The Latest: China OKs 1st homegrown vaccine for coronavirus

BEIJING — China has approved its first homegrown COVID-19 vaccine for general use, marking the addition of another vaccine as the virus surges back around the world.

The two-dose vaccine from state-owned Sinopharm is the first approved in China. The go-ahead comes shortly after the country launched a program to vaccinate 50 million people before the Lunar New Year holiday in February.

It also comes one day after British regulators authorized AstraZeneca’s inexpensive and easy-to-handle vaccine.

Sinopharm says preliminary data from last-stage trials had shown the vaccine to be 79.3% effective. Experts say data such as the size of the control group and how many were vaccinated is missing.

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THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— 2020 is finally ending, but New Year’s Eve revelries around the world will be muted by the coronavirus

— A homegrown coronavirus vaccine has won the first approval for general use in China; Sinopharm says it’s 79.3% effective

— More contagious variant found in California, where health officials warn people to avoid New Year’s Eve gatherings

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

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

ROME — Italy’s interior minister has ordered 70,000 law enforcement officers to patrol New Year’s Eve to ensure that no illegal gatherings take place.

Minister Luciana Lamorgese says this year’s celebrations will be “more sober” than usual, due to restrictions in place to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

The country with the highest death toll in Europe, topping 73,000, is under a modified lockdown, permitting just one outing a day for up to two people to visit friends or family in the same region.

Italians typically celebrate with friends or family at home or in restaurants. But restaurants are not permitted any indoor dining, and anyone staying a hotel for New Year’s Eve will be limited to room service. Fireworks will go on as scheduled at midnight over the Colosseum in Rome, but viewing will be from balconies only due to the nationwide 10 p.m. curfew.

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CONAKRY, Guinea — Guinea officials say the government has begun inoculating against the coronavirus with the Russian Sputnik V vaccine on an experimental basis, starting with government officials.

Guinea has ordered only 55 doses of the Russian vaccine, says Dr. Sakoba Keita, the director-general of the National Health Security Agency. Guinea is one of the first African nations to vaccinate its officials.

Minister of Defense Mohamed Diané was the first to receive the vaccine. He was shown getting the inoculation on national TV followed by other Cabinet ministers receiving the shots.

Russia has businesses in the West African nation and Guinea is known for its bauxite mining. Russian President Vladimir Putin was among the first world leaders to congratulate Guinea’s President Alpha Conde after he won a controversial third term in office after a violently contested election in October.

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ISTANBUL — A four-day lockdown is set to begin in Turkey at 9 p.m. Thursday in a bid to stem the spread of COVID-19 over the New Year’s holiday.

Istanbul’s governor says some 34,000 law enforcement personnel will be on duty to enforce the rules in Turkey’s most populous city. The interior ministry says more than 208,000 officers will be working across the country and have set up thousands of control points.

Tourists, who have been exempt from lockdowns, won’t be allowed to go to symbolic squares and avenues.

Turkey has among the worst infection rates in the world, but official statistics show the seven-day average of daily infections has dropped to around 16,000 from above 30,000 since evening curfews and weekend lockdowns were instituted in early December.

The confirmed total death toll is 20,642, according to health ministry statistics.

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BERLIN — Berlin’s chief of police says thousands of officers will be enforcing bans on protests and the use of fireworks in much of the German capital on New Year’s Eve.

Barbara Slowik told public broadcaster rbb-Inforadio on Thursday that her force was prepared for the possibility that people opposed to coronavirus restrictions or left-wing extremists might ignore a ban on demonstrations.

German courts this week rejected legal challenges against the ban on public assemblies in Berlin on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day that authorities had imposed due to the pandemic.

Instead of the annual open-air show at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate, which regularly draws hundreds of thousands of people, organizers are putting on a virtual event for people to watch at home.

Germany’s disease control agency, the Robert Koch Institute, reported 32,552 confirmed coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours and 964 deaths.

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — For the second consecutive day, the United Arab Emirates has shattered its single-day record of new coronavirus infections, with 1,730 cases recorded ahead of New Year’s Eve celebrations expected to draw tens of thousands of revelers to Dubai from around the world.

The record figures come after the UAE said it detected its first known cases of the new, fast-spreading variant of the virus in people arriving from abroad. With an economy that runs on aviation and hospitality, the UAE has remained open for business and tourism, including from the United Kingdom, where the new variant of the virus was found. The country is home to hundreds of thousands of British expats.

The commercial hub of Dubai will press ahead with New Year’s Eve celebrations, including the annual fireworks show around the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest tower. Police will be out in force to ensure spectators are wearing masks and adhering to other measures.

The UAE has reported a total of 207,822 cases and 669 confirmed deaths.

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PARIS — No more lockdown-busting lunches in Monte Carlo for day-trippers from France.

This weekend, restaurants in the principality of Monaco will no longer be allowed to serve visitors who have been popping across its border with France to savor culinary pleasures unavailable to the French, whose eateries have been closed since October to fight coronavirus infections.

Starting Saturday evening, only people who can demonstrate that they live, work or have a hotel room in the wealthy enclave will be allowed to eat in its restaurants. The government decree, signed Wednesday, follows grumbling about Monaco’s comparative laxness from authorities on the French side, where infections have been surging.

The mayor of the French city of Nice, along the Mediterranean coast from Monaco, appealed Monday for Monaco to tighten health restrictions or face stricter border controls.

