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The Latest: UK virus tests to increase nursing home visits

LONDON — British Health Secretary Matt Hancock says he hopes that all nursing homes in England will be able to test visitors for coronavirus to allow them to see their loved ones “by Christmas.”

A pilot program in 20 nursing homes in the southern counties of Cornwall, Devon and Hampshire began Monday. Under it, regular testing will be offered to one family member or friend per resident, which the government hopes will support visits when combined with other COVID-prevention measures such as wearing masks and social distancing.

Hancock told BBC radio that the rollout will be “a challenge but we’ve got to make sure the right rules and protocols are in place so that the testing keeps people safe.”

Around 20,000 people are thought to have died in Britain’s nursing homes during the first wave of the pandemic. Most of the country’s nursing homes are run by the private sector.

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

— President-elect Joe Biden seeks information on US vaccine plans as Trump stalls handoff

— Amnesty International says Belgium violated the human rights of nursing home patients by not taking infected elderly patients to the hospital for treatment

— Michigan and Washington state announce new virus restrictions as U.S, cases hit 11 million

— Pandemic fuels steep drop in foreign college students in U.S.

— Many African students are missing out on the new term in school as the pandemic impoverishes families

British PM Boris Johnson is self-quarantining but insists he's working and is ‘fit as a butcher’s dog'

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

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

BRUSSELS — Amnesty International said Belgium authorities “abandoned” thousands of elderly people who died in nursing homes during the coronavirus pandemic following an investigation published Monday that described the situation as “human rights violations.”

One of the hardest-hit countries in Europe, Belgium has reported more than 531,000 confirmed virus cases and more than 14,400 deaths linked to the coronavirus. During the first wave of the pandemic last spring, the European nation of 11.5 million people recorded a majority of its COVID-19-related deaths in nursing homes.

Between March and October, Amnesty International said “a staggering” 61.3% of all COVID-19 deaths in Belgium took place in nursing homes. The group said authorities weren’t quick enough in implementing measures to protect nursing home residents and staff during this period, failing to protect their human rights.

Amnesty International said one of the reasons so many people died in homes is because infected residents weren’t transferred to hospitals to receive treatment.

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BERLIN — German Chancellor Angela Merkel will assess the effects of a nearly two-week-long partial lockdown with state governors in a video conference Monday.

Germany went into a partial lockdown at the beginning of November that included closing restaurants, cafes and cultural institutions, but left open schools and stores after virus figures spiked exponentially in October.

The rise of new infections has since slowed down, but on Friday the country still registered a new record of 23,542 cases. On Monday, 10,824 new cases were reported by the country’s disease control center. However, virus figures are usually lower at the beginning of the week because there’s less testing on weekends.

Merkel and the 16 state governors will begin their evaluation of the country’s coronavirus situation in the afternoon. Local media reported that possible new measures could include recommendations to further reduce social contacts and to cut school classes in half and have elementary school children weak masks too. So far, only high school students have to wear masks in class.

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LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he is as “fit as a butcher’s dog” after being instructed to self-isolate for 14 days because he recently came in contact with someone who has since contracted coronavirus.

In a video message posted Monday on Twitter from his London apartment at Downing Street, Johnson said it didn’t matter that he has already endured COVID-19 and is “bursting with antibodies.”

The quarantine requirement comes at the start of a crucial week for Johnson’s Conservative government that includes discussions over a post-Brexit trade deal with the European Union. Negotiators are meeting in Brussels this week with time on a deal fast running out.

Johnson, who contracted the virus in April and spent three days in intensive care as his symptoms worsened, met with a small group of lawmakers for about a half-hour on Thursday, including one, Lee Anderson, who subsequently developed symptoms and tested positive.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said it was right that the prime minister goes into self-isolation even though he’s already had coronavirus as people “can catch it twice.”

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KAMPALA, Uganda — Many parents in African countries, unable to pay in cash or kind, say their children will have to miss the new term as classes resume after months of delay caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mike Ssekaggo, headmaster of Wampeewo Ntakke Secondary School on the outskirts of Uganda’s capital, Kampala, has fielded complaints from parents scrambling to have their children enrolled for the first time since March.

