The Latest: EU: Drug firms must fulfill vaccine contracts
PARIS — The president of the European Council vowed Sunday to make drug companies fulfill their vaccine contracts with EU countries, but acknowledged it will be hard for the bloc to meet its goal of vaccinating 70% of the adult population by late summer.
Amid criticism in EU countries of disruption of vaccine deliveries from Pfizer, Charles Michel said on France’s Europe-1 radio: “We plan to make the pharmaceutical industry respect signed contracts.” He said EU officials “pounded our fist on the table” with Pfizer last week to ensure the delays end by this coming week.
However, given logistical challenges and the slow rollout of vaccines in the EU so far, he said “it will be difficult” to meet the aim of the EU’s executive Commission of vaccinating 70% of the adult population by the end of the summer.
The EU has sealed six vaccine contracts for more than 2 billion doses, but only the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines have been approved for use so far. The European Medicines Agency is scheduled to review the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine on Friday.
THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— Pandemic stress puts medical workers at high risk of depression, anxiety, substance abuse
— UK ramps up vaccination program, gives first shot to 6 million, but health secretary says nation is “long, long, long way” from easing its lockdown
— A year after virus lockdown, Wuhan dissident is more isolated than ever
— Dutch youths riot over coronavirus curfew, torch village virus testing center
_ The entire University of Michigan athletic department is pausing after several positive tests for the new COVID-19 variant that transmits at a higher rate.
Follow all of 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:
URK, Netherlands — Rioting youths protesting on the first night of a Dutch curfew torched a coronavirus testing facility and threw fireworks at police in a Dutch fishing village.
Police said Sunday they fined more than 3,600 people nationwide for breaching the curfew that ran from 9 p.m. Saturday until 4:30 a.m. Sunday and arrested 25 people for breaching the curfew or for violence.
Video from the village of Urk, 80 kilometers (50 miles) northeast of Amsterdam, showed youths breaking into the coronavirus testing facility near the village’s harbor before it was set ablaze Saturday night.
The police and municipality issued a statement Sunday expressing their anger at rioting, “from throwing fireworks and stones to destroying police cars and with the torching of the test location as a deep point.” They said the curfew would be strictly enforced for the rest of the week.
Police in Amsterdam also were bracing for another protest Sunday, sending officers to a square where demonstrators clashed with police a week ago.
LONDON — Britain is expanding a coronavirus vaccination program that has seen almost 6 million people get the first of two doses — even as the country’s death toll in the pandemic approaches 100,000.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said Sunday that three-quarters of the U.K.’s over-80s have received a vaccine shot. He said three-quarters of nursing home residents have also had their first jab. Almost 5.9 million doses of vaccine had been administered by Saturday.
Health officials aim to vaccinate 15 million people, including everyone over 70, by Feb. 15.
Britain’s vaccination campaign is a rare success in a country with Europe’s worst coronavirus outbreak. The U.K. has recorded 97,329 deaths among people who tested positive.
Another 1,348 deaths were reported Saturday, and the U.K. is set within days to become the fifth country in the world to record 100,000 COVID-19 deaths.
WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand has reported its first coronavirus case outside of a quarantine facility in more than two months, although there was no immediate evidence the virus was spreading in the community.
Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said Sunday the case was a 56-year-old woman who recently returned from Europe. Like other returning travelers, she spent 14 days in quarantine and twice tested negative before being returning home on Jan. 13. She later developed symptoms and tested positive.
He said health officials will conduct genome testing but are working under the assumption that the case is a more transmissible variant of the virus. He said they are investigating to see whether its possible she caught the disease from another returning traveler staying in the same quarantine facility.
New Zealand has eliminated community transmission of the virus, at least for now. Bloomfield said officials are ramping up contact tracing and testing efforts and hope to have more information about the case in the coming days.
BEIJING — A Chinese city has completed 2,600 temporary treatment rooms as the country’s north battles new clusters of the coronavirus.
The single-occupancy rooms in the city of Nangong in Hebei province just outside Beijing are each equipped with their own heaters, toilets, showers and other amenities, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.
Special attention has been paid to Hebei because of its proximity to the capital and the province has locked down large areas to prevent further spread of the virus. The provincial capital Shijiazhung and the city of Xingtai, which encompasses Nangong, have been largely sealed off. Community isolation and large-scale testing have also been enforced.
The National Health Commission on Sunday reported 19 additional cases in Hebei. The far northeastern province of Heilongjiang reported another 29 cases, linked partly to an outbreak at a meat processing plant. Beijing, where around 2 million residents have been ordered to undergo new testing, reported two new confirmed cases.
China currently has 1,800 people being treated for COVID-19.
SEATTLE — Washington and Oregon are now confirming additional cases of the more contagious variant of COVID-19 in the Pacific Northwest.
The Washington Department of Health announced Saturday that the B.1.1.7 variant, which first emerged in the United Kingdom last September, has been confirmed by DNA sequencing in two cases in Snohomish County. Those are the first confirmed cases in Washington.
The Oregon Health Authority confirmed a second case, in someone from Yamhill County, a week after the first case was detected in Multnomah County.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is no conclusive evidence that it’s more severe than other strains of the virus.
NEW YORK — New York will be sending more vaccination preparation kits to senior housing complexes and churches in an effort to ensure fairness in vaccine distributions, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Saturday.
