The Latest: Germany extends virus lockdown until Jan. 31
BERLIN — German Chancellor Angela Merkel says she has agreed with state governors to extend the country’s current lockdown by three weeks until Jan. 31.
Merkel says they are tightening curbs on social contacts, in line with measures imposed in March, and calling for new restrictions on movement for people living in areas with particularly high infection rates. Germany launched a nationwide partial shutdown on Nov. 2, closing restaurants, bars, leisure and sports facilities.
The decision Tuesday came amid an increase of coronavirus cases and deaths, with Germany reporting 944 more deaths.
Vaccinations in Germany and the rest of the 27-nation European Union started over a week ago. In Germany, a nation of 83 million, nearly 265,000 vaccinations had been reported by Monday, the Robert Koch Institute said.
THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
Seniors citizens in Florida camped overnight in vehicles to get in line for vaccinations in Daytona Beach. Distribution hiccups and logistical challenges have slowed the initial coronavirus vaccine rollout in California. The vaccination drive enters new phase in U.S. as some start receiving final dose.
England is facing its third lockdown, while other countries are taking steps against the coronavirus and vaccinating citizens. Germany extended its national lockdown as coronavirus deaths mount. Meanwhile, Wall Street wobbles after its sharp slide to start 2021.
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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
LONDON — Britain’s statistics office says about one in every 50 people in England had the coronavirus in the last week.
The Office for National Statistics says in London the figure is even higher. It estimates that one in 30 people in private households in the British capital had the coronavirus in the week between Dec. 27 – Jan 2. The figure doesn’t include people in hospitals, nursing homes and other institutions.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson put England into a national lockdown to try to slow the spread of the virus and the country is accelerating its vaccination program.
Johnson says 1.3 million people have received at least one shot of the two-dose inoculation regime since injections began in early December. That includes almost a quarter of people over 80 in England.
The government aims to vaccinate more than 13 million people, including those over 70, by Feb. 15.
GENEVA — The head of the World Health Organization says he is “disappointed” that Chinese officials have not finalized permissions for the arrival of team of experts into China to examine origins of the coronavirus.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, in a rare critique of Beijing, says members of the international scientific team have begun over the last 24 hours to leave from their home countries to China as part of an arrangement between WHO and the Chinese government.
“Today, we learned that Chinese officials have not yet finalized the necessary permissions for the team’s arrival in China,” he said at a news conference Tuesday in Geneva.
He says he’s “very disappointed with this news, given that two members had already begun their journeys and others were not able to travel at the last minute, but had been in contact with senior Chinese officials.”
MADRID — Spain is reporting 23,700 new coronavirus infections and 352 confirmed deaths Tuesday.
Spain has nearly 2 million infections and almost 51,500 deaths since the onset of the pandemic.
The 14-day cumulative index watched by epidemiologists rose to 296 per 100,000 inhabitants, up from 272 a day earlier. It’s less than the second-wave high of 529 on Nov. 9.
Intensive care unit occupation by coronavirus patients remains at 23%.
TORONTO — Canada’s most populous province plans to vaccinate all long-term care residents, workers and essential caregivers in coronavirus hot spots by Jan. 21.
The Ontario government says those living and working in nursing homes in Toronto, Peel Region, York Region and Windsor-Essex will be immunized by that date. Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s Conservative government has faced criticism for its slow vaccine rollout and for halting vaccination operations over Christmas.
Ontario says approximately 50,000 residents have received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and nearly 3,000 have gotten the Moderna vaccine. Each province administers health care in Canada.
BRASILIA — The Brazilian government, under pressure to begin an immunization campaign, expects to receive 2 million of the AstraZeneca vaccines this month.
However, Brazil’s health regulator Anvisa has yet to approve any vaccine, and the health ministry hasn’t provided a definitive rollout date for the nation’s first shots.
As of Monday, 5,126 COVID-19 patients were in intensive care in Sao Paulo’s hospitals, the highest since Aug. 22. Meanwhile, stores, bars, offices and other non-essential activities resumed in the state following suspension during year-end celebrations.
Despite several pleas from Gov. João Doria, no mayors in Sao Paulo’s beachside cities limited circulation of tourists during the holiday season, with many hotels and restaurants full. Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro, who previously had the coronavirus, swam just offshore on Jan. 1, to the delight of a large group standing close together.
BUDAPEST, Hungary — The coronavirus death toll in Hungary surpassed 10,000 on Tuesday, one of the worst death rates in the world for the nation of nearly 10 million people.
A tally by Johns Hopkins University showed Hungary’s death rate of 102.13 per 100,000 people, the sixth-highest overall.
More than 15,000 health care workers have been vaccinated in Hungary so far, according to chief medical officer Cecilia Muller.
Hungary will reopen airports to passenger flights from Britain and Northern Ireland on Wednesday, the government’s emergency task force announced.
Hungary banned flights from Britain on Dec. 22 to limit the spread of a possibly more contagious mutation of the coronavirus. The ban was originally until Feb. 8.
BOSTON — The vice chairman of the Massachusetts Republican Party once was a coronavirus skeptic but has issued a mea culpa after falling sick with virus.
Tom Mountain wrote in the Boston Herald on Tuesday that he was probably infected at a White House Hannukah party last month. He says he’s recovering at home and expects to survive despite what he calls his own negligence and arrogance.
He says he got sick three days after attending the White House party, where mask-wearing and social distancing were lax. Mountain says he spread the virus to other members of his family and required two trips to the emergency room.
ROME — Italy registered 649 coronavirus deaths on Tuesday, nearly double from the previous day.
