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Monday October 18th, 2021 4:17AM

The Latest: South Africa adds restrictions to curb virus

By The Associated Press
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JOHANNESBURG — South Africa and Zimbabwe have re-imposed restrictions to try to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Starting January with record new confirmed cases and deaths, South Africa last week banned all sales of liquor, closed restaurants, banned public gatherings, closed most public beaches and imposed a nighttime curfew. The country of 60 million surpassed a total of more than 30,000 confirmed deaths, according to official figures Tuesday. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa is expected to call an emergency meeting of the National Coronavirus Command Council this week.

South Africa does not yet have any vaccines. Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has said the government plans to inoculate 67% of the population, with hospital workers and vulnerable vaccinated first. That’s expected to start in April, when the country receives vaccines from the COVAX facility.

Compared to the United States, the number of daily cases is low in South Africa. However, the cases have doubled in the last two weeks. The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases rose from 14 per 100,000 people on Dec. 20 to 23 on Sunday.

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THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

The UK, under orders of a new national lockdown, is taking steps to vaccinate its citizens. Also, Germany is expected to extend its national lockdown as coronavirus deaths mount. Meanwhile, global stocks turn lower as cases rise and countries lock down.

Distribution hiccups and logistical challenges have slowed the initial coronavirus vaccine rollout in California. The vaccination drive enters new phase in U.S. as some start receiving final dose. Worries about vaccine rollout rise as New York finds virus variant.

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

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lankan authorities announced the country’s two international airports will be fully operational starting Jan. 21 after 10 months and will fully open the country for tourists.

The Indian ocean island nation closed the two main international airports in March because of the coronavirus.

Last month, Sri Lanka launched a one-month pilot project to re-open the country for tourism while opening the two airports. Hundreds of tourists arrived from Ukraine in a “travel bubble.”

Sri Lanka’s total confirmed cases since March reached 45,498 on Tuesday with 215 confirmed deaths.

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COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Danish health authorities will allow a wait of up to six weeks before administering a second dose of a coronavirus vaccine, but say the original guidelines of waiting only three to four weeks to deliver a second shot should be followed whenever possible.

Soeren Brostroem, head of the Danish Health Authority, says his agency and the Danish Medicines Agency have been scrutinizing vaccine data. Denmark is part of the European Union, which officially kicked off its vaccination programs on Dec. 27 using the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, which requires two shots.

“We can see in the documentation that it can take up to six weeks between each injection. We will add this to our updated guidelines,” Brostroem told Danish news agency Ritzau. “If you go longer than six weeks, we cannot see the scientific evidence that you are protected with certainty.”

Britain, in an effort to vaccinate as many people as quickly as possible, has allowed authorities to stretch out the time between the first shot and the second from 21 days to 12 weeks. Around the world, among scientists and governments, there is strong debate on the wisdom of that plan.

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COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Danish health authorities will allow a wait of up to six weeks before administering a second dose of a coronavirus vaccine, but say the original guidelines of waiting only three to four weeks to deliver a second shot should be followed whenever possible.

Soeren Brostroem, head of the Danish Health Authority, says his agency and the Danish Medicines Agency have been scrutinizing vaccine data. Denmark is part of the European Union, which officially kicked off its vaccination programs on Dec. 27 using the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, which requires two shots.

“We can see in the documentation that it can take up to six weeks between each injection. We will add this to our updated guidelines,” Brostroem told Danish news agency Ritzau. “If you go longer than six weeks, we cannot see the scientific evidence that you are protected with certainty.”

Britain, in an effort to vaccinate as many people as quickly as possible, has allowed authorities to stretch out the time between the first shot and the second from 21 days to 12 weeks. Around the world, among scientists and governments, there is strong debate on the wisdom of that plan.

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ROME — The Italian government has extended travel restrictions and other measures for another week in its modified Christmas season lockdown to try to head off a new surge in coronavirus infections.

A decree approved by the Cabinet early Tuesday extends the measures to Jan. 15. At the same time, the government agreed to begin letting high school students return to class starting next week, but only in limited numbers. High schools have been on remote learning since the end of October, though elementary and middle schoolers have been attending in-person school since the start of the academic year.

Italy, the first country in the west to be slammed by the virus, has been trying to control its latest wave of infections with localized restrictions. After two months of restrictions, infections have plateaued but hospitals are still under pressure, hundreds of people are still dying every day and officials fear cases could surge again due to holiday get-togethers.

