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Smart Living: The Latest: Hungary loosens restrictions for vaccinated

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BUDAPEST— Hungary will loosen several COVID-19 pandemic restrictions for holders of a government-issued immunity card in the latest round of reopenings that the government has tied to the number of administered vaccines.

A family attends the burial service for David Ferreira Gomes, who died from complications related to COVID-19, at the Campo da Esperanca cemetery in Brasilia, Brazil, Friday, April 16, 2021. Brazil marked a milestone of 400,000 COVID-19 deaths Thursday, April 29, 2021, the world's second-highest tally, with the majority recorded in just the last four months. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres) © Provided by Associated Press A family attends the burial service for David Ferreira Gomes, who died from complications related to COVID-19, at the Campo da Esperanca cemetery in Brasilia, Brazil, Friday, April 16, 2021. Brazil marked a milestone of 400,000 COVID-19 deaths Thursday, April 29, 2021, the world's second-highest tally, with the majority recorded in just the last four months. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

Beginning Saturday morning, card holders may access indoor dining rooms, hotels, theaters, cinemas, spas, gyms, libraries, museums and other recreational venues. Opening hours for businesses will also be extended to 11 p.m., and the start of an overnight curfew in place since November will be extended until midnight.

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FILE - In this March 16, 2021 file photo, Dona Dainda, 75, is inoculated with the Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine during a house-to-house vaccination campaign in the Kalunga Vao de Almas quilombo on the outskirts of Cavalcante, Goias state, Brazil. The country's slowly unfolding vaccination program appears to have slowed the pace of deaths among the nation's elderly, according to death certificate data. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres, File) © Provided by Associated Press FILE - In this March 16, 2021 file photo, Dona Dainda, 75, is inoculated with the Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine during a house-to-house vaccination campaign in the Kalunga Vao de Almas quilombo on the outskirts of Cavalcante, Goias state, Brazil. The country's slowly unfolding vaccination program appears to have slowed the pace of deaths among the nation's elderly, according to death certificate data. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres, File)

Prime Minister Viktor Orban says the reopening comes as Hungary reaches 4 million first-dose vaccinations, representing about 40% of the population.

“In the past, we defended ourselves by closing, thereby slowing the spread of the virus. But now we are on the attack,” he said. “The vaccine is like a bulletproof vest, the virus bounces off of it.”

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On Thursday, Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto announced that travel between Hungary, Serbia and Montenegro would be permitted without quarantine or testing requirements for immunity card holders from those countries. Negotiations for similar agreements are underway with Greece and Israel, Szijjarto said.

FILE - In this March 30, 2021 file photo, commuters wearing protective face masks amid the COVID-19 pandemic, ride in a crowded public bus, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Public health experts say that restrictions on activity and social distancing can help ease pressure on hospitals' overloaded intensive care units, but that the only long-term solution is mass vaccination in a country of 210 million people that is bigger than the contiguous U.S. (AP Photo/Bruna Prado, File) © Provided by Associated Press FILE - In this March 30, 2021 file photo, commuters wearing protective face masks amid the COVID-19 pandemic, ride in a crowded public bus, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Public health experts say that restrictions on activity and social distancing can help ease pressure on hospitals' overloaded intensive care units, but that the only long-term solution is mass vaccination in a country of 210 million people that is bigger than the contiguous U.S. (AP Photo/Bruna Prado, File)

Hungary is the only country in the European Union to use vaccines from China and Russia in addition to Western jabs. It has the second highest vaccination rate in the EU, but a devastating pandemic surge in the spring has given it the highest total death rate per 1 million inhabitants in the world, according to Johns Hopkins University.