One cash-strapped parent asked to pay her child’s school tuition fees with bags of the rice she grows. Ssekaggo requested a sample before he would agree but eventually did.

Relief over the gradual reopening of schools is matched by anxiety over the financial strain caused by the pandemic and over how to protect students in often crowded classrooms from the coronavirus. Only about half of 430 students had reported the day after he began admitting students for the new term, Ssekaggo told The Associated Press.

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NEW DELHI — India has registered 30,548 new coronaviruses cases, the fewest in the last four months but amid growing concerns about the latest surge in the capital, New Delhi.

India has now recorded a total of 8.84 million cases, second behind the U.S.

The Health Ministry said Monday that the country was showing a trend of declining average daily cases over the last two months. The ministry also reported 435 new fatalities, raising the death toll to 130,070.

India’s daily cases have seen a steady decline since the middle of September, but New Delhi is now recording more new infections than any other state.

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WELLINGTON, New Zealand — From Thursday, New Zealanders will be legally required to wear masks on public transport in Auckland and on planes nationwide.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Virus Response Minister Chris Hipkins announced the new rules on Monday after meeting with senior lawmakers.

The country has been largely successful in eliminating the virus but has experienced several small outbreaks in Auckland, the latest one after a military worker at a hotel where travelers returning from abroad are being quarantined got infected.

Ardern said the new rules were precautionary. “New Zealand remains in a unique position globally. We have economic and personal freedoms that few other countries enjoy,” Ardern said. “But these freedoms are under increased threat as COVID surges in the world around us.” The rules don’t apply to children under age 12 or passengers taking taxis or Ubers, although their drivers will be required to wear masks.

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SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea’s daily coronavirus tally has stayed above 200 for a third consecutive day, as authorities consider raising the country’s social distancing rules.

The 223 additional cases recorded Monday by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency took the country’s total to 28,769 with 494 deaths. The agency says 193 of them are locally transmitted cases while the rest was associated with international arrivals.

South Korea has seen a steady increase in various cluster infections as it eased its social distancing guidelines last month amid then a viral slowdown.

Health Minister Park Neung-hoo calls the latest uptick in new infections “grave” and says authorities are “at the crossroads of adjusting the physical distancing rules.”

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BALTIMORE — More than 11 million cases of the coronavirus have now been reported in the United States, with the most recent million coming in less than a week.

Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus tracker reached 11 million on Sunday. It had topped 10 million cases on Nov. 9. It took 300 days for the U.S. to hit the 11 million mark since the first case was diagnosed in Washington state on Jan. 20.

COVID-19 is spreading more rapidly across the U.S. than it has at any time since the pandemic started. Deaths are also on the rise, though not at the record high numbers reached in the spring. The seven-day rolling average for daily new deaths was more than 1,080 as of Saturday, more than 30% higher than it was two weeks earlier.

COVID-19 has now killed more than 246,000 people in the U.S., according to Johns Hopkins.

Worldwide, more than 54 million coronavirus cases have been reported with more than 1.3 million deaths. The U.S. has about 4% of the world’s population, but about a fifth of all reported cases.

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OLYMPIA, Wash. — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has announced new restrictions on businesses and social gatherings for the next four weeks as part of the state’s efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Starting at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, a host of businesses must close their indoor services, including fitness facilities and gyms, bowling centers, and movie theaters.

Retail stores, including grocery stores, must limit indoor capacity to 25%. Indoor social gatherings with people from more than one household are also prohibited unless attendees have either quarantined for 14 days before the gathering or tested negative for COVID-19 and have quarantined for seven days.

By Wednesday, restaurants and bars will be limited to outdoor dining and to-go service.

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia has set another weekly record for the number of confirmed coronavirus cases, even with one day left to count.

Health statistics released Sunday show there were 3,718 positive cases reported statewide from Nov. 9 through Saturday. That six-day mark broke the record of 2,696 cases set for the seven days in the previous week.

The state set three daily marks for confirmed cases in the past week, including a record 821 cases on Friday.

Gov. Jim Justice on Friday announced that face coverings will be required at all times in businesses and other indoor spaces.

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