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What you need to know about the coronavirus right now

The Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine. Photo by PA.

Australia hits vaccine milestone as Melbourne cases hover near record levels
More than half of Australia's adult population were fully vaccinated against Covid-19 as of Friday, authorities said, as they step up inoculations in the hope of easing restrictions while cases hover near daily record levels in Victoria state.

Victoria on Friday reported one more death and 733 new infections, its second biggest daily rise in the pandemic, down from the record high of 766 on Thursday. Most cases were detected in Melbourne.

The national vaccination rate rose to 50.1% after two million doses were administered over the past seven days.

South Korea reports record daily cases; plans how to live with Covid-19
South Korea has set a record for daily Covid-19 cases at 2,434, breaking the previous record set last month, as it grapples with a wave of infections that began in early July, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said.

The mortality rate and severe cases remain relatively low and steady at 0.82% and 309, respectively, helped largely by vaccinations that prioritised older people at high risk of severe Covid-19, the KDCA said.

The government is drawing up a plan for how to live more normally with Covid-19, expecting 80% of adults to be fully vaccinated by late October. The strategy will be implemented in phases to gradually ease restrictions, while masks will still be required at least in the initial stage.

WHO backs Regeneron Covid-19 drug cocktail
A World Health Organization (WHO) panel on Friday recommended the use of Regeneron and Roche's Covid-19 antibody cocktail for patients at high risk of hospitalisation and those severely ill with no natural antibodies. The treatment has been granted U.S. emergency use authorisation, having gained attention when used to treat former President Donald Trump's Covid-19 illness last year. Europe is reviewing the therapy, while Britain approved it last month.

While acknowledging costs associated with the treatment, the WHO panel said that given the recorded benefits of the therapy, "the recommendations should provide a stimulus to engage all possible mechanisms to improve global access to the intervention and associated testing." In a separate statement, the WHO called on Regeneron to lower prices and distribute the treatment equitably worldwide, especially in low- and middle-income countries.

U.S. CDC advisers back booster shots for those 65 and older
A U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advisory panel on Thursday recommended a booster shot of the Pfizer and BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine for Americans aged 65 and older and some adults with underlying medical conditions. The recommendations only cover people who received their second Pfizer/BioNTech shot at least six months earlier.

The panel declined to recommend boosters for younger adults, including healthcare workers, who live or work in institutions with high risk of contracting Covid-19, in part because of the difficulty of implementing such a proposal.

4DMedical lung imagery sheds more light on 'long Covid' effects
Doctors in California are using cutting-edge lung scans to better understand the effects of "long Covid" among patients who suffer severe symptoms months after their initial bout of infection. The scans by 4DMedical allow physicians to detect the phases of breath as it passes into and out of the lungs.

The technology uses algorithms and mathematical models to convert sequences of X-ray images into quantitative data. "It takes a short video sequence. We use about 20 seconds' worth of video sequence of the patient just breathing naturally," said 4DMedical founder and Chief Executive Andreas Fouras. "From that video sequence, we're able to mathematically calculate the motion and then the airflow everywhere around the lungs."

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