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The Latest: Germany passes 2 million mark for COVID cases

BERLIN — Germany has passed the mark of 2 million confirmed COVID infections since the start of the pandemic.

The country’s disease control agency said Friday that there were 22,368 newly confirmed cases over the past 24-hour period, taking the total to 2,000,958.

The Robert Koch Institute said there have been 44,994 deaths linked to the coronavirus, an increase of 1,113 in a day.

Workers wearing protective clothing enroll patients at a facility for coronavirus vaccinations in Beijing, Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. A city in northern China is building a 3,000-unit quarantine facility to deal with an anticipated overflow of patients as COVID-19 cases rise ahead of the Lunar New Year travel rush. (AP PhotoMark Schiefelbein)

German news agency dpa reported that newspapers carried significantly more death notices during the period until October 2020 than in the previous year.

The Saechsische Zeitung daily, which covers the eastern state of Saxony now badly affected by the outbreak, had three instead of the usual two obituary pages.

THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

People wearing protective masks to help curb the spread of the coronavirus walk in the Ginza shipping area of Tokyo Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. The Japanese capital confirmed more than 2000 new coronavirus cases on Friday. (AP PhotoEugene Hoshiko)

Desperate effort to bring oxygen supplies to the Brazilian rainforest’s biggest city.

While much of Europe is increasingly locked down, Spain insists it can stay open and still beat the virus.

President-elect Joe Biden unveils $1.9 trillion plan for tackling the coronavirus pandemic.

Two persons arrive at a new coronavirus, COVID-19, vaccination center in the 'Erika-Hess-Ice-Stadium' in Berlin, Germany, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. The first doses of the Moderna vaccine are planed to distributed at that vaccination center in Berlin. (AP PhotoMichael Sohn)

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

HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

BRUSSELS — Belgium is strengthening its rules for travelers entering the country by train or bus in a bid to limit the spread of a more contagious variant of the coronavirus first detected in Britain.

A worker sprays disinfectant as a precaution against the coronavirus at Klong Toey market in Bangkok, Thailand, Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. The market was temporarily closed after a person there tested positive for the coronavirus earlier this week. Thailand's government recently announced new measures, including partial lockdowns with strict travel restrictions in some areas, after a surge of coronavirus cases. Schools, bars, gambling parlors and other public gathering places were closed. (AP PhotoSakchai Lalit)

In a statement Friday, Belgium’s Interior ministry said travelers arriving from a country outside the European Union or the Schengen space with a high contamination rate will now be submitted to the same rules as those coming by boat or plane.

The ministry said the measures are precautionary.

According to virologist Marc Van Ranst, who spoke to local broadcaster VRT on Friday, about 100 cases of people infected by new variants of the virus have been registered so far in Belgium. He said that figure could probably be multiplied by 100 for the true number.

Members of an association of billiard room owners wearing traditional funeral clothes shout slogans during a rally demanding the government to allow the reopening of their businesses amid tightened social distancing rules against the pandemic in front of the ruling Democratic Party headquarters in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. The signs read "The government guarantees the rights to live." (AP PhotoAhn Young-joon)

More than 20,000 people have died of COVID-19-related causes in Belgium, a country with 11.5 million inhabitants. Health authorities said Friday that there were 17,966 additional deaths in the country in 2020 compared with the previous year.

ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s education minister says authorities will start reopening schools in phases from Jan. 18 despite a steady increase in deaths and infections from the coronavirus.

Schools were closed in November when data showed that the country’s positivity rate had jumped to about 7 percent.

The rate has since come down to 5.9 percent, which is still high, according to experts.

Education minister Shafqat Mahmood said Friday officials decided to reopen schools in phases because the government doesn't want to stop the learning process for children.

His remarks at a televised press conference came hours after Pakistan reported 2,417 new cases and 45 more deaths .

Pakistan has reported 514,338 infections and 10,863 deaths since the pandemic began in February.

BEIJING — China says it is now treating more than 1,000 people for COVID-19 as numbers of cases continue to surge in the country’s north.

The National Health Commission said Friday that 1,001 patients are under care for the disease, 26 of them in serious condition. It says 144 total new cases were recorded in the previous 24 hours.

The province of Hebei, just outside Beijing, accounted for 90 of the new cases, while Heilongjiang province farther north reported 43 new cases.

While there have been no reports of hospital bed shortages, Hebei has begun constructing a new quarantine center outside the provincial capital of Shijiazhuang in case it is needed.

Shijiazhuang and the cities of Xingtai and Langfang are under virtual lockdown, confining more than 20 million people to their homes.

WILMINGTON, Del. — President-elect Joe Biden says he knows his $1.9 trillion coronavirus plan “does not come cheaply” but he says America can’t afford to fail to pass the plan.

Biden said Thursday night that by investing now “boldly, smartly and with unwavering focus on American workers and families,” the plan will strengthen the economy, address inequity and set America on a more sustainable financial course.

Biden’s plan faces an uncertain future. Democrats have narrow margins in both chambers of Congress and the legislation would be paid for with borrowed money, adding to trillions in debt the government has already incurred to fight the pandemic.

WILMINGTON, Del. — President-elect Joe Biden is calling the Trump administration’s rollout of coronavirus vaccines a “dismal failure” and says he will unveil his own plans on Friday to speed up inoculations.

In unveiling a $1.9 trillion plan for dealing with the pandemic, Biden said Thursday night that “this will be on the most challenging operational efforts we have ever undertaken as a nation.”

He says that “we will have to move heaven and earth to get more people vaccinated.”

The Trump administration announced earlier this week that it will release all available vaccine doses. It said it will direct states to immediately begin vaccinating every American 65 and older as well as tens of millions of adults with health conditions that put them at higher risk of dying from the virus.

WILMINGTON, Del. —President-elect Joe Biden says his priority is effectively combatting the twin crises of a pandemic and the sinking economy.

Biden said during a speech Thursday night that “we have to act now” to help the “millions of Americans, through no fault of their own,” who have lost “the dignity and respect that comes with a job and a paycheck.”

He discussed the framework of his $1.9 trillion “American Rescue Plan,” which includes $1,400 checks for most Americans and would extend a temporary boost in unemployment benefits and a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures through September.

The proposal also includes plans to speed up the vaccine rollout and provide financial help to individuals, states and local governments and businesses struggling with the prolonged economic fallout.