The Latest: Lagarde: Recovery bumpy until vaccine widespread
FRANKFURT, Germany — European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde says the recovery could be bumpy until vaccination becomes widespread.
That warning came in a speech at an online ECB conference Wednesday. She says the recent upsurge in infections gave the pandemic “a new dynamic” and economists are worried the recovery could go into reverse in the last three months of the year.
While recent news of vaccine tests are promising, Lagarde says the economy could face recurring cycles of growth and restrictions until enough people can be vaccinated.
She says the ECB could add more stimulus at its next meeting Dec. 10. Analysts have been predicting more stimulus as a surge in coronavirus cases and partial lockdowns weigh on economic growth.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— Texas becomes first US state with more than 1 million confirmed COVID-19 cases
— European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde: Recovery bumpy until vaccine widespread
— U.S. reaches 1 million coronavirus cases in first 10 days of November
— During the early days of the coronavirus, top World Health Organization scientists described some countries’ approaches as “an unfortunate laboratory to study the virus” and a “macabre” opportunity to see what worked, recordings obtained by The Associated Press show.
— Hong Kong and Singapore will start an air travel bubble this month, allowing travelers from each city to visit the other without entering quarantine.
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
PRAGUE — The Czech Republic has been partly lifting the complete closure of schools, allowing the youngest school children to return.
Education Minister Robert Plaga says the schools reopen for the children from the 1st and 2nd grades of elementary schools, starting on Nov 18. Both teachers and students, must wear face masks. Also, the schools for children with disabilities will reopen.
All the other grades at elementary schools, high schools and universities will continue with remote teaching.
The day-to-day increase of new cases reached 9,016 on Tuesday, about 3,000 less than a week ago. The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases decreased from 120 cases per 100,000 people on Oct. 27 to 89 on Tuesday.
STOCKHOLM — Stockholm reintroduced a ban on visiting elderly in care homes after a reported spike.
The ban “is a precautionary measure because the residents belong to a risk group,” the city of Stockholm said in a statement.
In September, Sweden lifted a national ban on visiting elderly in care homes. The ban came after the bulk of Sweden’s deaths this year was recorded among people above the age of 70, and many in nursing homes.
In recent days, Sweden has seen an uptick in cases.
Overall, Sweden has reported 162,240 confirmed cases and 6,082 deaths.
ATHENS, Greece — Greece’s foreign minister is self-quarantining after contact with someone who has the coronavirus.
Nikos Dendias “is in precautionary quarantine from today” after meeting the person who tested positive for the virus, the Foreign Ministry said Wednesday.
It didn’t provide any further details of who the meeting was with or when it took place.
AUSTIN, Texas — Texas has become the first U.S. state with more than 1 million confirmed coronavirus cases.
The nation’s second-most populous state has recorded 1.01 million coronavirus cases and 19,337 deaths since the pandemic began in early March, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
Texas registered 10,865 confirmed cases on Tuesday, setting a new daily record in a state led by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott. There are 6,170 people hospitalized with the coronavirus and 94 new deaths on Tuesday, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.
Texas had recently surpassed California, the most populous state, with the most cases. The true number of infections is likely higher because many people haven’t been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick.
Coronavirus cases are surging in the Laredo and El Paso areas. Another 1,292 cases and nine deaths were reported in El Paso County on Tuesday, bringing the death total to 682.
Nationwide, there were 1 million coronavirus cases in the first 10 days of November.
BERLIN — German pharmaceutical company BioNTech says it could start shipping the first coronavirus vaccines ordered by the European Union by the end of the year if the data proves the vaccines are safe and effective.
Mainz-based BioNTech, which is developing the vaccine with U.S. company Pfizer, says “deliveries are anticipated to start by the end of 2020, subject to clinical success and regulatory authorization.”
The two companies said this week, based on early and incomplete test results, their COVID-19 vaccine may be 90% effective.
The European Union announced Tuesday that it has finalized an agreement with BioNTech to buy 200 million doses of vaccine, with an option of 100 million more. The vaccine uses mRNA technology to train the immune system to recognize and attack the virus.
BioNTech said the vaccine supply for the EU is being manufactured at its site in Germany and Pfizer’s plant in Belgium. Assuming positive data and availability of the necessary safety and manufacturing data, Pfizer and BioNTech officials say they expect to produce globally up to 50 million vaccine doses in 2020 and up to 1.3 billion doses in 2021.
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Sioux Falls’ mayor cast the tie-breaking vote that defeated a proposed mask mandate in the state’s largest city Tuesday night.
After more than two hours of public comment, Mayor Paul TenHaken rejected the mandate after the City Council tied 4-4 on the ordinance.
The mandate would have required face coverings in most indoor public places where 6-foot social distancing was not achievable. Violations carried a $50 fine.
“I believe the small uptick we’ll see in compliance is not worth the community division that this will create,” TenHaken said. Councilor Greg Neitzert said he didn’t want to live in a city where people are calling the police because someone isn’t wearing a mask.
“It’s not just about health,” Neitzert said. “We also have to look at principles.”
The Greater Sioux Falls Chamber of Commerce opposed it, saying there wasn’t enough clarity around potential effects on businesses, the Argus Leader reported. Several faith leaders in the city supported the mask mandate.
BRUSSELS — Decreasing hospitalizations, fewer confirmed cases and other major public health indicators show that the resurgence of the coronavirus in Belgium is abating.
