The Latest: Israel to offer coronavirus testing at airport

TEL AVIV, Israel — Israel will soon offer coronavirus testing at its main international airport, something authorities hope will speed the revival of air travel.

Passengers at Ben Gurion International Airport will be able to pay around $13 for a test and get results within 14 hours, with faster testing methods on offer in the coming weeks. Authorities say labs at the airport will be able to process 20,000 tests per day. Passengers can register starting Thursday and the testing booths open Sunday.

Visiting the facility on Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said it can “help us get back to a better, quicker and more efficient aviation routine,” adding that “we want to renew Israel’s link to the world.”

Israel is gradually emerging from its second nationwide lockdown since the pandemic began. The country has reported nearly 320,000 cases, including 2,674 deaths.

An earlier lockdown last spring largely succeeded in containing the outbreak, but cases surged over the summer after authorities reopened too quickly. At one point, Israel, with a population of just 9 million, had one of the world’s worst outbreaks on a per capita basis.

Authorities plan to gradually ease restrictions over several weeks following the second lockdown, which began in mid-September and was partially lifted last month.

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

— Pfizer says an early peek at its vaccine data suggests the shots may be 90% effective at preventing COVID-19

— Hungary unveils toughest virus measures yet, Portugal enters new state of emergency to fight rising infections

— Belgian health authorities are confident a renewed surge of hospital admissions related to COVID-19 has peaked in the hard-hit country.

— With the campaign over, President-elect Biden is pivoting to fighting the coronavirus pandemic

— Germany says increase in new coronavirus infections appears to be levelling off, too early to talk about a reversal of the trend.

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— Follow AP’s coronavirus pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

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TIRANA, Albania — Albania on Monday decided to apply a three-week night curfew and closure of bars and restaurants to prevent a further spread of the virus.

Health authorities decided to stop people’s move and close the restaurants and cafes from 10 p.m. (2100 GMT) t0 6 a.m. (0500 GMT). During those hours people may strictly move only for work purpose, health emergencies or necessary needs, they said.

Medical experts also advised that the public employees work from home.

Wearing masks indoors and outdoors is mandatory, too.

The new steps start to be applied on Wednesday, Nov, 11 and will be reviewed every week.

Albania has noted a significant increase of the daily new confirmed cases in the last month, reaching a record of 501 new cases on Sunday.

The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control has registered 176 cases per 100,000 people in the last two weeks in Albania, compared to 69 a month ago.

There have been recorded 24,206 confirmed virus cases with 559 deaths as of Sunday, according to the Health Ministry.

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GENEVA — The World Health Organization predicted it might “fundamentally change the direction of the pandemic” by March, when it hopes to start vaccinating high-risk groups against the coronavirus and rolling out massive numbers of rapid tests.

During a meeting of its member states, the U.N. health agency’s senior adviser Dr. Bruce Aylward called the interim results announced Monday by Pfizer and BioNTech about its experimental shot appearing to be 90% effective “a substantive step forward.”

“By March, as a result of the extraordinary work happening, we could be in a position to fundamentally change the direction of this crisis,” Aylward said, citing work done to increase vaccine manufacturing capacity, research on diagnostic tests and COVID-19 treatments. He said the preliminary results announced by Pfizer and BioNTech “should hold great promise for the entire world.”

Aylward said WHO’s next priority is to ensure that vaccines might be shared equitably — even though rich countries have reserved the majority of the world’s global supply. He said WHO has been working with countries to increase their vaccine delivery systems and said officials are “on the verge of having the readiness in place to roll out doses for the highest risk populations around the world in the first quarter of next year.”

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TOKYO — Experts on a Japanese government coronavirus taskforce urged officials and the people to step up preventive measures, testing and cluster investigation amid the recent sharp increase in the number of new cases, especially in the northern prefecture of Hokkaido.

