The Latest: US probably at the start of uptick in cases.

WASHINGTON — Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, is warning that the upcoming holiday season may be even worse than Thanksgiving in terms of spreading the coronavirus.

Fauci told CNN on Monday that because the traditional Christmas season is an extended period that stretches into New Year’s, the prospects for spreading the virus as people travel “may be even more compounded than what we saw at Thanksgiving.”

Fauci said “it’s a very critical time in this country right now” with the virus surging and more important than ever for people to take precautions like avoiding indoor gatherings, wearing masks and social distancing.

Over Thanksgiving, many people traveled to gather with families, against warnings from health officials. Fauci said the U.S. is “probably just at the beginning” of seeing the resulting uptick in cases.

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THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— Health officials warn Americans not to let their guard down

— UK gears up for coronavirus vaccination program watched around the world

— Citing low virus rates in schools, New York City reopens schools again

— Biden picks Calif. Attorney General Xavier Becerra to lead HHS, pandemic response

— Senator says Trump, McConnell likely to back COVID-19 relief

— Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani in hospital after positive COVID-19 test

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

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

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PRAGUE — The Czech government has tightened rules for restaurants, bars and clubs several days after they were allowed to reopen.

Health Minister Jan Blatny says that starting on Wednesday such establishments can be open only until 8 p.m. instead of 10 p.m.

Blatny also says the government is re-imposing a ban on drinking alcoholic beverages in all public places. The move comes after the minister complained that some bars and clubs remained illegally opened until morning and demanded they pay high fines.

Bars, restaurants and clubs were allowed to reopen only on Thursday amid the government’s decision to ease some of its most restrictive measures imposed to contain the coronavirus pandemic.

The number of coronavirus infections in the hard-hit European country was on a decline since early November, but that trend might be coming to an end. The day-to-day increase of new cases was slightly higher the last four days than a week ago.

The Czech Republic had 546,833 confirmed cases with 8,902 fatalities.

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GENEVA — The World Health Organization’s emergencies chief says the rate of death from the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States is “shocking,” and the “brutal reality” is that transmission rates of the disease are so high that holiday hugs are ill-advised.

Dr. Michael Ryan says the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is facing a “difficult” time “when the U.S. is accounting for a third of all world cases at the moment, over the last number of weeks.”

“The epidemic in the U.S. is punishing. It’s widespread. It’s quite frankly, shocking, to see one to two persons a minute die in the U.S. — a country with a wonderful, strong health system (and) amazing technological capacities,” he said.

Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead on COVID-19, said most transmission happens among people who tend to spend a lot of time together, in workplaces or homes, but it’s sometimes hard to “disentangle” the exact time of transmission.

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RIO DE JANEIRO — The governor of Brazil’s Sao Paulo state said Monday he’s hopeful that vaccination against the novel coronavirus can begin on Jan. 25.

“We’re not turning our backs on the national vaccination plan, but we need to be more agile, and so we’re anticipating,” said Gov. João Doria, whose state is home to 46 million people. “Why start vaccination that saves the lives of millions only in March, if we can do it in January? We’re losing more than 600 lives every day,” he told reporters.

The potential CoronaVac vaccine is being developed by Chinese biopharmaceutical firm Sinovac and would be mostly produced by Sao Paulo’s state-run Butantan Institute. It has yet to be approved by Brazil’s health regulator, Anvisa.

Assuming CoronaVac is approved, the first phase of Sao Paulo’s program would provide two shots free of charge to 9 million people, of whom 7.5 million are over 60 years old, according to Doria’s presentation. The remaining 1.5 million are health workers, members of Indigenous groups and people in communities descended from escaped slaves. Those four groups have accounted for about three-quarters of Sao Paulo’s deaths since the start of the pandemic.

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ROME — Italy’s interior minister has tested positive for COVID-19 and was informed of the result during a government Cabinet meeting on Monday, a fellow minister said.

Agriculture Minister Teresa Bellanova in a Facebook post said Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese was forced to leave the session, which had been convened to discuss how to implement a national plan to bounce back from the economic damage of the pandemic. Bellanova said Lamorgese doesn’t have symptoms.

The interior minister, among other duties, oversees state police, whose mission includes ensuring that citizens comply with anti-COVID-19 measures enacted by the government, such as an overnight curfew.

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ROME — Italy registered some 5,000 fewer new COVID-19 cases on Monday, compared to the previous day’s confirmed caseload, but more than 50,000 fewer swab tests to detect the virus were performed as weekends usually see far fewer tests carried out.

The nation’s known confirmed overall case count in the pandemic, including the 13,720 infections in the Health Ministry’s daily update, stood at over 1.7 million. With the addition of 528 deaths, Italy’s confirmed tally of dead in the pandemic rose to 60,606.

Among the deaths on Sunday were two doctors, including a pediatrician, increasing to 233 the number of known deaths of physicians in the pandemic, according to the national federation of doctors and dentists.

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TORONTO — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada will get up to 250,000 doses of the vaccine developed by American drugmaker Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech before the end of the December.

The vaccine is expected be approved by Health Canada as soon as Thursday.

Trudeau had come under criticism from opposition parties for saying Canadians won’t be among the first to get a vaccine against COVID-19 because the first doses will likely go to citizens of the countries they are made in.

Canada doesn’t have mass vaccine-production facilities, but Trudeau says Canada ordered the most expansive portfolio of vaccines in the world.

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Rhode Island has reported more coronavirus cases per capita in the past week than any other state, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Rhode Island averaged about 110 daily cases per 100,000 people in the past seven days, the CDC’s COVID-19 Data Tracker shows.

