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: People queue outside a mobile vaccination centre for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Thamesmead, London, Britain, February 14, 2021. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

New Zealand in lockdown after UK variant found

A coronavirus outbreak that sent New Zealand’s biggest city into a snap lockdown over the weekend involved the more transmissable UK B1.1.7 variant, health officials confirmed on Monday, the first time the strain has been detected locally.

The COVID-19 restrictions in Auckland and the rest of the country will remain for now and will be reviewed on Tuesday, Ardern said in a news conference. The Auckland lockdown is the first in New Zealand in six months, after a hard shutdown early in the pandemic largely eliminated local transmission.

Australia suspends NZ travel ‘bubble’; begins vaccination next week

Australia has suspended quarantine-free travel with neighbouring New Zealand after three new community cases of COVID-19 were detected in Auckland over the weekend.

Separately, Australia will begin inoculating against COVID-19 next week after receiving the first 142,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, Health Minister Greg Hunt said on Monday.

UK hits 15 million vaccinations

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson hailed a “significant milestone” on Sunday as data showed 15 million first doses of COVID-19 vaccinations had been delivered, fuelling calls for the government to start relaxing stringent lockdown measures.

The vaccine programme’s success has led to calls from those opposed to prolonged lockdowns to begin easing restrictions that have ordered citizens to stay at home, shut non-essential shops and closed schools. But foreign minister Dominic Raab said it was too soon yet to discuss when restrictions could be lifted.

Israeli study finds 94% drop in symptomatic cases with Pfizer vaccine

Israel’s largest healthcare provider on Sunday reported a 94% drop in symptomatic COVID-19 infections among 600,000 people who received two doses of the Pfizer’s vaccine in the country’s biggest study to date.

Health maintenance organization (HMO) Clalit, which covers more than half of all Israelis, said the same group was also 92% less likely to develop severe illness from the virus. The comparison was against a group of the same size, with matching medical histories, who had not received the vaccine.

S.Korea eases coronavirus curbs, to announce vaccine plans

South Korea eased some of its strictest social distancing rules for businesses on Monday, but kept limits on private gatherings as authorities prepared to unveil plans for the roll-out of the first coronavirus vaccines later this month.

Health Minister Kwon Deok-cheol, however, urged caution as infection clusters continue to plague the densely populated capital of Seoul and neighbouring areas. Private gatherings of more than four people are still banned across the country.

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