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FILE - In this March 19, 2021 file photo, a healthcare worker lends against a wall in the corridor of an ICU unit for COVID-19 patients at the Hospital das Clinicas, in Porto Alegre, Brazil. The number of Brazilian states with ICU capacity above 90% has slipped from 17 months ago, according to data from the state-run Fiocruz medical research institute. (AP Photo/Jefferson Bernardes, File) © Provided by Associated Press FILE - In this March 19, 2021 file photo, a healthcare worker lends against a wall in the corridor of an ICU unit for COVID-19 patients at the Hospital das Clinicas, in Porto Alegre, Brazil. The number of Brazilian states with ICU capacity above 90% has slipped from 17 months ago, according to data from the state-run Fiocruz medical research institute. (AP Photo/Jefferson Bernardes, File)

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THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— As virus engulfs India, diaspora watches with despair

Brazil backs away from the virus brink, but remains at risk

— Alarm grows in Africa as it watches India’s COVID-19 crisis

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South Korean President Moon Jae-in, left, sits in a chair to receive his second dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine at a health care center in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, April 30, 2021. (Lee Jin-wook/Yonhap via AP) © Provided by Associated Press South Korean President Moon Jae-in, left, sits in a chair to receive his second dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine at a health care center in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, April 30, 2021. (Lee Jin-wook/Yonhap via AP)

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

People take photographs on the deserted Taksim Square, in Istanbul, Thursday, April 29, 2021, after the start of the latest lockdown to help protect from the spread of the coronavirus. People stocked up on groceries, shoppers filled markets and many left cities for their hometowns as Turkey's strictest COVID-19 lockdown yet came into effect late Thursday. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan imposed a © Provided by Associated Press People take photographs on the deserted Taksim Square, in Istanbul, Thursday, April 29, 2021, after the start of the latest lockdown to help protect from the spread of the coronavirus. People stocked up on groceries, shoppers filled markets and many left cities for their hometowns as Turkey's strictest COVID-19 lockdown yet came into effect late Thursday. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan imposed a "full lockdown" until May 17 amid soaring COVID-19 infections and deaths. Turkey now ranks among the world's worst-hit countries and it's the first time that it is imposing a nearly three-week lockdown for the whole of the country. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

ROME — Italy is nearing its goal of administering a half-million COVID-19 vaccines a day.

Premier Mario Draghi’s office said early Friday that provisional data indicates some 497,993 doses were administered on Thursday, a daily record.

Italy’s vaccine czar has aimed to have at least 500,000 shots administered per day by the end of April, to reach the goal of inoculating 80% of the population by September. Italy was the one-time epicenter of the outbreak in Europe and still has the world’s sixth highest confirmed death toll at 120,544, second only to Britain in Europe.

The vaccination campaign got off to a slow start because of delivery delays, logistical hiccups and organizational decisions that didn’t fully prioritize Italy’s oldest and most vulnerable residents. Some 300 people are still dying each day.

But the campaign has accelerated in recent weeks and to date some 19.4 million doses have been administered, with 5.75 million people receiving both jabs, according to Health Ministry data.

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PARIS — France has announced its first confirmed cases of the virus variant that is sweeping over India, just as the French president outlined a national reopening plan after six months of virus restrictions.

The Health Ministry announced late Thursday night that three people tested positive for the new variant in the Bouches-du-Rhone and Lot et Garonne regions of southern France. All three had traveled to India, and are under medical observation.

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Authorities are seeking to trace their contacts and investigating other suspected cases, the ministry said. It noted that the variant has been detected in at least six other European countries.

France last week stepped up virus controls for travelers arriving from India as well as some other countries where variants are spreading.

The announcement came as French President Emmanuel Macron laid out a four-stage reopening process aimed at boosting the economy, welcoming back tourists and lifting nearly all of France’s virus restrictions by June 30.

The vast majority of France’s virus cases now involve the more contagious, more dangerous variant first identified in Britain. France has reported one of the worlds highest virus death tolls, at more than 103,000 deaths.

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OLYMPIA, Wash. — Washington state is changing the way it allocates coronavirus vaccine as demand for the shots declines in some places.

Previously the state doled out supplies to counties proportionate to their populations. But Gov. Jay Inslee said Thursday that the amounts now will be based on requests from health care providers.

Inslee said: “It is a terrible thing to think we would have vaccine to save people’s lives and not see it in people’s arms.”

