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Polish PM urges vaccinations as deaths rise

WARSAW, Poland – Poland’s prime minister got a booster shot against the coronavirus and made an emotional appeal to citizens to get vaccinated as 570 new deaths in one day were reported from COVID-19.

Mateusz Morawiecki’s appeal on Wednesday was made to a nation with a vaccination rate of just 54%. The numbers those fully vaccinated have risen very slowly in recent weeks, though fears of the new omicron variant have appeared to spur some to finally get vaccinated.

Poland also reported over 29,000 new infections, the highest infection rate since a virus wave in the spring made central Europe a global hot spot.

Morawiecki said Christmas could be much more peaceful if millions more in the nation of 38 million get shots soon. He stressed that Christmas is a time when children meet their grandparents, and that many such gatherings in the past have “unfortunately … ended tragically.”

He also spoke in favor of a proposal to allow employers to check whether their employees are vaccinated — an idea meeting with resistance.

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HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY ABOUT THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC:

U.S. moves to toughen testing requirement for travelers

Nigeria detects first case of omicron from an October sample, weeks before South Africa alerted the world about the variant

Japan starts booster COVID vaccinations amid omicron scare

Austrian lockdown extended through Dec 11 as planned

Go to https://APNews.com/coronavirus-pandemic for updates throughout the day.

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING TODAY:

GENEVA — The World Health Organization says the rate of increase of coronavirus cases held steady over the last week, though its African, Western Pacific and European regions all reported gains.

At the same time, new deaths globally linked to COVID-19 fell 10 percent.

The U.N. health agency, in its latest weekly epidemiological report on the pandemic, said case counts shot up 93% in Africa, though it cautioned about interpreting too much from that high figure because it was largely due to “batch reporting” of antigen tests by South Africa.

The report, for the first time, referred to the new omicron variant that was christened on Friday after being detected in South Africa and Botswana. WHO said the variant has now been reported in a “limited number” of countries –- though it has spread widely, into four of the WHO’s six regions.

As of Sunday, more than 280 million cases and more than 5.2 million deaths have been tallied due to the pandemic, WHO said.

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BERLIN — Germany’s intensive care association is calling for nationally uniform restrictions to be imposed immediately and warning that the number of COVID-19 patients requiring intensive care will hit a new high before Christmas.

German federal and state leaders are expected to decide Thursday on new measures to curb a sharp recent rise in coronavirus infections. Chancellor-designate Olaf Scholz says he will back a proposal to mandate coronavirus vaccinations for everybody next year.

The DIVI association said Wednesday that more than 6,000 patients with COVID-19 will need intensive care treatment before Christmas and the all-time high from last year will be exceeded. It said that more than 2,300 new patients were admitted to ICUs in the last week alone, and that transferring patients within Germany isn’t a long-term solution.

The association called for at least 1 million vaccinations, including boosters, to be administered per day. The number of vaccinations has risen sharply in recent days but is still short of that mark, at an average 660,000 per day over the past week.

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Germany on Wednesday reported its highest one-day death toll since February, with 446 more deaths bringing the country’s total so far to 101,790.

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GENEVA — The head of the World Health Organization is hailing steps by its member states to launch work toward an international agreement to help prevent and prepare for future pandemics in the wake of the coronavirus.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the consensus decision during a long-planned special session of the U.N. health agency’s members was “cause for celebration.” It sets off work toward creating an “intergovernmental negotiating body” to draft an agreement, which is likely to take months if not years to be finalized.

“Of course, there is still a long road ahead. There are still differences of opinion about what a new accord could or should contain,” he said.

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LISBON, Portugal — Portugal is entering a so-called state of calamity — the second this year — to curve an upward trend in coronavirus infections despite having one of the strongest vaccination records in Europe.

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The state of calamity is one step below the country’s top level of alert.

The country is tightening passenger control in airports, seaports and land borders, requiring negative coronavirus tests for most incoming visitors as part of the new set of rules that kick in Wednesday.

Face masks are again required in enclosed spaces and coronavirus vaccination or COVID-19 recovery tests are required to enter restaurants, cinemas, gyms and hotels.

Experts believe that Portugal’s vaccination rate, which at 87% of over 10 million residents is one of the highest globally, has shielded the country from the infection spikes experienced by northern European countries recently.

Still, hospitalizations have been rising since September. Authorities on Tuesday recorded 2,907 new infections on Tuesday, with 833 people in hospital, 116 in intensive care units and 15 deaths.

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Saudi Arabia said it detected its first case of the new coronavirus variant omicron.

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The kingdom’s state-run Saudi Press Agency said the case came from a citizen coming from what it described as a “North African country.”

The report said the infected individual and his close contacts had been quarantined.

The case marks the first-known instance of omicron being detected among Gulf Arab nations.

Much remains unknown about the new variant, which has been identified in more than 20 countries, including whether it is more contagious, whether it makes people more seriously ill, and whether it can thwart the vaccine.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease expert, said more would be known about the omicron strain in two to four weeks as scientists grow and test lab samples of the virus.

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COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Health officials say a concertgoer who attended a gig in northern Denmark with a local DJ has tested positive for the new coronavirus variant omicron.

The concert was attended by nearly 2,000 people on Saturday in Aalborg. The Danish Patient Safety Authority has urged all those who attended the event to be tested, Danish broadcaster DR said Wednesday.

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Statens Serum Institut, another government agency that maps the spread of COVID-19 in Denmark, said Tuesday that four cases of omicron had been reported in the Scandinavian country. It was not immediately clear if the concertgoer was included or if it was a new case.

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TOKYO — Japan has asked international airlines to stop taking new reservations for all flights arriving in the country until the end of December in a further tightening of already strict border controls.

The transportation ministry says the request is an emergency precaution.

The move by the world’s third largest economy, coupled with its recent return to a ban on foreign visitors, is among the most stringent anywhere, and more in line with cloistered neighbor China than with some other democracies in the region.

It comes as scientists work frantically to determine just how threatening omicron is.

Japan has confirmed a second case of the omicron variant in a person who arrived from Peru, one day after it reported its first case in a Namibian diplomat.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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