(Reuters) – Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus right now:
Merck seeks first U.S. FDA authorization for COVID-19 tablet
Merck & Co said on Monday it has applied for U.S. emergency use authorization for its tablet to treat mild-to-moderate patients of COVID-19, putting it on course to become the first oral antiviral medication for the disease.
Its authorization could help change clinical management of COVID-19 as the pill can be taken at home. The treatment, molnupiravir, could halve the chances of death or being hospitalized for those most at risk of contracting severe COVID-19, according to the drugmaker.
The interim efficacy data on the drug, which has been developed with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, had heavily impacted the shares of COVID-19 vaccine makers when it was released last week.
AstraZeneca antibody cocktail succeeds in late-stage study
AstraZeneca’s experimental COVID-19 drug has helped cut the risk of severe disease or death in a late-stage study, the British drugmaker said on Monday, a boost to its efforts to develop coronavirus medicines beyond vaccines.
The drug, a cocktail of two antibodies called AZD7442, reduced the risk of severe COVID-19 or death by 50% in non-hospitalised patients who have had symptoms for seven days or less, meeting the main goal of the study.
AstraZeneca’s therapy, delivered via injection, is the first of its kind to show promise both as a preventative medicine and as a treatment for COVID-19 following multiple trials. It is designed to protect people who do not have a strong enough immune response to vaccines.
Sydney reopens as Australia looks to live with COVID-19
Sydney’s cafes, gyms and restaurants welcomed back fully vaccinated customers on Monday after nearly four months of lockdown, as Australia aims to begin living with the coronavirus and gradually reopen with high rates of inoculation.
Some pubs in Sydney, Australia’s largest city, opened at 12:01 a.m. (1301 GMT Sunday) and friends and families huddled together for a midnight beer.
“I see it as a day of freedom, it’s a freedom day,” New South Wales state Premier Dominic Perrottet told reporters in Sydney, the state capital. “We are leading the nation out of this pandemic but this will be a challenge.”
New Zealand makes vaccinations mandatory for health workers
New Zealand will require teachers and workers in the health and disability sectors to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday, as she extended restrictions in Auckland, its largest city, for another week.
New Zealand is fighting the highly infectious Delta outbreak that forced it to abandon its long-standing strategy of eliminating the new coronavirus amid persistent infections.
“New Zealand is at one of the trickiest and most challenging moments in the COVID-19 pandemic so far,” Ardern told reporters in Wellington. Ardern, however, said “there is a clear path forward” in the next few months to live with fewer curbs and more freedoms once the country reaches a higher level of vaccinations.
Russia’s daily death toll hovers near all-time high
Russia reported 957 coronavirus-related deaths on Monday, close to the all-time high of 968 reported two days earlier.
The government coronavirus task force also said it had recorded 29,409 new cases in the last 24 hours, an increase from 28,647 cases on Sunday.
(Compiled by Linda Noakes; Editing by Alex Richardson)