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Friday April 16th, 2021 3:20AM

The Latest: NIH director: 'No compromises' on safe vaccine

By The Associated Press
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NEW YORK — The National Institutes of Health director is telling Congress that AstraZeneca’s suspension of its coronavirus vaccine study shows there will be “no compromises” on safety in developing the shots.

AstraZeneca has put on hold its late-stage studies in the U.S. and other countries while it investigates if a British volunteer’s “potentially unexplained illness” is related to vaccination or a coincidence. The company gave no details on the illness, but NIH chief Dr. Francis Collins said it involved a “spinal problem.”

Collins pledged science will be behind decisions of if and when any coronavirus vaccine is good enough for widespread use. AstraZeneca’s shot is one of three vaccines in late-stage testing in the U.S.

The company’s announcement comes amid worries that President Donald Trump will pressure the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to approve a vaccine before it’s proven to be safe and effective.

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

— Dr. Fauci sticks with projection of coronavirus vaccine in 2021

— Ex-Italy leader Silvio Berlusconi fighting virus, talks to supporters

— India adds another 89,706 coronavirus cases to daily tally

— The National Institutes of Health director tells Congress that AstraZeneca’s suspension of its coronavirus vaccine study shows there will be “no compromises” on safety.

— COVID-19 vaccine latest flashpoint in White House campaign. Trump repeatedly says a vaccine could be available before the election.

— The British government tries to tighten its grip on the coronavirus in England, banning gatherings of more than six people and l aunching a new public information campaign.

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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:

O’FALLON, Mo. — A 34-year-old Missouri teacher has died after a three-week-long hospitalization with COVID-19.

AshLee DeMarinis taught social skills and special education at John Evans Middle School in the Potosi School District in eastern Missouri. Superintendent Alex McCaul announced her death in a letter dated Sept. 7 posted on the district’s Facebook page. The letter didn’t cite a cause of death.

DeMarinis’ sister, Jennifer Heissenbuttel, says DeMarinis died Sunday after battling the coronavirus. Heissenbuttel says her sister hadn’t begun teaching students when she became ill last month.

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UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. political chief is warning the coronavirus pandemic has aggravated discrimination and other human rights violations that can fuel conflict and heightened the risk of losing progress in political and peace efforts.

Rosemary DiCarlo told the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday that Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ March 23 call for a global cease-fire to deliver life-saving aid during the pandemic had an encouraging initial response, with temporary truces announced from Colombia and Ukraine to the Philippines and Cameroon.

“However, many expired without extensions, resulting in little improvement on the ground,” she said.

DiCarlo said U.N. envoys in conflict-torn Yemen, Libya and Syria are trying to promote peace efforts and cease-fires.

DiCarlo pointed to increased discrimination, including in access to health services, surging violence against women at home during lockdowns and “growing limitations being placed on the media, civic space and freedom of expression.”

“Social media platforms are used to spread disinformation about the pandemic,” DiCarlo said. “And there has been a rise in stigma and hate speech, especially against migrants and foreigners.”

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ROME -- Premier Giuseppe Conte is confirming Italian schools will reopen as planned Sept. 14, though some regions are pushing back the start because they haven’t yet conformed to anti-coronavirus norms requiring socially distanced desks and classrooms.

Conte warned there will be new rules, difficulties and positive cases in schools, but says the public health care system was prepared to intervene to trace contacts and order quarantines of entire classes, if necessary.

Students must wear masks entering and exiting the school and between classes but can remove them if their desks are spaced apart.

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WASHINGTON — Dr. Anthony Fauci says he’s sticking with his projection that a safe and effective coronavirus vaccine may be ready in early 2021. He says it’s possible it could be sooner, but “unlikely.”

The White House adviser on the coronavirus told “CBS This Morning “the more likely scenario is that we will know by the end of this calendar year and hopefully we’ll be able to start vaccinations in earnest as we begin early 2021.”

Fauci says it’s routine for late-stage vaccine studies to be put on hold because of side effects. A study by AstraZeneca of a potential coronavirus vaccine was recently paused for safety reasons after an illness from a shot in a recipient in Britain.

He says it’s “really one of the safety valves that you have on clinical trials such as this.”

Fauci adds people should remain vigilant about wearing masks, keeping physical distance and avoiding crowds to help prevent future surges.

The United States leads the world in coronavirus cases with 6.3 million and nearly 190,000 deaths.

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PARIS — South Korea’s ambassador says his country managed to enforce a quick response to the coronavirus based on its previous experiences of major epidemics.

Ambassador Choi Jong-moon appeared Wednesday before a Senate commission of inquiry into how French authorities handled the COVID-19 pandemic. He detailed South Korea’s actions to fight the spread of the virus, including quickly ratcheting up testing and smart phone tracking apps.

