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Saturday February 27th, 2021 11:44AM

The Latest: Half of Belgium's COVID-19 deaths in rest homes

By The Associated Press
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BRUSSELS — More than 10,000 elderly people living in Belgian rest homes have died from COVID-19 since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Yves Van Laethem, a spokesman at Belgium’s coronavirus crisis center, told a news conference on Friday that the death of 10,270 rest home residents accounts for 56 percent of all the victims.

In a report published last month, Amnesty International said Belgian authorities “abandoned” thousands of elderly people who died in nursing homes and did not seek hospital treatment for many who were infected, violating their human rights.

One of the hardest-hit countries in Europe, Belgium has reported more than 618,000 confirmed virus cases and 18,371 deaths linked to the coronavirus.

During the first wave of the epidemic last spring, the European nation of 11.5 million people recorded a majority of its COVID-19-related deaths in nursing homes. Van Laethem said the situation has improved, but remains “precarious and difficult.”

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THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

French President Emmanuel Macron is riding out the coronavirus in a presidential retreat at Versailles.

The Food and Drug Administration plans to approve second vaccine after panel endorsement.

U.S. officials debate who should be next in line for the vaccine.

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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:

LONDON — Paul McCartney says he’s keen to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

In an interview Friday with the BBC, the ex-Beatle also downplayed the likelihood he’d go on tour next year to support his latest album released this week, “McCartney III,” saying it depends on how successful virus countermeasures are.

When asked if he would get a coronavirus vaccine, the 78-year-old McCartney said, “Yeah, I will yeah. And I’d like to encourage people to get it too, because with this it’s much more serious, and yeah, if I’m allowed to get it, I will.”

He said he’d love to play at Britain’s Glastonbury music festival in 2021, though he was skeptical organizers could stage it, noting that it would likely involve 100,000 people closely packed together, with no masks. “You know, talk about a superspreader,” he said.

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WASHINGTON — The justices on the U.S. Supreme Court are being provided with doses of the coronavirus vaccine.

That is according to a letter by Capitol Physician Brian Monahan, which says the court, along with Congress and executive branch agencies are being given a limited supply of doses “for continuity of government operations.”

The doses are being provided under a directive by President Donald Trump that established continuity of government as a reason for vaccine prioritization. The Supreme Court and the other branches of government are supposed to be treated “in parallel.”

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SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has reported 1,062 new cases of coronavirus infections, its third straight day above 1,000 as the virus continues to slam the greater capital area where hospital beds are in short supply.

The cases reported Friday brought the national caseload to 47,515. There have been 645 deaths from COVID-19.

More than 760 of the new cases were in the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, where health workers are struggling to stem transmissions.

Health officials have raised alarm about a looming shortage in hospital beds and intensive care units.

The viral resurgence has put pressure on the government to raise social distancing restrictions to maximum levels, something policymakers have resisted for weeks out of economic concerns.

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SYDNEY — Australian officials say the number of coronavirus infections from a cluster in Sydney’s northern coastal suburbs is continuing to grow.

The chief health officer for New South Wales state says testing on Thursday and early Friday found 28 new infections. Several had been at the Avalon Beach R.S.L. Club on Dec. 11 and a nearby lawn bowling club called Avalon Bowlo on Dec. 13.

More than 250,0000 residents of Sydney’s Northern Beaches Local Government Area were advised Thursday to work from home and remain at home as much as possible for three days. Others were advised to avoid traveling to the area.

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RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazil’s Supreme Court says coronavirus vaccination can be made mandatory, delivering a blow to the nation’s nascent anti-vaccine movement.

However, the court also says Brazilians may not be vaccinated against their will. A court statement says Thursday’s ruling does pave the way for state and municipal governments to approve laws imposing fines or restrictive measures for anyone refusing to take a vaccine.

President Jair Bolsonaro has repeatedly said he will not take any vaccine and opposes mandatory immunization. He has also sown skepticism about potential side effects.

Opinion polls have indicated a growing resistance to vaccination, with about one-fifth of Brazilians surveyed by pollster Datafolha this month saying they don’t intend to get a shot. That is more than double the percentage four months earlier.

Brazil’s health regulator Anvisa has yet to approve any shot for mass immunization.

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