The Latest: China punishes 30 officials for pandemic failing

Health Watch

FILE – In this June 11, 2021, file photo, signs with social distancing guidelines and face mask requirements are posted at an outdoor mall amid the COVID-19 pandemic in Los Angeles. Businesses large and small are reinstituting mask mandates and requiring vaccines of their customers as U.S. coronavirus cases rise. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)

BEIJING — More than 30 Chinese officials have been fired or received other punishments over accusations they failed to respond properly to the latest surge of the coronavirus in the country.

Among those fired were a vice mayor, heads of city districts and health commissions, and staff in hospital management, airport and tourism departments.

China’s National Health Commission on Monday announced 94 new cases of domestic transmission had been recorded over the previous 24 hours.

The latest outbreak is linked to the airport in the eastern city of Nanjing. The highly contagious delta variant spread among airport workers and has since spread from tropical Hainan province in the south to Inner Mongolia in the far north.

The outbreak has prompted renewed travel restrictions, community lockdowns and the sealing off of the entire city of Zhangjiajie, with a population of 1.5 million.

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MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:

— To shake hands or not?An age-old human gesture now in limbo

— Erratic pandemic Olympics come to an end

— Weary U.S. businesses confront new round of mask mandates

— 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 travelpeaks

— Find more AP coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

MELBOURNE, Australia — Victoria state in Australia is lifting its pandemic lockdown beginning Tuesday, except in the city of Melbourne.

Australia’s second-most populous state imposed a seven-day lockdown last Thursday due to concerns about the spread of the delta variant of the coronavirus.

But Victoria Premier Daniel Andrew says all the cases detected in Victoria in recent days have been in Melbourne, with 11 more reported there Monday. So the lockdown will end in the rest of the state at the end of Monday.

Neighboring New South Wales state on Monday reported 283 new coronavirus infections and one COVID-19 death in the latest 24-hour period. The death toll from the latest outbreak that was first detected in Sydney on June 16 is now 29.

Sydney has been in lockdown since June 26 and will remain under tight pandemic restrictions until at least Aug. 28.

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NEW ORLEANS — With new coronavirus cases surging in Louisiana, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival won’t be returning this year after ally.

The festival is traditionally held in the spring but it had been scheduled to run Oct. 8-10 and Oct. 15-17 after being canceled last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

But organizers on Sunday cited “current exponential growth” of new cases in the city and region in announcing that the festival will not occur as planned.

They say next year’s dates are April 29-May 8.

Jazz Fest celebrates the indigenous music and culture of New Orleans and Louisiana. The music encompasses nearly every style imaginable: blues, R&B, gospel, Cajun, Zydeco, Afro-Caribbean, folk, Latin, rock, rap, contemporary and traditional jazz, country, bluegrass and everything in between.

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MIAMI — Ready to party at one of South Beach’s most glamorous nightclubs? Then roll up your sleeves. LIV is offering free COVID vaccines outside the Miami club where high rollers spend up to $20,000 just for a table.

The star-studded nightclub, where Super Bowl champs celebrate at parties that have inspired lyrics from Drake and Kanye West, set up pop-up COVID vaccine sites over the weekend to entice the young demographic.

The Sunshine State set another record high over the weekend. On Saturday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 23,903 new COVID-19 cases for Friday. That tops the previous day’s record of 22,783 new cases.

Clubs LIV and Story were shuttered for roughly a year during the pandemic and re-opened back in April. Owner David Grutman, the king of South Beach’s night life scene, who also owns a restaurant and hotel with Pharrell, said “We are excited, we want to stay open, and we know the only way to make that happen is if people get vaccinated, so we want to make it as accessible as possible.”

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NEW YORK — Moviegoing, once expected to be closer to semi-normal levels by now, continues to be battered by the pandemic, the delta variant of the coronavirus and in-home streaming.

The latest casualty: James Gunn’s “The Suicide Squad,” a critically acclaimed, carnage-ridden would-be smash that disappointed with $26.5 million in estimated ticket sales.

The Warner Bros. film, which was released simultaneously on HBO Max, could claim one pandemic record: the top R-rated opening. But “The Suicide Squad,” featuring the “Guardians of the Galaxy” director’s first DC Comics film, had seemed poised to be a bigger hit — and may have been if the delta variant wasn’t keeping a lot of moviegoers home.

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LONDON — Britain’s competition watchdog says it will look into the cost of coronavirus testing for travelers after Health Secretary Sajid Javid complained that high prices for the government-mandated tests were preventing some people from going on vacation.

PCR tests required for most travelers average about 75 pounds ($104) each, or 300 pounds for a family of four, but many firms charge significantly more. Prices quoted by providers listed on the government website range from 17 pounds ($24) to 250 pounds ($347).

Javid said Sunday that he asked the Competition and Markets Authority to crack down on “unfair market practices” by test providers.

The watchdog has the authority to intervene directly when it uncovers unfair practices but it can also provide advice directly to ministers so they can take swifter action.

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PHOENIX — Arizona health officials reported more than 2,000 additional COVID-19 cases for the fifth consecutive day Sunday as virus-related hospitalizations continued to rise.

The state’s coronavirus dashboard reported 2,639 additional cases and 12 deaths, increasing the pandemic totals to 946,054 cases and 18,388 known deaths.

Health officials had reported 2,653 cases Saturday with 34 deaths.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases nearly doubled over the past two weeks from 1,145.1 on July 22 to 2,227.6 on Thursday, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

The rolling average of daily deaths more than doubled during the same period, rising from 6.3 to 16.9.

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TUNIS, Tunisia — Tunisia has launched its largest coroanvirus 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.

Tunisia has a population of 12 million, and it has reported more deaths per capita in the pandemic than any African country. More than 20,000 Tunisians have died from COVID-19. So far 9% of the population has been fully vaccinated.

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WILMINGTON, Del. — The U.S. government’s top infectious disease expert hopes the FDA will begin giving full approval to coronavirus vaccines by month’s end. Dr. Anthony Fauci predicts that 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 to 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.

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WASHINGTON — Republican U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy says he disagrees with GOP governors in Florida and Texas who are blocking mask mandates even as coronavirus cases spike higher.

Cassidy is a Louisiana physician. He 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.

In May, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order prohibiting local governments from imposing mask mandates. Florida Gov. Ron 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.

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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 says 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.

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RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Saudi Arabia says it is giving 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 will 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 has a population of 30 million and has administered nearly 30 million vaccine doses. The kingdom is currently reported fewer than 1,000 new cases a day.

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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 show 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.

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 grew from January through June, compared to before the pandemic.

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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 expected the number to reach a half million by the end of Sunday.

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.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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