The Latest: Biden nominee comments on 2021 vaccine rollout

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee for U.S. surgeon general says it’s more realistic to think it may be mid-summer or early fall before coronavirus vaccines are available to the general population in the United States, rather than late spring.

Speaking on Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Vivek Murthy said Biden’s team is working toward having coronavirus vaccines available to lower-risk individuals by late spring but doing so requires “everything to go exactly on schedule.”

“I think it’s more realistic to assume that it may be closer to mid-summer or early fall when this vaccine makes its way to the general population,” Murthy said. “So, we want to be optimistic, but we want to be cautious as well.”

Murthy, who also served as surgeon general in the Obama administration, said Biden’s promise of 100 million vaccines during his first 100 days in office is realistic and that the Biden team has seen more cooperation from Trump administration officials.

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THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— European countries halt U.K. flights, fearing the new coronavirus variant.

— Asia Today: Outbreak grows in Sydney’s beach suburbs; Thais line up for tests.

— A surge of ‘new poor’ linked to closed restaurants and hotels are struggling amid Italy’s outbreak.

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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:

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s surgeon general is defending Trump’s not getting a coronavirus vaccine, saying there are medical reasons for it.

U.S. Surgeon General and Vice Admiral Jerome Adams, speaking on CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday, noted that Trump both contracted COVID-19 in October and was treated with monoclonal antibodies.

“And that is actually one scenario where we tell people maybe you should hold off on getting the vaccine, talk to your health provider to find out the right time,” Adams said.

Asked about Trump doing a public-service announcement for the vaccine to encourage his supporters to get it, Adams noted that both he and Vice President Mike Pence got vaccinated.

Adams, who is Black, said he understands that mistrust of the medical community and the vaccine among Blacks “comes from a real place,” the mistreatment of communities of color.

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JERUSALEM __ Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the country is banning flights from Britain, Denmark or South Africa due to fears about the new strain of coronavirus.

“Those are the countries where the mutation is found,” he said.

He also said Sunday that anyone returning from those countries would have to go into mandatory 14-day quarantine in state-run hotels.

Netanyahu spoke a day after he was vaccinated against the coronavirus – the first Israeli to do so in what he said was an attempt to encourage the public to follow suit. Israel pushed ahead with its vaccination campaign on Sunday, beginning with other top officials and front-line health-care workers.

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LONDON — Eurostar trains between London, Brussels and Amsterdam are being canceled from Monday, after the Belgian government announced that borders with the U.K will close at midnight Sunday.

The high-speed train operator said Sunday that trains continue to operate on the London to Paris route.

The Belgian government has said it will review the position in 24 hours. Eurostar said they’re awaiting further details from relevant governments on how travel restrictions will be enforced.

European countries including the Netherlands, Austria and Italy said Sunday they would halt flights from the U.K., hours after Britain’s government imposed tough new coronavirus restrictions on large areas of southern England to curb what officials described as a fast-moving new strain of the virus.

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MILAN — Both the number of COVID deaths and new positives were significantly lower on Sunday, a day when typically many fewer tests are carried out.

Deaths rose by 352, down by several hundred from recent days, and bringing Italy’s known coronavirus dead to 68,799, the highest in Europe.

Another 15,104 people tested positive, down by over 1,000 from a day earlier as the number of tests dropped by nearly a quarter. Sunday marked the last day Italians were permitted to move from one region to another without a valid motive, including work and health.

The government has imposed more stringent restrictions for the Christmas holiday in a bid to prevent celebrations from setting of a new surge. Shopping streets in major cities were packed ahead of the imposition of a partial lockdown this week.

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HONOLULU — A coronavirus outbreak at Hawaii’s largest prison continues to escalate.

The state Department of Public Safety said Saturday that an additional 55 inmates and eight employees have tested positive for the coronavirus at the Halawa Correctional Facility.

KITV-TV reports that the total number of active cases in the prison now encompasses 325 inmates and 43 staffers.

The Department of Public Safety had announced a lockdown and other measures to try to control the outbreak, which initially infected three inmates and 10 staffers last week.

The outbreak at Halawa is the third major correctional facility in the state to face coronavirus issues since the pandemic began.

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ROME — Italy’s foreign minister announced Sunday that Italy is suspending flights from Britain “to protect Italians” from the new coronavirus variant.

Luigi Di Maio tweeted that the government was preparing a measure that would block flights. It wasn’t immediately clear when it would it would take effect.

Italian media reports indicate about two dozen flights are scheduled to arrive in Italy on Sunday, most in the northern region of Lombardy but also in Veneto and Lazio, which include Venice and Rome, respectively.

More than 327,000 Italian citizens are registered as living in Britain, with the unofficial total reaching as many as 700,000. Sunday is the last day that Italians can travel from one region to another before the Christmas holidays, due to a new partial lockdown imposed by the government to prevent a new surge in infections.

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BANGKOK — Thousands of people lined up for coronavirus tests in a province near Bangkok on Sunday, as Thai authorities scrambled to contain an outbreak that has infected nearly 700 people.

