The Latest: Moderna to ask regulators to OK virus vaccine

Moderna Inc. said it would ask U.S. and European regulators Monday to allow emergency use of its COVID-19 vaccine as new study results confirm the shots offer strong protection — ramping up the race to begin limited vaccinations as the coronavirus rampage worsens.

Multiple vaccine candidates must succeed for the world to stamp out the pandemic, which has been on the upswing in the U.S. and Europe. U.S. hospitals have been stretched to the limit as the nation has seen more than 160,000 new cases per day and more than 1,400 daily deaths. Since first emerging nearly a year ago in China, the virus has killed more than 1.4 million people worldwide.

Moderna is just behind Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech in seeking to begin vaccinations in the U.S. in December. British regulators also are assessing the Pfizer shot and another from AstraZeneca.

Moderna created its shots with the U.S. National Institutes of Health and already had a hint they were working, but said it got the final needed results over the weekend that suggest the vaccine is more than 94% effective.



— 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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BISMARCK, N.D. — Plans to light North Dakota’s state Christmas tree have been altered this year to accommodate the coronavirus pandemic.

Gov. Doug Burgum and his wife, Kathryn Burgum, plan to light the tree virtually on Tuesday evening with a livestream on Facebook.

The governor’s office says this year’s Christmas tree theme is “creating connections,” a reminder to stay socially connected this holiday season through a video chat, phone call or staying physically distanced.

The public is invited to see the lighted tree from their vehicles along the driveway of the Capitol Mall.

Hospitalizations due to complications from the coronavirus rose for a fourth straight day in North Dakota, according to data posted Sunday by state health officials.

A total of 725 positive tests were confirmed in the last day. Officials reported five new deaths, increasing the cumulative number of fatalities to 920.


LONDON — Pubs and restaurants in Wales will be barred from opening in the evenings or selling alcohol as part of new measures to suppress a resurgent coronavirus.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said that starting Friday hospitality businesses will have to close at 6 p.m. and entertainment venues including movie theaters, bingo halls and bowling alleys must shut completely. The measures are due to last until at least Dec. 17.

Wales had a 17-day “circuit-breaker” lockdown in October and November, which succeeded in reducing transmission of the virus. But cases have risen and Drakeford said the outbreak was “accelerating” once again.

Neighboring England went into a four-week lockdown on Nov. 5, and a major survey released Monday says that by Nov. 24 it had cut coronavirus cases by almost a third. Many businesses in England will be able to reopen from Wednesday, though pubs and restaurants will stay closed in the hardest-hit areas.

All of the U.K. plans to ease restrictions for several days over Christmas so that families can spend the holiday together.


BERLIN — The German government has launched plans to build up a “national health reserve” of equipment to prevent a repeat of the scramble for supplies seen at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

Health Minister Jens Spahn said the “corona Cabinet” of senior ministers approved the plan on Monday. He said that protective equipment and masks, ventilators and medicines will be stockpiled at 19 sites across Germany.

Spahn said that the plan is to have a month’s worth of supplies physically on hand, with rolling contracts in place to ensure six months’ supplies. The aim is to set up the structure of the reserve next year, filling it initially with imported supplies and from 2022 with material made in Germany.

The minister said that 1 billion euros ($1.2 billion) has been earmarked for the project next year. He said that “making provisions costs, but making provisions also protects people in a crisis.”

European and other countries competed for limited supplies of masks and other equipment earlier this year when the coronavirus pandemic spread across the globe.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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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