The Latest: Thailand tightens domestic travel as cases rise
BANGKOK — Thailand reported 205 new virus cases, a slight dip from previous days as it tightened controls on domestic travel.
Taweesilp Visanuyothin, a spokesperson for the COVID-19 coordinating center, said Friday that 131 of the additional cases were local transmissions, 58 were migrant workers and 16 international arrivals.
That brought the country’s total to 9,841 including 67 deaths. Of that total, 5,367 cases were found from the start of the new surge on Dec. 15 until Friday.
Infections have surged following months that saw only a handful of cases. Most of the new ones have been migrant workers from neighboring Myanmar working in the seafood markets and factories in a province next to Bangkok. Most were quarantined in their dormitories and quickly established field hospitals.
Many of the remainder ones have been blamed on itinerant gamblers, most of them stemming from a single hotspot outside Bangkok last month.
The capital, with a metropolitan area population of about 15 million, recorded 327 cases in that period. Thailand has about 70 million people.
The government has tightened controls on domestic travel and ordered a partial lockdown around Thailand. Schools, bars, gambling parlors and other public gathering places have been closed, although malls, department stores and restaurants remain open with curtailed hours.
THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— Pfizer study suggests vaccine works against virus variant
— US registering highest deaths yet from the coronavirus
— Brazil’s pandemic deaths top 200,000 amid a return to fun
— Britain’s National Health Service will from next week employ a little-used field hospital specially built at a huge exhibition center in east London in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic last spring.
— Facing criticism over a slow roll out of virus vaccines -- with barely 500 people vaccinated in the first week — France’s government has pledged to speed up jabs for the elderly.
— South Africa says it will import 1.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to inoculate the country’s health workers.
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
JERUSALEM — Israel has entered a tightened lockdown as coronavirus cases surge despite an early and rapid vaccination campaign.
Most schools and businesses were closed starting Friday, with people required to remain within 1,000 meters (yards) from home except for essential needs. Public gatherings are heavily restricted and public transportation is limited. The restrictions are to last for at least two weeks.
Thousands of police will be deployed to enforce the restrictions, with roadblocks set up on major thoroughfares. Israel was already in its third national lockdown since the start of the pandemic.
Deputy Police Commissioner Ziv Sagiv called on people to stay home, saying police would operate in “every possible way” to enforce the restrictions.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced late Thursday that Israel is on track to vaccinate all citizens over the age of 16 by March. He called on Israelis to make “one last big effort” to combat the pandemic by adhering to the lockdown.
Israel has already vaccinated nearly 20% of its population of 9 million and is on track to be one of the first countries to emerge from the coronavirus crisis. It has reported 474,000 cases since the start of the pandemic, including 3,565 deaths.
BERLIN — Teachers and parents in Berlin are expressing anger at plans to partially resume in-school teaching next week even as Germany remains in lockdown.
An online petition launched this week has gathered over 20,000 signatures against the Berlin state government’s plan to start teaching some classes in school again from Monday.
Petitioners argue that it undermines other measures imposed to curb infections, including a ban on meeting more than other person from another household.
The country’s disease control agency said Friday that Germany recorded 31,849 newly confirmed cases and 1,188 deaths from COVID-19, the biggest single-day toll since the pandemic began, though figures tend to skew higher toward the end of the week.
BEIJING — A city in northern China is offering rewards of 500 yuan ($77) for anyone who reports on a resident who has not taken a recent coronavirus test.
The offer from the government of Nangong comes as millions in the city and its surrounding province of Hebei are being tested as part of efforts to control China’s most serious recent outbreak of COVID-19.
The offering of cash or other rewards for information on political or social nonconformists has a long history in China, but the pandemic is putting a new face on the practice. Those found noncompliant will be forced to undergo testing and a two-week quarantine at their own expense.
China has largely controlled local transmission through the use of measures considered by some to be extreme and highly intrusive, including lockdowns of entire cities and close electronic monitoring of bans on traveling to and from parts of the country.
With next month’s Lunar New Year travel rush looming, the government is telling people to stay put as much as possible and not travel to or from the capital Beijing, disrupting the country’s most important time for family gatherings. Schools are also being let out a week early, although many, including those in Hebei, have already reverted to online learning.
China on Friday reported 53 new cases, including 33 in Hebei. Of those, 31 were in the provincial capital of Shijiazhuang, host to some events for next year’s Winter Olympics.
SAN FRANCISCO -- Facing a massive surge in coronavirus cases, California has been issuing waivers allowing hospitals to temporarily bypass the nation’s only strict nurse-to-patient ratios.
Nurses say that being forced to take on more patients is pushing them to the brink of burnout and affecting patient care.
At least 250 of about 400 hospitals in California have been granted 60-day waivers. They allow ICU nurses to care for three instead of two people and emergency room nurses to oversee six patients instead of three.
Nurses in other states have demanded law-mandated ratios like those in California but so far have failed to get them.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- California’s massive coronavirus outbreak is taking a toll both on hospitals and those who staff them.
