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What you need to know about the coronavirus right now

Lockdowns extended in Sydney, New Zealand
Australian authorities on Friday extended a Covid-19 lockdown in Sydney until the end of September and introduced a night curfew in the city's worst-affected suburbs, after nearly two months of curbs failed to contain an outbreak of the Delta variant. New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian also announced the city's 5 million residents must wear a mask as soon as they step outside their homes, except when exercising which has been limited to an hour a day.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern also extended New Zealand's strict nationwide coronavirus lockdown on Friday, saying the full extent of the Delta outbreak was still unknown. Its outbreak widened beyond its largest city Auckland as new infections were discovered in the capital Wellington and case numbers jumped to 31.

Locked-up and fed-up: Australian voters put PM on notice
With more than half Australia's population of 25 million living under some form of lockdown, blame has been growing for what has been seen as the blundering management of a vaccine rollout that is behind almost every other developed nation. On current polling, Prime Minister Scott Morrison's Liberal Party-led Coalition would likely lose its thin majority in the country's 151-seat parliament at an election that must be held by the middle of next year.

Just 30% of people aged 16 and over have been fully vaccinated after a big push in recent weeks to improve take-up. The delays were partly due to changed health advice over the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which was to be the backbone of the country's immunisation programme, due to rare cases of blood clots among some recipients.
Australia has since scrambled to boost its supplies of Pfizer Inc's vaccine and reversed some advice on AstraZeneca.

Scientists question evidence behind U.S. booster shot drive
The Biden administration's plan to provide Covid-19 vaccine boosters is based on concerns that a decrease in the vaccines' ability to protect against milder infections could also mean people will have less protection against severe illness, a premise that has yet to be proven, scientists said on Thursday.

Data on so-called "breakthrough" infections in vaccinated people shows that older Americans have so far been the most vulnerable to severe illness. Based on available data on vaccine protection, it is not clear that younger, healthier people will be at risk. All experts interviewed by Reuters also emphasized the need to inoculate the vast number of people around the world who have yet to access Covid-19 vaccines.

Maskless flyers in the United States face $9,000 fines
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration on Thursday proposed $531,545 in civil penalties against 34 airline passengers over unruly behavior - with some facing $9,000 fines for defying mask requirements - pushing its total for the year past $1 million.

The United States has seen a significant jump in reported cases of passengers causing disturbances on airplanes, including ignoring a federal mandate to wear face masks during the Covid-19 pandemic. Numerous videos of confrontations have drawn attention on social media. The Transportation Security Administration on Tuesday said it would extend existing mask requirements for airports, airplanes, trains and transit hubs through Jan. 18.

Mexico battles surge in Covid-19 cases
Mexico is battling a new wave of coronavirus infections as daily cases hit record highs and the official death toll passed 250,000, one of the highest worldwide. The higher infection numbers probably in part reflect more widespread testing in Mexico, which for a long time carried out very few compared to many Western countries.

Jaime Gonzalez, a doctor who was buying an oxygen tank for a family member in Mexico City, said he was seeing hospital beds filling up again, and oxygen short in supply. "It's impossible for people to remain locked up, always," Gonzalez said. "But we haven't been able to strike a balance between what is necessary to stay healthy and live an economically viable life."

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