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What you need to know about the coronavirus right now

Medical staff direct cars at an MOT testing centre in Belfast, Northern Ireland, which is being used as a drive through testing location for Covid-19, as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus. Photo: PA Wire/Justin Kernoghan

New Zealand marks downward trend in new Covid-19 cases
New Zealand reported a further fall in locally acquired Covid-19 cases on Wednesday, as the largely coronavirus-free nation looks to eradicate an outbreak of the highly infectious Delta variant.

Officials earlier this week said schools, offices and businesses can reopen outside Auckland from Wednesday after near-zero cases in the rest of the country, but there will be a cap on gatherings and masks will remain mandatory in public venues.

Biden to outline plan to curb coronavirus Delta variant
President Joe Biden on Thursday will present a six-pronged strategy intended to fight the spread of the Delta variant and increase U.S. Covid-19 vaccinations, the White House said on Tuesday.

A White House official familiar with the plan said it would touch on mandates, testing, and schools. The official added the private sector could do more on the issue and that Biden would take on vaccine hesitancy as well.

Vaccinations accelerate in Australia
Three-quarters of people over the age of 16 in Australia's New South Wales (NSW) have now had at least their first vaccination dose, the state reported on Wednesday, along with the first rise in new infections in three days.

As it prepares to emerge from lockdowns in its two biggest cities, the government is considering the use of vaccination certificates for international travel from October, the Sydney Morning Herald said in a report without citing a source. Australians are banned from leaving the country unless they have exemptions, while returning travellers must undergo a two-week hotel quarantine at their own expense.

U.S. CDC warns against, and eases, travel ratings
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Tuesday warned against travel to Sri Lanka, Jamaica and Brunei because of the rising number of Covid-19 cases, raising its travel advisory for these countries to "Level 4: Very High".

The CDC also eased its ratings for the Netherlands, Malta, Guinea-Bissau and United Arab Emirates from "Level 4: Very High" to "Level 3: High," urging unvaccinated Americans to avoid travel there. It also raised Australia from "Leve1 1: Low" to "Level 2: Moderate."

Mask war marks first weeks of school in Florida
Parents in Florida and across the United States have clashed with school and health officials in what has become a politicized tussle over Covid precautions.

Two small districts in Florida that did not require masks have had to shut down because of soaring Covid cases. Staff shortages stemming from illness or quarantine have led to overcrowding on buses and larger class sizes, making social distancing harder, Florida Education Association President Andrew Spar said.

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