MANILA, Philippines — The president of the Philippines warns he will jail village leaders and police officers who don’t enforce pandemic lockdown restrictions.
President Rodrigo Duterte’s comments Wednesday night were in response to swimming parties, drinking sprees and picnics held earlier this month in three resorts where dozens of merrymakers later tested positive for the virus.
Duterte is known for a tough approach to crime and he says he wants law enforcers to carry wooden sticks as a “permanent fixture” so offenders who resist arrest can be hit in the hands and feet with “reasonable force.”
A surge in coronavirus infections that started in March has begun to ease after the government re-imposed lockdowns in metropolitan Manila and four adjacent provinces. But daily cases are still high and a vaccination campaign is struggling with supply problems.
MORE ON THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— European Union seeks fines in AstraZeneca court case
— How vaccine passports for global travel will work
— Federal charges brought against Medicare scams that preyed on virus fears
— Vaccine inequality in India sends many falling through gaps
— Countries eager to reopen to travel as pandemic recedes
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
LAS VEGAS — The Nevada school district for Las Vegas and the rest of Clark County says fully vaccinated students and staff are no longer required to wear masks in most situations.
The district said Wednesday the new policy will go into effect June 1 with the approval of the Southern Nevada Health District.
The change comes after the CDC recently said that people vaccinated against the coronavirus do not have to wear masks in indoor or outdoor settings.
lark County school officials say that under the new policy, any student or staff member who is outside does not have to wear a mask regardless of vaccination status. Masks will still be required on school buses and at graduation ceremonies.
NEW ORLEANS — New Orleans is preparing to allow all-night alcohol sales again. And the city is lifting a ban on parades and its traditional “second line” marches as coronavirus vaccinations rates improve and hospitalizations for COVID-19 stay low.
The city says it will end the 1 a.m. shutdown of alcohol sales and begin taking permit applications for parades and second lines under new rules that take effect Friday.
New Orleans is also allowing gyms to operate at full capacity and removing six-foot table spacing requirements at restaurants.
Some restrictions on large gatherings will remain in place. But exceptions will be made for events at which face masks will be required and participants must provide proof of vaccination.
WASHINGTON — U.S. health officials have granted emergency authorization to a third antibody drug to help reduce hospitalizations and deaths due to COVID-19.
The FDA said Wednesday it authorized the drug from GlaxoSmithKline and Vir Biotechnology for people with mild-to-moderate cases of COVID-19 who face extra risks of severe illness, including seniors and those with underlying health problems.
There has been low demand for two similar drugs already available, due mainly to the logistical hurdles of delivering them and confusion about their availability. U.S. health officials have been trying to raise awareness of the treatments, connecting people who test positive for COVID-19 with information about nearby providers.
The drugs are delivered as a one-time intravenous infusion at a hospital or clinic and should be given within 10 days of the start of symptoms.
NEW YORK — Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday that vaccinated kids aged 12 to 17 will have a chance to win a full ride to public universities and colleges in New York.
The state will raffle off 50 scholarships, which would cover four years of tuition, room and board, books and supplies.
New York will hold weekly drawings on Wednesday to randomly select 10 winners. Parents or guardians can enter children who have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine since May 12.
Schools across the country are using mascots, food trucks and prize giveaways to try to get kids vaccinated before school lets out for the summer.
Cuomo said children who get vaccinated earlier will have the best chance at winning. It’s unclear when applications for the lottery will open up, but people can sign up for notifications on a state website.
SEATTLE — The city of Seattle is shutting down all but one of its mass COVID-19 vaccination sites next month.
Authorities announced Wednesday that the city-run sites at Lumen Field, Rainier Beach, West Seattle and North Seattle College will close in June. The decision comes as more than 76% of eligible Seattle residents have received at least one shot and 60% are fully vaccinated.
The Seattle Fire Department will continue operating its testing and vaccination site in the neighborhood south of downtown through the summer. The city’s vaccination efforts got a boost when the Lumen Field Event Center opened more than two months ago.
Since March 13, more than 97,000 vaccinations have been administered at the event center near two of the city’s large sports arenas. The city says it will continue to offer mobile vaccinations and spin up vaccination clinics as needed.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — A Rhode Island factory once praised by former President Donald Trump for ramping up production of N95 face masks in the early days of the pandemic is laying off nearly 500 workers.
A spokesperson for Honeywell International told WPRI-TV on Wednesday that about 470 jobs at the Smithfield facility are being cut.
Employees are being urged to apply for other jobs at the company and some eligible workers will receive severance. The masks are critical safety equipment for health care workers and others even as general demand for face-coverings is diminishing as the pandemic wanes.
SANTA FE, N.M. — The superintendent of New Mexico’s largest school district is backtracking on a promise to channel federal pandemic relief toward employee bonuses.
State auditors warned Wednesday that the proposed payments of at least $6 million could violate state constitutional provisions against giving away taxpayer dollars.
Albuquerque Public Schools Superintendent Scott Elder had said Tuesday that the constitution may prevent the district from delivering promised payments of $1,000 to full-time teachers and staff and $500 for part-timers in recognition of work since the outbreak of the pandemic.
Payments were scheduled for about 12,000 employees.
