The Latest: German health minister expects vaccine in 2021

BERLIN - Federal Health Minister expects that a vaccination against the coronavirus can be introduced in the first quarter of next year.
Health Minister Jens Spahn and Research Minister Anja Karliczek announced in September that they could start vaccinating the most vulnerable group of Germans in the first few months of 2021, and Spahn said on Monday that the prognosis was on the right track.
"From today's perspective, on October 12th, I assume that we can start in the first quarter of next year," said Spahn during a video conference with the research think tank of the Ifo Institute.
Vaccinations would be voluntary and would be aimed first at people with pre-existing medical conditions, the elderly and people who work in health and nursing homes.
Germany supports several efforts to develop a vaccine, and Spahn said there should be more than enough to get around at some point.
"If all the horses get to the finish line, we're going to have way too much vaccine," he said.
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HERE YOU MUST KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
- Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett faces Senate despite virus
- Trump insists he is virus free and ready for the campaign path
- The UK is expected to tighten restrictions on hard-hit northern cities like Liverpool
- The EU countries are preparing to introduce a traffic light system to identify outbreaks
- Four Swiss guards protecting 83-year-old Pope Francis have the virus
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- Follow AP's pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
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HERE HAPPENS WHAT ELSE HAPPENS:
MADISON, Wisconsin - A Wisconsin judge on Monday upheld the state's masked mandate and denied an attempt by Republican-controlled lawmakers and a conservative law firm to overthrow it, even as cases worsen.
The judge found in his ruling that lawmakers could vote to overturn the order of the Democratic government of Tony Evers if they wanted, but they have not yet done so.
Rick Esenberg, president of the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, said the group that brought the case will appeal. Esenberg called the issue a "critical constitutional matter".
Republican lawmakers did not immediately return comments. Legislators filed a brief in support of the lawsuit.
The lawsuit argued that Evers had exceeded his authority by issuing several emergency orders to contain the coronavirus pandemic. Evers said it was in his power to impose mask requirements and he was following recommendations from public health experts.
Evers called the verdict a victory in the fight against COVID-19.
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MILAN - The number of new positives in Italy dropped below 5,000 on Monday - usually a day that contradicts trends as far fewer tests are done.
Health ministry numbers showed 4,619 new cases in the past 25 hours, a 15% decrease from nearly 5,500 the day before, versus an 18% decrease in tests.
Italy has reported around 5,000 new cases every day, prompting the government to consider further restrictions after masks were also made mandatory outdoors last week. Measures under discussion include early closing times for bars and limiting the number of social gatherings.
In Lombardy, the epicenter of the virus, infections fell by a third to just under 700, followed by Campania, where Naples is with 662.
Hospital admissions continued to rise, increasing by 300, while another 32 COVID patients were in intensive care units. Italy's total infections currently stand at just under 360,000, while more than 36,200 people have died in the pandemic.
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LONDON - The World Health Organization head warned against the idea that herd immunity could be a realistic strategy to end the pandemic, calling such proposals "unethical".
WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a press conference Monday that health officials typically want to achieve herd immunity through vaccination - where the entire population is protected from a virus when the majority are immune. Tedros noted that, for example, around 95% of the population must be vaccinated to get herd immunity against measles.
"Herd immunity is achieved by protecting people from a virus, not by exposing them to it," he said. "Never in public health history has herd immunity been used as a strategy to respond to an outbreak," he said, calling the strategy "scientifically and ethically problematic".
Tedros said that the WHO estimates that less than 10% of the population are immune to the coronavirus, which means the vast majority of the world remains vulnerable.
Tedros also noted that countries had reported record-high daily COVID-19 numbers to the United States Health Department for the past four days, particularly in Europe and America.
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NICOSIA, Cyprus - Cyprus has lifted restrictions on public and private gatherings in its two most populous districts in recent days amid concerns over an increase in COVID-19 infections in workplaces and family gatherings.
The Cypriot Ministry of Health announced Monday that gatherings in private homes and public areas in Limassol and Nicosia districts are limited to 10 people, including children. Attendance at church services is limited to 75 people, while spectators are excluded from all sporting events. Bars, restaurants, cinemas, and theaters are limited to a maximum of 75 guests indoors and 150 outdoors. The number of seats in the restaurant is limited to a maximum of 10 people per table. Wedding and christening receptions are prohibited.
The restrictions apply until October 23. In Cyprus, confirmed COVID-19 infections have risen in the double digits in the past few weeks, which is relatively high for a country of 875,000 people.
The Mediterranean island nation had a total of 2006 COVID-19 infections and 31 virus-related deaths to date.
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LONDON - World Emergency Health Organization chief said "appropriate measures" can be taken to ensure that personal elections can be held safely and that the pandemic does not automatically undo such plans.
"We have seen many examples over the past nine months where elections have actually been very securely held," said Dr. Michael Ryan on Monday. He said WHO had worked with numerous countries to produce guidelines aimed at minimizing the spread of COVID-19 during a mass gathering, including an election.
