CAMDEN, Ala. — Residents 16 and older will be eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations in Alabama on Monday, expanding an immunization program that ranks last in the nation.
Gov. Kay Ivey, who made the announcement Friday after touring a National Guard vaccine clinic in her home county of Wilcox, called the vaccine against the coronavirus “our ticket back to normal.”
The expansion of the vaccines means about 4 million of the state’s 4.9 million residents will be eligible for shots.
The state is currently receiving 115,000 first doses weekly, according to the governor’s office. More than 1.1 million people have received at least one vaccine dose in Alabama, and more than 660,000 are fully vaccinated.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates Alabama is last in the nation in its vaccination rate, with neighboring Georgia, Mississippi and Tennessee only slightly better.
More than 10,600 people have died from the coronavirus in Alabama, and 516,000 confirmed cases have been reported.
THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— CDC: Those fully vaccinated can travel again in U.S.
— UK bans travel from 4 more nations over virus; 39 in all
— Despite Italy lockdown, cruise ship ferries partying passengers on Mediterranean
— Jerusalem religious sites welcome limited numbers of Good Friday faithful
PHOENIX — Arizona health officials are preparing to move the state’s largest COVID-19 vaccination site indoors as temperatures rise.
Gov. Doug Ducey says the site will move April 23 from the parking lot of the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals stadium in Glendale to the air-conditioned interior of the nearby NHL’s Arizona Coyotes arena. It will stop its current 24-hour-a-day operations and run from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Ducey made the announcement as the state reported its largest daily increase in confirmed cases in three weeks with 940 infections and 12 more deaths.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order banning businesses from requiring customers to show proof that they’ve been vaccinated to get service.
The Republican governor had previously announced his intent to issue an order banning so-called “vaccine passports.” His action also barred any government agency in Florida from issuing such documentation for the purpose of providing proof of vaccinations.
In his executive order, DeSantis asserts “vaccination passports reduce individual freedom and will harm patient privacy.”
The order doesn’t preclude businesses, such as restaurants and retail stores, from screening protocols and other measures recommended by state and federal health officials.
Florida has reported more than 2 million cases and nearly 33,500 confirmed deaths.
ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey reported 42,308 coronavirus cases on Friday, a single-day record for infections.
The new infections pushed the total number of cases to 3.4 million.
This week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government reinstated weekend lockdown in most of Turkey’s provinces. He also announced restrictions over the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, amid a new surge of infections in the country.
About 75% of the infections have been traced to the more contagious variant first identified in Britain, according to the health ministry.
Turkey’s overall confirmed death toll rose to 31,892, with 179 deaths reported in the past 24 hours.
NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. — Johnson & Johnson has started testing its COVID-19 vaccine on adolescents, beginning with those ages 16 and 17.
The teens will be added to an ongoing study of the vaccine in adults that began last September, the New Brunswick, New Jersey-based drugmaker said Friday. After initial data from the older teens is reviewed, the trial will expand to add adolescents ages 12 to 15.
J&J says the first teens are being enrolled in the United Kingdom and Spain. Teens in the United States, Canada and the Netherlands will be added, followed by teens in Brazil and Argentina.
The study is testing the safety and efficacy of both one-dose and two-dose regimens of the vaccine, with the two-dose regimens being studied at intervals of one, two and three months after the first shot.
Dr. Mathai Mammen, global head of research and development for the company’s Janssen pharmaceuticals unit, says it also expects to initiate studies in pregnant women and children.
A total of 100 million J&J doses are pledged for the U.S. by late May or June.
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The Dutch government says it is temporarily halting AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccinations for people under age 60.
The move Friday follows reports of very small number of people suffering unusual blood clots after receiving the shot.
The Dutch decision comes three days after authorities in Germany also stopped using the AstraZeneca’s vaccine in the under-60s. Germany cited new concerns over unusual blood clots in a tiny number of those who received the shots.
A Dutch organization that monitors vaccine side effects says it has received five reports of blood clots with low blood plate counts following AstraZeneca vaccinations. All the cases occurred between seven and 10 days after the vaccinations and all involved women ages 25 to 65 years.
ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey is administering the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, along with the vaccine developed by China’s Sinovac company, amid a sharp increase in infections.
Hospitals across the country started delivering Pfizer shots on Friday as cases hit record highs. This week, the government re-imposed weekend lockdowns and announced restrictions during the upcoming Muslim holy month of Ramadan to deal with the surge.
The country of 84 million rolled out its vaccination program in mid-January with shots developed by Sinovac and has administered 16.5 million shots. More than 7 million people have received two doses of the vaccine.
Turkey has received 2.8 million doses of the Pfizer shot and expects to receive 4.5 million in total before the end of the month, the health minister says.
KYIV, Ukraine — Coronavirus infections and deaths in Ukraine reached new records on Friday, with health authorities reporting 19,893 cases and 433 confirmed deaths.
Ukrainian Health Minister Maksym Stepanov said this week the British variant of the virus has spread across the country, and the South African variant has been detected in two regions.
Ukraine began vaccinations in late February after receiving 500,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine. However, reluctance to take the shots has been strong despite the influx of new infections and the strain on the health care system.
Ukraine, a nation of 41 million, has reported a total of 1.7 million coronavirus cases and 33,679 confirmed deaths.
