(Reuters) – Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus right now:
WHO at animal health facility, fewest new China cases in a month
A team of investigators led by the World Health Organization (WHO) visited on Tuesday an animal health facility in China’s central city of Wuhan in the search for clues about the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic. The centre, which fights epidemic diseases in animals, could provide information on how a coronavirus endemic in horseshoe bats in southwest China might have crossed into humans, possibly via an intermediary species.
Meanwhile, China reported the fewest new COVID-19 cases in a month as imported cases overtook local infections, official data showed on Tuesday, suggesting its worst wave since March 2020 is being stamped out ahead of a major holiday.
New U.S. transit mask rules ordered by Biden take effect
New rules took effect just before midnight Tuesday requiring millions of travellers in the United States to wear masks on airplanes, trains, buses, ferries, taxis and ride-share vehicles and in airports, stations, ports and other transit hubs.
Nearly all U.S. travel is covered by the rules, but people in private cars and solo truck drivers are exempt. The order requires all passengers two and older to wear masks but travellers can avoid wearing masks if they have a disability.
Americans scramble for 2nd vaccine dose appointments
As more Americans ready for their second COVID-19 vaccine shot, some patients are falling through the cracks of an increasingly complex web of providers and appointment systems. Available vaccines need to be given as two separate doses weeks apart, and confusion is further taxing an already challenged health system.
While many people are getting their required second doses, the process is taking a toll on some of the most vulnerable – older adults who in many cases rely on family members or friends to navigate complex sign-up systems and inconvenient locations.
Likely another month in Japan’s state of emergency
Japan is expected to extend a state of emergency in Tokyo and other regions for another month on Tuesday, seeking to keep the upper hand over a COVID-19 outbreak even as daily case numbers begin to edge down. Prime Minister Yoshida Suga is due to make a final decision on the extension after a meeting of an expert coronavirus response panel later in the day.
Official measures to control the virus have been hamstrung by a lack of legal weight, including any penalties, meaning the government can only request people follow directives. That may change later this week with the passage of a revision to the coronavirus special measures law that will allow authorities to levy fines on people who break the law. The revision passed the lower house on Monday and is expected to be approved by the upper house on Wednesday.
EU vaccine curbs may delay Japan’s inoculation drive
European Union curbs on exports of novel coronavirus vaccines could delay Japan’s inoculation drive, Taro Kono, the minister in charge of the vaccine effort, said. Japan is set to begin its vaccination campaign this month, later than most major economies, and has secured rights to more than 500 million vaccine doses from several Western developers, more than enough for its 126 million population.
Dependence on overseas makers and a requirement that the vaccines go through domestic trials have delayed the campaign. Any delay could sow doubts about a government aim to secure enough doses for everyone before the Tokyo Olympics this summer.
(Compiled by Karishma Singh; Editing by Robert Birsel)