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What you need to know about the coronavirus right now

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Israel sees drop in Pfizer vaccine protection against infections
Israel reported on Monday a decrease in the effectiveness of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in preventing infections and symptomatic illness, but said it remained highly effective in preventing serious illness. The decline coincided with the spread of the Delta variant and the end of social distancing restrictions in Israel.

Vaccine effectiveness in preventing both infection and symptomatic disease fell to 64% since June 6, the Health Ministry said. At the same time the vaccine was 93% effective in preventing hospitalizations and serious illness from the coronavirus.

Leaked memo raises Thai concern about Sinovac efficacy
A leaked health ministry document has prompted calls in Thailand for medical staff inoculated against COVID-19 to be given a booster of an mRNA vaccine, after it included a comment that such a move could dent public confidence in Sinovac Biotech's vaccine.

Thailand has administered Sinovac's inactivated virus vaccine to most health workers and its real-world study showed two doses were 95% effective in reducing mortality and severe symptoms. The study showed it was 71% to 91% effective in stopping infection with the Alpha variant.

Limitations on spectators at the Tokyo Olympics
Japan's government is arranging for the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony to be held with only a reduced number of VIP spectators, the Asahi newspaper reported on Tuesday, ahead of talks with the International Olympic Committee and other organisers this week.

Events at large venues and night events after 9 p.m. would also be held without spectators, while the number of VIPs such as sponsors' guests and diplomats at the opening ceremony would be reduced sharply from an initial estimate of about 10,000, the paper said, citing multiple unidentified government sources.

Olympic organisers have capped the number of spectators allowed into venues, but will offer Japanese students special access under a programme that would let hundreds of thousands of children see the world's best athletes compete. Tickets are cheap and COVID-19 countermeasures are in place. Many schools, however, have already pulled out, and others are still on the fence, awaiting more information.

Indonesia prepares extra facilities for worst-case outbreak scenario
Indonesia has prepared backup health facilities for a worst-case scenario where daily coronavirus infections reach 40,000 to 50,000, senior minister Luhut Pandjaitan told reporters on Tuesday. He said the government has accommodation infrastructure that can be turned into isolation facilities and has also ramped up production of oxygen.

Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin added that the provinces in Sumatra and Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of Borneo island, were being monitored closely amid a rise in cases of the Delta variant of the coronavirus in those areas.

Israel, South Korea agree on COVID-19 vaccine swap
Israel will deliver about 700,000 expiring doses of Pfizer-BioNTech's coronavirus vaccine to South Korea later this month, and South Korea will give Israel back the same number, already on order from Pfizer, in September and October.

South Korea has quickly distributed the COVID-19 vaccines it has, but struggled to obtain enough doses in a timely manner amid tight global supplies, particularly in Asia.

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