The Latest: China lifts pandemic bar on entry by foreigners

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A woman wearing a face mask to protect against the coronavirus walks past a shopping mall on a rainy day in Beijing, Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020. Even as China has largely controlled the outbreak, the coronavirus is still surging across other parts of the world. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

BEIJING — Chinese officials say foreigners holding certain types of visas and residence permits will be permitted to return to China as the threat of the new coronavirus continues to recede.

The decision lifts a months-long blanket suspension covering most foreigners apart from diplomats and those in special circumstances.

Beginning Monday, foreign nationals holding valid Chinese visas and residence permits for work, personal matters and family reunions will be permitted to enter China. Returnees will be required to undergo two weeks of quarantine and follow other pandemic measures.

Officials announced seven new coronavirus cases Thursday, all of them imported, marking 39 days since China has reported a case of domestic transmission.

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

— Dr. Fauci: Scientists may know about safety of vaccine by December; don’t send college students home if outbreak on campus

— Democratic senators highlight COVID-19 newest pre-existing medical condition

— Germany’s foreign minister quarantined after bodyguard tests positive

— The wife of Republican Missouri Gov. Mike Parson has tested positive for the coronavirus after experiencing mild symptoms.

— Some South Carolina teachers are taking a personal day to fight for safer classrooms amid the pandemic.

— Johnson & Johnson to begin huge study to see if a single-dose COVID-19 vaccine can protect against the virus. It will test 60,000 volunteers in various countries.

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Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

SANTA FE, N.M. — New Mexico has added three more states to its list of what it considers places with a high coronavirus risk.

The designation requires travelers arriving in or returning to New Mexico from the 39 states now on the list to quarantine for 14 days. However, people who can show documentation of a valid negative coronavirus test taken within 72 hours before or after entry into New Mexico are exempt from the quarantine requirement.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham added Colorado, Oregon and Rhode Island to the list Wednesday. New Mexico officials say the designation is based on coronavirus positivity rates and per capita infections.

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NEW YORK — The organizers of the New Year’s Eve in Times Square celebration say the event will incorporate virtual elements and be scaled down and socially distant on site in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Times Square Alliance, Jamestown Properties and Countdown Entertainment say in Wednesday news release that a virtual experience will be created to allow people to take part in the countdown to 2021 from wherever they are.

They say the annual event will have an extremely limited group of in-person honorees. The organizers say the event will honor essential workers and others who have made a difference in 2020.

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INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana’s statewide mask order will continue for three more weeks under a new order that the governor announced as he faces public discontent over coronavirus restrictions amid his reelection campaign.

Gov. Eric Holcomb said Wednesday that the mask mandate is being extended Oct. 17, but added that he will be dropping most other limits on businesses and crowd sizes as of Saturday.

Holcomb says those restrictions can be removed because Indiana has seen progress in recent weeks in slowing the coronavirus spread. His action lifts statewide capacity limits for restaurants and bars and crowd limits for social events.

The governor’s new order will require bar and restaurant customers to remain seated and maintain distancing. While limits on crowd sizes for social gatherings and meetings will be removed, those organizing events with more than 500 people must submit a written safety plan to local health officials.

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AUSTIN, Texas — Texas’ death toll from the coronavirus has surpassed 15,000.

The Texas Department of State Health Services reported 2,977 newly confirmed coronavirus cases Wednesday and 135 more deaths due to COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus.

Health officials say there have been more than 719,000 confirmed cases in Texas. The total death toll stands at 15,129.

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FARGO, N.D. — North Dakota’s governor has directed health officials to put long-term care residents and workers at the head of the line for coronavirus testing.

Gov. Doug Burgum outlined the change Wednesday as North Dakota wrestles with one of the nation’s fastest rates of per capita case growth.

North Dakota has reported 26 deaths in the last seven days, with 19 of them in a hot spot of the two counties that include the capital of Bismarck. Most of those were in a single long-term care facility that Burgum did not name.

The governor says the state will try to return test results for long-term facilities residents and workers within 24 hours, and make a priority of contact tracing and follow-up in those facilities.

WASHINGTON — Dr. Anthony Fauci says it wouldn’t be smart for college administrators to send students home if there’s an outbreak on campus.

Fauci told senators that would only make matters worse. That’s because it could make the returning students into disease carriers.

Colleges and universities should plan to accommodate students who’ve been exposed to the coronavirus in a separate dorm or maybe a separate floor — that’s if the infected students don’t need to be hospitalized.

“But do not send them home to their community,” Fauci says, “because of the likelihood of them reseeding infection in a community.”

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WASHINGTON — Dr. Anthony Fauci says Americans likely will need to wear masks and stay socially distant to protect themselves from the coronavirus after a vaccine becomes available.

Fauci tells senators at a hearing that a vaccine won’t change conditions overnight.

“The vaccine availability will go a giant step to controlling the infection, but you’re not going to completely eradicate it or eliminate it,” Fauci says.

It’s unusual for a vaccine to be 100% effective, he says. Also, some people are skeptical of vaccinations and may avoid getting a shot.

Even if there’s enough vaccine available for the entire U.S. population, it will take time to distribute the shots.

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WASHINGTON — Democratic senators are highlighting that COVID-19 is the newest pre-existing medical condition. That means people who had the disease could be denied health insurance if the Obama-era health law is overturned.

