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What you need to know about the coronavirus right now

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India extends record rise in cases
India extended a record daily run of new Covid-19 infections on Friday, spurred by hundreds of positive tests at a major religious gathering, as politicians pushed ahead with election rallies against advice they could worsen the outbreak.

India is battling a massive second wave of the pandemic, with new restrictions imposed in Mumbai, New Delhi and other cities. There are also growing calls for officials to speed up the country's vaccination programme as hospitals are swamped.

The 217,353 new cases reported by the health ministry on Friday marked the eighth record daily increase in the last nine days and took total cases to nearly 14.3 million.

Thailand uses hotel beds for Covid-19 patients

Thailand reported on Friday its fifth record daily tally of coronavirus cases this week, as authorities set up thousands of field hospitals to cope with an influx of patients and lined up hotels to provide extra beds for those without symptoms.

All positive cases have to be admitted into care under Thai rules and with 10,461 patients currently being treated, the medical sector could be put under additional strain.

The government has set up over 20,000 beds at field hospitals across the country at community centres and gyms.

Brazil's hospitals running out of sedatives
Brazil's hospitals were running out of drugs needed to sedate Covid-19 patients on Thursday, with the government urgently seeking to import supplies amid reports of the seriously ill being tied down and intubated without effective sedatives.

Health Minister Marcelo Queiroga said Brazil was in talks with Spain and other countries to secure the emergency drugs. Hospitals, he added, were also struggling to get enough oxygen.
The scenes playing out across Brazil are placing growing international pressure on President Jair Bolsonaro.

Merkel says lockdowns, curfews vital
German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged lawmakers on Friday to approve new powers that would allow her to force lockdowns and curfews on areas with high infection rates, saying a majority of Germans were in favour of stricter measures.

"The third wave of the pandemic has our country firmly in its grip," said Merkel, whose speech in parliament was interrupted by heckling from lawmakers of the far-right Alternative for Germany party opposed to lockdowns.

"Intensive care workers are sending one distress call after the other. Who are we to ignore their pleas?" Merkel said.

Fauci believes J&J vaccine will 'get back on track soon'
Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease doctor, hopes U.S. regulators will make a quick decision to lift a pause on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and get that vaccine "back on track," he said in an interview with Reuters on Thursday.

His comments come a day after a panel of advisers to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention delayed a vote on whether to resume the J&J shots for at least a week, until it had more data on the risk.

The United States earlier this week decided to pause distribution of the J&J vaccine to investigate six cases of a rare brain blood clot linked with low platelet counts in the blood.
(Reuters)

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