The Latest: Governor of hotspot Thai province infected

The governor of a province at the center of an expanding COVID-19 outbreak in Thailand has been confirmed infected with the coronavirus after meeting with public health officials including the deputy prime minister.

The meeting Sunday attended by the Samut Sakhon governor, Deputy prime minister Anutin Charnvirakul and others was considered at low risk of spreading the virus because everyone wore masks, said Dr. Taweesilp Visanuyotin, a spokesperson for the COVID-19 response center.

The governor, Weerasak Wijitsaengsri, did not have symptoms but will be treated at a hospital, Taweesilp said.

Anutin, who is also Thailand’s public health minister, wrote on Facebook that he tested negative for the virus and is isolating at home for 14 days.

Thailand reported 144 new cases Monday, most of them locally transmitted, and its total has reached 6,285.

The Southeast Asian country had virtually no cases beyond quarantined travelers for months, but its totals have surged since an outbreak among migrant workers at a seafood market in Samut Sakhon was detected in mid-December.

The province was put under lockdown on Dec. 19. Confirmed cases related to the seafood market have been found in 43 other provinces, including the capital, Bangkok.

Taweesilp said every province has to work hard to control the virus and the number of new infections could reach the thousands daily if nothing is done to prevent the spread. “The best way is to avoid traveling and meetings,” Taweesilp said.

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THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

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

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

MOSCOW — Moscow has started offering a domestically developed coronavirus vaccine to people older than 60 after Russia’s Health Ministry cleared it for use among the elderly.

Earlier this month, mass vaccination against COVID-19 started in Russia with the Sputnik V vaccine, which is still undergoing advanced tests among tens of thousands of people needed to ensure its safety and effectiveness. Front-line workers, such as doctors and teachers, were the first in line to get the shots, and until Saturday only those aged 18-60 were allowed to be vaccinated.

On Saturday, the Health Ministry cleared Sputnik V for use among those older than 60. In Moscow, the elderly can sign up for immunizations starting Monday.

Russia has been widely criticized for giving Sputnik V regulatory approval in August after it was tested only on a few dozen people and then rushing to offer it to people in risk groups — such as medical workers and teachers — within weeks of its approval.

Russian authorities have reported over 3 million confirmed coronavirus infections, the fourth highest caseload in the world, and more than 55,000 deaths. Russia has been swept by a rapid resurgence of the outbreak this fall, with numbers of confirmed infections and deaths significantly exceeding those reported in the spring. The country’s authorities have resisted imposing a second nationwide lockdown or a widespread closure of businesses.

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BRUSSELS — At 102 years old, Josepha Delmotte will be the first Belgian resident to receive a COVID-19 vaccination in the French-speaking region of Wallonia. The first COVID-19 vaccinations in the country with 11.5 million inhabitants are taking place Monday in three care homes located across the three main Belgian regions — the Brussels-Capital region, Wallonia and Flanders.

Belgium has been hard hit by the pandemic and reported nearly 639,000 confirmed cases, including 19,200 deaths. More than half of the victims died in nursing homes and the government decided that the elderly and front-line medical workers would receive the vaccine first.

Like other EU countries, Belgium is using the vaccine developed by Pfizer-BioNTech, which has been approved by Europe’s medicines regulator.

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BERLIN — Germany’s confirmed death toll in the coronavirus pandemic has topped 30,000 as the country hopes its lockdown will bring down case numbers.

The national disease control center, the Robert Koch Institute, said Monday that another 348 deaths were reported over the past 24 hours, bringing the country’s total to 30,126.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases rose by 10,976 to 1.65 million. That increase is much lower than a week ago, but lower testing and reporting over the Christmas period likely accounts for much of the difference.

Germany had a relatively low death rate in the first phase of the pandemic but has seen hundreds of deaths per day in recent weeks. Among major European nations, Italy, the U.K., France and Spain still have higher death tolls.

