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The Latest: China tests millions in port over virus cluster – The Record (New Westminster)

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BEIJING — Authorities in China’s northeastern port city of Dalian are testing millions of residents after seven new coronavirus cases were reported there in the last 24 hours.

The cluster that has emerged in recent days has grown to 12 cases. In five neighbourhood divisions, authorities have shut schools and public spaces and are restricting anyone but essential workers from leaving their residential compounds.

Beijing is also on high alert after two asymptomatic cases were reported Thursday, in addition to two confirmed cases last week.

The city began mass testing in the neighbourhood and workplace of one of the asymptomatic cases, a restaurant employee who worked handling cold chain.

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THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— Coronavirus dampens Christmas joy in Bethlehem and elsewhere

— No Christmas Eve joy for truckers stuck in UK virus gridlock

— Africa CDC: New virus variant appears to emerge in Nigeria

— Nurses fear what’s to come: ‘Walk down our unit for a day’

— Politicians and vaccines: Set an example or cut in line?

— Studies find having COVID-19 may protect against reinfection

— Worried Morocco bans parties to stem holiday virus spread

— Russia’s Health Ministry has agreed to cut the size of a study of a domestically developed coronavirus vaccine and to stop the enrolment of volunteers.

— Santa’s ‘grandchildren’ spread joy in Italian nursing homes

— Follow AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic, https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

SEOUL, South Korea — Christmas Day has brought South Korea its biggest daily increase in coronavirus infections of the pandemic as officials urged for citizen vigilance to help curb a viral surge that has worsened hospitalization and deaths.

The 1,241 new confirmed cases reported Friday raised the country’s total to 54,770. Officials said 17 more people had died from COVID-19 in the previous 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 773.

The country has been expanding its mass testing program to slow the rate of transmissions and more than 118,000 tests were conducted Thursday alone. Officials are also clamping down on private social gatherings through Jan. 3, shutting down national parks and ski resorts and setting fines for restaurants if they serve groups of five people or more.

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RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has used his Christmas message to cast more doubt on a coronavirus vaccine purchased by one of the country’s states from the Chinese biopharmaceutical firm Sinovac.

In his live broadcast on social media Thursday, Bolsonaro said “the efficacy of that vaccine of Sao Paulo seems to be very low,” though he gave nothing specific.

Sao Paulo health authorities have not presented complete trial results a week after announcing that there were encouraging phase three studies on the shot’s effectiveness.

Brazil so far has no agreements to import vaccine made by American companies Pfizer or Moderna, which have been approved by U.S. and other nations. It has a deal to secure up to 100 million doses of the potential vaccine produced by AstraZeneca.

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TOPEKA, Kan. — Kansas is working through the details of exactly who will be eligible for coronavirus vaccines in exactly what order as it concentrates on giving shots mostly to health care workers this month.

Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly told leaders of the Republican-controlled Legislature this week that the vaccines have gone mostly to health care workers, though that group also includes employees in state prisons. She said vaccines could go “almost exclusively” to health care workers into mid-January but also suggested some doses already have reached nursing homes.

Kelly told The Topeka Capital-Journal in an interview that prison inmates are to get vaccinated before the general public because they’re in “congregate” housing, but the state doesn’t expect vaccines to be available for some adults for at least several months.

The state’s vaccine plan made health care workers and nursing home workers and residents the first in line, followed by other “essential” workers and people 75 or older, particularly those at high risk of coronavirus complications.

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TRENTON, N.J. — United Airlines travellers to New Jersey’s Newark Liberty Airport from the United Kingdom will have to show a negative COVID-19 test beginning next week.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and United Airlines announced Thursday that the restriction goes into effect Monday. All United fliers with flights originating in the U.K. will have to present proof of a negative test obtained within 72 hours of departure.

The measure is being taken to curb the spread of a new strain of the coronavirus that has surfaced in the U.K.

The restriction doesn’t apply to travellers originating from outside the U.K. who connect to a Newark-bound flight in London.

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NEW YORK — The number of passengers screened for flights in the U.S. topped nearly 1.2 million Wednesday for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic outbreak, but it’s still about 38.5% below the same Wednesday last year, by far the smallest percentage decline since March.

The Transportation Security Administration said Wednesday’s tally of 1.19 million was the most since mid-March.

It’s the third straight daily gain.

