BERLIN — German lawmakers have approved a proposal by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government to mandate uniform restrictions in areas where the coronavirus is spreading too quickly.
The legislation to apply an “emergency brake” consistently in areas with high infection rates is intended to end the patchwork of measures that has often characterized the pandemic response across highly decentralized Germany’s 16 states.
The lower house of parliament voted 342-250 for the plan on Wednesday, with 64 abstentions. The upper house, where state governments are represented, is due to consider the legislation Thursday.
It features plans to impose a 10 p.m.-5 a.m. curfew, limit personal contacts, close leisure and sports facilities and shut or restrict access to many stores.
THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— China says 200 million citizens, 14% of population, vaccinated
— Hitting latest vaccine milestone, Biden pushes shots for all
— AP Photos: India being overrun by its massive virus surge
— Protesters gather as German lawmakers vote on national lockdown rules
Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
TOKYO — Japan’s government is preparing to announce a third state of emergency in Tokyo and the western metropolitan area around Osaka following requests from local leaders who say current measures are failing to curb a rapid rise in coronavirus infections.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and key ministers met late Wednesday to discuss details before deciding on a state of emergency for Tokyo, Osaka and neighbouring Kyoto and Hyogo expected later this week.
Osaka, the worst-hit area in the latest surge beginning in March, reported 1,242 new cases Wednesday, a new high for the prefecture. It exceeded Tokyo’s 843 infections.
Nationwide, Japan has recorded more than 540,000 confirmed cases and more than 9,700 confirmed deaths.
IDLIB, Syria — Syria’s last rebel-held enclave has received its first batch of COVID-19 vaccines, with a refrigerated truck offloading over 50,000 United Nations-secured shots in the overcrowded province.
The delivery Wednesday came hours before a bigger shipment was expected to arrive in the capital Damascus for inoculations in government-controlled areas.
The first batch of vaccines come as the war-torn country experiences a new surge in infections, overwhelming hospitals already reeling from conflict and deteriorating health care services.
The AstraZeneca vaccines were delivered to Idlib province through a border crossing with Turkey, the northwestern territory’s only gateway to the outside world.
BEIJING — A Chinese health official says around 200 million people, or 14.29% of the population, have been vaccinated for COVID-19 so far.
The emphasis has been on front-line workers, university students and people living in border areas. China is ramping up vaccination efforts after a slow start, prompted in part by the near elimination of domestic transmission.
Just two local cases were reported on Wednesday, both in the city of Ruili, which borders on Myanmar. China has approved five domestically produced vaccines and exported millions of doses, although some scientists believe they provide less protection that those by Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca.
The Chinese vaccines have an efficacy range of 50.7% to 79.3%, based on company data, lower than their international peers but still effective.
WASHINGTON — The U.S. is set to meet President Joe Biden’s latest vaccine goal of administering 200 million coronavirus shots in his first 100 days in office.
With more than 50% of adults at least partially vaccinated, Biden on Wednesday will reflect on his efforts to expand vaccine distribution and access in his first three months in the White House. But with all those 16 and older now eligible for shots, the president is expected to outline his administration’s plans to drive up the vaccination rate further.
The U.S. is on track to have enough vaccine supply for every adult by the end of May and for every American by July. Recently, the White House has launched a massive outreach campaign to Americans to get vaccinated.
BERLIN — German lawmakers are voting on a proposal by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government to mandate uniform restrictions in areas where the coronavirus is spreading too quickly.
While they debated on Wednesday, thousands of protesters gathered on a nearby street. The legislation to apply an “emergency brake” consistently in areas with high infection rates is intended to end the patchwork of measures that has often characterized the pandemic response across highly decentralized Germany’s 16 states.
The lower house of parliament was voting Wednesday. The upper house, where state governments are represented, is due to consider the legislation Thursday. If approved by both, it would apply until the end of June.
ISLAMABAD — Pakistani authorities on Wednesday reported 148 deaths from COVID-19, one of the country’s highest daily death tolls in recent months.
Pakistan is currently in the middle of a third wave of coronavirus infections amid widespread violations of social distancing rules. The government says the current wave is more dangerous compared to previous ones.
The government has imposed a partial lockdown in high-risk areas to contain the spread of the virus and vaccinating health workers and older people against COVID-19. Authorities so far have largely relied on donated or imported vaccines from China.
Pakistan hopes to receive 15 million vaccine doses by next month through the U.N.-backed COVAX program.
Pakistan has reported a total of 772,381 confirmed cases and 16,600 deaths in the pandemic.
BARCELONA, Spain — The European Union agreed to pay an average of 15.50 euros ($18.60) per dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and shield the drugmaker from liability for possible adverse side effects, Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia reported Wednesday.
La Vanguardia posted on its website a copy of the document it said was the contract that the European Commission signed in November.
The contract for 200 million doses, with the option to buy 100 million more, set the price for the first 100 million shots at 17.50 euros ($21). The price of the second 100 million shots fell to 13.50 euros ($16.20), while the optional 100 million shots cost 15.50 euros ($18.60) each.
The EU signed another contract last month for 200 million more Pfizer-BioNTech shots.
The European Commission has steadfastly refused to divulge how much the EU is paying for vaccines. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is one of four vaccines currently in use in the EU.
The contracts for the vaccines are negotiated by the European Commission with the drug companies. Each of the 27 member states of the EU then make their purchases from lots made available to each one based on population.
