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What you need to know about the coronavirus right now

·3 min read
COVID-19 lockdown remains in place as outbreak of cases affects Sydney

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

EU exports over billion COVID-19 shots, von der Leyen says

More than a billion COVID-19 vaccines produced in the European Union have been exported since December, making the bloc the biggest exporter of the shots, European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen said on Monday.

The vaccines had gone to more than 150 countries, and the EU had exported as many doses as it had distributed to its own citizens, von der Leyen added in a statement.

Most EU exports have been directed to bigger economies, including Japan, Turkey and Britain, who had contracts with vaccine makers based in the bloc.

Sales and donations to poorer nations have so far made up a small proportion of total exports, but the bloc was planning to distribute at least 500 million shots to the most vulnerable countries in coming months, von der Leyen said.

Valneva jumps on positive results for COVID-19 vaccine candidate

Valneva reported positive Phase III results on Monday for its COVID-19 vaccine candidate VLA2001, lifting its shares in a boost for the French biotech company after Britain cancelled a big deal to buy its shot.

Valneva said its latest trial, on 4,012 participants aged 18 and older across 26 trial sites in Britain, showed the vaccine prompted a stronger immune response and fewer side-effects than AstraZeneca's shot.

Valneva is among a handful of vaccine developers testing their vaccines against one already approved by a regulator, rather than giving volunteers a placebo as shots become more available.

Sydney eases more COVID-19 curbs

Thousands of children returned to school in Sydney on Monday, putting an end to months of home learning, as Australia's largest city eased more COVID-19 curbs, thanks to rising rates of vaccinations.

Masks are no longer mandatory in offices and larger groups are to be allowed in homes and outdoors after the state of New South Wales, home to Sydney, hit a double-dose inoculation rate of 80% at the weekend among those older than 16.

The latest in a series of planned easing of restrictions marks a shift by Australia's largest cities to living with the virus, a strategy officials have warned will bring a greater number of COVID-19 cases in coming weeks.

New Zealand extends Auckland lockdown

New Zealand's biggest city of Auckland will retain its lockdown for two more weeks as the country pushes to step up vaccinations, Prime Minster Jacinda Ardern said on Monday.

Once the poster child for stamping out COVID-19, New Zealand is now fighting a Delta variant outbreak that has spread across Auckland and neighbouring regions despite tough lockdown and border closures.

Ardern said there would be no changes to social curbs, the toughest in the OECD grouping of 34 leading economies, that have run for 62 days in Auckland.

The lockdown in the city of 1.7 million began in mid-August.

India's vaccine effort slows as dose gap trumps output jump

India's vaccination campaign has slowed despite amassing record stockpiles of COVID-19 vaccine, health ministry data showed on Monday, as authorities maintain a wider-than-usual gap between doses in a strategy that has boosted coverage.

Domestic production of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which accounts for nearly 90% of administered doses, has more than tripled since May, when a supply shortage prompted India to double the period between doses to between 12 and 16 weeks.

That gap, exceeding the 8 to 12 weeks recommended by the World Health Organization, has allowed India to give at least one vaccine dose to 74% of its 944 million adults, with just 30% getting the full complement of two.

(Compiled by Karishma Singh and Nick Macfie)

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