On the same weekday a year ago, 1.94 million passengers were screened. However, that was Christmas 2019 when travel was lighter than normal. On several days in early April after the pandemic broadsided the U.S. economy, fewer than 100,000 people were screened to board planes.

The bump comes as the CDC warns that holiday travel may increase one’s chances of getting and spreading the virus. It recommends staying home and postponing travel as the best way to protect oneself from COVID-19.

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JERUSALEM — The Israeli government says it will be imposing its third nationwide lockdown on Sunday to halt the spread of the coronavirus.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Cabinet approved the movement restrictions for two weeks. It includes the shutdown of most non-essential businesses, limitations on gatherings and movement from people’s homes and reduced public transit. At the same time, classes for high school, kindergartens and some grade school students will continue.

Israel, a country of 9 million people, started rolling out coronavirus vaccinations this week and has already inoculated over 140,000 people, according to the health ministry. Netanyahu said Thursday that Israel aims to increase vaccinations to 100,000 people per day by next week.

Israel has recorded over 385,000 cases of the coronavirus since March, and 3,150 deaths. But the infection rate has shot up in recent weeks after the government started easing restrictions put in place in September.

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OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma health officials say they don’t plan to follow all of the newly released federal guidelines for vaccine distribution and will keep adults 65 and older in phase two of the state’s distribution protocol.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidelines over the weekend to prioritize those aged 75 and older and frontline essential workers in phase two. But Oklahoma Health Commissioner Dr. Lance Frye said in a statement late Wednesday that the state’s advisory committee decided it would be problematic to prioritize young and healthy workers ahead of Oklahomans in the 65-74 age group.

Along with adults 65 and older, the state also plans to prioritize adults of any age with comorbidities, including hypertension, obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancers or chronic lung, liver or renal diseases. The state estimates there are about 635,000 Oklahomans in these two categories.

Frye says health officials plan to closely monitor the state’s vaccine supply and could consider prioritizing those age 75 and older if supplies and provider access remains limited.

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PHOENIX — Arizona on Thursday reported over 100 additional coronavirus deaths for the sixth time in nine days as state public health officials urged caution to prevent the spread of the virus during the holidays.

The state reported 7,046 additional known COVID-19 cases and 115 deaths, increasing the state’s totals to 480,319 cases and 8,294 deaths.

Arizona had a record 4,221 people hospitalized for COVID-19 on Wednesday, the latest in series of pandemic records set this month. Only 8% of all hospital inpatient beds were available and not in use, including 7% of ICU beds.

Arizona had the third worst COVID-19 diagnosis rate among U.S. states over the past week, behind Tennessee and California. The diagnosis rate is calculated by dividing the total state population by the number of new cases over the past week.

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ISTANBUL — An infectious disease expert serving on Turkey’s medical board says an experimental vaccine developed by Chinese biopharmaceutical company Sinovac showed an efficacy rate of 91,25 per cent based on early results of late-stage trials in the country.

CoronaVac is a so-called inactivated vaccine developed by Sinovac Biotech. Dr. Serhat Unal announced the initial results Thursday following randomized trials involving 7,371 volunteers and said the vaccine was safe.

Turkey’s Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said in the press conference the results were the first to be announced for CoronaVac. Sinovac had delayed announcement of results from late-stage trials to January.

Koca said the first shipment of three million doses of CoronaVac would be shipped to Turkey on Sunday and arrive Monday. He had initially announced the vaccines would arrive after Dec. 11 but said some permits caused the delay. Turkey has signed a deal for 50 million doses of the vaccine.

The health minister also said an agreement for Pfizer BioNTech’s vaccine was close. He said Turkey could get 4.5 million doses until the end of March and would have the option buy up to 30 million doses.

Turkey is among the worst-hit country’s in the world, with a seven-day average of about 23,000 confirmed COVID-19 infections daily.

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LOS ANGELES — California has become the first U.S. state to record 2 million confirmed coronavirus cases.

A tally by Johns Hopkins University on Thursday morning showed the nation’s most populous state has a total of 2,010,157 infections. There have been more than 23,000 deaths.

The grim milestone comes as the COVID-19 crisis that health officials say stems from Thanksgiving gatherings strains California’s medical system. More than 18,000 people are hospitalized and many of the state’s intensive care units are filled.

