The Latest: Germany says restrictions likely through winter

BERLIN — Germany’s health minister is cautioning that restrictions meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus are likely to last through the winter as numbers of new infections remain high.

Health Minister Jens Spahn told RBB radio on Thursday that large Christmas parties or other social gatherings of more than 10 to 15 people are not likely to be feasible.

“We have to manage together to get through this winter overall with lower numbers,” he said.

The country’s disease control center, the Robert Koch Institute, reported 21,866 new infections overnight, down about 1,500 from a record set on the weekend but still stubbornly high.

Germany is in its second week of a four-week partial shutdown that’s meant to help prevent the health system from being overwhelmed. Restaurants, bars, and sports and leisure facilities have been closed and new contact restrictions have been introduced, though schools and shops remain open.

Even if the country is successful in bringing the number down, Spahn said it will not be able to immediately return to normal.

“It doesn’t mean that from December or January we’ll be able to go ahead with wedding celebrations or Christmas parties as if nothing happened,” he said.

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HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

World leaders speak to Biden about the pandemic and other issues even as Trump complicates transition

Italian hospitals face breaking point as fall virus surge sickens patients

— New Orleans teenager getting ready for milestones of adulthood among lives lost to virus

California is nearing 1 million confirmed infections, the second US state after Texas passed the mark earlier this week

— The last virus-free places on Earth are one distant continent, a few Pacific island nations and two highly secretive states

— 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:

ISTANBUL — Turkey’s interior ministry has banned smoking in public places across the country to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

In a statement late Wednesday, the ministry said smoking would be banned in busy streets, bus stops and public squares when necessary.

It said the nationwide mask mandate in public spaces must be followed at all times. It said smokers were routinely violating the mask rule, which has been in effect for several months.

The ministry also said provinces can decide to impose curfews on people older than 65 according to increases in the number of critical patients. The governors of Istanbul and Ankara have already reintroduced measures this week, allowing senior citizens to leave their homes only between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Turkey has seen a spike in infections since lifting partial lockdowns and reopening businesses in late May. The latest health ministry figures show 86 died from COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 11,145.

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SEOUL, South Korea — A South Korean court has granted bail for a religious sect leader who was arrested in August over allegations that he and his church disrupted the government’s anti-virus response.

The Suwon District Court on Thursday cited concerns about the health of 88-year-old Lee Man-hee, chairman of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, and said he was no longer a serious threat to destroy evidence considering the prosecution’s progress in investigation. The court required Lee to wear electronic tracking devices and not to leave his home.

Prosecutors have accused Lee and his church of violating infectious disease laws by deliberately hiding some of the church’s membership and under-reporting its gatherings to avoid broader quarantines.

Lee and his church have steadfastly denied the accusations, saying that the church has been properly cooperating with health authorities.

More than 5,200 of the South Korea’s 27,942 coronavirus cases have been linked to the church. The infections connected to its branch in the southern city of Daegu spiked in late February and March, while the cluster was largely contained by April through an aggressive test-and-quarantine program. However, South Korea has seen a resurgence of the virus in the capital Seoul and elsewhere since.

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NEW DELHI — India has reported 47,905 new cases of coronavirus infection with New Delhi setting another daily record Thursday.

The surge of 8,593 cases in the nation’s capital is the highest for any major Indian city and comes as people crowd shopping areas ahead of Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, on Saturday.

Deaths, too, are climbing again, with 85 in New Delhi in the past 24 hours. Deaths are a lagging indicator of the impact of the virus, due to long periods of illness and medical treatment.

Overall, India’s new cases held steady. The Health Ministry also reported 550 deaths in the past 24 hours, taking total fatalities to 128,121.

India’s tally of confirmed cases — currently the second largest in the world behind the United States – has exceeded 8.6 million.

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WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Health officials in New Zealand have asked people who work in central Auckland to stay home on Friday or limit their movements while they continue to investigate a coronavirus case from an undetermined source.

Authorities say they’re urgently investigating the recent movements of the Auckland student who works at a clothing store. They say the student lives next door to a hotel where people arriving from abroad are being quarantined, some of whom have tested positive over recent weeks.

COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins says authorities are testing the genome of the student’s case to see if there is a connection to the hotel cases, and they will announce Friday whether they’ll be changing New Zealand’s alert levels.

The case comes as a blow to a country which has been largely successful in its attempts to eliminate community spread of the virus.