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The Latest: Spain hopes to vaccinate those in nursing homes

November 24, 2020 GMT
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A woman wearing a face mask to help curb the spread of the coronavirus walks by a masked man who sits on a Lego blocks, browsing his smartphone inside a shopping mall in Beijing, Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2020. China has reported new coronavirus cases in the cities of Shanghai and Tianjin as it seeks to prevent small outbreaks from becoming larger ones. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
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A woman wearing a face mask to help curb the spread of the coronavirus walks by a masked man who sits on a Lego blocks, browsing his smartphone inside a shopping mall in Beijing, Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2020. China has reported new coronavirus cases in the cities of Shanghai and Tianjin as it seeks to prevent small outbreaks from becoming larger ones. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

MADRID — Spain officials say health workers and residents in elder care homes will be the first group vaccinated when potential doses arrive.

Health Minister Salvador Illa says Spain has signed agreements with five vaccine producers and hopes to do so with two more. Once the vaccines are approved by the European Medicines Agency, Spain hopes to receive 140 million doses.

Given most vaccines will involve two doses, he says this should be enough to vaccinate some 80 million people and cover any possible problems with some vaccines.

Spain, with a population of 47 million, intends to give vaccines for free and provide the excess vaccines to countries outside the European Union that need them, Illa says.

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The government hopes to vaccinate some 2.5 million people in the first stage between January and March and most of the population who need vaccines covered by mid-year. The vaccinations will be given in Spain’s 13,000 public health centers.

Spain has reported more than 1.5 million cases and more than 55,000 confirmed deaths.

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HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— Millions in US stick to Thanksgiving travel plans despite CDC warnings

Spain’s mortuary workers in high demand again, working with grace and professionalism as virus resurges

— Just in time for December holidays, England to cut its mandatory 14-day quarantines for travelers from unsafe virus countries to as little as five days with testing regimen.

— Los Angeles on the brink of a stay-home order as coronavirus cases rise.

__ Drones to the rescue: Berlin lab seeks quicker virus tests.

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Follow AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

PRAGUE — The Czech Republic’s prime minister says his government is working on a plan to use rapid coronavirus tests for the entire country.

Prime Minister Andrej Babis says the antigen testing will be free and won’t be mandatory. Babis says it would take place a week or 10 days before Christmas with the help from the military. The Health Ministry will present a detailed plan as soon as possible, Babis says.

Antigen tests are less reliable than the standard PCR coronavirus tests, but they cost less and produce results in minutes.

Slovakia tested nearly two thirds of its 5.5 million people in one weekend this month.

The Czech Republic, a nation of 10.7 million, has 496,638 confirmed cases and 7,360 deaths.

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THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The Dutch public health institute reports 36,931 confirmed coronavirus cases, a drop of about 775 in the past week.

The Netherlands imposed what it called a partial lockdown in mid-October, closing all bars and restaurants.

The public health institute says those admitted to hospitals with the coronavirus in the last week fell from 1,496 to 1,291. The number in intensive care dropped from 224 to 193 in the past seven days.

Schools in the Netherlands have remained open since the first wave of infections in the spring.

There have been more than 500,000 cases in the Netherlands. The confirmed Dutch death toll is 9,035, although the actual number is likely higher because not all who had a suspected coronavirus infection were tested.

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NEW DELHI, India — Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has urged states with a surge in coronavirus cases to establish cold storage facilities for COVID-19 vaccines.

Modi’s Tuesday meeting with state leaders came as India’s total infections soared past 9.18 million. More than 134,000 Indians have died due to the coronavirus.

Modi says his government is keeping track of vaccine development in the country and is in touch with vaccine developers across the world. He says “our priority is to make the vaccine available for all.”

India is home to some of the world’s biggest vaccine makers and there are five vaccine candidates under different phases of trial here. But the state-run cold chain facilities used to keep some vaccines consistently refrigerated would be inadequate for the enormous challenge of rolling out a COVID-19 vaccine.

To address this issue, Modi’s government is augmenting the cold chain and transport mechanism for the vaccines. It is also readying a database of healthcare and frontline workers who will be inoculated first.

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BERLIN — State and federal health authorities in Germany say they are shortening quarantine periods for people who have come into contact with a confirmed COVID case from 14 days to 10, if they provide a negative test.

Officials said Tuesday that people who have previously had COVID-19 themselves and recovered do not need to quarantine anymore if they come into contact with a newly diagnosed patient, unless they show symptoms of illness.

Health officials have asked federal authorities to provide a legal basis for specially trained teachers to perform rapid antigen tests for the virus. Such tests are increasingly seen as an effective tool for screening people in schools and are deemed sufficient for shortening the quarantine period.

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LJUBLJANA, Slovenia — Slovenia has registered 59 new coronavirus deaths, a daily record for the small Alpine state.

The government says 1,302 new coronavirus cases were confirmed in the last 24 hours, which raises the number of overall cases to 67,080. It has a total of 1,156 confirmed virus deaths.

The country of 2 million people has introduced strict lockdowns and other health measures to try to stem the outbreak.

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HELSINKI — Estonia has put in place new, tightened coronavirus restrictions that make wearing masks mandatory in public indoor places including transport, and reduce the maximum number of participants allowed to attend public events.

Restrictions concerning masks and social distancing began Tuesday and the restrictions related to indoor public meetings, events and entertainment venues with fixed seating will take effect on Nov. 28.

Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas says the spread of coronavirus is at a critical level in the country, especially for its medical system, for the number of COVID-19 patients is still increasing.

