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ISTANBUL (AP) — A powerful storm pounded Istanbul and other parts of Turkey on Monday, killing at least four people and causing havoc in the city of 15 million people, reports said.

The victims included a woman who died in Istanbul's Esenyurt district, where strong gusts tore off part of a roof and it landed on her and her child, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported. The child survived with injuries.

The Istanbul governor's office said three other people were killed in the city, including a foreign national. Nineteen people were injured, including three people who were in serious condition, it said.

The gusts also knocked down a clock tower, television images showed. The winds blew away 33 roofs, uprooted 192 trees, knocked down 52 traffic lights and road signs and damaged 12 cars, according to the Istanbul municipality.

The Bosporus, the narrow waterway that bisects the city, was closed to maritime traffic and ferry services were canceled.

At least six Turkish Airlines flights scheduled to land in Istanbul were diverted to the cities of Ankara and Izmir, an airline spokesman said.

The strong winds also forced authorities to cancel ferry services between the coastal resorts of Bodrum and Datca, the private DHA news agency reported.


A previous version of this story corrected where ferry services were canceled because of the storm to Bodrum and Datca, not Bodrum and Kas.


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Dallas Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy has entered COVID-19 protocols and won't be on the sideline for Thursday night's game in New Orleans.

McCarthy, who has said he is vaccinated, will be involved in all meetings virtually and will direct game preparations, the team said Monday. McCarthy is the sixth Dallas coach or staff member to be sidelined for the game against the Saints.

A virtual news conference scheduled for Monday morning with McCarthy was canceled. The team is conducting meetings virtually while holding in-person practices. There was no immediate word who would serve as interim coach on the sideline in New Orleans.

“Although he will not be on the field for the Saints game, McCarthy will continue to direct, and be in involved in, all meetings and game preparations on a virtual basis for the remainder of the week, including Thursday’s meetings in New Orleans,” the team said.

The Cowboys had a COVID-19 outbreak in the preseason and early part of the regular season. There was a lull for about a month before cases ticked up again, starting with kicker Greg Zuerlein in early November.

Right tackle Terence Steele won't play against the Saints after testing positive for COVID-19. Offensive line coach Joe Philbin and his assistant, Jeff Blasko, are out along with offensive assistant Scott Tolzien.

Two members of the strength and conditioning staff won't make the trip: coordinator Harold Nash Jr. and assistant Kendall Smith. Another assistant, Cedric Smith, is expected to be cleared to return.

“COVID is always something we’re going to have think about this year, and we’re having a little outbreak right now,” running back Ezekiel Elliott said Sunday, when the club announced positive tests for Steele, Blasko, Tolzien and Nash. “Guys just to make sure we’re taking that extra precaution and making sure we’re keeping ourselves, our families and our teammates safe.”


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MOSCOW (AP) — Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko on Monday accused Lithuanian authorities of dumping the bodies of migrants on the border between the two countries — a claim rejected by Lithuania amid soaring border tensions between Belarus and its European Union neighbors.

Lukashenko also warned that his country will stand squarely behind its ally Russia if the Ukrainian authorities launch an offensive against Moscow-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine. He tried to cast the tensions over migrants as part of a purported Western plot against Belarus and Russia.

Lukashenko said at a meeting with his top military brass that Belarusian border guards found the bodies of two migrants left on the border over the weekend.

“They put a dead body, or, probably, a person who is still alive, in a sleeping bag and toss it on the border,” Lukashenko exclaimed. “What an abomination!”

Lithuania's State Border Guard Service rejected the Belarusian claim, saying that Belarusian authorities have repeatedly tried to stage and direct beatings, the crippling or even deaths of migrants, while blaming Lithuania for such “inhumane treatment.”

The EU has accused Lukashenko of waging a “hybrid attack” against the bloc, using desperate migrants as pawns and tricking them into trying to cross into EU members Poland and Lithuania to destabilize the entire bloc. The EU says that is Lukashenko's revenge for EU sanctions imposed on Belarus after its brutal crackdown on democracy protesters.

Belarusian authorities have denied the accusations and shot back at the EU, accusing it of failing to offer safe passage to migrants. Since Nov. 8, a large group of migrants, mostly Iraqi Kurds, has been stranded in Belarus at a border crossing with Poland, trapped amid freezing temperatures as forces from the two countries face off. Most of the migrants are fleeing conflict or hopelessness at home, and aim to reach Germany or other Western European countries.

Lukashenko charged Monday that Belarusian border guards also found several other freezing migrants who were barely alive at an abandoned farmhouse near the border with Lithuania.

He also ordered military officials to raise troop readiness in view of NATO maneuvers near Belarusian borders.

The Belarusian leader dismissed Western concerns about alleged Russian plans to invade Ukraine, which also borders Belarus, saying that Moscow would have let him know about it if it had such intentions. But echoing statements from the Kremlin, he warned Ukrainian authorities that if they try to use force to reclaim areas controlled by Russia-backed separatists in Ukraine's eastern industrial heartland known as Donbas, Belarus would stand squarely with Russia.

“If they try to launch a small war in Donbas or somewhere on the border with Russia, Belarus will not stay aside, and it's clear whose side it will take,” he said.

Belarusian Defense Minister Lt. Gen. Viktor Khrenin said in the “medium term” Belarus and Russia will conduct joint drills to protect Belarus' border with Ukraine.

Ukrainian authorities have voiced concerns that Russian troops could use Belarusian territory to invade Ukraine. The Kremlin has denied plans to launch such attack and accused Ukrainian authorities and their Western backers of making the claims to cover up their own allegedly aggressive designs.


Liudas Dapkus in Vilnius, Lithuania, and Yuras Karmanau in Kyiv, Ukraine, contributed to this report.

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CHICAGO (AP) — Two brothers stand at the center of the case that prosecutors will lay before jurors when the trial of Jussie Smollett begins this week.

The former “Empire” actor contends he was the victim of a racist and homophobic assault in downtown Chicago on a frigid night in January 2019. The siblings, who worked with him on the TV show, say he paid them $3,500 to pose as his attackers.

