BERLIN — German authorities have reported more than 1,000 coronavirus-related deaths in one day for the first time since the pandemic began.
The national disease control center, the Robert Koch Institute, said Wednesday that 1,129 deaths were reported over the past 24 hours. That exceeds the previous record set a week ago of 962 and brings Germany’s total death toll to 32,107.
While delayed reporting of statistics over holidays and weekends is often an issue in Germany, the latest figure fits a recent pattern of high numbers of deaths.
Germany had a relatively low death rate in the first phase of the pandemic but has seen hundreds of deaths per day in recent weeks. Among major European nations, Italy, the U.K., France and Spain still have higher death tolls.
A shutdown that was deepened on Dec. 16 with the closure of schools and most shops is scheduled to remain in place until Jan. 10. It appears almost certain to be extended when Chancellor Angela Merkel and state governors review the situation next week.
The disease control center said 22,459 new coronavirus cases were reported over the past 24 hours. That’s a bit lower than a week ago, but lower testing of non-acute cases over Christmas may also play a role. Germany has reported nearly 1.69 million cases in total.
THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— Top Chinese officials quietly ordered strict controls on all COVID-19 research in the country, internal documents obtained by The AP show, cloaking the search for the origins of the virus in secrecy.
— Newly elected Congressman Luke Letlow dies from COVID-19 complications at age 41 days before he would have been sworn into office.
— Health officials say a Colorado man who became the first reported person in the U.S. to have a COVID-19 variant that is spreading in the United Kingdom hadn’t been traveling.
— California’s most densely populated area continues to set new death and hospitalization records and public health officials say it will remain under strict stay-home orders for the foreseeable future.
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
TAIPEI, Taiwan — Taiwan has announced its first confirmed case of the new coronavirus variant that was found in the United Kingdom.
The patient is a teenage boy who returned from the U.K. on Sunday and is now receiving treatment, the Central Epidemic Command Center said Wednesday.
In response, Taiwan is further tightening travel restrictions, requiring business travelers who previously could apply for shorter quarantines to do a full 14-day period and suspending international transfers at the airport from Jan. 1, Health and Welfare Minister Chen Shih-chung said. The island already has strict border control measures in place, allowing in only Taiwanese passport holders and those with special visas or residence permits.
PRAGUE — Coronavirus infections in the Czech Republic have hit a new record high with the number of confirmed cases surpassing 16,000 in one day for the first time.
The Health Ministry says the day-to-day increase reached 16,329 on Tuesday, over 5,400 more than a week ago. The ministry says a record 48.54% of all tests were positive.
The previous record was 15,725 cases on Nov 4.
New infections have been on the rise since early December, and have started to surge again after slowing during Christmas vacation, mainly due to a significantly lower numbers of tests conducted.
The government imposed tough restrictions, including a nighttime curfew and a closure of all stores other than those selling essential goods. Bars, restaurants, museums, swimming pools and ski resorts are shut and public gatherings of more than two are banned.
The country of 10.7 million had 701,622 confirmed cases with 11,429 deaths.
BEIJING— A Chinese company says its coronavirus vaccine was found to be 79.3% effective at preventing infection in the final round of testing, in the first official announcement from a Chinese vaccine company of Stage 3 data. The Beijing Institute of Biological Products, a subsidiary of state-owned Sinopharm, has produced a two-dose vaccine that can be stored in normal refrigerators.
Its effectiveness is below Moderna’s vaccine, which is more than 94% effective, and Pfizer’s, which is 95% effective. Scientists had cautioned that COVID-19 vaccines might only be about as effective as flu vaccines, which generally are about 50% effective. However, the final proof of the vaccine’s effectiveness will depend on publication of scientific data as the company’s disclosure did not provide additional information.
The vaccine has already been in use in China under emergency approval since at least July. It has not yet received final market approval and is under review by China’s medical authorities.
ANKARA, Turkey — A first batch of vaccines developed by Chinese biopharmaceutical company Sinovac has arrived in Turkey, after a two-week delay.
A plane carrying 3 million doses of the CoronaVac vaccine landed in the capital Ankara early on Wednesday. The first shipment was initially scheduled to arrive on Dec. 11 but Turkish officials said problems concerning permits, followed by a COVID-19 case in Beijing customs and high alert against infections there, caused the delay.
