The Latest: Global deaths reach 2 million from coronavirus

MEXICO CITY — The global death toll from the coronavirus has topped 2 million.

It crossed the threshold on Friday, according to tally kept by Johns Hopkins University. The bleak milestone comes amid a monumental but uneven effort to vaccinate people against the coronavirus.

Some countries are seeing real hope of vanquishing outbreaks. In wealthy countries including the United States, Britain, Israel, Canada and Germany, tens of millions of citizens have already received shots. But elsewhere, immunization drives have barely gotten off the ground.

Many health experts are predicting another year of loss and hardship in places like Iran, India, Mexico and Brazil. Those four countries collectively account for about a quarter of the world’s deaths.

The U.S. leads the world with nearly 390,000 confirmed deaths.

___

THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

Pfizer temporarily reduces European deliveries of vaccine. Desperate effort to bring oxygen supplies to the Brazilian rainforest’s biggest city. City in northern China builds 3,000-unit quarantine facility to handle anticipated overflow of COVID-19 patients. Dismal vaccination rates in four southern U.S. states worry health experts.

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden has unveiled $1.9 trillion plan for tackling the coronavirus pandemic and provide 100 million vaccines in 100 days. Spain insists it can stay open and still beat the virus while much of Europe is increasingly locked down.

___

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

___

HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

COPENHAGEN, Denmark — U.S. pharmaceutical company Pfizer has confirmed it will temporarily reduce deliveries to Europe of its COVID-19 vaccine while it upgrades production capacity to 2 billion vaccine doses per year.

“This temporary reduction will affect all European countries,” a spokeswoman for Pfizer Denmark said in a statement to The Associated Press. Germany’s Health Ministry says Pfizer had informed the European Commission, which was responsible for ordering vaccines from the company, that it won’t be able to fulfill all of the promised deliveries in the coming three to four weeks.

The ministry says German officials took note of the unexpected announcement by the Commission “with regret” because the company had made binding delivery commitments by mid-February.

___

TORONTO — Canada’s procurement minister says production issues in Europe will temporarily reduce Pfizer’s ability to deliver vaccines.

Minister Anita Anand says the U.S. drug-maker is temporarily reducing deliveries because of issues with its European production lines. She adds while the company says it will still deliver 4 million doses by the end of March, that is no longer guaranteed.

Canada has received just 380,000 doses of the vaccine and was supposed to get another 400,000 this month. It is expecting nearly 2 million doses in February. Canada hopes to vaccinate everyone who wants to be vaccinated by September.

___

SALEM, Ore. — Oregon Gov. Kate Brown says the state’s efforts to increase COVID-19 vaccinations have been thrown in disarray because of “deception on a national scale” by the Trump administration.

The Democrat wrote on Twitter that she was told by General Gustave F. Perna, who leads the “Operation Warp Speed” federal vaccine effort, states won’t receive increased shipments of vaccines from the national stockpile next week “because there is no federal reserve of doses.”

Brown wrote: “I am demanding answers from the Trump Administration. I am shocked and appalled that they have set an expectation on which they could not deliver, with such grave consequences.”

On Thursday, officials from the Oregon Health Authority announced vaccination sites had met the goal of 12,000 coronavirus vaccine doses a day. The state has administered a total of 146,137 first and second doses of vaccines.

___

COLUMBIA, Mo. — The Missouri House canceled work next week because of a rising number of coronavirus cases in the capitol.

Republican House leaders announced the decision late Thursday.

“Due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the building, we are exercising an abundance of caution to protect members, staff, and visitors by canceling session next week,” top Republican representatives said in a joint statement.

House leaders didn’t specify how many lawmakers and staffers are ill, but at least two lawmakers tested positive and another is in quarantine.

House leaders plan to return to work the week of Jan. 25. Senate leaders have not yet announced whether they plan to cancel work next week.

___

ATLANTA — The coronavirus vaccines have been rolled out unevenly across the U.S., but some states in the Deep South have had particularly dismal inoculation rates. Data from the states and the CDC shows less than 2% of the population in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and South Carolina had received its first dose of a vaccine at the start of this week.

