The Latest worldwide on COVID-19: Hungary sets virus records for hospitals, deaths


The Associated Press



BUDAPEST— Hungary set records Tuesday for the number of COVID-19 patients being treated in Hungarian hospitals and the number of new daily virus deaths amid a powerful surge in cases.

Nearly 350 people in Hungary were hospitalized with the virus in the last 24 hours, bringing the number of hospitalizations on Tuesday to 8,270, breaking the previous record of 8,045 set on Dec. 8. The number of patients on ventilators also set a new record with 833. Health care experts say that could within days reach the threshold of 1,000, the maximum number of critical patients the country’s health system can handle.

Another grim milestone was reached Tuesday as the total number of COVID-19 deaths in Hungary increased by 158 to more than 16,000, the most in a single day since before Christmas.

A new round of lockdown measures went into effect in Hungary on Monday requiring most shops to close for two weeks. Kindergartens and primary schools have also been closed until April 7.

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg threatened Tuesday to impose new nationwide coronavirus restrictions, including closing amusement parks and gyms and banning the sale of alcohol if an increase in new cases is not brought down.

“We still have a steep hill ahead of us,” Solberg said, calling “for one last effort. That we together go up this hill and hope that that this time we finally manage to reach the top.”

In an address to parliament, she urged her countrymen to stay home for the Easter break in early April.

She vowed that Norway, which has had 74,940 cases and 632 coronvirus deaths, “will crack down on local outbreaks even faster. She said a year ago the Scandinavian country “introduced the most intrusive measures in peacetime.”

“If we succeed (now), there will be no need for new national measures. If we fail, we must tighten quickly,” she said.

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WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand has opened its first large vaccination clinic as it scales up efforts to protect people from the coronavirus.

The clinic in south Auckland will initially target household members of border workers. New Zealand has stamped out community spread of the virus and considers border workers and their families the most vulnerable to catching the disease from infectious travelers.

Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield sai initially about 150 people a day will get vaccinated at the clinic, although the numbers will be rapidly increased. Health officials plan to open two more clinics in Auckland over the next few weeks.

“It doesn’t hurt, and it is important for everybody to get it,” said Denise Fogasavaii, the sister of an Air New Zealand employee who has already been vaccinated.

New Zealand plans to use the Pfizer vaccine for all inoculations and hopes to complete its vaccination program this year.

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New Mexico is clearing the way for schools to reopen next month as vaccine eligibility is expanding to include shots for all teachers and other educators.

State education officials announced Monday that five-day a week in-class programs would be open to those who want them. Districts also will be required to provide virtual learning options for students who opt out.

As part of the vaccination effort, the state plans to get teachers their first shots by the end of March.

The state is making the move as part of a directive by the Biden administration. State officials have acknowledged that meeting the goal depends on the federal government increasing vaccine shipments.

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CHEYANNE, Wyo. — Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon says the state will join a handful of others that have lifted mask-wearing mandates to limit the spread of the coronavirus. The changes take effect March 16.

Also being lifted are requirements for bars, restaurants, theaters and gyms, where employees must wear masks and customers not seated in small groups have to keep 6 feet apart.

Gordon cites Wyoming’s declining number of COVID-19 cases and its success in distributing vaccines as reasons to lift the restrictions.

The statewide order in place since December was set to expire next week. States including Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota and Texas also have lifted mask mandates.

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HELSINKI — Estonia’s government has decided on further coronavirus restrictions due to a rapid rise in cases, especially the variant first detected in Britain, and the Baltic country will enter a lockdown Thursday.

Prime Minister Kaja Kallas unveiled the new measures in an interview with the Estonian public broadcaster ERR saying “the situation with COVID-19 in Estonia is extremely critical.”

Kallas said Estonia’s pandemic situation needs to be addressed quickly to avoid further escalation and hence “we have decided to lock the country in as much as possible.”

With exception of grocery and other essential stores such as pharmacies, all stores and restaurants throughout Estonia are required to remain closed and all indoor sport activities cease as of Thursday. Restaurants will, however, be able to serve food for take-away and drive-in customers.

Kallas said the new restrictions would be in place for a minimum of one month.

The nation of 1.3 million has seen a rapidly increasing number of COVID-19 cases n the past few weeks. The country on Monday reported 1,181 new confirmed cases putting total tally to over 76,183 cases with 667 deaths.

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HONOLULU — Hawaii has detected a new COVID-19 variant in the islands, one that first emerged in South Africa.

The state Department of Health said Monday the virus, which has technical name B.1.351 was found in an Oahu resident with no travel history.

