(Reuters) – Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus right now:
Japan opens mass vaccination sites for elderly
Japan opened mass inoculation centres on Monday as the country races to vaccinate most of its elderly population against COVID-19 before the start of the Tokyo Olympics.
The centres in Tokyo and Osaka will vaccinate thousands of people every day, giving a boost to Japan’s sluggish inoculation drive as officials battle a fourth wave of infections.
Hospitals in Osaka are buckling, running out of beds and ventilators as exhausted doctors warn of a “system collapse” and advise against holding the Olympics.
Taiwan considering extending alert level
Taiwan is considering extending its second highest COVID-19 alert that was due to expire at the end of the week, the health minister said on Monday, as he reported a further increase in domestic cases despite tighter social restrictions.
However, Health Minister Chen Shih-chung also said an infection peak was registered last Monday and should continue to decline.
“Judging from the trend of confirmed cases, it seems that the peak has reached a certain point,” Chen said.
Israel to end COVID-19 restrictions
Israel will end local COVID-19 restrictions after a successful vaccine rollout that has nearly stamped out new infections, its Health Ministry said on Sunday.
With the majority of the population having received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, and about 92% of those 50 and older inoculated or recovered, Israel has been gradually reopening its economy after three lockdowns.
The country reported just 12 new virus cases on Saturday, down from a daily peak of more than 10,000 in January.
Singapore provisionally approves 60-second breathalyser test
Singapore authorities have provisionally approved a COVID-19 breathalyser test that aims to show whether someone is infected with the coronavirus in under a minute, according to the local startup that developed the product.
Breathonix, a spin-off company from the National University of Singapore, said it is now working with the health ministry to run a deployment trial of the technology at one of the city-state’s border points with Malaysia.
The breath analysis will be carried out alongside the current compulsory COVID-19 antigen rapid test.
Bio-detection dogs sniff out COVID-19
Sniffer dogs trained using smelly socks worn by people infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus could soon be used at airports or mass gathering venues to pick up the “corona odour” of COVID-19-infected people, British scientists said on Monday.
Working in teams of two, the COVID-trained dogs could screen a line of several hundred people coming off a plane within half an hour, for example, and detect with up to 94.3% sensitivity those infected, the scientists said.
Presenting results of an early stage study – which involved some 3,500 odour samples donated in the form of unwashed socks or T-shirts worn by members of the public and health workers – the researchers said the dogs were even able to sniff out asymptomatic or mild COVID-19 cases, as well as cases caused by a mutant variant that emerged in the UK late last year.
(Compiled by Linda Noakes; Editing by Mark Heinrich)