(Reuters) – Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus right now:
South Korea eases curbs
South Korea said on Friday it will drop all operating-hour curbs on restaurants and cafes and implement its first vaccine passport for high-risk venues such as gyms, saunas and bars, as it tries to “live with COVID-19”.
The first phase will go into effect on Monday and last for a month, officials said, with plans calling for all restrictions to be scrapped by February.
“Beginning November 1, our community will take the first step of resuming our normal life,” Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum said at a televised government meeting. “However, we must be aware that this doesn’t mean the fight against coronavirus is over, but a new beginning.”
England’s COVID prevalence rises to highest since January
The prevalence of COVID-19 infections in England hit its highest level since the start of the year, reaching around 1 in 50 people in the week ending Oct. 22, Britain’s Office for National Statistics said on Friday.
The prevalence of infections rose for a fifth straight week, having been at 1 in 55 people in the previous week, the ONS said.
Poland’s tally of infections crosses 3 million
Poland’s total number of COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic passed 3 million on Friday, health ministry data showed, with daily cases hitting their highest in the fourth wave as a spike in infections gathers pace.
Amid wide disregard for rules on wearing masks, infections in Poland are surging ahead of All Saints’ Day, when crowds of people visit cemeteries to pay their respects to the dead in a tradition that could contribute to the spread of the virus.
Friday’s 9,387 new cases were Poland’s highest since April, with 102 deaths.
Some businesses flout Moscow lockdown
Some businesses flouted the Russian capital’s new lockdown measures on Friday, saying they need to make ends meet amid a lack of state support. Nationwide deaths from COVID-19 hit a new record daily high blamed on slow vaccination take-up.
The restrictions allow only essential shops like pharmacies and supermarkets to remain open, while schools and state kindergartens are shut. Bars, cafes and restaurants are only allowed to operate takeaway and delivery services.
Sweden acted too slowly as pandemic swept country, commission finds
Sweden’s response to the spread of coronavirus was too slow and preparations to handle a pandemic were insufficient, a government-appointed commission said on Friday.
Sweden’s early strategy, shunning lockdowns and measures such as face masks and only gradually tightening curbs, made the country an outlier in the first year of the pandemic when many countries across Europe chose to implement tougher restrictions.
“The initial disease prevention and control measures were insufficient to stop or even substantially limit the spread of the virus in the country,” the commission said.
NYC firefighters union asks court to halt vaccine mandate
The union representing New York City firefighters asked a state court on Thursday to bar Mayor Bill de Blasio from enforcing his order requiring all city employees to get the COVID-19 vaccination to continue working.
Uniformed Firefighters Association leaders have already told unvaccinated firefighters to report for duty in defiance of de Blasio’s order, essentially daring the city to send them home.
(Compiled by Linda Noakes; Editing by Frances Kerry)