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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: Frozen fish is seen at the seafood section of a supermarket following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Beijing, China November 26, 2020. REUTERS/Florence Lo/File Photo

Americans face ‘rough’ winter

The head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned on Wednesday the pandemic will pose the country’s grimmest health crisis yet over the next few months, before vaccines become widely available.

CDC Director Dr Robert Redfield urged stricter adherence to safety precautions such as wearing face coverings, social distancing and good hand hygiene.

“The reality is that December, January and February are going to be rough times,” Redfield told a livestream presentation hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. “I actually believe they’re going to be the most difficult time in the public health history of this nation.”

The mayor of Los Angeles ordered residents on Wednesday to stay in their homes and banned social gatherings.

Hackers targeting vaccine supply process

IBM is sounding the alarm over hackers targeting companies critical to the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, a sign that digital spies are turning their attention to the complex logistical work involved in inoculating the world’s population.

The information technology company said in a blog post published on Thursday that it had uncovered “a global phishing campaign” focused on organizations associated with the COVID-19 vaccine “cold chain” - the process needed to keep vaccine doses at extremely cold temperatures as they travel from manufacturers to people’s arms.

Germany to extend restrictions

Germany will extend restrictive measures designed to stem a tide of new infections until Jan. 10, Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday after talks with German state leaders.

The measures, which had been due to expire on Dec. 20, include keeping restaurants and hotels shut and limiting private gatherings to five people from two households.

While the daily rise in infection numbers has started to fall, Germany reported its highest single-day death toll on Wednesday since the start of the pandemic, and regions that had been spared the worst are seeing case numbers surge.

Spain caps year-end parties at 10 people

The Spanish government agreed with regional authorities on Wednesday that a maximum of 10 people per household will be allowed to gather for the Christmas and New Year holidays.

The agreement means a slight relaxation of the current general rule that allows gatherings of up to six people, except in some regions that have defined their own limits.

The start of the nighttime curfews in force in most Spanish regions would be moved to 1:30 a.m. from 11 p.m. on Dec. 24 and Dec. 31.

Last foreign Red Cross workers leave North Korea

The last remaining foreign staff of the International Committee of the Red Cross have left North Korea, the aid organisation said on Thursday, the latest in a mass exodus of foreigners amid strict coronavirus lockdowns.

North Korea has reported zero confirmed cases, but the government has imposed stifling measures that in some cases go beyond the controls already in place in the politically and economically isolated country.

North Korea has suspended almost all international flights and cross-border train and road traffic, with residents near the border warned that guards would shoot anyone trying to cross.

Compiled by Linda Noakes; Editing by Kirsten Donovan

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