PRAGUE — The Czech Republic is rolling out the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccines after examination by the European regulator.
The European Medicines Agency announced on Tuesday that it found a possible link between the shots and extremely rare blood clots. At the same time, experts at the agency reiterated that the vaccine’s benefits outweigh the risks.
The Czech Health Ministry says the first 14,400 dozes will be sent to general practitioners across the country. Another 24,000 J&J vaccines are expected to be delivered next week.
By Tuesday, health authorities have inoculated almost 2.6 million people out of a population of 10.7 million with at least one shot of either Pfizer, Moderna or AstraZeneca vaccines.
ROME — Italy is distributing 184,000 doses of Johnson & Johnson coronavirus shots to regional vaccination centres and recommending it for people aged over 60 following the latest evaluation from the European drug regulatory agency.
Italy’s health ministry and pharmaceutical agency gave the green light for the shot after a precautional suspension following reports the shot might be linked to very rare blood clots.
The EMA on Tuesday found a possible link between the vaccines and very rare blood clots but said the benefits outweighed the risks.
After the ruling, the Italian government decided to recommend the shot for people over 60, a similar recommendation it made for AstraZeneca shots that also were linked to possible clots.
Italy’s virus commissioner said in a statement that starting Wednesday, the initial 184,000 doses of Johnson & Johnson shots that were waiting in storage pending the EMA review will be distributed to Italy’s regions.
BANGKOK — Thailand plans to purchase 35 million more doses of COVID-19 vaccines on top of the 65 million it has already contracted amid criticism of a slow start of the vaccination campaign.
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha’s announcement on his Facebook comes as Thailand is battling a third wave of infections that has resulted in record daily cases. Health authorities on Wednesday announced 1,458 new confirmed cases and two deaths, bringing the totals to 46,643 cases including 110 deaths.
Prayuth’s administration has been sharply criticized for failing to secure enough vaccines, with only about 2 million doses from AstraZeneca and China’s Sinovac delivered so far and most of the remainder due starting in June.
Only about 1% of Thailand’s 69 million people have received at least one dose.
Prayuth’s post says the additional doses would be purchased from two or three more companies, and 10 million to 15 million of those would be handled by the private sector. Prayuth said Tuesday the government is in talks with Pfizer for supply of 5 million to 10 million doses whose delivery would start in July and be completed by December.
The total of 100 million doses would be enough to inoculate 70% of Thailand’s population.
NEW DELHI — India has reported a new record 295,041 coronavirus cases, as the death toll crossed 2,000 for the first time.
Even with hospitals struggling, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday advised state governments against imposing a harsh lockdown in favour of micro-containment zones as he sought to avoid another economic slump.
The surge in India has exacerbated the slowdown in global vaccination campaigns. India is a major vaccine producer but was forced it to delay deliveries of shots to focus on its domestic demand. So far, India has administered over 130 million doses of vaccines in a nation of nearly 1.4 billion since mid-January.
Overall, India has reported more than 15.6 million confirmed cases, the second highest behind the United States. The number of deaths stood at 182,553.
TORONTO — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is extending travel restrictions that make it mandatory for air travellers to quarantine in a hotel at their own expense when they arrive in Canada.
He’s also thanking the country’s two major airlines for extending a voluntary suspension of flights to Mexico and all Caribbean destinations until May 21. The measures were first announced in January.
Trudeau is reiterating that now is not the time to travel. He says Canada’s strict travel, testing, and quarantine measures are extremely important. But he notes international travel directly accounts for a small amount of cases in Canada and those restrictions are just one tool to fight the pandemic.
Canada is seeing a third wave of infections particularly in Ontario where Premier Doug Ford was slow in re-imposing lockdown restrictions.
NEW YORK — General Motors is joining the growing list of companies that will provide more flexible work options for its employees as more people get vaccinated amid the coronavirus pandemic.
GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra said in a post on LinkedIn on Tuesday that the automaker will allow its employees to have the flexibility to work where they can have the greatest impact on achieving the company’s goals, as long as the job lends itself to such a situation. Called “Work Appropriately,” GM says its approach is based on the belief that its employees are “capable of making smart decisions without overly prescriptive guidance.”
The announcement comes a month after Ford Motor Co. told about 30,000 of its employees worldwide who have worked from home that they can continue to do so indefinitely, with flexible hours approved by their managers. Ford plans to use a work-office “hybrid”: employees will commute to work mainly for group meetings and projects best-suited for face-to-face interaction.
Aside from Ford, Salesforce, Facebook, Google and other tech firms have said they’ll continue work-from-home policies indefinitely.
ROME — Italy has opened its latest coronavirus vaccination hub in one of Rome’s most iconic cultural spots: The Cinecitta film studios where “La Dolce Vita,” “Ben Hur” and other gems of Italian cinema were made.
Romans getting their shots Tuesday were treated to posters of movie stars and inspirational messages (“Be happy!”) from the likes of Sophia Loren and Roberto Benigni surrounding them in the waiting room of the vast studio-turned-vaccine centre.
Culture Minister Dario Franceschini was on hand for the opening, saying Cinecitta held a “glorious place” in the history of Italian film but also an important place for the present and future of Italian movie-making post-COVID.
The Cinecitta studios now join Rome’s main train station, auditorium and conference centre as hubs for vaccinations in the Eternal City, part of the government’s effort to rapidly increase the pace of shots in the onetime epicenter of Europe’s outbreak.