The Latest: India’s Taj Mahal reopens as new infections slow

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FILE – In this Sept. 21, 2020, file photo, a small number of tourists visit as the Taj Mahal monument in Agra, India. India is reopening yet again its famed marvel of love, the Taj Mahal, and several other monuments as the number of new coronavirus infections continues to decline. (AP Photo/Pawan Sharma, File)

NEW DELHI — India is reopening its famed marvel of love, the Taj Mahal, and several other monuments as the number of new coronavirus infections continues to decline.

District Magistrate Prabhu Narain Singh said 650 tourists with online bookings will be allowed a day to visit the white marble Taj Mahal from Wednesday. Temperatures will be checked at the gates, face masks must be worn and social distancing norms must be observed.

The monument was closed in April amid a surge of new infections in India.

The Health Ministry on Wednesday reported 62,224 new infections in the past 24 hours, which is down from a peak of more than 400,000 new infections a day in April.

It also reported 2,542 deaths in the past 24 hours, raising total fatalities to 379,573. Both figures are believed to be vast undercounts.

The city of Agra, where the Taj Mahal is located, reported 10 new infections on Tuesday, down from a peak of 500 a day in April.

In New Delhi, authorities are reopening shops, malls and restaurants this week. Restrictions also have been eased in Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai and other cities with a drop in new infections.

Authorities are still warning people to wear face masks and maintain a safe distance.

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MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:

— U.S. death toll from coronavirus surpasses 600,000

— Fighting COVID-19 surge, South Africa increases restrictions

— New York lifts more COVID-19 rules as it hits vaccination mark

— California marks reopening with jackpots, Hollywood flair

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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:

WASHINGTON — U.K. researchers say initial results from a large study show an antibody treatment reduces death in hospitalized COVID-19 patients who face the greatest risk from the coronavirus.

The drug combination from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals cut patient deaths from 30% to 24% among those who hadn’t already developed an immune response against COVID-19. Regeneron’s drug and similar treatments supply lab-made versions of antibodies that can help fight the virus.

Smaller studies previously showed that the drug helped reduce the risk of hospitalization and death when given to patients with earlier, milder cases of COVID-19.

The 10,000-patient study led by Oxford University also found the drug shortened hospitalization times and reduced the chances of needing a ventilator in the same group of patients.

Among patients with natural antibodies against COVID-19, adding the drug had no significant benefit on survival.

Regeneron’s two-antibody combo is currently available for patients with mild-to-moderate COVID-19 in the U.S. and Europe. It is not authorized in the U.K.

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ORLANDO, Fla. — Disney plans to restart fireworks shows at its theme parks in Florida and California in the latest move by the company to ease up on pandemic restrictions implemented last year.

The company said Tuesday that firework shows would resume at the beginning of July at Walt Disney World in Florida and on the Fourth of July at Disneyland in California. The fireworks shows had been put on hold in order to discourage people from gathering together after the parks reopened following virus-related closures last year.

The decision was the latest move by Disney to lift restrictions implemented last summer to stop the spread of the new coronavirus.

Starting Tuesday, face masks were made optional for visitors to Disney World in Florida, provided they are vaccinated, though Disney workers weren’t requiring proof of vaccination.

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LOS ANGELES — California Gov. Gavin Newsom has doled out $1.5 million each to 10 vaccinated winners at Universal Studios to mark the end of the state’s coronavirus restrictions.

The $15 million awarded Tuesday was the final part of Newsom’s $116.5 million so-called “Vax for the Win” program. The effort encourages residents to get vaccinated and speed up California’s recovery amid the COVID-19 pandemic that has killed 3.8 million globally and 600,000 nationwide.

Tuesday was hailed as California’s reopening and meant the end of many coronavirus-related restrictions, including masks, social distancing and capacity limits in most settings.

More than 3.6 million people tested positive for the virus in California and over 62,000 died.

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Vaccine supplies have eclipsed demand in New Mexico even as the state makes a hard push toward meeting a key vaccination goal Thursday.

Health officials have confirmed to The Associated Press that New Mexico’s inventory includes nearly 493,000 doses that are being stored in freezers around the state. Expiration dates range from this week through September. The state also has donated 372,600 doses of its undelivered allocation back to the federal government.

Health Department spokesman David Morgan has said that New Mexico is adapting to shrinking demand for the vaccine in several ways. That includes ordering only a minimal number of doses as requested by providers.

New Mexico is just shy of meeting its goal of having 60% of residents 16 and older fully vaccinated. Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham wants to hit that mark this week so she can follow through with plans to fully reopen the state by July 1.

The latest data from the state puts the vaccination rate at 58.5%.

The state is offering cash incentives for people who get either their second shot or the one-time Johnson & Johnson shot by Thursday. Those who are vaccinated also can participate in a sweepstakes that includes a grand prize of $5 million.

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BRUSSELS — The European Commission proposed the 27-nation bloc appoint a European chief epidemiologist by the end of the year to better respond to future health crises.

The EU’s executive arm presented a list of 10 lessons learned from the coronavirus pandemic, focusing on improvements for next time.

The Commission also proposed creating a global surveillance system to ensure faster detection, allowing the activation of an “EU pandemic state of emergency.” The proposals will be discussed by EU leaders during a summit next week in Brussels.

Meanwhile, the European Commission says it has raised $24.2 billion through a 10-year bond to finance the 27-nation bloc’s recovery from the coronavirus crisis.

EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen says the inaugural transaction of the NextGeneration EU program is the largest institutional bond issuance in Europe. The money will help finance the national recovery plans devised by member states to get their economies back on track.

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NEW YORK — The U.S. death toll from COVID-19 has topped 600,000 as the vaccination drive has decreased daily cases and deaths.

That’s according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. The number of lives lost is greater than the population of Baltimore or Milwaukee. It is about equal to the number of Americans who died of cancer in 2019.

With the advent of the vaccines, COVID-19 deaths per day in the U.S. have plummeted to an average of 340 from a high of more than 3,400 in mid-January. Cases are running at 14,000 a day on average, down from a quarter-million per day during the winter.

Worldwide, the COVID-19 confirmed death toll stands at 3.8 million. The actual totals in the U.S. and around the globe are thought to be significantly higher, with many cases overlooked or possibly concealed by some countries.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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