All state residents over age 16 have be eligible for a coronavirus vaccination since April 15. As of Thursday, more than 5.2 million doses of vaccine have been administered and nearly 30% of the state’s residents have been fully vaccinated.

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SAN JOSE, Costa Rica -- A record surge in COVID-19 infections in Costa Rica forced the government to announce new restrictions Thursday that will dial back the country’s economic reopening.

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Health Minister Daniel Salas said that in the prior 24-hour period, Costa Rica had tallied 2,781 new infections, the highest daily total since the country’s first case was confirmed in March 2020. Fifteen people died of COVID-19 during the same period.

“Non-essential” businesses in central Costa Rica, including the capital, were told to close and stronger sanctions were announced for businesses violating reduced capacity rules for their venues.

The rapid increase in infections has stressed the country’s public health system. The intensive care units of public hospitals had reached 94% of their capacity.

Costa Rica will however continue in-person learning. Salas said that while infections had been identified at schools the vast majority were isolated and in total that represented only 6% of the country’s schools.

Costa Rica has confirmed more than 248,000 COVID-19 infections and more than 3,200 deaths.

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SAO PAULO, Brazil — Brazil on Thursday became the second country to officially top 400,000 COVID-19 deaths, losing another 100,000 lives in just one month, as some health experts warn there may be gruesome days ahead when the Southern Hemisphere enters winter.

April was Brazil’s deadliest month of the pandemic, with thousands of people losing their lives daily at crowded hospitals.

The country’s Health Ministry registered more than 4,000 deaths on two days early in the month, and its seven-day average topped out at above 3,100. That figure has tilted downward in the last two weeks, to less than 2,400 deaths per day, though on Thursday the Health Ministry announced another 3,001 deaths, bring Brazil’s total to 401,186.

Local health experts have celebrated the recent decline of cases and deaths, plus the eased pressure on the Brazilian health care system — but only modestly. They are apprehensive of another wave of the disease, like those seen in some European nations, due to a premature resumption of activity in states and cities combined with slow vaccination rollout.

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TRENTON, N.J. -- Pfizer says it will soon start shipping its two-dose COVID-19 vaccine in smaller packages meant to better suit U.S. clinics, pharmacies and other medical providers in remote and rural areas.

The new package holds 25 vials with six doses each, for a total of 150 doses. Pfizer’s boxes now contain trays of 195 vials with nearly 1,200 doses.

“In the U.S., we’re progressing away from mass vaccination, so the smaller package size would be helpful,” Tanya Alcorn, Pfizer’s head of supply chain, told The Associated Press on Thursday.

The company will begin shipping vaccines in the smaller packages in the U.S. at the end of May. In other countries scaling up their vaccination campaigns, Pfizer will continue shipping the larger boxes, Alcorn said.

The drugmaker also is working on new vaccine formulations for easier distribution, including one designed to remain stable for months in powder form.

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MEXICO CITY — A study suggests that as many as one-third of Mexicans may have been exposed to the coronavirus by the end of last year.

Coronavirus antibodies were found in 33.5% of samples from blood banks and medical laboratory tests in Mexico unrelated to COVID-19. The random samples were taken between February and December 2020.

The levels varied according to regions. The highest exposure rate was found in the northwest, from Baja California to Chihuahua, at 40.7%. The lowest came in western states, at 26.6%.

In general, areas along the U.S. border had higher rates.

Victor Borja of the Mexican Social Security Institute says the nationwide average may have risen as much as 10 percentage points following a steep rise in cases in January.

But even if the exposure rate is currently as much as 43.5%, Borja stresses that the country is still far from herd immunity.

Canada is easing travel restrictions for vaccinated Americans. Here are 10 things to know before a trip .
Canada is opening its borders to vaccinated U.S. travelers on Aug. 9, but tourists will notice a few differences compared to pre-pandemic trips.From COVID testing and vaccination requirements to lodging prices, a number of things have changed up north since nonessential border travel between the two countries was first shut down in March 2020. Since then, only essential trade and travel have been permitted.

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