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Health 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: Medical staff members load a patient on an ambulance after arriving on a plane during a transfer operation of people suffering from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), from Avignon to Vannes Airport, France, November 4, 2020. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

China orders inspections to prevent COVID cold chain spread

China is carrying out sweeping inspections on food importers, supermarkets, e-commerce platforms and restaurants to prevent the spread of coronavirus through imported cold chain products, its market regulator said on Wednesday.

China has repeatedly detected the virus on packaging on products ranging from German pork knuckles to Ecuadorian shrimp, triggering disruptive import bans, even as the World Health Organization says the risk of catching COVID-19 from frozen food is low.

The administration has also asked for authorities to have all cold storage registered by the end of the year, according to the statement. Imported cold-chain food products cannot be sold in China without a report showing they have undergone a nucleic acid test for the coronavirus, the market regulation administration said, reiterating an existing policy.

New coronavirus may have reached the U.S. last December

The new coronavirus may have been circulating in the United States last December, well before the first COVID-19 case was diagnosed on Jan. 19, a new analysis of donated blood reveals.

Researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention looked for COVID-19 antibodies in archived samples of blood donations collected by the American Red Cross from Dec. 13, 2019 to Jan. 17 from non-identifiable donors in nine states. Of the 7,389 blood donors, 106 had antibodies specific to the new virus.

There were samples found with COVID-19 antibodies from all nine states, according to a report of the study published on Tuesday in Clinical Infectious Diseases. The findings suggest the virus may have been present in western states as early as Dec. 13 and in eastern states as early as Dec. 30, according to a press statement from Dr. Susan Stramer, vice president of Scientific Affairs at the American Red Cross.

Pfizer CEO confident vaccine supply will exceed needs by end-2021

Pfizer Inc’s chief executive, Albert Bourla, said on Wednesday he was confident that by the end of 2021 there would be more vaccine doses than required to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. His remarks came after Britain approved a vaccine produced by Pfizer and its German biotechnology partner BioNTech on Wednesday. The two companies say their vaccine is 95% effective.

“We are doing everything we can to increase the manufacturing capacity,” said Bourla, “but the challenge is that we need to increase it in the next few months.”

Bourla said governments need to ensure that other measures are not relaxed in the meantime, and emphasised that the distribution strategy of governments was key.

S.Korea students sit college exam behind plastic barriers and in hospitals

In the midst of a third wave of coronavirus infections, nearly half a million South Korean students nervously began a hyper-competitive university entrance exam on Thursday, with students who have tested positive for COVID-19 taking the test at designated hospitals, while special venues were provided to help another 404 who are in self-isolation.

At a high school in central Seoul, students lined up for temperature checks and disinfection before entering the venue, and transparent barriers were installed at all desks, according to video released by the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education.

The test, deemed a life-defining event for high school seniors to win a degree that could help land a better job in Asia’s fourth-largest economy, is a major event in South Korea, with businesses and the stock market opening later than usual to reduce traffic for test-takers, while flights from airports are suspended for a brief period during a language listening test.

Compiled by Karishma Singh; Editing by Kim Coghill

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