The Latest: EU sees flatter virus curve, still needs limits

BERLIN — The European Union’s latest surge of coronavirus infections is flattening or going down in some but not all countries across the continent but it’s too early to relax current virus restrictions, the head of the continent’s disease control center said Monday.

It’s alarming that the death rate caused by COVID-19 is still rising across Europe — it was 95 per 1 million people last week compared to 84 the week before, said Andrea Ammon, director of the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control.

Ammon also noted that occupancy of intensive care units was at 91% last week, meaning that “some countries are probably already at the limit.”

She spoke at at a virtual gathering of lawmakers responsible for European affairs in all the EU member states and at the European Parliament.

Ammon also said there are still challenges when it comes to testing and contact tracing and that EU nations need to harmonize their medical data.

As of Monday, more than 13 million coronavirus cases have been reported in the 27-nation European Union and over 319,700 people in the bloc have died of COVID-19.

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THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— Fauci: US may see ‘surge upon surge’ of virus in coming weeks after Thanksgiving travel

— U.K. stocks up on vaccines, hopes to start virus shots within days

— Virus forces businesses to adapt or close down on the streets of London

— New York City to reopen its schools to in-person learning, tests students more for COVID-19

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

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

LISBON, Portugal — The European Union’s police agency says it has made 102 arrests in a continent-wide operation to check on the correct disposal of sanitary waste amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Europol says it identified sanitary waste treatment, which is meant to be closely regulated by authorities, as a potential concern during the worldwide health emergency.

Europol said Monday its investigation in 30 countries uncovered cases of illegal trafficking, storage, dumping and shipment of waste and document fraud.

In Portugal, police inspections of more than 2,000 companies, hospitals and health centers led to 30 arrests and the seizures of assets worth almost 800,000 euros ($960,000).

In one case in Spain, a company cut its treatment of sanitary waste, which is supposed to be sterilized at high pressure, to increase profits.

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BERLIN — Pharmacists in Germany say the coronavirus epidemic has exposed stark problems with the supply of essential drugs to treat common ailments such as hypertension and ulcers but also epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease.

ABDA, an umbrella group representing 60,000 pharmacists, said Monday that its members reported a shortage of 12.1 million packages of drugs for which insurers have signed supply contracts with manufacturers during the first half of 2020. This includes the most commonly sold drugs, such as Candesartan, Pantoprazole and Ibuprofen.

By comparison, there was a shortage of 7.2 million packages in the first half of 2019, and 14 million in the years 2017 and 2018 combined, ABDA said.

Many of the drugs are produced in Asia for cost reasons. From March onward, increased demand and delivery problems squeezed available supplies.

ABDA said that while pharmacists are sometimes able to provide customers with similar drugs, a “European solution” was necessary to ensure sufficient supplies even during a crisis.

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PARIS: A French public health watchdog is recommending that the country’s coronavirus vaccination program be organized into five phases, with the first doses going to nursing home residents.

The High Authority for Health, in recommendations published Monday, said priority should also go to nursing home staff who are themselves at heightened risk of complications if infected, including those over the age of 65 or with health issues.

It said these two groups should go first because the number of doses available initially in France will likely be “very limited.” Also prioritized would be health workers who are in regular contact with COVID-19 patients.

The recommendations are expected to inform the French government’s thinking about how to best use its vaccine doses.

France this month passed the bleak milestone of 50,000 dead in the pandemic.

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STOCKHOLM — Police in northern Sweden are investigating rumors that high school students in a northern Swedish town are actively trying infect themselves with the coronavirus and to pass it on to others so they can become immune and organize parties.

Investigator Niklas Stjernlof with the police in Ostersund around 500 kilometers (311 miles) northeast of Stockholm told broadcaster SVT said that are currently no suspects.

Monica Sandstrom, a health official at the Jamtlands Gymnasium in Ostersund told SVT that school authorities were willing to assist police in their investigation.

According to Sandstrom, some students were fed up with having to social distance and were looking to “get antibodies” so they could “party until summer.” But it was thought to be all a joke.

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TOKYO Japan says a fast-track arrangement for business-related travel with China amid the pandemic started Monday.

The deal was agreed during Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s visit to Japan last week for talks with his Japanese counterpart, Toshimitsu Motegi. The deal lets travelers engage in limited business activities during the 14-day quarantine period after arrival.

Motegi said at an Japan-China annual international forum Monday that he hoped the arrangement will contribute to promote people exchanges between the two neighbors.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato told reporters that resumption of international travel is “indispensable” for the recovery of the pandemic-hit economy. He said the government will also do its utmost to maintain adequate border control as Japan struggles with the recent resurgence of the infections.

The two countries have also launched residence-track program Monday for students, interns and others with long-term residence permits.

Japan has reported nearly 147,000 cases and more than 2,100 virus-related deaths.

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BERLIN — Germany’s word of the year is — what else? — “corona pandemic.”

The Association for the German Language announced Monday that a jury chose “Corona-Pandemie” for this year’s honor. The group said that it “names THE dominant issue of almost the entire year.”