The death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg means there are no longer five justices on the court who have previously upheld the Affordable Care Act. That law forbids insurers from turning down people with health problems or charging them more.

“Any diagnosis of COVID will likely become a pre-existing condition,” said Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn. “We will see rates skyrocket for anybody who has had COVID.”

The government’s leading infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, told senators much remains unknown about the long-term consequences of COVID-19. Fauci called attention to the so-called “long haulers,” people who have recovered but continue to struggle with a range of symptoms, including pain and fatigue.

A “disturbing number” of recovered patients have inflammation of the heart in MRI exams, Fauci says.

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ROME — Italy added another 1,640 coronavirus cases to its confirmed toll, in line with its daily average, after conducting a record 103,696 tests in the last 24 hours.

Another 20 deaths were recorded, bringing Italy’s official death toll to 35,758. That’s second-most in Europe after Britain.

Health Minister Roberto Speranza says Italy’s testing capacity was a “strategic issue to confront over the coming months.” Italy has greatly increased its capacity over the past six months. It’s currently processing around 100,000 tests a day.

Unlike other European countries, Italy has not seen the huge surge in confirmed new infections in recent weeks, averaging around 1,500 per day.

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WASHINGTON — Top federal health officials say they’d get a COVID-19 vaccine, once it was approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Dr. Brett Giroir, an assistant secretary at the Department of Health and Human Services, told a Senate hearing he’d “have no hesitancy” to take that vaccine. He added people should have discussions with their health providers about the vaccine.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, says he “certainly would” take a vaccine authorized by the FDA. Several vaccines are in the final stage of testing in the U.S. Fauci says government scientists should know by the end of this year — November or December — whether they are safe and effective.

Dr. Robert Redfield, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, addressed criticism that forced the CDC to supersede its guidance. The clarification now says people without symptoms should be tested.

Redfield told the Senate hearing members it was a misinterpretation.

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WASHINGTON — Dr. Anthony Fauci says by the end of this year government scientists should know whether they have a safe and effective vaccine for COVID-19.

Fauci is among top officials testifying before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee on Wednesday.

As the government’s leading infectious disease expert, Fauci has been a realist about the dangers of the coronavirus but also optimistic about the prospects for a vaccine. Fauci says people who recover from the virus develop antibodies against it, which gives him confidence a vaccine that triggers the immune system will work.

Fauci says several kinds of vaccines are in final-stage testing in the U.S. A single-dose candidate is the most recent trial, which requires thousands of volunteers.

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BERLIN — Germany’s foreign minister is quarantined after a bodyguard tested positive for the coronavirus.

Heiko Maas’ ministry says an initial test on the minister was negative. The ministry says it is working with local authorities to establish whether other people need to take measures.

Germany has seen a rise in new infections in recent weeks, though its numbers remain well below those in some other European countries. Germany has reported more than 278,000 cases and 9,400 confirmed deaths.

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PRAGUE — The Czech government imposing new restrictive measures in efforts to curb a surge of coronavirus infections.

The announcement by Health Minister Roman Prymula comes after the Czech Republic registered a record spike of the new confirmed cases last week with a day-to-day increase surpassing 3,000. On Tuesday, the number of infected reached 2,394, the second highest.

Prymula says indoor gatherings are restricted to 10 people if they are standing and to 50 outdoors. It the visitors are seated, up to 2,000 spectators can attend sports and other outdoor events.

Bars, pubs and restaurants will close at 10 p.m., starting Thursday. The Czech Republic has a confirmed total of 53,158 cases and 531 deaths.

Neighboring Slovakia had 338 cases Tuesday for a confirmed total of 7, 269 cases and 41 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

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LONDON — Scotland has recorded 486 positive coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, the highest number of daily cases in a single day.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says almost half of the new cases were from the Greater Glasgow and Clyde area. She says there were two recorded deaths in the past day, bringing the total confirmed toll to 2,508.

Sturgeon recently announced a ban on visiting other homes and discouraged car.

The U.K. is witnessing a steep rise in infections. On Tuesday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered new restrictions, including early closing times for pubs and restaurants.

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The United Arab Emirates has recorded 1,083 new coronavirus infections, marking a four-month peak after schools and businesses reopened across the country.

That brings the total number of confirmed cases in the UAE to 87,530 and 406 deaths.

While the spike follows an aggressive coronavirus testing campaign, the country hasn’t seen such high infection rates since mid-May.

In the months since, authorities have relaxed restrictions. Dubai, the region’s business hub, reopened its airport for international travelers and schools resumed in-person instruction.

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MADRID — Health authorities in Madrid may extend to more communities the restrictions on movement it imposed on areas of the Spanish capital with high coronavirus infection rates.

About 860,000 Madrid residents already are required to justify trips out of 37 neighborhoods, mostly working-class areas. People have complained that the restrictions stigmatize the poor.

The region’s deputy health chief, Antonio Zapatero, says a decision on additional measures, including possible customer limits in restaurants, would be announced Friday,

Zapatero says the outbreak situation in the Madrid region, which has a population of 6.6 million, was one of “sustained increase.”

Madrid had a contagion rate of 772 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in 14 days, nearly three times Spain’s national average of 287 cases per 100,000.

Spain recorded 241 more virus-related deaths on Tuesday, bringing the total confirmed death toll to 30,904.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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