The Latest: Spain resists calls to impose earlier curfews
MADRID — Spain’s government is resisting calls by regional health authorities to let them impose earlier curfews amid a sharp rise in coronavirus cases.
Spain’s hospitals are filling up again after a third rise in infections since the start of the pandemic. Another 464 people were reported dead on Wednesday, increasing the confirmed death toll to 54,637.
Some regions want the government to allow a change of the curfew to 8 p.m., instead of the current 10 p.m. allowed under a state of emergency.
Health Minister Salvador Illa says the ministry would “evaluate” the request, even though he insisted it wasn’t needed because of current measures.
Spain registered another 41,000 cases on Wednesday in the midst of rolling out its vaccination program. Despite the recent hiccups in the shipments the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, Spain broke 1 million vaccines administered on Wednesday.
Spain has 2.4 million confirmed cases, eighth in the world. It has registered more than 54,000 deaths, 10th globally.
THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
Britain hits another record daily virus deaths. Ontario’s leader asks Biden for 1 million vaccine shots due to Pfizer shortfall for Canada. India to start delivering Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines to neighboring countries. Expert panel says both China and the WHO should have acted faster to prevent the pandemic. Surging infections give Spain’s new emergency hospital in Madrid a chance for use. Italy ponders suing Pfizer for vaccine delays.
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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
RIO DE JANEIRO — At 106, Zélia de Carvalho Morley rolled up a sleeve and looked stoically to the side as a nurse slid in a COVID-19 shot.
She was one of thousands in Brazil to get the vaccine on Wednesday, but one of very few old enough to recall a viral pandemic that swept her nation and the world a century ago.
Born in Rio de Janeiro in 1914, Morley was a girl when the Spanish flu killed millions around the world in 1918-1920, when no vaccines were available.
“The whole of Brazil caught it. Too many people died,” Morley told The Associated Press. “I think this vaccine is going to be very good.”
She displayed a generous smile before placing her light blue mask back on her face.
ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s top health official expressed his optimism that the government can get about one million doses of COVID-19 vaccine by March.
Faisal Sultan says Pakistan’s talks with the manufacturers of Sinopharm and Cansino vaccines are at an advanced stage. He says Sinopharm’s vaccine has been used in several countries and it had an efficacy of 80% to 85%.
He says clinical trials of Cansino’s vaccine are near completion in Pakistan and their results will be available soon. Sultan says health workers will get vaccine first and 400,000 health workers had registered for it.
Pakistan reported 48 new deaths from coronavirus and 1,772 cases in the past 24 hours. Pakistan has registered 11,103 total confirmed deaths and 524,783 cases.
LONDON — For the second day running, Britain had another record increase in coronavirus-related deaths.
The government says another 1,820 people died in the 28 days after testing positive for the coronavirus. That takes the confirmed total to 93,290, which is Europe’s highest virus-related death toll and fifth highest in the world.
The lockdown restrictions across the U.K. have helped reduce the number of people contracting the virus, although the U.K. is still recording high levels of infections when compared with other nations in Europe, such as France or Germany.
On Wednesday, the U.K. recorded another 38,905 new cases. That’s up from the previous day’s 33,355. However, it’s below the seven-day average of nearly 60,000 earlier this month.
NEW YORK — The incoming CDC director is arriving at an agency that’s been relegated to the sidelines during the coronavirus pandemic.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky arrives at the CDC this week as the U.S. coronavirus death toll eclipses 400,000, and the nation’s largest vaccination campaign is wracked by confusion and delays.
Experts say while the agency has retained some of its top scientific talent, it needs protection from political influence, a review of its own missteps and more money.
Last week, President-elect Joe Biden said he would ask for $160 billion for vaccinations and other public health programs, including an effort to expand the public health workforce by 100,000 jobs.
Walensky, 51, an infectious-diseases specialist at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital. An HIV researcher, she has emerged as a prominent voice on the pandemic, sometimes criticizing aspects of the state and national response.
She will succeed Dr. Robert Redfield, 69, who came to the CDC with a similar resume as an outsider from academia.
PARIS — French university students are protesting on the Left Bank of Paris to be allowed back to class.
They also want to call attention to suicides and financial troubles among students cut off from friends, professors and job opportunities amid the pandemic. Carrying a banner reading “We Will Not Be the Sacrificed Generation,” hundreds of university students gathered in the French capital to march on the Education Ministry.
Other student protests were planned Wednesday elsewhere in France. The government ordered all universities closed in October to stem resurgent coronavirus infections.
France tightened its curfew last week as virus hospitalizations grew. Prime Minister Jean Castex made a gesture toward college students, allowing first-year students to start returning to partial classes next week.
France has 2.9 million cases, sixth in the world, and more than 71,000 confirmed deaths.
LISBON, Portugal — Portugal has the highest seven-day average rate of new cases per capita and the second-highest rate of new deaths in the world, according to Johns Hopkins University.
The daily new cases per 100,000 population rose from 51 on Jan. 5 to 98 on Tuesday. The average daily deaths per capita rose from 0.75 to 1.63 during the same period.
Portugal is in lockdown, but the government is reluctant to close schools. Authorities have launched a program of rapid coronavirus tests at schools in the hardest-hit areas of the country. They say if schools close, some children won’t get proper meals, have computer access or help with their studies.
Some teachers are unhappy about the policy, pressing for a national school closure.
