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.”
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
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 failure to wear a mask.
Sao Paulo’s state government press office said a fine — equivalent to about $110 — would be imposed for violation of 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 the coronavirus last year, also was fined for failure 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 percent 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 percent. In Africa, it’s just 2.2 percent.
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.
LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has hinted the next planned relaxation of coronavirus restrictions in England will be delayed because of the spread of the delta variant first identified in India.
At the Group of Seven leaders’ summit in southwest England, Johnson conceded Saturday that he has grown more pessimistic about allowing the removal of legal limits on social contact on June 21. He is set to make an announcement Monday about the timetable.
Government figures Saturday showed 7,738 new daily cases, slightly down from the previous day’s 8,125, which was the highest one-day figure since Feb. 26.
The government has said it wants every adult to have received at least one vaccine dose by the end of July. Around 62 percent of the British population has one shot so far, while about 44 percent has two.
The U.K. has registered nearly 128,000 confirmed coronavirus-related deaths, more than any other European nation.
DALLAS — The airline industry’s recovery from the pandemic passed a milestone as more than 2 million people streamed through US 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 US, travel restrictions, such as mandatory quarantines, have eased.
The crowds Friday were only 74 percent 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 US 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 US and Chinese diplomats appear to have had another sharply worded exchange, with Beijing saying it told the US 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 US 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.
The kingdom’s Al Saud ruling family in this oil-rich nation oversees and protects the hajj sites. Saudi Arabia had closed its borders for months to try and stop the spread of the coronavirus.
It has administered some 15.4 million doses of vaccines among a population of more than 30 million, according to the World Health Organization. The kingdom has reported more than 462,000 confirmed cases and 7,500 confirmed deaths.