What you need to know about the coronavirus right now

·3 min read
COVID-19 lockdown regulations are eased in Sydney

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

Russian COVID cases hit record high as eastern Europe imposes new curbs

Russia reported a record high number of daily COVID-19 cases and some central European countries imposed fresh restrictions on Monday, as a new wave of the pandemic gathered pace.

Authorities around the world have been sounding the alarm as infections surge, with governments in regions where vaccine uptake has been low forced to toughen up restrictions in a bid to stop the virus raging out of control.

Russia on Monday reported 37,930 new COVID-19 infections in the last 24 hours, its highest single-day case tally since the start of the pandemic.

U.S. to outline Nov. 8 international travel reopening

The Biden administration plans to unveil detailed rules on Monday requiring nearly all foreign air visitors to be vaccinated against COVID-19 starting Nov. 8, sources told Reuters.

The White House first disclosed on Sept. 20 it would remove restrictions in early November for fully vaccinated air travellers from 33 countries.

South Korea plots course to scrapping COVID curbs

South Korea unveiled a three-phase strategy to get back to normal from the coronavirus with all limits on gatherings and distancing gone by February, after it achieved a goal of vaccinating 70% of its people at the weekend.

The scheme begins next Monday and is due to run until Feb. 20, by when all distancing curbs will be scrapped except for mask-wearing mandates, a government health panel said.

Beijing delays marathon, raises COVID curbs as Olympics near

China's latest COVID-19 outbreak has forced the capital Beijing to delay its annual marathon and step up other curbs, as the sprawling city and neighbouring Hebei province go into high gear in their preparations for the 2022 Winter Olympics Games.

China reported 35 new domestically transmitted cases on Sunday, official data showed on Monday. Beijing accounted for 14 of the 168 cases reported between Oct. 17-24.

The infection numbers are tiny compared to many outbreaks elsewhere in the world, but authorities have adopted a zero tolerance strategy, aggressively tracking potential infections.

EU regulator starts real-time review of Merck pill

U.S. drugmaker Merck & Co Inc said the European Union's drug regulator has initiated a real-time review of its experimental COVID-19 antiviral drug for adults.

Under the procedure, also known as a "rolling review", the European Medicines Agency would assess data as soon as it becomes available, instead of waiting for a formal application when all required information has been gathered.

While vaccines are the main weapons against COVID-19, Merck's experimental pill molnupiravir could be a game-changer after studies showed it could halve the chances of dying or being hospitalised for those most at risk of contracting severe illness.

Pandemic overwhelms Papua New Guinea

Concerted international action is needed to support Papua New Guinea as a surge in COVID-19 cases overwhelms the Pacific country's health system, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said on Monday.

Coronavirus cases in the island nation of 9 million have been surging in recent weeks, with 385 new cases recorded on Thursday, according to latest available government data.

Fewer than 1% of the population have been fully vaccinated, according to Our World in Data figures.

(Compiled by Nick Macfie)

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