The runners-up were “Lockdown” and “Verschwoerungserzaehlung,” or “conspiracy story.” “Black Lives Matter” took fourth place.

Previous winners include “postfaktisch,” a reference to the rise of “post-truth” politics, in 2016; and “Heisszeit,” a play on the words for “hot” and “ice age,” to reflect concern over climate change in 2018.

Germany has recorded more than 1 million infections of the coronavirus since the pandemic began and is now in a second partial shutdown, but has been credited with handling the disease better than some other European countries.

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PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Cambodia’s Education Ministry has ordered all state schools to close until the start of the next school year in January after a rare local outbreak of coronavirus.

Education Minister Hang Chuon Naron issued a statement late Sunday saying that all schools will be shut to prevent students from being infected. Public schools will remain closed until until Jan. 11, the start of the next school year, while private schools must close for two weeks, he said.

Students in private schools will be permitted to study online.

Cambodian officials said over the weekend that a family of six and another man tested positive for the coronavirus. Eight more cases were reported Monday among residents of Phnom Penh who were in contact with the family.

Prime Minister Hun Sen expressed concern that the woman believed to be the source had traveled extensively in the country. The woman’s husband works at the Interior Ministry in charge of prisons, and three Cabinet ministers are undergoing self-quarantine.

About 3,300 people in seven provinces in contact with the family are having themselves tested, according to the statement.

Also on Monday, the Culture and Fine Arts Ministry announced the closure of all theaters and museums and the prohibition of public concerts for the next two weeks.

Cambodia has reported only 323 cases of the virus since the pandemic began.

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NEW DELHI — India has recorded 38,772 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, driving its overall total to 9.43 million.

The health ministry on Monday also reported 443 deaths in the same period, raising the death toll to 137,139.

India continues to have one of the lowest deaths per million population globally, the health ministry said.

For more than three weeks now India’s single-day cases have remained below the 50,000 mark.

The capital, New Delhi, has also seen a dip in daily infections. It reported fewer than 5,000 new cases for the second consecutive day. On Sunday, it recorded 68 deaths, driving the capital’s total to 9,066.

India is second behind the U.S. in total coronavirus cases.

In an effort to slow the virus’s spread, the home ministry has allowed states to impose local restrictions such as night curfews but has asked them to consult before imposing lockdowns at state, district or city levels.

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LOS ANGELES — Counties across California will begin stricter COVID-19 restrictions on Monday as cases surge statewide and Thanksgiving travelers return home.

Health officials are preparing for a wave of cases in the next two or three weeks that could be tied to holiday gatherings.

Los Angeles County will impose a lockdown calling for its 10 million residents to stay home beginning Monday.

Santa Clara County is banning all high school, collegiate and professional sports and imposing a quarantine for those traveling into the region from more than 150 miles away.

San Francisco and San Mateo counties moved to the most restrictive purple tier in the state’s pandemic blueprint for the economy.

The state reported 7,415 coronavirus hospitalizations on Sunday, citing the most recently available data from the previous day. More than 1,700 of those patients were in intensive care units. California’s previous record was 7,170 in July.

As of Sunday, California has had nearly 1.2 million confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 19,000 deaths since the pandemic began. The state reported around 15,600 new cases on Saturday.

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CHICAGO — Public health officials in Illinois on Sunday reported 57 more deaths from COVID-19, as well as 7,178 new confirmed and probable cases.

There have been 720,114 COVID-19 cases in Illinois since the pandemic began. The death toll has reached 12,193 people.

The state reported 62,740 tests in the past 24 hours with more than 10.4 million tests overall.

Currently, 5,858 people in Illinois are being hospitalized for COVID-19, with 1,185 people in intensive care units.

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NEW YORK — New York City will reopen its school system to in-person learning and increase the number of days a week many children attend class even as the coronavirus pandemic intensifies in the city.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Sunday that some elementary schools and pre-kindergarten programs will resume classes Dec. 7. Others will take longer to reopen their doors. The announcement marks a major policy reversal for the nation’s largest school system.

It comes just 11 days after de Blasio announced that schools were shutting down because of a rising number of cases. The plan for reopening middle and high schools is still being developed.

Some elementary schools and pre-kindergarten programs will resume classes Dec. 7, a week from Monday, the mayor said. Others will take longer to reopen their doors.

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LONDON — Britain says it has secured 2 million more doses of a promising coronavirus vaccine as it gears up to launch within days the country’s most ambitious inoculation program in decades.

The U.K. has had Europe’s deadliest coronavirus outbreak, with more than 58,000 confirmed virus-related deaths. It now hopes to hit a more positive milestone by becoming one of the first countries in the world to start vaccinating its population against COVID-19.

The U.K. government has agreed to buy more than 350 million doses of vaccines from seven different producers, should they prove effective, as it prepares to vaccinate as many of the country’s 67 million people as possible.

Hospitals in England have been told they could receive the first doses of the Pfizer shot as early as the week of Dec. 7 if it receives approval, the Guardian and Financial Times reported.

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