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The Latest: Spain expected to expand AstraZeneca vaccine use

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MADRID — Spain’s top health officials are proposing to broaden the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine for people up to 65 years old, expanding from a current cap on adults under 55, two sources familiar with the discussions have told The Associated Press.

Officials, who were not authorized to discuss the meeting publicly, said central and regional health officials are expected to approve later on Monday the recommendation on the new 18-65 age range by the country’s Public Health Commission.

The decision came after Europe’s drug regulator declared the jab co-developed by the University of Oxford safe and with no obvious links to some recent cases of blood clots across the continent.

The Health Ministry, which hosts the commission, declined to comment and said that an official announcement won’t be made until Monday evening.

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Some Spanish regions and doctors had been lobbying the central government to administer the AstraZeneca vaccine to both young and old, but that decision had been put on hold when Spain followed other major European countries last week in temporarily halting the use of the shot.

Spain is set to resume administering AstraZeneca doses on Wednesday.

The government has pledged to vaccinate 70% of its adult population —or 33 million of a total population of 47 million— by the end of the summer. So far, only 1.8 million, most of them residents and workers in nursing homes, medical personnel and other essential workers, have been fully vaccinated. Nearly 5 million, including many over 80, are awaiting their second shot.

Reported by Aritz Parra in Madrid

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THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

AstraZeneca: US data shows vaccine effective for all ages

— Analysis finds faster is not necessarily better in US COVID-19 vaccine rollout

— Germany looks set to extend lockdown measures again

— Taiwan gives health workers island’s first AstraZeneca doses

— Teachers lament ‘chaotic’ virus rules in German schools

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Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic, https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina — Health authorities in northwest Bosnia say they have placed a migrant center in the area in isolation after a coronavirus outbreak there.

The regional top health official Nermina Cemalovic said that there are 45 migrants in the Borici camp, near the town of Bihac, who have tested positive for the virus and about a dozen staff.

Cemalovic says five more migrants have tested positive in another camp in the town of Velika Kladusa.

Cemalovic says health authorities in the area have urged imposing tough anti-virus restrictions because of a worsening situation. Entire Bosnia has seen a surge in virus cases in the past two weeks and a spike in deaths. Authorities have reported 818 confirmed new cases in the past 24 hours and 73 fatalities from COVID-19.

There are thousands of migrants staying in Bosnia while trying to reach Western Europe. Most have concentrated in the northwest part of the country which is bordering European Union member Croatia.

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ISLAMABAD — Pakistani authorities banned sports, festivals, cultural events and indoor dining at restaurants as part of new measures aimed at containing the ongoing third wave of coronavirus which has started flooding hospitals.

The announcement was made after a high-level meeting in the capital Islamabad.

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The new measures will remain enforce until April 11.

The latest development comes two days after Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan tested positive two days after he received his first vaccine dose. There has been a spike in COVID-19 in the capital and elsewhere in Pakistan in recent week.

Pakistan has reported 3,669 cases and 20 additional deaths in the past 24 hours, taking the total deaths to 13,863 and total infected cases to 630,471.

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WARSAW, Poland — A line of people waiting to get a COVID-19 test has formed at the Polish-German border after Germany began demanding negative test results for those entering from Poland.

Germany declared Poland a “high-incidence” area as of Sunday — meaning that people now need to have a negative coronavirus test taken within the last 48 hours to enter Germany.

The move comes as Poland has recorded a dramatic spike in new coronavirus infections in recently weeks.

Germany’s decision has greatly complicated the lives of many people living in border towns, who are accustomed to crossing the border frequently for work.

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BEIRUT — Lebanon has eased its nearly two-month lockdown with restaurants opening to the public for the first time in two months amid strict measures to prevent the spread of the virus.

Restaurants will be allowed to have a 50% capacity indoor with a 2-meter distance between each table while outdoors they will be allowed to have a 75% capacity.

Many hope that opening restaurants will help Lebanon as it passes through its worst economic and financial crisis in its modern history. The food and beverage sector employs tens of thousands of people.

Restaurant employees will have to conduct regular PCR tests to make sure they are not infected while working.

Restaurants will have to close by 7 p.m. as a nationwide curfew between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. remains in place.

The lockdown went into affect in early January following a sharp increase of coronavirus cases after the country opened up for Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

On Sunday, Lebanon registered 2,253 new cases raising the total in the country to 436,575. The small nation also reported 51 new deaths raising the total of fatalities to 5,715.

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TIRANA, Albania — Albania accepted 10,000 Sputnik V Russian vaccines donated from the United Arab Emirates in a change of policy on coronavirus vaccinations.

Health Minister Ogerta Manastirliu said that the Immunization Commission had certified the use of the Russian vaccine “which offer security and efficiency.”

In January, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama demanded an apology from the Russian embassy after it published a message on social media that Moscow stood ready to immediately supply Albania with the Sputnik V vaccine, although that shot is not certified in the European Union.

Earlier this month, Albania said it has been negotiating to receive vaccines not only certified by the EU, meaning Russian and Chinese ones too.

Albania has inoculated medical personnel and has started with people over 80 years old and school teachers.

Since the start in January, Albania has distributed more than 46,000 Pfizer and AstraZeneca shots.

Albania has had 2,137 virus-related deaths and 121,200 cases as of Sunday, according to the health authorities. The government aims to start a mass vaccination campaign to ready the country to welcome tourists in the summertime. In the years before the virus outbreak, tourism has gained a high place in the country’s economy.

