JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he has reached a new agreement with the Pfizer drug company that will allow Israel to vaccinate all citizens over 16 by the end of March.
Israel has already secured millions of doses and launched one of the earliest and fastest vaccination drives in the world. The country of 9 million has already vaccinated more than 15% of its population. Israel’s Magen David Adom medical service said Thursday it has given the first of two vaccine doses to all nursing home residents and staff.
Netanyahu said that under the agreement with Pfizer, Israel would be a “global model” and a source of statistical data that could be used to combat the pandemic elsewhere.
Despite the vaccine campaign, Israel has seen a surge in cases, leading authorities to tighten an already existing lockdown. Most schools and businesses will be closed starting Friday, with public gatherings restricted for a two-week period.
Netanyahu says “we have victory within reach,” and is calling on Israelis to abide by the lockdown in “one last big effort.”
Palestinians living in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza will have to wait longer, as Israel has not announced any plans to distribute the vaccine to them. The Palestinian Authority says it has not requested any from Israel, and is instead relying on a World Health Organization program.
THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
Surges in Arizona put focus on Republican Gov. Doug Ducey's handling of pandemic Japan has declared a state of emergency in Tokyo area after it hit a high of daily coronavirus cases. South Africa says it will buy 1.5 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine to inoculate health care workers.
Quebec begins a provincewide 8 p.m. curfew on Saturday to curb surging coronavirus infections and hospitalizations. The Israeli Cabinet OKs tightening a lockdown by closing schools and businesses for two weeks. Mexico has reported a new daily high in coronavirus cases.
— Follow AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic, https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
SAN FRANCISCO — California’s epidemiologist, Dr. Erica Pan, said more than 2 million vaccine doses have shipped to the state and well over 530,000 doses administered, although she expects the numbers are several days out of date. She said like other states, California needs to ramp up distribution and expects to do so as more doses arrive and more pharmacy, dental and medical field staff made available to administer the doses.
“Having the vaccine come in the middle of our worst surge of all has been a real stress on our health care system and on our public health departments,” said Pan at a Thursday webinar hosted by San Francisco area’s business association Bay Area Council. “So a lot of the people who we would traditionally rely on to vaccinate are actually very busy helping support the surge across the state.”
Pan said momentum for vaccinations is building as more frontline workers receive the vaccine but said how quickly regular people get the doses will depend on local conditions. Some counties don’t have many skilled nursing homes so could be able to move on to the next phase faster. About 3 million people are expected to be in the current phase.
The next phase of vaccinations will include agriculture workers as well as people 75 and older.
TALLAHASSEE — Florida broke its record for the highest single-day number of coronavirus cases since the pandemic began, tallying 19,816 new cases on Thursday, while the state’s death toll reached 22,400.
Statistics from the Florida Department of Health on Thursday showed the totals surpassed the previous single-day record, which was 17,783 cases on Wednesday.
Since the pandemic started in March, about 1.4 million people in Florida have contracted COVID. As of 3 p.m. Thursday, 7,331 people in the state were hospitalized with the virus.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California issued a new travel advisory late Wednesday that says people from out of state are “strongly discouraged” from entering California. It also says Californians should avoid traveling more than 120 miles from home except for essential travel.
The state’s previous advisory, issued in November, encouraged people to stay home or within their region without giving a specific distance that people could travel. It outlined quarantine guidelines for out-of-state travelers but did not explicitly discourage travel.
“Intra-state travel, likewise threatens to exacerbate community spread within California—particularly because travel itself (especially the use of shared conveyances in air, bus, or rail travel) can increase a person’s chance of spreading and getting COVID-19,” says the new advisory, issued by the California Department of Public Health.
People arriving in California from other places, including state residents returning home, should self-quarantine for 10 days.
The advisory broadly makes exceptions for essential travel and work
TORONTO — Elementary students in southern Ontario will continue remote learning until Jan. 25. The Ontario government says coronavirus cases are continuing to rise at an alarming rate. Ontario is Canada’s most populous province.
Chief medical officer Dr. David Williams says the move is being made to ensure students and staff in schools remain safe as rates of COVID-19 increase.
