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Thursday December 3rd, 2020 9:02PM

The Latest: Sweden puts limit on gatherings to curb virus

By The Associated Press
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Sweden has placed a nationwide limit of eight people for all gatherings in an effort to bring down coronavirus infections. The limit takes effect Nov. 24 and will last for four weeks.

Prime Minister Stefan Lofven on Monday urged fellow Swedes to cancel plans and stay at home because a ban is needed now more than ever to curb a record number of coronavirus infections in recent weeks that are burdening the country's healthcare system.

Sweden had opted for a different - and much debated - approach to handling the pandemic by keeping large sections of society open.

But Lofven told a news conference that the situation will get worse and appealed to Swedes to “do your duty" and “take responsibility to stop the spread” of COVID-19.

The Swedish government said last week that it would impose a nationwide, 10:00 pm ban on the sale of alcohol in bars, restaurants and night clubs as of Nov. 20.

Home Affairs Minister Mikael Damberg warned that too many people were acting as “if the danger is over.”

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HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— More good news about a second COVID-19 candidate vaccine as Moderna says its shots appears to be 94.5% effective, according to preliminary data

— President-elect Joe Biden seeks information on US vaccine plans as Trump stalls handoff

— Amnesty International says Belgium violated the human rights of nursing home patients by not taking infected elderly patients to the hospital for treatment

— Michigan and Washington state announce new virus restrictions as U.S, cases hit 11 million

— Many African students are missing out on the new term in school as the pandemic impoverishes families

— British PM Boris Johnson is self-quarantining at the start of a crucial week for his government that includes discussions over a post-Brexit trade deal with the European Union

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Follow AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

WASHINGTON — The United States’ top infectious disease expert says news from Moderna that its COVID-19 vaccine candidate is 94.5% effective “is really quite impressive.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told NBC’s “Today” on Monday that Moderna’s finding, along with similar results from Pfizer last week for its vaccine, “is something that foretells an impact on this outbreak.”

“So now we have two vaccines that are really quite effective, so I think this is a really strong step forward to where we want to be about getting control with this outbreak,” Fauci said.

Asked about the timeline for vaccinating people, Fauci projected that by the end of December, there will be doses available for people at high risk from the coronavirus.

Fauci said the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines have different platforms than other vaccines now in the pipeline. But he said the other vaccine platforms are using the “spike protein” of the coronavirus which has been researched very intensively, giving him hope that more than two of these vaccines will also be effective.

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A second COVID-19 candidate vaccine is offering more good news about prospects to beat back the spread of the virus. Amid a coronavirus surge in the U.S. and around the world, Moderna said Monday its shots provide strong protection against the disease.

Moderna said its vaccine appears to be 94.5% effective, according to preliminary data from the company’s still ongoing study. A week ago, competitor Pfizer Inc. announced its own COVID-19 vaccine appeared similarly effective — news that puts both companies on track to seek permission within weeks for emergency use in the U.S.

Dr. Stephen Hoge, Moderna’s president, welcomed the “really important milestone” but said having similar results from two different companies is what’s most reassuring.

If the Food and Drug Administration allows emergency use of Moderna’s or Pfizer’s candidates, there will be limited, rationed supplies before the end of the year. Both require people to get two shots, several weeks apart.

Moderna expects to have about 20 million doses, earmarked for the U.S., by the end of 2020. Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech expect to have about 50 million doses globally by year’s end.

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MOSCOW — Coronavirus infections in Russia have hit a new record as a region in Siberia has shut down some non-essential businesses for two weeks in an effort to curb the spread of the disease.

Russia’s state coronavirus task force reported 22,778 new coronavirus cases on Monday and a total of over 1.9 million confirmed infections. The task force has also registered nearly 33,500 COVID-19 deaths. The resurgence of the virus has swept through the country since September, with the number of daily new cases increasing from roughly 5,000 in early September to over 22,000 this week.

Russian authorities have said there were no plans to introduce a second nationwide lockdown, but on Monday the Siberian republic of Buryatia became the first region to close a wide range of non-essential businesses.

Buryatia authorities have ordered shut cafes, restaurants, bars, malls, cinemas, beauty parlors and saunas starting Monday and until the end of the month. Grocery stores, pharmacies and shops selling essential goods will be allowed to operate.

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LONDON — British Health Secretary Matt Hancock says he hopes that all nursing homes in England will be able to test visitors for coronavirus to allow them to see their loved ones “by Christmas.”

A pilot program in 20 nursing homes in the southern counties of Cornwall, Devon and Hampshire began Monday. Under it, regular testing will be offered to one family member or friend per resident, which the government hopes will support visits when combined with other COVID-prevention measures such as wearing masks and social distancing.

Hancock told BBC radio that the rollout will be “a challenge but we’ve got to make sure the right rules and protocols are in place so that the testing keeps people safe.”

