The Latest: Japan declares state of emergency in Tokyo area
TOKYO — Japan has declared a state of emergency for Tokyo and three nearby areas as coronavirus cases continue to surge, hitting a daily record of 2,447 in the capital.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga issued the declaration at the government task force for the coronavirus. It kicks in Friday until Feb. 7, and centers around asking restaurants and bars to close at 8 p.m. and people to stay home and not mingle in crowds.
The declaration carries no penalties. But it works as a strong request while Japan juggles to keep the economy going.
Shopping malls and schools will remain open. Movie theaters, museums and other events will be asked to reduce attendance. Places that defy the request will get publicized on a list, while those that comply will be eligible for aid, according to officials.
Coronavirus cases have been surging in Japan after the year-end and New Year’s holidays.
THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar says the government will begin allowing more drugstores to start giving shots to speed coronavirus vaccinations. Some governors and other politicians are turning up the pressure after a slow rollout of the coronavirus vaccines. Dr. Anthony Fauci believes the U.S. could soon give 1 million vaccinations a day. The U.S. reports 29 severe allergic reactions to the vaccines.
The European Union has given approval to the Moderna vaccine. The decision gives the 27-nation bloc a second vaccine to use against the coronavirus. The U.K. says it has vaccinated 1.3 million people and plans to have almost 1,000 vaccination centers operating by the end of this week.
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
PRAGUE — Coronavirus infections in the Czech Republic have hit a new all-time high for a second straight day, prompting the government to extent a current lockdown.
The Health Ministry reported 17,668 new cases on Wednesday, about 300 more than the previous record set a day earlier.
Infections, which have been on the rise since early December, started to surge again this week after slowing during New Year holidays.
Health Minister Jan Blatny said the government on Thursday extended the lockdown until Jan 22. The restrictions were originally scheduled to end Sunday.
The country of 10.7 million has had 794,740 confirmed cases, including 12,621 deaths.
SEOUL, South Korea __ South Korea says it will extend its ban on incoming flights from Britain for two more weeks until Jan. 21.
Authorities said Thursday they’ve found three additional cases of the more contagious variant of the coronavirus identified in the U.K, taking the total to 14. South Korea has also found one case of a coronavirus variant detected in South Africa.
All foreigners entering South Korea will be required to submit negative COVID-19 test results starting Friday.
Officials say a recent outbreak appears to have peaked because they aren’t seeing a further upsurge in infections. The country reported 870 new cases on Thursday, the third day in a row that the figure has been below 1,000. The new cases took the national caseload to 66,688 with 1,046 deaths.
South Korea on Monday extended its second-highest social distancing rules, called “Tier 2.5,” in the greater Seoul area and the third-highest rules in other areas for two more weeks.
CANBERRA, Australia — Australia is advancing the start of its coronavirus vaccination program to mid-February, with plans to inoculate 15% of the population by late March.
The government had argued there was no reason for an emergency rollout that cut short usual regulatory processes as has occurred in the United States and elsewhere because local transmission rates in Australia are much lower. It had planned to start vaccinating in March.
But Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Thursday he expects the Pfizer vaccine will be delivered two weeks after the Australian regulator approves it in late January. He said that “it is moving considerably faster than normal.”
Morrison says the goal is to give 80,000 shots a week and have 4 million of Australia’s 26 million people vaccinated by the end of March.
MEXICO CITY — Mexico has reported a new high for a daily increase in coronavirus cases, with 13,345 newly confirmed infections reported Wednesday for the previous 24 hours. Officials also reported a near-record of 1,165 deaths related to COVID-19.
The country has now seen about 1.48 million infections and almost 130,000 deaths so far in the pandemic. A low testing rate means that is an undercount, and official estimates suggest the real death toll is over 180,000.
Mexico’s vaccination effort continues at a glacial rate, with about 7,500 shots administered Wednesday, a rate similar to previous days. In Mexico City, the current center of the pandemic in the country, 88% percent of hospital beds are full.
BEIJING — New coronavirus cases in northern China’s Hebei province have more than doubled as officials move to lock down an area that is home to about 75 million people.
Officials announced 51 new cases Thursday, bringing Hebei’s total to 90 since Sunday. Most of the cases have been in Shijiazhuang, the provincial capital that is due to host some events of next year’s Winter Olympics.
Rail, air and highway connections to Shijiazhuang have been suspended, control measures tightened for urban communities and villages in the region, and classes have been suspended.
Authorities have imposed similarly tight measures in the cities of Shenyang and Dalian in Liaoning province just to the north.
Wary of a new wave of infections, China is discouraging travel for next month’s Lunar New Year holiday and beginning school holidays a week early.
MONTREAL — Quebec’s premier is imposing a provincewide 8 p.m. curfew beginning Saturday as a way to curb surging coronavirus infections and hospitalizations.
The province will become the first in Canada to impose a curfew for addressing the pandemic.
Premier Francois Legault spoke of the need to take drastic action as he announced a four-week curfew prohibiting people from leaving their homes between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. unless they are going to work.
He says officials have concluded the virus is being spread through gatherings in residences, and the curfew is meant to prevent that.
JERUSALEM — The Israeli Cabinet has agreed to tighten a lockdown in hopes of slowing a raging coronavirus outbreak.
Most schools and businesses will be closed, public gatherings restricted and public transportation limited for a two-week period beginning at midnight Thursday night. Thousands of police are expected to be deployed to enforce the closure.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office announced the decision late Wednesday.
Israel has jumped out to a fast start in vaccinating its population, inoculating 15% of its 9 million people in just over two weeks. But at the same time, it is facing one of the world’s highest rates of coronavirus infections.
Israel’s Health Ministry has reported over 462,000 cases of the coronavirus, including more than 8,000 new cases on Wednesday. It also has reported over 3,500 deaths.
The drugstore chains CVS and Walgreens both said Wednesday that they expect to finish delivering the first round of COVID-19 vaccine doses at nursing homes on schedule by January 25.
CVS said it was roughly halfway done as of Tuesday. It is working with 7,822 nursing homes nationwide and had completed nearly 4,000 first-dose clinics.
All told, CVS said it has administered 351,231 vaccines in nursing homes as of Tuesday, including nearly 30,000 in big states like California and Florida.
There are more than 15,000 nursing homes nationally, and the drugstore chains focused first on vaccinating at those locations in part because residents there are more vulnerable and require more care than people staying at other long-term care locations.
CVS and Walgreens also are expanding their vaccine delivery into those other locations, which include assisted living facilities. CVS said it has completed nearly 700 first-dose clinics at those locations and administered more than 26,000 shots.
But the drugstore chain said it was still waiting on eight states — Arizona, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Wisconsin — to set start dates before it can begin working in those locations.