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What you need to know about the coronavirus right now

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EU turns up heat on Astrazeneca

EU leaders voiced frustration on Thursday over a massive shortfall in contracted deliveries of AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccines, as a third wave of infections surged across Europe.

With inoculation programmes running far behind those of Britain and the United States, the bloc's executive warned that vaccine exports by the British-Swedish company would be blocked until it delivers the shots it promised to the EU.

"We have to and want to explain to our European citizens that they get their fair share," European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told a news conference.

Brazil hits record 100,000 cases in a day
Brazil on Thursday registered a record 100,158 new coronavirus cases within 24 hours, the Health Ministry said, underlining the scale of a snowballing outbreak that is becoming a major political crisis for President Jair Bolsonaro.

The record caseload, along with 2,777 more Covid-19 deaths, comes a day after Brazil surpassed 300,000 fatalities from the pandemic, the world's worst death toll after the United States.

Brazil's outbreak has set weekly records due to a patchy vaccine rollout, a lack of national coordination and an infectious new variant. Critics, including senior lawmakers with ties to the president, are increasingly blaming Bolsonaro for his handling of the pandemic.

India plans to widen vaccination campaign
India plans to widen a coronavirus vaccination campaign soon to include more younger people, the health minister said on Friday, as its new infections rose by the most in more than five months.

The world's biggest vaccine-making nation has held back large exports of the AstraZeneca shot to meet growing domestic demand. But there is no outright ban, a government source said, and vaccine supply will be staggered.

All above the age of 45 are eligible for vaccination from April 1, the government has said, and it is now working to meet a demand by many states for the inclusion of all adults, after new infections nearly quadrupled this month.

South Korea extends distancing curbs
South Korea said on Friday it will extend its distancing rules, which include an outside dining curfew and ban on gatherings of five or more people, for two weeks as its daily new cases hit a one-month high.

The government decides whether to ease or tighten distancing curbs every two weeks, and the current rules have been in place since mid-February.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency reported 494 new cases as of Thursday midnight, the most in 35 days.

Thailand approves quarantine waiver for tourists
Thai authorities on Friday agreed to allow foreigners inoculated against the coronavirus to travel to Phuket, its biggest holiday island, without undergoing quarantine.

Authorities also announced a new order for five million more doses of AstraZeneca's vaccine.

With arrival numbers plummeting this past year, tourism-reliant Thailand is racing to secure vaccines for its population and reopen the country to foreigners in a pilot project for vaccine passports.

"If we can inoculate 50% to 60% of the population we can open the country safely and move the economy and tourism forward," senior health official Kiattiphum Wongraijit said.

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