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden is asking U.S. intelligence agencies to “redouble” efforts to investigate the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic.
He says there is insufficient evidence to conclude “whether it emerged from human contact with an infected animal or from a laboratory accident.”
Biden directed U.S. national laboratories to assist with the investigation and called on China to cooperate with international probes into the origins of the pandemic. He held out the possibility that a firm conclusion may never be known, given the Chinese government’s refusal to fully cooperate with international investigations.
The U.S. leads the world with 33.1 million confirmed coronavirus cases and 591,000 confirmed deaths.
ISTANBUL — Turkey will step up its COVID-19 vaccination program next month, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Wednesday.
“We aim to ensure normalization throughout our country by conducting an intensive vaccination campaign in June,” Erdogan said in a conference call with U.S. business leaders.
Health Minister Fahrettin Koca says people over 50 can be vaccinated on June 1, adding that 5 million doses will arrive next week. It’s part of several deals for 270 million doses to vaccinate Turkey’s 84 million population.
Some 28.4 million first and second doses of vaccine have been administered so far, the health ministry says. It announced 8,738 new coronavirus cases in the previous 24 hours and 166 COVID-19-related deaths.
Daily cases hit more than 63,000 in mid-April after restrictions were relaxed. A three-week lockdown was introduced, ending on May 17. However, restrictions such as evening and weekend curfews remain in place.
NICOSIA, Cyprus — Cyprus health authorities say people under 50 years should opt for either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines following the death of a 39-year-old woman who reportedly suffered a brain hemorrhage a few weeks after receiving an AstraZeneca shot.
Cyprus’ Health Ministry says it has a adopted a recommendation by a majority among a panel of scientific experts advising the government on dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic to administer the Pfizer and Morderna vaccines to people 50 years old and under.
However, the body recommended unanimously those already given a first shot of the AstraZeneca vaccine and didn’t suffer serious side effects such as blood clots must receive their follow-up shot.
Some 50.4% of the population has received at least one vaccine shot while 23.7% have completed their vaccination regimen.
BERLIN — The German government is setting up a fund of 2.5 billion euros ($3.1 billion) to support theaters, cinemas, concert organizers and other cultural facilities as they prepare to reopen after months of closures.
Germany is gradually easing restrictions with the decrease of coronavirus infections.
The special fund approved by the Cabinet on Wednesday will offer “economic viability aid” to organizers of events that must be held with reduced spectators because of the pandemic.
The fund adds to a series of aid packages put together by the government during the pandemic to help several sectors of the economy.
LONDON — Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s former chief aide has lashed out at the government he once served, saying people died “in horrific circumstances” during the coronavirus pandemic because of its failed response.
In televised testimony on Wednesday, Dominic Cummings claimed the government was slow and chaotic in its initial response to COVID-19. He also accused Johnson of failing to learn from early mistakes by resisting a second lockdown in the fall as virus cases soared.
Cummings gave seven hours of testimony to Parliament’s science and health committees, who are investigating Britain’s pandemic response. He alleged a series of bad decisions and false assumptions within government in early 2020, saying Johnson initially regarded the virus as “just a scare story.”
The prime minister defended the government’s response, saying “to deal with a pandemic on this scale has been appallingly difficult.” Johnson eventually imposed a nationwide lockdown on March 23. He was hospitalized in intensive care with the coronavirus in April 2020.
Cummings, who helped take Britain out of the European Union, was appointed a top adviser when Johnson became prime minister in 2019. A self-styled political disruptor who wanted to shake up government, he often expressed contempt for the civil service, politicians and the media.
The U.K. has recorded the highest COVID-19 death toll in Europe, with nearly 128,000 confirmed deaths.
GENEVA — Restaurants in Switzerland will be allowed to open indoor areas next week following a six-month closure as coronavirus cases decline.
The Swiss government says rules on office working will be relaxed, with working from home recommended rather than required for businesses that conduct weekly tests. Since mid-January, companies have been required to tell staff to work from home where possible.
Restaurants have been allowed to serve customers outdoors since mid-April. Countries across Europe are relaxing restrictions at varying speeds as the latest wave of coronavirus infections subsides and vaccination campaigns gather pace.
BRUSSELS — The European Union took on vaccine producer AstraZeneca in a Brussels court on Wednesday and accused it of diverting promised doses to other nations when it had promised them for urgent delivery among the 27 member states.
The bloc accused the Anglo-Swedish company of pushing EU deliveries back so it could give them to Britain, among other nations. EU lawyer Rafael Jafferali asked the court to impose a fine of 10 million euros ($12.2 million) per infraction.
AstraZeneca’s contract signed with the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, on behalf of member states foresaw an initial 300 million doses for distribution among all 27 countries, with an option for another 100 million.
The doses were expected to be delivered throughout 2021. But only 30 million were sent during the first quarter.
PARIS — France will impose a mandatory quarantine on visitors from Britain to prevent the spread of a virus variant first detected in India.
Government spokesman Gabriel Attal said the new measure will be similar to limits imposed in Germany on people traveling from the U.K.
“France is going to take similar measures and so put in place obligatory isolation for people coming from the United Kingdom,” he said.
He didn’t say when the quarantine will be introduced. He said more information would be released shortly.