The Latest: Germany vows that virus vaccines will be safe

BERLIN — Germany’s science minister says the same safety standards are being applied in the approval process for coronavirus vaccines as for other drugs.

Anja Karliczek told reporters on Tuesday that ensuring the same standards is key to gaining the widest possible public acceptance for the COVID vaccine.

Karliczek noted that the European Medicines Agency will be holding a public hearing on Dec. 11 on an approval request by German pharmaceutical company BioNTech and its U.S. partner Pfizer.

She added that the vaccine will be voluntary and that authorities will work hard to inform the public about possible side effects that might be excepted after immunization, such as headaches, localized pain and fever.

Marylyn Addo, a doctor at Hamburg’s UKE hospital who is involved in the trials for a rival vaccine, said that the rapid development of a vaccine was the result of enormous efforts by scientists, early funding and experience from previous vaccines.

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THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— BioNTech and Pfizer ask European regulator for emergency approva l for their coronavirus vaccine

— Americans face new COVID-19 restrictions after Thanksgiving

— At tiny rural hospitals, exhausted medical workers t reat friends and family

— Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton tests positive for coronavirus

— U.K. stocks up on vaccines, hopes to start virus shots within days

— Virus forces businesses to adapt or close down on the streets of London

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

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

BERLIN — German pharmaceutical company BioNTech and its U.S. partner Pfizer say they have submitted an application for conditional approval of their coronavirus vaccine with the European Medicines Agency.

The two companies said Tuesday that the submission, which occurred Monday, completes the rolling review process they initiated with the agency on Oct. 6.

The move comes a day after rival Moderna said it was asking U.S. and European regulators to allow emergency use of its COVID-19 vaccine.

BioNTech said that if the vaccine, currently named BNT162b2, is approved, its use in Europe could begin before the end of 2020.

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ROUEN, France — Lockdowns that are forcing millions of people to once again stay home — cutting them off from families and friends, shuttering businesses they invested in, university classes that fed their minds and the nightspots where they socialized — has begun to turn back the coronavirus resurgence in France.

Still, in the country that passed the bleak milestone of 52,000 dead in November, the costs to mental health have been considerable.

With numbers now falling for French COVID-19 patients in intensive care, psychiatrists are facing a follow-up wave of psychological distress. Health authorities’ surveys point to a surge of depression most acute among people without work, those in financial hardship and young adults.

The Rouvray Hospital Center in the Normandy town of Rouen is among places where psychiatrists are finding themselves on the front line of the pandemic’s mental-health fallout. They are fearful that a growing crisis of depression, anxiety and worse may be on the horizon as more livelihoods, futures and hopes are lost to the pandemic.

Associated Press journalists spent 10 hours in the sprawling 535-bed facility, the day after French President Emmanuel Macron laid out a blueprint stretching into mid-January for the gradual lifting of lockdown restrictions.

“Being alone between four walls is terrible,” one patient says. “The halting of life like this, it reverberates on people. It is not good.”

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BRUSSELS — Nonessential shops in Belgium were reopening Tuesday in the wake of encouraging figures about declining daily coronavirus infection rates and hospital admissions.

The government is fearful, however, that the change might lead to massive gatherings in the nation’s most popular shopping centers and streets. Over the weekend, pre-Christmas light festivals already led to crowded scenes in several cities, prompting warnings from virologists about the dangers of reopening too soon.

Belgium, host to the headquarters of the 27-nation European Union, has been one of the hardest-hit countries in Europe during the pandemic. Belgium has reported more than 16,500 deaths linked to the virus during two surges in the spring and the fall.

Under the new rules, shopping has to be done alone or with a minor or a dependant person. Time in a shop is limited to half an hour. Restaurants and bars remain closed.

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UNITED NATIONS — Nobel Peace Prize laureate Nadia Murad says the COVID-19 pandemic has increased trafficking of women and gender-based violence, leaving the health and safety of women “on the line.”

The 27-year-old activist, who was forced into sexual slavery by Islamic State fighters in Iraq, said curfews, lockdowns and travel restrictions imposed by governments to slow the spread of the virus “have had unintended consequences on women worldwide.”

“Rather than reducing human trafficking and gender-based violence, the pandemic has increased the risk of exploitation and brutality against those most vulnerable,” she said.

Murad said domestic tensions have intensified in confined living spaces, and stay-at-home orders “are increasing human trafficking farther underground, out of sight of law enforcement.”

A member of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, Murad was among thousands of women and girls who were captured and forced into sexual slavery by Islamic State extremists in 2014. Her mother and six brothers were killed by Islamic State fighters. She became an activist on behalf of women and girls after escaping and finding refuge in Germany, and shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 2018.

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HANOI, Vietnam — Vietnamese authorities are conducting intensive contact tracing after the country’s first confirmed local transmission of the coronavirus in 89 days.

State media said Tuesday that a 32-year-old man in Ho Chi Minh City tested positive for the coronavirus on Monday after visiting a flight attendant who was undergoing self-quarantine at his home following his return from Japan two weeks ago. The flight attendant tested positive on Saturday, the Tuoi Tre newspaper said.

