luring larger crowds to restaurants, bars and parks.
PORTLAND, Maine — Health officials in Maine say more than half the eligible population is now fully vaccinated against the coronavirus in every county in the state.
Maine has one of the highest vaccination rates in the U.S. More than two-thirds of people age 12 and older are fully vaccinated.
Data from the Maine Department of Health and Human Services show that the state’s highest vaccination rate is in Cumberland County, which is the state’s most populated as home to Portland. The rate there is about 80%.
The county with the lowest rate of eligible people fully vaccinated is Somerset, a mostly rural area where the rate is about 53%. That’s still a higher number than many states.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — At least nine people who work at the California state Capitol have contracted the coronavirus, triggering a return of the mask mandate for lawmakers and staff.
Masks have been required in public spaces inside the Capitol throughout the pandemic. But fully vaccinated lawmakers and staff had been allowed to remove their masks in their offices.
Four of the new cases at the Capitol are people who were fully vaccinated.
State data shows such cases are rare. The state has confirmed just 8,699 coronavirus infections among the more than 20 million people vaccinated in the state.
SALT LAKE CITY -- Hospital leaders in Utah are renewing their pleas for people to get vaccinated as the state experiences another surge in COVID-19 cases from the faster-spreading delta variant.
State health officials told reporters Wednesday that the delta variant — first identified in India — has begun to surge in Utah over the past month and now represents about 80% of cases in the state.
The surge is largely occurring in unvaccinated people who are being infected and hospitalized at six times the rate of vaccinated people.
According to data from Johns Hopkins University, Utah now ranks fourth in the nation for new cases per capita.
Utah has averaged about 386 confirmed cases per day over the last week, nearly double the case rate the state was experiencing at its lowest point in early June.
RENO, Nev. — The COVID-19 positivity rate in Nevada has more than doubled over the last month to 7.9%, and health officials say the average number of new daily cases statewide has climbed to its highest level since February.
Meanwhile, Nevada reported its second death from the delta variant, a man in his 50s in Washoe County with an underlying health condition who had not been vaccinated. The delta variant was first identified in India.
Nevada’s 14-day rolling average for new cases had dropped to 132 the first week of June, with the positivity rate bottoming out at 3.3% on June 9.
But the 377 new cases on average reported July 4 was the highest since 375 in February. That’s also the last time the state’s positivity rate was this high, reaching 8.3% on Feb. 23.
Nevada’s positivity rate peaked at 21.2% on Jan. 12, a month after the average number of new cases reached a record-high of 2,740 on Dec. 12, 2020.
BERLIN — Germany’s disease control center says the delta variant of the coronavirus has become dominant in the country and continues to quickly spread.
The Robert Koch Institute says according to their latest analysis, 59% of new infections were caused by delta by the end of last month. The center says in its weekly report Wednesday, the Delta variant had nearly doubled within one week.
Some 33.2 million people, or 39.9%, are fully vaccinated in Germany. More than 47.5 million people, or 57.1%, have received their first shot.
LONDON — The U.K. has recorded more than 30,000 daily coronavirus infections for the first time since January, just as the British government prepares to lift all remaining lockdown restrictions in England.
Government figures showed another 32,548 confirmed cases on Wednesday, the highest level since Jan. 23.
For much of the spring, infections were below the 5,000 mark. But the arrival of the more contagious delta variant, first identified in India, has likely caused cases to spike.
Despite the increase, the British government says it is still aiming to lift all remaining lockdown restrictions in England on July 19, a move that many scientists say is dangerous.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid says cases could hit a daily high of 100,000 this summer, a level of infection not reached during previous waves of the virus.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government is hoping the rapid rollout of vaccines has created a wall of immunity. That, it says, will limit the number of hospitalizations and deaths.
MADRID — A surge in coronavirus infections among the young has pushed Spain into the high-risk zone of more than 250 accumulated cases per 100,000 inhabitants over 14 days.
Spain’s health ministry says the 252 cases on Wednesday is up from the 106 cases last week. The age group 20-29 is registering more than 800 cases per 100,000 people over 14 days.
Several regional health authorities are responding by re-instating restrictions, especially on night life.
Health Minister Carolina Darias says the swift turn in cases has yet to produce a significant increase of pressure on hospitals since most of the young are asymptomatic.
But she says central authorities have put a national stockpile of tests and army contact tracers at the disposal of the regions to supplement their efforts to find asymptomatic cases.
GENEVA — The emergencies chief for the World Health Organization is calling on governments to exercise “extreme caution” in fully lifting restrictions aimed to curtail the spread of COVID-19, warning that transmission will increase as countries open up.
