What you need to know about the coronavirus right now

·4 min read
An illustration, created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), depicts the 2019 Novel Coronavirus
An illustration, created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), depicts the 2019 Novel Coronavirus

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

Red alert in Tokyo

Tokyo raised its coronavirus alert to the highest "red" level on Wednesday, alarmed by a recent spike in daily new cases to record highs, with Governor Yuriko Koike describing the situation in the Japanese capital as "rather severe".

The resurgence of the virus could add to the growing pressure on policymakers to shore up the world's No. 3 economy, which analysts say is set to shrink at its fastest pace in decades this fiscal year due to the pandemic.

"We are in a situation where we should issue warnings to citizens and businesses," Koike told a press conference, urging residents to refrain from unnecessary travel.

The infection rate in Tokyo is at stage "red", the highest of four levels in the city's system, Koike said, citing the analysis by health experts who cautioned earlier in the day that infections were going up quite a bit and "exceeding peaks".

Vaccine has positive Phase 1 results

Moderna's experimental vaccine for the novel coronavirus showed it was safe and provoked immune responses in all 45 healthy volunteers in an early-stage study, U.S. researchers reported.

Moderna's shot, mRNA-1273, uses ribonucleic acid - a chemical messenger that contains instructions for making proteins. When injected into people, the vaccine instructs cells to make proteins that mimic the outer surface of the coronavirus, which the body recognises as a foreign invader, and mounts an immune response against.

In June, Moderna said it selected the 100-microgram dose for its late-stage study to minimize adverse reactions. At that dose, Moderna said the company is on track to deliver about 500 million doses per year, and possibly up to 1 billion doses per year, starting in 2021, from the company's internal U.S. manufacturing site and strategic collaboration with Swiss drugmaker Lonza.

'A tale of two cities'

A few blocks from the Miami Beach Convention Center, where an emergency field hospital stands ready to treat a potential tidal wave of COVID-19 patients, it's party-on along the resort city's famed Ocean Drive.

In recent days, social media has shown maskless revellers dancing in the street, jammed into cars turned into ad hoc nightclubs, and crowding shoulder-to-shoulder, with drinks in both hands, in the outdoor seating areas of restaurants.

"It's a tale of two cities," said Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber. "Our residents are pretty compliant, but our visitors have been spotty and there are areas of the city where it feels like the only people there are those who don't think there's a virus."

Florida is fast becoming the epicentre of a second wave of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States. The Florida Department of Health confirmed over 9,000 new cases on Tuesday, bringing the total to over 290,000. An additional 133 deaths pushed the statewide total past 4,500.

Catalans return to lockdown

Some 160,000 people in the Spanish region of Catalonia returned to confinement on Wednesday as authorities scrambled to control a fresh surge of coronavirus infections in the area.

A judge finally approved the regional government's stay-at-home order for residents of the city of Lleida and six nearby towns on Tuesday night after several days of legal wrangling and political tensions over the issue.

Under the new rules, people may leave their homes only for essential activities like working or buying supplies, while hotels, restaurants and bars will close except for food pick-up or delivery.

After more than 28,000 deaths from the pandemic, Spain's government ended a nationwide lockdown on June 21. But since then, more than 170 clusters have sprung up around the country.

Masks and Mickey

Disneyland Paris welcomed back visitors on Wednesday after a four-month closure due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Masks were mandatory and advance booking required. Visitors to the park, which has imposed a limited capacity, were told to keep a metre away from others, and hundreds of sanitising-gel and hand-washing stations were scattered around.

No tickets were sold at the entrance and rides where social distancing is difficult have not yet reopened. Playgrounds and make-up workshops also remained closed.

Walt Disney World also reopened its two most popular parks in Orlando, on Saturday, despite a surge of new infections in Florida. But in Hong Kong, the company has decided to temporarily close its Disneyland park amid rising coronavirus cases in the Chinese-ruled city.

(Compiled by Linda Noakes; Editing by Peter Graff)