The Latest: Japan shuts stores, bars, theaters to slow surge

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TOKYO – Japan’s department stores, bars and theaters shuttered Sunday as part of emergency measures to slow a surge in infections.

The 17-day restrictions are declared for Tokyo, Kyoto, Hyogo and Osaka, ahead of the “Golden Week” holidays, when Japanese usually travel extensively.

There’s doubt about the effectiveness of the effort, which focuses on eateries and theme parks staying closed or limiting hours. Trains and streets remain as packed as ever, and schools will stay open.

Japan has already declared three emergencies over the coronavirus. The vaccine rollout has been slow, with barely 1% of its population inoculated.

One setback is that Japan requires additional testing for vaccines approved overseas, and only the Pfizer vaccine is now in use.

Experts say the unfolding wave of infections includes more deadly variants. Japan has attributed about 10,000 deaths to COVID-19, among the worst in Asia. A domestically produced vaccine is not expected until next year or 2023.

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THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

– Europe reopens but virus patients still overwhelm ICU teams

– India virus patients suffocate amid oxygen shortage in surge

– Merkel urges Germans to accept ‘tough’ virus restrictions

– Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has suggested that the army might be called into the streets to restore order if lockdown measures against COVID-19 that he opposes lead to chaos.

– While much of the world remains hunkered down, the band Six60 has been playing to huge crowds in New Zealand, where social distancing isn’t required after the nation stamped out the coronavirus.

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Follow all of AP’s pandemic 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:

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Gov. Jay Inslee said Saturday that inoculations with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine can begin in Washington state following a review by scientific experts in a western states work group.

The Seattle Times reports that the Western States Scientific Safety Review work group – vaccine experts from Washington, California, Oregon and Nevada – met Friday to review data about the vaccine’s potential risks, after more than a dozen women nationwide developed rare blood clots.

“The benefits of the J&J; vaccine outweigh the risks associated with it,” Inslee said in a statement. The federal Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday called for the 11-day pause on the J&J; vaccine to be lifted after federal regulators reviewed data on blood clots and assess risks associated with the vaccine.

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LOS ANGELES – A panel of public health experts from California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington was meeting to discuss potentially lifting the pause on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, a spokesman for the California Department of Public Health said Saturday.

Meanwhile, Los Angeles County public health officials went ahead with telling vaccine providers they could resume administering Johnson & Johnson doses on Saturday, if they give out an updated fact sheet about the vaccine to recipients.

Dr. Paul Simon, chief science officer for the county’s Department of Public Health, said the county has been working on developing additional materials to explain the rare blood clotting issue that prompted the J&J; vaccine pause on April 13.

Those will “include what we think is really important information about what to look for—the signs and symptoms if you were to have this, again, very rare reaction,” he said. “And we are going to underscore that this is a very rare reaction.”

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RIO DE JANEIRO – Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has suggested that the army might be called into the streets to restore order if lockdown measures against COVID-19 that he opposes lead to chaos.

In a television interview Friday night with TV Criticia in the Amazon city of Manaus, Bolsonaro repeated his frequent criticism of restrictions imposed by local governments to curb infections — measures he claims do more harm than good.

“That lockdown policy, of quarantine, is absurd. If we have problems … we have a plan of how to act. I am the supreme head of the armed forces,” Bolsonaro said.

Health experts urged Bolsonaro this month to impose a national lockdown after the nation’s daily toll of COVID-19 deaths reached new peaks. The Ministry of Health says there’s been more than 386,000 confirmed coronavirus deaths in Brazil.

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TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras – President Joe Biden has highlighted how the United States has administered 200 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine before his first 100 days in office.

He’s also signaled it’s time for the U.S. to begin sharing its surplus of doses. The staggering inequality of vaccines is clear throughout the Americas, Africa and parts of Asia. China and Russia have aggressively pushed their homegrown vaccines around the world.

But the U.S. just shared its first 4 million doses last month with Canada and Mexico. Biden has said those countries would be targets for additional doses, and so too would countries in Central America.

Honduras has obtained only 59,000 vaccine doses for its 10 million people. Similar gaps in vaccine access are found across Africa, where just 36 million doses have been acquired for the continent’s 1.3 billion people, as well as in parts of Asia.

In the U.S, more than one-fourth of the population – nearly 90 million people – has been fully vaccinated. Some states are turning down planned shipments from the federal government.

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AUSTIN, Texas – State health officials say more than 1.7 million COVID-19 vaccine doses are headed to Texas next week.

The Texas Department of State Health Services say more than 708,000 first doses are headed to 928 providers in 129 Texas counties, while more than 570,000 second doses also have been ordered.

About 470,000 first and second doses have been allocated to pharmacies, federally qualified health centers and dialysis centers.

So far, more than 23.4 million doses have been distributed to Texas, and more than 36% of the state’s population has received at least one dose, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 24% of the population has been fully immunized.

Also, with the federal pause on the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine now lifted, the government is expected to make doses of that vaccine available soon.

There have been more than 2.8 million confirmed coronavirus cases and 48,946 confirmed deaths in Texas since the start of the pandemic.

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NEW YORK – Several states have resumed use of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine on Saturday, after receiving the green light from federal health officials.

Arizona, New York, Virginia, Missouri, Michigan, Tennessee and Virginia were among the states ordering or recommending a resumption. Indianapolis Motor Speedway is giving free J&J; vaccinations to anyone 18 or older.

Those moves came swiftly after U.S. health officials said Friday evening they were lifting an 11-day pause on vaccinations using the J&J; vaccine. During the pause, scientific advisers to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention decided the vaccine’s benefits outweigh a rare risk of blood clots.

There were 15 vaccine recipients who developed a highly unusual kind of blood clot out of nearly 8 million people given the J&J; shot in the U.S. All were women, most under age 50. Three died and seven remain hospitalized.

Advisers to the CDC say warnings could help younger women and their doctors decide if they should use that shot or an alternative.

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PARIS – France and other countries in Europe are preparing to relax coronavirus restrictions while still pouring medical, financial and technological resources into keeping thousands of COVID-19 patients alive.

Inside one of Paris’ biggest hospitals, state-of-the-art artificial lungs are giving the most critical patients a last-ditch shot at survival. Outside, healthy people are planning getaways and drinks with friends as the country embarks on the perilous process of easing out of its latest lockdown.

French President Emmanuel Macron is reopening elementary schools on Monday and allowing people to move about more freely again in May.

Some frontline caregivers in hospitals see the easing as premature. Intensive care unit admissions at French hospitals remain stubbornly higher than at any point since the pandemic’s first deadly surge.

In France, Greece and elsewhere, governments are using ramped-up vaccinations to bolster arguments to ease restrictions. However, just one-quarter of adults in Europe have received a first dose.

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RICHMOND, Va. – Virginia health officials have told providers to immediately resume their use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine after federal agencies lifted a pause on the vaccine.

The decision came after the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration found the benefits of the one-shot vaccine outweigh its risks of rare blood clots.

This month, the agencies announced an investigation into six cases of an extremely rare blood clot disorder in recipients. The one woman who died was a 45-year-old Virginia resident who received the vaccine on March 6.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports before the pause, Virginia had administered 184,000 J&J; shots.

“This extra scrutiny should instill confidence in the system that is in place to guarantee COVID-19 vaccine safety,” says Dr. Danny Avula, the state’s vaccine coordinator, who received a J&J; shot on April 1. “As with any vaccine, we encourage individuals to educate themselves on any potential side effects and to weigh that against the possibility of hospitalization or death from COVID-19.”

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