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The Latest: Tunisia tries to accelerate vaccine drive

The Latest: Tunisia tries to accelerate vaccine drive


The Latest: Tunisia tries to accelerate vaccine drive

TUNIS, Tunisia — Tunisia has launched its largest COVID-19 vaccination campaign as the country faces a surge of cases.Authorities aim to vaccinate over 1 million of people aged 40 and over in only one day, compared with 30,000 to 60,000 a day previously.In a televised address Sunday, President Kaïs Saied called on people to get the shot “so that life gets back to normal in Tunisia.”Authorities provided free buses for people going to vaccination centers, many set up in schools.Over the past weeks, several millions of doses have been delivered to Tunisia from other nations including the United States, France and Italy.The director of the Pasteur Institute of Tunis, Hachemi Louzir, who is leading the campaign, said Tunisia is to receive more than 8 million of doses by September and hopes to be able to vaccinate about 50% of the population.Tunisia, with a population of 12 million, has reported more deaths per capita in the pandemic than any African country. More than 20,000 Tunisians have died from the virus. So far 9% of the population has been fully vaccinated.———MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:— To shake hands or not? An age-old human gesture now in limbo— Once lagging, Europe catches up to the US in vaccinations— Iran reports most daily virus cases, death, of pandemic— American motorists zooming along as summer highway travel peaks———— Find more AP coverage at and———HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:WILMINGTON, Del. — The U.S. government’s top infectious disease expert hopes the Food and Drug Administration will begin giving full approval to the coronavirus vaccine by month’s end. And Dr. Anthony Fauci predicts the potential move would spur a wave of vaccine mandates in the private sector as well as schools and universities.The FDA has only granted emergency-use approval of the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. The agency is expected to soon give full approval to Pfizer.The Biden administration has said the federal government will not mandate vaccinations beyond the federal workforce, but is increasingly urging state and local government as well as businesses to consider such mandates.Fauci told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday that “mandates at the local level need to be done” to help curb the spread of the virus.Fauci’s comments come as the Biden administration is weighing what levers it can push to encourage more unvaccinated Americans to get their shots as the delta variant continues to surge through much of the United States.———WASHINGTON — Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy says he disagrees with GOP governors in Florida and Texas who are blocking mask mandates even as COVID-19 cases spike higher.Cassidy, a Louisiana physician, said Sunday that “local officials should be listened to” if hospital ICUs in a community are full because of rising infections and school officials want to implement safeguards such as mask-wearing ahead of students returning in the fall.He told CNN’s “State of the Union” that he doesn’t agree with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis or Texas Gov. Greg Abbott because as a conservative, he doesn’t want “to top down from Washington, D.C.,” and “I don’t want to top down from a governor’s office.”In May, Abbott issued an executive order prohibiting local governments from imposing mask mandates. DeSantis in July issued an order barring school districts from requiring children to wear masks for in-person instruction.Infections are soaring in those states and elsewhere due to the highly contagious delta variant. While officials stress vaccinations as the best protection, children under 12 are not yet eligible.President Joe Biden last week criticized DeSantis and other officials who have moved to block the reimposition of mask mandates, calling on resistant Republican governors to “get out of the way” of vaccine rules.———KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Malaysia says it will ease lockdown restrictions for people who are fully vaccinated as the government seeks to allay public anger against perceived mismanagement of the pandemic.Daily infections breached 20,000 for the first time Thursday despite a lockdown since June 1. Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said Sunday the government has decided to provide some leeway for those who have been fully vaccinated as “many are faced with pandemic fatigue.”From Tuesday, spouses can cross districts to meet each other and parents whose children are studying in other states.Muhyiddin said local tourism, non-contact outdoor sports and exercise, as well as dine-in at eateries will also be allowed in at least eight states and areas where cases have dipped.So far, 35% of the country’s population has been fully vaccinated, and Muhyiddin said this should rise to 50% by end August.Malaysia recorded 18,688 new coronavirus cases Sunday to push the country’s tally to 1.26 million. Daily deaths hit a new record of 360, raising the toll to 10,749.———RIYADH — Saudi Arabia says it is giving half a million riyals, the equivalent of $133,000, to the family of each medical worker who died fighting the coronavirus pandemic in the kingdom.An announcement made Sunday said the financial award would apply to all health care workers who died as a result of the virus, including non-Saudis and personnel who worked in private sector settings.The Health Ministry has not said publicly how many of the kingdom’s 8,320 pandemic deaths involved health workers.Saudi Arabia, which has a population of 30 million, has administered nearly 30 million vaccine doses. The kingdom is currently reported fewer than 1,000 new cases a day.Early on in the pandemic, King Salman ordered the government to cover the cost of medical treatment for COVID-19 patients in the country. The kingdom has recorded close to 533,000 confirmed cases overall, and currently has about 1,400 considered critical.———PORTLAND, Maine — American motorists put the pedal to the metal during the pandemic, and police are worried as roads get busy with the final stretch of summer travel.The latest data shows the number of highway deaths in 2020 was the greatest in more than a decade even though cars and trucks drove fewer miles due to the pandemic.