By The Associated Press
CARBIS BAY, England — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says Britain wants further investigation into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, but that at the moment the country doesn’t believe it came from a lab.
Speaking at the end of the Group of Seven summit in southwest England, Johnson says that while it doesn’t look as if this particular disease came from a lab, the world needs to “keep an open mind.”
Though the notion was once dismissed by most public health experts and government officials, the hypothesis that COVID-19 leaked accidentally from a Chinese lab is now under a new U.S. investigation ordered by President Joe Biden.
The G-7 leaders endorsed calls for a “timely, transparent, expert-led, and science-based” further investigation into the origins of the coronavirus.
Many scientists still believe the virus most likely jumped from animals to humans.
MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:
— British Prime Minister Boris Johnson hints that the June 21 relaxation of coronavirus restrictions in England will be delayed due to the delta variant first identified in India
— Brazil President Bolsonaro fined for no mask during motorcycle rally
— Schools across US brace for surge of kindergartners in fall
— Shop owner’s plea as California reopens: ‘I need customers’
— 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:
MOSCOW — The tally of new coronavirus infections in the Russian capital rose more than 1,000 from the previous day as Moscow heads into a week in which many businesses will be closed under a mayoral order.
The national coronavirus taskforce said Sunday that 7,704 new infection cases were recorded, continuing a steep spike that has alarmed city officials. At the beginning of June, Moscow was recording about 2900 new cases a day.
Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin on Saturday ordered businesses that do not operate on weekends to remain “non-working” through the end of this week and closed food courts and children’s play areas. He also ordered restaurants and bars to be limited to takeout service from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Nationwide, 14,723 new infections were reported Sunday, about 1200 more than a day earlier. Overall, Russia has reported about 5.2 million infections and 126,000 deaths.
TOKYO — Japanese airline All Nippon Airways has begun vaccinating its pilots and cabin attendants on international flights. That makes it one of the first companies to launch workplace vaccinations in Japan, one of the world’s least-vaccinated nations.
Japan is desperately pushing to accelerate the pace of inoculations before the Tokyo Olympics start in about 40 days.
Following criticism over the slow pace of the vaccine rollout, the government recently unveiled workplace inoculation programs by major companies to supplement efforts led by municipalities around the country.
On Sunday, 50 ANA pilots and flight attendants dressed in their uniforms got their first shot of the Moderna vaccine at a company inoculation site at Tokyo’s Haneda airport. They were part of the 10,000 employees ANA is prioritizing. The airline plans to increase its daily vaccination capacity to about 300 to eventually cover all its 46,500 employees.
Satoru Shimizu, a 56-year-old pilot who got his first jab, said he’s been nervous about COVID-19 as he flies around the world. But now, “I feel so relieved, and I can concentrate on my duty and that will also lead to safety.”
BEIJING — A fleet of 60 drones has been deployed in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou to keep people indoors and remind those going out to wear masks.
China has largely stamped out cases of local COVID-19 transmission, but Guangzhou has seen a flare-up of the more infectious delta variant of the virus, initially discovered in India.
Six new cases were reported in Guangzhou over the previous 24 hours, raising the number in the outbreak to more than 100.
The police-operated drones carry cameras and broadcast messages to people venturing outdoors that they and others are best protected by staying inside.
The flying unmanned vehicles add to an already dense layer of monitoring including cellphone health confirmations, temperature checks and quarantines for those living in or travelling to areas where the risk of infection is considered high.
Gungzhou has isolated several neighborhoods, restricted travel out of the city and the surrounding province and shuttered cinemas and other indoor entertainment venues.
SAO PAULO — Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro led a throng of motorcyclist supporters through the streets of Sao Paulo on Saturday and got hit with a fine for failing to wear a mask.
Sao Paulo’s state government press office said a fine — about $110 — would be imposed for violating a rule that has required masks in public places since May 2020.
Bolsonaro’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Bolsonaro, who tested positive for COVID-19 last year, also was fined for failing to wear a mask during a rally with supporters in May in the northeastern state of Maranhao.