"We are not telling any country which choice is the right choice for the type of elections to be held," he said, adding that it is up to countries to conduct their own risk assessment to see how elections can be held safely.
Ryan said it was entirely possible to keep the risk of the coronavirus spreading to an absolute minimum if everyone participates and everyone adheres to an agreed method. The problem is if these practices are ignored. "And that is essentially something that cannot be legislated for."
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BEIRUT - Schools have resumed classes for the new school year in Lebanon from Grade 9 as coronavirus cases have risen in the tiny country.
The Ministry of Education said other classes will resume classes in the next three weeks.
On Monday, classes were split into morning and afternoon shifts in order to have 50% capacity and maintain social distancing. Students' temperature was checked before entering school and they were required to wear masks.
The move came when the interior minister ordered a lockdown in 169 towns and villages around Lebanon for a week to limit the spread of the virus.
Schools have been closed in these 169 towns and villages.
Lebanon, a nation of 5 million, has recorded 53,568 cases of coronavirus and 459 deaths.
Cases have increased dramatically in Lebanon in the past three months after the only international airport reopened and a nationwide lockdown eased.
A massive explosion in the port of Beirut worsened the situation amid the crowds of hospitals, funerals and anti-government protests.
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LONDON - The UK government is giving £ 257 million ($ 335 million) to help nearly 1,400 arts and cultural organizations survive the coronavirus pandemic.
The money announced on Monday is the first part of a Culture Recovery Fund totaling £ 1.57 billion.
Recipients include large organizations like the London Symphony Orchestra, which received £ 846,000, and tiny venues like London's 50-seat Finborough Theater, which received just under £ 60,000. Liverpool's Cavern Club, where the Beatles became famous, received a grant of £ 525,000.
UK museums, galleries, theaters and music venues all closed when the country closed in March. Some have managed to reopen at reduced capacity and with financial loss, but coronavirus restrictions make most live performances impossible.
Many artists were also not supported by government retention programs because of their freelance work.
Julian Bird, executive director of UK Theater, said the news was "warmly welcomed and will help create and maintain jobs".
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BRUSSELS - The countries of the European Union are preparing to introduce a joint traffic light system to coordinate travel through the 27-nation block amid the coronavirus pandemic.
In order to ensure that the member states do not close their borders to each other and avoid a repetition of the cacophony that was observed in March when the virus first appeared, the EU Commission has put forward proposals that will be amended on Tuesday before its planned approval by EU states were.
The key action is a joint map of infections produced by the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control. It will divide the European regions into green, orange and red zones based on the severity of the coronavirus outbreaks. According to the latest proposal, red zones should be areas where the total number of newly reported COVID-19 cases is more than 50 per 100,000 people over a 14-day period and the percentage of positive tests reaches at least 4%.
Regions with a lower positive rate but where the total number of cases is greater than 150 per 100,000 are also classified as red.
Given the very high rate of infection across the continent, most of the block should be classified as red or orange.
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VATICAN CITY - According to the Vatican, four Swiss guardsmen have tested positive for the coronavirus as the surge in infections around Italy invades the walls of the Vatican.
The four are all symptomatic and isolated while their contacts are being followed, the Vatican said Monday. They join three other Vatican residents who tested positive in recent weeks, as well as about a dozen Holy See officials who tested positive during the first wave of the outbreak.
Despite the positive cases among his own bodyguards, 83-year-old Pope Francis continued to avoid a mask on Monday. He was seen warmly greeting Cardinal George Pell in his private studio, and neither man was wearing a mask.
Francis' decision to avoid a mask during his Wednesday audience, held indoors last week, has been criticized on social media.
Italy is seeing a sharp surge in COVID-19 cases, with the Lazio region around the Vatican among the hardest hit in this second wave of the pandemic.
The Vatican last week changed its mask mandates to match the Italians, and to encourage them both indoors and outdoors. The Vatican did not immediately respond when asked why Francis was not wearing one to receive Pell.
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MADRID - Supporters of the far-right Spanish Vox party have driven across Spain to protest against restrictions put in place to contain the spread of COVID-19.
The protests on Monday coincided with the Fiesta Nacional de España and aimed to "turn our national holiday into a call for freedom".
On the Paseo de la Castellana, one of the capital's main streets, numerous cars disrupted traffic in Madrid. Protesters wearing face masks honked their horns and waved Spanish flags from their car windows.
Vox has legislators in the Spanish and European Parliaments as well as many city councils across Spain.
Spain has officially registered more than 861,000 COVID-19 cases and attributed almost 33,000 deaths to the new coronavirus, making it one of the hardest hit countries in Europe.
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BRUSSELS - The organizers of the Brussels Motor Show, which was due to take place in January, say the event will be postponed for a year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
According to the organizer, the event in the Belgian capital attracts around 500,000 visitors. The 99th edition of the show will now take place from January 14-23, 2022.
Several other car shows have been canceled or postponed due to the COVID-19 outbreak, including those in New York and Geneva.
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