The Latest: More restrictions in store for hard-hit Madrid

MADRID — Health authorities in Madrid may extend to more communities the restrictions on movement it imposed on areas of the Spanish capital with high coronavirus infection rates.

About 860,000 Madrid residents already are required to justify trips out of 37 neighborhoods, mostly working-class areas. People have complained that the restrictions stigmatize the poor.

The region’s deputy health chief, Antonio Zapatero, said Wednesday that a decision on additional measures, including possible customer limits in restaurants, would be announced on Friday,

Zapatero said the outbreak situation in the Madrid region, which has a population of 6.6 million, was one of “sustained increase.”

Madrid had a contagion rate of 772 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in 14 days, nearly three times Spain’s national average of 287 cases per 100,000.

Other parts of the country are also seeing increases in new confirmed cases. Spain recorded 241 more virus-related deaths on Tuesday, bringing the total death toll to 30,904.

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

— 200,000 dead in the US as Trump vilifies science, prioritizes politics

— Pandemic means world leaders who skipped past UN meetings get their moment

— Israel has reported a new record level of daily cases of coronavirus as government officials planned to discuss tightening a new nationwide lockdown.

— One of only four doctors managing the COVID-19 unit at a Sierra Leone hospital is fighting to save his coronavirus patients but also to provide quality care for those afflicted with other infectious diseases.

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Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis says all segments of society, especially the poor, have a role to play in making the world a better place after the coronavirus and that drug companies shouldn’t get a bigger say than front line health workers.

Francis called Wednesday for an inclusive rethink of the economic, social and political structures of the global economy that have showed their weaknesses during the pandemic. He spoke during his weekly general audience, held in a Vatican courtyard before a few dozen masked faithful.

Francis has long insisted on the need to involve society’s most marginalized groups, such as indigenous, poor and elderly people, in making decisions about their own futures.

On Wednesday, he extended that concept to the virus, saying: “Everyone needs to have the possibility of assuming responsibility in the process of healing the society of which he or she is a part.”

The pope added: “The large pharmaceutical companies are listened to more than the healthcare workers employed on the front lines in hospitals or in refugee camps. This is not a good path.”

Francis next week is expected to release an encyclical on fraternity and solidarity in the post-COVID world.

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LONDON — The British government is defending its strategy for combatting a second wave of coronavirus infections from criticism that new restrictions didn’t go far enough to stop the exponential spread of the virus.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled a slate of new rules on Tuesday to stem the renewed outbreak, including a 10 p.m. curfew on bars and restaurants, increased use of face masks and again encouraging people to work from home.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told Sky News on Wednesday that the government’s approach was “focused, balanced and proportionate.” He says that if everyone complies with the measures, they will be enough to prevent a second national lockdown “with all the impact on society and families but also the damage it would do to businesses.”

Many health experts said the government’s plan wouldn’t be enough to stop the rapid spread of COVID-19 infections.

The dean of epidemiology and population health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, John Edmunds, says the government needs to quickly impose much wider restrictions or risk losing control of the virus.

Edmunds told the BBC: “We will have let the epidemic double and double and double again until we take those measures.”

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BERLIN — Austrian authorities are canceling the 2021 Vienna Opera Ball in February, a high society highlight, because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Chancellor Sebastian Kurz told the Austria Press Agency that the ball is a “flagship” for Vienna and for Austria as a cultural nation but that it would be “irresponsible” to press ahead as usual.

Austria, like many other European countries, has seen a resurgence of new infections recently and has tightened some restrictions on public life.

Culture minister Andrea Mayer said the Opera Ball requires extensive planning and authorities can’t assume at the moment that a relaxed event with 7,000 people dancing will be feasible on Feb. 11.

But she said the decision doesn’t affect operas and concerts in Vienna, which are going ahead with hygiene precautions.

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NEW DELHI — India added 83,347 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, showing some decline after a record 97,000 a week ago.

The past six days have shown some drop in the new cases. Wednesday’s increase reported by the Health Ministry raised the nation’s total to more than 5.6 million, which is on pace to pass the U.S. total within weeks.

The ministry said 1,085 more people died in the past 24 hours, for a total of 90,020.

The Health Ministry said more than 80% of people infected have recovered, leaving less than 1 million active cases.

Balram Bhargava, director-general of the Indian Council for Medical Research, said vaccines with 50% efficacy will be approved for use against the coronavirus.

That’s the benchmark set by the World Health Organization as no vaccine for respiratory diseases has a 100% efficacy, he told reporters on Tuesday.

Categories: AP National News