The Latest: China tests millions in port over virus cluster
BEIJING - Authorities in the northeastern port city of Dalian, China are testing millions of residents after seven new coronavirus cases were reported in the past 24 hours.
The cluster that emerged in the last few days has grown to 12 cases. In five neighborhood departments, authorities have closed schools and public spaces, preventing all but essential workers from leaving their homes.
Beijing is also on high alert after two asymptomatic cases were reported Thursday, in addition to two confirmed cases last week.
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The city began mass testing in the neighborhood and in the workplace of one of the asymptomatic cases, a restaurant worker involved in the cold chain.
THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
- Coronavirus dampens the joy of Christmas in Bethlehem and elsewhere
- No Christmas cheer for truckers stuck in a British virus jam
- Africa CDC: A new virus variant appears to be emerging in Nigeria
- Nurses fear what is to come: "Go down our unit for a day"
- Politicians and vaccines: be a role model or reconcile?
- Studies have shown that COVID-19 can protect against re-infection
- Concerned Morocco is banning parties to curb the spread of the holiday virus
- The Russian Ministry of Health has agreed to reduce the size of a study of a domestically developed coronavirus vaccine and stop the admission of volunteers.
- Santa's "grandchildren" spread joy in Italian nursing homes
- Follow AP's coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic, https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
HERE HAPPENS WHAT ELSE HAPPENS:
SEOUL, South Korea - Christmas Day brought South Korea the largest daily surge in coronavirus infections in the pandemic, as officials urged civil vigilance to stem a spate of viruses that has exacerbated hospital stays and deaths.
The 1,241 new confirmed cases reported Friday brought the country's total to 54,770. Officials said 17 more people had died of COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 773.
The country has expanded its mass testing program to slow the transmission rate, and more than 118,000 tests were conducted on Thursday alone. Through January 3, officials are also restricting private social gatherings, closing national parks and ski resorts, and fining restaurants for serving groups of five or more.
RIO DE JANEIRO - Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro used his Christmas message to raise more doubts about a coronavirus vaccine that one of the states has bought from Chinese biopharmaceutical company Sinovac.
In his live broadcast on social media Thursday, Bolsonaro said, "the effectiveness of this Sao Paulo vaccine appears to be very low", although he did not give anything specific.
Sao Paulo health authorities have not provided full trial results a week after the encouraging Phase 3 studies of the shot's effectiveness were announced.
Brazil has not yet reached any agreements to import vaccines from American companies Pfizer or Moderna that have been approved by the US and other countries. It was agreed to secure up to 100 million doses of AstraZeneca's potential vaccine.
TOPEKA, Kan. - Kansas is working out the details of who exactly will be eligible for coronavirus vaccines and in what order as it focuses on primarily firing shots at health care workers this month.
Democratic Governor Laura Kelly told leaders of the Republican-controlled legislature this week that vaccines were mostly going to health workers, though that group also includes workers in state prisons. She said vaccines could go "almost exclusively" to health care workers by mid-January, but also suggested some doses have already made it to nursing homes.
Kelly told the Topeka Capital journal in an interview that prison inmates should be vaccinated in front of the public for being in "meeting houses," but the state doesn't expect some adults to receive vaccines for at least a few months.
The state vaccination schedule called for healthcare workers, nursing homes, and residents to come first, followed by other "essential" workers and those aged 75 and over, especially those at high risk of coronavirus complications.
TRENTON, N.J. United Airlines travelers from the UK to Newark Liberty Airport in New Jersey will need to show a negative COVID-19 test starting next week.
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and United Airlines announced Thursday that the restriction will go into effect Monday. All United flights originating in the UK are required to provide evidence of a negative test received within 72 hours of departure.
The measure is being taken to contain the spread of a new strain of the coronavirus that has emerged in the UK.
The restriction does not apply to travelers originating outside the UK connecting to a flight to Newark in London.
NEW YORK - The number of US passengers searched for flights in the US hit nearly 1.2 million on Wednesday for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic broke out. However, it is still 38.5% below the same Wednesday of the previous year, by far the smallest percentage decline since March.
The Transportation Security Administration announced the 1.19 million figure on Wednesday was the highest since mid-March.
It is the third consecutive daily win.
On the same weekday a year ago, 1.94 million passengers were checked. However, that was Christmas 2019 when traveling was easier than normal. Fewer than 100,000 people were screened for planes for several days in early April after the pandemic hit the U.S. economy.
The bump comes as the CDC warns that vacation travel could increase the chances of catching and spreading the virus. It is recommended to stay home and postpone travel for the best protection against COVID-19.
JERUSALEM - The Israeli government says it will impose its third nationwide lockdown on Sunday to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
The cabinet of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved the movement restrictions for two weeks. It includes closings of most non-essential businesses, restrictions on gatherings and brain drain, and reduced public transportation. At the same time, lessons for high schools, kindergartens and some elementary school students will continue.
Israel, a country of 9 million people, started rolling out coronavirus vaccinations this week and has vaccinated over 140,000 people, according to the Ministry of Health. Netanyahu said Thursday that Israel intends to increase vaccinations to 100,000 people a day by next week.
Israel has recorded over 385,000 cases of the coronavirus and 3,150 deaths since March. But the infection rate has risen in the past few weeks after the government started easing restrictions introduced in September.