Smollett is accused of lying to police about the alleged attack and has been charged with felony disorderly conduct. A class 4 felony, the crime carries a sentence of up to three years in prison but experts have said it is more likely that if Smollett is convicted he would be placed on probation and perhaps ordered to perform community service.

Whether Smollett, who is Black and gay, testifies remains an open question. But the siblings, Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo, will take the witness stand where they are expected to repeat what they have told police officers and prosecutors — that they carried out the attack at Smollett's behest.

Jurors also may see surveillance video from more than four dozen cameras that police reviewed to trace the brothers' movements before and after the reported attack, as well as a video showing the brothers purchasing a red hat, ski masks and gloves from a beauty supply shop hours earlier.

Smollett's attorneys have not spelled out how they will confront that evidence and the lead attorney, Nenye Uche, declined to comment. But there are clues as to how they might during the trial, which starts with jury selection Monday in a Chicago courtroom. It is expected to last a week.

Buried in nearly 500 pages of Chicago Police Department reports is a statement from a woman who lived in the area who says she saw a white man with “reddish brown hair” who appeared to be waiting for someone that night.

She told a detective that when the man turned away from her, she “could see hanging out from underneath his jacket what appeared to be a rope.”

Her comments could back up Smollett's contention that his attackers draped a makeshift noose around his neck. Further, if she testified that the man was white, it would support Smollett's statements — widely ridiculed because the brothers, who come from Nigeria, are Black — that he saw pale or white skin around the eyes of one of his masked attackers.

One of the defense attorneys, Tina Glandian, suggested during a March 2019 appearance on NBC's “Today” show, that one of the brothers could have used white makeup around his eyes to make Smollett believe he was white. To address skepticism on the jury, Glandian could ask the brothers about a video she talked about on the program that she said shows one of them in whiteface reciting a monologue by the Joker character from a movie.

Given there is so much evidence, including the brothers' own statements, that they participated in the attack, it is not likely that Smollett's attorneys will try to prove they did not take part. That could perhaps lead the defense to contend that Smollett was the victim of a very real attack at the hands of the brothers, perhaps with the help of others, who now are only implicating the actor so prosecutors won't charge them, too.

They $3,500 check could be key. While the brothers say that was their fee to carry out the fake attack, Smollett has offered a different and much more innocent explanation: that he wrote the check to pay one of them to work as his personal trainer.

“I would assume the defense is going to zero in on that,” said Joe Lopez, a prominent defense attorney not involved with the case. “If they texted messages regarding training sessions, checks he (Smollett) wrote them for training, photographs, the defense would use all of that.”

What they will almost certainly do is attack the brothers' credibility — an effort that will certainly include a reminder to the jury that the brothers are not facing the same criminal charges as Smollett, despite admitting to taking part in the staged attack.

“Everything Smollett is responsible for, they are responsible for,” said David Erickson, a former state appellate judge who teaches at Chicago Kent College of Law and who is not involved in the case. "They participated and they walk away? What the hell is that?”

Erickson said he expects prosecutors to confront that issue before Smollett's attorneys do, as they won't want to appear to be trying to hide something.

Finally, Smollett's career could take center stage. On one side, prosecutors could make the same point that then-Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson made when he announced Smollett's arrest in 2019: that Smollett thought the attack would gain him more fame and get him a raise on a hit TV show.

But Lopez said the defense attorneys might ask the jury the same question he has asked himself.

“How would that help him with anything?” he asked. “He's already a star.”


Check out the AP’s complete coverage of the Jussie Smollett case.

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Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey will step down as CEO of the social media platform, the company announced. He will be succeeded by Twitter's current Chief Technology Officer Parag Agrawal.

Dorsey will remain on the board until his term expires in 2022.

Agrawal has been CTO since 2017 and at Twitter since 2011.

In a letter posted on his Twitter account, Dorsey said he was “really sad...yet really happy” about leaving the company and that it was his decision.

Dorsey has faced several distractions as CEO, starting with the fact that he’s also founder and CEO of the payments company Square. Critics have long complained that the arrangement has divided his attention to Twitter’s detriment.

Twitter shares rose 5% to $49.47 in morning trading after the announcement.

Dorsey became Twitter CEO in 2007, but was forced out the next year. He returned to the role in 2015. In his good-bye letter, he said that he has “worked hard to ensure this company can break away from its founding and founders" and that to focus too much on whether companies are led by their founders is “severely limiting.”

While Twitter has high-profile users like politicians and celebrities and is a favorite of journalists, its user base lags far behind old rivals like Facebook and YouTube and newer ones like TikTok. It has just over 200 million daily active users, a common industry metric.

Twitter also announced on Monday a new board chairman, Bret Taylor, to replace its existing chair, Patrick Pichette. Pichette will remain on the board. Taylor has been on Twitter's board since 2016 and is the president and COO of business software company Salesforce.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.

Shares of Twitter are surging on a report that co-founder Jack Dorsey will step down as the company's chief executive.

Twitter’s stock, which has consistently underperformed the market, jumped more than 10% at the opening bell Monday before trading was halted pending news.

CNBC first reported that Dorsey may step down soon, citing anonymous sources.

Twitter Inc. did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press early Monday. On Sunday, Dorsey sent the tweet “I love Twitter."

Dorsey is also the top executive at Square, a financial payments company that he founded, and some big investors have openly questioned whether he can be effective leading both.

Last year, the company came to an agreement with two of those activist investors that kept Dorsey in the top job and gave a seat on the company board to Elliott Management Corp., which owned about 4% of Twitter’s stock, and another to Silver Lake.

Twitter was caught up in the heated political atmosphere leading up to the 2020 election. Former President Donald Trump was banned from Twitter, with Dorsey defending the move, saying the Jan. 6 Capitol riot and Trump's tweets after the event resulted in a risk to public safety and created an “extraordinary and untenable circumstance” for the company. Trump sued the company, along with Facebook and YouTube, in July for alleged censorship.

The early days of Twitter began with a tweet sent by Dorsey on March 21, 2006, that read “just setting up my twttr.” Twitter went through a period of robust growth during its start, but as the growth slowed the San Francisco company began tweaking its format in a bid to make it easier and more engaging to use.