Some tests suggest the variant may be less susceptible to antibody drugs or antibody-rich blood from COVID-19 survivors.

Acting State Epidemiologist Sarah Kemble said in a statement that a study conducted in South Africa, where the variant was predominant, showed that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was effective in preventing serious disease requiring hospitalization and in preventing death.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that as of Sunday, 81 cases of the South African variant have been detected in 19 states and Washington, D.C.

Hawaii has already detected eight cases of the U.K. or B.1.1.7 variant, including two more announced Monday in an Oahu resident who traveled to the U.S. mainland and a household contact of that person.

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HARTFORD, Conn. — The first Connecticut resident to be diagnosed with COVID-19 says he is still coping with health problems one year later, but the experience has brought a new optimism to his life.

Chris Tillett, a former Wilton, Connecticut, resident, tested positive for COVID-19 on March 8, 2020, and spent three weeks at Danbury Hospital, including 10 days in a coma and on a ventilator. Doctors used experimental treatments, including anti-malaria and anti-HIV drugs, in efforts to save his life.

Tillett, who was 45 at the time, a husband and father of 4-month-old twin boys, got sick after returning from a conference in California.

“This has been a tough year,” Tillett, who now lives in Virginia, told WVIT-TV. “I’m enjoying little aspects of life. Even when things go bad, I just choose to laugh at it now instead of letting it get me angry and upset.”

Tillett told Connecticut Public Radio he continues to experience muscle pain, stiffness and swelling in his legs. He also had to begin taking blood pressure medication and red spots still cover his feet.

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GENEVA — A senior World Health Organization official said that so-called “vaccine passports” for COVID-19 should not be used for international travel because of numerous concerns, including ethical considerations that coronavirus vaccines are not easily available globally.

At a press briefing on Monday, WHO emergencies chief Dr. Michael Ryan said there are “real practical and ethical considerations” for countries considering using vaccine certification as a condition for travel, adding the U.N. health agency advises against it for now.

“Vaccination is just not available enough around the world and is not available certainly on an equitable basis,” Ryan said. WHO has previously noted that it’s still unknown how long immunity lasts from the numerous licensed COVID-19 vaccines and that data are still being collected.

Ryan also noted the strategy might be unfair to people who cannot be vaccinated for certain reasons and that requiring vaccine passports might allow “inequity and unfairness (to) be further branded into the system.”

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GENEVA — One of the Oxford University scientists who helped develop AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine disputed that simply making intellectual property rights freely available would significantly widen access to vaccines.

Agencies, including the World Health Organization, have called for pharmaceuticals to waive patent rights.

At a press briefing on Monday, Sarah Gilbert of Oxford University said freely available IP rights would not get the world “anywhere close to solving this problem” of limited vaccines, saying that “it’s not just the rights to the technology that’s needed.” Gilbert said other essential technical goods were needed, including cell banks and testing reagents.

Last year, WHO began a patent pool that asked companies to share their COVID-19 technology and know how for vaccines, treatments and diagnostics. Not a single company has yet joined and Gilbert said she had never heard of the initiative, despite Oxford University’s pledge to make its vaccine available to countries globally.

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MILAN — Italy surpassed 100,000 dead in the pandemic, a year after it became the first country in Europe to go on lockdown in a bid to stop the spread of COVID-19.

The Italian Health Ministry on Monday said 318 people had died in the last 24 hours, bringing the total to 100,103, the second highest in Europe after Britain.

Italy recorded its first virus death on Feb. 21, 2020, when 78-year-old retired roofer Antonio Trevisan from a winemaking town west of Venice who had been hospitalized with heart issues died.

Italy’s total virus cases surpassed 3 million last week, with a new surge powered by the highly contagious variant that was first identified in Britain.

Nearly 14,000 new positives were recorded Monday as the number of people in ICUs rose to 2,700 — 95 more than a day earlier. Italy imposed a draconian nationwide lockdown last March 9, which continued for seven weeks and included a shutdown of all non-essential manufacturing.

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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden will deliver his first primetime address to speak to the nation on Thursday to mark the one-year anniversary of COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday that Biden would note the sacrifices and losses suffered by Americans during the last 12 months. More than 525,000 Americans have died from the coronavirus.

It was March 11, 2020 when the pandemic hit home for many Americans and lockdowns began. That was the night the NBA suspended play, actor Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson announced they had tested positive and then-President Donald Trump addressed the nation.

The anniversary comes as the administration has bolstered vaccine supply, and some states have begun reopening even as worries remain about virus variants.

The Associated Press