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What you need to know about the coronavirus right now



Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus right now:

India’s COVID deaths cross 500,000

India’s official COVID-19 death toll crossed 500,000 on Friday, a level some data analysts said was breached last year but was obscured by inaccurate surveys and unaccounted dead in the hinterlands, where millions remain vulnerable to the disease.

The country, which has the fourth-highest tally of deaths globally, recorded 400,000 deaths by July 2021 after the devastating outbreak from the Delta variant, according to official data.

South Korea extends social distancing rules

South Korea extended social distancing rules on Friday for an additional two weeks as Omicron variant infections soar, including a 9 p.m. curfew for restaurants and a six-person limit on private gatherings.

The restrictions were due to end on Sunday but Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum said the extension was necessary to slow the spread of Omicron amid fears the Lunar New Year holiday, which ended on Wednesday, may have fuelled infections.

Hong Kong to roll out rapid antigen tests for all residents

Hong Kong plans to roll out rapid antigen tests for COVID-19 to all its 7.5 million people in the near future, city leader Carrie Lam said on Friday, as the increasingly isolated global financial hub tries to control a new outbreak.

Lam said her government was working on increasing testing, contact tracing and vaccination capacity and making plans to send hospitalised asymptomatic patients to a quarantine facility reserved for close contacts as infections add up.

Race to send vaccines as COVID reaches Pacific islands

Pacific island nations that are some of the last places in the world to be hit by the pandemic are recording a growing number of COVID-19 cases, prompting a rush to provide vaccines, medical teams and food aid.

Concern about the detection of the coronavirus in tsunami-hit Tonga, where one new case was recorded on Friday, has been heightened by thousands of infections sweeping neighbouring Pacific islands.

South Africa seeing more cases of Omicron sub-variant

South Africa is seeing more cases of the BA.2 sub-variant of the Omicron coronavirus variant and is monitoring it, but there is no clear sign that BA.2 is substantially different from the original Omicron strain, a senior scientist said on Friday.

Michelle Groome, from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, showed in a presentation that BA.2 accounted for 23% of the 450 samples from January sequenced by South Africa’s genomic surveillance network and the original strain 75%.

Spain to scrap mandatory outdoor masks

Spain will next week lift a requirement for people to wear masks outdoors, extending a wider rollback of restrictions as coronavirus slowly recedes in the country.

Mask wearing outdoors was reinstated in late December to curb the spread of the emergent Omicron variant.

Greece to scrap negative COVID test demand for travellers

Greece will allow tourists with a European vaccination certificate to enter the country without having to show a negative test for COVID-19 from Feb. 7, the tourism and health ministries said on Friday.

The Mediterranean country, which relies heavily on tourism, has been gradually easing travel restrictions.

UK scientists look to repurpose existing antiviral drugs for COVID

British researchers want to repurpose existing antiviral therapies to treat COVID-19, the University of Oxford said on Friday, in an attempt to sidestep lengthy development processes through readily available drugs.

Scientists will initially screen 138 drugs with known antiviral activity against the COVID-causing SARS-CoV-2 virus to study and identify potent combinations, the university said.


(Compiled by Linda Noakes)


Peel Region reports its first confirmed case of monkeypox – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News



Peel Region has its first confirmed case of monkeypox.

According to Peel Public Health, the person infected is an adult male in his 30s who lives in Mississauga.

The heath unit said the risk to the public remains low.

Monkeypox, which comes from the same virus family as smallpox, spreads though close contact with an infected individual. Most transmission happens through close contact with the skin lesions of monkeypox, but the virus can also be spread by large droplets or by sharing contaminated items.

To reduce risk of infection, people are advised to be cautious when engaging in intimate activities with others. Vaccination is available for high-risk contacts of cases and for those deemed at high risk of exposure to monkeypox.

Symptoms can include fever, headache, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, and a rash/lesions, which could appear on the face or genitals and then spread to other areas.

Anyone who develops these symptoms should contact their healthcare provider and avoid close contact with others until they have improved and rash/lesions have healed.

While most people recover on their own without treatment, those who have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for monkeypox should self-monitor for symptoms, and contact PPH to see if they are eligible for vaccination.

The Mississauga case is at least the 34th confirmed case of the disease in Ontario, with dozens more under investigation.

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Monkeypox case count rises to more than 3400 globally, WHO says – The Globe and Mail



More than 3,400 confirmed monkeypox cases and one death were reported to the World Health Organization as of last Wednesday, with a majority of them from Europe, the agency said in an update on Monday.

WHO said that since June 17, 1,310 new cases were reported to the agency, with eight new countries reporting monkeypox cases.

Monkeypox is not yet a global health emergency, WHO ruled last week, although WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he was deeply concerned about the outbreak.

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Sudbury news: Northern agencies highlight national HIV testing day | CTV News – CTV News Northern Ontario



Monday was national HIV testing day. Officials say this year’s theme surrounds how getting tested is an act of self-care.

From clinics to self-testing kits, groups in the north say there are many options to get tested and everyone should use whichever way works best for them.

Just more than a year ago, Reseau Access Network in Sudbury teamed with Ready to Know and Get a Kit, groups that provide HIV self-testing kits at a pickup location.

Officials said it has been a huge success.

“We get a consistent number throughout each month and I can’t really divulge those figures, unfortunately, but as part of the overall study I can tell you the pickup of self-tests is a fraction of the amount of tests being ordered,” said Angel Riess, of Reseau Access Network.

“There’s actually a lot of tests being shipped to homes directly but I can confirm that they have been active and there’s a significant number of people who have chosen to engage in both programs.”

Elsewhere, the Aids Committee of North Bay and Area held a point-of-care testing clinic to mark the day.

“It’s an opportunity for us to remind everyone that getting tested is essential. If you don’t know you have HIV, you can’t take the steps to try to mitigate the possibility of spread,” said executive director Stacey Mayhall.

In addition to stopping the spread, knowing whether you are positive sooner rather than later can allow for a better quality of life.

“HIV is not a death sentence that it used to be,” said Riess.

“There have been advances in testing and medication and people can live long, healthy lives living with HIV.”

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