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BERLIN (AP) — Chancellor Angela Merkel will hold talks Tuesday with the governors of Germany's 16 states amid growing concern about the steep rise in new coronavirus cases in the country.

Merkel's office confirmed Monday that the outgoing chancellor would have a video call with governors to discuss the outbreak, but declined immediately to provide details including whether any decisions would be made.

Germany's highest court is due to decide Tuesday on complaints filed against nationwide restrictions to curb coronavirus infections that were imposed earlier this year under federal “emergency brake” rules. The ruling could provide officials with guidance on the legality of any new measures.

Official figures showed 29,364 newly confirmed cases in the past 24 hours, and 73 deaths. Infection rates have been particularly high in eastern and southern parts of the country, with hospitals there already forced to transfer intensive care patients to other parts of Germany.

The governor of North Rhine-Westphalia state, Hendrik Wuest, said governors and federal officials shouldn't wait until the new government takes office next month before agreeing new, nationwide measures.

He called for common rules on reducing social contacts, financial help for companies affected by further restrictions and preparations for a possible vaccine mandate.

While Germany has had fewer deaths from COVID-19 per capita than some of its European peers — such as Britain, France and Italy — the country's federal system has regularly slowed the decision-making process and resulted in a patchwork of different rules in each state.


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

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ACCRA, Ghana (AP) — Ghana’s government is ordering access to beaches, restaurants, night clubs and stadiums be limited to people who have been vaccinated against COVID-19, as part of its efforts to fight the spread of the virus.

While the omicron variant of coronavirus has not yet been identified in the West African nation, the government health service is “taking steps to protect the country towards the Christmas season,” Ghana’s health service director-general Patrick Kuma-Aboagye said.

At least 5.45 million people of Ghana's population of 31 million have received at least one vaccine dose. Vaccines being given in Ghana include AstraZeneca, Sputnik V, Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech and Johnson & Johnson.

Ghana's land borders are closed and air travelers are required to have a PCR test within 72 hours of arrival and antigen tests upon arrival.

Ghana aims to administer 20 million doses of vaccines by the end of 2021, Kuma-Aboagye said in a statement issued Sunday.

“Among COVID-19 deaths at the Ghana Infectious Diseases Center, 12.5% of the deaths were persons who had been vaccinated (they also had severe underlying medical conditions). The rest, 87.5%, hadn’t been vaccinated,” he said.

Ghana has recorded more than 1,209 deaths and 130,920 cases of COVID-19.

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MOSCOW (AP) — The developer of Russia's Sputnik V vaccine said Monday that it will immediately start working on adapting that COVID-19 vaccine to counter the omicron variant.

The Gamaleya Institute and the Russian Direct Investment Fund that bankrolled Sputnik V and its one-shot version Sputnik Light said in a statement that the existing vaccine should be efficient against the new variant.

“Nonetheless, the Gamaleya Institute, based on existing protocols of immediately developing vaccine versions for variants of concern, has already begun developing the new version of Sputnik vaccine adapted to omicron,” the statement said.

“The Gamaleya Institute believes Sputnik V and Sputnik Light will neutralize omicron, as they have highest efficacy against other mutations,” RDIF head Kirill Dmitriev said in the statement.

If a modification is necessary, a new version of Sputnik V could be ready for mass production in 45 days, the statement said, claiming that several hundred million Sputnik omicron boosters can be provided to international markets by Feb 20, 2022, with over 3 billion doses available in 2022.

The statement made no mention of previous production bottlenecks that Russia has had while making the Sputnik V vaccine, which involves giving out two different vaccine shots. Countries in Latin America have complained about delays in getting the second Sputnik V shot.

The new omicron variant was identified days ago by researchers in South Africa, prompting nations around the world to order travel bans for several nations in southern Africa. Still, much is still not known about it, including whether omicron is more contagious, more likely to cause serious illness or more able to evade the protection of vaccines.


Follow all AP stories on the pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic.

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NEW YORK (AP) — Consumers are expected to spend between $10.2 billion and $11.3 billion on Monday, making it once again the biggest online shopping day of the year, according to Adobe Digital Economy Index.

Still, spending on what's known as Cyber Monday could drop from last year's level of $10.8 billion as Americans are spreading out their deals more in response to discounting in October by retailers, according to Adobe, which analyzes more than one trillion visits to U.S. retail sites.

Both Black Friday and Thanksgiving Day online shopping came in below Adobe's prediction. On Black Friday, online sales reached $8.9 billion, down from the $9 billion in 2020, the second largest day of the year. On Thanksgiving Day, online sales reached $5.1 billion, even from the year-ago period.

Adobe says it is the first time it has seen decreased spending on the big shopping days, which have seen healthy growth rates since Adobe first began reporting on e-commerce in 2012.

For the first time, discounts compared with a year ago are expected to be weaker on Cyber Monday, a big theme this season given how supply chain clogs are creating challenges for retailers in bringing merchandise to stores. Still, Cyber Monday remains the best day to buy TVs with discount levels at 16%, compared with 19% discounts last year.

Other categories where consumers will find deals include clothing at a 15% markdown, compared with 20% last year. Computers are being discounted at 14%, compared with 28% last year, according to Adobe.

Online shopping remains huge, and sales are expected to rise 7% for the week ended Sunday after the massive 46% gain a year ago, when many shoppers stayed home, according to Mastercard SpendingPulse, which tracks shopping across all types of payments. For the overall holiday season, online sales should increase 10% from a year ago, compared with a 33% increase last year, according to Adobe.

The National Retail Federation, the nation’s largest retail group, coined the term “Cyber Monday” in 2005 after noticing a surge in people shopping online at work on their computers the Monday after Thanksgiving. Even with the proliferation of smartphone shopping, stores continue to ply shoppers with discounts on Monday.


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LONDON (AP) — Britain is extending its COVID-19 booster vaccine program to millions more people as part of efforts to tackle the spread of the new omicron variant, which is feared to be more contagious and vaccine resistant.