Italy has reported over 75,600 confirmed virus deaths in the pandemic, but experts say many COVID-19 deaths were not counted early in the pandemic.

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PARIS — Amid public outcry, France’s health minister has promised an “exponential” acceleration of his country’s slow coronavirus vaccination process.

After barely 500 people in France were vaccinated in the first six days, Health Minister Olivier Veran defended the government’s strategy of giving the vaccines first to residents of nursing homes. But he vowed Tuesday to simplify a bureaucratic consent process blamed in part for France’s lagging vaccinations.

Veran said the government will expand the number of vaccination centers and categories of people eligible for early vaccines, and allow people to sign up for vaccinations on an app or by phone.

But he insisted that the government would not forego safety guidelines in a country facing broad vaccine skepticism.

While neighboring countries are imposing strict new lockdowns amid surging infections, Veran said France is weighing its options and “cannot relax,” but announced no new measures.

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BERLIN — Germany’s disease control center on Tuesday reported 944 more COVID-19 deaths, fueling expectations that Chancellor Angela Merkel and the country’s 16 state governors will extend the country’s lockdown until the end of the month.

Germany’s latest lockdown took effect Dec. 16 after a partial shutdown starting in early November failed to reduce the number of daily new coronavirus infections. It was initially set to expire Jan. 10.

Merkel’s meeting with the governors on Tuesday will decide how long the lockdown should go on and to what extent schools will reopen. Another topic high on the agenda will be addressing criticism of the country’s vaccination program amid frustrations over its gradual start.

Vaccinations in Germany and the rest of the 27-nation European Union started over a week ago. In Germany, a nation of 83 million, nearly 265,000 vaccinations had been reported by Monday, the Robert Koch Institute said.

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JAKARTA — Indonesia will start its COVID-19 vaccination program on Jan. 13, with President Joko Widodo getting the first shot.

Minister of Health Budi Gunadi Sadikin said Tuesday that after the president, ministers and other central government officials get vaccinated, the program will be expanded to other regions the next day and will prioritized health workers.

The government is still waiting for an emergency use authorization for the vaccine from China’s Sinovac Biotech from its drugs regulator and a fatwa on the halal vaccine from the Indonesian Ulema Council.

According to the Health Ministry, it will take 15 months, from January to March 2022, for Indonesia to complete the COVID-19 vaccination program in 34 provinces and reach a total population of 181.5 million people.

On Tuesday, Indonesia registered 7,445 new COVID-19 and 198 additional deaths, bringing the overall confirmed death toll to 23,109.

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JERUSALEM — American biotech company Moderna says Israel has approved its COVID-19 vaccine, but the announcement comes as the country faces a rapidly growing outbreak of the disease.

Moderna said in a statement Tuesday that the Israeli Health Ministry authorized use of the company’s vaccine and that it would begin delivering this month the 6 million doses secured by Israel.

Israel’s Health Ministry reported 8,308 new confirmed cases of coronavirus on Tuesday — one of the highest daily tallies since the beginning of the pandemic — as the country struggles to contain the pandemic during a third national lockdown. Israel has recorded over 450,000 cases of coronavirus and 3,445 deaths.

At the same time, Israel has already vaccinated over 10% of its population, primarily the elderly and healthcare workers.

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BANGKOK — Thailand’s government says it is tightening restrictions aimed at stopping the spread of the coronavirus as the country logged another 527 new cases.

Officials said Tuesday that foreign migrant workers accounted for 439 of the new infections, while 82 were Thais infected locally and another six were new arrivals from abroad. Thailand on Monday reported 745 infections, the most since the pandemic began.

After almost no locally transmitted infections for almost half a year, Thailand in recent weeks has seen a viral resurgence first spotted in communities of foreign factory and market workers just outside Bangkok.

The government has responded by putting in place fresh antivirus measures across large parts of the country, including closing schools and limiting restaurant hours. The government said Tuesday that it will restrict travel between provinces in so-called “red-zone” to goods, cargo and necessary travel. Field hospitals were being set up in at least five hot zones

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BEIJING — China has designated parts of Hebei province near Beijing as a coronavirus high danger zone after 14 new cases of COVID-19 were found.

Eleven of those cases were in Shijiazhuang city, where some events for the 2022 Winter Olympics will be held. An additional 30 people tested positive for the virus without showing any symptoms.

