ATLANTA — Delta Air Lines will require new employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 starting on Monday.
The airline won’t impose the same requirement on current employees, of whom more than 60% are vaccinated, a spokesman said Friday. The airline says the policy for new hires is designed to protect other employees and passengers as travel demand recovers from last year’s pandemic low levels.
Meanwhile, some airline stocks rose after the CDC’s new guidance for people who are fully vaccinated. United Airlines was up 4% in early Friday trading, and other U.S. airlines rose by smaller amounts.
The federal requirement for wearing face masks on planes remains in place. A spokesman for trade group Airlines for America says carriers will continue to enforce the rule.
The Transportation Security Administration announced 1.74 million people passed through U.S. airports on Thursday, a new pandemic-era high. However, those airport crowds were still 33% smaller than on the comparable day in 2019.
THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— UK jubilant as lockdown restrictions to be lifted next week
— CDC: Fully vaccinated people can largely ditch masks indoors
— Misinformation surges amid India’s COVID-19 calamity
— Beset by virus, Gaza’s hospitals now struggle with wounded
— Follow more of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
BERLIN — Germany is putting the Britain back on a list of “risk areas” because of the emergence there of cases of a coronavirus variant first detected in India.
Britain currently has a lower rate of coronavirus infections than Germany. But Germany’s disease control center, the Robert Koch Institute, says the United Kingdom is going back on the list effective Sunday because of “the at least limited appearance” of the variant known as B.1.617.2.
The institute says Spain’s Canary Islands, a popular tourist destination, and the Spanish exclave of Ceuta in North Africa were being removed from the list of “risk areas,” the lowest of three levels of risk classification.
Under new rules this week, fully vaccinated people don’t need a test to enter Germany or to go into quarantine -- unless they’re coming from somewhere designated as a “virus variant area” such as India or Brazil. Others coming from a “risk area” can avoid a mandatory 10-day quarantine by showing a negative test result.
BOSTON — Neither Massachusetts nor Rhode Island made any immediate changes to their mask regulations after the CDC’s decision Thursday suggesting fully vaccinated Americans no longer need to wear masks or practice social distancing in most settings.
A spokesperson for Republican Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said he “welcomes the new CDC guidance and will be updating Massachusetts’ COVID restrictions in the near future. In the meantime, the current mask order remains in place.” Massachusetts requires people to cover their faces while in indoor public places and outdoors if they are unable to maintain 6 feet of distance from others.
“We are going to review the CDC’s updated guidance on social distancing and masking and determine what the best approach is for Rhode Island,” state Health Department spokesperson Joseph Wendelken said.
Currently, the state requires people to wear masks in indoor public places, and outdoors when within 3 feet of others not in their immediate circle.
LONDON — Britain is saying goodbye to months of tough lockdown restrictions, thanks to an effective vaccine rollout program.
Starting Monday, all restaurants, bars and museums can largely reopen, and people can socialize indoors. It’s the biggest step yet to reopen the country following a sharp drop in new infections and deaths.
Many credit Britain’s universal public health system for getting hundreds of thousands vaccinated every day. Experts say that infrastructure was key, helped by the government’s early start in securing vaccine doses and its decision to delay the second dose.
Almost 38 million people, approximately 68% of the adult population, have received their first dose. Almost 19 million have had both doses. Experts say the National Health Service can target the population and easily identify those most at risk because almost everyone is registered with a local general practitioner.
Deaths in Britain have come down to single digits in recent days. In January, there were up to 1,477 deaths a day amid a second wave driven by a more infectious variant first found in Kent, in southeastern England.
New cases have plummeted to an average of 2,000 a day, compared with nearly 70,000 a day during the winter.
However, Prime Minister Boris Johnson expressed concerned this week about a resurgence because of variants of the virus, including one from India. Britain has totaled nearly 128,000 confirmed deaths, the highest toll in Europe.
WARSAW, Poland — Restaurants, bars and pubs in Poland plan to open their doors to dine-in customers for the first time in seven months on Saturday.
That means many business owners will open to customers at midnight between Friday and Saturday, expecting many people will rush to enjoy a night on the town.
Pandemic restrictions limited restaurants, cafes and other establishments to offering only take-away food and drinks since last fall. Not all of them have financially survived.
More restaurants in Warsaw are creating outdoor seating while ensuring that physical distancing can be maintained between tables.
Vaccinations are finally picking up in Poland as the numbers of new infections and hospitalizations have decreased in recent weeks.
MOBILE, Ala. — A Carnival cruise ship was arriving in Mobile, Alabama, on Friday so crew members can get vaccinated against COVID-19.
The Carnival Sensation will dock at the Mobile Cruise Terminal, where staff members from USA Health will go on board to provide first doses for 110 crew members, the city announced. The ship will return in three weeks for second doses.
U.S. ports are closed to cruise lines because of the global pandemic, but Mayor Sandy Stimpson says such vaccinations are a major step toward getting the industry back in business.
Carnival says crew members have received vaccines at other ports, including Miami and Port Canaveral in Florida and Galveston, Texas.
Sensation will be based in Mobile, offering trips to the western Caribbean, once cruises resume. But it’s unclear when that will happen.
TOKYO — Japan is further expanding a coronavirus state of emergency to three additional areas ahead of the Tokyo Olympics.
