What you need to know about the coronavirus right now
Melbourne cases hit record
Melbourne's Covid-19 cases surged to record levels on Thursday with officials blaming illegal home gatherings to watch a sporting event for the spike as a hard lockdown to combat the spread of the Delta variant neared two months.
Authorities in Victoria, home to Melbourne, estimated nearly a third of Thursday's 1,438 new infections could be traced back to home parties last weekend to watch the Australian Rules Football Grand Final on television.
"Many of these cases were completely avoidable ... I'm not trying to blame anyone, I'm simply trying to explain because a lot of people will be scratching their heads - how could it have gone up by so much, so fast," state Premier Daniel Andrews said.
Vietnam's biggest city to start lifting curbs
Vietnam's commercial hub Ho Chi Minh City will start relaxing its coronavirus curbs from later on Thursday, officials said, allowing more business and social activities after four months of measures aimed at arresting a spiralling death rate.
Policies will seek to spur the economy and restore some normalcy while coexisting with the virus, which hit the country hard in recent months, with overall deaths jumping from 36 in mid May to more than 19,098 as of Wednesday.
"All checkpoints on the streets will be lifted and no travel permits will be needed after today," Le Hoa Binh, deputy chairman of the city's people's committee, told a news conference.
Malaysia makes vaccinations compulsory for government employees
Malaysia said on Thursday it would now be mandatory for all federal government employees to be vaccinated against Covid-19, with exceptions only allowed on health grounds.
The announcement comes as the country looks to boost vaccination rates with the aim of inoculating 80% of the population by the end of the year.
Malaysia has one of the fastest vaccine rollouts in Southeast Asia, with 61% of its 32 million population already fully vaccinated.
Los Angeles moves toward barring the unvaccinated from most businesses
Los Angeles officials on Wednesday signalled they would vote next week to prohibit unvaccinated people from entering most businesses in the United States' second-largest city, one of the nation's most severe crackdowns so far on the pandemic.
All but one of the City Council members present on Wednesday said they supported the proposed "emergency" ordinance, which would require proof of vaccination to enter restaurants, bars, shopping centres, gyms and other indoor spaces.
Merck says research shows its Covid-19 pill works against variants
Laboratory studies show that Merck & Co's experimental oral Covid-19 antiviral drug, molnupiravir, is likely to be effective against known variants of the coronavirus, including the dominant, highly transmissible Delta, the company said on Wednesday.
Since molnupiravir does not target the spike protein of the virus - the target of all current Covid-19 vaccines - which defines the differences between the variants, the drug should be equally effective as the virus continues to evolve, said Jay Grobler, head of infectious disease and vaccines at Merck.
Molnupiravir instead targets the viral polymerase, an enzyme needed for the virus to make copies of itself. It is designed to work by introducing errors into the genetic code of the virus.