Nurses at one hospital in the city of Orange say they are seeing a couple of deaths daily in the COVID-19 wards.
Donna Rottschafer, a nurse at St. Joseph Hospital, says she has seen more people die in recent weeks than in decades of nursing.
California on Thursday reported 583 new deaths. There have been more than 28,000 deaths in the state since the start of the pandemic.
Hospitals in many areas have no more ICU beds available for COVID-19 patients. Officials say they are worried that holiday gatherings could swell the hospital population further in the next few weeks.
BEIJING — A city in northern China is offering rewards of 500 yuan ($77) for anyone who reports on a resident who has not taken a coronavirus test.
The offer from the government of Nangong comes as millions in the city and the surrounding province of Hebei are being tested as part of efforts to control China’s most serious recent outbreak of infections.
The offering of rewards for information on political or social nonconformists has a long history in China.
China has largely controlled local transmission of the virus through the use of measures considered by some to be extreme and highly intrusive, including lockdowns of entire cities, close electronic monitoring of people’s movements and bans on traveling to and from parts of the country.
CANBERRA, Australia — Australia is almost halving the number of passengers allowed to arrive by plane in a bid to prevent the spread of a highly contagious variant of the coronavirus first identified in Britain.
A cleaner at a Brisbane quarantine hotel diagnosed with COVID-19 on Wednesday is the first person infected with the variant found in the Australian community. Other cases have been detected among travelers while in hotel quarantine, where there is little risk of community spread.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Friday that state leaders have agreed that international arrivals to New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia state airports will be halved until Feb. 15. Arrivals at Victoria were already relatively low and will remain unchanged.
Quarantine workers would be tested for the virus daily.
MEXICO CITY — Mexico continues to see record increases in coronavirus cases, with a 24-hour caseload of 13,734 confirmed infections setting a new high for the second consecutive day.
Officials also reported a near-record of 1,044 more deaths. The country has recorded about 1.49 million infections and over 131,000 deaths so far in the pandemic.
Experts say Mexico’s extremely low testing rate means that is an undercount, and official estimates suggest the real death toll is over 180,000.
The country’s vaccination effort is moving slowly, with 4,444 shots administered Thursday — a rate similar to previous days.
In Mexico City, the current center of the pandemic in Mexico, 89% percent of hospital beds are full.
LONDON — The British government says that beginning next week all people arriving from other countries will have to provide proof of a negative coronavius test taken within the 72 hours before departure.
There are exemptions for some, including truckers, airline crew and children under 11.
Many public health experts have long urged the U.K. to adopt the measure as a way of reducing imported infections, though the virus is more widespread in Britain than in many other countries.
The government said Friday that the new measure will help protect against new variants of the virus, such as one recently identified in South Africa.
CARSON CITY, Nev. -- Nevada officials are reporting the most new coronavirus cases in a single day since the start of the pandemic.
State officials reported 3,402 new confirmed virus infections Thursday, bringing the statewide total to 240,795 cases.
Nevada pandemic response director Caleb Cage predicted the spike earlier in the week and said it mirrored other post-holiday rises the state has experienced.
Nevada has consistently rewritten its record books for coronavirus cases, deaths and hospitalizations throughout the months-long surge that has spared no county, rural or urban. Gov. Steve Sisolak’s tightened restrictions on business capacity and private gatherings are set to expire on Jan. 15, unless he extends them.
BRISBANE, Australia — Authorities in Brisbane, Australia, are locking the city down for three days beginning Friday, after a cleaner at a quarantine hotel was diagnosed with a highly contagious variant of the coronavirus first identified in Britain.
The Queensland state government says masks will also be compulsory for the first time in Brisbane and the surrounding municipalities of Logan, Ipswich, Moreton Bay and Redlands.
The state's chief health officer said “we need to act really, really fast.”
While several cases of the variant have been found in travelers in hotel quarantine, the cleaner is the first person to be infected with it in Australia. Authorities believe the woman was infectious after Jan. 2. She tested positive after showing symptoms Wednesday.
TOPEKA, Kan. — Kansas expects to finish giving coronavirus vaccinations to long-term care residents and health care workers by the end of this month and has moved people aged 65 and older into the next group to receive the shots.
Gov. Laura Kelly on Thursday announced new details about the order in which the state’s residents will be eligible for inoculations.
Making people ages 65 to 74 an earlier priority was the biggest shift. The state’s previous plan had that age group getting theirs after people in “congregate” living, such as state hospitals, shelters for the homeless, and prisons.
SAO PAULO — Brazil has passed 200,000 deaths from the coronavirus pandemic. That is the second highest total in the world.
The health ministry said Thursday that the country had 1,524 deaths in the previous 24 hours, rising to a total of 200,498 for the pandemic.
The milestone was reached as Brazilians are once again crowding their beaches.
Many Brazilians have been straining against quarantine for months, going to bars or small gatherings with friends, but massive blowouts had been few and far between since the pandemic began. Then big festivities kicked off after the Southern Hemisphere’s summer started Dec. 21.