The state of emergency is currently in Tokyo and five other prefectures. The additions include Japan’s northern island state of Hokkaido, where the Olympic marathon will be held, as well as Hiroshima and Okayama in western Japan.
Bars, karaoke parlors and most entertainment facilities are required to close. Business owners who comply will be compensated; those who don’t could face fines.
The expansion of the state of emergency is a major shift from the government’s initial plan that relied on less stringent measures. Japan has been struggling to slow coronavirus infections ahead of the postponed Olympics, which are scheduled to start July 23.
BERLIN — Germany’s coronavirus infection rate has dropped to its lowest level in nearly two months.
Meanwhile, the health minister says the country had the most successful day yet of its vaccination campaign this week. Still, he called for caution as authorities move toward allowing a more normal life. He urged officials to hold off on fully reopening restaurants and called for Germans to carefully choose vacation destinations.
The national disease control center says the number of weekly new cases per 100,000 inhabitants stood at 96.5 — the first time since March 20 it has been lower than 100.
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — The World Bank says it signed an agreement with Sri Lanka to provide $80.5 million to help the island nation’s vaccination drive against COVID-19.
The funding comes as Sri Lanka is facing a severe shortage of vaccines because of the current crisis in neighboring India, which had promised to give the vaccines to Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka began it’s vaccination drive on Jan. 29. In the first round, 925,242 people were vaccinated using Oxford-AstraZeneca shots.
Currently, Sri Lanka’s health ministry has about 350,000 doses of AstraZeneca. It has a shortage of 600,000 doses to complete administering second doses. Sri Lanka is currently using 600,000 doses of Sinopharm vaccine and 15,000 of Sputnik V to give a first dose.
ROME — Italy has relaxed its coronavirus quarantine requirement for visitors from the European Union, Israel and Britain in a bid to jump-start its pandemic-devastated tourism industry heading into the peak season.
Health Minister Roberto Speranza signed an ordinance Friday allowing the quarantine-free visits with proof of a negative virus test starting Sunday.
Italy had imposed the five-day quarantine on EU travelers to deter visitors over the Easter holiday and to discourage Italians from taking advantage of a loophole that made it easier to travel abroad than from Rome to Milan.
Speranza also announced expanded airport testing services for quarantine-free flights coming into Italy from Canada, Japan and the United Arab Emirates. Currently airports in Rome and Milan provide the rapid test services for some flights from the U.S.; the new ordinance expands the service to airports in Venice and Naples.
NICOSIA, Cyprus — Cyprus’ health minister says nightclubs are scheduled to reopen June 10 as the tourism-reliant country aims to lure vacationers and reinvigorate the beleaguered economy.
Constantinos Ioannou says a strict, two-week lockdown coupled with the country’s hastened vaccination pace has produced a noticeable drop in the coronavirus infection rate and a decrease in the number of hospitalized patients.
Ioannou says the positive results have allowed the government to further loosen up remaining restrictions including shortening a nighttime curfew from six hours to five.
A vaccination certificate, a negative test taken in the previous 72 hours or proof of convalescence from COVID-19 are still required to enter indoor areas where people gather in numbers, including shopping malls, theaters and cinemas.
ISLAMABAD — Authorities in Pakistan have reported 48 single-day deaths and about 2,500 new coronavirus cases, among the lowest levels in the past two months.
It indicated Pakistan might have witnessed a peak, but experts say it's too early to tell. Pakistan is currently in the middle of the another surge of coronavirus infections which authorities say is more dangerous as compared to the previous ones.
The National Command and Control Center, which oversees Pakistan’s response to COVID-19, has urged people to continue adhering to social distancing rules.
The latest development comes days about 10 days after Pakistan imposed a two-week long nationwide lockdown ahead of Eil al-Fitr, which was celebrated Thursday amid the pandemic. Pakistan has reported a total of 19,384 confirmed deaths and 873,220 confirmed cases.
NEW DELHI — India’s prime minister has warned people to take extra precautions as the country’s devastating coronavirus outbreak is spreading fast to rural areas where nearly two-thirds of the country’s nearly 1.4 billion people live.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged people living in rural areas, village councils and state governments to come together to meet the challenge. Modi said the army, navy and the air force have joined the fight against the pandemic in the country.
“We have lost a lot of near ones. I am feeling the pain people are suffering,” Modi said in Friday a speech at a farmers’ convention.
Meanwhile, India’s Health Ministry on Friday reported reported 343,144 new cases in the past 24 hours, a slight decline from the day before. Another 4,000 people died in the past 24 hours, raising total fatalities to 262,317 since the pandemic began. All of the figures are almost certainly a vast undercount, experts say.
TAIPEI, Taiwan — Taiwan reported 29 new domestically transmitted cases of COVID-19 Friday. Of the cases reported, seven cases were of an unknown source. The rest of the cases were linked to clusters discovered earlier in the week.
Health officials are setting up four rapid testing locations in Taipei for those who want to get tested, Taiwan’s Health Minister Chen Shih-chung says.
The latest outbreak comes after pilots with the island’s China Airlines tested positive for the coronavirus. Health officials said Wednesday that many of the cases reported so far had the exact same viral strain as the infected cases in the pilots cluster.
The island raised its emergency preparedness earlier this week, banning large indoor and outdoor gatherings. Taiwan had almost eradicated domestic transmission of the coronavirus through strict mask wearing, case tracing, travel restrictions and quarantine measures.