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World News

What you need to know about the coronavirus right now

(Reuters) -Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus right now:

FILE PHOTO: A medical worker keeps warm inside a booth as she prepares to conduct a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) test at a testing site in Seoul, South Korea, December 13, 2020. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji/File Photo

‘Delivering hope’ to millions

Cargo planes and trucks with the first U.S. shipments of coronavirus vaccine fanned out from FedEx and UPS hubs in Tennessee and Kentucky on Sunday en route to distribution points around the country, launching an immunization project of unprecedented scope and complexity.

Governor Andy Beshear of Kentucky suggested the very first injections of the vaccine will be given in his state, home to the UPS Worldport sorting facility in Louisville - one of two distribution command centers. The other is the FedEx air cargo hub in Memphis, Tennessee.

“Today, we’re not hauling freight, we’re delivering hope,” said Andrew Boyle, co-president of Boyle Transportation, which was hired by UPS to help ferry vaccine.

Asian leaders find support sliding

Japan and South Korea grappled with surging cases and growing public frustration on Monday, with Japan suspending a contentious travel subsidy programme and South Korea closing some schools and considering its toughest curbs yet.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga had ruled out halting the programme, citing economic considerations, but that changed after weekend polls showed his support being eroded over his handling of the pandemic.

Across the sea in South Korea, President Moon Jae-in also faces sliding ratings as clusters of new infections fuel criticism over what many see as slack containment.

Germany to stay in lockdown

Germany is unlikely to lift its lockdown early next year, a top aide to Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Monday, signalling Europe’s biggest economy will have to contend with the crippling restrictions well into the winter months.

Merkel and German state leaders agreed to shut most stores from Wednesday until Jan. 10 to reverse a tide of infections that lighter restrictions introduced last month had failed to tame.

“A comprehensive easing is very, very unlikely,” Helge Braun, Merkel’s chief of staff, told the RTL broadcaster. “January and February are always difficult months in terms of respiratory tract infections.”

New Zealand agrees on ‘travel bubble’ with Australia

New Zealand agreed on Monday to allow quarantine-free travel with Australia in the first quarter of 2021, nearly a year after it locked down its borders in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the cabinet had agreed in principle on a trans-Tasman, quarantine-free travel bubble pending confirmation by Australia’s cabinet and no significant change in circumstances in either country.

Ardern said more work was needed to ensure safe travel and New Zealand would move cautiously to finalise arrangements like managing airline crews.

Single-patient study adds to debate over remdesivir

A single-patient study conducted by British scientists has found that Gilead’s antiviral drug remdesivir could be highly effective against COVID-19, raising questions about previous studies that found it had no impact on death rates from the disease.

The study describes how doctors who gave the drug to a patient with both COVID-19 and a rare immune disorder saw a marked improvement in his symptoms and the disappearance of the virus.

“Our patient’s unusual condition gave us a rare insight into the effectiveness of remdesivir as a treatment for coronavirus infection,” said Nicholas Matheson, who co-led the study at Cambridge University’s Institute of Therapeutic Immunology and Infectious Disease.

Compiled by Linda NoakesEditing by Mark Heinrich

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