The surge is pushing the public health system, especially hospitals, to capacity. The Health Ministry expects to open a field hospital Wednesday with 58 beds on the grounds of the Lisbon University campus. Authorities are opening more temporary medical installations at sites outside the health sector, including hotels, university residences and churches, with 2,300 beds.
Portugal reported 10,455 new confirmed cases and 218 deaths in the last 24 hours. That increased the overall totals to 566,958 cases and 9,246 deaths.
ROME — Italy’s coronavirus czar is pressing ahead with plans to take legal action against Pfizer after the U.S. pharmaceutical company announced delays in delivering pre-ordered COVID-19 vaccines to Europe.
Domenico Arcuri says in a statement he’s secured unanimous backing from Italy’s regional governors to take civil or criminal action, where possible.
Pfizer confirmed last week it would temporarily reduce deliveries to Europe and Canada while it upgrades production capacity to 2 billion doses per year at its Belgium plant. Arcuri says the delay would amount to a 29% reduction in upcoming deliveries to Italy.
In announcing the impending legal action, Arcuri says: “The health care of Italian citizens isn’t negotiable.”
So far, Italy has administered more than 1.2 million vaccine shots or 76% of the doses already delivered to Italian regions.
TORONTO — Canada won’t be getting any Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccines next week and 50% fewer than expected over the next month, officials say, prompting the leader of Canada’s most populous province to ask U.S. President-elect Joe Biden to share a million doses from Pfizer’s Michigan plant.
Maj. Gen. Dany Fortin, who is leading Canada’s logistical rollout and distribution of vaccines, called it a major reduction, but says Pfizer is still expected to meet its contractual obligation to ship four million doses to Canada by the end of March.
U.S. pharmaceutical company Pfizer confirmed last week it would temporarily reduce deliveries to Europe and Canada of its COVID-19 vaccine while it upgrades production capacity at its plant in Puurs, Belgium. Pfizer’s Belgian plant supplies all shots delivered outside the U.S.
Doug Ford, the premier of Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, says he’s angry. He asked Biden to help Canada, noting there’s a Pfizer plant in Michigan.
“Our American friends, help us out,” Ford says. “You have a new president, no more excuses. Help us out.”
ROME — The Vatican has begun offering COVID-19 vaccines to homeless people and says it plans to expand the program in coming days.
A preliminary group of 25 people who live in residences run by the pope’s chief alms-giver received the shots on Wednesday in the Vatican’s auditorium. They joined Pope Francis, emeritus Pope Benedict XVI and other Vatican employees and their families who began receiving the vaccines last week.
The Vatican, as a sovereign city state, arranged for its own vaccine deliveries of the Pfizer-BioNTech shots. Italy has it’s own vaccine campaign under way but to date the national health care system is prioritizing health care workers and the elderly.
Francis has called for universal availability of the shots, especially for the poor and most vulnerable. He has also said it was ethically necessary to take the vaccine, expressing incredulousness at vaccine and coronavirus skeptics, because “you’re playing not only with your health but the health of others.”
NEW DELHI — India began supplying coronavirus vaccines to its neighboring countries on Wednesday, as the world’s largest vaccine making nation strikes a balance between maintaining enough doses to inoculate its own people and helping developing countries.
India’s Foreign Ministry says the country would send 150,000 shots of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, manufactured locally by Serum Institute of India, to Bhutan and 100,000 shots to the Maldives on Wednesday.
Vaccines will be sent to Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar and the Seychelles in coming weeks, the ministry says. It added in a statement that regulatory clearances were still awaited from Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Mauritius.
WARSAW, Poland – Poland’s chief medical expert for fighting COVID-19 said Wednesday that the nation’s high rate of deaths from the infection is mostly the result of people aged over 70, with other serious diseases, succumbing to the coronavirus.
According to Professor Andrzej Horban, the current high number of deaths among the elderly is the result of infections from large gatherings during Christmas and New Year’s.
The data Wednesday showed almost 7,000 new infections and 443 confirmed deaths. Some 15,000 people remain hospitalized due to COVID-19. A nation of 38 million, Poland has registered nearly 1.5 million confirmed cases and more than 34,000 deaths.
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Police in the Norwegian capital are doubling fines for violating coronavirus restrictions, saying not respecting the limit of 10 people for private gatherings can lead organizers being fined 20,000 kroner ($2,326) while participants will be fined 10,000 kroner ($1,163).
“This increase in fine rates underlines the seriousness of breaking the coronavirus rules. Everyone has a responsibility to take care of infection control,” said Oslo chief prosecutor Beate Brinch Sand.
Earlier this month, Oslo imposed coronavirus tests for all people entering the Scandinavian country from abroad to help stop the spread of the variant detected first in Britain.
Norway also has a nationwide ban on serving alcohol in restaurants and bars to prevent a virus resurgence and it raised fines for those violations, too.
HONOLULU — Hawaii’s leaders say limited supply is the main thing constraining distribution of the coronavirus vaccine in the state.
Hawaii received 59,000 doses of the vaccine last week, but expects to get only about 32,000 this week.
Still, Lt. Gov. Josh Green says the state expects to vaccinate everyone in the top priority category by the end of February. That category includes health care workers, long-term care facility residents, people over 75, and teachers and other front-line essential workers.
The federal government is distributing vaccines to each state in accordance with their share of the U.S. population.