The panel’s “emergency recommendation” came Monday when Hokkaido reported a record 200 new cases, many of them linked to its capital city Sapporo’s night entertainment district. Tokyo on Monday had 157 new cases after reporting more than 200 cases three consecutive days last week. The cases have also increased in Osaka, Hyogo, Aichi and other urban areas.

The panel urges the government to urgently step up cluster investigation, DNA analysis of virus taken from test samples to track their infection routes, and awareness campaigns for college students and foreign residents’ communities where infections are on the rise.

The spread of the infections has caused clusters not only in night entertainment areas but also at ordinary eateries, offices, schools and foreign residents’ communities, and may suddenly spike “if we wait too long without strengthening measures,” said a senior panel member Shigeru Omi.

“We need to take action now to prevent a sudden escalation of the infections ahead of the winter so that we don’t have to restrict our social and economic activity like we did before.” He was referring to Japan’s state of emergency in April and May when remote work and business closures were requested.

Hokkaido officials raised the prefecture’s alert level to three on a scale of five, but experts said business and travel restrictions are not immediately needed.

The central government has dispatched public health experts to Hokkaido to investigate and help local officials. Japan as of Monday has 108,084 cases, with 1,818 deaths, according to the health ministry.

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U.S. President-elect Joe Biden has hailed as a “breakthrough” Pfizer’s announcement that its vaccine data suggests the shots may be 90% effective at preventing COVID-19.

Biden on Monday congratulated those involved in giving the country “such cause for hope.”

But at the same time, Biden noted that the end of the battle against COVID-19 is still months away.

He said even if a vaccine is approved by the end of this month and some Americans are vaccinated later this year, it’ll be many more months before there’s widespread vaccination across the country.

Biden cited a warning by the head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that for the foreseeable future, a mask remains a more potent weapon against the virus than the vaccine.

“Today’s news doesn’t change this urgent reality,” Biden said, adding that Americans will have to rely on masking, distancing, social tracing, hand washing and other measures to keep themselves safe well into next year.

He said the U.S. is still losing over 1,000 people a day from COVID-19 and will continue to get worse unless progress is made on mask-wearing and other actions.

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Pfizer says an early peek at its vaccine data suggests the shots may be 90% effective at preventing COVID-19, indicating the company is on track later this month to file an emergency use application with U.S. regulators.

Monday’s announcement doesn’t mean a vaccine is imminent. This interim analysis, from an independent data monitoring board, looked at 94 infections recorded so far in a study that has enrolled nearly 44,000 people in the U.S. and five other countries.

Pfizer Inc. cautioned the initial protection rate might change by the time the study ends. Even revealing such early data is highly unusual.

Authorities have stressed it’s unlikely any vaccine will arrive much before the end of the year and limited initial supplies will be rationed.

The shots made by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech are among 10 possible vaccine candidates in late-stage testing around the world — four of them so far in huge studies in the U.S.

Another U.S. company, Moderna Inc., also has said it hopes to be able to file an application with the Food and Drug Administration later this month.

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BRUSSELS — Belgian health authorities are confident a renewed surge of hospital admissions related to COVID-19 has peaked in the hard-hit country.

Virologist Yves Van Laethem told a news conference on Monday that about 400 people were hospitalized due to coronavirus complications on Sunday, compared with 879 on Nov. 3.

Some 6,948 patients are currently being treated in Belgian hospitals following a COVID-19-infection. It’s about 500 less than on Nov. 3.

To break the chain of contamination, Belgium has returned to partial lockdown measures including closing nonessential shops, bars and restaurants, as well as extending the autumn school vacation.

Van Laethem said the measures seem to have had an impact, as the number of patients in intensive care is also tending to stabilize. There were fears last month that Belgium would reach its maximum capacity for COVID-19 patients in intensive care by mid-November.

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BUDAPEST, Hungary — The Hungarian government has announced the strictest measures taken to date in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic amid a dramatic uptick in hospitalizations and deaths.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban announced Monday that a general curfew would be imposed nationwide between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. with the exception of those commuting to work. Businesses must close after 7 p.m., restaurants will be limited to home delivery, sporting events will be held in empty stadiums, and family gatherings will be limited to 10 people, Orban said. A general ban on events will also be introduced.

