(Reuters) – Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus right now:
Thousands protest in New Zealand against COVID-19 rules
New Zealand beefed up security measures at its parliament on Tuesday as thousands of mostly unmasked people gathered to protest against COVID-19 vaccine mandates and government lockdowns aimed at controlling the pandemic.
While the demonstration was peaceful, many people were seen holding signs and placards with messages like “Freedom” and “Kiwis are not lab rats” and shouting slogans as they demanded the government roll back compulsory vaccination and lift restrictions.
Australian state says unvaccinated 16 times more likely to die from COVID-19
Unvaccinated people are 16 times more likely to end up in intensive care units or die from COVID-19, Australian health authorities said in a report, with officials urging people to get inoculated.
The data from New South Wales state’s health department showed only 11% of 412 people who died from an outbreak of the Delta variant over four months through early October were fully vaccinated. The average age of those who died was 82.
COVID-19 pills are coming, but no substitute for vaccines
Oral antiviral pills from Merck & Co and Pfizer Inc/BioNTech SE have been shown to significantly blunt the worst outcomes of COVID-19 if taken early enough, but doctors warn vaccine-hesitant people not to confuse the benefit of the treatments with prevention afforded by vaccines.
One main reason not to rely on the new pills, experts said, is that antiviral medications, which stop the virus from replicating in the body, must be given in a narrow window early in the disease because COVID-19 has different phases. Dr Peter Hotez, a vaccine expert and professor of molecular virology and microbiology at Baylor College of Medicine, said getting treated early enough could be challenging because the window when the virus transitions from the replication phase to the inflammatory phase is fluid.
German coronavirus infection rate hits highest since pandemic began
Germany’s coronavirus infection rate has risen to its highest level since the start of the pandemic, public health figures showed on Monday, and doctors warned they will need to postpone scheduled operations in coming weeks to cope.
Bavaria state premier Markus Soeder earlier called for more decisive action in view of the new peak in the incidence rate, including for tests to be offered free of charge again, vaccination centres to be reactivated and for states and the federal government to coordinate their strategies. Germany has abolished free testing to incentivise people to get vaccinated.
Israel to rule on child COVID vaccines out of public eye
Israeli health officials will decide behind closed doors on whether to allow child COVID-19 vaccinations, citing concerns that decision makers would otherwise not speak freely due to aggressive anti-vax rhetoric by members of the public.
Following the green light given by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for using the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine on children aged 5 to 11, Israel’s Health Ministry is set on Wednesday to hold a decisive discussion among experts on whether to follow suit. There have been an increasing number of threats against officials at the Health Ministry, police say, and at least one senior health official has been assigned a personal security detail.
(Compiled by Karishma Singh; Editing by Robert Birsel)