The British government said Monday that it would accept in full the revised recommendations from the independent body of scientists that has been advising it, chief of which is that everyone aged between 18 and 39 should be offered a booster shot. Up until now, only people aged over 40 as well as those deemed particularly vulnerable to the virus were eligible.

The change in advice means around 13 million more people will be eligible for the vaccine. So far, the U.K. has given around 17.5 million booster shots.

In addition to extending the rollout down the age range, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation also said booster doses for all age groups should be given no sooner than three months after a second dose. That shaves three months off the current wait.

In further advice, the JCVI said young people aged 12 to 15 should be offered a second dose of the Pfizer vaccine, no sooner than 12 weeks after their first.

“With this new variant on the offensive, these measures will protect more people more quickly and make us better protected as a nation," Health Secretary Sajid Javid told lawmakers when accepting the new advice.

The major revision of the booster rollout comes after six more cases were reported in Scotland and two in England. That takes the U.K.'s total to 11.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said not all the cases identified in Scotland were linked to travel to countries in southern Africa, suggesting “some community transmission.”

The spread of the omicron variant, which has substantially more mutations than previous strains, has stoked fears that the coronavirus pandemic will find fresh legs over the coming months. It will take scientists a few weeks to get a greater understanding of how the new variant is spreading.

“We’ve always said we will get a variant that gives us heightened concern," said England’s deputy medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam. “We are at that moment with omicron. It is the new kid on the block for now.

Already, the British government has tightened rules on mask-wearing and testing of arrivals in the country. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Saturday it was necessary to take “targeted and precautionary measures” in England.

The other nations of the U.K. have had more stringent rules in place over the past few months following the lifting of most lockdown restrictions. Sturgeon said she and her Welsh counterpart, Mark Drakeford, had written to Johnson asking for all people arriving in the U.K. to self-isolate for at least eight days. Johnson has said arrivals will need to take a high-standard PCR test by the end of their second day in the country and to self-isolate until they get a negative result.

The new rules for England, which will see mask-wearing made compulsory in shops and on public transport on Tuesday, though not in pubs and restaurants, are expected to be reviewed in three weeks. High school students in England are also being advised to wear masks in communal areas, such as corridors, but not in classrooms.

Van-Tam urged people to take up the boosters and laid out his hope that the vaccines will continue to keep a lid on serious disease even if they reduce the impact on infections.

“I’m asking people not to panic but I’m not asking them either to completely ignore the weather forecast,” he said.


Jill Lawless contributed to this report.


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LONDON (AP) — The emergence of the new omicron variant and the world's desperate and likely futile attempts to keep it at bay are reminders of what scientists have warned for months: The coronavirus will thrive as long as vast parts of the world lack vaccines.

The hoarding of limited COVID-19 shots by rich countries — creating virtual vaccine deserts in many poorer ones — doesn’t just mean risk for the parts of the world seeing shortages; it threatens the entire globe.

That's because the more the disease spreads among unvaccinated populations, the more possibilities it has to mutate and potentially become more dangerous, prolonging the pandemic for everyone.

“The virus is a ruthless opportunist, and the inequity that has characterized the global response has now come home to roost,” said Dr. Richard Hatchett, CEO of CEPI, one of the groups behind the U.N.-backed COVAX shot-sharing initiative.

Perhaps nowhere is the inequality more evident than in Africa, where under 7% of the population is vaccinated. South African scientists alerted the World Health Organization to the new omicron variant last week, though it may never be clear where it first originated. Researchers are now rushing to determine whether it is more infectious or able to evade current vaccines.

COVAX was supposed to avoid such inequality — but instead the initiative is woefully short of shots and has already abandoned its initial goal of 2 billion doses.

Even to reach its scaled-back target of distributing 1.4 billion doses by the end of 2021, it must ship more than 25 million doses every day. Instead, it has averaged just over 4 million a day since the beginning of October, with some days dipping below 1 million, according to an Associated Press analysis of the shipments.

Shipments in recent days have ramped up, but nowhere near the amount needed.

Meanwhile, richer nations often have a glut of shots, and many are now offering boosters — something the WHO has discouraged because every booster is essentially a dose that is not going to someone who's never even gotten their first shot. Despite the U.N. health agency's appeal to countries to declare a moratorium on booster shots until the end of the year, more than 60 countries are now administering them.

“What it highlights are the continuing and fundamental risks to everyone associated with not seriously addressing the inequalities still at play globally in the fight against disease and poor health," said Dr. Osman Dar, director of the One Health Project at the Chatham House think tank.

Anna Marriott, health policy manager for Oxfam, said COVAX was limited from the outset after being pushed to the back of the vaccine queue by rich countries.

“The COVAX team may be delivering as fast as they can, but they can’t deliver vaccines they haven’t got,” Marriott said.

Just 13% of vaccines COVAX contracted for and 12% of promised donations have actually been delivered, according to calculations by the International Monetary Fund from mid-November. About a third of the vaccines dispensed by COVAX have been donations, according to the vaccine alliance known as Gavi, and the initiative is now partly a clearinghouse for those donated doses, the very situation it was set up to avoid.

Last week, COVAX sent out a news release praising a European Union pledge to ship 100 million vaccines to Africa by the end of the year — but only 1/20 of that amount was actually on planes.

Asked about the logistical challenges of distributing the other 94 million doses in only six weeks, Aurelia Nguyen, managing director of COVAX maintained that arrangements “are in place to move a vast number of doses between now and the end of the year."

In a statement, she said the issue was ensuring that “conditions are right on the ground for doses to be administered.”

In minutes released ahead of an executive meeting this week, Gavi fretted that the perception that rich countries are dumping older or lesser vaccines on poor countries could undermine the whole project. On Monday, in a joint statement with WHO and the African Union among others, it admonished that “the majority of the donations to date have been ad hoc, provided with little notice and short shelf lives.”

Fury over dose dumping is already very real. In Malawi and South Sudan, tens of thousands of out-of-date doses were destroyed.