Universities and high schools will transition to digital education, while preschools, kindergartens and classes for children 14 and under will remain open. Healthcare workers, teachers and childcare workers will be tested weekly for the virus, according to the statement.

The newest restrictions will take effect at midnight Tuesday and remain in place for 30 days, after which they may be extended, Orban said. The Hungarian Parliament is expected to pass a measure on Tuesday which will enact a state of emergency for 90 days.

The raft of measures comes after a week of record-breaking hospitalizations and deaths. On Saturday, 107 people died of COVID-19, the highest daily total since the start of the pandemic, and more than 6,000 coronavirus patients were being treated in hospitals on Tuesday — also a record.

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LISBON, Portugal — Portugal has entered a state of emergency, with curfews imposed in the areas worst hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

From Monday and for at least two weeks, some 7 million people — around 70% of the country’s population — must remain at home on weekdays between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m.. On the weekends, they cannot leave home after 1 p.m.

The government has warned that the state of emergency, which grants authorities special powers, may be prolonged and measures may be tightened if the spread of the new coronavirus does not slow.

The number of virus cases and hospital admissions in Portugal has climbed sharply in recent weeks. The country has seen 2,896 virus-related deaths.

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WASHINGTON — U.S. President-elect Joe Biden has announced the members of his coronavirus task force, which will put together a blueprint for fighting the pandemic.

Notable among the task force members is Rick Bright, a vaccine expert who had filed a whistleblower complaint alleging he was reassigned to a lesser job because he resisted political pressure to allow widespread use of hydroxychloroquine, a malaria drug pushed by President Donald Trump as a COVID-19 treatment.

Other members include doctors and scientists who have served in previous administrations, including experts in public health, vaccines and infectious diseases.

Biden says dealing with the pandemic is “one of the most important battles” his administration will face. Public health officials warn that the nation is entering the worst stretch yet for COVID-19 as winter sets in and the holiday season approaches.

The U.S. is now averaging more than 100,000 new coronavirus infections a day.

Hospitals in several states are running out of space and staff, and the death toll is soaring. So far, the U.S. has recorded more than 9.8 million infections and more than 237,000 deaths from COVID-19.

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LONDON — A 17-day “firebreak” lockdown in Wales that saw schools and businesses shut has ended, with the government saying it’s too soon to say whether it has been enough to curb a surge in coronavirus cases.

The Welsh government imposed the restrictions on Wales’ 3 million people on Oct. 23, two weeks before Prime Minister Boris Johnson put England into a 28-day lockdown.

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford said there were some signs that the lockdown had worked, with the 7-day average for the number of new coronavirus cases falling from 250 per 100,000 people to just under 220 cases per 100,000.

Under looser restrictions starting Monday, people can again meet in small groups, and businesses including pubs, restaurants and hairdressers can reopen. Nonessential travel to and from England remains barred and people are being urged to keep working from home it they can.

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BERLIN — Germany’s health minister says the increase in new coronavirus infections appears to be levelling off in the country but it’s too early to talk about a reversal of the trend.

Germany is one week into a four-week partial shutdown that’s meant to help prevent the health system from being overwhelmed. Restaurants, bars, sports and leisure facilities have been closed and new contact restrictions introduced, though schools and shops remain open.

New infections have continued to increase, reaching a new one-day record of 23,399 on Saturday. The country’s national disease control center on Monday reported 13,363 cases in the previous 24 hours, up from 12,097 a week earlier. Figures are typically lower on Sundays and Mondays because fewer tests are conducted over the weekend.

Health Minister Jens Spahn said Monday “we are seeing that the momentum is flattening, that we have less strong increases. But of course that is not the aim: we don’t want less strong increases, we have to get the figures down.”

Germany, which has 83 million people, has recorded 671,868 coronavirus cases since the pandemic started. Another 63 deaths were reported Monday, bringing the total to 11,352.

