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Friday September 18th, 2020 7:03PM

The Latest: WHO chief: Won't recommend vaccines unless safe

By The Associated Press
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LONDON — The head of the World Health Organization says the U.N. health agency won’t recommend any coronavirus vaccine before it is proved safe and effective.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus made the comment Friday, even as Russia and China have started using their experimental vaccines before long-term studies have been completed. Other countries have proposed streamlining authorization procedures.

He says vaccines have been used successfully for decades and credited them with eradicating smallpox and bringing polio to near elimination. He pointed to newly developed Ebola vaccines that helped end the recent Ebola outbreak in Congo.

Tedros appealed to people opposed to vaccination to do their own research.

“The anti-vaccine movement, they can build narratives to fight against vaccines. But the track record of vaccines tells its own story and people should not be confused,” he says. “They can have a look for themselves on how the world actually used vaccines to reduce under 5 mortality to save children.”

He says he’s hopeful there’d soon be an effective coronavirus vaccine “so the world can get back to normal.”

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

— WHO chief says U.N. agency won’t recommend vaccines unless safe

— India adds 83,000 coronavirus cases, nears 2nd most in world

— Mexico downplays coronavirus cases among medical personnel

— Italy ex-PM Silvio Berlusconi admitted to Milan hospital as precaution to monitor his coronavirus infection.

— Madrid is restricting family reunions and social gatherings to curb a sharp spike in confirmed coronavirus cases as schools are set to reopen.

— Chickens replace students in Kenyan school as struggling educators make what money they can after studies postponed.

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Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

MADRID — Spain is nearing a half a million coronavirus infections since the beginning of the pandemic after adding more than 10,000 new cases on Friday.

The new Health Ministry data showed a significant increase in the latest wave of contagion sweeping Spain, although authorities say the situation has no comparison with when the outbreak peaked.

Health authorities say Spain is testing more, most of the cases discovered don’t require hospitalization and the treatment of patients has improved.

There were 184 deaths added on Friday for a total toll of 29,418.

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PHOENIX — Arizona reported 728 confirmed coronavirus cases and 41 deaths on Friday. That increased the state’s totals to 204,681 cases and 5,171 confirmed deaths.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Arizona went from 784 on Aug. 20 to 545 on Thursday, while the rolling average for daily deaths went from 43 to 34.

Arizona was a national hot spot in June and July, but cases and deaths have been trending downward since then.

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ATHENS, Greece — Greek authorities say coronavirus checks will be carried out on all care homes for the elderly throughout the country within the next 10 days.

Civil Protection Deputy Minister Nikos Hardalias made the announcement on Friday.

Care homes had remained untouched in the first wave of the pandemic in Greece, when a lockdown imposed early in the outbreak is credited with keeping the number of cases and deaths low.

But a recent increase in the spread of the virus after restrictions were relaxed and foreign tourists were welcomed into the country has resulted in outbreaks in at least two care homes, with several deaths reported.

Health authorities announced 202 new cases and one death, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 11,200 and 279 deaths in Greece.

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ROME — Former Premier Silvio Berlusconi, who tested positive this week for the coronavirus, has been hospitalized in Milan.

Alberto Zangrillo, his personal doctor who is also on staff at San Raffaele hospital, says the 83-year-old has an early stage lung infection but is breathing on his own.

Zangrillo says test results “makes us optimistic” for his recovery over the next “hours and days.” He says after examining Berlusconi at home a day earlier, he decided on hospitalization after detecting “bland pulmonary involvement.”

Berlusconi, who has a pacemaker, is expected to be hospitalized for a ’’few days,” according to Zangrillo.

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BERLIN — German pharmaceutical company CureVac says it is receiving another 252 million euros ($298 million) to develop a coronavirus vaccine.

The company says its request for additional funding has been approved by Germany’s Ministry for Education and Research, provided certain milestones are reached.

Germany’s state-owned KfW bank has already taken a 23% stake in CureVac for 300 million euros. The company launched an initial public offering of shares, but its main shareholder remains Dietmar Hopp, the co-founder of German software giant SAP.

CureVac is among a small number of companies that aim to develop a COVID-19 vaccine using mRNA technology that experts say could allow rapid inoculation on a larger scale than traditional forms of vaccination.

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JOHANNESBURG — The World Health Organization director-general says “so far our worst fears have not been realized” after warnings that malaria deaths could double this year amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told malaria experts many countries have gone to great lengths to maintain services, even as 46% of more than 100 countries surveyed have reported disruptions to related services.

However, he says an increase in malaria cases and deaths is still expected this year. Malaria killed more than 400,000 people last year, with more than 90% of deaths in Africa.

The WHO chief called for more protection of health workers and strengthened health systems.

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COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Danish Health Minister Magnus Heunicke says testing will be stepped up in Copenhagen after more than 170 cases have been reported nationwide for the second day in a row.

Existing test facilities will be upgraded and extra facilities set up in two neighborhoods in the Danish capital, Heunicke says.

Kaare Moelbak of Statens Serum Institut, a government agency that maps the spread of the coronavirus in Denmark, that the cases were spread throughout Copenhagen and occurred mainly at private gatherings.

Some 173 cases were reported on Friday. Denmark recorded 179 on Thursday -- the highest number of new cases in a single day since April 22.

