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What you need to know about the coronavirus right now

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Free at last to hug and party: UK reopens for business
Friends will hug, pints will be pulled and swathes of the British economy will reopen on Monday, giving 65 million people a measure of freedom after the gloom of a four-month coronavirus lockdown.

Beside the euphoria, though, there is also anxiety. There is growing concern about variant B.1.617.2, which British scientific advisers say will become the dominant variant in the United Kingdom and is more transmissible than B.1.1.7 (the variant first identified in Kent, England).

Indian virologist quits govt panel after airing differences
A top Indian virologist has resigned from a forum of scientific advisers set up by the government to detect variants of the coronavirus, he told Reuters on Sunday, weeks after questioning the authorities' handling of the pandemic. Shahid Jameel, chair of the scientific advisory group of the forum known as INSACOG, declined to give a reason for his resignation.

Reuters reported earlier this month that INSACOG, the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genetics Consortium, warned government officials in early March of a new and more contagious variant of the coronavirus taking hold in the country. Asked why the government did not respond more forcefully to the findings, Jameel had told Reuters he was concerned authorities were not paying enough attention to the evidence as they set policy.

Children susceptible to virus variants, Singapore warns
Singapore warned on Sunday that the new coronavirus variants, such as the B1617 strain first detected in India, were affecting more children, as the city-state prepares to shut most schools from this week and draws up plans to vaccinate youngsters. It was not clear how many children had contracted the strain.

Though Singapore's daily cases are still only a fraction of the numbers being reported among its Southeast Asian neighbours, infections have been increasing in recent weeks. From Sunday, the government implemented its strictest curbs on gatherings and public activities since a lockdown last year.

Daily record of cases, including jail clusters, in Thailand
Thailand reported on Monday a daily record of 9,635 new coronavirus cases, including 6,853 infections among prisoners from jail clusters, as the Southeast Asian country struggles with a third wave of infections.

Thailand has administered 2.2 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines to frontline workers and high-risk groups so far using imported doses of vaccines developed by China's Sinovac Biotech and AstraZeneca. A broader vaccination drive is expected to start in June with locally manufactured AstraZeneca doses. Vaccine registration opened to the public this weekend with a goal of inoculating 70% of adults in the country of more than 66 million people.

Taiwan urges no panic-buying as restrictions kick off
Taiwan appealed to people to avoid panic-buying of items such as instant noodles and toilet paper as new curbs on gatherings and movement took effect to rein in the spread of Covid-19 during a spike in domestic infections.

Taiwan raised its coronavirus alert level in the capital, Taipei, and the surrounding city, on Saturday, imposing two weeks of restrictions that will shut many venues and limit gatherings. It reported 206 new domestic infections on Sunday.
(PA)

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