OKLAHOMA CITY - Oklahoma health officials say they have no plans to follow any newly published federal guidelines for vaccine distribution and that adults 65 and older will remain in phase two of the state's distribution protocol.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new guidelines over the weekend to give priority to those over 75 and key employees in phase two. Oklahoma Health Commissioner Dr. Lance Frye, in a statement late Wednesday, said the state's advisory committee had decided that prioritizing young and healthy workers over Oklahomans in the 65 to 74 age bracket was problematic.
In addition to adults aged 65 and over, the state is also planning to give priority to adults of all ages with comorbidities such as high blood pressure, obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, or chronic lung, liver, or kidney disease. The state estimates that there are approximately 635,000 Oklahomans in these two categories.
According to Frye, health officials plan to closely monitor vaccine supplies in the state and may consider giving priority to people age 75 and older if supplies and access to providers remain limited.
PHOENIX - Arizona reported over 100 more coronavirus deaths for the sixth time in nine days on Thursday as state health officials urged caution to prevent the virus from spreading during the holidays.
The state reported 7,046 additional known COVID-19 cases and 115 deaths, bringing the state's total to 480,319 cases and 8,294 deaths.
In Arizona, 4,221 people were hospitalized for COVID-19 on Wednesday. This is the last in a series of pandemic records set this month. Only 8% of all inpatient hospital beds were available and not in use, including 7% of ICU beds.
Arizona had the third worst COVID-19 diagnosis rate among the US states for the past week, after Tennessee and California. The rate of diagnosis is calculated by dividing the total population of the state by the number of new cases in the past week.
ISTANBUL - An infectious disease expert on the Turkish Medical Panel says an experimental vaccine developed by Chinese biopharmaceutical company Sinovac showed a 91.25 percent effectiveness rate based on early results from late-stage studies in the country.
CoronaVac is a so-called inactivated vaccine that was developed by Sinovac Biotech. Dr. Serhat Unal announced the first results Thursday after randomized trials of 7,371 volunteers, saying the vaccine was safe.
Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said at the press conference that the results were the first to be announced for CoronaVac. Sinovac had postponed the announcement of the results of late-stage studies until January.
Koca said the first shipment of three million cans of CoronaVac will be sent to Turkey on Sunday and arrive on Monday. He originally announced that the vaccines would arrive after December 11, but said that some approvals were causing the delay. Turkey has signed a contract for 50 million doses of the vaccine.
The Minister of Health also said an agreement for Pfizer BioNTech's vaccine was near. He said Turkey could get 4.5 million cans by the end of March and would have the option to buy up to 30 million cans.
Turkey is one of the hardest hit countries in the world with an average of 23,000 confirmed COVID-19 infections per day.
LOS ANGELES - California became the first US state to register 2 million confirmed coronavirus cases.
A review by Johns Hopkins University on Thursday morning showed that the country's most populous state has a total of 2,010,157 infections. There were more than 23,000 deaths.
The grim milestone is the COVID-19 crisis, which health officials say is due to Thanksgiving gatherings and is weighing on the California health system. More than 18,000 people are being hospitalized and many of the state's intensive care units are occupied.
MEXICO CITY - A Mexican nurse became the first person in Latin America to receive a COVID-19 shot as part of an official vaccination campaign on Thursday.
María Irene Ramírez, director of intensive care at Ruben Lenero Hospital in Mexico City, received the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine in a ceremony broadcast live across the country.
Mexico received an initial batch of 3,000 doses of the vaccine Wednesday, although other countries in the region were preparing to launch similar programs after some vaccines were approved after months of testing multiple versions involving tens of thousands of volunteers in the region .
Chile said it received 10,000 doses Thursday, and Argentina, which was struggling to get the Pfizer vaccine, received a flight with 300,000 doses of Russia's Sputnik V vaccine, but it has not yet been given to people over 60 due to a shortage can be of test data.
BERLIN - Christmas Eve in Germany turns into an overly silent night as COVID-19 cases hovered near record highs, police threatened fines for violating gathering restrictions, and people lined up outside a nightclub with shutters on getting tested for the coronavirus.
Some people were out last minute shopping on Thursday, but the streets in Berlin were emptier than usual on a day when most stores close early due to the country's biggest family vacation. Berlin's Kitkat Club nightclub may be closed due to the nationwide lockdown, but some people have stood outside its doors for a virus test.
The President of the Medical Association, Klaus Reinhardt, warned that new infections with fatal consequences for others could be overlooked during tests, and warned of “a false sense of security”, reported the dpa news agency. The police in the southern Bavarian region, which was badly hit by the increase in infections and deaths in winter, warned of fines of 500 euros for violations at 9 p.m. until 5 a.m. curfew.
The German national disease control center reported 32,195 new cases and 802 deaths on Thursday, just below the high of 33,777 cases on December 18 and 962 deaths on Wednesday. The high level of infection is before the expected start of vaccinations on Sunday.
JAKARTA, Indonesia - Christmas celebrations in Indonesia will be a low profile affair in the world's fourth largest nation amid rising coronavirus cases.
Earlier this month, the Indonesian government put a ban on large gatherings on Christmas and New Years Eve. Churches are limited to only 50 worshipers.
Most of the large churches in the mostly Muslim country with 270 million inhabitants adhered to the restriction on Thursday. About 10% of the population are Christians.
Church Unity General Secretary Prist Jacklevyn Frits Manuputy said that many churches in the capital Jakarta and other cities have established online services as well as midnight masses. "We did everything we could to keep people in touch with God this Christmas Eve," he said.
Indonesia has reported nearly 700,000 COVID-19 cases, the largest number in Southeast Asia and the second largest in Asia after the 10.1 million confirmed cases in India. More than 20,000 deaths have been recorded.
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