What you need to know about the coronavirus right now

·4 min read
Extended lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19, in Sydney

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

WHO's pandemic project faces cash crunch amid vaccine, oxygen shortages

The World Health Organization is seeking $11.5 billion in urgent funding to fight the more infectious Delta variant of the coronavirus, a draft report seen by Reuters shows, amid worries wealthy nations are partly bypassing its COVID-19 programmes.

A large portion of the cash being requested from the WHO's partners is needed to buy tests, oxygen and face masks in poorer nations, says the document which is expected to be released this week. And a quarter of it would be to buy hundreds of millions of vaccines for them that would otherwise go elsewhere.

The paper, still subject to changes, outlines the results and financial needs of the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A), the programme co-led by the WHO to distribute fairly COVID-19 vaccines, drugs and tests across the world.

The programme, set up at the start of the pandemic, remains vastly underfunded.

China reports most new COVID-19 cases since January

China reported its most new locally transmitted COVID-19 cases since January on Wednesday as some cities stepped up restrictions, cut flights and increased testing to get to grips with an outbreak driven mainly by the Delta variant.

The travel restrictions and closures led Nomura to downgrade its July-September growth forecast for the world's second-largest economy, saying China's zero-tolerance approach to the virus was becoming increasingly costly.

"The draconian measures taken by the government are resulting in potentially the most stringent travel bans and lockdowns in China since the spring of 2020," the brokerage said in a note.

Japan warns of unprecedented COVID spread as Tokyo hits record

Japan warned on Wednesday that coronavirus infections were surging at an unprecedented pace as new cases hit a record high in Tokyo, overshadowing the Olympics and adding to doubts over the government's handling of the pandemic.

The Delta variant was leading to a spread of infections "unseen in the past", Health Minister Norihisa Tamura said as he defended a new policy of asking patients with milder symptoms to isolate at home rather than going to hospital.

"The pandemic has entered a new phase ... Unless we have enough beds, we can't bring people to hospital. We're acting pre-emptively on this front," Tamura told parliament.

One of youngest Australia deaths as Sydney outbreak grows

Australia reported one of its youngest deaths from COVID-19 on Wednesday as daily infections lingered near a 16-month high despite the lockdown of 5 million people in its biggest city of Sydney entering its sixth week.

The unidentified man in his 20s, who had no underlying health issues and had not been vaccinated, died at his home in Sydney, authorities said. He deteriorated rapidly after complaining of only mild symptoms, they said.

The death highlights the risk facing Sydney, which is struggling to contain an outbreak of the highly infectious Delta variant when fewer than 20% of its residents are vaccinated.

Macau begins COVID tests and shuts some entertainment venues

The gambling hub of Macau will begin testing its 600,000 people and close some entertainment spots after the Chinese-ruled city confirmed four new coronavirus cases, its government said on Wednesday, pushing casino stocks lower.

The resurgence in cases in a city that has seen very few infections over the past year and a half has raised concerns that casinos, Macau's main economic engine and source of revenues, may have to close in the near-term if the spread is not contained.

English study finds 50-60% reduced risk for fully vaccinated

Fully vaccinated people have an approximate 50% to 60% reduced risk of infection from the Delta coronavirus variant, including those who are asymptomatic, a large English coronavirus prevalence study found on Wednesday.

The study found that the link between infections and hospitalisations, which had previously weakened, had started to reconverge, which coincides with the spread of Delta among younger people who may not be fully vaccinated. Public Health England has said that Delta carries a higher risk of hospitalisation, though vaccines offer good protection against severe disease.

(Compiled by Karishma Singh and Nick Macfie)

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