(Reuters) – Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus right now:
Virus emerged in Italy earlier than thought
The new coronavirus was circulating in Italy from September 2019, a study by the National Cancer Institute of the Italian city of Milan shows, signalling that COVID-19 might have spread beyond China earlier than previously thought.
Italy’s first COVID-19 patient was detected on Feb. 21 in a little town near Milan, in the northern region of Lombardy.
But the Italian researchers’ findings show that 11.6% of 959 healthy volunteers enrolled in a lung cancer screening trial between September 2019 and March 2020, had developed coronavirus antibodies well before February.
Asia at a crossroads as cases surge
Countries across the Asia-Pacific region reported record new coronavirus numbers and fresh outbreaks on Monday, with Japan facing mounting pressure to reimpose a state of emergency and South Korea warning it was at a “critical crossroads”.
The resurgence of the virus in Asia comes as travel restrictions are gradually being eased in the region.
New daily cases in Japan reached a record 1,722 on Saturday, with hot spots in the northern island of Hokkaido and the western prefectures of Hyogo and Osaka. In South Korea, officials reported more than 200 new cases for the third consecutive day on Monday.
Michigan, Washington state impose severe restrictions
Michigan and Washington state on Sunday imposed sweeping new restrictions on gatherings as total U.S. infections crossed the 11 million mark, just over a week after hitting 10 million.
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer ordered a ban on in-person high school and college classes as well as indoor dining service for three weeks as increasingly cold weather drives people indoors where the virus can spread more easily.
Washington state Governor Jay Inslee announced a one-month ban on indoor services at restaurants and gyms, and a reduction of in-store retail capacity to 25%.
J&J starts two-dose trial of its vaccine candidate
Johnson & Johnson launched a new large-scale late-stage trial on Monday to test a two-dose regimen of its experimental COVID-19 vaccine and evaluate potential incremental benefits for the duration of protection with a second dose.
The U.S. drugmaker plans to enrol up to 30,000 participants for the study and run it in parallel with a one-dose trial with as many as 60,000 volunteers that began in September.
The UK arm of the study is aiming to recruit 6,000 participants and the rest will join from other countries with a high incidence of cases such as the United States, Belgium, Colombia, France, Germany, the Philippines, South Africa and Spain.
UK PM to govern by Zoom
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was perfectly well after coming into contact with someone with COVID-19 and will drive the government forward via Zoom while he self-isolates for two weeks.
“I’m fit as a butcher’s dog – feel great,” Johnson said in a video tweet. “I’m bursting with antibodies.”
When Johnson caught COVID-19 in March, he tried to work through the illness “in denial” – but ended up wearing an oxygen mask in an intensive care unit and was ultimately out of action for almost a month.
(Compiled by Linda Noakes, Editing by William Maclean)