Virologist Steven Van Gucht of the Sciensano government health group said Wednesday: “The decrease of infections and hospital admissions is continuing. And for the first time, the number of patients in intensive care units is no longer increasing.”
The daily number of deaths caused by COVID-19 “continues to rise, but here, too, the pace seems to slow down,” he said.
It was welcome news for Belgium, which proportionally is among the worst-hit nations in Europe when it comes to confirmed coronavirus cases. Officials had feared that the nation’s maximum intensive care unit occupancy of 2,000 beds would be reached last Friday. ICU bed use is now plateauing and slightly tapering off at 1,470.
Over the past month, Belgium has taken increasingly stringent measures to contain the virus. Bar and restaurant closures were capped by a partial lockdown, which started last week and put further restrictions on gatherings and forced non-essential shops to shut.
Belgium still had 7,834 new confirmed cases a day in the past week, but it amounted to a 46% decline from the previous seven-day period. The daily death toll for the past week stood at 190 people, a 35% increase.
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — A security authority in the southern Netherlands says that nearly half of the workers at a meatpacking company are infected with the coronavirus.
The Verhey Vlees company closed its plant in the village of Nuth on Nov. 4 after 41 of the 225 workers at the facility near the Dutch borders with Germany and Belgium tested positive for the virus.
The South Limburg Security Region said in a statement Tuesday evening that the number of confirmed cases has since risen to nearly half of the workers.
The local health authority is attempting to trace all contacts of the infected workers, many of whom are migrants employed by staffing agencies.
Many meatpacking plants and slaughterhouses in Europe and the United States have seen coronavirus clusters during the pandemic.
In May, the German government agreed to ban the use of subcontractors and to increase fines for breaches of labor law in the meat industry starting next year following a series of outbreaks at slaughterhouses.
LONDON — Britain is planning a strategy to get hundreds of thousands of university students home for Christmas without sparking a new upsurge in coronavirus cases.
Scientists say students traveling from their hometowns to colleges in September was one of the drivers of the current wave of COVID-19 in the U.K. There have been multiple campus outbreaks, with students confined to residences and group activities canceled.
The British government said Wednesday that it plans to stagger students’ departures at the end of term to avoid a mass exodus. They want universities in England to send students home over a nine-day period after the current four-week lockdown in England ends on Dec. 2.
As many students as possible will get rapid-results COVID-19 tests before they travel, the government said -- though it was unclear exactly how many would be tested.
Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jenny Harries said “the mass movement of students across the country at the end of term presents a really significant challenge within the COVID-19 response,” but that the measures would reduce the risk.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are likely to bring in similar measures.
NAIROBI, Kenya — Ethiopia has more than 100,000 confirmed coronavirus infections, joining a handful of countries across Africa that have surpassed that milestone as COVID-19 cases begin to creep up again in multiple places.
The Horn of Africa regional power faces multiple humanitarian crises and has a growing deadly conflict in its northern Tigray region between federal forces and regional ones.
The United Nations is pleading for humanitarian access to Tigray as trucks with medical and other supplies are stranded outside the regional border.
Other African nations with more than 100,000 confirmed virus cases on Wednesday are Egypt with 109,000; Morocco with 265,000 and South Africa with 740,000. The 54-nation African continent is closing in on 2 million confirmed cases.
The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says Ethiopia has more than 1,500 confirmed deaths.
HONG KONG — Hong Kong and Singapore will start an air travel bubble later this month, allowing travelers from each city to visit the other without entering quarantine.
The travelers must test negative for the coronavirus before they leave, when they arrive and before they return. The bubble starts Nov. 22 with one designated flight a day to each city carrying a maximum of 200 travelers each. It will expand to two flights Dec. 7.
The bubble will be suspended for two weeks if either Hong Kong or Singapore reports a seven-day moving average of more than five untraceable coronavirus infections, according to the Hong Kong government.
“Hong Kong and Singapore are similar in terms of epidemic control. Both are regional aviation hubs and international cities, enjoying strong trade, investment, finance, tourism and people-to-people ties,” said Hong Kong’s secretary for commerce and economic development Edward Yau. “The revival of cross-border air travel between the two places is of utmost importance.”
He said that he hopes the aviation, tourism, hotel and retail businesses will benefit from the bubble, and that it would gradually help Hong Kong’s economy to recover.
BEIJING — A leading Chinese health official has expressed confidence the country may avoid a second wave of coronavirus infections this winter if it maintains current precautions.
Feng Zijian, deputy director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, told leading financial magazine Caixin that China “will very likely prevent” a new round of infections given present trends.
China has largely eliminated new local outbreaks by requiring masks indoors and on public transport, requiring two-week quarantines for those entering the country and banning some foreign travelers entirely.
Authorities have quickly moved to address local outbreaks by tracing potential contacts, carrying out widespread testing and sometimes locking down entire communities.
While China was accused of suppressing information initially, its recent data have not been seriously challenged and local officials have moved swiftly to disclose new cases. That has allowed the world’s second-largest economy to largely recover.
WELLINGTON, New Zealand — The Pacific nation of Vanuatu has recorded its first case of the coronavirus after a citizen who had been repatriated from the United States tested positive while in quarantine.
Vanuatu had been among the last handful of countries to avoid the virus.
Health authorities say the 23-year-old man was asymptomatic when he returned home Nov. 4. His infection was confirmed Tuesday after routine testing.
Officials say they plan to keep everyone from the same flight in quarantine and to trace the man’s close contacts, but they don’t plan to impose any broader measures in the nation of 300,000 people.