(Reuters) – Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus right now:
Europe reviewing Russia’s COVID-19 vaccine
Europe’s medicines regulator said on Thursday it has started a review of the Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine developed by Russia’s Gamaleya Institute for possible approval in the region, in a major sign of confidence in the shot.
The human medicines committee of the European Medicines Agency will review data from ongoing vaccine trials until there is enough clinical data for approval.
Sputnik V was almost 92% effective in fighting COVID-19, based on peer-reviewed late-stage trial results published in the Lancet medical journal last month.
Germany agrees easing of curbs
Chancellor Angela Merkel and German state leaders agreed on Wednesday a phased easing of coronavirus curbs but added an “emergency brake” to let authorities re-impose restrictions if case numbers slip out of control.
With elections looming, Merkel and the regional leaders have faced growing pressure to set out plans to restore normal activities after four months of lockdown.
However, daily cases are creeping up again and only around 5% of the population has received a first vaccine shot.
Biden says ‘big mistake’ for states to lift mask mandates
U.S. President Joe Biden said on Wednesday decisions to end the required wearing of masks – such as those by the governors of Texas and Mississippi – amounted to “Neanderthal thinking”, given the rising death toll from the coronavirus pandemic.
Asked if he had a message for Texas and Mississippi, Biden told reporters, “I think it’s a big mistake. Look, I hope everybody’s realized by now, these masks make a difference.”
Cases in the United States remain above 50,000 a day, even after the government has distributed more than 100 million doses of vaccine, putting shots into more than 50 million arms, according to federal data.
Raging pandemic shuts down Sao Paulo
Brazil set a daily record for COVID-19 deaths for a second straight day on Wednesday, as a resurgence of the virus led the state of Sao Paulo to shutter businesses and the government to try to close vaccine deals with Pfizer and Janssen.
With a new variant from the Amazon spurring more infections, 1,910 people died of the virus in the past 24 hours, health ministry data shows. In a year, Brazil’s death toll has nearly topped 260,000, the world’s second worst after the United States.
A sputtering vaccination campaign has also put pressure on Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello, who said on Wednesday he was close to an agreement with Pfizer, effectively overcoming a dispute over liability clauses.
Thailand to allow tourists to quarantine in resorts
Thailand’s tourism minister said on Thursday he would propose a plan for foreigners to spend quarantine in popular tourist areas, including beach resorts, in a bid to help revive the struggling tourism sector.
The economy suffered its biggest contraction in more than two decades last year, as tourism slumped due to the pandemic.
The hotel quarantine plan is expected to start in April or May in the provinces of Phuket, Krabi, Surat Thani, Chonburi and Chiang Mai, the minister, Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn, told reporters.
(Compiled by Linda Noakes; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)