What you need to know about the coronavirus right now

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

Director of the Tokyo Medical Center Kazuhiro Araki speaks to the media after receiving a dose of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine as Japan launches its inoculation campaign, in Tokyo, Japan February 17, 2021. Behrouz Mehri/Pool via REUTERS

NZ to push for tariff-free trade of COVID-19 essentials at APEC

Amid concerns that smaller nations may be left behind in vaccinating their populations, New Zealand in coming months will use its platform as host of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum to seek a global approach to coronavirus vaccinations that would eliminate tariffs on goods needed to fight COVID-19.

New Zealand proposes making shipments between the 21 APEC members of medicines, medical and surgical equipment, hygiene products and other goods tariff-free and easing other restrictions on their movement across borders.

England’s plan to ease COVID lockdown

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will plot a path out of COVID-19 lockdown on Monday in an effort to gradually reopen the battered $3 trillion economy, aided by one of the fastest vaccine rollouts in the world.

Johnson has said the route out of lockdown will be “cautious and phased”, with schools expected to reopen on March 8. One in three adults in the UK have had their first dose of vaccine, and the government is now aiming to give a first dose to all adults in Britain by the end of July.

Russia approves its third COVID-19 vaccine

Russia on Saturday approved a third coronavirus vaccine for domestic use, Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin said on state TV, though large-scale clinical trials of the shot, labelled CoviVac and produced by the Chumakov Centre, have yet to begin.

Sputnik V was approved in August and late-stage trials began in September. Mass vaccination was launched in December, after preliminary trial results showed the vaccine to be 91.4% effective.

Mass vaccination begins in Australia

Australia on Monday began its mass COVID-19 vaccine programme with frontline healthcare staff and senior citizens getting the first doses as the country looked set to report no local cases for the third straight day.

The vast majority of Australia’s 25 million population will be injected with the AstraZeneca vaccine, which will be produced locally by CSL Ltd by the middle of March. Authorities plan to inoculate four million by March and expect to finish vaccinations by the end of October.

Limited vaccines supply in Japan to delay shots for elderly

Japan will only receive limited doses of COVID-19 vaccines for the first months of the rollout and shots for the elderly will be distributed gradually, the country’s inoculation chief said.

Pfizer Inc, the maker of Japan’s only approved COVID-19 vaccine, is ramping up production in Europe, but those increased supplies are not likely to reach Japan until May, Administrative Reform Minister Taro Kono cautioned on Sunday in an interview with national broadcaster NHK.

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