What you need to know about the coronavirus right now

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

China’s capital in race to detect COVID cases

Millions of people in Beijing took their second COVID-19 tests of the week on Wednesday as the Chinese capital tried to keep an outbreak numbering in the dozens from spiraling into a crisis like the one the locked-down city of Shanghai is enduring.

Evidence that Shanghai’s month-long isolation has become almost unbearable for many of the city’s 25 million people is emerging on an almost daily basis on the country’s heavily censored internet.

A widely circulated video – since taken down – showed a foreigner trying to break through metal barriers onto a Shanghai street, before being pulled back and dragged to the ground by four people in protective hazmat suits.

Malaysia to lift more COVID curbs

Malaysia will ease more COVID-19 curbs from the start of next month, including lifting restrictions on those who are not vaccinated and scrapping the need to wear masks outdoors, its health minister said.

The Southeast Asian nation has seen some of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks in the region, but infection surges have since subsided amid a ramped up vaccination programme.

EU to move away from emergency phase of pandemic

The European Commission is set to say the EU has entered a new post-emergency phase of the pandemic in which testing should be targeted and monitoring of COVID-19 cases should be similar to sample-based flu surveillance, according to a draft document seen by Reuters.

The shift comes amid a gradual drop of cases and a fall in the number of deaths linked to COVID-19, thanks to the spread of the less virulent Omicron variant and the immunisation of over 70% of the EU population, with half of the population having received also a booster shot.

More than half of Americans have had COVID infections – study

Following the record surge in COVID-19 cases during the Omicron-driven wave, some 58% of the US population overall and more than 75% of younger children have been infected with the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic, according to a US nationwide blood survey released on Tuesday.

The study issued by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention marks the first time in which more than half of the US population has been infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus at least once, and offers a detailed view of the impact of the Omicron surge in the United States.

US to widen COVID antiviral pill distribution

US President Joe Biden’s administration is aiming to expand access to COVID-19 oral antiviral treatments like Pfizer’s Paxlovid by doubling the number of locations at which they are available, the White House said on Tuesday.

Pharmacies participating in the federal program for distributing antiviral treatments will be able to order the free treatments directly from the US government starting this week.

Pfizer, BioNTech seek US authorization of booster shot for younger children

Pfizer and its partner BioNTech said on Tuesday that they had submitted an application to the US health regulator for the authorization of a booster dose of their COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 5 to 11 years.

The companies earlier this month reported data from a mid-to-late stage study showing a third dose of their shot increased protection against the original coronavirus version and the Omicron variant among children in the age group.

(Compiled by Linda Noakes; Editing by Tomasz Janowski)

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