PARIS — France’s prime minister is offering some good news to a nation living under numerous pandemic restrictions, saying the country’s third wave appears to have crested and outdoor café terraces, some shops and sporting and cultural activities may be able to open around mid-May.
Jean Castex said at a news conference that there has been a “real lowering of the viral circulation” in recent days in 80 percent of French territory.
Cafes — a major part of social life in France — have been closed since the fall.
Castex says a nightly curfew from 7 p.m. will remain in place for now. But travel restrictions will be lifted May 3.
Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer says some schools will open as of Monday, with middle and high schoolers sticking with distance learning until they too go back to class May 3.
THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— COVID-19 hospitalizations tumble among US senior citizens
— AP explains why India is shattering global infection records
— German ‘emergency brake’ plan on virus clears last hurdle
— Viral questions: How long does protection from vaccines last?
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Gov. Spencer Cox says the state’s vaccine supply is beginning to outpace demand in some counties, and he’s urging everyone who may be hesitant to get their shots.
Cox said during his weekly coronavirus news conference that Utah has prioritized putting as many needles into arms as possible at mass vaccination sites and will start transitioning to focus on more regional and community-oriented sites.
Cox added that authorities are starting to move some doses to Salt Lake County, Utah’s most populated, where demand remains high.
State epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn urged vaccine-reluctant people to speak with their doctor or pharmacist about the vaccine’s safety and efficacy.
She said it is “not totally unexpected” that demand for vaccines is softening, and “now we’re starting to work into those populations who might have some hesitancy or are just taking their time to get vaccinated.”
Average weekly average doses administered began to drop April 10, according to state data. More than 840,000 people in Utah have been fully vaccinated, which is 51.8% of residents aged 16 and over.
ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey’s health minister says the spread of COVID-19 infections in the country has slowed, despite a 16th consecutive day of more than 50,000 cases.
Fahrettin Koca says the country will soon start administering Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, in addition to vaccines developed by China’s Sinovac company and Pfizer.
Daily infections and deaths skyrocketed after the country eased some COVID-19 restrictions in March, making Turkey among the worst-hit countries. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan re-imposed a partial closure April 13, saying the government would consider stricter measures if needed.
On Thursday the country reported 54,791 new confirmed infections and 354 deaths in the last 24 hours. The totals since the start of the pandemic stand at 4.5 million cases and 37,329 confirmed deaths.
The government extended an upcoming weekend lockdown to include a public holiday on Friday as it grapples with soaring infections.
DES MOINES, Iowa — Vaccinations have been halted at a Fort Madison prison after nursing staff incorrectly gave 77 inmates too much of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.
Department of Corrections spokesman Cord Overton tells the Des Moines Register that when the error was discovered, staff immediately sought guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and from Pfizer.
Overton says the inmates involved were notified of the overdose and are being closely monitored. So far they have shown only the commonly associated side effects, including soreness at the injection site, aches, fatigue and fever.
Kimberly Koehlhoeffer, the mother of one of the inmates, says doctors told her son they had received six times the recommended dose.
The Pfizer vaccine is packaged as a concentrate that must be diluted with saline solution.
Two nursing staff members have been placed on leave pending an investigation.
PHOENIX — Arizona officials say more than 2 million residents are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, or 28% of the state’s population.
The state also reported 647 new confirmed COVID-19 cases on Thursday and 22 more deaths.
Also Thursday, a state-run vaccination site opened at an event center in Scottsdale. Other sites are in Flagstaff, Tucson and Yuma.
Arizona has registered 856,451 confirmed cases and 17,221 confirmed deaths.
TORONTO — Ontario Premier Doug Ford has apologized after his government reversed measures banning the use of playgrounds and letting police stop and question people who weren’t in their homes.
The restrictions had been met with a backlash from the public, police and health officials.
Restaurants, gyms and classrooms across the province already are closed, and most nonessential workers are working from home.
Ford suggested his government will offer province-paid sick leave for COVID-19 patients but announced no details. He said he won’t resign.
Opposition New Democratic Party leader Andrea Horwath criticized the premier, tweeting that “Ford chose to walk people into a catastrophic third wave. He chose politics over public health.”
Ford is quarantining after a staff member tested positive.
A multi-country study suggests pregnant women who get COVID-19 have higher risks for death, intensive-care stays, preterm birth and other complications.
Pregnancy causes various changes in the body that may make women vulnerable to harm from the coronavirus. Pregnant women can gain some protection by getting vaccinated; recent evidence suggests the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are safe to use in pregnancy.
The results were published Thursday in the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics, echoing smaller studies. The research involved hundreds of pregnant women in 18 countries around the planet. It was sponsored by a research fund at the University of Oxford, where the lead authors work.
On Wednesday, the preliminary results of a report of 35,000 U.S. women who received either the Moderna or Pfizer shots while pregnant showed their rates of miscarriage, premature births and other complications were comparable to those observed in published reports on pregnant women before the pandemic.
VATICAN CITY — The Vatican will give the second dose of coronavirus vaccines to some of the 1,400 homeless people, migrants and poor who got their first shot a few weeks ago in the walled city state.
The inoculation session Friday in the Vatican auditorium comes as Pope Francis celebrates a feast day honoring the saint of his birth name — Giorgio, or Jorge. The Vatican says the 600 people who will get their second doses of Pfizer will join Francis in a party.
They received their first doses during Holy Week.