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MEXICO CITY — A Mexican nurse on Thursday became the first person in Latin America to receive a COVID-19 shot as part of an official vaccination campaign.

María Irene Ramírez, chief of intensive care nursing at the Ruben Lenero Hospital in Mexico City, received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in a ceremony broadcast live across the country.

Mexico received an initial batch of 3.000 doses of the vaccine on Wednesday even as other countries around the region prepared to start similar programs following approval of some vaccines following months of testing of several versions that involved tens of thousands of volunteers across the region.

Chile said it was receiving 10,000 doses on Thursday and Argentina, which has run into problems obtaining the Pfizer vaccine, received a flight carrying 300,000 doses of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine, though it cannot yet be given to people older than 60 due to a lack of testing data.

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BERLIN — Christmas Eve in Germany is shaping up as an all-too-silent night as COVID-19 cases hovered near record highs, police threatened fines for violating restrictions on gatherings and people lined up outside a shuttered nightclub to get tested for the coronavirus.

A few people were out on Thursday for last-minute shopping, but streets in Berlin were emptier than usual on a day when most shops close early for the country’s biggest family holiday. Berlin’s Kitkat Club nightclub may be closed because of the nationwide lockdown, but a few people lined up outside its doors for a virus test.

Medical association president Klaus Reinhardt cautioned that testing can miss new infections with deadly results for others and warned against “a false sense of security,” the dpa news agency reported. Police in the southern Bavaria region, which has been hard hit by the winter upsurge in infections and deaths, warned of 500 euro ($610) fines for violating a 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew.

Germany’s national disease control centre on Thursday reported 32,195 new cases and 802 deaths, just below the peak of 33,777 cases from Dec. 18 and 962 deaths from Wednesday. The high level of infections comes ahead of the expected start of vaccinations on Sunday.

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JAKARTA, Indonesia — Christmas celebrations in Indonesia will be a low-key affair amid surging coronavirus cases in the world’s fourth most populous nation.

Earlier this month, the Indonesian government imposed a ban a large gatherings during Christmas and New Year’s eve. Churches are limited to only 50 worshippers.

Most major churches across the mostly Muslim country of 270 million obeyed the restriction on Thursday. About 10% of the population are Christians.

Church Unity General-Secretary Prist Jacklevyn Frits Manuputy said many churches in the capital Jakarta, and other cities have set up online services, as well as midnight masses. “We did all we can do to keep people connected with God during this Christmas eve,” he said.

Indonesia has reported nearly 700,000 COVID-19 cases, the largest caseload in Southeast Asia and second in Asia only to India’s 10.1 million confirmed cases. It has recorded more than 20,000 deaths.

The Associated Press

























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Biden’s vaccine pledge ups pressure on rich countries to give more

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The United States on Thursday raised the pressure on other Group of Seven leaders to share their vaccine hoards to bring an end to the pandemic by pledging to donate 500 million doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine to the world’s poorest countries.

The largest ever vaccine donation by a single country will cost the United States $3.5 billion but Washington expects no quid pro quo or favours for the gift, a senior Biden administration official told reporters.

U.S. President Joe Biden‘s move, on the eve of a summit of the world’s richest democracies, is likely to prompt other leaders to stump up more vaccines, though even vast numbers of vaccines would still not be enough to inoculate all of the world’s poor.

G7 leaders want to vaccinate the world by the end of 2022 to try to halt the COVID-19 pandemic that has killed more than 3.9 million people and devastated the global economy.

A senior Biden administration official described the gesture as a “major step forward that will supercharge the global effort” with the aim of “bringing hope to every corner of the world.” “We really want to underscore that this is fundamentally about a singular objective of saving lives,” the official said, adding that Washington was not seeking favours in exchange for the doses.

Vaccination efforts so far are heavily correlated with wealth: the United States, Europe, Israel and Bahrain are far ahead of other countries. A total of 2.2 billion people have been vaccinated so far out of a world population of nearly 8 billion, based on Johns Hopkins University data.

U.S. drugmaker Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech have agreed to supply the U.S. with the vaccines, delivering 200 million doses in 2021 and 300 million doses in the first half of 2022.

The shots, which will be produced at Pfizer’s U.S. sites, will be supplied at a not-for-profit price.

“Our partnership with the U.S. government will help bring hundreds of millions of doses of our vaccine to the poorest countries around the world as quickly as possible,” said Pfizer Chief Executive Albert Bourla.

