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What you need to know about the coronavirus right now

World faces around 4,000 variants
The world faces around 4,000 variants of the virus that causes COVID-19, prompting a race to improve vaccines, Britain said on Thursday, as researchers began to explore mixing doses of the Pfizer and AstraZeneca shots.

Thousands of variants have been documented as the virus mutates, including the so-called British, South African and Brazilian variants, which appear to spread more swiftly than others.

British Vaccine Deployment Minister Nadhim Zahawi said it was very unlikely that the current vaccines would not work against the new variants.

More people vaccinated than total cases
More people have been vaccinated against COVID-19 than infected by the virus.

Despite the landmark data reported on Wednesday, it remains unclear how long it will take to vaccinate the world. Many of those vaccinated have received only one of two doses required.

A total of 104.9 million vaccine doses have been administered, exceeding the 104.1 million cases of infection in a Reuters global tracker.

Global vaccine trust rising
People's willingness to get vaccinated against COVID-19 is rising around the world and more than half of those questioned said they would take the shot if it were offered next week, an updated survey of global vaccine confidence found on Thursday.

But attitudes and confidence vary widely in the 15 countries covered in the survey, with France showing high levels of scepticism and some Asian countries showing declining trust in vaccines, while some European nations see rising confidence.

Overall, vaccine confidence is higher than in November, when the same survey found that only 40% would be willing to get vaccinated.

New California vaccine sites to tackle disparities
New vaccination centres are to open this month in the heart of two urban California communities especially hard hit by the coronavirus, as state and federal officials try to tackle racial and economic disparities hindering U.S. immunization efforts.

The two sites, which will be capable of administering several thousand shots per day each, mark the first of more than 100 such vaccination centres expected to be established in communities of colour across the United States, according to Governor Gavin News.

Black and Hispanic populations, overly represented among the working poor and accounting for a large share of high-risk jobs, have been ravaged by the pandemic.

Australia puts 500 tennis players, staff into isolation
More than 500 tennis players and officials were ordered into isolation in Melbourne on Thursday as authorities reintroduced restrictions after a worker at a quarantine hotel tested positive for the coronavirus.

The city reimposed an order for masks indoors and a limit on gatherings of 15 people after the state of Victoria's run of 28 days with no new local cases came to an end.

Melbourne, is preparing to host the Australian Open tennis tournament from Monday, but play at six warm-up events was heavily disrupted by the new infection with organisers Tennis Australia calling off all matches for Thursday.
(Reuters)

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