The Latest: Taiwan adds 240 cases, expands quarantine care

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Taiwan reported 240 cases of domestically transmitted cases of COVID-19 and two new deaths Tuesday.

It was lower than Monday’s 333 cases but continues to be the island’s worst outbreak of the pandemic, with more than 1,000 cases discovered in about a week. Now, more than 600,000 people are in medical isolation for two weeks, as the island seeks to stop transmission of the virus.

Island-wide, schools will be shut for two weeks starting Wednesday, the minister of education said on Tuesday at a daily news briefing.

The island has recorded 14 deaths and 2,260 cases in total and has been lauded for its success in curbing the spread of the virus despite close ties with China, where COVID-19 first emerged in late 2019.

President Tsai Ing-wen spoke about the island’s handling of the current outbreak during a visit to the Central Epidemic Command Center Tuesday morning.

She assured people vaccines purchased abroad will arrive and that domestic development of a vaccine was progressing.

And she said several quarantine centers were being added to care for patients with mild or no symptoms. “We will continue to strengthen our medical capacity.”

———

THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— Clinic helps long-haul patients in London neighborhoods where COVID-19 hit hard

— India reports record day of virus deaths as cases of infection level off

— Follow more 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:

NEW DELHI — India’s total virus cases since the pandemic began swept past 25 million as the country registered more than 260,000 new cases and a record 4,329 fatalities in the last 24 hours.

The numbers reported Tuesday follow a trend of falling cases after infections dipped below 300,000 for the first time in weeks a day earlier.

Active cases in the country also decreased by more than 165,000 on Tuesday — the biggest dip in weeks. But deaths have continued to rise and hospitals are still swamped by patients.

India has recorded nearly 280,000 virus deaths since the pandemic began. Both the number of deaths and total reported cases are thought to be vast undercounts.

The government on Monday announced that 17 new labs will help track variants, boosting India’s genome sequencing abilities as concern grows over a potentially worrisome variant first detected here. The variant may spread more easily but the country has lagged behind in doing the testing needed to track it and understand it better.

The variant first identified in India has prompted global concern — most notably in Britain, where it has more than doubled in a week, defying a sharp nationwide downward trend in infections.

———

HARTFORD, Conn. — As some states set plans to a pandemic $300 weekly supplemental unemployment benefit as a way to encourage people to find work, Connecticut is offering a much different incentive — a $1,000 signing bonus for taking a job.

Starting May 24, up to 10,000 people in Connecticut considered to have been unemployed for the “long-term” will be able to sign up for the program with the state Department of Labor. Ultimately, they would be paid the bonus after spending eight weeks in their new full-time job.

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont said Monday that the state will also retain the $300 benefit before some people are still afraid to work because of the coronavirus.

———

WASHINGTON — The Biden Administration is putting a fresh wave of funding toward its stated goal of making a serious dent in homelessness across the country.

Despite a wave of public support and a nationwide eviction moratorium, Housing Secretary Marcia Fudge said as many of 580,000 people experienced homelessness in the middle of the pandemic.

Fudge, who heads the Department of Housing and Urban Development, said Monday that an extra $5 billion would be allocated toward keeping families off the streets. That’s in addition to the $5 billion in funds for preventing homelessness previously announced as part of the American Rescue Plan.

The aid will come in the form of 17,000 emergency housing vouchers that will be distributed to housing authorities across the country. Fudge said the vouchers were expected to help provide shelter for up to 130,000 people and called the new money, “an important milestone in our effort to end homelessness in the United States.”

———

WARSAW, Poland — Poland-based molecular diagnostics firm Genomtec says it has registered for use in European Union a pioneer, high-reliability COVID-19 test from saliva.

The test, Genomtec SARS-CoV-2 EvaGreen Direct-RT-LAMP CE-IVD Kit spares those tested the discomfort of having swabs pushed up their noses and down their throats. Instead, they only need to produce a sample of saliva in a small test tube, Genomtec, a Polish-British firm, said Monday.

The result is obtained within one hour, because the technology does not require special preparatory procedures on the sample. Its reliability is pegged at over 92%, according to the Genomtec. The test detects various mutations of the coronavirus, said the company that is listed on the Warsaw’s Stock Exchange NewConnect market.,

Genomtec said the test has been registered and approved for use in the European Union by Poland’s Office of Medicinal Products, Medical Devices and Biocidal Products. First tests on the general public using the kit will be done still this month in Wroclaw, southwestern Poland, where Genomtec is based.

———

PRAGUE — The Czech government has announced a new wave of easing coronavirus restrictions amid falling numbers of infected people.

Starting May 24, all hotels are allowed to return to business. The guests will need to present a negative coronavirus test or be vaccinated or recover from COVID-19. If they want to stay longer than seven days, an additional test will be required.

At the same time, all elementary schools and high schools will fully reopen. Schoolchildren and students will be tested once a week.