Lines of mainly migrant workers stretched for around 100 meters in one location alone in Mahachai in Samut Sakhon province, as health officials in mobile units methodically took nasal swabs.

There were three locations in total in the area. Nearby, razor wire and police guards blocked access to one of Thailand’s largest seafood markets and its associated housing complex, the epicenter of the new cluster.

Thailand’s Disease Control Department said Sunday that they found 141 more cases linked to the market outbreak. On Saturday, the department reported 548 cases, Thailand’s biggest daily spike.

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PRAGUE — The Czech Republic is imposing restrictions on travels from Britain following a discovery of a new, allegedly highly contagious strain of coronavirus in southern England.

The Czech Health Ministry says that given the risk linked to the new variant that was confirmed in Britain all people arriving in the country who spent at least 24 hours on British territory in last two weeks have to isolate.

The ministry says they have to stay isolated for 10 days unless they are tested negative by a PCR test five to seven days into their self-isolation.

It says it measure whose goal is to increase public safety becomes effective on Sunday.

Belgium and the Netherlands started banning flights from the U.K. in reaction to tougher measures imposed in London and surrounding areas on Saturday by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Germany, The Czech Republic’s neighbor, is considering doing the same.

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ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s minister for planning who also heads the national body for control of Coronavirus tested positive and went in isolation at home as authorities reported another 80 deaths and 3297 cases of COVID-19 during the last 24 hours Sunday.

Asad Umar on Saturday announced his isolation because of the virus. Umar appealed to fellow countrymen to adhere to precautionary measures of physical distancing and wearing of face masks at all the time when in public or at gatherings. But many people in this nation of 22 million rarely follow the guidelines for avoiding COVID-19.

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BERLIN — Germany is considering limiting flights from Britain to make sure that a new, allegedly highly contagious strain of coronavirus that is sweeping across southern England does not spill over to Germany, the dpa news agency reported Sunday.

A high-ranking German government official told dpa that restrictions on flights from Britain are a “serious option.”

Belgium and the Netherlands started banning flights from the U.K. in reaction to tougher measures imposed in London and surrounding areas on Saturday by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Johnson said a fast-moving new variant of the virus that is 70% more transmissible than existing strains appears to be driving the rapid spread of new infections in London and southern England.

The German government, which holds the EU’s rotating presidency, is in close contact with its European neighbors on developing situation, dpa reported.

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BRUSSELS — Belgium has joined the Netherlands in banning flights from the U.K. and also banned rail connections in an attempt to make sure that a new strain of coronavirus that is sweeping across southern England does not spill over on its territory.

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo on Sunday said he was issuing the order for 24 hours starting at midnight “out of precaution.”

“There are a great many questions about this new mutation and if it is not already on the mainland,” he said. He hoped to have more clarity as of Tuesday.

The Netherlands is banning flights from the U.K. for at least the rest of the year.

Both Belgium and the Netherlands were reacting to tougher measures imposed in London and surrounding areas on Saturday by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

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AMSTERDAM — The Netherlands is banning flights from the U.K. for at least the rest of the year in an attempt to make sure that a new strain of coronavirus that is sweeping across southern England does not reach its shores.

The ban came into effect Sunday morning and the government said it was reacting to tougher measures imposed in London and surrounding areas on Saturday by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The Netherlands said it will assess “with other European Union nations the possibilities to contain the import of the virus from the United Kingdom.”

Johnson said a fast-moving new variant of the virus that is 70% more transmissible than existing strains appears to be driving the rapid spread of new infections in London and southern England.

“There’s no evidence to suggest it is more lethal or causes more severe illness,” the prime minister stressed, or that vaccines will be less effective against it.

The Dutch government is already strongly advising its citizens not to travel unless absolutely necessary.

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JERUSALEM — Israel on Sunday began its coronavirus inoculation drive, aiming to vaccinate some 60,000 people a day in a bid to stamp out the illness that is once again surging among its population.

The country will first immunize health workers, followed by the elderly, high-risk Israelis and those over 60 years old. Israel says it has secured sufficient doses for much of the country’s 9 million people from both Pfizer and Moderna, whose vaccine U.S. authorities approved this week for emergency use.

With public opinion polls showing many Israelis are reluctant to receive shots right away, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would set a “personal example” and insisted on being the first Israeli vaccinated. He received the shot Saturday night.

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SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has recorded more than 1,000 new coronavirus cases for the fifth consecutive day, putting pressure on authorities to enforce the toughest distancing rules that would further hurt the economy.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency says it’s found 1,097 additional cases over the past 24-hour period, the highest daily tally since the pandemic began. That puts the national caseload at 49,665, including 674 deaths.

About 70% of the new cases come from the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, which has been at the center of a viral resurgence.

The pace of the spread has already met government conditions for raising social distancing rules to their highest level. But officials have been reluctant to move forward with the measure out of worries for the economy. The new steps would be banning gatherings of more than 10 people and shutting hundreds of thousands of non-essential businesses.

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Follow AP’s coverage at:

https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic

https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine

https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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