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ROME — Doctors warn that while Italy for now has enough ICU beds for COVID-19 patients, it won’t have enough specialists to care for them all if the numbers of new infections keep rapidly rising.

Filippo Anelli, who is president of the national association of doctors, told state TV on Monday that hospitals have reached “critical levels” and cited the growing lines of ambulances parked by hospitals with patients inside waiting for bed space.

Recently in Naples, nurses started checking on ailing persons sitting in their cars as they waited to access emergency rooms. Anelli said while Italy now has a total of 11,000 ICU beds, after 5,000 of them are filled, there won’t be a sufficient number of anesthesiologists to care for the patients occupying them.

As of Sunday, 2,749 ICU beds were filled nationwide. Doctors and other health experts have been pressing the Italian government to lock down the entire country, like it was this spring.

Regional representatives and health ministry experts were conferring on Monday to see which other regions need to be declared “red zones.”

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MOSCOW — Russia on Monday reported a record number of new coronavirus infections but a daily death toll well below the highest toll.

The national coronavirus task force said 21,798 new cases were recorded, more than 1,000 more than the previous daily tally. It said there were 256 new deaths; the highest daily death toll is 389, recorded on Nov. 4.

Overall, Russia has tallied about 1,796,000 infections and 30,793 deaths but officials say there is no need for another national lockdown.

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HONG KONG — China’s financial hub of Shanghai has reported a cargo worker at the city’s main international airport has tested positive for coronavirus, prompting authorities to seal-off and disinfect his workplace and other locations he visited over the past two weeks.

The Shanghai health authority said the 51-year-old man, identified only by his surname Wang, had driven himself to a local hospital on Sunday with symptoms. China has largely contained the spread of the virus domestically and it was unclear how the man had become infected.

China on Monday reported just 33 new cases, 32 of them brought from outside the country and one in the port city of Tianjin a short drive from Beijing.

China has recorded 86,245 cases and 4,634 deaths since the virus was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year.

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GENEVA — The World Health Organization’s chief says his agency is committed to “continuous accountability” as an independent panel evaluating WHO’s management of the global response to the coronavirus pandemic gets ready to brief the organization’s countries this week.

In a speech Monday, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said WHO welcomes “any and all efforts to strengthen the organization,” months after the organization bowed to demands from member countries to start an independent probe evaluating the COVID-19 response.

Tedros also pleaded for more money for the organization, saying there was a “shocking” imbalance between WHO’s annual budget and the expectations countries have of it.

He said WHO’s budget is equivalent to the amount the globe spends on tobacco products in a single day.

Tedros thanked donors for the $1.6 billion they have provided to WHO’s COVID-19 strategy.

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PRAGUE — Coronavirus infections in the Czech Republic have started to decline after a two-month rise to record high levels, thanks to a series of new coronavirus restrictions.

The Health Ministry says the day-to-day increase of the new confirmed cases dropped to 3,608 on Sunday, the lowest since Oct 11. A lower number of tests is usually carried out over the weekends but the number who tested positive dropped by almost 3,000 compared with the previous Sunday.

The confirmed cases reached a record daily high of 15,727 cases on Wednesday and has been declining since. In another promising sign, the number of hospitalized dropped by some 500 to 7,779.

The Czech Republic has had 414,828 test positive while 4,858 have died.

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NEW DELHI — India has reported 45,903 new coronavirus cases, with its capital recording the highest single-day rise in infections since the pandemic began.

The Health Ministry on Monday also reported 490 deaths in the past 24 hours, taking total fatalities in the country to 126,611.

New Delhi’s increase of 7,745 cases comes during a recent surge the government has attributed to crowding in markets during the ongoing festive season, winter weather and high air pollution.

The capital’s air quality levels are plummeting to the “severe” category. A recent government report projected New Delhi may see up to 15,000 daily cases in the winter months.

India has counted more than 8.5 million cases since the pandemic began, the second-highest total behind the U.S.

Categories: National News