ROME — Italy has entered a three-day strict nationwide lockdown to deter Easter travel and help prevent new surges of the coronavirus.
Even though the Health Ministry says the rate of infections is coming down, all regions were placed into the strictest “red zone” lockdown through Monday as a precaution. The lockdown, announced last month, means restrictions on personal movement, with limited travel and visits to relatives. Non-essential shops are closed and restaurants and bars are only open for take-out.
Police set up road checks to ensure people were staying close to home. Extra patrols were ordered up to break up large gatherings in squares and parks, which over Easter weekend are usually packed with picnic goers.
Italy, where the European outbreak began, has recorded 3.6 million cases and more than 110,000 deaths from the coronavirus, more deaths than any other European country but Britain.
It has administered 10.8 million vaccines, though only 3.3 million of the country’s 60 million people have received both doses.
THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— Young professionals cut ahead of older Italians for vaccine
— UK regulator reports 30 clot cases linked to AstraZeneca shot
— Ukraine hits daily high of 20,000 virus cases
— AP PHOTOS: Spain’s Seville settles for subdued Easter Week
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
SAN FRANCISCO -- Volunteers in California are working to ensure thousands of farmworkers who daily toil in the fields are receiving coronavirus vaccinations.
Farmworkers are particularly vulnerable because they live in crowded housing and travel to farms in packed vehicles. Officials say most farmworkers are eager to get the vaccinations but may not have the ability to sign up online.
California was the first state to make agricultural workers eligible for vaccinations, followed by others including Washington, Michigan and Georgia. Arizona hasn’t prioritized farmworkers, but some private growers have offered vaccinations.
California is the nation’s top producer of fruits and vegetables, and its growers rely on the labor of as many as 800,000 farmworkers. Some arrive under the H2A visa program that allows employers to hire them legally, but many are hired regardless.
Researchers at Purdue University estimate about 9,000 agricultural workers in the U.S. have died of the coronavirus and nearly a half million have been infected.
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine recorded a new daily high of more than 20,000 coronavirus cases.
Health Minister Maxim Stepanov says 20,341 new infections were registered in the previous day, nearly 500 more than the record on Friday.
Ukraine began vaccinations late February, but only about 230,000 people have received the shots because of widespread reluctance. The sharply rising numbers prompted the mayor of the capital Kyiv to order schools and public transportation closed for two weeks starting Monday.
Overall, more than 1.7 million infections and 34,000 confirmed deaths have been recorded during the pandemic.
HARRISBURG, Pa. — Vaccine passports developed to verify COVID-19 immunization status have become the latest flash point for some U.S. politicians.
Supporters say the passports would allow inoculated people to more freely travel, shop and dine. But Republicans portray them as a heavy-handed intrusion into personal freedom and private health choices.
Vaccine passports currently exist in only one state -- a limited government partnership in New York with a private company.
Vaccine passports are typically an app with a code that verifies whether someone has been vaccinated or recently tested negative for the coronavirus. They are used in Israel and under development in parts of Europe, considered a way to safely help rebuild the pandemic-devastated travel industry.
They are intended to allow businesses to safely open as the vaccine drive gains momentum. They mirror measures already in place for schools and overseas travel that require proof of immunization against various diseases.
ISLAMABAD — Pakistan federal authorities will start coronavirus vaccinations for residents over 80 on Monday.
The country received 60,000 doses of the CanSino vaccine from China early in the week. Pakistan is already using the Sinopharm vaccine, donated by Beijing last month.
The National Command and Control Center says the vaccine administration will begin in all the four provinces for people over age 80.
Pakistan reported 4,723 new coronavirus cases and 84 confirmed deaths in the last 24 hours. The country is facing a virus surge, which the government says is worse than last year’s outbreak when a nationwide lockdown was imposed.
Pakistan has reported a total of 68,288 cases and 14,697 confirmed deaths.
DHAKA, Bangladesh — Bangladesh authorities are imposing a one-week nationwide lockdown on Monday to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Cabinet Minister Obaidul Quader announced the plan on Saturday. The government says 5,683 new infections and 58 deaths were recorded in the last 24 hours.
Forhad Hossain, the country’s junior minister for public administration, says organizations providing emergency services will be available during the lockdown. He says industries will remain open and employees must work in shifts, following health guidelines.
The government has already banned travel from all European countries, except the United Kingdom, and 12 other countries for three weeks.
Bangladesh has registered a total of 630,277 cases and 9,213 confirmed deaths. Health experts say the actual number is likely higher.
PARIS — French hospitals brought in extra staff for the Easter holiday weekend to cope with more coronavirus patients.
With a new virus variant spreading fast and French intensive care units as full as they were last April, the government closed all schools and imposed new rules taking effect nationwide on Sunday.
In Paris, police say they’re deploying 6,600 officers to enforce the new restrictions, which include a ban on traveling more than 10 kilometers (6 miles), a ban on outdoor gatherings of six people or more and a continued nationwide 7 p.m. curfew. On the Mediterranean shores of Marseille, police patrolled amid sunbathers and fined people drinking in public or not wearing masks.
Crowds filled Paris-area train stations on Friday night to head to the countryside. The SNCF national rail authority says its expecting 600,000 people to travel over the weekend.
France has registered 4.8 million coronavirus cases, the most in Europe and fourth globally. It’s confirmed more than 96,000 deaths, eighth highest in the world. The U.S. leads with 30.6 million cases and more than 554,000 confirmed deaths.
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Argentine President Alberto Fernández says he had an initial positive test for coronavirus, despite having been vaccinated in January.
