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What you need to know about the coronavirus right now

·3 min read
FILE PHOTO: The outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Los Angeles
FILE PHOTO: The outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Los Angeles

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

No link found between flu shot and S.Korean boy's death

South Korea's forensic agency has found no links between a 17-year-old boy's death and a flu shot he had taken, the Yonhap news agency reported on Friday, amid rising concerns about the safety of the vaccines following the death of at least 32 people. The boy was among the first reported to have died as part of a government campaign to vaccinate about 30 million of a population of 52 million to prevent COVID-19 complications.

Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency director Jeong Eun-kyeong said on Thursday that the government might consider suspending some products that have identification numbers matching batches manufactured at the same plant on the same day if more people die using them.

Health authorities have refused to suspend the campaign, citing a lack of evidence to suggest direct links between the deaths and the vaccines.

Australia to allow more citizens to return home

Australia will slightly lift the cap on the number of citizens and permanent residents allowed to return from abroad each week, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Friday, as local COVID-19 cases slow to single digits. Since July, Australia has capped the number of locals allowed to return home each week in an attempt to reduce the threat of spreading COVID-19. Upon return they enter a mandatory 14-day quarantine in hotels.

The increase comes amid heightened pressure on Morrison's government to help some 26,000 Australians who registered their intention to come home. Many, however, have struggled to secure a plane ticket and raise the several thousand dollars needed to pay for hotel quarantine when they arrive back in Australia.

Looking to offer more support, Morrison's federal government this month struck a deal with the Northern Territory government to allow up to 500 people each fortnight to return. These are outside the weekly cap, with the first plane landing on Friday.

Germany readies for coronavirus vaccine before end of year: Bild

Germany is making preparations to start vaccinations against the coronavirus before the end of the year, Bild daily reported on Friday. The health ministry plans to create 60 special vaccination centres to ensure the vaccines can be stored at the proper temperature and has asked the country's 16 states to provide addresses for them by Nov. 10, Bild reported without citing its sources.

At a video conference this week, Health Minister Jens Spahn, who himself tested positive for the coronavirus on Wednesday, said Germany's BioNTech was close to getting a vaccine approved, Bild cited participants as saying. BioNTech is developing its vaccine in partnership with Pfizer Inc.

On Tuesday, Pfizer and BioNTech announced the start in Japan of combined Phase I and Phase II clinical trials of their mRNA-based vaccine candidate against the coronavirus.

Blood of recovered COVID-19 patients shows little benefit as treatment

Using blood of recovered COVID-19 patients - or so-called convalescent plasma, which delivers antibodies from COVID-19 survivors to infected people - failed to reduce death rates or halt the progression to severe disease, according to results of a clinical trial in India, published in Britain's BMJ medical journal on Friday.

After seven days, the use of convalescent plasma seemed to improve some symptoms, such as shortness of breath and fatigue, the researchers said, and led to higher rates of "negative conversion" - a sign that the virus is being neutralised by antibodies. But this did not translate into a reduction in deaths or progression to severe disease by 28 days.

Ian Jones, a professor of virology at Reading University, said the plasma is more likely to work if given very swiftly after someone contracts COVID-19. He urged researchers to continue to conduct trials of convalescent plasma as a potential COVID-19 treatment, but to do so in newly diagnosed patients.

(Compiled by Karishma Singh; Editing by William Mallard)