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Thursday September 23rd, 2021 7:16PM

The Latest: Brazil yet to approve, start virus vaccinations

By The Associated Press
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BRASILIA — The Brazilian government, under pressure to begin an immunization campaign, expects to receive 2 million of the AstraZeneca vaccines this month.

However, Brazil’s health regulator Anvisa has yet to approve any vaccine, and the health ministry hasn’t provided a definitive rollout date for the nation’s first shots.

As of Monday, 5,126 COVID-19 patients were in intensive care in Sao Paulo’s hospitals, the highest since Aug. 22. Meanwhile, stores, bars, offices and other non-essential activities resumed in the state following suspension during year-end celebrations.

Despite several pleas from Gov. João Doria, no mayors in Sao Paulo’s beachside cities limited circulation of tourists during the holiday season, with many hotels and restaurants full. Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro, who previously had the coronavirus, swam just offshore on Jan. 1, to the delight of a large group standing close together.

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THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

Seniors citizens in Florida camped overnight in vehicles to get in line for vaccinations in Daytona Beach. 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.

England is facing its third lockdown, while other countries are taking steps against the coronavirus and vaccinating citizens. Germany is expected to extend its national lockdown as coronavirus deaths mount. Meanwhile, Wall Street wobbles after its sharp slide to start 2021.

— 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:

BUDAPEST, Hungary — The coronavirus death toll in Hungary surpassed 10,000 on Tuesday, one of the worst death rates in the world for the nation of nearly 10 million people.

A tally by Johns Hopkins University showed Hungary’s death rate of 102.13 per 100,000 people, the sixth-highest overall.

More than 15,000 health care workers have been vaccinated in Hungary so far, according to chief medical officer Cecilia Muller.

Hungary will reopen airports to passenger flights from Britain and Northern Ireland on Wednesday, the government’s emergency task force announced.

Hungary banned flights from Britain on Dec. 22 to limit the spread of a possibly more contagious mutation of the coronavirus. The ban was originally until Feb. 8.

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BOSTON — The vice chairman of the Massachusetts Republican Party once was a coronavirus skeptic but has issued a mea culpa after falling sick with virus.

Tom Mountain wrote in the Boston Herald on Tuesday that he was probably infected at a White House Hannukah party last month. He says he’s recovering at home and expects to survive despite what he calls his own negligence and arrogance.

He says he got sick three days after attending the White House party, where mask-wearing and social distancing were lax. Mountain says he spread the virus to other members of his family and required two trips to the emergency room.

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ROME — Italy registered 649 coronavirus deaths on Tuesday, nearly double from the previous day.

There were 348 recorded a day earlier, according to the Health Ministry. The country added 15,378 confirmed cases on Tuesday, a few thousand more than Monday’s new caseload. But it also conducted nearly 60,000 more swab tests in the last 24 hours.

Italy has confirmed 2.1 million cases and 76,329 known dead in the pandemic.

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Hundreds of senior citizens determined to get vaccinated against the coronavirus camped out overnight in frigid temperatures to secure spots in Tuesday morning’s line in Daytona Beach.

City officials tried to avoid a repeat of Monday’s traffic jams by opening a stadium’s parking lot to overnight camping for people 65 and older. By 7:30 p.m. Monday, senior citizens in some 200 vehicles were on the property.

The Daytona Beach News Journal reported officials planned to close the gates once 1,000 people entered, matching the number of vaccines available for Tuesday. The shots will be administered by Volusia County’s office of the Florida Department of Health.

The state has received more than 960,000 doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. By Monday, about 260,000 Floridians had been vaccinated, mostly health care workers and first responders, followed recently by the elderly.

About 83% of coronavirus deaths in Florida have been older than 65. Florida has one of the nation’s oldest populations, with 4.4 million of the state’s 21 million people 65 years or older.

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MONTPELIER, Vt. — Vermont officials are working out how the state will spend its share of the latest coronavirus relief funds recently approved by Congress.

The Times Argus reports officials estimate the state will receive about $500 million. Douglas Farnham, of the Agency of Administration, estimates that among the expenditures will be $200 million for emergency rental assistance and homeless prevention; $179.4 million for public health and social service emergency funding; and $127 million for elementary and secondary education relief.

The funds cannot be used to help the state and local governments make up for budget shortfalls caused by the pandemic.

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SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Syracuse University will postpone the start of its spring semester by two weeks to reduce the impact of an expected post-holiday surge in coronavirus cases.

The semester will start Feb. 8 and end May 21, Syracuse Chancellor Kent Syverud says.

He says the decision was made in consultation with the Onondaga County Health Department and should allow some of the university’s front-line workers to be vaccinated for the coronavirus before students return.

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COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen says Denmark is lowering the number of people who can gather in public from 10 to five.

The plan was to “delay the mutation,” Frederiksen said of the British mutation, adding that Danes were advised against traveling to Britain. Frederiksen also urged people to stay home and “feel free to cancel all the appointments you can where possible.”

Earlier, Denmark has banned sale of alcohol after 10 p.m., made face masks mandatory in public places such as supermarkets, libraries, theaters and public transportation. Pharmacies are open but non-food shops, amusement parks, zoos and gyms are closed until at least Jan. 17. Restaurants and cafes can only offer take out. Students in the 5th grade and above have switched to remote learning.

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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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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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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 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 more than 75,600 confirmed virus deaths, but experts say many 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 says 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 coronavirus 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 coronavirus vaccination program on Jan. 13, with President Joko Widodo getting the first shot.

Minister of Health Budi Gunadi Sadikin says 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 ruling 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 vaccination program in 34 provinces and reach a total population of 181.5 million people.

On Tuesday, Indonesia registered 7,445 new coronavirus cases 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 coronavirus 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 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 during a third national lockdown. Israel has recorded more than 450,000 confirmed cases and 3,445 confirmed deaths.

Israel has already vaccinated more than 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 say a 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 start of the pandemic.

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

The government has responded by putting in place new antivirus measures across large parts of the country, including closing schools and limiting restaurant hours. The government says 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 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 cases were in the city of Yantai. Parts of Shijiazhuang were designated high danger areas, meaning they will undergo stricter testing and isolation measures. Parts of Yantai were registered as medium risk areas.

China has recorded 87,183 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 4,634 confirmed 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 being told not to come to Beijing for holidays.

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