What you need to know about the coronavirus right now
Contaminant in Moderna vaccines suspected to be metallic particles, NHK says
A contaminant found in a batch of Moderna Inc's Covid-19 vaccines delivered to Japan is believed to be a metallic particle, Japanese public broadcaster NHK reported, citing sources at the health ministry. The NHK, in a report published late on Thursday, cited ministry sources as saying the particle reacted to magnets and was therefore suspected to be a metal. Moderna has described it as "particulate matter" that did not pose a safety or efficacy issue.
Spanish pharma company Rovi, which bottles Moderna vaccines for markets other than the United States, said the contamination could be due to a manufacturing issue in a production line and that it was conducting an investigation. The ministry has said the suspension of the Moderna batches was a precaution, but it prompted several Japanese companies to cancel worker vaccinations and the European drugs regulator to launch an investigation.
Kerala's Covid-19 lessons for India and Modi's government
Vilified by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's party for its high Covid-19 cases, Kerala state's apparent poor record may actually hold crucial lessons for containing the outbreak. Kerala's reliance on rapid antigen tests to detect and strictly isolate infected people at home is an approach the federal health ministry has sharply criticised but which state officials argue has helped them to better allocate hospital beds and oxygen supplies for those who really need them.
The efficient detection rate and its population density at more than twice the national average explain the high number of cases in Kerala. All the same, at 0.5%, Kerala has the lowest fatality rate among all but one thinly populated state.
New Zealand eases nationwide lockdown but Auckland shut off
New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern eased tough nationwide lockdown measures on Friday, although businesses and schools will still be closed and its biggest city, Auckland, will remain shut for longer.
Ardern said all of New Zealand, except Auckland and Northland, will move one step lower to alert level 3 from Tuesday. Under level 3, businesses can only operate for click and collect or contactless services. Bars and restaurants remain shut except for takeaways.
Mexican researchers say they have created a mask that neutralizes Covid-19
Researchers at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) have created a mask using silver and copper nanolayers that neutralizes SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, the university said in its official gazette on Thursday. UNAM said that if the viral concentration was high, the virus disappeared by more than 80% in about eight hours and if the viral load was low, in two hours none of the virus RNA was detected.
UNAM is calling the triple-layered antimicrobial mask SakCu; Sak means silver in Mayan and Cu is the chemical symbol for copper.
"Upon contact with the silver-copper nanolayer, the SARS-CoV-2 membrane breaks and its RNA is damaged," the university said. "Thus, even if SakCu is disposed of improperly, it will not be a problem as it does not remain contaminated, like many of the masks that are thrown away." The mask is reusable and can be washed up to 10 times without losing its biocide properties.
U.S. coronavirus hospitalisations hit eight-month high
The number of coronavirus patients in U.S. hospitals breached 100,000 on Thursday, the highest level in eight months, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, as a resurgence of Covid-19 driven by the highly contagious Delta variant strains the healthcare system.
U.S. Covid-19 hospitalisations have more than doubled in the past month. Over the past week, more than 500 people with Covid were admitted to hospitals every hour on average, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Florida has the highest number of Covid-19 patients in hospital, followed by Texas and California, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services.