A shutdown that was deepened on Dec. 16 with the closure of schools and most shops is scheduled to remain in place until Jan. 10 and appears likely to be extended.

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TOKYO — Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga says he plans to submit legislation that will make coronavirus measures legally binding for businesses, punish violators and include economic compensation as his government struggles to slow the ongoing upsurge.

Japan had a state of emergency in April and May with non-binding requests for people to stay home and business to close, but people have complacent about the pandemic and store owners have become less cooperative due to the economic impact.

Suga said experts are discussing the legislation to make coronavirus more effectively enforced and hoped to submit the bill for parliamentary approval “as soon as possible” next year.

Suga also reiterated his request for the public to spend “quiet” New Year holidays and stick to mask-wearing and hand-washing.

Japan has 220,236 cases, with 3,252 deaths as of Sunday, the health ministry said.

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SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has confirmed its first cases of a more contagious variant of COVID-19 that was first identified in the United Kingdom.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said Monday the cases have been confirmed in a family of three people who came to South Korea on Dec. 22.

They arrived a day before South Korea halted air travel from Britain until Dec. 31 to guard against the new version of the virus.

The three people, who reside in the U.K., are under quarantine in South Korea.

South Korea on Monday registered 808 new coronavirus cases, raising its national caseload to 57,680 with 819 deaths. The government said Sunday it would wait another week before determining whether to enforce its toughest physical distancing rules in the greater Seoul area that officials worry would further hurt the economy.

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SYDNEY — Authorities have banned New Year’s Eve revelers from congregating in Sydney’s downtown harborside to see the celebrated fireworks due to the pandemic risk.

New South Wales state Premier Gladys Berejiklian said on Monday people who live in the city center can invite up to 10 guests to their homes to celebrate. The guests will have to apply for permits to enter the area.

Australia’s largest city recorded five new cases of COVID-19 connected to a cluster in the northern beaches region, bringing the total to 126 infections since Dec. 10.

Around 1 million people usually congregate on the harbor foreshore to see the annual fireworks that center on the Sydney Harbor Bridge.

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COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lanka’s government announced Monday that cinemas will be allowed to reopen throughout the country on Jan. 1 after being closed for three months because of the coronavirus.

The reopening, which will require the following of strict health guidelines, is part of the island nation’s efforts to return to normalcy despite lockdowns in different parts of the country.

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa decided to reopen the cinemas because of the hardships faced by the industry, his office said in a statement.

Patrons will be required to wear face masks and have their body temperatures taken before entering the cinemas. Seats will also be kept vacant between patrons and cinemas can admit only 25% of their normal capacity. Consumption of food and drinks will not be allowed because that would require the removal of face masks.

Sri Lanka has confirmed 41,053 coronavirus cases, including 191 fatalities.

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LOS ANGELES — State officials are expected to extend the strictest stay-at-home orders in central and Southern California as hospitals there are quickly running out of intensive care unit beds for coronavirus patients ahead of the presumed post-holiday surge.

The situation is already dire, and the worst is expected to come in the next few weeks after Christmas and New Year’s travelers return home.

California hit 2 million confirmed coronavirus cases on Christmas Eve.

State stay-at-home orders for the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California are set to expire Monday. State officials say the orders are likely to be extended but did not make a definitive ruling Sunday afternoon.

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BALTIMORE — The U.S. now exceeds 19 million cases of coronavirus infection since the pandemic began, data compiled by Johns Hopkins University show.

America passed that mark on Sunday, just six days after it reached 18 million. The nation’s case numbers have more than doubled in less than two months.

COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. also have been rising, and now total more than 333,000. That’s more than one death for every 1,000 Americans. The U.S. population as of Saturday was about 331 million, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The United States accounts for about 4% of the world’s population, but close to 24% of its total coronavirus cases and 19% of its COVID-19 deaths. Health experts believe many cases have gone unreported, however, both in America and internationally.

Categories: National News