All students are currently learning online as part of a provincial lockdown, but those in northern Ontario and elementary students in southern Ontario were supposed to return to schools next week.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford says he received new data Wednesday night that indicates positivity rates amongst children have been increasing
LOS ANGELES — California health authorities have reported a record two-day total of 1,042 coronavirus deaths as many hospitals strain under unprecedented caseloads.
The state Department of Public Health’s website lists 583 new deaths Thursday, a day after 459 deaths.
The previous two-day total was 1,013 deaths at the end of December.
California’s death toll since the start of the pandemic now stands at 28,045
MADRID — Spain’s health ministry says the country’s pandemic tally for infections has now surpassed the 2 million figure after 42,360 officially recorded new cases of COVID-19 over the past two days were reported Thursday amid a continuing post-Christmas rise in daily numbers.
Government virus expert María José Sierra said the official number of people infected was 2.02 million. The Health ministry said that since Tuesday 245 people have died from the virus, making for total of 51,675 fatalities.
The 14-day cumulative index watched by epidemiologists rose to 321 per 100,000 inhabitants, up from 295 on Tuesday, the last day official figures were issued.
Intensive care unit occupation by coronavirus patients inched up to 24 percent.
Sierra said more COVID-19 patients were being admitted to hospital than patients being released, breaking with a trend of recent weeks.
The health ministry said 207,000 people have been vaccinated since Dec.27. The country hopes to vaccinate 2.5 million people by the end of March. Spain’s population is 47 million.
The U.S. registered its highest deaths yet from the coronavirus on the day a mob attacked the Capitol.
On Wednesday, the nation recorded nearly 3,900 deaths. The virus is surging in nearly every state. California is particularly hard hit, with skyrocketing deaths and infections threatening to force hospitals to ration care.
On Thursday, there were 583 deaths in California for a record two-day total of 1,042. The confirmed death toll now stands at 28,045. The state has registered over a quarter million weekly cases.
More than 360,000 people in the U.S. have died of the coronavirus. December was the nation’s deadliest month. Health experts are warning January could be worse because of holiday travel and family gatherings.
About 1.9 million people around the world have died of the coronavirus.
SAO PAULO — State health officials in Brazil say a study has found that a vaccine candidate made by China’s Sinovac is 78% effective in protecting against COVID-19. More than 12,000 health workers participated in the study, which detected 218 cases of COVID-19 -- about 160 of those among people who received a placebo rather than the actual vaccine.
Turkish officials last month said a smaller companion study in that country of the same vaccine candidate found an efficacy rate of over 90%. The government of Sao Paulo state has contracted for the vaccine. Its asking Brazil’s federal health regulators for emergency approval for its use.
LONDON — The U.K. registered its second-highest daily increase in coronavirus-related deaths.
The British government says 1,162 people died in a 28-day period after testing positive for the virus. The only time the increase was higher was April 21, when 1,224 deaths were registered.
The U.K.’s four nations are all in lockdown after a sharp spike in cases widely blamed on a new variant of the virus that appeared in London and the southeast of England.
On Thursday, the number of cases fell to 52,618 from the previous day’s record high of 62,322. However, the seven-day average is running nearly three times higher than a month ago.
The U.K.’s total death toll stands at 78,508, the highest in Europe and fifth in the world.
ROME — Italy added 18,020 coronavirus cases on Thursday, raising the confirmed total to 2.2 million.
The Italian government will decide which regions will be allowed more or fewer limits on movements and on commercial activities, such as whether non-essential shops can open and if in-person dining at restaurants and cafes will be permitted.
That comes after a holiday period in which travel between regions was banned. Health experts will look at the rate of transmission of infections, number of COVID-19 clusters and availability of ICU beds.
Another 414 deaths were recorded Thursday, increasing the known death toll to 77,291. After Britain, Italy has registered the most coronavirus deaths in Europe.
SANTA FE, N.M. — New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is urging the state Supreme Court to reject demands that businesses be compensated for losses linked to pandemic-related public health orders.
