The Latest: North Dakota to give free COVID test to teachers
BISMARCK, N.D. — North Dakota health officials are rolling out free rapid COVID-19 testing for teachers, staff and school administrators this week as part of a pilot project designed to slow the virus’ spread by identifying and quickly isolating people who may be asymptomatic.
Testing of K-12 teachers will start in the Fargo and West Fargo school districts and will be expanded to other districts in coming days and weeks. Teachers, staff and administrators who work closely with students are being encouraged to get tested weekly through Dec. 31. Students will not be tested as part of the effort.
North Dakota ranks first in the U.S. in new COVID-19 cases per capita, with 2,418 new cases per 100,000 people over the past two weeks. One in every 86 people in North Dakota tested positive in the past week.
November is on track to become North Dakota’s deadliest month from COVID-19. More than half of the statewide deaths have occurred in the past few weeks.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
—AstraZeneca says late-stage trials show it s vaccine with Oxford University is “highly effective,” does not need the deep cold storage that rival vaccines do
— Cut off: School closings leave rural students isolated
— Jury duty? No thanks, say many, forcing trials to be delayed
— Inequality ‘baked into’ virus testing access as cases surge
— New Zealand leader Jacinda Ardern offers virus know-how to Joe Biden
Follow AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
LONDON — AstraZeneca says that late-stage trials showed its COVID-19 vaccine was up to 90% effective, giving public health officials hope they may soon have access to a vaccine that is easier to distribute than some of its rivals.
The results reported Monday are based on interim analysis of trials in the U.K. and Brazil of a vaccine developed by Oxford University and manufactured by AstraZeneca.
“These findings show that we have an effective vaccine that will save many lives,” said Oxford University Professor Andrew Pollard, chief investigator for the trial. “Excitingly, we’ve found that one of our dosing regimens may be around 90% effective.’’
AstraZeneca is the third major drug company to report late stage results for its potential COVID-19 vaccine as public health officials around the world anxiously wait for vaccines that will end the pandemic that has killed almost 1.4 million people.
Unlike the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, the Oxford-AstraZeneca candidate doesn’t have to be stored at ultra-cold temperatures, making it easier to distribute, especially in developing countries. All three vaccines must be approved by regulators before they can be widely distributed.
BUDAPEST, Hungary — Hungary’s foreign minister on Monday said the country is moving forward with testing on a Russian coronavirus vaccine after being the first in Europe to receive samples of the drug last week.
Peter Szijjarto says 10 initial doses of Sputnik V – the drug hailed in August by Russian President Vladimir Putin as the world’s first registered COVID-19 vaccine – would undergo testing in Hungary for safety and effectiveness. Szijjarto announced last week that negotiations are ongoing between a Hungarian drug manufacturer and Russian partners on possible domestic production of the drug.
Sputnik V has not completed advanced clinical trials and has not yet been assessed by the European Medicines Agency, the European Union’s medicines regulator. The vaccine has already been administered in Russia to healthcare workers and other high-risk groups.
Szijjarto says Hungary is also in negotiations with three Chinese vaccine makers, and purchased 2.8 million doses of a Chinese antiviral medication.
The central European country has also reserved 12 million doses of vaccine from manufacturers in Europe and the United States, including British-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, Belgium-based Janssen and the joint U.S.-German vaccine from Pfizer-BioNTech.
ISLAMABAD — Pakistan will again close all educational institutions as of Thursday because of a steady and increasingly drastic increase in coronavirus cases.
Schools were opened in September as Pakistan appeared to have achieved a sustained flattening of the curve.
Daily cases had dropped to less than 300 a day, but few people wear masks and social distancing is mostly non-existent in the country of 220 million.
Pakistan recorded 2,756 new cases in the last 24 hours, one of the sharpest spikes since the outbreak began in March. The country has 376,929 confirmed cases, and 7,696 people have died from the virus.
The government announced Monday that schools will be closed through December and the possibility of re-opening will be discussed again in early January.
GENEVA — The U.N. weather agency says a slowdown in industrial activity linked to the coronavirus pandemic has cut emissions of pollutants and heat-trapping greenhouse gases, but hasn’t reduced their record levels in the atmosphere.
The World Meteorological Organization pointed to a record-setting surge of carbon dioxide emissions in recent years, and warned that any impact on greenhouse gas concentrations from the pullback in activity due to the COVID-19 outbreak will take years — and can best happen if countries are able to cut their emissions to zero.
“The lockdown-related fall in emissions is just a tiny blip on the long-term graph. We need a sustained flattening of the curve,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas, releasing the latest edition of the organization’s annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin on Monday. “The COVID-19 pandemic is not a solution for climate change.”
Carbon dioxide concentrations are the result of cumulative past and current emissions, and are no bigger than “the normal year-to-year fluctuations in the carbon cycle and the high natural variability in carbon sinks like vegetation,” WMO said.
MOSCOW — Daily new coronavirus infections in Russia hit a new high on Monday, with authorities reporting a record 25,173 new cases. The latest figure brings the country’s total to over 2.1 million. The government coronavirus task force also reported 361 deaths on Monday, raising the total since the start of the pandemic to over 36,500.
Russia, which currently has the world’s fifth largest number of confirmed cases, has been swept by a rapid coronavirus resurgence since September. Despite this, authorities insist there are no plans to impose a second lockdown or to shut businesses nationwide.
The Siberian republic of Buryatia, which is near the border with Mongolia, last Monday closed a wide range of non-essential businesses for two weeks to curb the spread of the virus, and is currently the only Russian region to have done that.
