US will no longer enforce mask mandate on airplanes, trains

In this file photo taken on April 02, 2022 a Delta Airlines plane approaches the runway at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Virginia. (PHOTO/AFP)

LOS ANGELES / ROME / NICOSIA  /WASHINGTON/ CHICAGO – The Biden administration will no longer enforce a US mask mandate on public transportation, after a federal judge in Florida on Monday ruled that the 14-month-old directive was unlawful, overturning a key White House effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Soon after the announcement, all major carriers including American Airlines, United Airlines  and Delta Air Lines, as well as national train line Amtrak relaxed the restrictions effective immediately

Soon after the announcement, all major carriers including American Airlines, United Airlines  and Delta Air Lines, as well as national train line Amtrak relaxed the restrictions effective immediately. 

Last week, US health officials had extended the mandate to May 3 requiring travelers to wear masks on airplanes, trains, and in taxis, ride-share vehicles or transit hubs, saying they needed time to assess the impact of a recent rise in COVID-19 cases caused by the airborne coronavirus. read more

Industry groups and Republican lawmakers balked and wanted the administration to end the 14-month-old mask mandate permanently.

COVID-19 summit

A second Global COVID-19 Summit will be held virtually next month for countries to discuss efforts to end the pandemic and prepare for future health threats, according to a joint statement on Monday.

"The emergence and spread of new variants, like Omicron, have reinforced the need for a strategy aimed at controlling COVID-19 worldwide," the White House said in a news release with the Group of Seven and Group of 20 nations.

The announcement comes amid a surge of COVID-19 cases in parts of the United States and around the world prompted by easily transmissible variants of the virus.

Cyprus

Cyprus abolished most travel restrictions on Monday and a further relaxation of domestic COVID-19 measures will be decided later this week, the authorities said.

The Ministry of Transport said that travelers from any country can enter Cyprus by presenting either a certificate of COVID-19 vaccination or recovery or a negative COVID-19 test.

Travelers will no longer be required to take a COVID-19 test on entry and people under 12 years of age will be exempted from any COVID-19 test checks.

Vaccinated people will have no expiry date for the booster dose, while initial vaccination regimens — for example, the initial two doses or one dose for Johnson vaccine recipients — will be valid for nine months from the date of their latest dose.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi gestures as he speaks during a press conference with Italy's Justice Minister and Italy's Health Minister (unseen) at the Multifunctional Hall of the Presidency of the Council, in Rome, on July 22, 2021. (ROBERTO MONALDO / POOL / AFP)

Italy

Italy's Prime Minister Mario Draghi has tested positive for COVID-19, the government said in a statement on Monday.

Draghi, 74, who is fully vaccinated, "is asymptomatic," according to the statement.

His schedule has been curtailed, including a planned trip to Angola and the Republic of the Congo scheduled for April 20-21. The statement said Draghi will be replaced by Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio and Ecological Transition Minister Roberto Cingolani for the trip.

Draghi's positive test comes as coronavirus infection rates in Italy are on the rise compared to recent lows from early March, though mortality and hospitalization rates remain low. The most recent data, from Sunday, showed nearly 52,000 new infections nationally, the sixth consecutive day with more than 50,000 new cases.

A health worker in a mobile test station takes a quick test for the COVID-19 on a man who stands outside in front of the wagon in Munich, southern Germany, on April 8, 2022, amid the pandemic.
(CHRISTOF STACHE / AFP)

Omicron

Unvaccinated people infected with the Omicron variant are unlikely to develop immune responses that will protect them against other variants of the coronavirus, a new study suggests.

Unlike antibodies induced by COVID-19 vaccines or infections with earlier SARS-CoV-2 variants, antibodies induced by the Omicron BA.1 and BA.2 variants do not neutralize other versions of the virus, researchers found when they analyzed blood samples obtained after Omicron infection. 

People with Omicron "breakthrough" infections after three doses of the mRNA vaccines designed to neutralize earlier versions of the virus had high levels of neutralizing antibodies against the two Omicron variants, although the efficiency was lower than against previous SARS-CoV-2 versions, according to a report undergoing peer review at Nature Portfolio and posted on Research Square. 

But among those whose immune systems had not been primed to recognize the virus through vaccination or by natural infection, antibodies after Omicron infection "were very specific for the respective Omicron variant, and we detected almost no neutralizing antibodies targeting non-Omicron virus strains," said Karin Stiasny and Judity Aberle of the Medical University of Vienna, Austria in a joint email.

BA.2-induced antibodies appeared to be particularly unlikely to defend against any other variant, they added. The study "emphasizes the importance of booster vaccinations for immune protection."

Poland

Poland won't take or pay for more doses of COVID-19 vaccine under the European Union's supply contract, its health minister said on Tuesday, setting the stage for a legal battle with manufacturers.

Poland, along with other EU members, has been receiving COVID-19 vaccines during the coronavirus pandemic under supply contracts agreed between the European Commission and vaccine makers such as BioNTech SE and Pfizer or Moderna.

Poland's biggest supplier is Pfizer. However, the country has seen lower vaccine uptake than most of the European Union and has surplus vaccine stock, part of which it has already sold or donated to other countries. 

UK

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will apologise to parliament on Tuesday as he faces lawmakers for the first time since he was fined by police for breaking his own COVID-19 lockdown rules, a government official said.

Johnson, who will address parliament at around 1430 GMT, was fined last week by the police for attending a birthday party thrown in his honour in June 2020 when people from different households were not allowed to meet indoors.

In this Oct 5, 2021 file photo a healthcare worker fills a syringe with the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, US. (LYNNE SLADKY / AP)

US

COVID-19 cases are rising in more than half of all US states due to the BA.2 Omicron subvariant, according to data of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Nearly 1 million people in the United States have died from COVID-19 so far

The United States is now averaging about 35,000 new infections daily, up 19 percent from the previous week and 42 percent from two weeks prior, CDC data show.

Meanwhile, about 370 new deaths and 1,400 new hospitalizations were reported across the country every day, according to the latest CDC data.

Experts said official case counts may go "underreported" because many at-home test results have not been reported to state or federal health agencies.

ALSO READ: Experts warn COVID-19 pandemic not yet over

Nearly 1 million people in the United States have died from COVID-19 so far.

People who have heart conditions are more likely to get very sick from COVID-19, and cardiovascular disease is still the leading cause of death in the country, according to the CDC.