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 walk through a city park marked with social distancing circles as some restrictions are eased for fully vaccinated residents during a lockdown to curb the spread of a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Sydney, Australia, September 22, 2021. REUTERS/Loren Elliott

AstraZeneca seeks U.S. authorisation of drug to prevent COVID-19

AstraZeneca has requested emergency use authorisation from U.S. regulators for its new treatment to prevent COVID-19 for people who respond poorly to vaccines because of a weakened immune system.

In a statement on Tuesday, the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker said it included data in its filing with the Food and Drug Administration from a late-stage trial that showed the drug reduced the risk of people developing any COVID-19 symptoms by 77%.

J&J files for authorization of vaccine booster

Johnson & Johnson said on Tuesday it had submitted data to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorization of a booster shot of its vaccine in people aged 18 and older.

J&J said its submission includes data from a late-stage study that found a booster given 56 days after the primary dose provided 94% protection against symptomatic COVID-19 in the United States and 100% protection against severe disease, at least 14 days after the booster shot.

The effectiveness of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in preventing infection by the coronavirus dropped to 47% from 88% six months after the second dose, according to data published on Monday that U.S. health agencies considered when deciding on the need for booster shots.

Australia to buy Merck’s COVID-19 pill

Australia will buy 300,000 courses of Merck & Co’s experimental antiviral pill, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Tuesday, as Victoria logged the highest number of daily infections of any state in the country since the pandemic began.

Molnupiravir, which would be the first oral antiviral medication for COVID-19 if it gets regulatory approval, could halve the chances of dying or being hospitalised for people most at risk of contracting severe COVID-19, according to experts.

New Zealand said on Tuesday that it will start using vaccine certificates as proof of inoculation at large events and other high-risk settings from next month, as the country battles the spread of the Delta variant.

Japan’s dip in cases baffles experts

Japan’s COVID-19 case numbers have plummeted to the lowest in nearly a year just as other parts of Asia are struggling with surging infections, leaving health experts perplexed and raising concern of a winter rebound.

New daily cases in Tokyo dropped to 87 on Monday, the lowest tally since Nov. 2 last year, and a precipitous decline from more than 5,000 a day in an August wave that hammered the capital’s medical infrastructure.

The pattern is the same across the country.

Russia, Ukraine cases mount

Russia’s Finance Minister Anton Siluanov is self-isolating, the head of the upper house of parliament said on Tuesday as cases in the country increased and a record daily death toll was recorded. In the past 24 hours, at least 895 people died from COVID-19 in Russia.

The number of daily coronavirus-related deaths in Ukraine topped 300 for the first time since mid-May, health ministry data showed on Tuesday.

China reports no new local cases for first time in over 3 weeks

China reported on Tuesday no new local cases of COVID-19 for the first time in more than three weeks after outbreaks in the provinces of Fujian and Heilongjiang were brought under control.

The first case in Fujian in its recent outbreak was reported on Sept. 10 in the city of Putian. Infections later spread to nearby Xiamen, but were contained within the southeastern province.

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