When asked why other hard-hit Russian regions aren’t following Buryatia’s example, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Monday that regional governments decide on which restrictions to impose in their regions depending prevailing conditions there, like the number of available medical workers and hospital beds.
MADRID — Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez says a national COVID-19 vaccination plan will be launched in January.
Sánchez said the vaccine will be administered at 13,000 locations across Spain and “a very substantial part of the population” can be vaccinated in the first half of next year. Further details will be announced on Tuesday.
Sánchez said Spain’s 14-day cumulative rate of cases per 100,000 of population has fallen below 400.
Spain on Monday began demanding a negative PCR test for COVID-19 for most people arriving in Spain by air or by sea. The measure covers arrivals from 65 countries, including most of the European Union.
Meanwhile, the northeastern region of Catalonia on Monday eased some of the tight restrictions on bars and restaurants and cultural events introduced in mid-October. Although a 10 p.m.-6 a.m. curfew remains, Catalan bars and restaurants can have customers up to 30% capacity indoors and cultural venues can operate at 50% capacity.
STOCKHOLM — Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven has urged his countrymen to do what it takes to fight the coronavirus pandemic as “people’s health and lives are still in danger” and that danger “is increasing.”
In a rare televised address late Sunday, the somber-looking Lofven said “the reality is exactly that, harsh and brutal.” He said it was “utterly necessary” to act.
“A stranger you infect could get very ill. A friend you infect could need care. A grandparent you infect could die,” Lofven said. “These are the people for whom you have to show decisiveness, self-discipline and a sense of responsibility.
Sweden opted for a different — and much debated — approach to handling the pandemic by keeping large sections of society open and relied mainly on recommendations for people to maintain social distance.
In the fall as the virus resurged, Sweden saw a rapid increase in new cases and strains put on medical services pushed the government to take stricter measures, including a nationwide ban on the sale of alcohol after 10 p.m. in bars and restaurants. Sweden also banned public gatherings of more than eight people.
Sweden has reported more than 201,000 cases and 6,340 deaths.
JERUSALEM — The Palestinian Authority in the Israeli-occupied West Bank has announced a partial two-week lockdown to clamp down on the coronavirus’ spread as new cases have rapidly increased.
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said Monday that the West Bank will be under a full lockdown over the weekends, and a curfew will be imposed from 7 p.m. until 6 a.m. on weekdays. All non-essential businesses will be closed during the periods of lockdown.
The Palestinian Health Ministry has recorded over 3,000 new cases of the coronavirus in the West Bank in the past week, and a total of more than 84,000 since the beginning of the pandemic. It says at least 714 Palestinians have died from the disease.
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who contracted the coronavirus earlier this month and was hospitalized, said his latest test for the virus came back negative.
Zelenskiy posted on his Facebook account on Monday that he’s glad to be back at work and working normally.
Zelenskiy was moved to a hospital in Kyiv several days after a Nov. 9 test showed that he was positive for the coronavirus. Even though he displayed mild symptoms, his spokeswoman said he was hospitalized because “there are better conditions for self-isolation and care for coronavirus patients.”
Ukraine has experienced a resurgence of the coronavirus since late September, when new infections shot up again. On Monday, health officials reported 10,945 new coronavirus cases. Ukraine has so far reported a total of 635,689 confirmed cases and 11,075 deaths.
This month Ukraine’s government ordered non-essential businesses to shut down on weekends in an effort to stem the rapid growth of the outbreak without further damaging the country’s weakened economy.
JAKARTA — Indonesia’s confirmed coronavirus cases have surpassed half a million as the government of the world’s fourth most populous nation scrambles to procure vaccines to help it win the fight against the pandemic.
The Health Ministry reported 4,442 new cases on Monday to bring the country’s total to 502,110, the highest toll in Southeast Asia and second in Asia only to India’s more than 9.1 million confirmed cases.
The ministry said that the death toll from the virus is 16,002, and that it has been adding 3,000-5,000 daily cases since mid-September.
President Joko Widodo said his administration is working on a mass vaccination program for the vast archipelago nation, home to more than 270 million people.
BERLIN — Germany’s health minister is stressing the importance of dealing with multiple vaccine developers amid prospects that the country’s first coronavirus vaccinations could happen as early as December.
Minister Jens Spahn noted during a visit Monday to IDT Biologika, a German company developing a vaccine that it hopes will be ready next year, that European Union and German officials “are not just counting on one technology, on one company and one team of researchers.” He said “with vaccines, you can never know whether there might yet be setbacks, whether perhaps one won’t reach the finish line for whatever reason.”
Three developers have now published promising preliminary results. Spahn said there is good reason to believe “that we can begin vaccinating at the beginning of next year at the latest, perhaps even already at the end of this year.” Germany aims to have specialized vaccination centers ready in mid-December.
BEIJING — Chinese authorities are testing millions of people, imposing lockdowns and shutting down schools after multiple locally transmitted coronavirus cases were discovered in three cities across the country last week.
As temperatures drop and people move actitivies indoors, large-scale measures are being enacted in the cities of Tianjin, Shanghai and Manzhouli, despite the low number of new cases compared to the United States or other countries that are seeing new waves of infections.
On Monday, the National Health Commission reported two new locally transmitted cases in Shanghai over the last 24 hours, bringing the total to seven since Friday. China has recorded 86,442 total cases and 4,634 deaths since the virus was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year.
In Tianjin, health workers have collected more than 2.2 million samples for testing from residents in the Binhai new district, after five locally transmitted cases were discovered.
In Manzhouli, a city of more than 200,000, health authorities are testing all residents after two cases were reported on Saturday. They also shut down all schools and public venues and banned public gatherings such as banquets.