Final written arguments were published Thursday as the high court weighs whether financial compensation is due to businesses in response to the state’s public health orders that ban mass gatherings and prohibit business activities such as indoor dining.
Businesses have scaled back or closed their doors as state health officials struggle to contain the coronavirus.
A coalition of businesses says pandemic restrictions have effectively seized private property from businesses that might otherwise have taken their own precautions against the spread of COVID-19.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The United Arab Emirates has started Phase 3 clinical trials of Russia’s leading vaccine candidate.
Abu Dhabi announced trials for Russia’s coronavirus vaccine will be open to 500 volunteers. The UAE has also authorized the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine for emergency use.
Russia says its Sputnik V vaccine has showed an efficacy rate of 91% in preliminary results from a small clinical trial.
The UAE’s record of 2,988 infections on Thursday is 900 cases more than the previous day’s record. The surge follows a loosening of restrictions on gatherings, business and tourism during the past several months.
Authorities have reported a total of 221,554 cases and 694 confirmed deaths.
PARIS — France’s Prime Minister Jean Castex has dashed the hopes the famed restaurant industry for a re-opening this month.
Castex made the announcement Thursday that eateries wouldn’t open before mid-February. Restaurants across the country have been shuttered since November.
That month, President Emmanuel Macron said the restaurants and bars might re-open in January if the daily virus rate fell below 5,000.
Castex says since cases are hovering around 15,000, a relaxing of restrictions isn’t possible.
A national curfew — at 8 p.m. in most places — will remain until at least Jan. 20. Castex added the border with the U.K. would remain “closed” for now.
PHOENIX — Arizona reported nearly 300 coronavirus deaths, a pandemic high, and nearly 10,000 new infections on Thursday.
The surge has stressed Arizona’s health care system, with a record 4,920 COVID-19 patients occupying inpatient hospital beds and a record 1,101 patients in intensive care.
The state’s seven-day rolling average of daily cases rose in the past two weeks from 6,293 cases on Dec. 23 to 8,994 on Wednesday. The rolling average of daily deaths rose from 92 to 103.
Health officials have urged Gov. Doug Ducey to install new measures as cases skyrocket. Arizona has the highest coronavirus diagnosis rate in the country, with one out of every 119 people testing positive in the past week.
Ducey has rejected calls to tighten restrictions, including a mask mandate. He also dismissed a proposal to have all public schools go to remote learning for two weeks after the holidays.
The Department of Health Services says the 297 deaths reported Thursday were newly attributed to recent reviews of past death certificates. The numbers increased the state’s confirmed totals to 9,741 deaths and 584,593 cases.
TOPEKA, Kan. — New Kansas Rep. Jake LaTurner tested positive for the coronavirus while participating in a joint session of Congress that certified President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the Electoral College.
LaTurner’s office tweeted Thursday the freshman Republican “is not experiencing any symptoms at this time.” LaTurner had voted to object to the counting of Arizona’s electoral votes for Biden. The tweet said he was following the advice of the House physician and CDC guidelines and didn’t return to the House floor for other votes.
LaTurner took office Sunday, representing the 2nd District of eastern Kansas. He is a former Kansas state treasurer and unseated GOP Rep. Steve Watkins in the August primary.
HARRISBURG, Pa. — A possibly more contagious variant of the coronavirus has been detected in Pennsylvania for the first time, state health officials announced Thursday.
Someone in Dauphin County tested positive for the variant “after known international exposure,” the Department of Health says. The patient had mild symptoms and has since completed isolation at home, health officials say.
The new variant first emerged in Britain, sweeping across that country and prompting a national lockdown. It has since been detected in several U.S. states.
Although health experts believe the virus variant may be more contagious, it is not considered deadlier.
NAIROBI, Kenya — Kenya’s health minister says it expects to receive 24 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University next month.
Mutahi Kagwe says health workers and teachers will have priority in vaccinations in East Africa’s economic hub and the shots will be voluntary.
The government in the past has said it expected the initial 24 million doses to be free under the global COVAX facility, with the government paying for another 12 million doses.
Kenya has more than 97,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, and a recent surge in infections has eased. The country has been participating in a small-scale trial of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which requires two doses administered weeks apart.
