JERUSALEM (AP) – 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.
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
— Find more AP coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
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.
TORONTO — An Italian tennis pro was dropped from the qualifying rounds at a tournament in Toronto because he left the “controlled environment” meant to keep players and their team members from getting COVID-19.
Tennis Canada and the ATP men’s tour announced Saturday that 60th-ranked Lorenzo Musetti will not be allowed to compete at the National Bank Open.
Musetti is a 19-year-old who reached the fourth round at the French Open in June in his Grand Slam debut.
He even took a two-set lead against No. 1 Novak Djokovic at that stage before eventually stopping because of lower back pain and cramps while trailing 6-7 (7), 6-7 (2), 6-1, 6-0, 4-0.
Tennis Canada and the ATP said that the letter of approval from the Public Health Agency of Canada that allowed the tournament to go forward amid the coronavirus pandemic stated that “any individual leaving the controlled environment is in breach of COVID-19 protocol and will be unable to re-enter to compete at the event.”
Musetti was replaced in the qualifying bracket by Max Purcell.
DENVER -- Denver’s top public safety leader says he is prepared to discipline police officers, sheriff’s deputies and firefighters who don’t follow the mandate that all city employees get vaccinated against COVID-19, The Denver Post reports Saturday.
A public health order issued by the city health department Monday requires all city employees to receive their second vaccine dose by Sept. 15.
It’s unclear how many of the Denver’s police officers or emergency responders have been vaccinated as the city does not keep track.
However, the Denver Police Protective Association conducted its own poll. About half of the department’s officers responded to the survey, and out of that 57% said they were unvaccinated.
SANTA FE, N.M. -- New Mexico’s governor and dozens of other elected officials are urging the state’s business community to require that employees be vaccinated against COVID-19 or alternatively undergo regular testing.
The letter sent Friday to employers and business groups said the action is necessary to stop the current increased spread of COVID-19 as infections increase.
The 28 signers include Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham., U.S. Sens. Ben Ray Lujan and Martin Heinrich and U.S. Reps. Teresa Leger Fernandez and Melanie Stansbury but not U.S. Rep. Yvette Herrell, the congressional delegation’s sole Republican member.
New Mexico state employees must be vaccinated or get tested regularly.
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka -- Sri Lanka on Saturday received a second consignment of AstraZeneca vaccines manufactured in Japan under the COVAX facility, the WHO said.
With the second batch, the total doses of AstraZeneca of vaccines received from Japan through COVAX exceeds 1.45 million.
Sri Lanka’s government aims to vaccinate nearly all citizens above 30 years of age by September.
There have been 326,043 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Sri Lanka. Nearly 5,000 people are confirmed to have died of the disease.
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — With low demand for COVID-19 vaccinations in Alabama, the state saw more than 65,000 doses wasted because health providers couldn’t find people to take them before they expired, according to State Health Officer Scott Harris.
“Sixty-five thousand doses have been wasted. That’s extremely unfortunate when we have such a low vaccination rate and of course, there are so many people in the world that still don’t have access to vaccine,” he said.
The doses that expired represent less than 1.5% of the more than 5 million coronavirus vaccines doses that Alabama has received. Still, Harris said it is tragic to lose the potentially life-saving allotments.
Alabama is one of the least vaccinated states in the country. The state ranks last - at 34% - for the percentage of people fully vaccinated.
BERLIN — Germany’s disease control center estimates that coronavirus vaccines have saved the lives of more than 38,000 people in the country.
The Robert Koch Institute said Saturday that according to a model calculation, mass vaccinations in the last 6 1/2 months also kept 76,000 COVID-19 patients out of hospitals and almost 20,000 people out of intensive care units. Germany’s vaccine drive also prevented more than 706,000 confirmed cases this year, the institute said.
“The high effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccination campaign shows in an impressive way that vaccinations pave the way out of the pandemic,” the institute said in a statement.
Germany started vaccinating residents against the virus in late 2020, and more than 45 million people have been fully vaccinated, or 54.5% of the population. Some 51.8 million, or 62.3%, have received at least one shot, German Health Minister Jens Spahn said Saturday.
But after a sluggish start that only really gained traction from March onward, the country’s vaccination rate has dropped in recent weeks. Officials worry of a fourth wave of infections as travelers return from summer vacations and schools start to open again with most children and teenagers still unvaccinated.