Choi says South Korean authorities relied on a key 2015 law that allowed the KCDC agency, South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to boost staffing and funding.

French President Emmanuel Macron’s government has been under criticism over the lack of testing capacity and medical equipment.

South Korea, with a population of more than 50 million, has a total of 21,588 confirmed virus cases and 344 deaths Wednesday. France, a nation of 67 million, has reported more than 373,300 confirmed cases and 30,770 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

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BERLIN — Germany’s worldwide travel warning for about 160 countries will be replaced by a more differentiated system in October.

The new system will introduce individual country-by-country assessments of the coronavirus situation, the German foreign ministry said Wednesday. Such assessments are already in place for most European countries and can change quickly according to the severity or dynamic of the pandemic.

Most countries will probably still be considered coronavirus risk zones for the time being, the foreign ministry said.

“If anything, the pandemic seems to be expanding right now,” says foreign Minister Maria Adebahr.

In March, Germany had put in place a travel warning for 200 countries. In June, Germany lifted that warning for most European countries to start the summer travel season.

Since then, parts of Croatia, Spain and France have been flagged as risk zones because of the fast re-occurrence of the virus.

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The United Arab Emirates has recorded 883 new coronavirus cases, the country’s biggest daily jump since late May.

The figures bring the total number of recorded infections to 75,981 and 393 confirmed deaths. This come as students return to schools for in-person instruction and tourists trickle back to the skyscraper-studded city of Dubai.

The UAE has pushed an aggressive testing campaign, with 85,917 virus tests conducted in the past day.

The country’s climbing infections have raised concerns that authorities could reinstate lockdowns in parts of the country that rely heavily on tourism.

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VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has arrived at his weekly general audience wearing a face mask and used hand sanitizer before appealing for the faithful to look out for the health of others as well as themselves during the coronavirus pandemic.

Francis took off the mask as his car pulled into the San Damaso courtyard inside the Apostolic Palace, where last week he resumed his weekly Wednesday public audiences after a nearly six-month COVID-19 shutdown. While chairs were spaced out in the courtyard, the limited crowd massed along the barriers as Francis passed by and some lowered their masks to call out to him.

During his remarks, Francis lamented that “partisan interests” were emerging in which some nations and groups are seeking to keep vaccines for themselves, or to further their political or economic interests.

He said: “The coronavirus is showing us that each person’s true good is a common good and, vice versa, the common good is a true good for the person. Health, in addition to being an individual good, is also a public good. A healthy society is one that takes care of everyone’s health.”

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LONDON — British Health Secretary Matt Hancock says new limits on social gatherings in England to six people are set to stay in place for the “foreseeable future,” potentially until or even through Christmas.

Hancock said the new limit for both indoor and outdoor gatherings, which will come into force and be enforceable by law from Monday, will provide “more clarity” to people and should help keep a lid on a recent spike in coronavirus cases.

Scientists say a clear message is crucial in containing pandemic.

Though there are exemptions, such as for schools, workplaces and “life events” like funerals and weddings, the government is clearly hoping that the new limits will be easily understood and followed. Unlike the previous set of guidlines, people could be fined for not following the rules — 100 pounds ($130) for a first offense, up to a potential 3,200 pounds.

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PRAGUE — The Czech Republic has been facing a steep rise of new coronavirus cases with the number of people tested positive in one day surpassing 1,000 for the first time.

The day-to-day increase in the country reached a record of 1,164 on Tuesday, the Health Ministry said.

The previous record was less than 800 on Friday.

The spike has come a week after the start of the new school year with dozens of schools partially or completely closed due to pandemic.

Health authorities in Prague have already imposed new restrictive measures.

Starting on Wednesday, it is mandatory again to wear face masks in stores and shopping malls. Bars, restaurants and night clubs have to be closed from midnight till 6 a.m.

The Czech Republic has reported 29,877 cases since the pandemic began, with 441 deaths.

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NEW DELHI — India has added another 89,706 coronavirus cases to the second-highest reported tally in the world, and the government is saying schools will reopen later this month for senior students after more than five months closed.

According to the Health Ministry, India’s total caseload on Wednesday reached 4.37 million. The ministry also reported 1,115 deaths in the past 24 hours, taking total fatalities up to 73,890. India has the second-most reported cases in the world and the third-most reported deaths behind the United States and Brazil.

More than 1 million people have tested positive for the coronavirus in India in less than two weeks. Testing has been ramped up to more than 1 million daily, with cumulative testing exceeding 50 million.

The Health Ministry on Tuesday announced partial reopening of schools from Sept. 21 for students of 9-12th grades for taking teachers’ guidance. Online learning will still be permitted.

India’s famed white marble Taj Mahal in the northern city of Agra will also reopen Sept. 21 with access restricted to 5,000 tourists daily to prevent overcrowding.

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