BERLIN — Germany will temporarily reinstate border controls after designating the Czech Republic and parts of Austria “mutations areas” because of the high number of coronavirus variant cases.
German news agency dpa reported the temporary border controls and certain entry restrictions will start Sunday at midnight. Travelers coming from certain areas of Austria or the Czech Republic will have to provide proof of a negative coronavirus test to enter Germany.
The requirement will present a hurdle for thousands of cross-border workers. It’s not clear for how long the border controls will last.
Chancellor Angela Merkel and the governors of Germany’s 16 states agreed late Wednesday to extend the country’s current pandemic lockdown until at least March 7, in part due to fears over more contagious variants.
THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
Germany reinstates some border controls to fight variants. Dr. Fauci expects coronavirus shot categories to open up by April in U.S. California’s virus death toll surpasses New York. African nations still encouraged to use AstraZeneca vaccine. President Joe Biden's virus-fighting team is on a war strategy to defeat the coronavirus.
— Follow AP’s pandemic 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:
MADRID — Spain reported 513 deaths on Thursday, down from 643 the previous day.
The health ministry registered 17,853 new cases, increasing the total to more than 3 million. The confirmed death toll reached more than 64,200.
The percentage of ICU beds occupied by coronavirus patients dropped by one percentage point to 41%, which virus expert Fernando Simón calls still “extremely high.”
Spain has administered 2.91 million vaccines, with more than 900,000 complete doses. It aims to have 70% of the population vaccinated by September.
PHOENIX — Arizona reported 200 coronavirus deaths on Thursday.
There were 2,507 COVID-19 patients occupying inpatient beds in Arizona, down from the pandemic high of 5,082 on Jan. 11, according to the state’s database.
The Department of Health Services reported 1,861 new cases, increasing the totals to 791,106 cases and 14,662 confirmed deaths.
The state’s most populous county, Maricopa, is expanding vaccination eligibility at county sites to adults 65 and older.
New cases and deaths in Arizona have been declining. The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases dropped from 6,860 on Jan. 27 to about 3,124 on Wednesday. The rolling average of daily deaths dropped from 159 to 126 during the same period, according to data from The COVID Tracking Project.
MILWAUKEE — A former home for retired Catholic nuns in Milwaukee is now a shelter for homeless people who have coronavirus or are vulnerable to the virus due to their health.
Clare Hall’s nuns moved into new quarters last January and the building was sitting empty just as the coronavirus took hold. When Milwaukee County approached the Archdiocese of Milwaukee about space to house the homeless, Clare Hall was the answer.
Almost 60% of the 200 men and women who have stayed there since March had coronavirus. Melvin Anthony, who was homeless for more than 15 years, says Clare Hall saved him during a desperate time.
NEW ORLEANS — The coronavirus pandemic has canceled flights to count the only natural flock of whooping cranes.
It’s the first time in 71 years that crews in Texas couldn’t make an aerial survey of the world’s rarest cranes.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has records of such surveys for every year starting in 1950. That’s according to Wade Harrell, whooping crane recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
LOS ANGELES — California has edged past New York with the most death from the coronavirus. California’s death toll reached 45,496, surpassing New York’s toll of 45,312 on Thursday, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
The development comes as other coronavirus numbers show improvement in California. The most recent seven-day test positivity rate has fallen to 4.8%, according to the state Department of Public Health.
The most recent daily number of confirmed positive cases was 8,390, down from 53,000 in December.
However, California is grappling with vaccine shortages to inoculate substantial numbers of its nearly 40 million residents.
Los Angeles is temporarily closing five mass vaccination sites, including Dodger Stadium, for lack of supply. Smaller mobile vaccination clinics will continue their work in LA, according to Mayor Eric Garcetti. The city expects more supplies next week.
MEXICO CITY — Enough active ingredient to produce 2 million doses of the CanSino COVID-19 vaccine arrived in Mexico early Thursday, the first new vaccine to arrive in weeks.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Marcelo Ebrard thanked the Chinese government and CanSino for the rapid shipment just one day after Mexican regulators approved its emergency use.
The vaccine will be bottled and distributed from a facility in the central state of Queretaro.
Mexico has so far received only about 760,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, which have nearly all been used.
On Wednesday, Mexico announced emergency approval for the Chinese vaccine Sinovac. Officials expect the first AstraZeneca shipment of 500,000 doses on Sunday.
Mexico has registered more than 1.9 million confirmed coronavirus cases and nearly 170,000 deaths, the third highest in the world behind the United States (471,000) and Brazil (234,000).
PARIS — A French nun who is believed to be the world’s second-oldest person is celebrating her 117th birthday in style after surviving COVID-19.
The care home in southern France where Sister André lives organized a packed schedule. There were plans on Thursday for Champagne and red wine, a feast with her favorite dessert and other events to toast her astounding longevity.
Some of Sister Andre’s great-nephews and great-great nephews were expected to join a video call for her. The bishop of Toulon was due to celebrate a Mass in her honor.
Sister Andre’s birth name is Lucile Randon. Sister André tested positive for the coronavirus in mid-January and had so few symptoms she didn’t even realize she was infected.
