The Latest: Germany says vaccinations to start in early Jan.

BERLIN — Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief of staff says he expects coronavirus vaccinations to start in Germany “in the very first days” of the new year. The trained doctor says he’s prepared to help vaccinate people himself.

European Union authorities are expected to make a decision by Dec. 29 on approving the first vaccine for use. Germany is getting special vaccination centers ready. The news comes as Britain gears up to start coronavirus vaccinations on Tuesday.

Merkel’s chief of staff, Helge Braun, told the Bild newspaper late Sunday that he will tell medical authorities he’s prepared to help. He said “that won’t work at every hour of the day or night as chief of staff, but at the weekend I’m prepared to join in.” He said that he and Merkel will get vaccinated “when it’s our turn.”

Infection figures in Germany have more or less stabilized at a high level since a partial shutdown started on Nov. 2 but haven’t decreased. On Monday, the national disease control center reported 12,332 new cases over the past 24 hours, compared with 11,168 a week ago, and 147 new deaths.

Restrictions such as the closure of restaurants, bars, sports and leisure facilities are due to last until at least Jan. 10 and some regions are taking or contemplating tougher measures. Braun said tighter restrictions are needed “at least in the hot spots.”

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THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— Health officials warn Americans not to let their guard down

UK gears up for coronavirus vaccination program watched around the world

— Citing low virus rates in schools, New York City reopens schools again

Biden picks Calif. Attorney General Xavier Becerra to lead HHS, pandemic response

Senator says Trump, McConnell likely to back COVID-19 relief

— Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani in hospital after positive COVID-19 test

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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:

HONG KONG — Hong Kong plans to install vending machines for coronavirus testing kits in 10 subway stations across the city amid a new surge in cases.

A government news release Monday said about 10,000 specimen collection packs will be supplied to the machines daily.

The persistence of the virus in the city of 7.5 million has prompted an increasing array of control, testing and case tracing measures.

The news release said another 95 virus cases had been recorded on Sunday, bring the city’s total to 6,898, with 112 deaths. The last two week have seen the addition of 1,242 cases, most of them local, prompting authorities to tighten restrictions, including banning most social gatherings to just two people. The surge in cases has also led to the suspension of plans to open a “travel bubble” with Singapore, underscoring the impact the outbreak has had on the city’s economy.

Describing the epidemic situation as “severe,” the government’s Center for Health Protection called on the public to “avoid going out, having social contact and dining out,” and strongly urged people to avoid all nonessential travel outside the city.

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SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has reported 615 new cases of the coronavirus, its 30th day in a row of triple-digit daily jumps, as fears grow the viral spread is getting out of control in the greater capital area.

The country has added more than 5,300 to its caseload just in the past 10 days. Most of the transmissions were detected in the Seoul metropolitan area where health workers are struggling to stem transmissions tied to various places, including restaurants, schools, hospitals and long-term care facilities.

There’s concern that hospital capacities could become overwhelmed within weeks if the country fails to slow the viral resurgence, especially in the densely-populated capital area, where half of the country’s 51 million people live.

“The capital area is now a COVID-19 war zone,” Health Minister Park Neung-hoo said in a virus meeting, pleading for citizen vigilance. He said the country may have to further increase social distancing to prevent the viral resurgence in the capital from “exploding into a major outbreak nationwide and collapsing the health-care system.”

While President Moon Jae-in’s government had been eager to tout the country’s previous gains against the virus, there’s criticism that it gambled by moving quickly to ease social distancing restrictions.

Officials have restored some restrictions in the capital in past weeks as infections soared, shutting down nightclubs, karaoke rooms and gyms, reducing in-person school classes and allowing restaurants to provide only deliveries and take-outs after 9 p.m.

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Austin Quinn-Davison, the acting mayor of Alaska’s largest city, is isolating at home after testing positive for COVID-19, her office announced Sunday.

She felt cold-like symptoms beginning on Nov. 29 and isolated at home until taking a test the next day. That test and another test came back negative. However, Quinn-Davidson’s third test came back positive Saturday.

The 41-year-old is experiencing mild symptoms, the office said. Her wife, Dr. Stephanie Quinn-Davidson, has tested negative and is not experiencing symptoms, the mayor’s office said.

“It’s so important to stay home and to get tested if you aren’t feeling well,” Austin Quinn-Davidson said “I’m grateful my symptoms are mild and thankful for the many free testing sites in Anchorage.

Quinn-Davidson became the acting mayor of Anchorage on Oct. 23 following the resignation of Mayor Ethan Berkowitz. She’s the city’s first female mayor and the tenth mayor since the Municipality of Anchorage was formed in 1975.

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LOS ANGELES — Many Californians are preparing for a new stay-at-home order that bars restaurant dining, shutters salons and limits retail in an effort to curb spiraling coronavirus infections and hospitalizations.

The new rules that take effect before midnight in the vast region of Southern California, much of the San Francisco Bay Area and a large swath of the Central Valley also prohibit residents from gathering with people not in their households.

Public health officials contend the measures are critical as space dwindles in intensive care units in Southern California and much of the Central Valley amid a surge in coronavirus infections

Some law enforcement officials in these same areas, however, said they don’t plan to enforce the rules and are counting on residents to wear masks and practice physical distancing to protect themselves during the pandemic.

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BEIJING — Authorities have completed a third round of coronavirus tests in the northeastern border city of Manzhouli, where three new cases were reported on Monday.

The city government said testing on 200,745 people wrapped up on Saturday following two earlier rounds last month. No new positive cases were found and the three announced Monday were among those previously isolated as suspected cases, authorities said. Testing has been accompanied by travel restrictions and the quarantining of suspected cases and close contacts of those infected.

China reported a total of 15 new cases on Monday, 12 of them brought from outside, bringing the mainland’s total to 86,634 with 4,634 deaths. Hospitals are currently treating 281 people for COVID-19 while 231 people are being monitored in isolation after having tested positive for the virus while showing no symptoms.

The virus, meanwhile, continues to surge in Hong Kong, with another 95 cases reported on Sunday, bringing the semi-autonomous Chinese city’s total to 6,897 with 112 deaths. Authorities there have tightened restrictions on the city’s 7.5 million people, including banning most social gatherings to just two. The surge in cases has also led to the suspension of plans to open a “travel bubble” with Singapore, underscoring the impact the outbreak has had on the city’s economy.

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LONDON — Shipments of the coronavirus vaccine developed by American drugmaker Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech were delivered Sunday in the U.K. in super-cold containers, two days before it goes public in an immunization program that is being closely watched around the world.

Around 800,000 doses of the vaccine were expected to be in place for the start of the immunization program on Tuesday, a day that Health Secretary Matt Hancock has reportedly dubbed as “V-Day,” a nod to triumphs in World War II.

“To know that they are here, and we are amongst the first in the country to actually receive the vaccine and therefore the first in the world, is just amazing,” said Louise Coughlan, joint chief pharmacist at Croydon Health Services NHS Trust, just south of London.

Last week, the U.K. became the first country to authorize the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine for emergency use. In trials, the vaccine was shown to have around 95% efficacy.

Vaccinations will be administered starting Tuesday at around 50 hospital hubs in England. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will also begin their vaccination rollouts the same day.