ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s planning minister says the government will begin a drive to vaccinate children aged 12 or above to protect them from coronavirus.
The announcement on Tuesday by Asad Umar comes amid a steady decline in fatalities from coronavirus across the country.
Umar in a tweet said Pakistan will launch a campaign soon to vaccinate children at schools. He did not say exactly when it will begin.
Currently Pakistan is offering free jabs to teens and adults.
The latest development comes hours after Pakistan reported 41 deaths from coronavirus and 1,400 new cases in the past 24 hours.
It is the first time since July that Pakistan reported less than 1,500 single-day confirmed cases amid the fourth wave which authorities believe has subsided.
MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:
— U.S. has enough COVID-19 vaccines for boosters, kids' shots
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— EXPLAINER: Who’s eligible for Pfizer booster shots in US?
See all of AP's pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
SYDNEY — Australia’s Victoria state has recorded more coronavirus infections than New South Wales for the first time since an outbreak of the delta variant began in Sydney in June.
Victoria is Australia’s second-most populous state and on Tuesday the state capital of Melbourne reported 867 new virus cases and four deaths from COVID-19 in the latest 24-hour period.
It was the highest daily numbers of infections and deaths in Victoria for the latest outbreak. Victoria’s previous high infection count was 847 reported Saturday.
New South Wales is the most populous state and home to Sydney, which reported 863 new infections Tuesday and seven deaths. The state has seen daily infections plateau as vaccinations have risen.
Sydney has been in lockdown since June 26 and Melbourne since Aug. 5.
WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand is relaxing travel restrictions in Auckland six weeks after the nation’s most populous city was locked down due to the coronavirus.
People will be able to cross the city boundary beginning Monday night if they are permanently relocating, have shared caring-giving arrangements or are returning home. Those leaving Auckland on care-giving trips will have to be tested for the virus within a week of their departure.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says more flexibility is being given because the system of pandemic restrictions is “currently doing its job.”
The city reported eight new infections Tuesday in the latest 24-hour period. Auckland was locked down Aug. 17 after the delta variant leaked from hotel quarantine from a New Zealander who had returned from Sydney.
Pandemic restrictions elsewhere in New Zealand amount to little more than mandatory mask-wearing.
NEW YORK — A federal appeals panel says New York City may require teachers to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.
The three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals acted late Monday to lift a temporary order issued Friday that blocked the mandate from taking effect so a challenge could be heard from a group of teachers.
The mandate had been set to go into effect Monday for teachers and other employees of the city’s schools. The appeals panel’s ruling put the mandate back in force.
Lawyers for the teachers said they will now ask the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene. One attorney said: “With thousands of teachers not vaccinated the city may regret what it wished for. Our children will be left with no teachers and no security in schools.”
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A federal judge has ordered that all employees entering California prisons be vaccinated or have a religious or medical exemption.
The order is aimed at heading off another coronavirus outbreak like the one that killed 28 inmates and a correctional officer at San Quentin State Prison last year.
The order also requires that inmates who want in-person visits or who work outside prisons, including inmate firefighters, must also be fully vaccinated or have a religious or medical exemption.
The prison guard’s union says it may appeal.
More than 50,000 California inmates have been infected with the coronavirus and at least 240 have died of COVID-19.
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Faculty at Iowa’s public universities are demanding the right to require masks in their classrooms regardless of state law or policies against them.
Biology professor Steve O’Kane Jr. has pushed a resolution among colleagues at the University of Northern Iowa saying faculty should be allowed to manage their classrooms. O’Kane told The Cedar Rapids Gazette that he has already imposed a mask mandate for his students and lowers their lab grades if they refuse to comply.
Northern Iowa, the University of Iowa and Iowa State University sent petitions last month to the state Board of Regents signed by hundreds of faculty asking for the ability to require masks and vaccines.
Board of Regents President Mike Richards in May barred administrators from requiring masks or vaccines.
HONOLULU — New federal rules for international travelers are expected to help Hawaii’s crippled tourism industry.
The state’s international market has been nearly nonexistent since the pandemic largely shut down travel.
Last week, the White House loosened rules that previously prohibited some foreign travelers from coming to the U.S. Now foreign visitors can come if they can show proof of vaccination and produce a negative COVID-19 test.
The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports that the changes could bring back international travel to the islands. It is down 97% compared to before the pandemic.
Hawaii currently only requires proof of vaccination or a single pre-flight COVID-19 test for mainland and some international travelers.
Some see the new rules as more restrictive for Japanese travelers, a major component of Hawaii’s tourism industry. Japan and other key markets for Hawaii tourism have high vaccination rates and officials expect that trend to continue in the coming months.
TOPEKA, Kan. — Gov. Laura Kelly has ordered flags throughout the state to be flown at half-staff to honor COVID-19 victims as Kansas exceeded 6,000 reported deaths.