Around 20,000 people are thought to have died in Britain’s nursing homes during the first wave of the pandemic. Most of the country’s nursing homes are run by the private sector.

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BRUSSELS — Amnesty International said Belgium authorities “abandoned” thousands of elderly people who died in nursing homes during the coronavirus pandemic following an investigation published Monday that described the situation as “human rights violations.”

One of the hardest-hit countries in Europe, Belgium has reported more than 531,000 confirmed virus cases and more than 14,400 deaths linked to the coronavirus. During the first wave of the pandemic last spring, the European nation of 11.5 million people recorded a majority of its COVID-19-related deaths in nursing homes.

Between March and October, Amnesty International said “a staggering” 61.3% of all COVID-19 deaths in Belgium took place in nursing homes. The group said authorities weren’t quick enough in implementing measures to protect nursing home residents and staff during this period, failing to protect their human rights.

Amnesty International said one of the reasons so many people died in homes is because infected residents weren’t transferred to hospitals to receive treatment.

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BERLIN — German Chancellor Angela Merkel will assess the effects of a nearly two-week-long partial lockdown with state governors in a video conference Monday.

Germany went into a partial lockdown at the beginning of November that included closing restaurants, cafes and cultural institutions, but left open schools and stores after virus figures spiked exponentially in October.

The rise of new infections has since slowed down, but on Friday the country still registered a new record of 23,542 cases. On Monday, 10,824 new cases were reported by the country’s disease control center. However, virus figures are usually lower at the beginning of the week because there’s less testing on weekends.

Merkel and the 16 state governors will begin their evaluation of the country’s coronavirus situation in the afternoon. Local media reported that possible new measures could include recommendations to further reduce social contacts and to cut school classes in half and have elementary school children weak masks too. So far, only high school students have to wear masks in class.

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LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he is as “fit as a butcher’s dog” after being instructed to self-isolate for 14 days because he recently came in contact with someone who has since contracted coronavirus.

In a video message posted Monday on Twitter from his London apartment at Downing Street, Johnson said it didn’t matter that he has already endured COVID-19 and is “bursting with antibodies.”

The quarantine requirement comes at the start of a crucial week for Johnson’s Conservative government that includes discussions over a post-Brexit trade deal with the European Union. Negotiators are meeting in Brussels this week with time on a deal fast running out.

Johnson, who contracted the virus in April and spent three days in intensive care as his symptoms worsened, met with a small group of lawmakers for about a half-hour on Thursday, including one, Lee Anderson, who subsequently developed symptoms and tested positive.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said it was right that the prime minister goes into self-isolation even though he’s already had coronavirus as people “can catch it twice.”

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KAMPALA, Uganda — Many parents in African countries, unable to pay in cash or kind, say their children will have to miss the new term as classes resume after months of delay caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mike Ssekaggo, headmaster of Wampeewo Ntakke Secondary School on the outskirts of Uganda’s capital, Kampala, has fielded complaints from parents scrambling to have their children enrolled for the first time since March.

One cash-strapped parent asked to pay her child’s school tuition fees with bags of the rice she grows. Ssekaggo requested a sample before he would agree but eventually did.

Relief over the gradual reopening of schools is matched by anxiety over the financial strain caused by the pandemic and over how to protect students in often crowded classrooms from the coronavirus. Only about half of 430 students had reported the day after he began admitting students for the new term, Ssekaggo told The Associated Press.

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NEW DELHI — India has registered 30,548 new coronaviruses cases, the fewest in the last four months but amid growing concerns about the latest surge in the capital, New Delhi.

India has now recorded a total of 8.84 million cases, second behind the U.S.

The Health Ministry said Monday that the country was showing a trend of declining average daily cases over the last two months. The ministry also reported 435 new fatalities, raising the death toll to 130,070.

India’s daily cases have seen a steady decline since the middle of September, but New Delhi is now recording more new infections than any other state.

___

BALTIMORE — More than 11 million cases of the coronavirus have now been reported in the United States, with the most recent million coming in less than a week.

Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus tracker reached 11 million on Sunday. It had topped 10 million cases on Nov. 9. It took 300 days for the U.S. to hit the 11 million mark since the first case was diagnosed in Washington state on Jan. 20.

COVID-19 is spreading more rapidly across the U.S. than it has at any time since the pandemic started. Deaths are also on the rise, though not at the record high numbers reached in the spring. The seven-day rolling average for daily new deaths was more than 1,080 as of Saturday, more than 30% higher than it was two weeks earlier.

COVID-19 has now killed more than 246,000 people in the U.S., according to Johns Hopkins.

Worldwide, more than 54 million coronavirus cases have been reported with more than 1.3 million deaths. The U.S. has about 4% of the world’s population, but about a fifth of all reported cases.

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