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PRAGUE — Bells tolled across the Czech Republic at noon Monday to honor those who have died of COVID-19 in one of the hardest-hit European Union countries.

A 95-year-old man, who is the first known Czech victim, died on March 22, 2020 at Prague’s Bulovka hospital.

The death toll has reached almost 25,000 since the start of the pandemic in the nation of 10.7 million.

Coronavirus infections have been on the decline since the government imposed a tight lockdown earlier this month, but new cases and death rates still remain high.

Petr Pospichal, a former anti-Communist dissident who helped organize the remembrance, told Czech public radio that it was the right thing to do for people to observe a minute of silence wherever they were.

Pospichal says it’s also necessary to realize that the pandemic isn’t over yet and people are still dying.

The country has almost 1.5 million confirmed cases, and 24,810 deaths.

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WARSAW, Poland — Poland’s prime minster said that the government is seeing a significant increase in people wanting Astrazeneca’s coronavirus vaccine.

“I received a report that there are far more people willing to be vaccinated with AstraZeneca,” Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said during a visit to a new temporary COVID-19 hospital in Radom. “This is very good news.”

Poland has been ramping up pandemic restrictions in recent weeks amid a dramatic spike in the number of new coronavirus infections.

Last week, many Poles canceled or didn’t show up for appointments to receive the AstraZeneca shot amid reports of rare blood clots. On Thursday, the European Medicines Agency said the vaccine doesn’t increase the overall incidence of blood clots, though it couldn’t rule out a link to a small number of rare clots.

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NEW DELHI, India — Russia’s sovereign wealth fund announced a manufacturing deal with the Indian pharmaceutical maker Virchow Biotech Private Limited for making 200 million doses of the Sputnik V vaccine each year.

This is the fourth manufacturing deal announced by Russia, and 700 million doses of the Russian vaccine will now be made in India.

Last week, two manufacturing deals for the vaccine in India were announced: Gland Pharma Pvt Ltd., a subsidiary of Chinese pharmaceutical company Fosun Pharma, said Tuesday it would 252 million doses vaccine and Stelis Biopharma partnered to produce and supply 200 million doses of the vaccine. Earlier, a deal to make 100 million doses of the vaccine annually was announced by Indian pharmaceutical firm Hetero Biopharma.

India has been pledged 125 million doses of the vaccine by Russia.

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LONDON — AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine provided strong protection against sickness and eliminated hospitalizations and deaths from the disease across all age groups in a late-stage study in the United States, the company announced Monday.

AstraZeneca said its experts did not identify any safety concerns related to the vaccine, including finding no increased risk of rare blood clots identified in Europe.

Although AstraZeneca’s vaccine has been authorized in more than 50 countries, it has not yet been given the green light in the U.S. — and has struggled to gain public trust amid a troubled rollout. The study comprised more than 30,000 volunteers, of whom two-thirds were given the vaccine while the rest got dummy shots.

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BERLIN — Cross-border commuters have lined up at a newly opened testing station on the Polish-German border after Germany reacted to rising coronavirus infections in Poland by imposing new restrictions.

Germany declared Poland a “high-incidence area” starting Sunday, meaning that most people now need a negative test taken with the last 48 hours to enter and need to go into quarantine. Regular work commuters have to get tested twice a week.

Germany didn’t set up full border checks of the kind that have been place on its border with the two countries’ worse-hit neighbor, the Czech Republic, for weeks.

But the dpa news agency reported that there was a long line early Monday morning for a new testing station set up in Frankfurt an der Oder — one of three in Germany’s Brandenburg state. About 150 people waited in frosty temperatures to get tested.

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VILNIUS, Lithuania — The president, prime minister and speaker of the parliament of the Baltic country all rolled up their sleeves Monday in a public move to boost general public’s trust in the AstraZeneca jab.

Last week, the Lithuanian health ministry halted the vaccine but authorized again nationwide two days later.

“I encourage our people not to linger any longer and get the jab with the vaccine of their preference” President Gitranas Nauseda told reporters Monday morning. He and Ingrida Simonyte and Viktorija Cmilyte Nielsen — respectively the prime minister and the speaker of the 141-member Seimas assembly — received the vaccine.

Lithuania has reported more than 209,000 cases and 3,476 deaths from COVID-19 since the start of pandemic in 2020. A massive vaccination campaign is planned to start later this spring.

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ATHENS, Greece — Greece’s health minister is requisitioning the services of private sector doctors from certain specialties in the wider Athens region to help fight a renewed surge in coronavirus infections that is straining hospitals to their limits.

Vassilis Kikilias said that despite repeated appeals to private sector doctors to volunteer to help in the public sector, very few came forward. Therefore, he said, he was ordering those from the specialties of pathology, pneumonology and general medicine to help.

The requisition order is for one month for 206 doctors, health authorities said.

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TAIPEI, Taiwan — Health care workers received the first shots in Taiwan’s COVID-19 vaccination drive Monday, beginning a campaign that won’t use supplies from China amid uneven distribution of the vaccines globally.

Taiwan has on hand 117,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which it is distributing to healthcare workers across 57 hospitals.

Taiwanese premier Su Tseng-chang launched the drive by receiving the first shot at National Taiwan University Hospital in the capital Taipei. “After 30 minutes of rest, there’s no signs of any discomfort,” he said.

The rest period is for monitoring recipients for any adverse reactions.

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