She’s considered the second-oldest known living person in the world, behind only a 118-year-old woman in Japan.
ISTANBUL — Turkey has started administering the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by China’s Sinovac company to health care workers across the country.
Also Thursday, people above 70 qualified to receive their first dose of the vaccine as Turkey expanded its vaccination campaign. After a promising start of 1.2 million people receiving their first doses in one week, the pace of vaccination has slowed down. In all, around 2.8 million people have received their first shots in the country of 83.6 million.
Turkey aims to vaccinate at least 60% of the population, the health minister has said. The country has been trying to procure vaccines from multiple sources.
ZAGREB, Croatia — Croatia’s government has announced slight easing of measures against the new coronavirus, citing stable numbers of new infections in the past weeks.
Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic on Thursday also warned there can be no major relaxation of rules amid an expected spate of very cold weather and after the British variant of the virus was registered in the country.
Plenkovic says starting Feb. 16, restaurants and bars can sell coffee to go, gyms and other fitness venues will reopen, along with foreign language schools, casinos and betting shops.
Croatia hasn’t had full lockdown, but it has shut down bars and other social venues. Thousands of small business owners recently have rallied against anti-virus rules.
Croatia has reported more than 5,000 confirmed coronavirus deaths and more than 200,000 cases.
WASHINGTON — Dr. Anthony Fauci predicts by April it will be “open season” for vaccinations in the U.S., as supply boosts allow most people to get shots to protect against COVID-19.
Speaking to NBC’s “Today Show,” Fauci, who serves as science adviser to President joe Biden, says the rate of vaccinations will greatly accelerate in the coming months. He credits forthcoming deliveries of the two approved vaccines, the potential approval of a third and moves taken by the Biden administration to increase the nation’s capacity to deliver doses.
He says, “by the time we get to April,” it will be “open season, namely virtually everybody and anybody in any category could start to get vaccinated.”
He cautioned it will take “several more months” to logistically deliver injections to adult Americans but predicted herd immunity could be achieved by late summer.
GENEVA — The World Health Organization’s chief for Europe says it’s launching with the European Union a 40-million euro ($48.5 million) program to help deploy COVID-19 vaccines in six countries that were once Soviet republics.
Dr. Hans Kluge, who also highlighted a drop in coronavirus cases in recent weeks while warning case counts remain too high, says the program complements work through an existing EU program and the WHO-backed COVAX Facility that aims to deploy vaccines for people in all countries in need whether rich or poor.
The program will involve Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova.
“Vaccines offer a way to emerge faster from this pandemic. But only if we ensure that all countries, irrespective of income level, have access to them,” Kluge said from Copenhagen, Denmark. “Unfair access to vaccines, can backfire. The longer the virus lingers, the greater the risk of dangerous mutations."
Kluge hailed “good news” that new infections in the 53-country WHO Europe region has declined for four straight weeks, and pointed to declining hospitalization and death rates.
Kluge says some 7.8 million people have completed their immunization in the region.
BUDAPEST — Hungary expects to receive 500,000 doses of a Chinese COVID-19 vaccine next week and will begin administering them as soon as possible.
Gergely Gulyas, chief of staff to Prime Minister Viktor Orban, says the Sinopharm vaccine would undergo assessment by Hungary’s National Public Health Center before being put into circulation.
“This is the safest vaccine given that it has already been administered to 30 million people in the world,” Gulyas said.
Hungary, which has been critical of the European Union’s sluggish vaccine rollout, also expects 200,000 doses of the Russian vaccine Sputnik V to arrive this month. Doctors in Budapest were instructed this week to choose patients under 75 and with no chronic health conditions to receive the first round of Sputnik V jabs.
NAIROBI, Kenya — Tanzania’s president denies COVID-19 exists in his country, but the World Health Organization says two travelers from Tanzania have been found with the virus now dominant in South Africa.
WHO Africa chief Matshidiso Moeti says the travelers went to the U.K. She again encouraged Tanzania’s government to share information on the pandemic, and counts Tanzania as one of eight African countries that has the variant.
The East African nation has not updated its number of virus cases since April, and populist President John Magufuli has not only claimed that God has helped to defeat COVID-19 there but expressed doubts about its vaccines.
The U.S. Embassy on Wednesday reported a “significant increase” in the number of COVID-19 cases in Tanzania since last month, with no details. The Catholic church in Tanzania has been outspoken in warning that COVID-19 is present and encouraging citizens to take precautions.
LISBON, Portugal — Portugal has started inoculating the country’s about 15,000 firefighters against COVID-19.
Portuguese firefighters commonly operate ambulances, and they will be vaccinated over a two-week period starting Thursday.
Meanwhile, the health ministry says antigen tests will be more widely used at schools, factories and other places where people gather as part of a new strategy to contain the pandemic.
Parliament is expected later Thursday to extend Portugal’s state of emergency decree, which allows the government to impose the current lockdown, through March 1.
The seven-day average of daily deaths in Portugal is the highest in the world, at 205 per 100,000 people, according to Johns Hopkins University. But the seven-day average of daily new cases has fallen from a peak of 122 new cases per 100,000 people on Jan. 27 to 47 per 100,000.