The Latest: Germany issues nearly 5M vaccine travel passes

BERLIN — Germany’s health minister says the country has issued nearly 5 million vaccination certificates that are designed to be part of a European Union-wide digital pass system.

Germany launched the rollout of the certificates late last week. Users can download proof of their coronavirus vaccination status onto a smartphone app.

Pharmacies across the country started issuing certificates on Monday to people who have been fully vaccinated and so far have only analogue proof.

The certificates can also be issued on-site by large vaccination centers. German officials say they have already been used by travelers at European borders without problems.

German Health Minister Jens Spahn said as he arrived at a meeting with European Union colleagues in Luxembourg on Tuesday that 5 million certificates would be issued by the end of the day.

As of Monday, 22.3 million people in Germany had been fully vaccinated, 26.8% of the country’s population.

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MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:

— White House to host July 4 “independence from virus” bash

California, first US state to go under lockdown, is beginning its “Grand Reopening”

Emirates Air posts $5.5B loss as virus disrupts travel

— 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.S. President Joe Biden wants to imbue America’s Independence Day with new meaning this year by encouraging nationwide celebrations to mark the country’s effective return to normalcy after 16 months of coronavirus pandemic disruption.

Even as the U.S. is set to record Tuesday its 600,000th death in the pandemic, the White House is expressing growing certainty that July 4th will serve as a breakthrough moment in the nation’s recovery. That’s even though the U.S. is not expected to quite reach its goal of having 70% of adults vaccinated by the holiday.

As COVID-19 case rates and deaths drop to levels not seen since the first days of the outbreak, Biden is proclaiming “a summer of freedom” to celebrate Americans resuming their pre-pandemic lives.

The holiday will see the largest event yet of Biden’s presidency: He plans to host first responders, essential workers and military servicemembers and their families on the South Lawn for a cookout and to watch the fireworks over the National Mall. Well more than 1,000 guests are expected, officials said, with final arrangements still to be sorted out.

Just three months ago cautiously, the president cautiously held out hope that people might be able to hold small cookouts by the Fourth of July.

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LONDON — The British government fended off calls to provide more financial support to businesses and workers who will suffer financially from its decision to delay the relaxation of coronavirus restrictions in England by four weeks to July 19.

Although large parts of the U.K. economy have reopened, a number of businesses, particularly those in the hospitality and entertainment sectors, have not been able to do so because it was not financially viable under restrictions that limited how many people they could serve.

After months of planning, those businesses had been preparing to reopen on June 21, the date the government had earmarked for the possible lifting of remaining restrictions on social contact.

However, a recent spike in new infections involving the more contagious delta variant that was first identified in India upended that plan.

Following the delay announcement, unions joined with business leaders to urge the government to compensate affected workers and establishments.

The Confederation of British Industry urged the government to hold back on the planned tapering of tax relief for businesses and extend the commercial rent moratorium for the industries most impacted.

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JERUSALEM — Israel is no longer requiring masks indoors, lifting one of its last coronavirus restrictions following a highly successful vaccination campaign.

The restriction was lifted on Tuesday, though people will still be required to wear masks on airplanes and on their way to quarantine. Unvaccinated individuals must wear masks in nursing homes and other long-term health facilities.

Israel has vaccinated around 85% of its adult population, allowing schools and businesses to fully reopen. There are only a few dozen active patients in the country of more than 9 million.

Authorities have been cautious about welcoming visitors, however, because of concerns over new variants. Israel welcomed its first tour group late last month. All tourists must show proof of vaccination and be tested upon arrival.

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HONOLULU — Hawaii says a vaccinated Oahu resident who traveled to Nevada last month has tested positive for the delta variant of COVID-19.

The delta variant was first detected in India and is a more transmissible version of the disease. The variant currently makes up 6% of all cases in the U.S.

Hawaii Health Director Dr. Libby Char says this is a “very rare breakthrough” case in which a COVID-19 vaccine didn’t prevent infection.

New analysis from researchers in the U.K. shows the Pfizer vaccine is 96% effective against hospitalization from the delta variant.

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DECATUR, Georgia — A sheriff says a grocery store cashier has been killed in a shooting and three others wounded followed an argument over wearing face masks at an Atlanta-area supermarket.

DeKalb County Sheriff Melody Maddox said the shooting occurred Monday inside the Big Bear Supermarket in Decatur, a suburb east of Atlanta. Maddox said a man was arguing with a cashier over wearing a face mask when he pulled a weapon and shot the female cashier.

Authorities said a deputy working store security returned fire and shot the man. Maddox says the deputy, the suspected shooter and one other person were wounded. Decatur is a suburban community east of Atlanta.

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