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What you need to know about the coronavirus right now – Metro US

What you need to know about the coronavirus right now

FILE PHOTO: COVID-19 vaccination in Houghton, Johannesburg
FILE PHOTO: COVID-19 vaccination in Houghton, Johannesburg

(Reuters) – Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus right now:

S.Africa says vaccines, prior infection help mildness of COVID cases

South Africa’s health minister said on Friday that the government believed that vaccines and high levels of prior COVID-19 infection were helping to keep disease milder in a wave driven by the Omicron variant.

There have been early anecdotal accounts suggesting that Omicron is causing less severe illness than previous variants in South Africa but scientists say it is too early to draw firm conclusions.

Pubs, parties push Australia’s cases to record levels

Australian authorities on Friday rushed to track down hundreds of people who attended a Taylor Swift album party in Sydney last week that has become a super-spreading event as cases in the country hit a new pandemic high for the second straight day.

COVID-19 infections, including the Omicron variant, have been spreading in pubs and nightclubs as social distancing curbs ease after higher vaccination levels.

Japan PM Kishida speeds boosters

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said he had spoken with the head of Pfizer on Friday to secure oral treatments for COVID-19, and that vaccine boosters for the elderly would be accelerated as concerns swirl about variants.

Japan will aim to get boosters to about 31 million healthcare workers and high-risk elderly people within six months from their initial inoculation instead of eight, Kishida said. From February, other elderly people will get boosters within seven months, he said.

EU to place order with Pfizer for shots adapted to Omicron

European Union governments have agreed to exercise an option to buy more than 180 million doses of a version of the COVID-19 vaccine adapted for the Omicron variant developed by BioNTech and Pfizer, the head of the European Commission said.

Pfizer and BioNTech began development of a prototype Omicron-specific vaccine on Nov. 25, and said they could have it ready in March.

CDC recommends Moderna, Pfizer vaccines over J&J’s

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday recommended Americans choose to receive one of two other authorised COVID-19 vaccines over Johnson & Johnson’s shot, due to rare but sometimes fatal cases of blood-clotting.

The CDC’s move came after its Advisory Committee on Immunization voted unanimously to make the recommendation in favour of the vaccines made by Moderna and Pfizer over the J&J shot.

Moderna shot more likely to cause heart inflammation than Pfizer’s, study shows

Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine is up to four times more likely to cause inflammation of the heart muscle, a very rare side effect, than its rival vaccine from Pfizer-BioNTech, according to a Danish study published in the British Medical Journal late on Thursday.

The study, in which almost 85% of Danes, or 4.9 million individuals, aged 12 and older participated, investigated the link between mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccines and heart inflammation, also known as myocarditis or myopericarditis.

COVID plays havoc with world sport

World sport was again hit by COVID-19 infections on Thursday with soccer and rugby matches called off, a cricket series cancelled and holiday action in North America under threat.

A wave of new infections, driven by the Omicron variant, suggested more postponements and cancellations will follow..

(Compiled by Linda Noakes)

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