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What's Happening: Millions holed up, vaccine trial starts

Millions of people are holing up at home, stocking up on supplies and keeping a wary eye on how close they get to friends and neighbours as the coronavirus spreads to more places.
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Millions of people are holing up at home, stocking up on supplies and keeping a wary eye on how close they get to friends and neighbours as the coronavirus spreads to more places. The number of cases worldwide topped 175,000 with 6,706 deaths, but over 77,000 people have already recovered from the illness.

These are some of the latest developments Monday:

ASIA NOW ACCOUNTS FOR LESS THAN HALF OF GLOBAL CASES

The coronavirus outbreak has shifted away from its original epicenter in Asia to Europe. China, where the virus was first detected in December, now accounts for less than half of the world’s nearly 175,000 cases, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. But as the virus spreads to the west, it is leaving millions of fearful people hunkered down in their homes in Europe, the United States and beyond. Public life in many places was increasingly shut down: many restaurants were offering only takeout, if they were open at all. Schools, concerts, sporting events — even small-scale St. Patrick’s Day parties — were cancelled.

SPAIN BECOMES WORLD'S FOURTH-MOST INFECTED COUNTRY

Spain officially became the fourth-most infected country in the world, surpassing South Korea as its arc of contagion curved higher. Only China, Italy and Iran have more confirmed cases of COVID-19 than Spain, where the health ministry said the number of infections increased overnight by roughly 20% to 9,191 and the number of fatalities rose to 309. The actual figure was presumed to be even higher, because Spain switched to a new system of reporting.

VACCINE TRIAL STARTS IN U.S.

The first participants in a clinical trial for a vaccine to protect against the new coronavirus received an experimental dose at a research institute in the U.S. state of Washington. Officials caution, however, that it will still take from a year to 18 months to fully validate any potential vaccine. Dozens of research groups around the world are racing to create a vaccine as COVID-19 cases continue to grow. The National Institutes of Health is funding the trial, which starts Monday at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle.

TRUMP ADMINISTRATION SAYS FOREIGN DISINFORMATION STOKING FEARS

The Trump administration is alleging that a foreign disinformation campaign is underway aimed at spreading fear in the country amid the coronavirus pandemic. Federal officials are confronting what they say is a deliberate effort by a foreign entity to sow fears of a nationwide quarantine. They have not named the foreign entity they believe to be responsible. Agencies took co-ordinated action to deny that any such plans for a quarantine were put in place, as they tried to calm a nation already on edge by disruptions to daily life caused by the virus. “Text message rumours of a national #quarantine are FAKE,” tweeted the National Security Council Sunday night. “There is no national lockdown.”

CRISIS GIVES BOOST TO DEMOCRATS' JOE BIDEN

Former U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders are both seeking to be the Democrats' presidential candidate and have both sought to cast themselves as best-positioned to lead the U.S. through a global pandemic. But Biden seems to be the one getting the bigger boost as he stresses his governing experience and appears to be the less risky choice. During a Sunday evening debate, Biden repeatedly cited his experience in the White House situation room, where former President Barack Obama's administration contained an Ebola threat and helped avoid a global economic collapse. Biden and Sanders faced each other from lecterns strategically placed six feet apart in line with the recommendations of health experts. A live audience was barred from attending. They did not shake hands.

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The Associated Press receives support for health and science coverage from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

The Associated Press

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