But it's not just getting the vaccines into poorer countries that's a problem, according to some experts. COVAX is “falling short on getting vaccines from the (airport) tarmac into people’s arms,” said Dr. Angela Wakhweya, senior director for health equity and rights at CARE.

Authorities in Congo, for instance, returned their entire COVAX shipment this summer when they realized they would not be able to administer doses before they expired.

In a “risk management” report on COVAX, Gavi warned that “poor absorption” of vaccines by developing countries could lead to “wastage” of some doses. One problem is logistics — just getting the doses in the right country at the right time. But just as important is the ability of often underfunded national health systems to distribute the shots where they're most needed, along with syringes and other necessary gear. A third issue is persuading sometimes hesitant people to get the vaccines.

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, however, has disputed distribution is a problem, saying the only obstacle to immunization in poor countries is supply.

Most COVAX doses distributed so far have been AstraZeneca’s vaccine, a shot that has yet to be authorized in the U.S. and whose botched rollout in Europe helped fuel anti-vaccine sentiment when the vaccine was linked to rare blood clots. The vaccines mostly used in the U.S. and much of Europe — made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna — have only been available in tiny amounts via COVAX.

The U.S., which blocked vaccine sales overseas and exports of key ingredients for months, has donated 275 million doses in all, more than any other country but still less than a third of what the Biden administration pledged. The European Union, which has in general allowed vaccines manufactured in the bloc to be sold anywhere in the world, has actually delivered about a third of its 400 million promised doses.

Efforts to ramp up global production beyond a select group of manufacturers have stalled, which many activists and scientists blame on pharmaceutical companies' opposition to waive intellectual property rights for the highly lucrative vaccines.

Given that the pandemic has so far not devastated Africa as many had initially feared, some scientists on the continent are now discussing whether to withdraw their vaccine requests.

“I think what Africa could do to really shame the world is to stop asking for vaccines,” said Christian Happi, a Nigerian virologist who sat on the scientific advisory board of CEPI. “The vaccines have not arrived, and anyways it may turn out that we don’t need them as much as the West.”


Hinnant reported from Paris. Associated Press writer Zeke Miller contributed from Washington.


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We’re living longer on average, but the number of years we’re healthy hasn’t kept up. This lagging “health span ” translates into more time living with serious illness and disabilities at the end of our lives.

This can have significant repercussions for our retirements. Some of us will have our working lives cut short by ill health, reducing how much money we can save for our futures. Others will face big bills for medical and nursing home care. Then there is the emotional toll of struggling with poor health rather than traveling, visiting the grandkids and engaging in all the other activities we’d planned for our golden years.

It doesn’t necessarily have to be this way. Many of the biggest risk factors for poor health are within our power to modify, prevent or control, says R. Dale Hall , managing director of the Society of Actuaries Research Institute, which provides research on managing risks. But as with retirement saving, the earlier we get started, the better.


The institute commissioned Vitality, a company that partners with insurers and employers to promote healthier living, to conduct a study that identified five lifestyle risk factors with the largest impact on health span: tobacco use, obesity, high blood sugar, poor diet and high blood pressure.

The researchers also highlighted ways to modify those risks, including quitting smoking, engaging in physical activity, eating a healthy diet and taking medications as prescribed.

The study relied on data from the Global Burden of Disease, a resource maintained by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation that tracks the prevalence of diseases and risk factors worldwide, along with the relative harm they cause. The GBD shows average remaining life expectancy at age 65 in the U.S. rose from 17.6 years in 1990 to 19.6 years in 2019 – a two-year gain. Healthy life expectancy, on the other hand, rose less than one year, from 12.2 years to 13.1 years.

That echoes similar statistics from the World Health Organization, which found that U.S. life expectancy at age 60 rose nearly 8% between 2000 and 2019, but healthy life expectancy rose less than 5%.


The GBD has some limitations: It doesn’t track the impact of well-established prevention strategies such as immunizations and screenings, or account for risk factors such as stress, depression, lack of sleep, loneliness and lack of purpose, the Vitality researchers said .

It’s also important to acknowledge that there can be huge systemic barriers to healthier living. If you live in an area with limited access to fresh fruits and vegetables, it’s harder to eat well. If you live in crowded housing in an unsafe neighborhood, getting enough exercise can be tough. If you must choose between buying medication and food, you’re unlikely to fill the prescription your doctor wrote for you — assuming you can afford to visit a doctor. The more money you have, the better access you have to the key health interventions that help people live a longer life in good health.

Even when we have enough money, our behavioral biases can get in the way — particularly our tendency to value present gratification over future gain.

“I’d honestly rather sit on the couch and eat the bag of crisps rather than go for the run,” says Tanya Little , Vitality’s chief growth officer. “And yet future me would thank me for going for the run now.”


Similarly, we may choose inaction over action if we’re asked to change too much, Little says. Instead, Vitality’s programs identify one change that would have the biggest impact based on each person’s health and lifestyle profile.

“This idea of an endless list is totally overwhelming and demotivating,” Little says. “Whereas if I say to you, ‘If you just did this one thing’ ... you are much more likely to do it.”

Once people make progress on a single goal, they’re often inspired to change others, Little says. People who get more exercise often start to eat healthier, for example.

Healthy habits don’t make us immune to illness and disability, of course. But minding our health improves the odds we’ll have many more years to enjoy.

If you’d like to see what Vitality recommends for you, as well as its estimate of your life and health spans, you can visit the company’s calculator.


This column was provided to The Associated Press by the personal finance website NerdWallet. Liz Weston is a columnist at NerdWallet, a certified financial planner and author of “Your Credit Score.” Email: lweston@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @lizweston.


NerdWallet: How to have a retirement worth saving for https://bit.ly/nerdwallet-retirement-worth

Vitality: Healthy futures calculator https://vitality.international/vitality-healthy-futures-calculator.html

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JOHANNESBURG (AP) — South Africa's rapid increase in COVID-19 cases attributed to the new omicron variant is resulting in mostly mild symptoms, doctors say.

“We've seen a sharp increase in cases for the past 10 days. So far they have mostly been very mild cases, with patients having flu-like symptoms: dry coughs, fever, night sweats, a lot of body pains," said Dr. Unben Pillay, a general practitioner in Gauteng province where 81% of the new cases have been reported.

