What you need to know about the coronavirus right now

What you need to know about the coronavirus right now
The international community is continuing to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.
3 min read
15 February, 2022
Coronavirus is a global pandemic [Getty]

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam ruled out a citywide lockdown to fight Covid-19, but a surge of infections meant she could not "preclude" the possibility of postponing next month's chief executive election.

Lam said her government's response to the outbreak had not been satisfactory, with hospitals and medical staff overwhelmed.

Daily infections have surged by about 20 times over the past two weeks. Health authorities reported 1,619 infections on Tuesday, a daily record with around 5,400 preliminary positive cases.

Chinese industrial city steps up Covid control

A Chinese high-tech industry centre limited some highway access after detecting new Covid-19 cases, while epidemic control measures, including mass testing, affected the local operations of overseas firms such as Robert Bosch.

The city of Suzhou - a trading, commercial and industrial hub in the eastern province of Jiangsu - reported eight domestically transmitted infections with confirmed symptoms for Monday, the National Health Commission said.

Omicron threat remains high in east Europe

A new wave of infections from the Omicron variant of the coronavirus is moving towards the east of Europe, the World Health Organization said. It urged authorities to improve vaccination and other measures.

Over the past two weeks, cases of Covid-19 have more than doubled in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Russia and Ukraine, WHO's Europe regional director Hans Kluge said.

Germany can open up, minister says

Germany can start easing restrictions aimed at limiting the spread of the coronavirus now that a wave of infections with the Omicron variant are subsiding, the health minister said.

"The peak of the Omicron wave has passed," Karl Lauterbach told the Bild newspaper, adding that he supports a "moderate relaxation" of restrictions.

Washington DC joins others in easing COVID restrictions

Washington, DC will no longer require people show proof of Covid-19 vaccination to enter many businesses beginning on Tuesday, its mayor said, joining a slew of local leaders who are dialing back pandemic restrictions as the Omicron wave ebbs.

Mayor Muriel Bowser also announced that the city will no longer make masks mandatory in many indoor settings - including restaurants, bars, gyms and houses of worship - starting on March 1.

Canada's Ontario to lift some pandemic measures

The Canadian province of Ontario said it will speed up its plan to remove proof-of-vaccination requirements and lift pandemic-related capacity limits for many businesses while the western province of Alberta ended its mask requirements for school children on Monday.

The moves, which the provinces' premiers attributed to a waning Omicron wave, comes as protesters opposed to pandemic measures closed three border crossings with the United States and paralyzed parts of Ottawa for three weeks.

Oxford scientists to study effects of Covid variants, shots in pregnancy

Oxford University scientists said they would evaluate the effects of new coronavirus variants on pregnant women and newborns, as well as Covid-19 vaccination effects on complications during pregnancy and after birth.

The study comes less than a year after the university found that pregnant women with COVID-19 and their newborn children faced higher risks of complications, such as premature birth and organ failure risk, than was previously known. (Compiled by Linda Noakes; Editing by Angus MacSwan)