– Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus right now:
England’s ‘freedom day’ marred by soaring cases
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s “freedom day” ending more than a year of lockdown restrictions in England was marred on Monday by surging infections, warnings of supermarket shortages and his own forced self-isolation.
Johnson’s bet that he can get one of Europe’s largest economies firing again because so many people are now vaccinated marks a new chapter in the global response to the coronavirus.
If the vaccines prove effective in reducing severe illness and deaths even while infections reach record levels, Johnson’s decision could offer a path out of the worst public health crisis in decades. If not, more lockdowns could loom.
Australia prolongs lockdown in Victoria
Australian authorities said Victoria state would extend a lockdown beyond Tuesday to slow the spread of the highly infectious Delta variant, despite a slight drop in new infections in the state and nationwide.
Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews said lockdown rules would not be lifted as cases were still being detected in the community, promising more details would be provided on Tuesday, when the lockdown had been due to end.
Meanwhile, Australia will deport controversial British commentator Katie Hopkins after she admitted breaching the country’s quarantine rules.
Singapore advises unvaccinated people to stay home
Singapore’s health ministry on Sunday “strongly” advised unvaccinated individuals, especially the elderly, to stay home as much as possible over the next few weeks, citing heightened concerns about the risk of community spread of COVID-19.
The country reported 88 new locally-transmitted coronavirus cases on Sunday, the highest daily toll since August last year, driven by growing clusters of infections linked to karaoke bars and a fishery port.
Though Singapore’s daily cases are only a fraction of the number being reported among its Southeast Asian neighbours, the jump in infections is a setback for the Asian business hub, which has successfully contained its earlier outbreaks.
South Korea military suffers worst outbreak
South Korea’s military has recorded its biggest cluster of infections to date, with more than 80% of personnel aboard a destroyer on anti-piracy patrol in the Gulf of Aden testing positive.
While the 247 cases are not directly linked to new domestic infections, with the destroyer having left South Korea to start its mission in February, the surge comes as the country battles its worst-ever outbreak of COVID-19 cases at home, with another 1,252 new infections reported for Sunday.
The country’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said on Monday that just 50 of the ship’s complement of 301 personnel have tested negative in an outbreak first reported on July 15. Authorities have begun an operation to airlift them home.
Taiwan approves Medigen’s vaccine candidate
Taiwan’s government approved the emergency use and production of Medigen Vaccine Biologics Corp’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate, a major step in the island’s plans to develop its own vaccines to protect against the coronavirus.
The vaccine candidate has yet to finish clinical trials and no efficacy data is available, but Taiwan’s health ministry said studies so far have shown that antibodies created by the shot have been “no worse than” those created by AstraZeneca’s vaccine.
Taiwan-based Medigen said last month it was seeking a speedy emergency use authorisation from the government for its vaccine candidate after safely completing Phase II trials.