England sticks to plan for lifting restrictions on ‘Freedom Day’; fake vaccines administered to thousands in India: Latest COVID-19 updates – USA TODAY

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Residents of England got reassurances Monday that plans for the July 19 “Freedom Day” remain in place, just as they were learning that Duchess Kate is self-isolating after coming in contact last week with a person who has tested positive for the coronavirus.

The juxtaposition of the approaching end of COVID-19 restrictions in England with Prince William’s wife being confined to home for 10 days underscores one of the key messages British Prime Minister Boris Johnson delivered with Monday’s announcement:

“I want to stress from the outset that this pandemic is far from over,” he said in a news conference. “It certainly won’t be over by the 19th.”

Johnson pointed out there has been a marked increase in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations recently, and the number of new infections could rise to 50,000 per day by July 19.

Nevertheless, Johnson said he expects England’s reopening — Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland set their own coronavirus rules — to remain on schedule. That would mean discarding mask and social distance requirements, along with most of the other measures imposed to limit spread of the virus.

The unlocking was initially slated for June 21 but got delayed because of the emergence of the delta variant. A final decision will be made next Monday after reviewing the data. 

“If we can’t open in the next few weeks … then when can we?” Johnson said.

Also in the news:

►Some regions in Spain are imposing restrictions on nightlife to curb the soaring coronavirus infections among young people, who rank low on the priority list for vaccinations.

►Russia on Sunday reported more than 25,000 new coronavirus cases, the largest number since January, as the country faces a sharp surge over the past month. The national coronavirus task force said 663 patients died, down from the previous day’s 697, which was a record high.

►The number of travelers through Transportation Security Administration checkpoints Thursday and Friday exceeded travelers in 2019 and 2020, the agency reported. 

►Six people from a task force working at the scene of the Miami-area condo building collapse have tested positive for COVID-19, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Chief Alan Cominsky said. 

►Indonesian officials are scrambling to boost oxygen supplies, which have become scarce in parts of the country as the number of critically ill COVID-19 patients who need it increases. Dozens of sick people recently died at a public hospital after it ran out of its central supply of oxygen.

📈Today’s numbers: The U.S. has more than 33.7 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and at least 605,500 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 183.9 million cases and nearly 3.98 million deaths. More than 157 million Americans have been fully vaccinated – 47.4% of the population, according to the CDC.

📘What we’re reading: The CDC is investigating the case of a 13-year-old Saginaw County boy who died in his sleep three days after getting his second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine in mid-June. Read the full story.

Keep refreshing this page for the latest news. Want more? Sign up for our Coronavirus Watch newsletter for updates to your inbox and join our Facebook group.

Vaccination scam in India defrauds 2,500

Fourteen people have been arrested in Mumbai, India, in connection with a scheme to administer fake COVID-19 vaccines to thousands of people, who actually got injected with salt water.

Authorities said health care professionals, including doctors, participated in the extensive scam at no less than a dozen bogus vaccination sites. About 2,500 people appeared have been defrauded in a hoax that netted the perpetrators $28,000.

India is still bouncing back from a massive spring surge that sickened millions, claimed thousands of lives, and led to a shortage of hospital beds and oxygen. The country’s government launched a mass vaccination drive with free shots, but less than 5% of the population has been fully inoculated.

Biden sees end of pandemic ‘closer than ever’

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden hosted a party Sunday on the South Lawn of the White House to celebrate the Fourth of July holiday and progress made during the coronavirus pandemic.

Biden highlighted in his remarks the country’s falling coronavirus case numbers and widespread vaccination uptake, while taking time to recognize the more than 600,000 Americans who’ve died from COVID-19 during the pandemic.

“Today we’re closer than ever to declaring our independence from a deadly virus. That’s not to say the battle against COVID-19 is over. We’ve got a lot more work to do,” he said.

The holiday came as the delta variant is overtaking much of the country. The highly infectious strain now accounts for 25% of cases in the U.S., according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vaccines have proven effective against the variant, but more than one-third of eligible Americans remain unvaccinated.

Luxembourg leader hospitalized with COVID-19

Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel remained hospitalized and under observation for a second day Monday because he has been unable to shake a bout of COVID-19 that developed over a week ago.

A government official who spoke on condition of anonymity said Bettel, 48, has coronavirus symptoms that include coughing, headaches and a slight fever, but has not developed a life-threatening condition.

More than 99% of recent COVID-19 deaths in US involve unvaccinated people

About 99.2% of recent COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. involved unvaccinated people, a “tragic” situation that could easily be remedied, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Sunday.

The top infectious disease expert said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he was frustrated at a situation in which “you have a formidable enemy”, and “yet we do have a countermeasure that’s highly, highly effective. And that’s the reason why it’s all the more sad and all the more tragic why it isn’t being completely implemented in this country.”

Fauci cited several reasons for opposition to the vaccine by some Americans: “ideological” or some people “are just fundamentally anti-vax or anti-science.”

The U.S. is “very fortunate” that it has “enough vaccines to vaccinate essentially everybody in the country,” Fauci said. “And there are people throughout the world who would do anything to get vaccines.”

— Susan Miller, USA TODAY

Contributing: Associated Press