The Latest: Tunisia sets nationwide lockdown against virus
TUNIS, Tunisia — Tunisia’s government is imposing a nationwide four-day anti-coronavirus lockdown starting Thursday, which coincides with the anniversary of the toppling of the country’s autocratic leader 10 years ago.
Health minister Fawzi Madhi announced the measure, noting the lockdown through Sunday will include an overnight curfew from 4 p.m. to 6 a.m. Schools are also being shut for 10 days from Thursday.
Tunisia has reported more than 5,100 coronavirus-related deaths.
Thursday marks the 10th anniversary of the ouster on Jan. 14, 2011, of former Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. The autocrat led Tunisia for 23 years before the eruption of nationwide protests that inspired what became known as the Arab Spring. The movement unleashed revolt across the Arab world, toppling several autocratic leaders. Ben Ali died in 2019.
THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
The U.S. will allow more people to get coronavirus shots, including those 65 and older. China says the World Health Organization experts will begin their fact-finding visit this week in the central city of Wuhan where the coronavirus was first detected in late 2019. More lawmakers forced into the Capitol lockdown have tested positive. One lawmaker criticized Republicans who declined masks during the lockdown, calling it “selfish idiocy.”
Tokyo residents are questioning holding the Olympics in July because of the coronavirus pandemic. India has started shipping COVID-19 vaccine to cities. The EU regulator is considering the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to be licensed to the 27-nation bloc.
— Follow AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic, https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
NEW YORK — Gov. Andrew Cuomo expanded the vaccine eligibility requirements in New York to include anyone over the age of 65.
Cuomo said Tuesday the state is following new federal guidance issued by the CDC. On Monday, people age 75 and up and a much longer list of workers, including transit employees, grocery clerks, teachers, police officers, firefighters and others became eligible to get the vaccine.
Cuomo says it will take six months to vaccinate 7 million New Yorkers, less than half of the state’s 19 million residents, if the state keeps receiving only 300,000 vaccine doses a week.
He added he wants to open rapid testing sites in New York City and eventually other city centers throughout the state.
BOSTON — Massachusetts is preparing to open its first mass vaccination site this week at Gillette Stadium.
The site will open Thursday by first administering vaccinations into staff members, Gov. Charlie Baker said.
Starting Monday, the site will begin giving shots to first responders and administer up to 300 doses a day. Capacity will expand over time to up to 5,000 doses a day or more, eventually extending to the general population.
On Monday, the state began administering vaccine doses to first responders, including police, firefighters and EMTs. Vaccines are not expected to be available to the general public until April.
TORONTO — Canada’s most populous province of Ontario is issuing a stay-at-home starting Thursday, with exemptions for essential activities such as accessing health care or shopping for groceries.
Premier Doug Ford says he’s declaring another state of emergency effective immediately.
Ontario reported 2,903 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, including eight new cases of a variant from the United Kingdom. Ford says schools in many regions will remained close for in class in learning until Feb. 10.
MADRID — Spain is reporting 25,438 coronavirus cases and more than 400 deaths for the second day in a row.
However, the Health Minister Salvador Illa says the country is trying to avoid a strict lockdown that impacted the economy in March.
Official data says the 14-day cumulative incidence rate surged from 189 on Dec. 10 to 454 per 100,000 residents one month later.
Spain has 2.1 million infections and at least 52,000 confirmed deaths.
ASPEN, Colo. — The Aspen area will close indoor dining at restaurants on Sunday as the county reports the highest incidence rate for the coronavirus in Colorado.
The Pitkin County Board of Health’s unanimous decision will limit lodging capacity in Aspen and Snowmass Village to 50%. Ski mountains will remain open without a reservation system.
Outdoor dining, takeout and delivery at restaurants will still be available. Tables can only contain people from within the same household.
CHICAGO — A Democratic congressman from Illinois who was forced to go into lockdown during last week’s deadly siege at the Capitol has tested positive for COVID-19.
U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider issued a statement Tuesday saying he was “forced to spend several hours” confined with other lawmakers and is criticizing Republican members of Congress who refused to wear masks that were offered during the lockdown.
He says he’s in strict isolation and worried about the health of family members. At least two other Democrats, Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington and Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey, announced positive tests.
PHOENIX — Arizona set a one-day record for daily deaths at 335 and hospitalizations topped 5,000 for the first time.
With its health care system struggling to cope, the state had a record 5,082 COVID-19 patients occupying inpatient beds on Monday. That included a record 1,183 in intensive care beds.
The state on Tuesday reported 8,559 infections, increasing confirmed totals to 636,100 cases and 10,482 deaths.
ROME — Italy registered 616 coronavirus deaths on Tuesday, a sharp rise compared to the previous three days.
Those death counts had dipped into the 300s and 400s.
The government this week must extend, lift or tighten restrictions that expire on citizens’ travel and on businesses such as restaurants and cafes.
Italy added 14,242 coronavirus infections on Tuesday, increasing the tally to 2.3 million cases. There have been nearly 80,000 confirmed deaths, sixth highest in the world.
MADRID — Spain received the first doses of the Moderna vaccine against the coronavirus on Tuesday despite the challenges of a record snowfall and cold temperatures have brought to land and air transportation.
