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What you need to know about the coronavirus right now

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India fast-tracks approval for foreign vaccines
India is to fast-track emergency approvals for Covid-19 vaccines that have been authorised by Western countries and Japan, paving the way for possible imports of Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Novavax and Moderna shots.

The move, which will drop the need for companies to do small, local safety trials for their vaccines before seeking emergency approval, followed the world's biggest surge in cases in the country this month.

Vaccines authorised by the World Health Organization or authorities in Europe, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States "may be granted emergency use approval in India, mandating the requirement of post-approval parallel bridging clinical trial," the health ministry said.

Japan's Osaka reports record cases
Japan's western region of Osaka reported a record number of infections on Tuesday as a mutant strain of the virus fuelled a rebound in cases.

Osaka prefecture reported 1,099 daily infections, the most in the course of the pandemic.

The virus has hit Osaka, home to 8.8 million people, hard in recent weeks, prompting authorities to enforce targeted lockdown measures. Similar curbs were adopted in Tokyo on Monday following a rebound in the capital region.

Britain has offered all over-50s first shots
Britain has offered all over-50s a first dose of vaccine as the rollout of Moderna's shot in England began on Tuesday, the government said, adding it was on track to give a shot to all adults by the end of July.

Britain has seen one of the world's quickest vaccine rollouts, behind only Israel in the proportion of its population receiving at least one dose of a Covid-19 shot.

The government said it had offered at least one shot to priority cohorts 1 to 9, which include all adults over 50, the clinically vulnerable, and health and social care workers, ahead of a target to do so by Thursday.
British variant not as severe as feared

A highly contagious variant of Covid-19 first identified in Britain does not cause more severe disease in hospitalised patients, a new study published in the medical journal The Lancet Infectious Diseases on Monday found.

The strain, known as B.1.1.7, was identified in Britain late last year and has become the most common strain in the United States, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.

The study analysed a group of 496 Covid-19 patients who were admitted to British hospitals in November and December last year, comparing outcomes in patients infected with B.1.1.7 or other variants.

Pandemic 'a long way from over', WHO's Tedros says
Confusion and complacency in addressing Covid-19 means the pandemic is a long way from over, but it can be brought under control in months with proven public health measures, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Monday.

So far some 780 million vaccines have been administered globally, but measures, including wearing masks and maintaining physical distancing, must be applied to reverse the trajectory.

"Right now, intensive care units in many countries are overflowing and people are dying – and it's totally avoidable," Tedros told a news briefing.
(Reuters)

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