Latest: Malaysia reopens resort island as vaccinations rise

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Virus Outbreak Malaysia (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
Virus Outbreak Malaysia (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Hundreds of holiday-makers flocked to Malaysia’s northern resort island of Langkawi as it reopened Thursday to fully vaccinated travelers.

Langkawi is the first holiday destination in the country to welcome visitors as part of a domestic tourism bubble. If successful, it could see other holiday destinations following suit in a bid to revive the economy. Malaysia has reported more than 2 million infections while deaths have surged above 21,000 despite a lockdown in June.

But vaccination has also picked up pace, with three-quarter of the country’s adult population fully inoculated.

The government says a lockdown is no longer feasible and that Malaysians have to learn to live with the virus, which will soon be treated as endemic. Restrictions have been loosened recently and Langkawi was allowed to reopen with strict health protocols.

Travelers older than 7 must test negative for COVID-19 before arriving on the island. Local media said airline tickets have been snapped up, with 19 flights carrying holiday-makers due to arrive in Langkawi on Thursday.

Ferries carrying hundreds of passengers were also headed to the island, which reportedly expects to welcome 400,000 visitors by the year's end.

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MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:

— US working on new COVID-19 rules for international visitors

— World leaders will have to be vaccinated to speak at U.N. General Assembly meeting

— Long weekend holiday turns into 9-week lockdown for AP Vietnam reporter

— There’s no scientific evidence that masks harm kids’ health despite social media claims

— See AP coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Alaska reported its highest number of new coronavirus cases Wednesday, after the state’s largest hospital started rationing care because of a flood of COVID-19 patients.

Officials reported 1,068 new virus infections, which is 13% higher than last week. State officials say 201 Alaskans are hospitalized for COVID-19, and 34 of them are on ventilators.

The state’s chief medical officer says hospitals continue to be stressed and there isn’t capacity for patients who have COVID-19 as well as those with other needs. Statewide, there are about 1,100 non-intensive care unit beds in hospitals, with only 302 available Wednesday. Only 21 of the state’s ICU beds are open.

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TORONTO — The leader of the Canadian province of Alberta is apologizing for his handling of the pandemic and says he is reluctantly introducing a vaccine passport and imposing a mandatory work-from-home order two months after lifting nearly all restrictions.

Alberta is declaring a public health emergency as Premier Jason Kenney says the province might run out of beds and staff for intensive care units within 10 days.

Indoor dining at pubs and restaurants is now banned.

Kenney says it is clear the provincial government was wrong to end public health restrictions in the summer. He says COVID-19 is hitting Alberta harder than anywhere else in Canada because it has the lowest vaccination rate.

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RENO, Nev. — The Nevada Hospital Association is urging people to avoid going to emergency rooms except in true emergencies, especially in northern Nevada where a resurgence in coronavirus infections is running double the rate in the Las Vegas area.

Health officials say the 30-day average for daily new coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents has increased fivefold in the Reno-Sparks area over the past six weeks — from 354 at the beginning of August to 1,621 now. The statewide rate is 951, and it’s 720 in Clark County which includes Las Vegas.

The head of the hospital association says that as a result, “many hospital emergency departments in northern Nevada are at capacity with patients.”

State officials said Wednesday that 1,090 people were hospitalized at the beginning of the week for confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19, the disease that can be caused by the coronavirus.

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WASHINGTON — The U.S. government will spend $470 million to learn more about long COVID-19, its causes and potential treatments.

The National Institutes of Health announced the plans Wednesday with a grant awarded to NYU Grossman School of Medicine and a goal of enrolling up to 40,000 adults and children. The effort, dubbed RECOVER, will involve researchers at more than 30 U.S. institutions.

‘’This is being taken with the greatest seriousness… at a scale that has not really been attempted with something like this,’’ Dr. Francis Collins, NIH director, said at a briefing Wednesday.

Collins says its estimated 10% to 30% of people infected with COVID-19 may develop persistent, new or recurring symptoms that can last months or perhaps years.

Long COVID is an umbrella term for symptoms that linger, recur and show up for the first time four weeks or more after an initial infection. It also includes heart inflammation and multisystem inflammatory syndrome, a rare but serious condition that can occur in children after a COVID-19 infection.

Pain, headaches, fatigue, brain fog, shortness of breath, anxiety, depression, chronic coughs and sleep problems are among the reported symptoms of long COVID. Possible causes include the virus lingers in tissues and organs or it overstimulates the immune system.

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