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January 9, 2021 10:53 am

What You Need to Know About the Coronavirus Right Now

avatar by Reuters and Algemeiner Staff

A healthcare worker of Asl Roma 1 holds a syringe after the vaccination of a resident with a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at the Villa Verde elderly care home in Rome, as part of the coronavirus vaccination campaign in Italy, January 7, 2021. Photo: REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane

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

Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine appears effective against mutation

Pfizer and BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine appeared to work against a key mutation in the highly transmissible new variants of the coronavirus discovered in Britain and South Africa, according to a laboratory study conducted by the US drugmaker.

The study by Pfizer and scientists from the University of Texas Medical Branch, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, indicated the vaccine was effective in neutralizing virus with the so-called N501Y mutation of the spike protein.

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The mutation could be responsible for greater transmissibility and there had been concern it could also make the virus escape antibody neutralization elicited by the vaccine, said Phil Dormitzer, one of Pfizer’s top viral vaccine scientists.

 

Germany reports record deaths

Germany reported a record 1,188 daily COVID-19 deaths on Friday, only days after further tightening a national lockdown.

Europe’s largest and most populous economy hopes to be able to limit the spread of the virus until enough of its population has been vaccinated to achieve herd immunity.

On Tuesday, Chancellor Angela Merkel and state premiers agreed to restrict non-essential travel for residents of hard-hit areas all over Germany for the first time, after a lockdown decreed in December failed to significantly reduce infection numbers.

 

Iran bans import of U.S., UK vaccines

Iran’s Supreme Leader on Friday banned the government from importing COVID-19 vaccines from the United States and Britain, labeling the Western powers “untrustworthy,” as the infection spreads in the Middle East’s hardest-hit country.

In a live televised speech, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei raised the prospect of the two Western countries, long-time adversaries of the Islamic Republic, possibly seeking to spread the infection to other countries.

He added however that Iran could obtain vaccines “from other reliable places”. He gave no details, but China and Russia are both allies of Iran.

 

Indonesian clerics declare Sinovac’s vaccine halal

A COVID-19 vaccine produced by Sinovac Biotech is deemed halal, or permissible under Islam, the Indonesian Ulema Council said on Friday, days before the country is scheduled to start its inoculation program using the Chinese vaccine.

Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, has 3 million doses of CoronaVac and plans to use it when it starts its vaccination program on Wednesday, with President Joko Widodo due to receive the first shot.

“This could be the information that could soothe the people, especially Muslims,” Asrorun Niam Sholeh of the council’s fatwa commission told a news conference.

 

Israel tightens lockdown

Israel tightened a national lockdown on Friday in a bid to curb a sharp rise in new cases, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promising that all Israeli adults could be vaccinated by the end of March.

With a population of 9 million, Israel is leading the world in a swift rollout of vaccinations, but the number of new infections has climbed to about 8,000 a day, the highest in months.

Israel imposed its third lockdown on Dec. 27. Many Israelis, however, ignored travel and social-distancing restrictions, prompting stricter measures that will include more police roadblocks and the closure of most schools and more businesses.

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