The kits include syringes, vials, room dividers, privacy curtains, cleaning supplies, personal protective gear and other items. They also include instructions on how to set up a vaccination site.
New York deployed the first kits last week to five New York City Housing Authority senior citizen complexes and eight churches and cultural centers where nearly 4,200 people eligible to receive the vaccine were vaccinated, Cuomo said.
Kits are now being sent to four additional New York City senior complexes and eight other churches statewide, with plans to vaccine another 3,000 people at those locations by Tuesday. Locations in Brooklyn, the Bronx, Nassau County, Suffolk County, Rochester, Syracuse, Albany, and Buffalo will be receiving the kits.
The kits are part of an effort to ensure vaccinations in Black, Latino and other communities where COVID-19 has had a disproportionate impact, the governor said.
Also Saturday, the governor’s office reported 144 more deaths statewide from the coronavirus. More than 8,800 people were hospitalized, a drop of 44 compared with Friday’s data.
SAN FRANCISCO — A federal appeals court has denied a Southern California church’s request to overturn the state’s coronavirus restrictions barring worship services indoors during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Sacramento Bee says Friday’s ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals leaves the door open for addressing Gov. Gavin Newsom administration’s limits on church attendance if a California county is in a less-restrictive COVID-19 tier.
A three-judge panel ruled against South Bay United Pentecostal Church of Chula Vista over public health orders that restrict religious services from being held inside while virus case rates and hospitalizations remain high.
Currently in California, indoor worship services are banned in all purple-tiered counties — those deemed to be at widespread risk of coronavirus transmission. This tier accounts for the vast majority of the state.
SANTA FE, N.M. — New Mexico on Saturday reported 859 additional COVID-19 cases and 38 more deaths.
That increases the state’s pandemic totals to 168,579 cases and 3,115 deaths.
Bernalillo County had the most additional cases with 184, followed by 83 in San Juan County, 74 in Dona Ana County and 53 in McKinley County.
Most of the additional deaths involved older New Mexicans, but they also included several people in their 20s and 30s. The number of infections is thought to be far higher than reported because many people have not been tested
RIO DE JANEIRO — The governor of Brazil´s Amazonas state has announced tough new lockdown measures to combat a surge in COVID-19 cases that has overwhelmed local hospitals.
Gov. Wilson Lima said Saturday that as of Monday, the state’s 4 million people can only go out for essential activities such as buying food or seeking medical attention.
Hospitals in the state capital of Manaus have been strained amid reports that a new variant of the novel coronavirus is more contagious, and the state has seen a shortage of oxygen supplies. The state health secretary says 584 people are on a waiting list for hospital beds, 101 of them requiring intensive therapy.
“People need to understand that we have to take tough measures to save as many lives as possible,” Lima said in an announcement posted on social media.
HELSINKI — Norway says its capital, Oslo, and nine municipalities have been placed under strict restrictions to contain the spread of the new variant of the coronavirus first detected in Britain.
The Norwegian government said shopping centers and other non-essential stores in those regions were closed at noon on Saturday, and would remain shut at least until Jan. 31.
In addition, organized sports activities were halted, schools were ordered to rely increasingly on remote teaching and households were requested to not invite visitors home in those areas.
Norwegian health officials say the Scandinavian country of 5.4 million has so far identified 55 cases of the virus variant which has spread widely in Britain.
Neighboring Sweden, where the coronavirus outbreak is substantially worse than in Norway, said late Saturday that it was planning to launch a temporary entry ban from Norway due to the new variant.
LAS VEGAS — Federal prosecutors have charged a Nevada man with fraudulently obtaining about $2 million in federal coronavirus relief aid meant for small businesses to buy luxury vehicles and condominiums in Las Vegas.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that the U.S. attorney’s office in Nevada accused Jorge Abramovs of bank fraud after he allegedly applied for funding to at least seven banks between April and June 2020.
The complaint said a financial analysis determined Abramovs spent the money on personal luxury items, including a 2020 Bentley Continental GT Convertible for more than $260,000 and a 2020 Tesla Model 3 for about $55,000.
Abramovs was ordered remanded in custody on Friday during a detention hearing. A defense lawyer assigned to represent Abramovs didn’t immediately respond to an emailed request by The Associated Press for comment.
CHICAGO — Restaurants and certain bars across Chicago and suburban Cook County have opened their doors to customers for the first time since late October after winning approval Saturday from Illinois health officials.
With the city and county moving up to Tier I of the state’s coronavirus mitigation plan, restaurants and bars that serve food can seat customers indoors at 25% capacity or 25 people per room, whichever is less.
Tables will be limited to no more than four people indoors or six people outdoors, and tables must be spaced 6 feet apart. Indoor service will be limited to a maximum of two hours and bars and restaurants must close by 11 p.m.
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden pledged in his inaugural address to level with the American people, and the message from his first three days in office has been nothing if not grim and grimmer.
He has painted a bleak picture of the country’s immediate future dealing with the coronavirus, warning Americans that it will take months, not weeks, to reorient a nation facing a historic convergence of crises.
The dire language is meant as a call to action, but it is also a deliberate effort to temper expectations. The U.S. is trying to roll out its vaccination program, with issues of slow production and distribution.
The U.S. leads the world with 24.8 million confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 415,000 deaths.