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What you need to know about the coronavirus right now

South Africa halts AstraZeneca rollout
South Africa halted Monday's planned rollout of AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccinations after data showed it gave minimal protection against mild infection from one variant, stoking fears of a much longer cat-and-mouse battle with the pathogen.

Researchers from the University of Witwatersrand and the University of Oxford said in a prior-to-peer analysis that the AstraZeneca vaccine provided minimal protection against mild or moderate infection from the so-called South African variant among young people.

"This study confirms that the pandemic coronavirus will find ways to continue to spread in vaccinated populations, as expected," said Andrew Pollard, chief investigator on the Oxford vaccine trial.

South Korea seeks to reassure ageing residents
With one of the fastest ageing populations in the world, South Korea sought to reassure elderly residents as it said it would push ahead with AstraZeneca’s vaccine but is still examining its efficacy for people older than 65.

A panel of South Korean advisers has urged caution over the use of AstraZeneca’s vaccine for people older than 65, citing a lack of data, the food and drug safety ministry said last week.

On Monday, the government confirmed it would go ahead with plans to distribute the company's vaccine, but that regulators will decide later this week whether to provide it to older citizens.

UK says booster and annual vaccinations very probable
A Covid-19 booster in the autumn and then annual vaccinations are very probable, Britain's vaccine deployment minister said as countries race to inoculate in the face of new variants.

Britain has already injected over 12 million first doses and is on track to meet a target to vaccinate everyone in the top most vulnerable groups by mid-February.

The success of the rollout, however, is spurring debate about how soon the government can ease lockdown restrictions amid plans to reopen schools in England in March.

French flock to Madrid cafes
French tourists weary of their strict national lockdown are flocking over the border to Madrid, where bars and restaurants are open and people can stay outdoors until 10 p.m.

"Here, there's life - everything's happening!" said 22-year-old student Clara Soudet as she left a live music event near Madrid's bustling Gran Via.

Game, set and mask
Tennis fans wearing masks filtered into Melbourne Park on Monday for the start of the Australian Open, this year's first Grand Slam event, as the host city recorded one new locally acquired case of coronavirus.

Players and staff arriving from overseas have all served 14 days of quarantine but foreign fans have been kept out as part of Australia's tough and effective measures to get to grips with the coronavirus.

The tournament will welcome about half its usual capacity, with crowds limited to 30,000 fans a day.
(Reuters

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