The Latest: German health minister expects vaccine in 2021
BERLIN — Germany’s health minister says he expects a vaccination for the coronavirus to be ready to start rolling out in the first quarter next year.
Health Minister Jens Spahn and Research Minister Anja Karliczek had said in September that they hoped to be able to start vaccinating the most at-risk group of Germans in the first months of 2021, and Spahn said Monday that prognosis is on track.
“As things stand today, Oct. 12, I assume that we’ll be able to begin in the first quarter of next year,” Spahn said during a video conference with the Ifo Institute research think-tank.
Vaccinations would be voluntary, and go first to people with preexisting medical conditions, the elderly and people working in health care and nursing homes.
Germany is supporting several efforts to develop a vaccine, and Spahn said eventually there should be more than enough to go around.
“If all the horses reach the finish line, we will have far too much vaccine,” he said.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett faces Senate despite virus
— Trump insists he’s free of virus, ready for campaign trail
— Britain expected to tighten restrictions on hard-hit northern cities like Liverpool
— EU nations gear up to adopt traffic-light system to identify outbreaks
— Four Swiss guards who protect 83-year-old Pope Francis have the virus
— Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
MADISON, Wis. — A Wisconsin judge on Monday allowed the state’s mask mandate to stand, rejecting an attempt by the Republican-controlled Legislature and a conservative law firm to overturn it even as cases are spiking.
The judge noted in his ruling that the Legislature could vote to overturn the order from Democratic Gov. Tony Evers if they wanted to, but they haven’t so far.
Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty President Rick Esenberg said the group, which brought the case, will appeal. Esenberg called the issue a “critical constitutional matter.”
Republican legislative leaders did not immediately return messages seeking comment. The Legislature filed a brief in support of the lawsuit.
The lawsuit argued that Evers overstepped his authority by issuing multiple emergency orders to curb the coronavirus pandemic. Evers said it was within his power to impose the mask requirement and that he followed the recommendations of public health experts.
Evers called the ruling a victory in the fight against COVID-19.
MILAN — The number of new positives in Italy shrank to below the 5,000 level on Monday — typically a day that bucks trends as far fewer tests are administered.
Health Ministry figures showed 4,619 new cases in the last 25 hours, a dip of 15% from nearly 5,500 a day earlier, against an 18% drop in testing.
Italy has been hovering around 5,000 new cases a day, prompting the government to consider more restrictions after making masks mandatory also outdoors last week. Among the measures under discussion are early closing times for bars and limiting numbers at social gatherings.
Lombardy, the epicenter of the virus, saw a one-third drop in infections to just under 700, followed by Campania, where Naples is located, with 662.
Hospitalizations continued to nudge up, growing by 300, while 32 more COVID patients were in intensive care units. Italy’s total infections now stand at just under 360,000, while more than 36,200 people have died in the pandemic.
LONDON — The head of the World Health Organization warned against the idea that herd immunity might be a realistic strategy to stop the pandemic, calling such proposals “unethical.”
WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a press briefing on Monday that health officials typically aim to achieve herd immunity — where the entire population is protected from a virus when the majority are immune — by vaccination. Tedros noted that to obtain herd immunity from measles, for example, about 95% of the population must be vaccinated.
“Herd immunity is achieved by protecting people from a virus, not by exposing them to it,” he said. “Never in the history of public health has herd immunity been used as a strategy for responding to an outbreak,” he said, calling the strategy “scientifically and ethically problematic.”
Tedros said that WHO estimates less than 10% of the population has any immunity to the coronavirus, meaning the vast majority of the world remains susceptible.
Tedros also noted countries had reported record-high daily figures of COVID-19 to the U.N. health agency for the last four days, citing surges in Europe and the Americas in particular.
NICOSIA, Cyprus — Cyprus has brought back restrictions on public and private gatherings in its two most populous districts amid concerns over a spike in COVID-19 infections in workplaces and family get-togethers during the last few days.
Cyprus’ Health Ministry said Monday are gatherings in private homes and public areas in the Limassol and Nicosia districts are limited to 10 people, including children. Attendance at religious services is capped at 75 people, while spectators are prohibited from all sports events. Bars, restaurants, cinemas and theaters are limited to a maximum of 75 patrons indoors and 150 outdoors. Restaurant seating is also limited to 10 people at most per table. Wedding and baptism receptions are prohibited.
The restrictions are to last until Oct. 23. Cyprus has seen confirmed COVID-19 infections hover in the double digits in the last couple of weeks, relatively high for a country of 875,000 people.
The Mediterranean island nation has so far had a total of 2006 COVID-19 infections and 31 deaths virus-related deaths.
LONDON — The emergencies chief of the World Health Organization said “appropriate measures” can be taken to ensure that in-person elections can be held safely and that the pandemic shouldn’t automatically scupper such plans.
“We’ve seen many examples over the last nine months where elections have actually been held very safely,” Dr. Michael Ryan said on Monday. He said WHO had worked with numerous countries to produce guidance that aims to minimize the spread of COVID-19 during any mass gathering, including an election.