The conservative president waved to the crowd from his motorcycle and later spoke from atop a sound truck to helmeted but largely maskless backers. They cheered and chanted while he insisted that masks were useless for those already vaccinated — an assertion disputed by most public health experts.
Vaccines are designed chiefly to protect recipients from getting sick, not necessarily from being infected. While studies show many vaccines reduce viral load and likely spread, not all varieties have been fully studied.
Less than 12% of Brazil’s population has received both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to the Ministry of Health.
FALMOUTH, England — Public health experts and humanitarian groups are calling for money, increased vaccine production and logistical support to help developing countries where the coronavirus is still rampant.
They say rich nations must do more than donate surplus vaccines if they hope to end the COVID-19 pandemic. While almost half of the G-7′s combined population has received at least one dose of vaccine, the worldwide figure is less than 13%. In Africa, it’s just 2.2%.
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he hoped leaders of the Group of Seven nations meeting in England will agree to provide at least 1 billion vaccine doses for poorer countries. The G-7 leaders continue to debate other forms of vaccine aid.
Wealthy nations must act quickly not only out of altruism, but to protect their own citizens, said Lily Caprani, head of COVID-19 vaccines advocacy for UNICEF. She says the virus will continue to mutate if allowed to spread unchecked, resulting in potentially more dangerous variants.
DALLAS — The airline industry’s recovery from the pandemic passed a milestone as more than 2 million people streamed through U.S. airport security checkpoints on Friday for the first time since early March 2020.
The Transportation Security Administration announced Saturday that 2.03 million travelers were screened at airport security checkpoints on Friday. It was the first time in 15 months that the number of security screenings has surpassed 2 million in a single day.
Airline bookings have been picking up since around February, as more Americans were vaccinated against COVID-19. In the U.S., travel restrictions, such as mandatory quarantines, have eased.
The crowds Friday were only 74% of the volume compared to the same day in 2019. However, the 2.03 million was 1.5 million more travelers than the same day last year, according to the TSA.
NEW YORK — With COVID-19 cases declining and vaccinations increasing, governors across the U.S. are wrestling with when to issue an end to the emergency declarations.
More than a half-dozen states already have ended their coronavirus emergencies. That includes South Carolina and New Hampshire, where Republican governors ended their emergency orders this past week. More states could join that list soon.
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, says his emergency declaration will end Tuesday. The state had an indefinite state of emergency for 15 months. He credited the state’s high vaccination rate with helping turn the tide in the fight against the coronavirus.
In many states, emergency declarations have been routinely extended by governors every few weeks or months since the start of the pandemic. Republicans generally are leading the push to end emergency orders, but some Democrats also are supporting such moves.
BEIJING — Top U.S. and Chinese diplomats appear to have had another sharply worded exchange, with Beijing saying it told the U.S. to cease interfering in its internal affairs and accusing it of politicizing the search for the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Senior Chinese foreign policy adviser Yang Jiechi and Secretary of State Antony Blinken held a phone call Friday that revealed wide divisions in a number of contentious areas, including the curtailing of freedoms in Hong Kong and the mass detention of Muslims in the northwestern Xinjiang region.
Yang said China was “gravely concerned” over what he called “absurd” stories that the virus escaped from a lab in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, where cases were first discovered.
The U.S. and others have accused China of failing to provide the raw data and access to sites that would allow a more thorough investigation into where the virus sprung from and how it initially spread.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Saudi Arabia says this year’s hajj pilgrimage will be limited to no more than 60,000 people, all of them from within the kingdom, due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The kingdom made the announcement Saturday on its state-run Saudi Press Agency. It cited the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah for making the decision. It says this year’s hajj, which will begin in mid-July, will be limited to those ages 18 to 65. Those taking part must be vaccinated, the ministry says.
Each year, up to 2 million Muslims perform the hajj, a physically demanding and often costly pilgrimage that draws the faithful from around the world. The hajj, required of all able-bodied Muslims to perform once in their lifetime, is seen as a chance to wipe clean past sins and bring about greater humility and unity among Muslims.