‘DROP IN THE BUCKET’

Anti-poverty campaign group Oxfam called for more to be done to increase global production of vaccines.

“Surely, these 500 million vaccine doses are welcome as they will help more than 250 million people, but that’s still a drop in the bucket compared to the need across the world,” said Niko Lusiani, Oxfam America’s vaccine lead.

“We need a transformation toward more distributed vaccine manufacturing so that qualified producers worldwide can produce billions more low-cost doses on their own terms, without intellectual property constraints,” he said in a statement.

Another issue, especially in some poor countries, is the infrastructure for transporting the vaccines which often have to be stored at very cold temperatures.

Biden has also backed calls for a waiver of some vaccine intellectual property rights but there is no international consensus yet on how to proceed.

The new vaccine donations come on top of 80 million doses Washington has already pledged to donate by the end of June. There is also $2 billion in funding earmarked for the COVAX programme led by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), the White House said.

GAVI and the WHO welcomed the initiative.

Washington is also taking steps to support local production of COVID-19 vaccines in other countries, including through its Quad initiative with Japan, India and Australia.

(Reporting by Steve Holland in St. Ives, England, Andrea Shalal in Washington and Caroline Copley in Berlin; Writing by Guy Faulconbridge and Keith Weir;Editing by Leslie Adler, David Evans, Emelia Sithole-Matarise, Giles Elgood and Jane Merriman)

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Vaccines donated by the United States and China

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Both the United States and China have pledged large donations of COVID-19 vaccines to countries around the world. Washington has promised 80 million doses, three-quarters of which will be delivered via the international vaccine initiative COVAX, in what has been seen as an effort to counter China’s widening vaccine diplomacy. It began deliveries last week.

China had shipped vaccines to 66 countries in the form of aid, according to state news agency Xinhua. Beijing has not disclosed an overall figure for its donations but Reuters calculations based on publicly available data show at least 16.57 million doses have been delivered. China has also pledged to supply 10 million doses to COVAX.

VACCINES DONATED BY U.S. (plan for the first 25 mln):

Regional partners and priority recipients

COUNTRY/TERRITORY PLEDGED DELIVERED

Including Canada, Mexico, 1 mln to S.Korea in June

South Korea, West Bank and

Gaza, Ukraine, Kosovo,

Haiti, Georgia, Egypt,

Jordan, India, Iraq, Yemen,

United Nations

TOTAL 6 mln 1 mln

Allocations through COVAX

South and Central America

COUNTRY/TERRITORY PLEDGED DELIVERED

Brazil, Argentina, Colombia,

Costa Rica, Peru, Ecuador,

Paraguay, Bolivia,

Guatemala, El Salvador,

Honduras, Panama, Haiti,

Dominican Republic and other

Caribbean Community

(CARICOM) countries

TOTAL 6 mln

Asia

COUNTRY/TERRITORY PLEDGED DELIVERED

India, Nepal, Bangladesh,

Pakistan, Sri Lanka,

Afghanistan, Maldives,

Malaysia, Philippines,

Vietnam, Indonesia,

Thailand, Laos, Papua New

Guinea, Taiwan, and the

Pacific Islands

TOTAL 7 mln

Africa

COUNTRY/TERRITORY PLEDGED DELIVERED

To be selected in

coordination with the

African Union

TOTAL 5 mln

VACCINES DONATED BY CHINA (source – Reuters calculations and official data):