“We don’t specify to any country what the proper choice is for the type of election (to be) run,” he said, adding that it is up to countries to conduct their own risk assessment to see how elections might be held safely.
Ryan said that it was entirely possible to reduce the risk of coronavirus spread to “an absolute minimum if everybody participates and if everybody adheres to what is an agreed method.” The problem, he pointed out, is when those practices are ignored. “And that’s essentially something that can’t be legislated for.”
BEIRUT — Schools have resumed classes for the new school year in Lebanon starting grade 9 and above amid an increase of coronavirus cases in the tiny country.
The Ministry of Education said other classes will resume lessons over the coming three weeks.
On Monday, classes were split into morning and afternoon shifts in order to have a 50% capacity and abide by social distancing. Students had their temperature checked before entering schools and had to wear masks.
The move came as the Interior Minister ordered a lockdown in 169 towns and villages around Lebanon for a week to try limit the spread of the virus.
In those 169 towns and villages schools were closed.
Lebanon, a nation of 5 million, has registered 53,568 cases of coronavirus and 459 deaths.
Over the past three months, cases increased dramatically in Lebanon after the only international airport was reopened and a nationwide lockdown eased.
A massive explosion at Beirut’s port worsened the situation amid crowding at hospitals, funerals and anti-government protests.
LONDON — The British government is giving 257 million pounds ($335 million) to help almost 1,400 arts and cultural organizations survive the coronavirus pandemic.
The money announced Monday is the first chunk of a Culture Recovery Fund totalling 1.57 billion pounds in all.
Recipients include major organizations such as the London Symphony Orchestra, which received 846,000 pounds, and tiny venues such as London’s 50-seat Finborough Theatre, which got just under 60,000 pounds. Liverpool’s Cavern Club, where The Beatles shot to fame, received a grant of 525,000 pounds.
Britain’s museums, galleries, theaters and music venues all closed when the country went into lockdown in March. Some have managed to reopen, with reduced capacity and at a financial loss, but coronavirus restrictions make most live performances impossible.
Many arts workers also have not been supported by government job-retention programs because they are freelancers.
Julian Bird, chief executive of umbrella body U.K. Theatre, said the news was “warmly welcomed, and will help create work and retain jobs.”
BRUSSELS — European Union countries are getting ready to adopt a common traffic light system to coordinate traveling across the 27-nation bloc amid the coronavirus pandemic.
To ensure that member states do not close their borders to one another and avoid a repeat of the cacophony witnessed in March when the virus first struck, the EU commission came up with proposals that have been amended before their scheduled approval by EU nations on Tuesday.
The key measure is a common map of infections drawn up by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. It will sort European regions into green, orange and red zones according to the severity of coronavirus outbreaks. Under the latest proposal, red zones should be areas where the total number of newly notified COVID-19 cases is more than 50 per 100,000 people during a 14-day period and the percentage of positive tests reaches at least 4%.
Regions with a lower positive rate but where the total number of cases is more than 150 per 100,000 will also be classified red.
In light of the very high level of infections across the continent now, most of the bloc should be classified as red or orange.
VATICAN CITY — The Vatican says four Swiss Guards have tested positive for the coronavirus, as the surge in infections in surrounding Italy enters the Vatican walls.
The four are all symptomatic and are in isolation while their contacts are being traced, the Vatican said Monday. They join three other Vatican residents who tested positive in recent weeks plus the dozen or so Holy See officials who tested positive during the first wave of the outbreak.
Despite the positive cases among his own bodyguards, 83-year-old Pope Francis continued Monday to shun a mask. He was seen warmly greeting Cardinal George Pell in his private studio, and neither man wore a mask.
Francis decision to shun a mask during his Wednesday audience, held last week indoors, drew criticism on social media.
Italy is seeing a sharp surge in COVID-19 cases, with the Lazio region around the Vatican among the worst-hit in this second wave of the pandemic.
The Vatican last week amended its mask mandates to conform to that of Italy, requiring them indoors and out. The Vatican didn’t immediately respond when asked why Francis wasn’t wearing one to receive Pell.
MADRID — Supporters of Spain’s far-right Vox party have staged protests by car across Spain against restrictions introduced to help stem the spread of COVID-19.
The protests Monday coincided with the Fiesta Nacional de España and aimed to “turn our National Day into a cry for freedom.”
Scores of cars jammed traffic in Madrid on the Paseo de la Castellana, one of the capital’s main roads. Protesters, wearing face masks, honked horns and waved Spanish flags out of their car windows.
Vox has lawmakers in the Spanish and European parliaments, as well as many town councillors across Spain.
Spain has officially recorded more than 861,000 COVID-19 cases and has attributed almost 33,000 deaths to the new coronavirus, making it one of Europe’s worst-hit countries.
BRUSSELS — Organizers of the Brussels auto show, which was scheduled to be held in January, say the event will be postponed by a year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
According to organizers, the event draws some 500,000 visitors every in Belgium’s capital city. The 99th edition of the show will now take place from Jan. 14-23, 2022.
Several other auto shows have been cancelled or postponed due to the COVID-19 outbreak, including those in New York and Geneva.