The Latest: Germany's Saxony is nation's virus hot spot
BERLIN — Germany’s eastern state of Saxony has become the country’s hotspot for coronavirus infections, with the number of newly confirmed cases per 100,000 inhabitants reaching almost 320 in a week.
According to figures published by Germany’s disease control center Tuesday the nationwide rate is currently less than half that in Saxony, at about 147.
The Saxony-based daily Freie Presse reported that the state government is considering tightening pandemic restrictions from Monday.
Germany reported 14,054 newly confirmed cases in the past 24 hours Tuesday, taking the total since the start of the outbreak to almost 1.2 million. The number of COVID-related deaths in the country rose by 423 to 19,342.
THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— Britain is rolling out COVID-19 vaccine shots to the elderly and medical workers as world watches
—U.S. passed up chance to lock in more Pfizer vaccine doses
— Millions of hungry Americans turn to food banks for the first time
— Biden’s health team offers glimpse of his COVID-19 strategy
— Years of research laid groundwork for speedy COVID-19 shots
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
LONDON — British health authorities rolled out the first doses of a widely tested and independently reviewed COVID-19 vaccine Tuesday, starting a global immunization program that is expected to gain momentum as more serums win approval.
The first shot was given to Margaret Keenan, who turns 91 next week, at University Hospital Coventry, one of several hospitals around the country that are handling the initial phase of the program on what has been dubbed “V-Day.”
“I feel so privileged to be the first person vaccinated against COVID-19,” said the former jewelry shop assistant, who wore a surgical mask and a blue Merry Christmas T-shirt decorated with a cartoon penguin. “It’s the best early birthday present I could wish for because it means I can finally look forward to spending time with my family and friends in the New Year after being on my own for most of the year.”
The first 800,000 doses are going to people over 80 who are either hospitalized or already have outpatient appointments scheduled, along with nursing home workers. Others will have to wait their turn.
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Prince Christian, the 15-year-old grandson of Queen Margrethe who one day will become the monarch in one of the world’s oldest monarchies, has tested positive, the royal palace said Monday.
Christian, the son of Crown Prince Frederik who is heir to the throne, and Australian-born Crown Princess Mary, is in isolation at the downtown Amalienborg Palace, home of Denmark’s royals.
As a consequence, his parents and his three siblings will stay in isolation at the palace for the time being. The royal household said that the prince who is second in line to the Danish throne, “has not been in contact with other members of the royal family very recently.” That includes his 80-year-old grandmother.
On Sunday, Christian’s parents were briefed out a local outbreak at his school and the young prince was tested. The reply came Monday and it was positive.
CANBERRA, Australia — Australia is extending its ban on international cruise ships and on Australians leaving the country except under exceptional circumstances for another three months until March.
The extension announced Tuesday means the human biosecurity emergency declaration will last for at least a year despite COVID-19 cases declining in the isolated nation.
Australia has imposed some of the most severe border restrictions in the world since the pandemic began, requiring most of its citizens and permanent residents to apply for a permit and prove exceptional circumstances if they need to leave the country.
Australia is a nation of 26 million people. Latest government figures showed on Monday there were only 1,618 active COVID-19 cases, with 30 of those infected in hospitals.
Thousands of Australians have missed out on funerals, weddings and the births of relatives because of the travel ban which is designed to prevent travelers from bringing with virus home.
BEIJING — Health authorities in Chengdu identified three more cases of coronavirus, bringing the southwestern Chinese city’s total to five in the latest outbreak.
The Sichuan provincial health commission said Monday that one of the patients was the 20-year-old granddaughter of a couple whose infections were announced on Sunday. The other two were women aged 68 and 71 described as farmers who lived in the same Chengdu district, Ludu, as the two original cases.
As of Monday morning, more than 24,000 test results had been returned, with just four positives. The commission did not further account for the fourth positive case.
China generally does not include people who test positive but have no symptoms in its totals.
ISLAMABAD — Pakistan has reports 89 new coronavirus deaths in the past 24 hours, one of the highest single day totals since the pandemic began.
Also Tuesday it reported another 2,885 infections in the last 24 hours. The country’s tally of COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began is 423,179 with 8,487 deaths.
UNITED NATIONS -- The United Nations General Assembly has approved a resolution proclaiming Dec. 27 as the International Day of Epidemic Preparedness to keep a global spotlight on the need to strengthen global measures to prevent pandemics like COVID-19.
