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What you need to know about the coronavirus right now

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'Freedom day' or 'Anxiety day'?
As England's so-called "freedom day" draws near, excitement at the impending end of Covid-19 restrictions is tempered by worries of rising cases and downright fear among the vulnerable.

Critics say the government's strategy of easing restrictions will not only cause deaths but also debilitating long Covid in many, while increasing risks to the clinically vulnerable.

Indonesia bracing for worsening Covid-19 outbreak
Indonesia is bracing for its Covid-19 outbreak to get worse after a near vertical climb in cases, a senior minister said on Thursday, warning that infections had spread faster than anticipated due to the more virulent Delta variant. Wednesday's tally of more than 54,000 cases was the latest of many peaks in the past month, and up more than tenfold on the number of infections at the start of June.

The government has converted several buildings into isolation facilities, deployed fresh graduate doctors and nurses to treat COVID-19 patients and imported treatment drugs and oxygen, he said. Hospitals in Indonesia's most populated Java island have been deluged in recent weeks, with many people struggling to get treatment and hundreds dying while self-isolating.

Lung diseases worsen Covid-19 by altering airway genes
New findings shed light on why chronic lung diseases that block the airways - such as chronic bronchitis, emphysema and pulmonary fibrosis - increase patients' risks for severe Covid-19. The diseases cause genetic changes in the epithelial cells that line the airways, making the cells more vulnerable to attack from the coronavirus, researchers reported on Wednesday in Nature Communications.

Laboratory studies of these cells found changes in their molecular makeup that likely make it easier for the virus to enter the body, make copies of itself, and trigger out-of-control immune responses that fill the lungs with fluid and cause severe organ damage.

Singapore sees most cases in 10 months after karaoke cluster
Singapore reported its highest number of local coronavirus cases in 10 months on Wednesday, after the discovery of a cluster among hostesses and customers of KTV karaoke lounges. Of the 56 new community infections, 42 were linked to the KTV outbreak, the health ministry said.

The ministry has been investigating infections among what it said were Vietnamese hostesses who frequented KTV lounges or clubs and has offered free COVID-19 testing to anyone potentially exposed. The first known case was a Vietnamese woman who sought medical help on Sunday, local media reported. Singapore has yet to reopen KTV lounges and clubs and authorities said the places where the virus spread were operating as food and beverage outlets.

Australian Covid-19 outbreak threatens Melbourne

Australia reported a slowdown in new Covid-19 cases in Sydney on Thursday, while the Australian Broadcasting Corp reported Melbourne would follow it into lockdown as the outbreak of the highly contagious Delta variant threatens to take hold in the Victorian capital.

Melbourne was expected to enter lockdown from midnight after a team of furniture movers from neighbouring New South Wales travelled through Victoria state while infectious. Authorities were yet to decide how long the lockdown in the city would last, the ABC added, without giving further details. Victorian authorities did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the report.

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