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What you need to know about the coronavirus right now

New Zealanders begin life in lockdown
New Zealand's city streets were largely deserted on Wednesday as the country returned to life in lockdown for the first time in six months in a bid to halt any spread of the infectious Delta variant of Covid-19.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern ordered a snap 3-day nationwide lockdown on Tuesday after a single case, suspected to be Delta, was found in the largest city Auckland. Ardern on Wednesday confirmed the new case was the Delta variant and said there were now 5 confirmed cases in total, all linked to the original infection. One of the new cases is a fully vaccinated nurse from Auckland Hospital.

Japan extends Covid-19 emergency lockdown
Japan on Tuesday extended its state of emergency in Tokyo and other regions and announced new measures covering seven more prefectures to counter a spike in Covid-19 infections that is threatening the medical system.

The government's top health advisor, Shigeru Omi, said Japan needed to come up with steps to "prod individuals to avoid taking action that could potentially spread infections".

He said that could be done under current laws, which mostly assume voluntary cooperation, but added that there's also room for a nationwide debate on how to do this under a new legal framework. He did not go into details.

U.S. will extend transport mask mandate through Jan. 18
President Joe Biden's administration confirmed late on Tuesday it plans to extend requirements for travelers to wear masks on airplanes, trains and buses and at airports and train stations through Jan. 18 to address ongoing Covid-19 risks.

A Transportation Security Administration (TSA) spokesperson confirmed the extension, first reported by Reuters. "The purpose of TSA's mask directive is to minimize the spread of Covid-19 on public transportation," the spokesperson said.

Chinese ports choke over 'zero tolerance' Covid-19 policy
Several Chinese ports are facing congestion as vessels due to call at Ningbo are being diverted and cargo processing is slowed partly due to stricter disinfection measures under China's "zero-tolerance" coronavirus policy.

China's Ministry of Transportation has ordered all ports to have special teams to deal with foreign vessels and requires their crews to have health certificates or negative tests before allowing them to load and discharge cargos. The new coronavirus restrictions have increased to queues at major Chinese transportation hubs, further straining global supply chains.

Southeast Asia needs vaccine access to curb record deaths -Red Cross
Southeast Asian countries need more help securing Covid-19 vaccines, as the region struggles to contain record infections and deaths driven by the Delta variant, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said.

The region escaped the worst when the pandemic erupted last year, but in recent weeks has seen the highest deaths globally, as soaring infections push fragile healthcare systems to the brink and expose sluggish vaccination rollouts.

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