The 35,700 doses, enough for 12,850 people, traveled from Belgium in a truck and arrived at a Health Ministry-run warehouse at an undisclosed location in central Spain, the government said Tuesday.
But authorities in Madrid, one of the worst-hit regions by Friday’s blizzard, were still awaiting a separate batch of 48,750 doses from Pfizer-BioNTech that had been due to arrive Monday by plane but had to be diverted to a northern Spanish airport.
The regional health department says the delay was not expected to affect the vaccine rollout, which was ongoing in nursing homes and among health personnel with the existing doses.
GENEVA — Swiss regulators have approved the Moderna coronavirus vaccine for use after clearing the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine last month.
Switzerland’s Swissmedic agency says the Moderna vaccine, which was OK’d by the European Union last week, was approved for all adults over 18.
Switzerland has ordered 7.5 million doses of the vaccine and expects an initial delivery of 200,000 doses “in the next few days.”
Together with the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine, the country expects to have around half a million doses of vaccine available this month.
WASHINGTON — The Trump administration says it will speed up delivery of the shots after a slow start to the mass coronavirus vaccination campaign
Health and Human Services Alex Azar announced two major changes. First, the government will no longer hold back required second doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, practically doubling supply.
Second, states should immediately start vaccinating other groups lower down the priority scale, including people age 65 and older, and younger people with certain health problems.
That aligns with President-elect Joe Biden’s approach, who earlier called for the government to stop holding back doses. On Monday, the government had distributed about 25.5 million doses, but only about 9 million people had received their first shot.
The U.S. leads the world with 22.6 million coronavirus cases and more than 376,000 confirmed deaths.
TULUM, Mexico — Mexico had a span of two weeks over the Christmas holiday where it seemed like tourism had returned.
Quintana Roo state — home to Cancun, the Riviera Maya and Tulum — received 961,000 tourists during that stretch, down only 25% from the previous year.
But there’s concern the winter holiday success could be fleeting, because it came as coronavirus infections in both Mexico and the United States — the main source of the foreign tourists — were reaching new heights.
The positivity rate of coronavirus tests in the state is nearly 50%. The weekly number of deaths quadrupled from the week before Christmas to the week after, according to federal government data.
Mexico has recorded more than 134,000 confirmed deaths. That’s the world’s fourth-highest death toll, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
MINNEAPOLIS — A former Minneapolis police officer who held his knee to the neck of George Floyd for several minutes will be tried separately from three other former officers accused in his death, according to scheduling orders filed Tuesday.
Derek Chauvin will stand trial alone in March due to the coronavirus pandemic while the other three former officers will be tried together in the summer, according to the orders filed in Hennepin County District Court.
Judge Peter Cahill cited the limitations of physical space during the coronavirus pandemic for his order to split the defendants’ trials. It is “impossible to comply with COVID-19 physical restrictions” given how many lawyers and support personnel that four defendants say would be present, Cahill wrote.
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Data from the Alaska Department of Corrections show that more than 40% of the people incarcerated in Alaska have been infected with the coronavirus.
Alaska Public Media reported that case counts have exceeded 100 inmates in at least six Alaska prisons. Corrections department facilities Director Jeremy Hough says the state’s inmate testing program has conducted an average of four tests per person since the pandemic began.
ACLU of Alaska Advocacy Director Michael Garvey says prison officials haven’t done enough to contain the disease spread, which is compounded by long-running overcrowding.
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Thousands of Alabama football fans partied in streets and ignored coronavirus safety guidelines after their team defeated Ohio State 52-24 for the national championship.
Students and others poured out of jam-packed bars near campus late Monday, traffic cameras and images posted on social media show.
Many of the fans screaming and cheering as they pressed against each other in the street didn’t wear face masks. The scene was exactly what officials feared before the game as they urged people to watch at home and privately celebrate, the Tuscaloosa News reported.
About 404,000 people have tested positive for the coronavirus and more than 5,300 have died in Alabama.
TOKYO — The president of the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee has tried to reassure the public that the postponed games will open in six months.
Two polls in the last few days show just over 80% of Japanese people surveyed think the Olympics should be canceled or postponed or believe they won’t take place as coronavirus cases surge in Japan.
More than 15,000 Olympic and Paralympic athletes from 200 nations and territories normally attend an Olympics. It’s not clear if fans can attend in Tokyo.
In a “New Year’s” address, the 83-year-old Tokyo Olympics president Yorhiro Mori says: “Spring will always come, morning will surely come even after long nights.”
Optimism from organizers has been quelled by a state of emergency for Tokyo and surrounding areas declared last week. Japan has controlled the virus relatively well, but cases are rising with about 4,000 deaths in Japan attributed to the coronavirus.
WASHINGTON — A second Democratic member of the House who was forced to go into lockdown during last week’s violent protest at the Capitoal has tested positive for the coronavirus.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington says she has tested positive and criticized Republican members of Congress who declined to wear a mask when it was offered to them during the lockdown. Some members of Congress huddled for hours in the large room, while others were there for a shorter period.
Jayapal says too many Republicans have refused to take the coronavirus seriously, calling it “selfish idiocy.” She’s asking for fines for lawmakers who don’t wear a mask at the Capitol.