Oct 21 (Reuters) - Here's what you need to know about the coronavirus right now:
Melbourne readies to exit world's longest COVID-19 lockdown
Millions in Melbourne are readying to come out of the world's longest COVID-19 lockdown later on Thursday even as cases hover near record levels, with pubs, restaurants and cafes rushing to restock supplies before opening their doors.
Officials had promised to lift lockdowns once double-dose vaccinations for people aged above 16 exceeded 70% in Victoria state, of which Melbourne is the capital. Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Thursday confirmed the state had reached that target, with more restrictions set to ease as inoculations hit 80% and 90%. read more
India administers 1 bln vaccine doses, says health minister
India on Thursday crossed the milestone of 1 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses administered, the health minister said. read more
Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya will launch a song and an audio-visual film at the Mughal-era Red Fort in New Delhi around noon to "celebrate the landmark milestone", his ministry said. read more
U.S. FDA clears boosters, backs use of different vaccine
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday authorized booster doses of the COVID-19 vaccines from Moderna Inc and Johnson & Johnson, and said Americans can choose a different shot from their original inoculation as a booster. That means all three vaccines authorized in the United States can also be given as boosters to some groups.
The decision paves the way for millions in the United States to get the additional protection as the highly contagious Delta variant of the virus causes breakthrough infections among some who are fully vaccinated. read more
Experimental oral COVID-19 vaccine shows promise in monkeys
A COVID-19 booster vaccine that can be given by mouth to people who already have antibodies from vaccination or prior infection has yielded promising results in monkeys and is likely to be tested soon in humans, according to the company developing it. A report of the study posted on Monday on bioRxiv ahead of peer review says Vyriad is working with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to plan human trials.
The oral booster uses traditional vaccine technology in which a harmless carrier virus delivers coronavirus proteins into cells on the surface of the tongue, or lining of the cheeks and throat, stimulating production of antibodies that can block the virus before it gets a foothold in the body, said Dr. Stephen Russell, chief executive of Vyriad in Rochester, Minnesota, who led the study. In monkeys at one week after vaccinations, antibody levels increased by nearly 100-fold, with no side effects, Russell said. read more
Hospitals in Saskatchewan face prolonged crisis
Modelling data in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan showed that severe cases of COVID-19 will continue to overwhelm intensive care units until March before beginning to decline, without a reduction in public mixing, such as smaller gatherings, and greater access to vaccine booster shots.
Reduced mixing should ideally last at least 28 days, Saskatchewan's Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab said. The pandemic's spread has forced Saskatchewan to fly some COVID-19 patients to Ontario for care and to cancel thousands of surgeries. read more
Thailand prepares airports for quarantine-free travellers
Thai government officials on Wednesday inspected the readiness of the country's airports to welcome quarantine-free travellers, due to return next month after almost two years of strict COVID-19 rules that halted vital tourism.
From Nov. 1, the country will allow vaccinated arrivals from low-risk countries to return to its popular destinations like Pattaya, Chiang Mai and Bangkok. read more
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