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What you need to know about the coronavirus right now

·3 min read
COVID-19 vaccinations in Bangkok

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

Pfizer says vaccine highly effective against Delta variant

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is highly effective against the Delta variant of COVID-19, a Pfizer official in Israel said on Thursday.

First identified in India, Delta is becoming the globally dominant version of the coronavirus, according to the World Health Organization.

"The data we have today, accumulating from research we are conducting at the lab and including data from those places where the Indian variant, Delta, has replaced the British variant as the common variant, point to our vaccine being very effective, around 90%, in preventing the coronavirus disease," Alon Rappaport, Pfizer's medical director in Israel, told local broadcaster Army Radio.

Russia's new cases surge to highest since January

Russia on Thursday reported 20,182 new COVID-19 cases, the most confirmed in a single day since Jan. 24, amid a wave of infections that authorities blame on the Delta variant and people's reluctance to get vaccinated.

The government coronavirus taskforce also confirmed 568 coronavirus-related deaths in the last 24 hours. Both Moscow and St Petersburg recorded the most deaths in a single day since the pandemic began.

As cases began rising rapidly this month, officials scrambled to coax and compel people to get inoculated amid tepid demand for the vaccine despite the widespread availability of shots.

Sydney faces 'scariest period' in pandemic

Australia's most populous state, New South Wales (NSW), reported a double-digit rise in new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 for the third straight day as officials fight to contain an outbreak of the Delta variant.

"Since the pandemic has started, this is perhaps the scariest period that New South Wales is going through," state Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters.

NSW has imposed tough restrictions in Sydney, Australia's largest city and home to a fifth of the country's 25 million population, with health officials saying transmission could be happening even through minimal contact with infected persons.

Britain wants to allow travel again but is wary

Britain wants to allow people to have holidays abroad again but the government is wary of the risks, a minister said on Thursday ahead of an announcement on whether a narrow list of quarantine-free travel destinations would be expanded.

Anger is growing at Britain's onerous restrictions on foreign travel: pilots, cabin crew, travel agents and other workers from the travel industry held protests on Wednesday, begging the government to open up more routes.

Over 2 million people in England might have had COVID-19 for a long period, suffering one or more symptoms that lasted at least 12 weeks, one of the biggest surveillance studies of the coronavirus found on Thursday.

Singapore drawing up road map to live with COVID-19

Singapore is drawing up a road map on how to live more normally with COVID-19 on expectations that the virus will become endemic like influenza and as vaccination rates pick up, said ministers leading the country's virus-fighting task force.

The city-state has vaccinated about half its 5.7 million population with least one dose of vaccines developed by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.

While Singapore's vaccination pace is relatively high, the country has been slower at resuming social activities and travel, compared with other places with similar inoculation rates.

(Compiled by Linda Noakes; Editing by Kim Coghill)

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