Kelly’s order Monday applied immediately and directed that flags remain lowered until sunset Wednesday. The governor has issued such an order every time Kansas reports another 1,000 COVID-19 deaths.
According to Kansas health department data, the state averaged 15 additional reported COVID-19 deaths a day for the seven days ending Monday. The number of reported deaths rose 43 since Friday, making the total 6,024.
The state also reported an average of 1,012 new cases and 37 additional hospitalizations a day for the seven days ending Monday.
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — A North Carolina-based hospital system announced Monday that more than 175 of its workers have been fired for failing to comply with its COVID-19 vaccination requirement.
Last week, Novant Health announced 375 employees had been suspended and given five days to comply with the mandate. The deadline was Friday.
Nearly 200 of those employees came into compliance, Spokesperson Megan Rivers said in an email Monday. Rivers didn’t provide specific numbers on how many out of the 375 were in compliance and how many lost their jobs.
More than 99% of Novant Health’s 35,000-plus employees are now compliant with the vaccine mandate, including employees who have submitted an approved religious or medical vaccine exemption, according to a statement.
The Winston-Salem-based system includes 15 hospitals, 800 clinics and hundreds of outpatient facilities.
MALDEN, Mass. — State education officials on Monday extended Massachusetts’ public school indoor mask mandate an extra month.
The mandate that applies to students, staff and faculty, was scheduled to expire on Oct. 1, but will now run through at least Nov. 1, state Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley said.
Middle and high schools can apply for a waiver from the face covering rules if 80% of their students and staff have been vaccinated, he said.
The original mandate was announced in August. It applies to students age 5 and over. Masks are not required outdoors or while eating, and a limited number of other indoor activities.
About 2,220 students and more than 300 workers at Massachusetts public schools have tested positive for COVID-19 this school year, according to the latest information available from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
HAVANA — Cuba has begun commercial exports of its homegrown COVID-19 vaccines, sending shipments of the three-dose Abdala vaccine to Vietnam and Venezuela.
President Miguel Díaz-Canel announced the arrival in Vietnam on his Twitter feed Sunday. Cuba’s Center of Genetic Immunology and Biotechnology also announced that initial shipments of the Abdala shots were sent to Venezuela over the weekend.
Vietnam’s President Nguyen Xuan Phuc visited Cuba last week and toured the laboratory that produces the vaccine, announcing an agreement to buy at least 5 million doses.
Delcy Rodríguez, Venezuela’s vice president, announced in June that the country had agreed to buy $12 million worth of the Cuban vaccine, though officials have declined to say how many doses were involved.
Another Cuban-developed COVID-19 vaccine is being produced in Iran, which Cuba has asked the World Health Organization to approve in hopes to extend exports of its locally developed vaccines.
Cuban scientists have said the vaccines are more than 90% effective against illness, though — like all vaccines — less so against mere infection.
Cuba plans to fully vaccinate 90% of its population by the end of November — a key step to reopening an economy heavily dependent on tourism.
Cuba’s director of epidemiology, Francisco Durán, said Monday that the country of some 11 million people has registered 860,799 infections with COVID-19 and 7,279 deaths during the pandemic.
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — A pharmacy owner in Puerto Rico has pleaded guilty to illegally vaccinating two dozen children against COVID-19 with shots that had not been approved as safe for that age group, federal authorities said Monday.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said Liz Ann Banchs fully inoculated minors between the ages of 7 and 11 with the Pfizer vaccine from late May until late June.
The vaccine is currently approved for those 12 years and older, though Pfizer announced last week that a version of its vaccine, with much-reduced doses, is safe and works for children ages 5 to 11 and that it will soon seek U.S. authorization for that age group.
Authorities said the illegal vaccination occurred at Farmacia Gabriela, Inc. in the southern mountain town of Juana Diaz. They said Banchs faces up to five years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine.
BUENOS AIRES — Argentina’s government opened some of its border to tourists from Chile and Brazil on Monday for a four-day test run as cases of COVID-19 have declined.
The measure applies to two crossings into the provinces of Mendoza, a wine-producing region that neighbors Chile, and Misiones, which borders Brazil hand has the famed Iguazu Falls.
Prior to the pandemic, thousands of people crossed daily over those borders.
Visitors will still need to show they have completed a full vaccine course at least 14 days before arriving, show a recent negative PCR test and accept a fast antigen test on arriving.
They won’t have to quarantine, but will required to have another PCR test if they stay beyond seven days — and those who test positive would then have to quarantine.
The announcement amounts to an early start on a gradual opening of land borders that already had been announced for citizens of neighboring countries that was to start on Friday. Fully vaccinated Argentines living abroad will no longer have to quarantine on arrival.
The country of about 45 million people has seen steadily improving levels of infection and hospital bed occupation after being hit hard by the virus. Overall, it has recorded 5.2 infections and more than 114,000 deaths.
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