Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus right now:
Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine neutralizes Brazil variant
The COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech was able to neutralize a new variant of the coronavirus spreading rapidly in Brazil, according to a laboratory study published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Monday.
Blood taken from people who had been given the vaccine neutralized an engineered version of the virus that contained the same mutations carried on the spike portion of the highly contagious P.1 variant first identified in Brazil, the study conducted by scientists from the companies and the University of Texas Medical Branch found.
The scientists said the neutralizing ability was roughly equivalent to the vaccine’s effect on a previous less contagious version of the virus from last year.
Vaccinated people can gather without masks indoors in US
People who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can meet without masks indoors in small groups with others who have been inoculated but should avoid non-essential travel and continue to wear face-coverings in public, the Biden administration said on Monday.
The slight lifting of restrictions represented a still cautious approach to public health guidance despite the quickly growing number of vaccinated people. President Joe Biden has urged Americans to remain vigilant and continue to follow guidelines to prevent another surge of cases.
More than 525,000 people have died of COVID-19 in the United States.
Russia’s Sputnik V could be made in Europe for first time
Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine could be produced in Europe for the first time after a commercial deal to do so in Italy was signed by the Moscow-based RDIF sovereign wealth fund and Swiss-based pharmaceutical company Adienne.
The agreement, which will need approval from Italian regulators before production can start, has been confirmed by both RDIF and the Italian-Russian chamber of commerce.
It is the latest evidence that some EU members are not willing to wait for the EU’s own regulator - the European Medicines Agency - to approve Sputnik V.
China launches vaccination certificates
China has launched a digital COVID-19 vaccination certificate for its citizens planning cross-border travel, joining other countries issuing similar documents as they seek ways to reopen their economies.
As vaccines are globally being rolled out, a few countries including Bahrain have already introduced certificates identifying vaccinated people, and the European Union agreed to develop vaccine passports under pressure from its tourism-dependent southern countries.
The certificate issued by China will have details about the holder’s vaccination information and coronavirus test results.
Singapore ‘bubble’ business hotel welcomes first guests
Singapore has launched a travel “bubble” business hotel that allows executives to do face-to-face meetings without a risk of exposure to the coronavirus, in one of the world’s first such facilities.
The hotel has meeting rooms fitted with airtight glass panels to reduce the risk of transmission and even has a special compartment with an ultraviolet light to sanitize documents so they can be shared between participants.
Some of its first guests have come from France, Germany, Indonesia and the United Arab Emirates.
- Japan to stage Tokyo Olympics without foreign spectators amid COVID-19, Kyodo says
- ‘Wellness on Wheels’: Dubai’s mobile clinics vaccinate over 7,000 against COVID-19
- France’s economy set to rebound from COVID-19 recession, grow by 5 pct: Central bank
- Bahrain bank waives loan fees for COVID vaccinated customers to encourage jab uptake