Overall, Denmark has 17,547 confirmed cases and 627 deaths.

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PRAGUE — Health authorities are tightening restrictions in the Czech capital after a recent spike of coronavirus cases in Prague and other parts of the country.

Starting Wednesday, it’s mandatory to wear face masks in stores and shopping malls. Bars, restaurants and night clubs must be closed from midnight until 6 a.m.

Students in Prague must wear face coverings in all shared spaces of elementary and high schools, starting Sept. 14.

The Czech Republic on Thursday had a record daily increase of 680 cases, with 168 in the capital.

The country has 26,452 confirmed cases and 426 deaths.

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MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. — A South Carolina beach town has renewed its mask mandate. That’s despite coronavirus cases trending downward after a spike linked to the popular tourist destination this summer.

Myrtle Beach has extended through Sept. 30 the July executive order mandating face coverings worn in public places, according to the city’s website.

“This is not the time to stop our efforts,” City Manager John Pedersen said during a City Council meeting Thursday.

In June and July, some coronavirus clusters in other states, including West Virginia and New Jersey, were linked to vacationers and wedding attendees returning from trips to Myrtle Beach. Horry County, which contains Myrtle Beach, also had a spike in cases. Since then, data shows the county has seen a downward trend in case numbers.

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BATON ROUGE, La. — The Louisiana Department of Corrections has suspended a work program that places inmates in the state Capitol building after two inmates tested positive for the coronavirus.

An agency spokesman says the Dixon Correctional Institute inmates began showing symptoms of coronavirus on Monday and tested positive for the virus Tuesday. They’re in medical isolation.

State data shows that nearly 400 inmates at Dixon currently have the coronavirus.

The inmates are part of a crew of workers bused 30 miles from Jackson to Baton Rouge to clean, cook and perform landscaping in the Capitol and other state buildings.

The inmates in the programs make between 4 and 70 cents an hour or credit toward early release for their work. Some lawmakers have criticized the use of cheap inmate labor at state-owned buildings, The Advocate reported.

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MADRID — The Madrid regional government is restricting family reunions and social gatherings to curb a sharp spike in coronavirus cases just as schools are set to reopen.

An existing ban on outdoor meetings of more than 10 people is extended indoors, after most new recent infections have been tied to gatherings at homes. Funerals, burials, weddings and religious celebrations, as well as group visits to museums or guided tourism will be restricted starting Monday.

Nearly one third of the country’s new infections are in and around the Spanish capital, a region of 6.6 million. At least 16% of beds in Madrid’s hospitals are occupied by COVID-19 patients, the highest rate of all Spanish regions.

Announcing the new restrictions Friday, the regional health chief says recent data show the rate of new daily increases is slowing down. Madrid is also expanding the number of contact tracers, which has been one of the weakest links in dealing with the the outbreaks. It’s also purchasing 2 million kits for rapid coronavirus tests.

Spain, edging to half a million confirmed coronavirus cases since February, is leading Europe’s second wave of the pandemic with a rate of virus prevalence above 212 per 100,000 residents for the past two weeks. There's been at least 29,234 confirmed deaths from the virus.

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BUDAPEST, Hungary — Hungary has registered 459 new cases of the coronavirus, the highest daily figure since the start of the pandemic.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban told state radio that his government has three main objectives regarding the second wave of the pandemic: Protect those the most at-risk, like the elderly; create conditions needed for schools to function; and rev up the economy.

Orban says “if the economy has to stop again, we’re all going to be in a very difficult situation.”

Hungary’s decision to close its borders to most foreigners from Sept. 1 has drawn criticism from the European Union, but Orban says despite the objections from Brussels, “in a few days they will be doing what we are,” because without new border rules they won’t be able to stem the spread of the virus.

Hungary has registered 7,382 confirmed cases and 621 deaths.

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PARIS — France has closed 22 of its 62,000 schools since in-person classes resumed this week because of coronavirus infections.

Of those, 10 were on the French Indian Ocean island of Reunion, where access to health care is poorer than on mainland France and the number of virus patients in hospitals has increased in recent weeks.

Education Minister Jean-Blanquer told Europe-1 radio that overall, French schools have reported about 250 suspected virus cases per day since they started reopening Tuesday.

Not all those cases turn out to be positive, but once a suspicion is reported, schools must follow an extensive government protocol that can include sending a whole class home for online learning or shutting the whole school.

The French government, like many around Europe, ordered the in-person reopening of all schools this week to tackle inequalities worsened by lockdowns and get parents back to work to revive the economy.

France recorded more than 7,000 new virus cases Thursday, the highest daily rate in Europe and up from several hundred a day in May and June, in part thanks to ramped-up testing. More than 30,700 people with the virus have died in France.

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PRAGUE — The number of people infected with COVID-19 has continued to surge to record levels in the Czech Republic, surpassing 600 for the second straight day.

The Health Ministry says the day-to-day increase reached 680 new confirmed cases on Thursday, a new record.

Health authorities are expected to discuss a response to the spike later on Friday.

The Czech Republic has had a total of 26,452 infected with COVID-19, 426 have died. Currently, 177 people were hospitalized while 40 needed intensive care.

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