“Most of these patients have been treated at home,” Pillay told an online press briefing Monday. “Vaccinated people tend to do much better. We have not seen a vast increase in hospitalizations, but this is still early days. Hospitalizations often come several days after a rise in confirmed cases.”

Most of the new cases in South Africa have been among people in their 20s and 30s, and doctors note that age group generally has milder symptoms of COVID-19 in any case. They warn that older people infected by the new variant could have more severe symptoms.

Learning more about the omicron variant is important as nations around the world sought Monday to keep the new variant at bay with travel bans and further restrictions, even as it remains unclear what the variant means for the COVID-19 pandemic.

Japan announced it would suspend entry for all foreign visitors, while new cases of the variant identified days ago by researchers in southern Africa appeared as far away as Hong Kong, Australia and Portugal. Portuguese authorities were investigating whether some infections there could be among the first reported cases of local transmission of the variant outside of southern Africa.

South Africa has seen its seven-day average of new cases over the past two weeks surge from about 200 per day to more than 2,000.

Omicron appears to be more transmissible than previous variants and the surge in South Africa could bring the daily number of new cases to 10,000 by the end of the week, infectious diseases specialist Salim Abdool Karim, told the briefing.

“Our biggest challenge will be to stop super-spreading events, particularly indoors,” he said, suggesting that it might be necessary to restrict indoor gatherings to those who are vaccinated.

The hotspot for the new surge is Gauteng's Tshwane metropolitan area, incorporating the capital, Pretoria. The “vast majority” of those hospitalized there have been unvaccinated people, said Waasila Jassat of the National Institute for Communicable Diseases.

“Of recent hospitalizations 87% have been unvaccinated, 13% have been vaccinated,” Jassat said of the 455 hospital admissions in the Tshwane area in the past two weeks.

Vaccination appears to have also helped people avoid infection, she said.

Of South Africa's 60 million people, 16.5 million are vaccinated and the number of fully vaccinated who are testing positive is very small, said Nicholas Crisp, the acting director general of the department of health. "It is a very small number of those people who tested positive. It’s minute in comparison to unvaccinated people.”

To combat the surge of COVID-19 cases attributed to the omicron variant, South Africa is urging vaccinations and is weighing making vaccines mandatory to enter indoor areas, the minister of health said Monday.

The government is not planning to impose centralized vaccine mandates, but will support businesses and organizations that seek proof of vaccination to enter indoor areas, Minister of Health Joe Phaahla told reporters.

The government is considering requiring vaccines for health workers, including those who work at state hospitals, he said.

“We are looking at concrete proposals on how to deal with vaccine mandates in workplaces and health care workplaces,” Phaahla said.

A few African countries, including Angola, Egypt, Mauritius and Rwanda, have joined the slew of nations that have placed travel restrictions on South Africa and other countries in southern Africa.

“It’s quite regrettable, very unfortunate and I’ll even say sad to be talking about travel restrictions imposed by a fellow African country,” said Clayson Monyela, spokesman for the Department of International Affairs and Cooperation. He called the decisions “unwarranted and unjustified because it’s not based on science,”


Follow all AP stories on the pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic.

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Actress Lindsay Lohan has told her followers on Instagram that she's engaged.

Lohan announced her engagement to boyfriend Bader Shammas and showed off a traditional oval diamond ring with a photo of the couple looking happy, locked in an embrace.

“My love. My life. My family. My future," the post read.

The 35-year-old “Mean Girls” star has been based in the skyscraper-studded city of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates for several years. Hollywood celebrities seeking to escape the spotlight long have flocked to the flashy emirate, where there are no paparazzi to track the many VIPs who hole up in luxurious villas on the city's palm-shaped artificial island.

Little is known about Shammas, a Dubai resident whose LinkedIn page says he's the assistant vice president of international wealth management at Credit Suisse. Before joining the Swiss bank that serves some of the world’s richest people, he worked at BNP Paribas, one of the largest French banks, in Kuwait and Bahrain.

Since moving to Dubai, Lohan has kept a low profile and said that her partying days are behind her.

She is slated to appear in a holiday romantic comedy released by Netflix, co-starring singer-songwriter Chord Overstreet. On Instagram, she also said she's launching a new podcast to share “intimate conversations with thought leaders and friends.”

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LONDON (AP) — Scotland’s leader said Monday that she will renew her push for independence from the United Kingdom next year, with the aim of holding a referendum on secession in 2023.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the independence campaign, stalled by the pandemic, “will resume in earnest” in spring 2022, “COVID permitting.”

“In the course of next year, I will initiate the process necessary to enable a referendum before the end of 2023,” Sturgeon told a conference of her Scottish National Party. “And just as importantly, our party will set out afresh the positive case for independence.”

Scottish voters opted to remain part of the United Kingdom by a margin of 55% to 45% in a 2014 referendum that was billed as a once-in-a-generation choice. But the SNP, which heads the Edinburgh-based Scottish government, argues that Britain’s departure from the European Union last year has radically changed the political and economic landscape.

In a 2016 referendum, 52% of U.K. voters backed leaving the EU, but 62% of Scots voted to remain, and Sturgeon argues that Scotland has been dragged out of the 27-nation bloc against its will.

Sturgeon faces a big obstacle to a new independence vote: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, whose government must agree to a binding referendum. Johnson is adamant he won't consent, meaning any push for a new referendum could end up in the courts.

Sturgeon says the fact that voters in May elected an independence-supporting majority to the Scottish parliament — where the SNP governs with support from the pro-independence Green Party — makes an inarguable moral case for a new referendum.

But she acknowledges that independence supporters will have to make a new economic argument for breaking away from the U.K. In 2014, the SNP touted Scotland's North Sea oil wealth as a bulwark of future prosperity. The Scottish government now accepts that fossil fuels must be phased out to fight climate change, potentially leaving a big hole in Scotland’s finances, already battered by the pandemic.

Sturgeon told party members that her government would “be candid about the challenges the transition to independence will present, and set out clearly how we can and will overcome them.”

