ATLANTA — The immunologist who leads the COVID-19 response in the United States said Sunday that “the undeniable effects of racism” have led to unacceptable health disparities that especially hurt African Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans during the pandemic.
COVID-19 has highlighted “our own society’s failings,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said during a graduation ceremony for Emory University.
Speaking by webcast from Washington, Fauci told the graduates in Atlanta that many members of minority groups work in essential jobs where they might be exposed to the coronavirus. He also said they are more likely to become infected if exposed because of medical conditions such as hypertension, chronic lung disease, diabetes or obesity.
“Now, very few of these comorbidities have racial determinants,” Fauci said. “Almost all relate to the social determinants of health dating back to disadvantageous conditions that some people of color find themselves in from birth regarding the availability of an adequate diet, access to health care and the undeniable effects of racism in our society.”
Fauci said correcting societal wrongs will take a commitment of decades, and he urged the graduates to be part of the solution.
— India finds hundreds of bodies buried in riverbanks as the prices for cremations soar
— UK gears up for big reopening but fast-spreading virus variant first found in India threatens future plans
— Turkey eases some COVID-19 restrictions but keeps curfews on for weeknights and weekends
— Barefaced, footloose: New Orleans eases masking, OKs dancing
— Nepal scales back Hindu chariot festival amid virus surge
Follow more of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
SANAA, Yemen – Yemen’s soccer association said the country’s national team coach died Sunday from COVID-19.
The Yemen Football Association says Sami al-Naash died in a hospital in the southern port city of Aden.
Local reports say al-Naash was infected while in a camp for the national team in the southern province of Shabwa last month.
Yemen’s national team was preparing for three games in the coming weeks in hopes to qualify for the Asian Cup and the 2022 World Cup finals in Qatar. Yemen is playing in Group D along with Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan, Singapore, and the Palestinian territories.
The country, which has been convulsed by civil war since 2014, has been experiencing a surge in coronavirus cases that has overwhelmed Yemen’s depleted medical facilities.
KATHMANDU, Nepal — A special chartered flight filled mostly with U.S. nationals, stranded in Nepal because of a lockdown imposed last month, was flying out of the Himalayan nation on Sunday.
It is the first flight taking foreign nationals out of Nepal who have been stuck there since a lockdown was imposed in April in an attempt to stop spiking cases of COVID-19.
Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal official Raj Kumar Chhetri said the Qatar Airways flight was fully packed with 270 passengers, most headed for the United States. There will be two more similar flights later in the week.
Nepal has been recording its highest number of daily new cases and deaths this month, while the country struggles with shortages of hospital beds, medication and oxygen for patients. Nepal so far has reported 5,000 deaths from COVID-19.
ROTTERDAM, Netherlands — Organizers of the Eurovision Song Contest say a member of the Icelandic delegation has tested positive for COVID-19.
The positive test Sunday came a day after a member of Poland’s delegation also tested positive during a routine test at the Ahoy venue in the Dutch port city of Rotterdam that is hosting the popular music event this week.
The positive tests mean that the Polish and Icelandic delegations were to miss the presentation Sunday afternoon of all 39 nations taking part in the contest.
The event was canceled last year amid the coronavirus pandemic. It is going ahead this year with a strict regime of testing, social distancing and hygiene among all the performers, staff and thousands of fans who are allowed to attend a series of dress rehearsals, two semifinals and the May 22 grand final.
BERLIN — The head of Germany’s independent vaccine advisory panel says it’s likely that everyone will have to get vaccinated again next year against COVID-19.
Thomas Mertens told the Funke newspaper group in comments published Sunday that there isn’t yet enough data to say when exactly booster shots will be needed, and officials will have to wait a few months to see whether protection against the coronavirus weakens in some groups.
But he stressed that “the virus won’t leave us again” and so the vaccinations currently under way won’t be the last. He added: “In principle, we have to prepare for everyone possibly having to refresh their vaccine protection next year.”
Nearly 30.4 million people in Germany, or 36.5% of the population, had received at least one vaccine shot by Friday. More than 9 million, or 10.9% of the population, had been fully vaccinated.
LONDON — Travelers in England were packing their bags, bartenders were polishing their glasses and performers were warming up as Britain prepared Sunday for a major step out of lockdown — but with clouds of worry on the horizon.
Excitement at the reopening of travel and hospitality vied with anxiety that a more contagious virus variant first found in India is spreading fast and could delay further plans to reopen.
Cases of the variant have more than doubled in a week in the U.K., defying a sharp nationwide downward trend in infections and deaths won by hard-earned months of restrictions and a rapid vaccination campaign. A surge testing and stepped-up vaccination effort was being conducted in the northern England areas hardest hit by that variant.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the variant, formally known as B.1.617.2, is more transmissible than the U.K.’s main strain and “it is likely it will become the dominant variant.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said if the new variant causes a big surge in cases, it could scupper plans to relax restrictions more fully on June 21.
NEW DELHI — Police are reaching out to villagers in northern India to investigate the recovery of bodies buried in shallow sand graves or washing up on the Ganges River banks. There’s been speculation on social media that they are the remains of COVID-19 victims.
