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What you need to know about the coronavirus right now

02/21/2022 | 12:26am EDT

Feb 23 (Reuters) - Here's what you need to know about the coronavirus right now:

COVID vaccine supply for global programme outstrips demand for first time

The global project to share COVID-19 vaccines is struggling to place more than 300 million doses in the latest sign the problem with vaccinating the world is now more about demand than supply.

Last year, wealthy nations snapped up most of the available shots to inoculate their own citizens first, meaning less than a third of people in low-income countries have been vaccinated so far compared with more than 70% in richer nations.

As supply and donations have ramped up, however, poorer nations are facing hurdles such as gaps in cold-chain shortage, vaccine hesitancy and a lack of money to support distribution networks, public health officials told Reuters.

Hong Kong, South Korea, Singapore cases hit record

Hong Kong reported a record 8,674 new infections on Wednesday, as the city prepares for compulsory testing of its residents after authorities extended the toughest social restrictions imposed since the pandemic began.

Health authorities reported 24 deaths compared with Tuesday's 32, as they step up measures, with assistance from their mainland counterparts, to contain the outbreak. On Tuesday, Hong Kong reported 6,211 new cases.

South Korea's prime minister on Wednesday called on people not to panic about a major increase in infections as new daily cases surged past 170,000 for the first time.

Serious cases and deaths are at manageable levels despite record cases caused by the highly infectious Omicron variant, Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum told a pandemic response meeting.

Singapore's health ministry reported a record 26,032 COVID-19 infections on Tuesday and said it may take a few weeks before the current transmission wave peaks and subsides.

Beijing finds most daily local cases in nearly a month

Beijing reported on Wednesday the highest number of daily local COVID-19 cases since late January, less than two weeks before the opening of China's annual parliamentary meeting in the capital on March 5.

The city of Beijing detected 10 domestically transmitted COVID-19 cases with confirmed symptoms for Tuesday, data from the National Health Commission showed on Wednesday. That marks the highest daily count for Beijing since Jan. 29.

Cambodia vaccinates children aged three to five

Cambodia started vaccinating children as young as three against COVID-19 on Wednesday, becoming one of the first countries to cover the age group of those below five.

The Southeast Asian nation has vaccinated more than 90% of its population of 16 million, for one of the highest rates in the region, official data show. In January, it started rolling out a fourth dose for high-risk groups.

World should send 60 million vaccines to North Korea, U.N. investigator says

The international community should form a strategy to provide North Korea with at least 60 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to head off humanitarian disaster, an independent U.N. human rights investigator said on Wednesday.

The vaccines could be a way to persuade the country to ease lockdowns that have left some of its 26 million people on the verge of starvation, Tomas Ojea Quintana, U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, told a briefing in Seoul.

(Compiled by Linda Noakes)


© Reuters 2022
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