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TOKYO — Tokyo is seeing a record surge in coronavirus cases as the governor of the Japanese capital implored people to stay home.

“The coronavirus knows no year end or New Year’s holidays,” Gov. Yuriko Koike said.

She asked people to skip countdown ceremonies, and expressed concern people were out shopping in crowded stores.

“Please spend a quiet New Year’s with your family and stay home,” she said, switching to English for “stay home.”

She says the latest figures for Tokyo showed 1,300 new infections. The previous biggest daily number of cases for the capital was 949 people reported last Saturday.

Japan has had more than 230,000 cases of COVID-19 and more than 3,000 confirmed deaths. Sixty-five of the deaths came on Wednesday, according to the health ministry.

Government-backed discounts for travel have been discontinued after infections started climbing.

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PRAGUE — The Czech Republic headed for the New Year with a record surge in coronavirus infections.

The Health Ministry says the daily increase in new infections hit a record for the second straight day on Wednesday with 16,939 confirmed cases. It’s more than 500 from than the previous record set on Tuesday.

Police are boosting their presence across the country on New Year’s Eve to enforce a curfew starting at 9 p.m. and other restrictive measures imposed by the government that make it impossible to stage traditional New Year’s celebrations.

The country of 10.7 million has had 718,661 confirmed cases, including 11,580 deaths.

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BANGKOK — Thailand will receive the first 2 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine in February, as the country grapples with a surge in cases.

Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul made the announcement Thursday but did not identify the manufacturer.

Thailand has signed a deal with Oxford-AstraZeneca to locally produce 180 million-200 million doses for Southeast Asia. Out of that, it has reserved 26 million for its population. Media reports quoted officials as saying the first locally produced shots aren’t expected before May.

On Thursday, Thailand reported 194 new cases, including 181 local transmissions. The new outbreak, which began at the country’s largest wholesale seafood market south of Bangkok, has spread to 51 out of the 76 provinces.

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ISLAMABAD — Pakistan says it will initially purchase 1.2 million vaccine doses from Chinese company Sinopharm as COVID-19 deaths rise in the country.

Science and Technology Minister Fawad Chaudhry says on Twitter the vaccine will be provided for free and health workers will get it on priority. Pakistan has said the vaccine will be available in the first quarter of the coming year.

On Thursday, Pakistan reported 58 more deaths from the coronavirus in the previous 24 hours, raising the total to 10,105 deaths. It also reported 2,475 new coronavirus cases, raising total confirmed infections to 479,715.

Pakistan is facing a surge in new infections, mainly because of widespread violations of social distancing rules.

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SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has enforced its toughest physical distancing rules at correctional facilities after a cluster of coronavirus infections flared at a Seoul prison.

The Justice Ministry says 918 people at Seoul’s Dongbu Detention Center have tested positive. One of the inmates has died.

South Korea is struggling to contain a viral resurgence tied to a variety of sources. Earlier Thursday, South Korea reported 967 new virus cases, taking the country’s confirmed total to 60,740 and 900 deaths.

The new curbs at prisons will ban visitors, and trials and summons of inmates will be minimized. Some inmates will be paroled early and prison staff are prohibited from engaging in outside activities.

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GRAFTON, Wis. — A Wisconsin health system says 500 doses of coronavirus vaccine that had to be discarded after they were left unrefrigerated now appear to have been deliberately spoiled by an employee.

Aurora Medical Center first reported on the spoiled doses on Saturday, and said they had been accidentally left out overnight by an employee at Aurora Medical Center in Grafton.

In a statement late Wednesday, Aurora said the employee involved “today acknowledged that they intentionally removed the vaccine from refrigeration.”

Aurora’s statement says they had fired the employee and referred the matter to authorities for further investigation. Their statement didn’t address a possible motive for the action, and health system officials didn’t immediately respond to messages.

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LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles County, the nation’s most populous, has surpassed 10,000 coronavirus deaths.

Barbara Ferrer, the county’s public health director, called it a “terrible milestone” during a Wednesday briefing. Typically, about 170 people county wide die each day of various causes. The average number of deaths from COVID-19 alone is now 150 people a day.

“Most heartbreaking is that if we had done a better job of reducing transmission of the virus, many of these deaths would not have happened,” Ferrer said.

Officials on Wednesday reported 274 confirmed deaths and 10,392 new cases countywide. There are currently 7,415 people hospitalized, 20% of whom are in intensive care units.

The county’s daily test positivity rate is 20%, Ferrer said.

The county had administered more than 78,000 vaccine doses at acute care hospitals as of Tuesday, officials said. Nearly 1,400 paramedics and emergency medical technicians had also received their first doses, as well as more than 3,100 staffers at skilled nursing facilities.

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LANSING, Michigan — Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer vetoed a bill Wednesday that would kill emergency public health orders after 28 days unless the Legislature approved, another shot in the power struggle between the Democratic chief executive and Republican lawmakers over how to manage the coronavirus pandemic.

The bill “would recklessly undermine” efforts by the Department of Health and Human Services to stop the spread of COVID-19, Whitmer said.

“Unfortunately, epidemics are not limited to 28 days. We should not so limit our ability to respond to them,” the governor said.

Republicans who control the House and Senate have repeatedly complained that Whitmer has ignored them in making COVID-19 policies and ordered too many one-size-fits-all remedies.

The state, meanwhile, reported more than 4,200 new cases Wednesday and 51 deaths. More than 12,000 Michigan residents have died since March.