The same applies for universities where, however, the spring term in many cases ends next week.

It will be also possible for up to 1,000 people to attend outdoor cultural events, while up to 500 are allowed at such events indoor.

Monday’s announcement comes on the day when Czech bars and restaurants are reopening for outdoor dining.

The number of people infected per 100,000 inhabitants in last seven days has dropped to 71 in the Czech Republic.

———

BERLIN — Germany’s health minister says the country will open up coronavirus vaccinations to everyone starting on June 7. Health Minister Jens Spahn told reporters on Monday that the current system of prioritization in which the most vulnerable groups are to be vaccinated first will no longer be valid then.

The minister said, “this does not mean that everyone will get an appointment within days, but … everyone who wants to get vaccinated will get an offer.”

Spahn said that the vaccination campaign has picked up speed in recent weeks and that by the end of May about 40 percent of all people in Germany will have received at least one shot. He said 70 percent of those above the age of 60 have received one shot, about one-quarter of them are fully vaccinated. All in all, 40 million doses of coronavirus vaccines have been given and around nine million people are fully vaccinated, in this country of 83 million.

After months of lockdown, the infection rate has been dropping in Germany and some states are slowly starting to open up outdoor dining and various shopping possibilities.

———

NEW YORK — Vaccinated people no longer have to wear masks or social distance in New York starting Wednesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday.

The governor said the state is adopting the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released last week.

“Let’s get back to life,” Cuomo said. “If you are vaccinated, you are safe, no masks, no social distancing.”

Cuomo urged people who are unvaccinated and immunocompromised to continue to wear a mask and social distance.

———

BISMARCK, N.D. — The North Dakota Department of Health on Monday issued new guidance on coronavirus masks.

State health officer Nizar Wehbi says the department is aligning with U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that fully vaccinated individuals can resume activities without wearing a mask indoors and outdoors.

The risk of being infected or spreading COVID-19 once fully vaccinated is very low, and therefore wearing a mask if you are fully vaccinated is no longer a recommendation, the health department said in a statement.

Individuals are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after the second dose of Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or two weeks after a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

A recommendation remains that everyone wears masks when they are in a health care setting, when they are traveling on public transportation, including airplanes, and when they are in a business or employer that requires masks, health officials said.

———

BRATTLEBORO, Vt. — Vermont is preparing to hold its first jury trials since the coronavirus pandemic hit last year.

Jury draws were planned Monday for a number of cases in Windham County criminal court. Among them are cases involving drug crimes. According to court documents, social distancing and masking will be part of the proceedings.

Vermont Chief Superior Judge Brian Grearson told the Brattleboro Reformer that the judiciary picked cases that were not very complicated, meaning they did not involve a large number of witnesses and could be tried within a couple of days because of the virus-related protocols.

An upgrade to the building’s heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system for proper airflow could lead to fluctuating temperatures, according to a court flyer sent to jurors.

The trial arrangements were planned in consultation with an infectious disease expert to comply with virus guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Vermont Health Department, the newspaper reported.

———

GENEVA — The head of the World Health Organization is calling on some of the world’s top COVID-19 vaccine makers to do more to get doses to needy people around the world, especially in the developing world — and more quickly.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus appealed in particular to U.S.-based Moderna to accelerate its planned timetable for doses of its vaccine to be available to the U.N.-backed COVAX program, which aims to get vaccines to low- and middle-income countries.

“Moderna has signed a deal for 500 million doses with COVAX, but the majority has been promised only for 2021,” Tedros said Monday. “We need Moderna to bring hundreds of millions of this forward into 2021 due to the acute moment of this pandemic.”

The WHO chief also said COVAX was working toward a deal with U.S.-based Johnson & Johnson that could get doses to the program by the second half of this year, “but this has not been finalized and we do not know when they will arrive.”

Tedros said “we appreciate the work of AstraZeneca” — the British-Swedish manufacturer that has been the main pillar so far of COVAX and the source of the vast majority of doses in the program that has now deployed some 65 million doses.

U.S.-based Pfizer, along with German partner BioNTech, has committed to 40 million doses this year to COVAX, “but the majority of this would be in the second half of 2021,” he said.

Tedros cited figures from UNICEF, which is helping the deployment, that COVAX is facing a “huge shortfall” of 190 million doses in its planned rollout because of tight supplies and a surge in cases.

———

TORONTO — All adults in Canada’s most populous province will be eligible to book a COVID-19 vaccine starting Tuesday.

The Ontario government says those turning 18 this year will be allowed to book shots. The provincial government had initially said it would lower the vaccine eligibility age to 30 this week.

The province will also now send shots to regions on a per-capita basis, after two weeks of sending half the vaccine supply to COVID-19 hot spots.

Canada expects to get 3.5 million Pfizer and Moderna vaccines this week. More than 55% of the population in Ontario aged 18 and over have received at least one dose.