“And then, friends, we will ask the people to decide,” she said.

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JERUSALEM (AP) — Organizers of the Miss Universe pageant said Monday that a contestant tested positive for COVID-19 after arriving in Israel, which is pressing ahead with plans to host the pageant despite closing its borders in the face of a newly detected variant.

They did not identify the contestant, and it was unclear if she had the omicron strain, which has raised alarm worldwide and was detected in a traveler returning to Israel last week.

The Miss Universe Organization said most of the 80 contestants have arrived in Israel and that the event will be held as planned on Dec. 12 in the southern city of Eilat with strict coronavirus protocols. The contestants will compete in national costumes, evening gowns and swimwear, and will answer a series of interview questions.

Israel closed its borders to all foreign travelers over the weekend, one of several measures taken to prevent the spread of the new variant after at least one case was detected, in a vaccinated traveler returning from Malawi. The variant was first identified in South Africa but cases have since been detected in several European countries as well as Hong Kong and Australia.

The organizers said the contestant tested positive upon arrival in Israel and was taken to a government-run isolation hotel. She was fully vaccinated and had been tested prior to departure, they said.

Israel had hoped the pageant would help draw tourists and project an image of Israel as a safe destination during the pandemic.

The pageant was already in the spotlight for being held in Israel amid boycott calls against the country over its treatment of the Palestinians. Citing COVID, Malaysia had announced it won’t send a contestant. And South Africa’s government said it was withdrawing support for the country’s representative over her participation in the event.

Both countries support the Palestinian cause.

Andrea Meza, the current Miss Universe, said the pageant shouldn't be politicized in an interview with The Associated Press in Jerusalem, the epicenter of the conflict, earlier this month.

“Everyone with different beliefs, with different backgrounds, with different cultures, they all come together and when you are in there you forget about politics, about your religion,” she said. “It’s just about embracing other women.”

Meza, 27, represents Mexico and was crowned in May, during a COVID-delayed ceremony in Florida, where contestants accessorized their sparkling gowns with face masks. She hands over the crown in Eilat on Dec. 12.

Supporters of the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, known as BDS, view it as a nonviolent way of advocating for Palestinian rights. Israel's occupation of lands the Palestinians seek for a future state is well into its sixth decade, with peace talks having ground to a halt more than 10 years ago. Two prominent human rights groups say Israel's policies amount to apartheid.

Israel rejects the apartheid label, accusing the rights groups of being biased against it. It accuses BDS of antisemitism — allegations that boycott leaders adamantly deny — and says the movement's end goal is to delegitimize and destroy Israel itself.

PACBI, a Palestinian activist group and founding member of the boycott movement, had called on contestants to “do no harm to our struggle for freedom, justice and equality by withdrawing from the pageant.”

The boycott movement has notched a number of successes over the years, with major artists like Lorde and Lana Del Ray canceling appearances because of Israel’s policies. But big stars keep coming, and major events like the Eurovision song contest — which included a performance by Madonna — have been held in Israel despite boycott calls.

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — An Alabama inmate whose lethal injection was halted because medical staff couldn’t find a suitable vein for the execution has died of natural causes almost four years later, his lawyer said Monday.

Doyle Lee Hamm, who was convicted in the slaying of a motel clerk in 1987, died of natural causes on death row, said his longtime attorney, Bernard Harcourt. He was 64.

Alabama officials postponed Hamm’s execution in February 2018 because workers couldn’t find a suitable vein to connect the intravenous line used to send lethal chemicals into his body. Hamm and the state reached an agreement the following month that prevented further execution attempts, but he remained on death row at Holman Prison because of his capital conviction, Harcourt said.

Hamm suffered from an aggressive lymphatic cancer for years, Harcourt said. The Holman warden called Hamm’s brother to inform him of the prisoner’s death Sunday morning, Harcourt said.

“Doyle will be remembered for his generous and forgiving spirit and his ability to always stay positive even in the face of the most dire adversities. He will be missed by his friends and family,” Harcourt wrote in a tribute.

Neither the Department of Corrections nor the state attorney general’s office immediately responded to emails seeking information about Hamm’s death.

Hamm was convicted in the killing of motel clerk Patrick Cunningham, who was shot once in the head while working an overnight shift at a motel in Cullman. Police said $410 was taken during a holdup.

Hamm gave police a confession and he was convicted after two accomplices testified against him in exchange for being allowed to plead guilty to lesser offenses, according to court documents.

Diagnosed in 2014 with B-cell lymphoma, Hamm argued before the scheduled execution that the blood cancer had progressed while the state argued that he was in remission.

In the days before his execution was scheduled, state prison officials told courts they planned to connect the intravenous line below Hamm’s knee after a medical review ordered by a federal judge found that he had no easily usable veins in his upper extremities. The state had expressed confidence that Hamm had usable veins, but workers couldn’t find a suitable one on the day of the scheduled lethal injection.

The U.S. Supreme Court had allowed the execution to proceed, but the state finally called it off because of the problem.

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NEW YORK (AP) — Two years after Jeffrey Epstein's suicide behind bars, a jury was selected Monday in New York City to determine a central question in the long-running sex trafficking case: Was his longtime companion, Ghislaine Maxwell, Epstein’s puppet or accomplice?

Twelve jurors and six alternates will hear Maxwell’s case, starting with opening statements expected later in the day. They were picked from a pool of 40 to 60 potential jurors who made it through initial questioning.

Maxwell — who once dated the financier — is accused of acting as Epstein's chief enabler, recruiting and grooming young girls for him to abuse. The charges against her stem from the allegations of four women who say she and Epstein victimized them as teens from 1994 to 2004.

Prosecutors say there’s evidence Maxwell knew that the victims, including a 14-year-old, were below the age of consent and that she arranged travel for some between Epstein’s homes, including his estate in Palm Beach, Florida, his posh Manhattan townhouse and at other residences in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and London.

Epstein killed himself at a Manhattan federal lockup in August 2019, a month after his arrest on sex trafficking charges. Authorities charged Maxwell in July 2020, arresting her after tracking her to a $1 million New Hampshire estate where she had been holed up during the coronavirus pandemic.