There were 348 recorded a day earlier, according to the Health Ministry. The country added 15,378 confirmed cases on Tuesday, a few thousand more than Monday’s new caseload. But it also conducted nearly 60,000 more swab tests in the last 24 hours.
Italy has confirmed 2.1 million cases and 76,329 known dead in the pandemic.
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Hundreds of senior citizens determined to get vaccinated against the coronavirus camped out overnight in frigid temperatures to secure spots in Tuesday morning’s line in Daytona Beach.
City officials tried to avoid a repeat of Monday’s traffic jams by opening a stadium’s parking lot to overnight camping for people 65 and older. By 7:30 p.m. Monday, senior citizens in some 200 vehicles were on the property.
The Daytona Beach News Journal reported officials planned to close the gates once 1,000 people entered, matching the number of vaccines available for Tuesday. The shots will be administered by Volusia County’s office of the Florida Department of Health.
The state has received more than 960,000 doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. By Monday, about 260,000 Floridians had been vaccinated, mostly health care workers and first responders, followed recently by the elderly.
About 83% of coronavirus deaths in Florida have been older than 65. Florida has one of the nation’s oldest populations, with 4.4 million of the state’s 21 million people 65 years or older.
MONTPELIER, Vt. — Vermont officials are working out how the state will spend its share of the latest coronavirus relief funds recently approved by Congress.
The Times Argus reports officials estimate the state will receive about $500 million. Douglas Farnham, of the Agency of Administration, estimates that among the expenditures will be $200 million for emergency rental assistance and homeless prevention; $179.4 million for public health and social service emergency funding; and $127 million for elementary and secondary education relief.
The funds cannot be used to help the state and local governments make up for budget shortfalls caused by the pandemic.
SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Syracuse University will postpone the start of its spring semester by two weeks to reduce the impact of an expected post-holiday surge in coronavirus cases.
The semester will start Feb. 8 and end May 21, Syracuse Chancellor Kent Syverud says.
He says the decision was made in consultation with the Onondaga County Health Department and should allow some of the university’s front-line workers to be vaccinated for the coronavirus before students return.
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen says Denmark is lowering the number of people who can gather in public from 10 to five.
The plan was to “delay the mutation,” Frederiksen said of the British mutation, adding that Danes were advised against traveling to Britain. Frederiksen also urged people to stay home and “feel free to cancel all the appointments you can where possible.”
Earlier, Denmark has banned sale of alcohol after 10 p.m., made face masks mandatory in public places such as supermarkets, libraries, theaters and public transportation. Pharmacies are open but non-food shops, amusement parks, zoos and gyms are closed until at least Jan. 17. Restaurants and cafes can only offer take out. Students in the 5th grade and above have switched to remote learning.
JOHANNESBURG — South Africa and Zimbabwe have re-imposed restrictions to try to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Starting January with record new confirmed cases and deaths, South Africa last week banned all sales of liquor, closed restaurants, banned public gatherings, closed most public beaches and imposed a nighttime curfew. The country of 60 million surpassed a total of more than 30,000 confirmed deaths, according to official figures Tuesday. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa is expected to call an emergency meeting of the National Coronavirus Command Council this week.
South Africa does not yet have any vaccines. Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has said the government plans to inoculate 67% of the population, with hospital workers and vulnerable vaccinated first. That’s expected to start in April, when the country receives vaccines from the COVAX facility.
Compared to the United States, the number of daily cases is low in South Africa. However, the cases have doubled in the last two weeks. The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases rose from 14 per 100,000 people on Dec. 20 to 23 on Sunday.
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lankan authorities announced the country’s two international airports will be fully operational starting Jan. 21 after 10 months and will fully open the country for tourists.
The Indian ocean island nation closed the two main international airports in March because of the coronavirus.
Last month, Sri Lanka launched a one-month pilot project to re-open the country for tourism while opening the two airports. Hundreds of tourists arrived from Ukraine in a “travel bubble.”
Sri Lanka’s total confirmed cases since March reached 45,498 on Tuesday with 215 confirmed deaths.
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Danish health authorities will allow a wait of up to six weeks before administering a second dose of a coronavirus vaccine, but say the original guidelines of waiting only three to four weeks to deliver a second shot should be followed whenever possible.
Soeren Brostroem, head of the Danish Health Authority, says his agency and the Danish Medicines Agency have been scrutinizing vaccine data. Denmark is part of the European Union, which officially kicked off its vaccination programs on Dec. 27 using the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, which requires two shots.
“We can see in the documentation that it can take up to six weeks between each injection. We will add this to our updated guidelines,” Brostroem told Danish news agency Ritzau. “If you go longer than six weeks, we cannot see the scientific evidence that you are protected with certainty.”
Britain, in an effort to vaccinate as many people as quickly as possible, has allowed authorities to stretch out the time between the first shot and the second from 21 days to 12 weeks. Around the world, among scientists and governments, there is strong debate on the wisdom of that plan.
ROME — The Italian government has extended travel restrictions and other measures for another week in its modified Christmas season lockdown to try to head off a new surge in coronavirus infections.
A decree approved by the Cabinet early Tuesday extends the measures to Jan. 15. At the same time, the government agreed to begin letting high school students return to class starting next week, but only in limited numbers. High schools have been on remote learning since the end of October, though elementary and middle schoolers have been attending in-person school since the start of the academic year.
Italy has been trying to control its latest wave of infections with localized restrictions. After two months of restrictions, infections have plateaued but hospitals are still under pressure, hundreds of people are still dying every day and officials fear cases could surge again due to holiday get-togethers.
Italy has reported more than 75,600 confirmed virus deaths, but experts say many deaths were not counted early in the pandemic.