The Latest: Governor of hotspot Thai province infected

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The governor of a province at the center of an expanding COVID-19 outbreak in Thailand has been confirmed infected with the coronavirus after meeting with public health officials including the deputy prime minister.

The meeting Sunday attended by the Samut Sakhon governor, Deputy prime minister Anutin Charnvirakul and others was considered at low risk of spreading the virus because everyone wore masks, said Dr. Taweesilp Visanuyotin, a spokesperson for the COVID-19 response center.

The governor, Weerasak Wijitsaengsri, did not have symptoms but will be treated at a hospital, Taweesilp said.

Anutin, who is also Thailand’s public health minister, wrote on Facebook that he tested negative for the virus and is isolating at home for 14 days.

Thailand reported 144 new cases Monday, most of them locally transmitted, and its total has reached 6,285.

The Southeast Asian country had virtually no cases beyond quarantined travelers for months, but its totals have surged since an outbreak among migrant workers at a seafood market in Samut Sakhon was detected in mid-December.

The province was put under lockdown on Dec. 19. Confirmed cases related to the seafood market have been found in 43 other provinces, including the capital, Bangkok.

Taweesilp said every province has to work hard to control the virus and the number of new infections could reach the thousands daily if nothing is done to prevent the spread. “The best way is to avoid traveling and meetings,” Taweesilp said.

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THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

– Follow AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic, https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

TOKYO – Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga says he plans to submit legislation that will make coronavirus measures legally binding for businesses, punish violators and include economic compensation as his government struggles to slow the ongoing upsurge.

Japan had a state of emergency in April and May with non-binding requests for people to stay home and business to close, but people have complacent about the pandemic and store owners have become less cooperative due to the economic impact.

Suga said experts are discussing the legislation to make coronavirus more effectively enforced and hoped to submit the bill for parliamentary approval “as soon as possible” next year.

Suga also reiterated his request for the public to spend “quiet” New Year holidays and stick to mask-wearing and hand-washing.

Japan has 220,236 cases, with 3,252 deaths as of Sunday, the health ministry said.

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SEOUL, South Korea – South Korea has confirmed its first cases of a more contagious variant of COVID-19 that was first identified in the United Kingdom.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said Monday the cases have been confirmed in a family of three people who came to South Korea on Dec. 22.

They arrived a day before South Korea halted air travel from Britain until Dec. 31 to guard against the new version of the virus.

The three people, who reside in the U.K., are under quarantine in South Korea.

South Korea on Monday registered 808 new coronavirus cases, raising its national caseload to 57,680 with 819 deaths. The government said Sunday it would wait another week before determining whether to enforce its toughest physical distancing rules in the greater Seoul area that officials worry would further hurt the economy.

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SYDNEY – Authorities have banned New Year’s Eve revelers from congregating in Sydney’s downtown harborside to see the celebrated fireworks due to the pandemic risk.

New South Wales state Premier Gladys Berejiklian said on Monday people who live in the city center can invite up to 10 guests to their homes to celebrate. The guests will have to apply for permits to enter the area.

Australia’s largest city recorded five new cases of COVID-19 connected to a cluster in the northern beaches region, bringing the total to 126 infections since Dec. 10.

Around 1 million people usually congregate on the harbor foreshore to see the annual fireworks that center on the Sydney Harbor Bridge.

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LOS ANGELES – State officials are expected to extend the strictest stay-at-home orders in central and Southern California as hospitals there are quickly running out of intensive care unit beds for coronavirus patients ahead of the presumed post-holiday surge.

The situation is already dire, and the worst is expected to come in the next few weeks after Christmas and New Year’s travelers return home.

California hit 2 million confirmed coronavirus cases on Christmas Eve.

State stay-at-home orders for the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California are set to expire Monday. State officials say the orders are likely to be extended but did not make a definitive ruling Sunday afternoon.

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BALTIMORE – The U.S. now exceeds 19 million cases of coronavirus infection since the pandemic began, data compiled by Johns Hopkins University show.

America passed that mark on Sunday, just six days after it reached 18 million. The nation’s case numbers have more than doubled in less than two months.

COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. also have been rising, and now total more than 333,000. That’s more than one death for every 1,000 Americans. The U.S. population as of Saturday was about 331 million, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The United States accounts for about 4% of the world’s population, but close to 24% of its total coronavirus cases and 19% of its COVID-19 deaths. Health experts believe many cases have gone unreported, however, both in America and internationally.

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