UAE prince declares life returning to normal


DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Abu Dhabi’s powerful crown prince has declared that life is returning to normal in the United Arab Emirates, as virus cases decline and the oil-rich sheikhdom emerges from the pandemic.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed made the remarks Wednesday as his regular Abu Dhabi “majlis,” the royal gathering space, resumed in-person. The majority of the officials at the traditional meeting were seen without masks, even as a strict, long-standing mask mandate still prevails in the UAE.

Sheikh Mohammed says: “I bring you good news. The health situation in the United Arab Emirates is good.”

Coronavirus infections in the Emirates have plunged to under 200 a day, their lowest level since the start of August 2020. Inoculations have accelerated, with over 84% of people fully vaccinated.

Dubai is now hosting the delayed 2020 World Expo, a massive in-person extravaganza with concerts, events and showcases that aims to draw millions of visitors from around the world over six months.

“We thank God that we have emerged from this crisis, well, with goodness, honor, safety, health and experiences that we have paid for but that have brought us a lot of knowledge,” Sheikh Mohammed said.

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MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:

Los Angeles poised to enact strict vaccination mandate

— COVID spike pushes Alaska’s health care system to brink

— WHO still reviewing Sputnik V vaccine, as Russia presses bid

Johnson & Johnson has asked the Food and Drug Administration to allow extra shots of its COVID-19 vaccine as the U.S. government moves toward expanding its booster campaign to millions more vaccinated Americans.

— Little by little, vacationers are returning to one of the Caribbean’s most iconic beaches, which has been a nearly abandoned strip of glittering sand and turquoise seas for more than a year.

— A year and a half in, the pandemic is still agonizing families. There’s the exhaustion of worrying about exposure to COVID-19 itself, and the policies at schools and day cares where children spend their time.

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See all of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

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GENEVA — The World Health Organization says the number of newly reported coronavirus cases fell in the last week, continuing a declining global trend that first began in August.

In its latest assessment of the pandemic, the U.N. health agency reported Tuesday that there were 3.1 million new COVID-19 cases, a 9% fall, and about 54,000 deaths in the last week, roughly similar to the week before. WHO said there were declines in case numbers in all world regions except for Europe, where the number was about the same as the previous week.

COVID-19 cases fell by about 43% in Africa, by about 20% in both the Middle East and Southeast Asia and 12% in the Americas and the Western Pacific. The largest decline in deaths was seen in Africa, where numbers decreased by about a quarter.

WHO also said nearly a third of African countries managed to vaccinate at least 10% of their populations by the end of September. The WHO chief has repeatedly urged rich countries to pass on giving booster doses until at least the end of the year.

On Monday, the European Medicines Agency gave its endorsement to EU countries offering a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech shot to people 18 and over.

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BERLIN — Germany’s health minister urged people to get vaccinated against flu this year, to avoid a surge in hospitalizations amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Jens Spahn says vulnerable people in particular should get the flu shot, adding that Germany has ordered 27 million doses of influenza vaccine this year.

“Don’t take the flu lightly just because of the coronavirus,” Spahn said at a news conference in Berlin.

Germany’s independent vaccine panel has said both the shots against flu and the coronavirus can be administered at the same time.

Germany often has low vaccination rates against flu compared to other developed countries, and is also lagging in Europe when it comes to the COVID-19 shot.

Official figures show 64.8% of the population is fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. The government says it is aiming for a rate of 75%.

Germany’s disease control agency, the Robert Koch Institute, reported 11,547 newly confirmed COVID-19 infections Monday, and 76 deaths. Since the start of the outbreak, almost 94,000 people have died in connection with the coronavirus.

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MADRID — Spain’s Public Health Commission has authorized a third vaccine dose for those over 70 years old, once six months have passed since their second shot.

Spain has administered two doses to over 36 million people, with vaccination rates over 98% of those over 70.

The move follows a recommendation by the European Union’s drug regulator to use booster shots in adults.

The European Medicine Agency said the decision was based on evidence that antibody levels rise in people aged 18 or older once they are given an extra dose at least 6 months after their last one.

