(Reuters) – Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus right now:
South Asia crosses 30 million COVID-19 cases
Coronavirus infections in South Asia surpassed 30 million on Friday, according to a Reuters tally of official data, led by India which is struggling with a second wave and a vaccine shortage across the region.
India, the second most-populous country in the world, this month recorded its highest COVID-19 death toll since the pandemic began last year, accounting for just over a third of the overall total.
The South Asia region – India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Bhutan, Nepal, Maldives and Sri Lanka – accounts for 18% of global COVID-19 cases and almost 10% of deaths. But there is growing suspicion that official tallies of infections and deaths are not reflecting the true extent of the problem.
Japan set to extend states of emergency
Japan was set on Friday to extend a state of emergency in Tokyo and other areas by about three weeks to June 20 as the pandemic shows no signs of easing – less than two months before the Summer Olympics open.
The state of emergency in the capital and eight other prefectures had been scheduled to end on May 31, but strains on the medical system remain severe.
Japan has seen a record number of COVID-19 patients in critical condition in recent days, even as the number of new infections has slowed.
Australia’s Victoria sees fewer new cases
Australia’s Victoria state reported fewer new local cases on Friday, the first day of a one-week hard lockdown imposed to contain a highly-infectious outbreak which authorities said could become uncontrollable.
Four new locally acquired cases were reported in the last 24 hours, down from 12 a day earlier, taking the total infections in the latest cluster to 30 but officials urged people to remain cautious and follow lockdown rules.
“We are very, very early in this..Community transmission is still expected to occur,” Victoria state Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton told reporters in the state capital Melbourne.
Thailand approves Sinopharm vaccine
A royal academy chaired by Princess Chulabhorn, the youngest sibling of Thailand’s king, said on Friday it would import 1 million doses of Sinopharm’s COVID-19 vaccine next month, after the Food and Drug Administration authorised its use.
“We want to help plug in the gaps for business, schools, so they can move forward,” Nithi Mahanonda, secretary-general of the Chulabhorn Royal Academy, told a news briefing.
Earlier this week, the academy announced it would import “alternative vaccines” to supplement the government campaign.
Get vaccinated, win cash
California will offer $116.5 million in cash and gift cards to residents who get COVID-19 vaccinations before June 15, the latest – and most lucrative – incentive by U.S. states desperate to persuade laggards and vaccine-skeptics to get the injection.
The move by Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom is part of an effort to boost vaccinations as the state prepares to fully reopen its economy on June 15. Ten Californians who become inoculated before that date stand to win lottery-style prizes of $1.5 million apiece, while another 30 people will each win $50,000.
Beginning Thursday, the first two million Californians to become vaccinated will each win $50 gift cards for cash or groceries.
(Compiled by Linda Noakes; Editing by Mark Heinrich)