What you need to know about the coronavirus right now

·3 min read
COVID-19 vaccinations in Bangkok

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

Mandatory mask rules extended in Sydney

Australia's most populous state, New South Wales (NSW), on Tuesday reported its biggest rise in new locally acquired COVID-19 cases in nearly a week, prompting authorities to extend a mask mandate in Sydney for a week.

Ten new locally acquired cases were reported in NSW on Tuesday, as officials fight to contain a latest cluster of the highly infectious Delta virus variant. Eight of the 10 are household contacts of previous cases in isolation.

"There is no doubt there is an increased level of concern, given the additional numbers of cases, but ... given how absolutely contagious the virus is, we expected household contacts already in isolation were likely to get the virus," NSW state Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters.

Central Asia braces for third wave

Kazakhstan warned on Tuesday that the more infectious Delta variant of the coronavirus had reached its capital as other Central Asian countries saw fresh spikes in cases.

The number of new cases in Kazakhstan's capital, Nur-Sultan, jumped 40% last week compared to the previous week, healthcare minister Alexei Tsoi told a government meeting on Tuesday.

Tsoi said tests had shown that the Delta variant, first detected in India, was present in the city and urged provincial governments to prepare for a spike in cases requiring hospitalisation and lung ventilation.

India's vaccination pace seen dwindling

India's vaccinations over the next few weeks could fall short of the blistering pace set on the first day of a federal campaign, unless it makes inroads in a vast hinterland and bridges a shortage of doses, experts said on Tuesday.

The 8.6 million doses injected on Monday represented a record two-fold jump as India kicked off free inoculation for all adults, reversing a policy for individual states and hospitals to buy vaccines for those aged 18 to 44.

"This is clearly not sustainable," Chandrakant Lahariya, an expert in public policy and health systems, told Reuters.

Vaccinated Brits could be back on Europe's beaches soon

Britain is working on easing travel restrictions for the fully vaccinated to allow people to enjoy a summer holiday on Europe's beaches but the plans are not finalised yet, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Tuesday.

Currently British citizens are essentially prevented from travelling to most countries - including those in the European Union - as the quarantine and testing rules are so cumbersome and expensive.

The travel industry has demanded that Britain removes its COVID testing and isolation requirements for fully vaccinated travellers, similar to a scheme to the European Union.

Italy to scrap mandatory masks outdoors

Italy will lift a requirement that people wear face masks outdoors from June 28, the government said late on Monday, as cases and hospitalisations decline.

Mandatory masks were imposed in October last year, when the country was entering a second wave of the epidemic and authorities were struggling to curb surging infections.

Mario Draghi's government has been steadily lifting restrictions since April, opening activities such as restaurants, bars, cinemas and gyms and allowing freedom of movement around the country.

(Compiled by Linda Noakes)

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