The other three COVID-19 cases were in the city of Yantai. Parts of Shijiazhuang were designated high danger areas, meaning they will undergo stricter testing and isolation measures, while parts of Yantai were registered as medium risk areas.

China has recorded 87,183 cases of COVID-19, with 4,634 deaths. People who have tested positive but not shown symptoms have been counted separately.

China is urging tens of millions of migrant workers to stay put during next month’s Lunar New Year holiday, usually the world’s largest annual human migration. Classes will dismissed a week earlier than usual and tourists are told not to come to Beijing for holidays.

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MEXICO CITY — Mexico approved the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine for emergency use Monday, hoping to spur a halting vaccination effort that has only given about 44,000 shots since the third week of December, about 82% of the doses the country has received.

Previously, the Pfizer vaccine was the only one approved for use in Mexico. Mexican regulators approved the AstraZeneca shot on Monday.

Assistant Health Secretariat Hugo López-Gatell says he erroneously reported approval for Chinese vaccine-maker CanSino, noting it had not yet submitted full study results for safety and efficacy.

Mexico has pinned much of its hopes on the inexpensive, one-shot CanSino vaccine. “It will makes things a lot easier for us,” López-Gatell says.

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TOPEKA, Kan. — Gov. Laura Kelly says she’s “very comfortable” with how Kansas is distributing COVID-19 vaccines despite U.S. government data showing its inoculation rate is the lowest of any state.

The Democratic governor argued Monday that Kansas likely has a more efficient distribution system than other states and is getting vaccine doses more quickly to more communities. The state Department of Health and Environment has said the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows Kansas behind other states because of a reporting lag. Kelly told reporters the state has concentrated on “getting vaccinations in people’s arms.”

The CDC reported Monday that Kansas had administered 20,110 vaccine shots, or 690 for every 100,000 residents, making it the only state to inoculate fewer than 700 residents out of every 100,000.

House Speaker Ron Ryckman Jr., a Kansas City-area Republican, says Kansas residents “are tired of hearing excuses.”

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JACKSON, MISS. — Officials in Mississippi announced a plan to streamline access to coronavirus vaccines for vulnerable populations in the coming weeks.

“We want to make sure that as many doses as we get this week, we’re getting that many shots in arms,” Gov. Tate Reeves said during a news conference. “It doesn’t do us any good if it’s sitting on the shelf.”

The Republican governor said Monday that people over 75 will have access to the vaccine, beginning next week, at private clinics and drive-through sites. The week after, those over 65 will become eligible for the vaccine.

He said “we must focus on saving lives.”

The Department of Health has 18 high-volume drive-through sites prepared for the vaccine rollout. Approximately 174 private clinics have also requested vaccines.

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LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles County is likely to hit 1,000 coronavirus-related deaths a week soon if the current trends continue.

More than 1 in 5 people are testing positive for the coronavirus and the county’s cases doubled between Nov. 30, at 400,000, and Jan. 2, to 800,000. It took more than nine months to reach 400,000.

County health officials fear a surge from Christmas and New Year’s gatherings. Additional Thanksgiving cases have swamped hospitals, forcing them to treat patients in hallways, ambulances and the gift shop, and forced an oxygen shortage.

The county on Monday reported 77 additional deaths, which include a reporting lag over the weekend, bringing the total to 10,850 in the nation’s most populous county.

Officials also reported 9,142 new cases — a lower figure due to testing sites being closed during the New Year holiday — to total 827,498 confirmed cases.

Nearly 7,700 people are hospitalized countywide for COVID-19 and 21% are in intensive care units.

“We’re likely to experience the worst conditions in January that we’ve faced the entire pandemic — and that’s hard to imagine,” county public health director Barbara Ferrer says.

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DENVER — Inmates in a Colorado jail will get daily temperature checks and those who test positive for COVID-19 will be regularly monitored by medical staff under a temporary deal negotiated by lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union and the sheriff and approved by a federal judge.

The ACLU sued El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder last month after his office acknowledged that inmates were not routinely given masks to prevent the spread of infection until a large COVID-19 outbreak in the jail. Jail officials said they could not distribute masks initially during the pandemic because the only ones available had metal staples.

Under the preliminary injunction, inmates will be given two cloth masks to use and deputies who do no wear masks will face discipline. Deputies will check inmates’ temperatures twice a day and anyone with a temperature over 99.4 degrees will be referred to medical staff.

Those who test positive will be checked by medical staff daily and given access to over-the-counter pain and cold medicine like Tylenol or Mucinex for free.

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