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What you need to know about the coronavirus right now

FILE PHOTO: Patients sit on bed waiting to be shifted to a hospital, amidst the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Ahmedabad

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

Asia’s COVID-19 cases surge

India and Thailand reported record daily coronavirus cases on Thursday, as a new wave of infections, combined with a shortage of hospital beds and vaccines, threatens to slow Asia’s recovery from the pandemic.

India breached 200,000 daily infections for the first time on Thursday and the financial hub of Mumbai entered a lockdown, as many hospitals reported shortages of beds and oxygen supplies.

“The situation is horrible. We are a 900-bed hospital, but there are about 60 patients waiting and we don’t have space for them,” said Avinash Gawande, an official at the Government Medical College and Hospital in Nagpur, a commercial hub in Maharashtra.

German health minister tells states to tighten restrictions

German Health Minister Jens Spahn urged the country’s 16 federal states on Thursday to impose tougher restrictions quickly to try to slow a third wave and not to wait until a national law on measures is passed.

His appeal came as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases jumped on Thursday by 29,426 to 3.073 million, the biggest increase since Jan. 8. The reported death toll rose by 293 to 79,381, data from the Robert Koch Institute showed.

“We know from last autumn what happens when we don’t act quickly,” Spahn told reporters, adding that doctors expect some 6,000 patients to be in intensive care by the end of the month.

Argentina closes schools, imposes curfew in Buenos Aires

Argentina’s government will tighten pandemic restrictions in and around the capital Buenos Aires to rein in a sharp spike in cases, including shutting schools and imposing a curfew from 8pm to limit social activity.

President Alberto Fernández, given his all-clear earlier in the day after he was infected with the virus, said the South American country needed to “gain time” in the fight against COVID-19 after daily cases hit a record this week.

“The virus is attacking us and is far from giving in,” he said in a televised address.

France’s infection cases accelerate

France saw a decline in the number of COVID patients in intensive care units on Wednesday, and the daily death toll fell, but the number of new infections continued to grow.

Health ministry data showed ICU numbers dropped by 50 to 5,902, the first fall in nearly a week.

Intensive care numbers – which are the best measure of a health system’s ability to deal with the crisis – have been rising steadily from less than 3,000 at the start of the year.

WTO chief lays out action to increase vaccine access

The head of the World Trade Organization laid out a series of actions on Wednesday for countries and drug makers to increase production of coronavirus vaccines and share them more widely and fairly.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala called a closed-door meeting of producers, governments and others over inequitable access, with low-income countries administering just 0.2% of 700 million global doses.

In her concluding remarks, Okonjo-Iweala said that concerns over cross-border supply chains, including export curbs and shortages of skilled personnel, had reinforced her view that the WTO must play a central role in the response to the pandemic.

(Compiled by Linda NoakesEditing by Gareth Jones)

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