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What you need to know about the coronavirus right now

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Texas drops mask and occupancy restrictions
Texans awoke on Wednesday with a statewide mask mandate and occupancy restrictions in businesses lifted, a move some heralded as freedom and others as foolishness.

On paper, the rollback of coronavirus mitigation efforts is the most sweeping seen in the United States, along with a similar measure in Mississippi. In practice, vast swaths of Texas have rarely enforced mask or occupancy mandates in the past year, anyway.

Several major retailers, grocery and restaurant chains in Texas said they would still require that masks be worn in their stores.

South Korean hospitals extract extra vaccine doses
Nurses in a handful of South Korean hospitals are using specially designed syringes to squeeze extra doses of coronavirus vaccine out of each vial in a bid to stretch the still limited number of vials.

The practice has raised debate over medical safety and commercial concerns from the manufacturers who charge by the dose.

But at Seoul's National Medical Center, healthcare workers say it's actually a safe and easy process that should be a no-brainer for countries struggling to provide enough vaccines quickly.

EU rejects accusations of 'vaccine nationalism'

European Council President Charles Michel on Tuesday rejected charges of "vaccine nationalism" levelled against the EU, saying that while Britain and the United States have outright bans on exports of Covid-19 shots, the EU had not stopped exporting.

The EU has found itself under fire at home for a vaccine rollout much slower than those of former member Britain or the United States, and abroad for so far doing less than China, Russia or India to supply vaccines to poor countries.

Last week it annoyed vaccine buyers abroad by endorsing an Italian decision to halt a shipment to Australia.

England's test and trace not making a difference
England's $32 billion test and trace system has not made a clear impact on the progress of Covid-19, the British parliament's Public Accounts Committee said on Wednesday, decrying the "unimaginable" costs of the programme.

The vast amounts spent on England's test and trace system and its limited impact have drawn criticism, with opposition politicians calling for it to be run by the state-run health service.

The Public Accounts Committee said that test and trace had not achieved a key goal of avoiding a cycle of national lockdowns.

Japan to keep foreign spectators away from Olympics
Japan has decided to stage this summer's Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics without overseas spectators due to public concern about Covid-19, two government sources with knowledge of the matter told Reuters on Wednesday.

The Olympics, postponed by a year because of the pandemic, are scheduled for July 23 to Aug. 8 and the Paralympics from Aug. 24 to Sept. 5. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has said a decision on spectators would be made by the end of March.

The government has concluded that welcoming fans from abroad would not be possible given public concern and the detection of more contagious variants in many countries, the sources said.

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