The vaccine can be stored at what AstraZeneca has called “normal refrigerated conditions.” That’s a plus in parts of Africa where infrastructure is a challenge.
BEIRUT — Lebanon has begun a 25-day nationwide lockdown, its third since the first February.
It closes most businesses and reduces flights at its only international airport. As of Thursday, a daily 6 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew will take effect until Feb. 1. In Israel, the government prepared for a two-week shutdown as infections soar.
Lebanon also reported 21 coronavirus deaths Wednesday, bringing the number of total confirmed coronavirus cases to nearly 200,000 and more than 1,500 deaths.
BANGKOK — Thailand is extending a state of emergency by another month until Feb. 28 and tightening travel restriction in parts of the country.
Taweesilp Visanuyothin, a spokesperson for the COVID-19 coordinating center, says Thursday there were 305 new cases and one death. That brings the total confirmed cases to 9,636 and 67 deaths.
Since the new surge began in mid-December after months of little or no local cases, most of the new cases have been migrant workers from neighboring Myanmar who were employed in seafood markets and factories in a province next to Bangkok. Most are housed in dormitories that have been closed off to the public.
The government has ordered a partial lockdown around Thailand. Schools, bars, gambling parlors and other public gathering places have been closed. Malls, departments stores and restaurants remain open with limited hours.
JOHANNESBURG — South Africa says it will import 1.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to inoculate the country’s health workers.
It’s the nation’s first announcement of the purchase of a COVID-19 vaccine. It comes as record highs of 21,832 new confirmed cases and 844 deaths were registered Wednesday.
The health minister says the first 1 million doses will be delivered later this month from the Serum Institute of India, followed by 500,000 doses in February.
South Africa, with 60 million people, has reported more than 1.1 million confirmed infections. That represents more than 30% of all cases on the 54-nation continent of 1.3 billion.
Some of South Africa’s hospitals are reporting they are at capacity. The rapid spread of the disease in recent weeks has been driven by a new, possibly more infectious variant of the virus, according to medical experts.
There have been 31,368 confirmed deaths in South Africa.
GENEVA — The head of the World Health Organization’s European region says a new variant of the coronavirus that emerged in Britain doesn’t appear to increase the severity of symptoms, but it does “raise alarm” for health care providers.
Dr. Hans Kluge, WHO’s regional director for Europe, pointed to “new challenges brought by the mutating virus” and says the region is facing a “tipping point in the course of the pandemic.” He says 22 countries in the region have detected the new “of concern” variant.
“With increased transmissibility and similar disease severity, the variant does, however, raise alarm: Without increased control to slow its spread, there will be an increased impact on already stressed and pressurized health facilities,” he says.
TOKYO — Japan has declared a state of emergency for Tokyo and three nearby areas as coronavirus cases continue to surge, hitting a daily record of 2,447 in the capital.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga issued the declaration at the government task force for the coronavirus. It kicks in Friday until Feb. 7, and centers around asking restaurants and bars to close at 8 p.m. and people to stay home and not mingle in crowds.
The declaration carries no penalties. But it works as a strong request while Japan juggles to keep the economy going. Shopping malls and schools will remain open. Movie theaters, museums and other events will be asked to reduce attendance. Places that defy the request will get publicized on a list, while those that comply will be eligible for aid, according to officials.
Coronavirus cases have been surging in Japan after the year-end and New Year’s holidays.
MEXICO CITY — Mexico has reported a new high for a daily increase in coronavirus cases, with 13,345 confirmed infections reported Wednesday in the previous 24 hours. Officials also reported a near-record of 1,165 deaths related to COVID-19.
The country has a total of 1.48 million infections and nearly 130,000 confirmed deaths so far in the pandemic. A low testing rate means it's likely an undercount, and official estimates suggest the actual death toll is closer to 180,000.
Mexico’s vaccination effort continues at a glacial rate, with about 7,500 shots administered Wednesday, a rate similar to previous days. In Mexico City, the current center of the pandemic in the country, 88% percent of hospital beds are full.