NEW YORK — Add travel to the activities vaccinated Americans can enjoy again.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance Friday to say fully vaccinated people can travel within the U.S., without getting a COVID-19 test or going into quarantine.
The agency previously cautioned against unnecessary travel even for vaccinated people. The agency says vaccinated people should wear a mask and socially distance when traveling.
For international travel, vaccinated people should still get a COVID-19 test before flying to the U.S. and be tested soon after returning. Unvaccinated people are advised to avoid unnecessary travel.
According to the CDC, some 56 million people, or 17% of the U.S. population, are fully vaccinated. Nearly 100 million people in the U.S., or about 30% of the population, have received at least one dose.
A person is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving the last required dose of vaccine.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee’s Department of Health has announced that 1 million residents have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
It says roughly 22% of the state’s population has received at least one dose. The department says more than half of Tennesseans over age 60 have received a first dose and nearly two-thirds of those over 70 have received their initial dose.
The agency noted that vaccinations among Tennessee’s Black and Hispanic populations have also increased. Black people make up about 16% of the state’s nearly 7 million residents.
Tennessee is expanding COVID-19 eligibility to people 16 and older on Monday.
SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina — The number of daily coronavirus cases in Bosnia has surpassed 2,000, its highest total during the pandemic.
Authorities say 2,154 people have tested positive for the coronavirus in the past 24 hours and 88 people have died in the country of 3.3 million.
Bosnia has some of the highest death rates in the Balkans. The health authorities have urged Bosnia’s Catholics to celebrate the Easter holidays within their closest family circle as the region faces an ongoing surge.
In neighboring Croatia, authorities say they may reactivate a make-shift hospital in a sports hall in the capital of Zagreb if hospitalizations continue to rise. The country of 4.2 million people on Friday reported 2,362 new cases and 29 confirmed deaths.
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Illinois public health officials are reporting 3,526 confirmed coronavirus cases, the highest one-day case tally since Feb. 5.
The numbers released Thursday included 25 new deaths.
The statewide positivity rate for cases was 3.5%, compared with 2.7% the week before. Public health officials say more than 7.5 million vaccine doses have been delivered to providers in Illinois. More than 5.9 million vaccinations have been administered.
The Department of Public Health has reported 1.24 million coronavirus cases and confirmed 21,326 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
MOSCOW — Russia had a six-week coronavirus shutdown last spring, but was never fully locked down again after that, easing some challenges for its economy, industries and enterprises.
But Russia also saw its mortality rates rise. When virus infections surged again in the fall, the government resisted imposing restrictions that would have shut many businesses.
Russia emerged from 2020 with an economy that overall has shrunk much less than in many Western countries. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said Russia’s gross domestic product fell by just 3.6%. That’s a little more than the global average of 3.4%.
Still, it was Russia’s biggest plunge since 2009. In recent years, its GDP grew by about 1% to 2% per year.
Russia has reported 4.5 million coronavirus cases and nearly 98,000 deaths. The U.S. leads the world with 30.5 million cases and more than 553,000 deaths.
BEIRUT — In Lebanon, Christians marked Good Friday with subdued masses in near empty churches and heavy rain as they geared up for a second Easter in a row under strict lockdown.
The government is imposing a three-day curfew starting Saturday until Tuesday, to discourage family get-togethers over the Easter holiday.
Churches can open at up to 30% capacity during the Easter weekend lockdown, with residents needing permits to visit them, similar to trips to the supermarkets and pharmacies.
Lebanon has the largest percentage of Christians in the Middle East — about a third of its 5 million people, with Maronite Catholics the largest sect.
The traditional Easter sweet delicacies cookies have become a luxury few can afford this year.
“This is the first feast were poverty is on the rise and people are not even talking about the feast,” says Majida Al Asaily, owner of a sweets shop in Beirut. “We haven’t witnessed anything like this year, despite the war and other difficulties that we had faced before.”
ABOARD THE MSC GRANDIOSA — Italy may be in a strict coronavirus lockdown this Easter, with travel restricted between regions and new quarantines imposed.
But a few miles offshore, guests aboard the MSC Grandiosa cruise ship are shimmying to Latin music on deck and sipping cocktails by the pool.
In one of the anomalies of lockdowns that have shuttered hotels and resorts around the world, the Grandiosa has been plying the Mediterranean Sea most of the winter with seven-night cruises, a lonely flag-bearer for the global cruise industry.
The Grandiosa has tried to chart a course through the pandemic with strict anti-virus protocols approved by Italian authorities.
The United States could be among the last cruise ship markets to reopen, possibly not until fall and not until 2022 in Alaska.
ROME — Police in Italy have seized computers and other devices allegedly used by four Italians to send death threats and offensive emails to the country’s health minister to protest his firm stance on coronavirus lockdowns.
The Carabinieri health police say emails were sent between October and January from foreign computer servers and contained violent threats of retaliation against Health Minister Roberto Speranza and his family, “including explicit death threats.”
The four Italians, who are from four different Italian cities and range in age from 35 to 55, were placed under investigation for making “aggravated threats,” according to a Carabinieri statement.
Speranza has been part of the Italian government’s “rigorist” camp advocating for tough restrictions to contain the spread of the virus. He has enjoyed high popularity marks in national polling throughout the pandemic. He was one of the handful of Cabinet ministers who retained their jobs after Mario Draghi became premier in February.