In jeeps and boats, police are using portable loudspeakers asking people not to dispose of bodies in rivers.
On Friday, rains exposed the cloth coverings of bodies buried on the riverbank in Prayagraj, a city in Uttar Pradesh state. A state government spokesman on Sunday denied local media reports that more than 1,000 corpses of COVID-19 victims were recovered from rivers in the past two weeks.
But others say COVID-19 deaths in the countryside are rising.
Ramesh Kumar Singh, a member of Bondhu Mahal Samiti, a philanthropic organization that helps cremate bodies, said the number of deaths is very high in rural areas, and poor people have been disposing of the bodies in the river because of the exorbitant cost of performing the last rites and a shortage of wood. The cremation cost has tripled up to 15,000 rupees ($210).
LIMA, Peru — After Joel Bautista died of a heart attack last month in Peru, his family tried unsuccessfully to find an available grave at four different cemeteries. After four days, they resorted to digging a hole in his garden.
The excavation in a poor neighborhood in the capital city of Lima was broadcast live on television, attracting the attention of authorities and prompting them to offer the family a space on the rocky slopes of a cemetery.
“If there is no solution, then there will be a space here,” Yeni Bautista told The Associated Press, explaining the family’s decision to dig at the foot of a tropical hibiscus tree after her brother’s body began to decompose.
The same plight is shared by other families across Peru.
After struggling to control the coronavirus pandemic for more than a year, the country now faces a parallel crisis: a lack of cemetery space. The problem affects everyone, not just relatives of COVID-19 victims, and some families have acted on their own, digging clandestine graves in areas surrounding some of Lima’s 65 cemeteries.
BEIJING — A COVID-19 outbreak in Mongolia appears to be easing after a six weeks in which the sparsely populated country’s coronavirus death toll rose from 15 to 219.
Authorities on Sunday reported 541 new cases and two deaths in the latest 24-hour period, China’s Xinhua News Agency said. It was the sixth straight day of under 600 new cases, and down from a peak of 1,356 cases about two weeks ago.
Coffee shops, gyms and swimming pools were allowed to reopen at 50% capacity this weekend as the Mongolian government continued a gradual lifting of restrictions following a four-week lockdown that ended May 8, Xinhua said.
A ban on restaurants, bars, religious services and large gatherings for sports and cultural events remained in effect, the Chinese news agency said.
The total number of confirmed cases has increased since the beginning of April from 8,841 to 48,642. ___
ISTANBUL — Turkey’s interior ministry on Sunday lifted a full lockdown that had ordered people to stay home to fight COVID-19 infections, shifting to a less-restrictive program that still involved curfews on weeknights and weekends.
The ministry called the steps that apply from Monday to June 1 a “gradual normalization.”
Shopping malls will be able to reopen. Some businesses will remain closed, including gyms and cafes, but restaurants will be able to offer take away in addition to delivery. Preschools will resume in-person education but upper grades will continue remote learning.
Turks can return to their workplaces but will have to stay home from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. on weekdays and all day Saturday and Sunday, with the exception of walking to a market to buy food. Civil servants will continue working remotely or in shifts in offices. Foreign tourists and workers with special permits are exempt.
The Turkish government introduced a full lockdown end of April to curb a surge in infections and deaths, following record daily cases above 60,000. Saturday’s health ministry statistics show 11,472 new cases. The total death toll is 44,537.
SEOUL — The Asian Football Confederation has announced North Korea has pulled out of qualification for the 2022 World Cup.
“The (AFC) has today confirmed the withdrawal of the DPR Korea Football Association from the Asian Qualifiers,” the AFC said in a statement on Sunday.
Pyongyang has not yet given an official reason for pulling out of next month’s qualifiers for the tournament, to be held in Qatar in November and December 2022, but South Korean media has reported that it is because of concerns over COVID-19.
Due to the spread of the virus, there have been no qualifiers in Asia since November 2019 and in order to reduce travel as the games resume, the AFC has ruled that all group matches in the second round of qualification will be played in hubs. ___
ORLANDO, Fla. — Visitors to Walt Disney World and Universal Studios-Orlando were allowed Saturday to remove their masks when outdoors, except when on attractions, in line or riding transportation.
Florida’s major theme parks are adjusting face mask policies after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention loosened its recommendations on Thursday as more people get vaccinated for the coronavirus. Masks remain mandatory indoors, except in restaurants when seated or actively eating and drinking.
SeaWorld Orlando and its sister park, Tampa’s Busch Gardens, are allowing guests who say they are fully vaccinated to remove their masks throughout the parks. The two parks will not require proof of vaccination but are asking guests to “respectfully comply.”
MILAN — Former Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi was released from Milan’s San Raffaele Hospital on Saturday, where he was treated for complications related to an earlier bout with coronavirus.
The 84-year-old Berlusconi, who was diagnosed with COVID-19 last September, has been in and out of the hospital in recent weeks. He was most recently admitted last Monday. He also spent 24 days in the hospital under medical supervision in April.
The three-time former premier and media mogul left the hospital without passing in front of photographers and television cameras waiting outside. Last year, Berlusconi spent 10 days at the same hospital receiving treatment for COVID-19. He also received a pacemaker several years ago.