Health authorities ordered 137 people who had been in close contact with the man to stay in a central quarantine facility and shut down an English center where the man works as a teacher.

The new case ended Vietnam’s streak of 89 days without any known local transmission of the virus. Vietnam’s borders remain closed in an attempt to keep out the virus. Only limited international flights are operating to repatriate Vietnamese nationals and transport foreign diplomats and experts.

The country has reported 1,347 coronavirus cases, including 35 deaths.

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HONG KONG — Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam on Tuesday urged residents to stay home as the city grapples with a resurgence of the coronavirus, which has infected over 500 people in the past week.

Lam asked citizens to “refrain from social gatherings” and said that people, in particular the elderly, should remain at home.

“The latest wave of the epidemic is rather severe. Every one of us should do our best and exercise a high level of discipline to fight the pandemic,” she said at a regular news conference. “The coming two weeks is a crucial period.”

Many of the new infections in Hong Kong have been tied to dance studios, and outbreaks have also been found among staff and guests at several restaurants.

The new wave of infections has led authorities to tighten social distancing restrictions, including closing entertainment venues such as karaoke bars and game centers and limiting public gatherings to two people.

The growing number of cases has delayed a “travel bubble” between Singapore and Hong Kong initially slated for November.

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MANILA, Philippines — Coronavirus quarantine restrictions will remain imposed in the Philippine capital during the Christmas season this month and officials said they will ban big Christmas parties in Asia’s largest Roman Catholic nation to prevent new infection spikes.

President Rodrigo Duterte said in televised remarks late Monday that aside from Metropolitan Manila, the bustling capital region of more than 12 million, the “general community quarantine” would be imposed in seven other cities and provinces in December.

The restrictions ban large public gatherings, actual school classes and entertainment businesses but allow shopping malls, restaurants and essential shops, including barber shops, to operate with required safeguards, including the wearing of face masks and shields and social distancing.

Duterte lamented that many still defy quarantine restrictions like the wearing of face masks and warned of a possible resurgence of infections like in some Western countries.

“In the Philippines, it’s hard-headedness,” Duterte said.

The Philippines has reported more than 431,600 confirmed coronavirus infections, the second-highest in Southeast Asia, with at least 8,392 deaths.

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UNITED NATIONS — The head of the world’s largest humanitarian network is urging governments and institutions to combat “fake news” about COVID-19 vaccines which has become “a second pandemic” and start building trust in communities around the world about the critical importance of vaccinating people.

Francesco Rocca, president of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said in a virtual briefing to the U.N. Correspondents Association on Monday that “to beat this pandemic, we also have to defeat the parallel pandemic of distrust.”

He said there is “a growing hesitancy about vaccines in general, and about a COVID vaccine in particular” around the world, pointing to a recent Johns Hopkins University study in 67 countries that found vaccine acceptance declined significantly in most countries from July to October this year.

In a quarter of countries, Rocca said, the study found that the acceptance rate for a vaccine against the coronavirus was near or below 50 percent, with Japan dropping from 70 percent to 50 percent acceptance, and France dropping from 51 percent to 38 percent acceptance.

He stressed that the lack of trust “is by no means a Western phenomenon,” citing the federation’s research in recent months in eight African countries — Congo, Cameroon, Gabon, Zimbabwe, Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Lesotho and Kenya — which showed a steady decline in the perceptions of the risk of COVID-19 infection.

A growing number of people indicated the virus doesn’t affect young people or Africans, that the disease doesn’t exist now but did exist and the pandemic has ended, he said.

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California could see a tripling of hospitalizations by Christmas and is considering stay-home orders for areas with the highest case rates as it tries to head off concerns that severe coronavirus cases could overwhelm intensive care beds, officials said Monday.

“The red flags are flying in terms of the trajectory in our projections of growth,” said Gov. Gavin Newsom. “If these trends continue, we’re going to have to take much more dramatic, arguably drastic, action.”

Hospitalizations have increased 89% over the past 14 days and nearly 7,800 coronavirus patients were hospitalized as of Monday. About 12% of Californians testing positive are likely to need hospital care within the next two to three weeks.

The biggest concern is intensive care cases, which have increased 67% in the past two weeks. If that continues, it would push ICU beds to 112% of capacity by mid-December.

That statistic is likely to drive state-mandated stay-at-home orders in 51 of California’s 58 counties that already are seeing the most restrictions on business activities, said Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state’s secretary of health and human services.

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TORONTO — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government is vowing to spend tens of billions more dollars to help the country recover from the pandemic.

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland says the country is facing its most severe challenge since the second World War, the worst economic shock since the Great Depression and the worse health crisis since the Spanish flu over a century ago.

The cost to date has the federal deficit reaching a record $381.6 billion Canadian (US$294 billion) this year, but the government says it could close in on $400 billion Canadian (US$308 billion) if widespread lockdowns return in the coming weeks. Toronto, Canada’s largest city, is on lockdown.

The government’s fall economic update proposes to send extra child benefit payments to families next year. The government is proposing $25 billion Canadian (US$19 billion) in new spending.

Categories: National News