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What you need to know about the coronavirus right now

REUTERS/Dado Ruvic//File Photo

Okinawa vaccine contaminants likely from needle stick
Japan's health minister said on Tuesday it was highly likely that foreign matter found in Moderna Inc Covid-19 vaccines in the southern prefecture of Okinawa were caused when needles were incorrectly inserted into vials, breaking off bits of the rubber.

"Whatever the reason (for the foreign matter) we have heard that there is no safety or other issues," health minister Norihisa Tamura told reporters, adding that it was not uncommon for foreign material to enter a vial with other vaccines. "We will continue to gather information and report back," he added.

Australia in vaccine swap pact with Singapore
Australia will receive 500,000 doses of Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine from Singapore this week, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Tuesday, after Canberra agreed a swap deal in a bid to curtail surging coronavirus infections.

The agreement, which will see Australia return the same amount of Pfizer vaccine doses to Singapore in December, will allow Canberra to accelerate its vaccination programme as daily cases near record levels for the country.

South Korea to begin offering booster shots in October

South Korea plans to begin giving out Covid-19 booster shots from October, joining several countries that have approved such doses amid resurgent infections and concern that vaccine protection wanes over time.

Initial booster doses will go to those with weakened immune systems or deemed to be at high risk. Others will receive them six months after full vaccination, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said.

South Africa detects new variant, still studying mutations
South African scientists have detected a new coronavirus variant with multiple mutations but are yet to establish whether it is more contagious or able to overcome the immunity provided by vaccines or prior infection.

The new variant, known as C.1.2, was first detected in May and has now spread to most South African provinces and to seven other countries in Africa, Europe, Asia and Oceania, according to research which is yet to be peer-reviewed.

EU drops U.S. from list of Covid-safe countries for travel

European Union governments agreed on Monday to remove the United States from the EU's safe travel list, meaning U.S. visitors and those from five other countries are likely to face tighter controls, such as Covid-19 tests and quarantines.

Israel, Kosovo, Lebanon, Montenegro, and North Macedonia have also been taken off. The list seeks to unify travel rules across the bloc, although it does not bind individual EU nations, which are free to determine their own border policies.

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