The Latest: Chinese province ups restrictions amid outbreak
BEIJING — A Chinese province grappling with a spike in coronavirus cases is reinstating tight restrictions on weddings, funerals and other family gatherings, threatening violators with criminal charges.
The notice from the high court in Hebei province did not give specifics, but said all types of social gatherings were now being regulated to prevent further spread of the virus.
Hebei has had one of China’s most serious outbreaks in months and it comes amid measures to curb the further spread during February’s Lunar New Year holiday.
Authorities have called on citizens not to travel, ordered schools closed a week early and conducted testing on a massive scale.
Hebei recorded another 54 cases over the previous 24 hours, the National Health Commission said on Monday, while the northern province of Jilin reported 30 cases and Heilongjiang further north reported seven.
Beijing had two new cases and most buildings and housing compounds now require proof of a negative coronavirus test for entry.
THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— Japan’s prime minister vows to hold the already postponed Olympics this summer as proof of victory over virus
— Israel trades Pfizer vast troves of medical data for the continued flow of its hard-to-get vaccine
— China economy grows in 2020 as it rebounds from virus, likely becoming the only major economy to expand
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:
TEL AVIV, Israel — Israel’s Foreign Ministry says the United Arab Emirates has decided to suspend visa exemptions for Israelis amid surging numbers of coronavirus cases.
The measure will make it harder for Israelis to fly to the UAE, where they have traveled in droves recently. The two countries established ties last year and until recently the UAE was one of the few countries Israelis could travel to without having to self-quarantine for two weeks.
But both countries have seen their coronavirus infections spike in recent weeks, prompting the change in travel requirements.
Dubai has remained open to foreign tourists who came in the tens of thousands to celebrate holidays and New Year’s in the United Arab Emirates, sending coronavirus cases surging to new heights. The UAE has shattered its daily infection record for six consecutive days over the past week.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry said Monday that following the change, entry visas to each country will be required for traveling Emiratis and Israelis until July.
ISLAMABAD — Pakistan has started reopening schools in phases after about two months of closure despite a steady increase in infections and fatalities from the coronavirus.
Wearing masks, children entered schools on Monday with smiles on their faces, as teachers welcomed them back to their classes.
To lower the spread of the virus, students are being kept at a distance from each other in classrooms.
Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood wished good luck to students who return to their classes.
Pakistan has reported 10,997 deaths from the coronavirus among 521,211 cases since February, when the first case was detected in the country.
TEL AVIV, Israel — Israel says it has recorded more than 4,000 coronavirus deaths since the pandemic began as it continues to battle a spiraling outbreak.
The Health Ministry said Monday that 4,005 people have died since the beginning of the pandemic. The grim milestone comes as Israel is in its third nationwide lockdown, with schools, shops, malls and other non-essential businesses closed until at least the end of this week. Daily case numbers have continued to rise despite the lockdown, which was tightened last week and could be extended.
The lockdown comes as Israel has unleashed a rapid vaccination campaign, with some 2 million people, or more than one in five Israelis, already having received the first dose of the vaccine.
The country has identified more than 550,000 total virus cases.
MANILA, Philippines — Coronavirus infections in the Philippines have surged past 500,000 in a new bleak milestone, with the government facing criticism for failing to immediately launch a vaccination program amid a global scramble for COVID-19 vaccines.
The Department of Health reported 1,895 new infections Sunday, bringing confirmed coronavirus cases in the country to 500,577, the second highest in Southeast Asia.
The Philippines has been negotiating with seven Western and Chinese companies to secure vaccines but the effort has been fraught with uncertainties and confusion.
BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — Slovakia is launching a project to test almost all citizens for the coronavirus in nine days.
The government hopes the nationwide testing will speed up a recovery from the latest wave of the infections, make it possible for students to return to school in February, help the health system and ease restrictions that harm the economy.
The nationwide testing is set to start Monday and will be completed on Jan. 26. It’s not mandatory, but all people who want to go to work will need to have a negative test for the coronavirus beginning Jan. 27.
Slovakia entered a tough lockdown before Christmas that includes a round-the-clock curfew.
The exceptions include necessary trips to work, to do business or see doctors. People are also allowed to do necessary shopping in the stores that are the closest to their homes.
Close to 3,500 people have died of the virus in the country of 5.4 million.
RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazil’s health regulator on Sunday approved the urgent use of coronavirus vaccines made by Sinovac and AstraZeneca, enabling Latin America’s largest nation to begin an immunization program that’s been subject to months of delay and political disputes.
Brazil currently has 6 million doses of Sinovac’s CoronaVac vaccine ready to distribute in the next few days, and is awaiting the arrival of another 2 million doses of the vaccine made by AstraZeneca and partner Oxford University.
On Saturday night, the health regulator Anvisa rejected an application for use of a Russian vaccine called Sputnik V, submitted by Brazilian company União Química. Anvisa said it didn’t evaluate the application because it didn’t meet minimum requirements to start an analysis.
Vaccination in Brazil is beginning later than neighbors such as Argentina and Chile despite a robust public health system and decades of experience with immunization campaigns. The process to present and approve the COVID-19 vaccines was fraught with conflict, as allies of President Jair Bolsonaro sought to cast doubt on the efficacy of the Sinovac shot backed by his political rival, Sao Paulo state’s Gov. João Doria.
WASHINGTON — Incoming White House chief of staff Ron Klain says the coronavirus pandemic will get worse before it gets better, projecting another 100,000 deaths from COVID-19 in the first five weeks of President-elect Joe Biden’s administration.
Speaking to CNN’s “State of the Union,” Klain said Biden was inheriting a dire situation, saying even with vaccines, “It’s going to take a while to turn this around.”
Biden has set a goal of injecting 100 million doses of coronavirus vaccine in his first 100 days in office, a goal Klain said they were on pace to meet.
Klain added he believed there was enough supply of the pair of vaccines currently granted emergency approval to ensure that those who have received their first shot will get the required second.