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What you need to know about the coronavirus right now

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Delta variant sweeps Asia
The highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus is surging through Asia, with record numbers of infections in Australia and South Korea, prompting some countries to tighten curbs and others to step up vaccinations.

The variant, first detected in India in December last year, has spread to about 100 countries and the World Health Organisation warned recently that it could soon become the dominant form of the virus. It is also driving a spike in cases in Japan, casting a pall over this month's Olympic Games.

On Friday, Australia's New South Wales state, its most populous, reported its biggest daily rise in new cases this year. Total cases in the state in the latest outbreak have topped 200, a majority caused by the Delta variant.

India's official death toll from the coronavirus topped 400,000 on Friday, though experts say the actual number of dead could have reached one million or even higher, with a possible third wave of infections looming.

J&J's vaccine shows promise against Delta variant
Johnson & Johnson said that its single-shot vaccine showed strong promise against the Delta variant and other emerging strains and also provided durable protection against the infection more broadly.

Data showed that the durability of immune response for recipients of its vaccine lasted at least eight months, the healthcare company said, adding that its vaccine was 85% effective and could also help prevent hospitalization and death.

Russia's daily death toll climbs to new pandemic high
Russia registered a record number of daily COVID-19-related deaths on Friday amid a surge in cases across the world's largest country that the authorities blame on the Delta variant.

The government's coronavirus taskforce said 679 people had died in the past 24 hours, the highest figure confirmed in a single day since the pandemic began.

It also reported 23,218 new infections in the last 24 hours, including 6,893 in Moscow.

U.S. prepares for COVID-19 outbreaks
The White House on Thursday said it would send out special teams to hot spots around the United States to combat the Delta variant amid rising case counts in parts of the country where vaccination rates remain low.

The speedy U.S. vaccination campaign has dramatically reduced COVID-19 cases among residents. The peak seven-day-average of more than 250,000 cases per day in January fell to around 11,000 in mid-June.

But daily cases have since levelled out and in the past week rose about 10% to about 12,500, driven by case increases in the Midwest and Southeast where vaccination rates are low and where the Delta variant is spreading.

Ireland to speed up vaccinating younger people
Ireland will give 18- to 34-year-olds the option of receiving a vaccine one to two months earlier than scheduled in a bid to slow the spread of the Delta variant and resume a delayed reopening of the economy.

Ireland had planned to resume indoor drinking and eating in bars and restaurants from Monday but announced a slowdown of the easing of restrictions this week due to concerns about the variant, which now accounts for about 70% of new cases.

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