ISLAMABAD — Pakistan on Saturday reported the lowest daily number of new COVID-19 cases and deaths in the past three months.
Federal authorities reported 27 deaths and 974 new confirmed cases. That brings the total deaths to 21,940 and more than 947,000 cases since the virus first appeared last year.
With a steady decline in cases, the worst-affected southern Sindh province announced Saturday that it was easing restrictions in the commercial hub, Karachi, other major urban centers and in rural areas. Authorities in Sindh said junior schools would reopen on Monday and all senior schools and higher educational institutions would follow shortly. Shrines, marriage halls and parks will also be allowed to open by next week.
Pakistan’s top health official rejected reports about a shortage of coronavirus vaccine, saying millions of more doses of vaccines will be arriving in the country during the next 10 days. Faisal Sultan said people may have faced difficulties at some vaccination centers but that doesn’t mean there was any shortage of vaccine.
Pakistan plans to spend $1.1 billion in the next fiscal year to import COVID-19 vaccines to inoculate most of the 100 million adult population.
MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:
— Biden promotes milestone of 300M vaccine shots in 150 days
— Leaders of Germany, France urge vigilance regarding virus variant
— AP-NORC poll: Many Americans resuming pre-virus activities
— Top medical adviser says ‘no fans’ safest for Tokyo Olympics
— Brazil still debating dubious virus drug amid 500,000 deaths
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
LONDON — Thousands of heavy metal fans are camping, singing — and even moshing — in the rain at Britain’s first full music festival since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
The three-day Download Festival, taking place at Donington Park in central England, is one of a series of test events to see whether mass gatherings can resume without triggering outbreaks of COVID-19.
About 10,000 fans, a tenth of the festival’s pre-pandemic attendance, have tickets to watch more than 40 bands including Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes and Bullet for My Valentine.
Attendees all took COVID-19 tests before the event, and don’t have to wear masks or follow social distancing rules during the festival.
Promoter Andy Copping said there was a “real sense of euphoria” at the event, which runs through Sunday, despite the wet weather. He said “it wouldn’t be Download unless there was a bit of rain.”
Britain has recorded almost 128,000 coronavirus deaths, the highest toll in Europe. The government has delayed the planned lifting of remaining social and economic restrictions until July 19 amid a rise in cases driven by the highly contagious delta variant.
TOKYO — Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike says plans to hold mass public viewings of the Olympics at six sites have been canceled, as worries grow about the coronavirus pandemic amid one of the slowest vaccine rollouts in the developed world.
“These are necessary measures to make the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics a success,” she told reporters after meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.
The sites had included Inokashira and Yoyogi parks as well as a university in Tokyo to watch livestreaming of the games, which open July 23.
Koike said the sites will instead be offered as vaccination sites. Suga expressed understanding, she added.
Some medical experts have expressed concern about holding the games, with tens of thousands of athletes, officials and dignitaries entering the country.
Fans from abroad were banned several months ago, and organizers are expected to announce Monday whether some local fans will be allowed. The recommendation from advisers headed by Dr. Shigeru Omi, handed to the government and Tokyo organizers Friday, said no fans would be safer.
Only about 6% of people in Japan are fully vaccinated. Companies, like automaker Toyota Motor Corp. and technology conglomerate SoftBank, start inoculating workers and their families with the Moderna vaccine in a massive drive starting Monday. Japan now relies totally on imports, and the only other vaccine in use here is Pfizer. Various public opinion polls show most Japanese are opposed to holding the games.
KAMPALA, Uganda — Uganda is tightening its lockdown measures to try to stem a surge in coronavirus infections in the East African country that is seeing an array of variants.
The measures announced late Friday by President Yoweri Museveni include a ban on private and public transportation within and across districts, including in the capital Kampala. Only vehicles carrying cargo and those transporting the sick or essential workers are permitted to operate on the roads.
The normally crowded shops in downtown Kampala have also been ordered shut. An ongoing nighttime curfew will stay in place. The new measures will last 42 days.
Uganda is among some African countries seeing a dramatic rise in the number of infections amid a vaccine shortage. It has confirmed a total of 68,779 infections, including 584 deaths. The actual totals are believed to be much higher. Only a few thousand samples are tested daily.
The Africa director of the World Health Organization spoke Thursday of a “sobering trajectory of surging cases” in Africa that she said “should rouse everyone to urgent action.”
Africa’s 1.3 billion people account for 18% of the world’s population, but the continent has received only 2% of all vaccine doses administered globally.
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The Dutch government is dropping almost all of its remaining coronavirus restrictions, with the exception of social distancing, starting June 26 as vaccinations gather pace and infection rates fall sharply.
Dutch caretaker Prime Minister Mark Rutte said Friday that from next Saturday people no longer need to wear face masks at indoor public places where social distancing is possible. Masks will still be mandatory on public transport and at the country’s airports.
