The Latest: Sri Lanka receives 1M doses of Sinopharm vaccine

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Britain’s Health Secretary Matt Hancock arrives at BBC Broadcasting House in central London for his appearance on the BBC1 current affairs programme, The Andrew Marr Show, Sunday June 6, 2021. (Victoria Jones/PA via AP)

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lanka has received one million doses of China’s Sinopharm vaccines amid the island nation’s recent surge in infections and COVID-19 vaccine shortage.

Sunday’s is the largest consignment of vaccines to be received by Sri Lanka on a single occasion.

State Minister of Pharmaceutical Production, Supply and Regulation Channa Jayasumana said the latest consignment was purchased by the State Pharmaceutical Corporation and that will be mainly used to provide second doses.

Sri Lanka began administering first doses on May 8. Authorities plan to start giving the second dose June 8.

Sri Lanka’s vaccine shortage comes after the producer in neighboring India failed to provide the promised Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine stocks. Last month, Sri Lanka decided to buy 14 million doses of Sinopharm in a bid to resolve the vaccine crisis. Sri Lanka had previously received a total of 1.1 million doses of Sinopharm vaccine, donated by China in two batches in March and May.

The current vaccination program is focused on Sri Lanka’s Western province, which includes the capital of Colombo and its suburbs from where the majority of the country’s coronavirus cases have been detected.

Sri Lanka has seen a sharp increase of positive cases and deaths since April because of celebrations during the traditional new year festival.

Sri Lanka’s total number of positive cases have reached 202,357 with 1,696 fatalities.

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Follow more of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

LONDON — Britain’s health secretary says the delta variant, which is fast becoming the dominant coronavirus variant in the U.K., is 40% more transmissible compared to the country’s existing strains.

Matt Hancock acknowledged Sunday that the rise in delta variant cases may delay the government’s plan to lift most remaining lockdown restrictions on June 21. He also said he wouldn’t rule out continuing measures such as face masks in public settings and working from home where possible.

Optimism that Britain can vaccinate its way out of the pandemic took a dent in recent weeks with growing concern that infections are again rising, fueled by the delta variant. More than 12,400 cases of the delta variant have been confirmed so far in the U.K.

On Friday the country recorded 6,238 new coronavirus cases, the highest number since late March. The figure came down to 5,765 on Saturday.

Authorities said Sunday they will start offering the COVID-19 vaccine to people under 30 from this week in hopes that the vaccine program can help combat the renewed surge in infections.

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PARIS — French health authorities are racing to contain scattered cases of the more contagious delta virus variant, as the country prepares to reopen its borders to vaccinated visitors and celebrates plunging COVID-19 infection and hospitalization rates.

Health Minister Olivier Veran said Sunday that France has multiple clusters of the variant, first identified in India, notably in the southwest Landes region. Speaking on BFM television, Veran said the variant hadn’t spread widely into the community and that health investigators are working to trace cases and stop their spread.

The delta variant is now dominant in Britain, and its spread has prompted France and some other countries to impose new restrictions on visitors from Britain.

Overall, Veran insisted, “the epidemic situation continues to strongly improve around the country.”

The French public health agency’s latest weekly epidemiological report shows a steady and sustained drop in virus infections, hospitalization rates and deaths even after France started reopening schools, stores, and restaurants last month. More than half the adult population has had at least one vaccine dose, and nearly a quarter are fully vaccinated.

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HONOLULU — A review of Hawaii Gov. David Ige’s emails shows the state epidemiologist spent key weeks in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic resisting suggestions and requests that she boost contact tracing to control the spread of COVID-19.

They also showed Dr. Sarah Park repeatedly telling her superiors that the state’s failure to adequately fund the division she headed was preventing her from quickly expanding their work to respond to the crisis.

The Associated Press obtained the emails last month in response to a May 2020 request submitted under Hawaii’s open records law.

Contact tracing was especially difficult for many states. The effort aims to alert people who may have been exposed to someone with the coronavirus and prevent them from spreading it to others. Health experts say it’s key to containing the virus.

The governor’s records show that University of Hawaii President David Lassner emailed administration officials on April 16, 2020, to say university researchers had written a report about the need to boost contact tracing and other steps to control COVID-19.

Park didn’t outright reject more contact tracing but replied: “I am increasingly disturbed that people seem to think contact tracing is somehow easily accomplished as a simple task when it is a part of the practice of applied epidemiology.”

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