Dr. Michael Ryan, asked during a WHO news conference to respond to Britain’s decision this week to ease restrictions despite rising case counts, says “every country right now is lifting restrictions in one way or the other” in hopes of striking a balance between a return toward normality and the need to control the virus as vaccinations increase.
“Transmission will increase when you open up,” says Ryan, because not everyone is vaccinated and uncertainty remains about how much vaccination curbs transmission.
Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead on COVID-19, says several factors were driving transmission of COVID-19: The behavior of the coronavirus and its variants; social mixing; reduced social measures; and unequal and uneven distribution of coronavirus vaccines.
“The virus is showing us right now that it’s thriving,” she says. “This is not theoretical.”
Globally, there’s been nearly 4 million confirmed deaths from the coronavirus.
ASHGABAT, Turkmenistan — The authorities in Turkmenistan, a secretive Central Asian nation that hasn’t officially reported any coronavirus infections, have made COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for all adults.
Turkmenistan’s Health Ministry announced Wednesday that everyone older than 18, with some exceptions, must be vaccinated against the virus.
Turkmenistan has approved several coronavirus vaccines, including the Russian-made Sputnik V shot and CoronaVac from China. The immunization campaign in the ex-Soviet nation of 5.9 million kicked off in March, with elderly people from high risk groups being the first in line to get the shots in state clinics.
Turkmenistan’s authoritarian president, who claims that his country has been free of coronavirus, last month called for heightened measures against the virus. President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov ordered Turkmens returning to the country undergo a 21-day quarantine and strengthened controls at borders. The country also has a mask mandate in place.
A World Health Organization delegation visited Turkmenistan last year and recommended the country take stronger actions but didn’t directly comment on the credibility of the absence of reported cases.
CHICAGO — Chicago school officials are offering student COVID-19 vaccinations with school-based sites and events.
The nation’s third-largest school district plans to offer five days a week of in-person instruction in the fall and says the goal is to vaccinate as many students as possible. But the shots aren’t required.
Starting next week, the district will offer vaccines at three school sites for students and their families. The district is also working with hospitals for vaccination events in areas with low vaccination rates and offering shots at back-to-school events.
Public health officials say more than 50,000 children under 18 have already been vaccinated in Chicago.
JAKARTA, Indonesia — Indonesia is facing a coronavirus surge as hospitals grapple with soaring cases amid widespread shortages of oxygen.
The country registered 1,040 confirmed deaths on Wednesday, the deadliest day since the start of the pandemic.
Hospitals are already beyond capacity and oxygen supplies are running out, leaving individuals to cope with caring for sick friends and relatives at home.
“This is our critical period during the next two weeks,” says Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, the government minister in charge of Indonesia’s pandemic response.
In the capital, daily burials have increased 10-fold since May, said Ngabila Salama, head of surveillance and immunization at the Jakarta Health Office. Of the 369 COVID-19 deaths in Jakarta reported Saturday, 45 people died at home, she said.
Overall, Indonesia, the world’s fourth-most populous country, has reported nearly 2.4 million infections and almost 63,000 confirmed deaths. Both numbers are considered undercounts because of low testing and tracing measures.
NEW YORK — The people who helped get New York City through the coronavirus pandemic will be honored with a parade up the Canyon of Heroes.
City officials say the event Wednesday will honor a range of people, including workers in health care, transportation, education and infrastructure. The parade is kicking off at Battery Park and traveling up Broadway in lower Manhattan, the iconic stretch known as the Canyon of Heroes.
“Here are some of the folks who made history in New York City’s toughest hour,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said.
Previous parades have honored world leaders, celebrities and winning sports teams. The last parade before the pandemic honored the U.S. women’s soccer team after their 2019 World Cup win.
City officials say the parade’s grand marshal will be Sandra Lindsay, a health care worker who was the first person in the country to get a COVID vaccine shot.
PARIS -- French government spokesperson Gabriel Attal says the coronavirus is gaining ground again in France because of the delta variant.
He says cases increased by 20% from last week and warned against the risk of a “rapid” new peak in infections.
The upward trend is especially strong amid people between ages 20 to 29, and in the Paris region, southeastern France and Brittany.
The more infectious delta variant is estimated to represent more than 40% of new infections, twice last week’s proportion, Attal says. Confirmed infections remain relatively low nationwide, at about 2,300 per day, compared to more than 35,000 during the March-April peak.
Attal strongly encouraged the French to get vaccinated. More than 34 million people, or 51% of the population, have received at least one shot of vaccine.