Rutte says that the government also is dropping its advice to work from home, freeing employees to return to their offices if they can do so while observing social distancing.
The Netherlands is the latest European nation to wind back its lockdown measures as infection rates drop across most of the continent. Events like music festivals will be allowed if people attending can show they have been vaccinated, tested negative or have already had COVID-19 in the previous six months.
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said Friday that all remaining pandemic-related public health restrictions on commercial and day-to-day activity in the state will be lifted July 1, clearing the way for restaurants and other venues to operate without any capacity limits and for cities to plan in-person Fourth of July celebrations and other summer festivals.
The Democratic governor made the declaration as state health officials continued to crunch the vaccination numbers following a push that included a multimillion-dollar sweepstakes and other cash incentives.
Lujan Grisham had wanted at least 60% of residents 16 and older to be vaccinated two weeks ahead of the reopening. Her office said vaccinations stood at 59.4% on Thursday but that the state was expected to hit its goal with the inclusion of federal data that had yet to be calculated.
Still, the governor said that she had hoped the vaccination numbers would be higher by now and warned against the dangers that variants of the virus pose for unvaccinated people.
State officials say businesses will still be authorized to require masks, distancing or other health precautions against the spread of COVID-19.
BERLIN — The leaders of Germany and France have called for vigilance to prevent the spread of a coronavirus variant that this week prompted Britain to delay a planned relaxation of pandemic restrictions.
Chancellor Angela Merkel says while Germany has low numbers of coronavirus infections, the “aggressive” delta variant could lead to a rise in new cases.
“We can’t pretend that corona is over,” Merkel said. “Even though there’s a feeling on such a warm summer’s evening that it’s all over, one can see from the example of Lisbon that things can quickly change.”
Portuguese authorities on Thursday banned travel in or out of the capital region for upcoming weekends in response to a spike in delta variant cases.
Merkel spoke ahead of a working dinner with French President Emmanuel Macron, the first time she has hosted a foreign leader in Germany since last year. Macron says the European Union will discuss at an upcoming summit how to better harmonize travel restrictions during the pandemic.
JERUSALEM — The Palestinian Authority is calling off an agreement whereby Israel would transfer 1 million doses of coronavirus vaccines to it in exchange for a similar number later this year.
The Palestinian Authority says the doses, which Israel began shipping to the occupied West Bank on Friday, are too close to expiring. Palestinian officials had come under heavy criticism on social media after the agreement was announced earlier on Friday, with Palestinians accusing them of accepting subpar vaccines and suggesting they might not be effective.
In announcing the agreement, Israel said the vaccines “will expire soon” without specifying the date. There was no immediate comment from Israel, which had mostly shut down for the weekly Sabbath.
So far, about 380,000 Palestinians in the West Bank and 50,000 in Gaza have been vaccinated. More than 300,000 infections have been recorded in the two territories and 3,545 confirmed deaths.
.WASHINGTON — The White House says President Joe Biden will announce 300 million COVID-19 shots have been administered in the 150 days since he took office on Jan. 20.
But as Biden marks a new milestone in the fight against COVID-19 on Friday, another goal may fall short — his self-imposed target to have 70% of Americans at least partially vaccinated by July 4.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 305 million vaccine doses had been administered as of June 1O. Overall about 172.4 million people, or 51.9 percent of the total U.S. population, have received at least one dose of vaccine, according to the CDC.
About 141.6 million people, or 42.6% of the population, have been fully vaccinated.
The pace of new vaccinations in the U.S. has dropped significantly from a high of nearly 2 million per day about two months ago. The administration is in the midst of a blitz to combat vaccine hesitancy, particularly in the South and Midwest.
Vice President Kamala Harris traveled to Atlanta on Friday to tour a pop-up COVID-19 vaccination site at Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a pastor until his assassination in 1968.
NEW DELHI — A health official says India, the world’s largest manufacturer of vaccines, wants to resume exports of coronavirus doses after its domestic needs are met.
Dr. Vinod K. Paul said in an interview with The Associated Press: “Once our immediate need of vaccinating a significant proportion of Indian people is achieved …. we would then like to play the role of serving others and providing vaccines to them.”
Paul defended the Indian government’s move to restrict vaccine exports in April during a huge surge in infections. In January, the country began exporting vaccines to more than 90 countries. But the exports were halted when infections soared in India, leaving many developing countries without adequate supplies.
New cases are finally tapering off after exceeding 400,000 a day in May, a global record. But authorities are gearing up for another possible wave of infection and are focusing on increasing vaccinations. Currently, less than 5% of India’s people are fully immunized.
Confirmed coronavirus cases in India have surpassed 29 million, while confirmed deaths have surged beyond 380,000. Experts believe both numbers are vast undercounts.