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Wednesday January 20th, 2021 3:22PM

The Latest: Germany reports slowdown in COVID-19 spread

By The Associated Press
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BERLIN — Germany’s disease control agency says the coronavirus situation in the country remains serious but there are signs that lockdown measures are slowing the spread of the virus.

The Robert Koch Institute reported 22,609 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the past day, and 251 additional deaths.

Ute Rexroth, a senior official involved in the institute’s pandemic response, said the so-called reproduction number reflecting how many people are infected by every positive case has declined.

Germany introduced tighter restrictions at the beginning of November, shutting restaurants, bars and gyms but leaving open stores and schools.

The head of the RKI, Lothar Wieler, said the situation in Germany is still “very, very serious” and there’s a risk that hospitals may be overwhelmed by the continued high number of cases.

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

— U.S. hospitals overwhelmed with virus cases converting chapels, cafeterias, waiting rooms, hallways, even a parking garage into patient treatment areas

— Japan’s daily virus cases surge past previous record high

— California struggles with how to enforce coronavirus orders

— Pfizer seeks regulatory review of vaccine candidate within days

— Surge of coronavirus cases U.S. sends people back to stores to stockpile again, leaving shelves bare and forcing retailers to put limits on purchases.

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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:

COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Denmark is lifting the local restrictions in the northern part of the country where authorities found mink farms with infected animals, including some with a mutation in the virus that put seven municipalities in a lockdown.

Danish broadcaster DR said restaurants and cafes will reopen Friday and people in the region which has numerous mink farms, will be able to move freely across municipal borders — something that only health officials, emergency services and alike were allowed to do.

Meanwhile, the Danish prime minister’s traditional presentation of a new government to Queen Margrethe won’t happen because a member of Mette Frederiksen’s family has tested positive for COVID-19.

Frederiksen, who heads a Social Democratic minority government, said that “out of an extra precautionary measure (she) will not meet the Queen,” neither will the outgoing agriculture minister Mogens Jensen “who was with the prime minister yesterday.”

Instead, Frederiksen was expected to do it over the phone.

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COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lankan police say they will start arresting people pretending to be beggars in the capital and its suburbs in a bid to contain the surging of COVID-19 cases.

Police spokesman Ajith Rohana said they have “observed a tendency of spreading COVID-19” due to begging at traffic lights and intersections in Colombo and its suburbs.

Rohana said intelligence units have found that the vast majority are “fake beggars conducting fraudulent activities” and a special operation will be conducted from Thursday to arrest.

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BEIJING — Chinese President Xi Jinping is calling for closer international cooperation on making a vaccine for the coronavirus available.

Xi spoke Thursday in an address delivered via video at an event at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.

Xi said: “To beat the virus and promote the global recovery, the international community must close ranks and jointly respond to the crisis and meet the tests.”

He said cooperation would include closer coordination on policies for development and distribution of a vaccine.

Chinese companies Sinovac and Sinopharm are in the late stages of testing vaccines, putting them among nearly a dozen companies at or near that level of development. That has introduced both commercial and political competition among countries and companies to be the first to offer a solution to the pandemic.

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LONDON — A key researcher at the University of Oxford says scientists expect to report results from the late-stage trials of their COVID-19 vaccine by Christmas.

Dr. Andrew Pollard, an expert in pediatric infection and immunity at Oxford, said Thursday that research was slowed by low infection rates over the summer but the Phase III trials are now accumulating the data needed to report results.

He told the BBC, “I think we’re getting close, and it’s definitely going to be before Christmas based on the progress.”

Pollard discussed progress in the late-stage trials as Oxford released a study based on earlier research that found the vaccine was well tolerated and produced a strong immune response in people over age 70. Pollard said this is important because vaccines often don’t work as well in older people.

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MOSCOW — Russia’s total number of confirmed coronavirus infections rose above 2 million and the country recorded its highest one-day death toll, the national coronavirus taskforce reported Thursday. It said there were 23,610 new cases found over the past day, bringing the total for the pandemic to 2,015,608. The taskforce said 463 people died, pushing the cumulative death toll to 34,850.

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NEW DELHI — India has recorded 45,576 new cases in the past 24 hours as authorities battle to slow down a surge of infections in its capital by increasing testing.

New Delhi reported 7,486 new positive cases on Thursday with a record 131 deaths in the past 24 hours.

New Delhi's top elected official, Arvind Kejriwal, says the government is adding 1,400 new intensive care unit beds to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed. He has ruled out a new lockdown in New Delhi.

India has seen it new daily cases decline to fewer than 50,000 for the past 12 days.

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SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has reported more than 300 new coronavirus cases for a second consecutive day as authorities begin enforcing toughened social distancing rules in some areas to fight a resurgence of small-scale clusters of infections.

The 343 new cases announced Thursday raised the country’s case total to 29,654 for the pandemic, with 498 deaths from COVID-19.

On Thursday, elevated physical distancing rules took effective in the greater Seoul area, the southern city of Gwangju and some parts of Gangwon province. In those areas, no more than 100 people may attend rallies, concerts and other events, while sporting events and religious services are limited to 30-50% capacity. Dancing at nightclubs and drinking at karaoke rooms are prohibited.

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WELLINGTON, New Zealand — The small Pacific nation of Samoa is reporting its first positive test for the coronavirus, although officials say a second test on the same patient came back negative.

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi went on television and radio Thursday urging the nation’s 200,000 people to stay calm but remain vigilant with their virus precautions.

Samoa was among a dwindling handful of nations to have not reported a single case of the virus.

According to the Samoa Observer, officials say the patient is a sailor who has been in quarantine since flying in from New Zealand on Friday. The sailor tested positive four days after arriving, but a second test Thursday was negative.

The Cabinet was to meet to discuss the situation.

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DENVER — Publics schools in Denver will go to fully remote learning for all grades for the rest of the semester as the coronavirus surges.

Officials said Wednesday that remote learning will begin for more than 90,000 students in Colorado’s largest school district on Monday and run through the end of winter break. The district’s decision also applies to special education students.

In September, the district reported about 13 new coronavirus cases weekly, mostly involving teachers and staff, when it first opened early childhood education classes. It says new cases now have surpassed 300 per week, causing teacher and staff shortages and forcing individual schools to close.

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Five Florida mayors are expressing concern about the rising number of coronavirus cases in the state, and are urging Gov. Ron DeSantis to change his approach to the pandemic.

Following a months-long decline from a huge summer spike in coronavirus infections, Florida has seen a mid-autumn climb in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. Still, the governor has resisted a return to statewide restrictions in place earlier in the year.

The mayors of Miami Beach, Hialeah, Miami Shores Village, Sunrise and St. Petersburg called Wednesday for consistency in statewide regulations, implementation of a mask mandate and restoration of state testing sites to full capacity.

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TOPEKA, Kan. — Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly has issued a new mask mandate in hopes of lessening the spread of the coronavirus after the state again reported another record seven-day increase in new cases.

State law allows Kansas’ 105 counties to opt out of the order. Most did when Kelly issued a similar order in July. But the state’s rolling seven-day average for new coronavirus cases was more than nine times higher Wednesday than it was than when her first order took effect.

Kelly’s order takes effect Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving, and only in counties that don’t yet have their own mask mandates. That is a majority of the state's counties.

The governor says she is giving counties a week to work out their own mask rules.

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