So far, the highest states have managed to vaccinate about 5% of their populations.

As in other parts of the country, southern states face challenges: limited vaccine supplies, some health care workers who refuse the shot and bureaucratic systems not equipped to schedule the huge number of appointments.

Public health researchers note the South has typically lagged in funding public health systems and addressing disparities in care for its large rural populations.

___

DENVER — Senior citizens are scrambling to figure out how to sign up to get their shots.

Many states and counties ask people 65 and older to make appointments online. But glitchy websites, overwhelmed phone lines and a patchwork of fast-changing rules are bedeviling older people who are often less tech-savvy, live far from vaccination sites and are more likely to not have internet access at all.

States have thrown open the line to many of the nation’s 54 million senior citizens with the blessing of President Donald Trump’s administration, though the minimum age varies from place to place at 65, 70 or higher.

Doctors and other health officials are saying there’s a flood of confusion, and some places are looking for solutions, like partnering with community groups.

The U.S. recorded an all-time high of 4,327 deaths on Tuesday, according to Johns Hopkins University. The nation’s overall death toll has topped 388,000.

___

ROME — Italy’s beleaguered premier, Giuseppe Conte, has signed a new series of restrictions aimed at containing the coronavirus resurgence.

Conte has lost the support of a small but key coalition partner over his handling of some aspects of the crisis. Meanwhile, the new rules running through Feb. 15 extend the ban on traveling between regions and maintains a 10 p.m.-5 a.m. curfew.

The opening of ski lifts has been postponed for a second time. And in a rule hotly contested by regional leaders, bars must close completely at 6 p.m., and cannot offer take-away or delivery as is permitted by restaurants.

Italy has been operating on a three-tier set of restrictions.

___

BERLIN — The Austrian capital of Vienna will vaccinate thousands of medical workers in the coming four days.

Authorities in Vienna plan to give first shots to 11,000 people, the majority general practitioners, specialists and their staff.

The shots are being administered at Vienna’s main convention center and will be available to hundreds of paramedics, nurses and independent midwives.

Mayor Michael Ludwig says giving priority to medical workers would help show the rest of the population that the vaccines are safe.

___

BEIRUT — Lebanon’s parliament has approved a draft law to allow the importing of vaccines.

The approval Friday opens the way for imports of vaccines from around the world, including the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

Health Minister Hamad Hassan, who is hospitalized with the coronavirus, had said that once the draft law is approved, the first deliveries of vaccines should start arriving in February.

Lebanon a tiny country of about six million people has witnessed a sharp increase of cases in recent weeks, with some 80,000 expatriates flying in to celebrate Christmas and New Year.

Lebanon has reserved 2.7 million doses of vaccines from multiple international companies and 2.1 million to be provided by Pfizer, Diab’s office says.

Lebanon has registered nearly 240,000 of coronavirus cases and some 1,800 confirmed deaths.

___

WASHINGTON — President-elect Joe Biden also is tapping former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner David Kessler to help lead the incoming administration’s vaccine rollout and development program.

Kessler has been advising Biden as a co-chair of his advisory board on the coronavirus pandemic. He served in the FDA from 1990 to 1997, under Presidents George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

The pick of Kessler comes after Biden on Thursday called the Trump administration’s rollout of coronavirus vaccines a “dismal failure” and says he will unveil his own plans on Friday to speed up inoculations.

He will replace Moncef Slaoui, a researcher and former drug company executive who led Operation Warp Speed for the Trump administration, Slaoui will become a consultant to Operation Warp Speed.

Kessler will work with Gen. Gustave Perna, who will continue as chief operating officer.

___

NEW DELHI — The government of Nepal has asked India for early provision of coronavirus vaccines even as New Delhi indicates that it may be some time before it starts meeting demands from abroad.

Nepal’s Foreign Minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali made the request during the sixth meeting of the India-Nepal Joint Commission.

Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Brazil are among several countries looking to secure vaccine supplies from India, which has given clearance for the emergency use for the vaccine developed by Oxford University and U.K.-based drugmaker AstraZeneca, and another developed by the Indian company Bharat Biotech.

