The Latest: Sri Lanka begins vaccinating 18-19 age group
LONDON — British health officials say 43,000 people in southwest England may have been wrongly told they don’t have the coronavirus because of problems at a private laboratory. The U.K. Health Security Agency has suspended the processing of swabs from a Wolverhampton laboratory in central England after receiving false negatives reports. These faulty results were among the tests that were processed at Immensa Health Clinic Lab from early September to this week.
The issue was uncovered after some people who were positive for COVID-19 when they took rapid tests went on to show up as negative on more accurate PCR tests.
One local authority, West Berkshire Council, has told people who were tested at the government-run Newbury Showground site between Oct. 3 and 12 and were told they were negative to get tested again.
Britain conducts about 1 million coronavirus tests a day and reported almost 40,000 new infections a day over the past week.
MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:
— Russia struggles to meet global orders for Sputnik V vaccine
— Made in India virus kits boost testing, and local industry
— FDA panel endorses lower-dose Moderna COVID shot for booster
— FDA unlikely to rule on Merck’s COVID pill before December
— See all of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
ROME — Protests have erupted in Italy as a new anti-coronavirus regulation took effect requiring all workers to show a health pass to get into their places of employment.
Police was in place, schools were closing early and embassies warned of violence. This is in response to fears that anti-vaccination protests might turn violent as in Rome. Opponents claim that the requirement violates their rights.
The so-called “green pass” shows proof of vaccination, a recent negative test or of having recovered from COVID-19 in the past six months. It is already required to have access to all indoor activities, including indoor dining, long-distance trains, museums, and theatres.
But the workplace requirement has sparked heated debate and opposition in a country that was the first in the West to experience a critical COVID-19 outbreak and where vaccination rates are among the highest in Europe.
All workers, including bartenders and business executives, must have a valid pass in order to be allowed to work. The Vatican was not spared. Three Swiss Guards were fired and three more were suspended after refusing to be vaccinated prior to the Vatican’s green card requirement.
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lanka is vaccinating 18- and 19-year-olds against the coronavirus as it expands the shots to students.
After beginning with older people, Sri Lanka has now vaccinated 57% of its 22 million population.
Vaccinations with the Pfizer shot began Friday for about 24,000 people in the 18-19 age group in the capital Colombo and suburbs. Officials say inoculations in Colombo will be completed within 21 days and they’ll start giving doses in other parts of the country next week.
Sri Lanka lifted a six-week lockdown on Oct. 1 after COVID-19 cases and deaths declined. Schools remain closed, trips beyond the home are prohibited, transport restrictions are in place, and public gatherings are also restricted.
At the peak, Sri Lanka was counting 3,000 daily infections and more than 200 deaths. Daily cases are now below 1,000 and deaths under 100.
The Indian Ocean island nation has reported more than 529,000 cases and 13,408 deaths.
SEOUL, South Korea – South Korean officials will partially ease virus restrictions in the hard-hit capital region starting next week to address a battered economy and pandemic fatigue.
Deputy Minister Lee Ki-il stated Friday that the limit on private social gatherings within the Greater Seoul region will be increased to eight people if at minimum four participants have been fully vaccinated. The rules will also be applied regardless of the time of the day.
Since July, the country has been implementing the most stringent social distancing measures. This includes limiting gatherings to six people after 6 pm if at least four of the participants are fully vaccinated. Lee stated that the limit on gatherings of people not fully vaccinated was two, but that it will increase to four beginning Monday. Capital residents who have been fully vaccinated in the Capital region will be permitted to attend soccer and baseball games that were previously played in empty stadiums. Lee said professional sports teams in the region will be able to sell 30% of the seats in outdoor venues and 20% of the seats in indoor venues to fans who are fully vaccinated.
The country confirmed 1,684 new cases of the coronavirus on Friday, its 101st day of over 1,000, with most of the infections reported in the capital area. About 62% of a population of more than 51 million have been fully vaccinated.
CANBERRA — Australia’s capital Canberra has come out of lockdown with authorities reporting more than 99% of the population aged 12 and older having at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Sydney came out of lockdown on Monday with only the 73.5% of the population aged 16 and older who were fully-vaccinated allowed to enjoy the new freedoms including going to restaurants, hairdressers and non-essential shopping. The new freedoms in Canberra, which were made effective by the high level of vaccinations, will apply to everyone starting Friday. By Friday, 76% of the population aged 12 and older was fully vaccinated.
New South Wales, which includes Sydney has announced that it will eliminate hotel quarantine requirements from Nov. 1, in a significant relaxation of pandemic restrictions.
OLYMPIA, Wash. — Starting Nov. 15, people in Washington state will need to either provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative test in order to attend large events. The order was announced by Gov. Jay Inslee applies to indoor events with 1,000 or more attendees and outdoor events that have more than 10,000 attendees. Events will be required to verify full vaccination status or a negative test within the last 72 hours for all attendees age 12 or older. The governor’s office stated that the requirement applies only to registered or ticketed events such as concerts, sporting events, and fairs. Religious services or events that are held on K-12 school grounds are exempt from the order.
WASHINGTON — U.S. health advisers said Thursday that some Americans who received Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine should get a half-dose booster to bolster protection against the virus.
The panel of advisers to the Food and Drug Administration voted unanimously to recommend a booster shot for seniors, adults with other health problems, jobs or living situations that put them at increased risk for COVID-19.
As for the dose, initial Moderna vaccination consists of two 100-microgram shots. But Moderna says a single 50-microgram shot should be enough for a booster. The FDA will consider the recommendations of its advisors when making final decisions about boosters from both companies. Even if the FDA makes a positive decision, there is still one hurdle. Next week, a panel organized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP) will provide more details on who should receive one.
WASHINGTON — The Food and Drug Administration will ask its outside experts to meet in late November to scrutinize Merck’s pill to treat COVID-19.
The Nov. 30 meeting means U.S. regulators likely won’t issue a decision on the drug until December, signaling that the agency will conduct a detailed review of the experimental treatment’s safety and effectiveness. Although the FDA is not required by them to follow their recommendations, they are expected to vote on Merck’s drug approval.
Three IV anti-bodies have been approved since last year, but they are costly and difficult to produce. They also require special equipment and the expertise of health professionals to deliver. Merck’s drug, Molnupiravir (if authorized), would be the first available at-home treatment for COVID. It will ease symptoms and accelerate recovery.
If authorized, Merck’s drug is likely the first — but not the only — pill to treat COVID-19. Similar drugs are being studied by Roche, Pfizer and Appili Therapeutics.