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What you need to know about the coronavirus right now

Photo: PA Wire/Simon Dawson

Sydney set to unveil freedom roadmap as more curbs eased
Australian authorities announced plans on Monday to gradually reopen locked-down Sydney, unveiling a two-tiered system that will give citizens inoculated for Covid-19 more freedoms than the unvaccinated for several weeks.

Movement restrictions the most populous state of New South Wales will be lifted gradually from Oct. 11 to Dec. 1 as vaccination rates push through 70%, 80% and 90%. However, people who are not fully inoculated will not be allowed to join in renewed activities, like community sports, dining out and shopping, until the final date.

Study says pandemic cut life expectancy by most since WW2

The Covid-19 pandemic reduced life expectancy in 2020 by the largest amount since World War Two, according to a study published on Monday by Oxford University, with the life expectancy of American men dropping by more than two years.

There were greater drops in life expectancy for men than women in most countries, with reductions in life expectancy in 27 of the 29 countries overall. There have been nearly 5 million reported deaths caused by the new coronavirus, a Reuters tally shows.

New York may use National Guard to replace unvaccinated healthcare workers
New York Governor Kathy Hochul is considering employing the National Guard and out-of-state medical workers to fill hospital staffing shortages with tens of thousands of workers unlikely to meet a Monday deadline for mandated Covid-19 vaccination. Some 16% of the state's 450,000 hospital staff, or roughly 70,000 workers, have not been fully vaccinated, the governor's office said.

The plan, outlined in a statement from Hochul on Saturday, would allow her to declare a state of emergency to include licensed professionals from other states and countries as well as retired nurses. National Guard officers with medical training would be used to keep hospitals and other medical facilities adequately staffed.

Scientists map antibody binding sites on virus spike
A new Covid-19 "antibody map" is helping researchers identify antibodies that will be able to neutralize the coronavirus even after it mutates, according to a report published on Thursday in Science. Using hundreds of antibodies collected from Covid-19 survivors around the world, a global research team mapped out exactly where each antibody attaches to the spike protein on the virus surface, which it uses to break into cells and infect them.

The researchers looked for - and found - antibodies that target sites on the spike that are so important for the viral life cycle that the virus probably could not function without them. Those sites are likely to remain targets for vaccines or treatments even when the virus mutates. "If you are making an antibody cocktail, you'd want at least one of those antibodies in there because they are probably going to maintain their efficacy against most variants," said coauthor Kathryn Hastie of the La Jolla Institute for Immunology in California, in a news release.

Vaccinated pregnant women pass antibodies to babies
Pregnant women who get an mRNA vaccine against Covid-19 pass high levels of protective antibodies to their babies, new research shows. The findings, reported on Wednesday in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology - Maternal Fetal Medicine, indicate that "the antibodies that the mother is building to the vaccine are crossing the placenta and that's likely to confer benefits for the infant after it's born," said coauthor Dr Ashley Roman of NYU Langone Health in New York City.

It is not clear whether the timing of vaccination during pregnancy is related to antibody levels in the baby or how long the antibodies last.

"We don't know how long those antibodies stick around in the baby," Roman said. "But the presence of these antibodies in the cord blood, which is the fetus' blood, indicates that the baby also has potential to derive benefit from maternal vaccination."

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