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What you need to know about the coronavirus right now

A woman feeding birds wears a face mask as she walks along the beach during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Oceanside

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

J&J pauses COVID-19 vaccine trials due to unexplained illness

Johnson & Johnson said on Monday it had temporarily paused its novel coronavirus vaccine candidate clinical trials due to an unexplained illness in a study participant, delaying one of the highest-profile efforts to contain the pandemic.

The participant’s illness is being reviewed and evaluated by an independent data and safety monitoring board as well as the company’s clinical and safety physicians, the company said in a statement.

J&J, which reports quarterly financial results on Tuesday morning, said that such pauses are normal in big trials, which can include tens of thousands of people. It said the “study pause” in giving doses of the vaccine candidate was different from a “regulatory hold” required by health authorities. The current case is a pause.

More needed to tackle economic fallout, IMF head says

The international community must do more to tackle the economic fallout of the COVID-19 crisis, IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said, publicly calling on the World Bank to accelerate its lending to hard-hit African countries.

The pandemic, a collapse in commodity prices and a plague of locusts have hit Africa particularly hard, putting 43 million more people at risk of extreme poverty, according to World Bank estimates. African states have reported more than 1 million coronavirus cases and some 23,000 deaths.

Georgieva said the Fund was also pushing richer member countries to loan more of their existing Special Drawing Rights (SDR), the IMF’s currency, to countries that needed support most, and it was “very committed” to finding a way forward for countries like Zambia now needing to restructure their debts.

EU travellers could avoid quarantine with negative test

Travellers across Europe could avoid quarantine under plans to introduce a comprehensive COVID-19 testing regime, the Telegraph reported on Monday.

The European Commission wants testing to be the “preferred” alternative to quarantine for travellers and has commissioned health experts to develop protocols, the report said. EU foreign ministers will sign the proposed traffic light system on Tuesday, it said.

Plans will also require “mutual recognition” of COVID-19 tests by countries, which would enable arriving business travellers and holiday-makers to reduce or sidestep quarantine by presenting a medical certificate showing a negative coronavirus result, according to the newspaper.

Mother-to-newborn transmission rare

Transmission of the new coronavirus from mothers to newborns is rare, doctors from New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center reported on Monday in JAMA Pediatrics, after studying 101 babies born to 100 mothers with COVID-19, including 10 whose mothers had been severely ill.

Almost all of the babies tested negative for the virus, while tests in two newborns had indeterminate results.

Roughly 90% of the newborns were breastfed at least partially. “As the country heads into what looks like a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to know that separation of affected mothers from their newborns may not be warranted, and direct breastfeeding appears to be safe,” study coauthor Dr Melissa Stockwell said.

(Compiled by Karishma Singh)

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