Rhode Island is halfway through Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo’s “two-week pause,” the latest round of restrictions on business and personal activity meant to reduce community transmission of the coronavirus.

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia reported a record high of 6,211 new confirmed coronavirus cases in the past week along with 109 deaths.

The virus surge is not abating amid the holiday season and a week before the first vaccine shots are hoped to arrive in the state. Cases for the week of Nov. 30 to Dec. 6 are 18% higher than the previous record set last month.

Deaths also hit a record, jumping 15% over the week before. The state has had a total of at least 841 deaths linked to COVID-19 and 47,242 total confirmed cases.

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COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen has announced local restrictions that close restaurants, bars, theatres and cinemas till the end of the year and switch students from the 5th grade and older to distance learning for a week before the Christmas holidays.

The restrictions, which also include shutting amusement parks, zoos and gyms in 38 municipalities, affect Copenhagen and its surrounding municipalities, and Denmark’s second- and third-largest cities of Aarhus and Odense.

The restrictions begin Wednesday and come as Denmark has seen a steady increase in infections in recent weeks. Denmark has had 90,603 cases and 885 deaths.

“The increase is worrying,” Frederiksen said.

Health Minister Magnus Heunicke added that the virus “still has the power to shut down the health care system and pull a trail of serious consequences behind it.”

Denmark on Monday also extended limiting public gatherings to 10 and urged that private get-togethers respect that number, and extended requirements to wear masks on public transportation and in shops.

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BEIJING — A foreign ministry spokesperson claims that China is following the further spread of coronavirus in the U.S. with a “heavy heart.”

The virus was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year and critics have accused the government of botching its initial response, setting off the pandemic that has killed more than 1.5 million people, including more than 282,000 in the U.S.

China has rejected such accusations, saying it’s 76-day lockdown of Wuhan and other strict measures gave the rest of the world time to prepare.

“We have taken the most comprehensive, stringent and thorough prevention and control measures, taking the lead in controlling the epidemic and resuming production,” Hua Chunying told reporters Monday.

“In the meanwhile, we are also following with a heavy heart the reports on the development of the epidemic situation in the United States these days, and express our condolences and sympathy to the American people in their current difficult situation,” Hua said.

Public compliance in China with prevention measures has been near-universal, allowing China to all-but eliminate cases of local transmission.

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PARIS — Hoping to strengthen its funding, the World Health Organization is appointing a CEO to a foundation intended to bring in more private donations, which should leave the global health body less vulnerable if a country withdraws or cuts funding as the United States did.

Anil Soni will join the new WHO Foundation in January after eight years with the multinational pharmaceutical Viatris.

This year’s global coronavirus pandemic, as well as the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the world health body, has exposed WHO’s fragile funding base. The organization relies largely upon voluntary contributions from member nations as well as a handful of large foundations. That has left it open to criticism that it’s vulnerable to outside influence at the expense of global health priorities.

In an interview with The Associated Press ahead of the WHO Foundation announcement, Soni said his priority is to seek out corporate and individual donations. He said the foundation will ultimately assume control of the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, which has raised $238 million so far.

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MADRID – The Spanish government is pleading with people to voluntarily observe social distancing rules and other measures over the Christmas holiday, with the health minister saying “we can’t put a police officer in every house.”

Health Minister Salvador Illa said Monday that measures announced last week to prevent the spread of COVID-19 over the seasonal holiday are “very drastic.”

A curfew will be in place between 1:30 a.m.-6 a.m. on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve, and family gatherings will be limited to 10 people.

“You don’t play with COVID. Let’s be careful,” Illa told a news conference in Madrid.

Spain has reported over 46,000 virus-related deaths in the pandemic.

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BERLIN — Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief of staff says he expects coronavirus vaccinations to start in Germany “in the very first days” of the new year. The trained doctor says he’s prepared to help vaccinate people himself.

European Union authorities are expected to make a decision by Dec. 29 on approving the first vaccine for use. Germany is getting special vaccination centers ready. The news comes as Britain gears up to start coronavirus vaccinations on Tuesday.

Merkel’s chief of staff, Helge Braun, told the Bild newspaper late Sunday that he will tell medical authorities he’s prepared to help. He said “that won’t work at every hour of the day or night as chief of staff, but at the weekend I’m prepared to join in.” He said that he and Merkel will get vaccinated “when it’s our turn.”

Infection figures in Germany have more or less stabilized at a high level since a partial shutdown started on Nov. 2 but haven’t decreased. On Monday, the national disease control center reported 12,332 new cases over the past 24 hours, compared with 11,168 a week ago, and 147 new deaths.

Restrictions such as the closure of restaurants, bars, sports and leisure facilities are due to last until at least Jan. 10 and some regions are taking or contemplating tougher measures. Braun said tighter restrictions are needed “at least in the hot spots.”

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HONG KONG — Hong Kong plans to install vending machines for coronavirus testing kits in 10 subway stations across the city amid a new surge in cases.

A government news release Monday said about 10,000 specimen collection packs will be supplied to the machines daily.

The persistence of the virus in the city of 7.5 million has prompted an increasing array of control, testing and case tracing measures.

The news release said another 95 virus cases had been recorded on Sunday, bring the city’s total to 6,898, with 112 deaths. The last two week have seen the addition of 1,242 cases, most of them local, prompting authorities to tighten restrictions, including banning most social gatherings to just two people. The surge in cases has also led to the suspension of plans to open a “travel bubble” with Singapore, underscoring the impact the outbreak has had on the city’s economy.

Describing the epidemic situation as “severe,” the government’s Center for Health Protection called on the public to “avoid going out, having social contact and dining out,” and strongly urged people to avoid all nonessential travel outside the city.

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