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What you need to know about the coronavirus right now

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Enough vaccine for every U.S. adult by May
The United States will have enough COVID-19 vaccines for every American adult by the end of May, President Joe Biden said after Merck & Co agreed to make rival Johnson & Johnson's inoculation.

The partnership between drug makers, as well as other steps the government is taking to assist J&J, will allow the company to accelerate delivery of 100 million vaccine doses by around a month, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

First Pfizer vaccines to Africa under COVAX go to Rwanda
The first doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 shots to be dispatched to Africa under the global COVAX vaccine-sharing scheme were to arrive in Rwanda on Wednesday, as efforts to inoculate the world's poorest nations accelerate.

The batch of 102,960 doses were due in Kigali hours after a flight landed carrying 240,000 AstraZeneca doses from the Serum Institute of India, the health ministry said.

Rwanda plans to start its vaccination drive on Friday, prioritising frontline health workers and others at high risk.

Merkel set to agree to lockdown easing
German Chancellor Angela Merkel was expected on Wednesday to agree a gradual relaxation of coronavirus curbs with regional leaders but the rules can be tightened again if infections jump, according to draft plans seen by Reuters.

Pressure is growing on the government to set out clear plans to restore normal activities after months of lockdown, even though daily cases have begun creeping up again and the pace of vaccination has been sluggish.

With regional elections due this month in two federal states, and a national election in September, politicians are trading blame over who is responsible for the slow pace of vaccines.

Italy closes schools in worst-hit areas
The Italian government ordered the closure of all schools in areas hardest hit by COVID-19 and extended curbs already in place on businesses and movement until after Easter amid worries over new, highly contagious variants.

Italy is seeing around 15,000 new cases per day, with the trend steadily rising and government advisors warning the health system is coming under growing strain.

A tiered colour-coded system which allows for measures to be calibrated according to infection levels in Italy's 20 regions will remain in force, with assessments revised every week.

Ukraine hospitalisations rise to record
A record number of Ukrainians were taken to hospital with coronavirus over the past 24 hours, while the number of deaths remains consistently high, health ministry data show on Wednesday.

Health Minister Maksym Stepanov said 3,486 people were hospitalised in the past day, the highest number since the epidemic hit the country of 41 million last year.

Stepanov also told the Ukraine 24 television channel that shipments of the Chinese-made Sinovac vaccine were likely to be delayed.

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