The resolution adopted Monday by consensus by the 193-member world body expresses “grave concern at the devastating impacts of major infectious diseases and epidemics, as exemplified by the ongoing coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, on human lives.”
Epidemics wreak havoc “on long-term social and economic development,” and create health crises that “threaten to overwhelm already overstretched health systems, disrupt global supply chains and cause disproportionate devastation of the livelihoods of people ... and the economies of the poorest and most vulnerable countries,” the resolution said.
The assembly underlined the urgency of having robust health systems and expressed deep concern that without international attention “future epidemics could surpass previous outbreaks in terms of intensity and gravity.”
BEIJING — Authorities have ordered mass coronavirus testing and locked down some locations in the southwestern Chinese city of Chengdu following the detection of two new virus cases there.
Chengdu health officials identified the cases as a 69-year-old woman, who’s condition is listed as serious, and her 71-year-old husband who has yet to show symptoms.
Officials at a Monday night news conference said they are still investigating the source of the infection in Sichuan province’s capital and largest city that has been relatively unscathed by the pandemic. However, samples taken at the couple’s apartment showed the presence of the virus in seven different locations, including on door knobs, light switches and food in the refrigerator, indicating a “high degree of contamination,” Zhu Xiaoping, head of the provincial coronavirus task force was quoted as saying.
Five locations in Chengdu’s Ludu district have been sealed off, including a hospital, a school and a wholesale market and more than 21,000 people tested as of Monday evening, the government said.
China reported a total of 12 new cases on Tuesday, including the two in Chengdu and 10 brought from outside the country, bringing China’s total to 86,646 with 4,634 deaths.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida authorities investigating an alleged hack into the state’s emergency response system raided the home Monday of a woman fired earlier this year from her job as COVID-19 data curator.
Florida Department of Law Enforcement said that Rebekah Jones, who was fired for unauthorized public comments about the data in May, has been under investigation since early November when someone illegally accessed the state’s emergency alert health system.
Jones was fired from her post in May after she raised questions about Florida’s COVID-19 data. She had been reprimanded several times and was ultimately fired for violating Health Department policy by making public remarks about the information, state records show.
Since her firing, she has lit up social media with posts criticizing Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and his state agencies. For months, she has tried to promote herself as a victim who was fired for telling the truth, although there is no evidence that supports her claims.
Early in the pandemic, Jones wrote blog posts and reached out to media outlets and researchers sowing doubt about the credibility of the data now that she is no longer in that role. She said Health Department managers urged her to manipulate information to paint a rosier picture and that she pushed back. The data was crucial as the governor was trying to make highly controversial decisions on whether to reopen Florida’s economy.
State health officials strenuously deny any issue with the information’s accuracy.
ALABAMA — Alabama on Monday set a record of more than 2,000 COVID-19 patients in state hospitals as some facilities began to postpone non-emergency procedures amid staff shortages.
There were 2,079 patients in state hospitals with COVID-19 — the first time the number topped 2,000 since the pandemic began, according to state numbers from the Alabama Department of Public Health. Dr. Don Williamson, the former state health officer who now heads the Alabama Hospital Association, said at least three hospitals have begun to postpone non-emergency procedures amid staff shortages.
“My real concern is I still don’t see anything to break the spread between now and getting through Christmas. That’s my real concern, and frankly I’m increasingly frustrated about why it is so difficult for individuals to be willing to wear masks,” Williamson said.
“The election’s over. It should no longer be political. People are dying, and we can do better than this.”
Williamson said staffing availability is a major concern. He said some facilities have as many as 100 staff members out with COVID-19.
HARRISBURG, Pa. — Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf warned Monday that the coronavirus is running rampant throughout the state and could soon force overwhelmed hospitals to begin turning away patients.
Wolf calls it a “dangerous, disturbing scenario” that will become reality if people don’t take steps to slow the spread. He said additional pandemic restrictions might be on the way but did not elaborate on what his administration might be considering while also acknowledging the ones already in place have not worked.
Wolf said the unchecked spread of the virus in all regions of the state means that resource-sharing agreements among hospitals could soon begin to break down and force them to begin rationing care.
Still, the governor all but ruled out a return to the kinds of statewide restrictions he imposed in the spring, when schools were closed, thousands of businesses deemed non-essential were shut down, and all 12.8 million Pennsylvanians were under a stay-at-home order.