The spokesman for India’s External Affairs Ministry, Anurag Srivastava, said Thursday that it was too soon to comment on the country’s ability to provide vaccines to other countries.

On Saturday, India is launching an immunization program aimed at vaccinating 300 million people — healthcare workers, frontline workers including police, and those considered vulnerable due to their age or other diseases — by August 2021.

___

BERLIN — Germany’s president has called on white-collar workers to refrain from going to the office, if possible, to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in a televised speech Friday that “less is more, particularly in these days.” He was flanked by the heads of Germany’s trade union federation and the main employers’ association.

Steinmeier said he was particularly concerned about the possible increased contagiousness of a variant of the virus first detected in Britain and discovered in continental Europe.

Chancellor Angela Merkel plans to hold talks with the governors of Germany’s 16 states on Tuesday to discuss further measures to tackle the pandemic.

___

BERLIN — Germany has passed the mark of 2 million confirmed coronavirus infections since the start of the pandemic.

The country’s disease control agency says there were 22,368 newly confirmed cases over the past 24-hour period, taking the total to 2,000,958.

The Robert Koch Institute says there have been 44,994 deaths linked to the coronavirus, an increase of 1,113 in a day.

___

BRUSSELS — Belgium is strengthening its rules for travelers entering the country by train or bus in a bid to limit the spread of a possibly more contagious variant of the coronavirus first detected in Britain.

In a statement Friday, Belgium’s Interior ministry said travelers arriving from a country outside the European Union or the Schengen space with a high contamination rate will be submitted to the same rules as those coming by boat or plane.

According to virologist Marc Van Ranst, who spoke to local broadcaster VRT on Friday, about 100 cases of people infected by new variants of the virus have been registered so far in Belgium.

More than 20,000 people have died of COVID-19-related causes in Belgium, a country with 11.5 million inhabitants. Health authorities say there were 17,966 additional deaths in the country in 2020 compared with the previous year.

___

ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s education minister says authorities will start reopening schools in phases from Jan. 18 despite a steady increase in deaths and infections from the coronavirus.

Schools were closed in November when data showed that the country’s positivity rate had jumped to about 7 percent.

The rate has since come down to 5.9 percent, which is still high, according to experts.

Education minister Shafqat Mahmood said Friday officials decided to reopen schools in phases because the government doesn’t want to stop the learning process for children.

His remarks at a televised press conference came hours after Pakistan reported 2,417 new cases and 45 more deaths. Pakistan has reported a total of 514,338 infections and 10,863 confirmed deaths.

___

BEIJING — China says it is treating more than 1,000 people for COVID-19 as numbers of cases continue to surge in the country’s north.

The National Health Commission says 1,001 patients are under care for the disease, 26 in serious condition. It says 144 total new cases were recorded in the previous 24 hours.

The province of Hebei, just outside Beijing, accounted for 90 of the new cases, while Heilongjiang province farther north reported 43 new cases.

While there have been no reports of hospital bed shortages, Hebei has begun constructing a new quarantine center outside the provincial capital of Shijiazhuang in case it is needed.

Shijiazhuang and the cities of Xingtai and Langfang are under virtual lockdown, confining more than 20 million people to their homes.

___

WILMINGTON, Del. — President-elect Joe Biden says he knows his $1.9 trillion coronavirus plan “does not come cheaply” but he says America can’t afford to fail to pass the plan.

Biden said Thursday night that by investing now “boldly, smartly and with unwavering focus on American workers and families,” the plan will strengthen the economy, address inequity and set America on a more sustainable financial course.

Biden said “we have to act now” to help the “millions of Americans, through no fault of their own,” who have lost “the dignity and respect that comes with a job and a paycheck.”

He discussed the framework of his $1.9 trillion “American Rescue Plan,” which includes $1,400 checks for most Americans and would extend a temporary boost in unemployment benefits and a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures through September.

The proposal includes a plan to speed up the vaccine rollout and provide financial help to individuals, states and local governments and businesses struggling with the prolonged economic fallout.

___

Categories: AP National News