The small Baltic nation of 1.3 million has seen the number of daily coronavirus cases rising rapidly in the past two weeks, with 204 new cases in the past 24 hours. The 14-day average of new cases is now about 284 per 100,000 inhabitants.

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BERLIN — Germany’s 16 states want people to self-quarantine for several days before visiting family at Christmas, to reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus to elderly and vulnerable relatives.

The dpa news agency reported Tuesday that states have agreed among themselves on a proposal for tightening Germany’s partial lockdown measures in the coming weeks, so they can be relaxed over the festive period.

The plan, which also suggests bringing forward school breaks and that employers should let staff work from home, will be discussed Wednesday at a virtual meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Germany’s disease control agency recorded 14,361 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the past day, and 249 further deaths. Germany has done relatively well in the pandemic, with an overall death toll of 14,400, one-fourth that of Britain’s.

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LONDON — The British government says people arriving in England from a destination not on its coronavirus safe list will from next month be able to reduce the time they have to quarantine themselves if they test negative for the virus.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the 14-day quarantine period can be reduced if people have a negative test from five days after their arrival.

The change, which takes effect on Dec. 15, has been long-awaited by the travel industry, one of the worst-hit sectors during the pandemic.

Under the new rules, passengers can reduce the 14-day period by paying for a test from a private firm on or after day five at a cost of potentially 100 pounds ($133). Results are normally issued in 24 to 48 hours.

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MANILA, Philippines — Philippine officials say about 60 million Filipinos are being targeted for vaccination against the coronavirus next year at a cost of more than 73 billion pesos ($1.4 billion) to develop considerable immunity among a majority of Filipinos.

Carlito Galvez Jr., who oversees government efforts to secure the vaccines, said late Monday that negotiations were underway with four Western and Chinese pharmaceutical companies, including U.S.-based Pfizer Inc. and China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd., to secure the vaccines early next year. One company based in the U.K., AstraZeneca, can commit to supply up to 20 million vaccines, he said.

“We will target the most vulnerable and the poorest communities in areas that were affected,” Galvez said, addressing who would be prioritized for vaccination.

President Rodrigo Duterte said he wanted police and military personnel to be prioritized for their many sacrifices, including in disaster-response work.

The Philippines has had more than 420,000 confirmed cases, the second-most in Southeast Asia behind Indonesia, and 8,173 deaths.

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BEIJING — China has reported new coronavirus cases in the cities of Shanghai and Tianjin as it seeks to prevent small outbreaks from becoming larger ones.

The National Health Commission said Tuesday that there were two new locally spread cases in the previous 24-hour period, one in each city. It also reported 20 cases among people who had arrived from overseas.

In Shanghai, the mass testing of 17,719 workers at the city’s Pudong aiport found one infection, a Fedex employee. Everyone else tested negative.

Three UPS workers at the airport have also tested positive in recent days, along with the wife of one of them. In all, Shanghai has reported eight non-imported cases since Friday.

In Tianjin, where 2.3 million people had been tested as of Monday, the city reported one case in a person who developed symptoms after testing positive earlier. China does not include people without symptoms in its confirmed case count.

To date, the health commission has recorded 4,634 deaths.

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LOS ANGELES — Restaurant owners in Los Angeles County were trying to pivot Monday to a model that would keep them afloat when an order goes into effect Wednesday closing all dining for three weeks.

Owners said they were upset that the county had taken the action, claiming infections are more likely coming from private gatherings where rules aren’t enforced.

“The same people desperate to go to bars are going to party in their houses,” said Brittney Valles, owner of Guerrilla Tacos in downtown Los Angeles.

County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said restaurants are part of the problem.

Outbreaks in the first two weeks of the month doubled at food facilities, including restaurants, processing plants, bottlers, grocery stores and related businesses, Ferrer said.

Valles was working Monday to develop a plan to keep as many of her workers employed as possible.

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Norwegian musher Thomas Waerner said Monday that he won’t defend his title at next year’s Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race because of restrictions and uncertainty over travel during the coronavirus pandemic.

“I cannot find a way to get the dogs to Alaska,” Waerner said in an email to The Associated Press.

As he learned earlier this year, getting to Alaska is only half the battle: Waerner wasn’t able to return to his wife and five children in Torpa, Norway, for months after winning the world’s most famous sled dog race because travel was restricted as the pandemic took hold. The Iditarod was one of the few professional sports that wasn’t canceled last March.

While the defending champion says he won’t participate in the 1,000-mile (1,609-kilometer) race across the rugged Alaska terrain, the Iditarod is still scheduled to start March 7.

That includes a fan-friendly ceremonial start a day earlier that usually attracts thousands of people in Anchorage.

Waerner hopes to return to the race in 2022.

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LOS ANGELES — The largest county in the United States is on the brink of a stay-home order after a coronavirus surge surpassed a level set by Los Angeles County public health officials to trigger such an action.

A swell of new cases Monday put the county over an average of 4,500 cases per day.

Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said no action would be taken until county supervisors meet Tuesday.

A stay-home order would be the first such action since mid-March, when Gov. Gavin Newsom followed several counties and issued a statewide order that closed schools and most shops.

Cases and hospitalizations have been rapidly rising across California in November. The state recorded its highest day of positive test results Saturday with more than 15,000. Hospitalizations have increased 77% over the past two weeks.

In Los Angeles, the county of 10 million residents has had a disproportionately large share of the state’s cases and deaths.

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