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World News

What you need to know about the coronavirus right now

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

FILE PHOTO: A relative wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) pays his last respects to a man who died due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in New Delhi, India, September 28, 2020. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

‘Agonizing milestone’

The global coronavirus death toll rose past a million on Tuesday, according to a Reuters tally, with the number of deaths this year now double the number of people who die annually from malaria.

“Our world has reached an agonizing milestone,” U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement.

“It’s a mind-numbing figure. Yet we must never lose sight of each and every individual life. They were fathers and mothers, wives and husbands, brothers and sisters, friends and colleagues.”

It took just three months for COVID-19 deaths to double from half a million, an accelerating rate of fatalities since the first death was recorded in China in early January.

(Reuters interactive graphic: tmsnrt.rs/2VqS5PS)

Poorer countries to get $5 tests

Some 120 million rapid diagnostic tests for coronavirus will be made available to low- and middle-income countries at a maximum of $5 each, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday.

The wider availability of quick, reliable and inexpensive testing will help 133 countries to track infections and contain the spread, closing the gap with wealthy ones, it said.

WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the manufacturers Abbott and SD Biosensor had agreed with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to “make 120 million of these new, highly portable and easy-to-use rapid COVID-19 diagnostic tests available over a period of six months”.

Worrying trend in New York

The percentage of COVID-19 tests taken in New York state that have come back positive has inched up to 1.5%, Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Monday, a worrisome trend for the former epicenter of the U.S. epidemic.

The rise comes as 27 other states recorded increases in the number of cases for two straight weeks.

While New York’s positive test rate remains much lower than those in some midwestern states where 15% of tests were coming back positive, it marks a significant uptick from the state’s rate, which has hovered at 1% or below for weeks.

“It’s not time to get tired because the virus isn’t tired,” Cuomo said.

Concerns over Trump adviser

Two senior U.S. public health experts have raised concerns that White House adviser Scott Atlas is providing misleading or incorrect information on the coronavirus pandemic to President Donald Trump, according to media reports.

The top U.S. infectious diseases expert, Anthony Fauci, told CNN he was concerned that information given by Atlas - a late addition to the White House coronavirus task force - was “really taken either out of context or actually incorrect”.

The comments from Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, came hours after a news report quoted Robert Redfield, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, sharing similar concerns.

Atlas, a neuroradiologist with no background in infectious diseases, has faced scrutiny for downplaying the importance of face masks and his reported views on “herd immunity”.

Russian scientist behind vaccine defends roll-out

Russia plans to share preliminary results of its COVID-19 vaccine trial based on the first six weeks of monitoring participants, raising the tempo in an already frenzied global race to end the pandemic.

Alexander Gintsburg, head of the Gamaleya Institute that produced the Sputnik V vaccine, told Reuters the pace of its development was necessary under the “wartime” conditions of a pandemic but that no corners were being cut.

Russia has pushed ahead with its potential COVID-19 vaccine at top speed with mass public vaccinations alongside the main human trial.

“People are dying just like during a war,” said Gintsburg. “But this fast-tracked pace is not synonymous, as some media have suggested, with corners being cut. No way.”

Compiled by Linda Noakes; editing by Philippa Fletcher

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