“Summer is an incredibly dangerous time. And it culminates with Labor Day, that last hurrah,” said Pam Shadel Fischer of the Governors Highway Safety Association.Traffic data indicates the higher death toll was related to higher average speeds in conjunction with more of those on the roads driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol and a slight decline in seatbelt use.Tickets issued by the California Highway Patrol for speeding in excess of 100 mph from January to June were nearly double pre-pandemic levels.In New York state, the percentage of fatalities for which speeding was the primary cause and the total number of speeding tickets grew from January through June, compared to the year before the pandemic, officials said.———JERUSALEM – Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett says people are rushing to get a third vaccine shot as protection from the surging delta variant of the coronavirus.Bennett pointed to government statistics Sunday showing that more than 420,000 Israelis older than 60 have received a booster shot, more than a third of the total targeted population. Bennett said the number is expected to grow to half a million people by the end of the day.The prime minister spoke after a weekly Cabinet meeting. Israel is seeing a rising number of people hospitalized with COVID-19, almost all of them infected with the highly contagious delta variant. The government has reinstituted its mask mandate for indoor settings and is weighing more restrictions.Israel became a world leader in vaccinating against the virus during its initial public campaign, About 5.4 million of the country’s 9.3 million people have received two vaccine doses.The World Health Organization in recent days called for a moratorium on administering booster shots to help preserve supplies so people in poorer countries can get their first doses.———BRUSSELS — The European Union has caught up to the once-vaunted U.S. coronavirus vaccination effort despite a sluggish start.In mid-February, less than 4% of people living in the 27-nation bloc were at least partially vaccinated against COVID-19, compared with nearly 12% in the United States.Now, some 60% of EU residents have received at least one dose, compared to less than 58% of Americans.European authorities attribute the success to the nationalized health care in some countries and public confidence in the safety of immunizations in general.The EU’s slow process for approving the vaccinations set the bloc back at the beginning, but Dr. Peter Liese, a European Parliament member from Germany, said the deliberation paid off because it reassured people the rapidly developed COVID-vaccine formulas had been thoroughly evaluated.Still, not all is well within the EU. Discrepancies between member nations are huge. For example, in the Netherlands, 85% of adults have received at least one dose. In Bulgaria, it is less than 20%.———As workers return to the office, friends reunite and more church services shift from Zoom to in person, the question of whether to shake hands is befuddling growing numbers of people.The handshake has been around for centuries. A widely held belief is that it originated to prove to someone that a person was offering peace and not holding a hidden weapon.These days, a handshake can symbolize connection, particularly after a long period of no touching. But hands can be germy. And that’s where the conflict lies. Is the handshake ever coming back? The answer depends on who you ask.As the pandemic took hold in the United States, a Kansas City-area meeting and event planning business began hawking “I Shake Hands” stickers to help ease awkward social encounters.Dr. Anthony Fauci, the ’leading infectious disease expert in the U.S., cautioned last year, “I don’t think we should ever shake hands ever again, to be honest with you.”On the other side is Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease specialist at Johns Hopkins University. He thinks the whole shaking controversy is overblown.———TEHRAN — Iran has reported more new infections and deaths across the country than any other single day since the pandemic began.Health authorities logged over 39,600 new cases and 542 deaths from the virus. The daily death toll on Sunday shattered the previous record, set in November. The new all-time highs push Iran’s total number of infections over 4.1 million and pandemic deaths to over 94,000, the most in the Middle East.The crush of new cases, fueled by the fast-spreading delta variant, have overwhelmed hospitals. The country has never seen so many COVID-19 patients in critical condition, with 6,462 more severe cases reported Sunday.Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei last week ordered officials to discuss the possibility of a total national shutdown. The government has been loath to enforce such a lockdown, fearing the damage it would do to an economy reeling from years of American sanctions.Only 3.3% of the total population of some 80 million has been fully vaccinated, according to the Our World in Data project at the University of Oxford.———HARERE, Zimbabwe — Zimbabwe’s Victoria Falls usually teems with tourists who come to marvel at the roaring Zambezi River as it tumbles down more than 350 feet (108 meters) to the gorge below, sending up a mist that is visible from miles away.“The Smoke That Thunders” – the English translation of what the waterfall is called in the Sotho language – is still mighty, but the COVID-19 pandemic has reduced visitors to a trickle. Ordinarily, Victoria Falls attracts 350,000 tourists a year, but their numbers have dropped to almost none as a result of travel restrictions.To promote Victoria Falls as a safe destination, President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government has made vaccines available to all 35,000 residents of the town that shares a name with the waterfall. An estimated 60% of the people there have been vaccinated with either the Sinopharm or Sinovac vaccines, both from China.Although tourists have not returned in large numbers, Victoria Falls mostly has been spared the current wave of COVID-19 that has swept across the rest of Zimbabwe and southern Africa, which health officials attribute to the town’s relatively high level of vaccinations.On the strength of the vaccination rate in Victoria Falls, the government last week reopened two land borders that link the town to the neighboring countries of Zambia, Namibia and Botswana.

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