The Vatican City State purchased its own vaccines to inoculate Holy See citizens and staff. It has been giving its extra doses to the neediest around Rome. In addition, the pope has been making regular donations of ventilators and other medical equipment to poor countries.
CAIRO — Developers of the Russian COVID-19 vaccine say they signed a deal with a leading Egyptian pharmaceutical company to manufacture more than 40 million doses annually in Cairo.
The Russian Direct Investment Fund, along with Egypt’s Minapharm and its Berlin-based subsidiary, issued a joint statement saying the technology transfer will begin immediately. It expects the roll out of the Sputnik V vaccine in the third quarter of 2021.
Production will take place in Minapharm’s biotech facility in Cairo for global distribution.
The Russian Direct Investment Fund says the vaccine has demonstrated efficacy of 97.6% and has been approved by authorities in 61 countries so far. Russia has been marketing Sputnik V abroad despite the comparatively slow rollout at home and limited production capacities.
DAMASCUS, Syria — Syria’s health minister says the government has received a batch of 203,000 COVID-19 vaccines as part of a push to speed up inoculations in the war-torn country.
The arrival of the United Nations-secured shots on Thursday comes as a new wave of infections overwhelms medical centers around Syria. The AstraZeneca vaccines are part of a campaign aiming to vaccinate 20% of the country’s population before the end of the year.
Syria’s government controls two-thirds of the country, with the rest held by rebels and Kurdish factions. Millions have fled the country or been displaced internally, and the war has killed half a million people.
LONDON — Organizers say 4,000 people will be able to attend the ceremony for Britain’s leading music prize next month as part of the government’s easing of coronavirus restrictions.
The Brit Awards said Thursday in a statement that audience members attending the indoor ceremony at London’s O2 Arena on May 11 will not have to socially distance or even wear face coverings once seated. It will be the first major indoor music event in the country with a live audience in more than a year.
Attendees must show proof of a negative coronavirus test to enter and follow travel guidance for getting to and from the venue.
Organizers are giving 2,500 tickets to essential workers in greater London to honor their work through “difficult times.”
The U.K. is slowly easing restrictions following a sharp fall in new coronavirus cases in the wake of a strict lockdown and a rapid vaccine rollout.
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Norway says it will “lend” its 216,000 Astra Zeneca vaccine doses to Sweden and Iceland as long as Norway has use of the vaccine on pause.
Health Minister Bent Hoeie says if the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine resumes, “we will get back the doses we lend as soon as we request it,” with supply coming from those countries’ first deliveries from AstraZeneca.
Norway decided on March 11 to put the AstraZeneca vaccine on hold after reports of rare blood clots in a small number of vaccine recipients.
Hoeie says Sweden will borrow 200,000 doses, and Iceland 16,000 doses. The doses have expiration dates in June and July.
CANBERRA, Australia — Australia will reduce flights from India due to the growing wave of COVID-19 cases in the world’s second-most populous country.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison says he agreed with state and territory leaders that the numbers of Australian citizens and permanent residents returning in chartered flights would be lowered by 30%.
He says the government will soon announce a 30% reduction in commercial flights from India as well.
India reported a global record of more than 314,000 new infections Thursday.
BANGKOK — Laos has locked down its capital and closed its international borders to most traffic after identifying a COVID-19 cluster connected to its bigger neighbor Thailand.
Residents of Vientiane are barred from leaving the capital, and outsiders must get permission to enter. Borders are closed except for trucks carrying goods and in cases allowed by the nation’s COVID-19 taskforce.
State news agency KPL reports that the lockdown order signed by Prime Minister Phankham Viphavanh also bars Vientiane residents from leaving their homes except for essential food shopping, hospital visits and other authorized tasks. The restrictions last until May 5.
KPL says the measures were ordered after 28 new COVID-19 cases were confirmed Wednesday, bringing the country’s total to 88. Laos has a population of about 7.5 million, including about 700,000 in Vientiane.
The government-owned Vientiane Times reports that 26 of the new cases involve Vientiane residents who had contact with a university student who caught the virus from a Thai man. It says the other two were workers who returned from Thailand to the southern province of Champassak.
TOKYO — The Tokyo Motor Show, which showcases cars from around the world, has been canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Toyota Motor Corp. president Akio Toyoda, who heads the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association, says a decision was made that it would be too hard “to hold the main program under safe and secure conditions.”
The biannual auto show in Tokyo was last held in 2019, when it attracted more than 1.3 million people. It usually takes place in October and November.
Toyoda says organizers have studied the possibility of holding the event online.
Auto shows in Detroit and Geneva have also been canceled.
Japan has seen a surge in infections, while the vaccine rollout is among the slowest for a developed nation with about 1% of the population inoculated.
NEW DELHI — India has reported a global record of more than 314,000 new infections Thursday as a grim coronavirus surge in the world’s second-most populous country overwhelms a fragile health care system.
The new cases raise India’s total past 15.9 million, second to the United States. Many hospitals across the country have an acute shortage of beds and medicines, and dangerously low supplies of oxygen.
The New Delhi High Court has ordered the government to divert oxygen supply from industrial use to hospitals. Responding to a petition by a New Delhi hospital seeking their intervention, the judges said: “Beg, borrow or steal, it is a national emergency.”
The government is rushing oxygen tankers to replenish hospitals.
The Times of India says the previous highest daily case count of 307,581 was reported in the U.S. on Jan. 8.