World COVID-19 Roundup

By the Associated Press

Greek PM Vows Virus Vaccinations Will be Free

ATHENS, Greece (AP) -- Greece's prime minister says the government will provide the coronavirus vaccine, when it becomes available, to all Greeks free of charge.

Kyriakos Mitsotakis made the comments while chairing a ministerial meeting about the government's vaccination strategy for COVID-19. Greece has seen a resurgence of the virus's spread that is putting pressure on the country's health system.

"I insist on the free access of all Greeks to the vaccine, because this government has treated the vaccine as a public good from the start," Mitsotakis said. "That is why it will be provided free of charge to all, with no exceptions."

On Thursday, Greece announced a record number of new daily coronavirus deaths and infections, with more than 3,300 new confirmed infections and 50 deaths in this country of 11 million people. Greece currently has more than 66,600 confirmed cases and 959 deaths.


Russia Hits Record-High New Cases

MOSCOW (AP) -- Coronavirus infections in Russia kept on rising this week, with authorities reporting a record-high 21,983 new cases on Friday, bringing the country's total to nearly 1.9 million.

Russia, which has the fifth-highest tally of confirmed cases in the world, has been swept by a rapid resurgence of the outbreak since September. Despite the spike, Russian authorities insist there are no plans to impose a second lockdown or shut down businesses nationwide, even as media report overwhelmed hospitals, inundated doctors and shortages of medicines.

A series of restrictions aimed at curbing the outbreak took effect Friday in Moscow. The city authorities ordered restaurants, bars and nightclubs to close between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m., told university students to move to online classes, ordered theaters and cinemas to limit capacity to 25% and halted all mass entertainment events.

The restrictions will remain in place until Jan. 15 and will apply to New Year holidays as well, Moscow officials said.


After Hitting Record High, Czech Infections Falling

PRAGUE (AP) -- Coronavirus infections in the Czech Republic have been declining for more than a week after rising for over two months to record levels.

The Health Ministry says the day-to-day increase of new confirmed cases reached 7,874 on Thursday, about 5,400 less than the same day a week ago.

The new cases hit a record high of 15,727 last week and has been dropping since. Still, Health Minister Jan Blatny is expected to further extend the state of emergency that enables the government to keep in place its strict restrictive measures.

The country has also seen a decline in hospitalizations to 7,564, about 700 less than a week ago.

But COVID-19 deaths are still on the rise.

The seven-day rolling average of daily deaths has risen from 1.36 deaths per 100,000 people on Oct. 29 to 1.90 deaths per 100,000 on Thursday. Of the country's 5,755 virus dead, 2,270 of them died in November.


Germany Logs New Daily Record

BERLIN (AP) -- Germany's disease control center is reporting a new daily record of coronavirus infections as the country nears the halfway point of new lockdown measures meant to slow the spread of the pandemic.

The Robert Koch Institute said Friday that Germany's states had reported 23,542 daily cases, slightly more than the previous record of 23,399 set on Saturday.

Chancellor Angela Merkel is due to hold talks with state governors on Monday, the midway point into a series of measures the government has called "lockdown light."

Germany embarked Nov. 2 on the four-week partial shutdown aimed at flattening a sharp rise in new infections. Restaurants, bars, sports and leisure facilities have closed, but schools and nonessential shops remain open. Officials say it is still too early to tell whether the new measures are having the desired effect.

Merkel on Thursday warned Germans to expect "difficult winter months." Health Minister Jens Spahn said nobody should be expecting to hold Christmas parties with more than 10 or 15 people.


Record High Infections in Lithuania

VILNIUS, Lithuania (AP) -- Lithuania has once again seen a record high number of new infections with 2,066 reported Friday.

It was the highest number since the pandemic started, Lithuania's Health Ministry said.

Overall, the southernmost Baltic country that is the home to 2.8 million has reported 24,284 cases and 253 deaths.


Record High Daily Virus Deaths in Croatia

ZAGREB, Croatia (AP) -- Croatia has reported a new record daily virus death toll of 43 people died in the country of 4.2 million people.

Authorities said Friday that 3,056 more people tested positive, placing a burden on the health system.

Croatia says it will not impose a strict lockdown but authorities have instead limited gatherings and called on the people to wear face masks and respect social distancing.

In neighboring Slovenia, however, the government tightened its coronavirus lockdown late Thursday, shutting down public transport for two weeks, banning socializing outside immediate family and widening quarantine restrictions for people who travel abroad.

Slovenia on Friday said 38 people have died in the past 24 hours and 1,508 new infections have been confirmed.


Nationwide Lockdown in Mongolian Capital

BEIJING (AP) -- Residents of Mongolia's capital of Ulaanbaatar have been told to stay at home as part of nationwide lockdown measures due to remain in place through Tuesday following the detection of new coronavirus cases.

Residents of the city of 1.4 million will be permitted to leave for necessary errands, such as to purchase groceries and medications, the official Montsame news agency reported.

Social distancing measures must be maintained when leaving home, and employees of hospitals and other essential facilities must show identification when commuting. Police and military personnel were being deployed to ensure compliance.

Ulannbaatar confirmed two cases of community transmission on Nov. 9 and another in an outlying area on Thursday. Since then, another six people who came into close contact with those infected have also tested positive.

A vast, but lightly populated nation landlocked between China and Russia, Mongolia has recorded just over 400 confirmed cases but no deaths.


Japan to Step Up Testing, Tracing

TOKYO (AP) -- Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga raised caution over coronavirus infections, urging officials to step up testing, tracing and cluster investigations, while reminding people to stick to wearing masks, handwashing and other basic preventive measures.

The country set a record Friday for daily new infections, with the health ministry reporting 1,649 new cases, bringing the national total to 113,298.

Suga said he has instructed health and economic revitalization ministers to "use maximum caution and take preventive measures firmly." He said the current situation does not immediately require another state of emergency or scaling down of domestic tourism.


Government Fines Those Without Masks in Public

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- South Korea has reported its biggest daily jump in COVID-19 cases in 70 days as the government began fining people who fail to wear masks in public.

The 191 cases added to the country's caseload on Friday represented the sixth consecutive day of over 100 and most were from the Seoul metropolitan area.

The steady spread of the virus has alarmed government officials, who eased social distancing measures to the lowest level since October to soften the economic shock.

While this has allowed high-risk venues like nightclubs and karaoke bars to reopen, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said the continuing spread could force the government to "seriously consider" tightening social distancing again.