Fernández sent a tweet Friday saying took a quick antigen test for the virus after feeling a headache and fever. He says other than light symptoms, he is “physically well” and isolating. He adds he’s awaiting a confirmation of the result using a more rigorous PCR test.
The president received a dose of the Sputnik V vaccine on Jan. 21 and a second dose a few days later. The Russian Gamaleya Institute, which produced the vaccine, tweeted the shot has a 91.6% rate of effectiveness against infection and 100% against critical cases.
“If the infection is confirmed and occurred, the vaccination assures a rapid recovery without severe symptoms,” it said.
Argentina recently tightened border restrictions following a surge in cases. It has administered more than 4 million doses of vaccine. The nation of 45 million has registered nearly 2.4 million infections and 56,000 confirmed deaths.
LONDON — Britain’s medicines regulator is urging people to continue taking the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine, despite revealing seven people in the U.K. have died from rare blood clots after getting the shot.
The Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency, or MHRA, says it isn’t clear if the shots are causing the clots. It says its “rigorous review into the U.K. reports of rare and specific types of blood clots is ongoing.”
Though the agency said late Friday that seven people had died as a result of developing blood clots, it didn’t disclose any information about their ages or health conditions. In total, MHRA says it's identified 30 cases of rare blood clot events out of 18.1 million AstraZeneca doses administered through March 24.
Concerns over the AstraZeneca vaccine prompted some countries to restrict its use to older people. The World Health Organization has urged countries to continue using the shot.
NAIROBI, Kenya — Kenya has ordered a suspension on private importations of vaccines.
The National Emergency Response Committee says the move is meant to ensure transparency and accountability in the process of vaccinations. Private health facilities have been charging about $80 for the Russian Sputnik V vaccine, while the governments institutions are giving free AstraZeneca vaccines received from the global COVAX initiative.
In recent weeks, the Kenyan government has been on a sensitization campaign to reduce the reluctance of frontline workers to take the AstraZeneca vaccine. About 160,000 people have been vaccinated in more than a month since 1 million doses were received.
President Uhuru Kenyatta on March 26 led his cabinet in getting vaccinated publicly after announcing stricter restrictions on movement and assembly due to a surge of coronavirus cases and deaths.
Kenya’s government says the country’s positivity rate increased from 2.6% at the end of January to 19.1% on April 2.
FRANKFURT, Germany — Germany’s president says the country is enduring a “crisis of trust” as it weathers a second Easter under pandemic restrictions amid dissatisfaction over the government’s response.
In the text of an address to be broadcast Saturday, Frank-Walter Steinmeier conceded “there were mistakes” regarding testing, digital solutions and vaccinations. He urged Germans not to wallow in the negative but to pull together and trust approved vaccines.
Germany, along with the European Union as a whole, has lagged some countries in the speed of its vaccination effort amid the slower procurement of vaccines because of supply and distribution issues from the vaccine companies.
He pointed out vaccine deliveries would increase sharply in the coming weeks and both citizens and government had to pull together and not “outdo each other in pessimism.”
ROME — Octogenarians in Tuscany watched in disbelief and indignation as lawyers, magistrates, professors and other younger professionals got vaccinated against COVID-19 before them, despite government pledges of prioritizing Italy’s oldest citizens.
Even some of their adult children jumped ahead of them. By one estimate, Italy’s failure to prioritize the over-80s and those with fragile health conditions has cost thousands of lives in a country with Europe’s oldest population and its second-highest loss of life in the pandemic.
As the elderly were elbowed aside, a dozen prominent senior citizens in Tuscany published a letter calling out the authorities for what they said was a violation of their health care rights enshrined in Italy’s Constitution.
SEVILLE, Spain — Few Roman Catholics in devout southern Spain would have imagined an April without the pomp and ceremony of Holy Week processions.
With the coronavirus pandemic unremitting, they will miss them for a second year.
The streets of Seville and other Spanish cities again went without Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday celebrations marking the life, death and resurrection of Christ. The infection rate for coronavirus is still too high for groups to gather.
For 50-year-old Roberto Ruiz, the extravagant Semana Santa, or Holy Week, processions mark the cycle of time in Seville. Without them, he feels unsettled.
“You don’t fully wake up if Palm Sunday isn’t celebrated,” he said. “The year neither begins nor ends. This is like being trapped in Groundhog Day. Every day is the same as the rest. The feeling is that of a year which has been lost.”
SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea’s daily increase in coronavirus infections exceeded 500 for the fourth straight day, a pace unseen since January, as experts raise concern about another viral surge amid a slow rollout in vaccines.
The 543 new cases reported by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency on Saturday brought the national caseload to 104,736, including 1,740 deaths.
More than 320 of the new cases came from the Seoul metropolitan area, home to half of the country’s 51 million people, where officials have struggled to stem transmissions tied to various places, including bars, offices, factories, schools, and gyms.
Health authorities this week said they are considering whether to approve rapid coronavirus tests that would allow people to regularly test themselves at home as they look for further tools to fight the virus.
South Korea has wrestled with a slower rollout of vaccines than many other developed economies, with officials insisting they could afford a wait-and-see approach as its outbreak isn’t as dire as in the United States or Europe.
SAN FRANCISCO — California cleared the way for people to attend indoor concerts, theater performances and NBA games for the first time in more than a year as the rate of people testing positive for the coronavirus in the state nears a record low.
State officials won’t require testing or proof of vaccination for some of those events, but they do limit the number of people allowed to attend. Events that do require testing and vaccinations will be allowed to have more paying customers than those that don’t. Only people who live in California can attend these live performances.
The rules are different for private indoor gatherings, including weddings, meetings or conferences. Those are only to be allowed if all guests test negative for the coronavirus at least 72 hours in advance or show proof of full vaccination.