The Latest: Thailand to get first 2M vaccine doses in Feb

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BANGKOK – Thailand will receive the first 2 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine in February, as the country grapples with a surge in cases.

Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul made the announcement Thursday but did not identify the manufacturer.

Thailand has signed a deal with Oxford-AstraZeneca to locally produce 180 million-200 million doses for Southeast Asia. Out of that, it has reserved 26 million for its population. Media reports quoted officials as saying the first locally produced shots aren’t expected before May.

Anutin said that Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha had assigned him to negotiate with every company that has started selling vaccines.

“Today we will continue the negotiation to secure more vaccine and get them as soon as possible for the safety of Thai people, which is the most important mission of the Thai government at the moment,” he told reporters.

On Thursday, Thailand reported 194 new cases, including 181 local transmissions. The new outbreak, which began at the country’s largest wholesale seafood market south of Bangkok, has spread to 51 out of the 76 provinces.

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THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

– 2020 is finally ending, but New Year’s Eve revelries around the world will be muted by the coronavirus

– A homegrown coronavirus vaccine has won the first approval for general use in China; Sinopharm says it’s 79.3% effective

– More contagious variant found in California, where health officials warn people to avoid New Year’s Eve gatherings

– 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:

ISLAMABAD – Pakistan says it will initially purchase 1.2 vaccine doses from Chinese company Sinovac as COVID-19 deaths rise in the country.

Science and Technology Minister Fawad Chaudhry said on Twitter the vaccine will be provided for free and health workers will get it on priority. Pakistan has said the vaccine will be available in the first quarter of the coming year.

On Thursday, Pakistan reported 58 more deaths from COVID-19 in the previous 24 hours, raising the total to 10,105 deaths. It also reported 2,475 new coronavirus cases, raising total infections to 479,715.

Pakistan is facing a surge in new infections, mainly because of widespread violations of social distancing rules.

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SEOUL, South Korea – South Korea has enforced its toughest physical distancing rules at correctional facilities after a cluster of coronavirus infections flared at a Seoul prison.

The Justice Ministry says 918 people at Seoul’s Dongbu Detention Center have tested positive. One of the inmates has died.

South Korea is struggling to contain a viral resurgence tied to a variety of sources. Earlier Thursday, South Korea reported 967 new virus cases, taking the country’s total to 60,740 with 900 deaths.

The new curbs at prisons will ban visitors, and trials and summons of inmates will be minimized. Some inmates will be paroled early and prison staff are prohibited from engaging in outside activities.

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GRAFTON, Wis. — A Wisconsin health system said Wednesday that 500 doses of coronavirus vaccine that had to be discarded after they were left unrefrigerated now appear to have been deliberately spoiled by an employee.

Aurora Medical Center first reported on the spoiled doses on Saturday, and said they had been accidentally left out overnight by an employee at Aurora Medical Center in Grafton.

In a statement late Wednesday, Aurora said the employee involved “today acknowledged that they intentionally removed the vaccine from refrigeration.”

Aurora’s statement said they had fired the employee and referred the matter to authorities for further investigation. Their statement said nothing about a possible motive for the action, and health system officials didn’t immediately respond to messages seeking more information.

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LOS ANGELES – Los Angeles County, the nation’s most populous, has surpassed 10,000 coronavirus deaths, officials announced Wednesday.

Barbara Ferrer, the county’s public health director, called it a “terrible milestone” during a media briefing. Typically, about 170 people county wide die each day of various causes. The average number of deaths from COVID-19 alone is now 150 people a day.

“Most heartbreaking is that if we had done a better job of reducing transmission of the virus, many of these deaths would not have happened,” Ferrer said.

Officials on Wednesday reported 274 deaths and 10,392 new cases countywide. There are currently 7,415 people hospitalized, 20% of whom are in intensive care units.

The county’s daily test positivity rate is 20%, Ferrer said.

The county had administered more than 78,000 vaccine doses at acute care hospitals as of Tuesday, officials said. Nearly 1,400 paramedics and emergency medical technicians had also received their first doses, as well as more than 3,100 staffers at skilled nursing facilities.

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LANSING, Michigan – Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer vetoed a bill Wednesday that would kill emergency public health orders after 28 days unless the Legislature approved, another shot in the power struggle between the Democratic chief executive and Republican lawmakers over how to manage the coronavirus pandemic.

The bill “would recklessly undermine” efforts by the Department of Health and Human Services to stop the spread of COVID-19, Whitmer said.

“Unfortunately, epidemics are not limited to 28 days. We should not so limit our ability to respond to them,” the governor said.

Republicans who control the House and Senate have repeatedly complained that Whitmer has ignored them in making COVID-19 policies and ordered too many one-size-fits-all remedies.

The state, meanwhile, reported more than 4,200 new cases Wednesday and 51 deaths. More than 12,000 Michigan residents have died since March.

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