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COVID-19 test kit maker Ellume is recalling some at-home tests after learning that they were reporting a higher-than-expected rate of false positive results indicating someone has the virus when they do not.

The Australian company has said the tests were shipped to U.S. retailers and other distributors from April through August. It published a list on its website of the lot numbers on test packages affected by the recall.

The company said about 427,000 tests are in the lots identified in the recall, and nearly 200,000 are unused. Ellume said tests from those lots may provide false positive results at a rate higher than researchers saw during clinical testing.

Ellume said it will email customers who used one of those test kits and received a positive result in the last two weeks. It recommended that people who have not scheduled another test to confirm the result should immediately do so.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday in a separate statement that people who got a positive result from one of the tests should contact a care provider or urgent care location and ask for a molecular diagnostic test.

The problem was tied to a manufacturing issue, and it does not appear to affect negative results from the tests.

Ellume said about 42,000 affected tests have been used and produced positive results, both accurate and false. That represents about 1% of the 3.5 million tests the company has shipped to the U.S.COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina districts can continue to require face coverings in the state’s schools under an appellate court’s decision.

On Tuesday, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied state Attorney General Alan Wilson’s request that South Carolina’s law prohibiting school mask mandates be allowed to take effect while a lawsuit over the measure goes forward.

Last month, a federal judge suspended the state from enforcing its rule banning school districts from requiring masks for students. Wilson and Gov. Henry McMaster, both Republicans, had appealed that temporary restraining order, asking the 4th Circuit to restore the ban to avoid changing mask policies across the state now that students are back at school.

The back-and-forth stems from a lawsuit filed by parents of disabled children, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, arguing that South Carolina’s ban discriminated against medically vulnerable students by keeping them out of public schools as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

According to state health data, about 75,000 students, teachers and school staff have been infected with COVID-19 this school year, and nearly 200,000 have had to quarantine because of close exposure.

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PHOENIX — The coronavirus pandemic is a cause for concern for families who face various policies at schools and day care centers.

The spread of the more infectious delta variant, particularly among people who refuse vaccinations, has caused an increase in infections in children. The coronavirus exposures and illnesses at schools and day cares can mean children get sent home, forcing parents to scramble for childcare.

There’s evidence that masks in schools help reduce virus spread, and most Americans support requiring masks for students and teachers. District policies on masks, testing and quarantines vary widely. Soon after schools reopened in August, the rate of coronavirus infections forced dozens of districts to back off in-person learning.

More than 5.5 million children in the U.S. have tested positive for the coronavirus, with 20% of all child cases coming since this school year began, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Kids are at lower risk of severe illness or death, but at least 498 have died.

Vaccines have been available for children as young as 12 since May, but vaccination rates trail adults. Federal data show about half of 16- and 17-year-olds are vaccinated, while 43% of 12- to 15-year-olds are vaccinated; two-thirds of adults are vaccinated.

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SEATTLE — Washington state health authorities say a woman in her late 30s has died from a rare blood-clotting syndrome after receiving the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine.

Public Health Seattle & King County said Tuesday the woman was the fourth person in the United States to die from possible blood clotting issues following the J&J vaccine.

Three deaths were reported before federal authorities temporarily halted J&J vaccinations in April. A spokesperson for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the agency is aware of, and is looking into, additional reported clot deaths since then, including the one in Washington state.

The King County woman received her shot on Aug. 26. She died on Sept. 7. Blood clots are a very rare complication associated with J&J’s vaccine. According to King County authorities, 12.5 million doses of the J&J vaccine had been administered by July 8, 2021, with 38 people having confirmed cases of the unusual type of blood clot. The majority recovered from the issue.

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OKLAHOMA CITY — A report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says coronavirus vaccinations have helped reduce infections by 7,500 and deaths by 1,100 among Oklahomans age 65 and older.

The study of Medicare recipients released Tuesday found each 10% increase in vaccination rates resulted in an 11-12% decline in weekly COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths among Medicare beneficiaries.

Last week, 91% of Oklahomans 65 or older had received at least one vaccination and 80% were fully vaccinated, according to the Oklahoma State Department of Health.



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