Turkey has signed a deal for 50 million doses of the vaccine, which the country says has an efficacy rate of 91.25% based on early results of late-stage trials conducted in Turkey.
The vaccine will now be examined by two public health agencies before the government gives its formal approval for inoculations, starting with health care workers.
Turkey has also reached an agreement with Pfizer BioNTech, which is to provide 4.5 million doses of its vaccine until the end of March and the option to buy up to 30 million doses later in the year.
NEW DELHI — India is extending the suspension of flights to and from the United Kingdom until Jan. 7 due to the the spread of a coronavirus variant.
The resumption of flights after that date will be strictly regulated, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said in a tweet on Wednesday.
India’s Health Ministry has confirmed 20 people who returned from the UK before the suspension have been found infected with the new variant.
India on Wednesday maintained an overall downward trend and reported 20,549 new cases of the virus in the past 24 hours, taking its total up to 10.24 million confirmed infections. Another 286 deaths were reported in the past 24 hours, taking total fatalities to 148,439.
India is expected to start a vaccination drive for some 300 million people early next month.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The United Arab Emirates’ capital of Abu Dhabi has shelved plans to reopen schools for in-person instruction after the holiday break.
Authorities in the federation of seven sheikhdoms ordered Wednesday that all private and public schools in the capital start 2021 with two weeks of remote learning “to protect the health and safety of students, teachers and school staff.”
For the fall semester, schools in the capital were able to choose from a patchwork of plans ranging from fully in-person to remote classes. The decision to mandate distance learning for part of January comes as the country sees a spike in virus cases.
The UAE this week said it detected “a limited number” of the first known cases of the fast-spreading variant of the coronavirus found in the U.K., without elaborating on number or travel history of the infected people.
With an economy dependent on hospitality and aviation, the country has remained largely open for tourism and business despite its rising case numbers.
BATON ROUGE, La. — Luke Letlow, who was to have been Louisiana’s newest Republican member of the U.S. House, has died from complications related to COVID-19 only days before being sworn into office. He was 41.
Letlow spokesman Andrew Bautsch confirmed the congressman-elect’s death Tuesday at Ochsner-LSU Health Shreveport. The spokesman says that “the family appreciates the numerous prayers and support over the past days.”
Letlow had won a December runoff election and was set to take office in January. He was admitted to a Monroe hospital on Dec. 19 after testing positive for the coronavirus. He was later transferred to the Shreveport medical center and placed in intensive care.
Letlow is survived by his wife, Julia Barnhill Letlow, and two children.
SAN FRANCISCO — California’s top health official says hospitals in hard-hit Los Angeles County are turning to “crisis care” and bracing for the coronavirus surge to worsen in the new year.
Dr. Mark Ghaly’s comment came Tuesday as he extended strict stay-home orders in areas where intensive care units have few beds.
Ghaly says Southern California and the agricultural San Joaquin Valley have virtually no ICU capacity to treat COVID-19 patients. He says some overwhelmed hospitals don’t have space to unload ambulances or get oxygen to patients who can’t breathe.
The state’s “crisis care” guidelines allow for rationing treatment when staff, medicine and supplies are in short supply.
California reported more than 31,000 new coronavirus infections Tuesday and 242 deaths. Nearly 25,000 people in the state have died from COVID-19 during the pandemic.
DENVER — Colorado Gov. Jared Polis says the state has recorded the first reported U.S. case of the coronavirus variant that has been seen in the United Kingdom.
State health officials said Tuesday that the variant was found in a man in his 20s who is in isolation southeast of Denver and has no travel history.
The Colorado State Laboratory confirmed the virus variant, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was notified.
Scientists in the U.K. believe the new virus variant is more contagious than previously identified strains of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Health officials have said the vaccines being given now are thought to be effective against the variant.
NEW YORK — Drugmaker Pfizer and partner BioNTech say they will be supplying an additional 100 million doses of their coronavirus vaccine to the European Union next year.
The European Commission is exercising its option to buy those additional doses under the initial contract it signed with the two drugmakers last month.
New York-based Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech said Tuesday the additional supply will give the EU’s 27 member states a total of 300 million doses, enough to give 150 million people the two-dose vaccine.
Nearly all the EU member countries started their vaccination campaigns Sunday.
The two companies have said they could provide up to 1.3 billion doses of the vaccine worldwide by the end of 2021, but manufacturing constraints could reduce that amount.