Asia Pacific

COUNTRY/TERRITORY PLEDGED DELIVERED

Afghanistan 400,000

Bangladesh Second batch of First batch of 500,000 delivered

600,000 on May 12

Brunei 52,000 in Feb

Cambodia 1.7 mln as of April 28

Kyrgyzstan 150,000 in March

Laos 300,000 in Feb

800,000 in late March

300,000 in late April

Maldives 200,000 in early March

Mongolia 300,000 in late February

Myanmar 500,000 in early May

Nepal 800,000 in late March

1 mln in early June

Pakistan 500,000 in early Feb

250,000 in Feb

500,000 in March

Philippines 600,000 in late Feb

400,000 in late March

Sri Lanka 600,000 at end March

500,000 in late May

Thailand 500,000 in May

500,000 in June

Timor-Leste 100,000 100,000 in early June

TOTAL 11.052 million

Africa

COUNTRY/TERRITORY PLEDGED DELIVERED

Angola 200,000 in late March

Algeria 200,000 200,000 in Feb

Botswana 200,000 in April

Cameroon 200,000 in April

Congo 100,000 100,000 in March

Egypt 600,000 in March

Ethiopia 300,000 in late March

Equatorial Guinea 100,000 in Feb

Guinea 200,000 in early March

Mozambique 200,000 in late Feb

Namibia 100,000 by early April

Niger 400,000 in late March

Sierra Leone 240,000 by late May

Togo 200,000 in April

Uganda 300,000

Zimbabwe 200,000 in Feb

200,000 in March

100,000 in May

TOTAL 3.74 million

South America

COUNTRY/TERRITORY PLEDGED DELIVERED

Bolivia 100,000 in late Feb

100,000 in late March

Venezuela 500,000 in early March

TOTAL 700,000

Europe & Middle East

COUNTRY/TERRITORY PLEDGED DELIVERED

Belarus 100,000 in Feb

300,000 in May

Georgia 100,000 at end April

Iran 250,000 at end February

Iraq 50,000 in early March

Montenegro 30,000 in early March

North Macedonia 100,000 in May

Syria 150,000 in late April

TOTAL 1.08 million

 

(Reporting by Roxanne Liu and Ryan Woo in Beijing and Cooper Inveen in Dakar; Additional reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe in Harare, Asif Shahzad in Islamabad, Gopal Sharma in Kathmandu; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)

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Coronavirus Worldwide right now

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Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus now:

Australia’s Melbourne to exit lockdown

Australia’s second largest city Melbourne will exit a hard lockdown as planned on Thursday night, Victoria state authorities said, although some restrictions on travel and gatherings would likely remain for another week.

After two weeks in a strict lockdown that forced people to remain at home except for essential business, Melbourne’s five million residents will get more freedom to step outside from 11:59 p.m. local time (1359 GMT) on Thursday.

However, people must stay within 25 km (15 miles) of their homes, officials said, in an effort to stop transmission during an upcoming long weekend. There will also be a total ban on house gatherings and masks will be mandatory indoors.

Deliveries of Thai-made AstraZeneca vaccines delayed

Malaysia and Taiwan are expecting deliveries of AstraZeneca vaccines manufactured in Thailand to be delayed, officials said, the latest countries to report a holdup with orders from the Thai plant.

The delay comes amid concerns over AstraZeneca’s distribution plans in Southeast Asia, which depends on 200 million doses made by Siam Bioscience, a company owned by Thailand’s king that is making vaccines for the first time.

Any questions about Siam Bioscience meeting production targets are sensitive because King Maha Vajiralongkorn is its sole owner. Insulting Thailand’s monarchy is a crime punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Indonesia aims to speed up vaccinations

President Joko Widodo said on Wednesday he hoped Indonesia’s vaccination rollout will hit one million shots a day by July, as authorities opened up inoculations to anyone aged over 18 in Jakarta to contain increased transmission in the capital.

Health officials in the world’s fourth most populous country, which aims to vaccinate 181.5 million people by next year, are trying to speed up the rollout after facing some supply issues.

The president said he wanted vaccinations to hit a targeted 700,000 doses a day this month and then rise again.

Singapore finds Delta most prevalent among variants

Singapore has found the Delta variant of the coronavirus to be the most prevalent among local cases of variants of concern (VOCs), according to health ministry data, highlighting its level of infectiousness.

There were 449 local cases with VOCs as of May 31, of which 428 were the Delta variant first detected in India and nine of the Beta variant first identified in South Africa.

Singapore reported its 34th death due to COVID-19, taking its toll from the pandemic beyond the 33 casualties recorded during the 2003 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome outbreak.

U.S. forming expert groups on lifting travel restrictions

The Biden administration is forming expert working groups with Canada, Mexico, the European Union and the United Kingdom to determine how best to safely restart travel after 15 months of pandemic restrictions, a White House official said on Tuesday.

Another U.S. official said the administration will not move quickly to lift orders that bar people from much of the world from entering the United States because of the time it will take for the groups to do their work.

The groups will be led by the White House COVID Response Team and the National Security Council and include the Centers for Disease Control and other U.S. agencies.

 

(Compiled by Linda Noakes; Editing by Giles Elgood)

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