Maxwell has pleaded not guilty and vehemently denies wrongdoing. The 59-year-old British socialite, jailed in Brooklyn since her arrest, has called the claims against her “absolute rubbish.” Maxwell's lawyers and family say she was Epstein's pawn, now paying “a blood price” to satisfy public desire to see someone held accountable for his crimes.

The wealthy, Oxford-educated Maxwell is the daughter of British newspaper magnate Robert Maxwell, who died in 1991 after falling off his yacht — named the Lady Ghislaine — near the Canary Islands. Robert Maxwell, whose holdings at the time included the New York Daily News, was facing allegations that he had illegally looted his businesses’ pension funds.

Ghislaine Maxwell holds U.S., British and French citizenships and was repeatedly denied bail in the run-up to her trial.

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LANCASTER, Calif. (AP) — Four children and a woman were found shot to death in a Southern California home and a man believed to be the children’s father was detained, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said.

The victims were found Sunday night in a home in the city of Lancaster in the high desert Antelope Valley north of Los Angeles, the department said in a statement.

Deputies found a woman, a girl and three boys with gunshot wounds to the upper torso and paramedics pronounced all of them dead at the scene, the department said. All of the children were under age 12.

The man believed to be the children’s father was detained after he showed up at the lobby of the Lancaster sheriff’s station and was being interviewed by investigators, the department said.

The sheriff's statement did not disclose when he arrived at the station or what reason he gave for going there.

Deputy Juanita Navarro, a department spokesperson, said such interviews can take several hours and it was not known if the man had been arrested.

The identities of the victims and the man believed to be the children's father were not immediately made public.

Deputies went to the home because of a “rescue responding” call. Navarro said that is a code that means paramedics have been dispatched to a location.

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BRUSSELS (AP) — Taking an act-now-ask-questions-later approach, countries around the world slammed their doors shut again to try to keep the new omicron variant at bay Monday as more cases of the mutant coronavirus emerged and scientists raced to figure out just how dangerous it might be.

Japan announced it would bar entry of all foreign visitors, joining Israel in doing so just days after the variant was identified by researchers in South Africa. Morocco banned all incoming flights. Other countries, including the U.S. and European Union members, have moved to prohibit travelers arriving from southern Africa.

Travelers infected with the new version have turned up in a cascading number of countries over the past few days, and new cases in Portugal and Scotland have raised fears that the variant may already be spreading locally.

"Many of us might think we are done with COVID-19. It’s not done with us,” warned Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization.

The infections showed the near impossibility of keeping the genie in the bottle in a globalized world of travel and open borders.

Yet, many tried to do just that, even against the urging of the WHO, which noted that border closings often have limited effect and can wreak havoc on lives and livelihoods.

Some argued that such restrictions could provide valuable time to analyze the new variant. Little is known about it, including whether it is more contagious, more likely to cause serious illness or more able to evade the protection of vaccines.

While the initial global response to COVID-19 was criticized as slow and haphazard, the reaction to the new variant came quickly.

“This time the world showed it is learning,” said EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, singling out South African President Cyril Ramaphosa for praise. “South Africa’s analytic work and transparency and sharing its results was indispensable in allowing a swift global response. It no doubt saved many lives.”

The WHO has praised Botswana as well as South Africa for quickly alerting the world to the presence of the new variant — and many have warned the countries should not be punished for their speed.

But that did not hold von der Leyen back from successfully pushing the 27-nation EU to agree on a ban on flights from seven southern African nations over the weekend — similar to measures many other countries have taken. On Monday, EU members Spain and Poland followed through by announcing travel and quarantine restrictions.

Cases had already been reported in EU nations Belgium, Denmark and the Netherlands before Portuguese authorities identified 13 cases of omicron among team members of the Belenenses professional soccer club. Authorities reported that one member had recently traveled to South Africa. Its game against Benfica over the weekend had be abandoned at halftime for lack of players.

Quarantining also became an issue when Dutch military police had to arrest a husband and wife who left a hotel where they were being held after testing positive and boarded a plane bound for Spain.

“Quarantine is not obligatory, but we assume people will act responsibly,” spokeswoman Petra Faber said.

And after Scotland reported its first six cases, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon warned that “there might already be some community transmission of this variant.”

Taking no chances, Japan, which has yet to detect any omicron cases, reimposed border controls that it eased earlier this month for short-term business visitors, foreign students and workers.

“We are taking the step as an emergency precaution to prevent a worst-case scenario in Japan,” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said. The new measures begin Tuesday.

Israel likewise decided to bar entry to foreigners, and Morocco said it would suspend all incoming flights for two weeks starting Monday.

Despite the global worry, scientists cautioned that it is still unclear whether omicron is more alarming than other versions of the virus that has killed more than 5 million people.

And in some parts of the world, authorities were moving in the opposite direction.

In Malaysia, officials went ahead with the partial reopening of a bridge connecting it to the city-state of Singapore. And New Zealand announced it will press ahead with plans to reopen internally after months of shutdown, though it is also restricting travel from nine southern African nations.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said that she didn’t anticipate any further restrictions and that bars, restaurants and gyms in Auckland can reopen, ending a coronavirus lockdown that began in August.

“We’ve come through the past two years of COVID in better shape than nearly anywhere in the world,” Ardern said, pointing to low death rates, a growing economy and high vaccination rates.

Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health in the United States, meanwhile, said no data as yet suggests the new variant causes more serious illness than previous versions.

Collins echoed several experts in saying the news should make everyone redouble their efforts to use the tools the world already has, including vaccinations, booster shots and measures such as mask-wearing.

The U.S. is banning travel from South Africa and seven other southern African countries starting Monday. “It’s going to give us a period of time to enhance our preparedness,” the United States’ top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said on ABC’s “This Week.”

Fauci said it will take about two more weeks to have more definitive information on the transmissibility, severity and other characteristics of omicron, according to the White House.


Yamaguchi reported from Tokyo. Associated Press journalists from around the world contributed to this report.


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

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