(Reuters) – Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus right now:
Virus testing imposed on Lunar New Year Chinese travellers
China plans to impose strict COVID testing requirements during the Lunar New Year holiday season, when tens of millions of people are expected to travel, as it battles the worst wave of new infections since March 2020.
In a notice posted online, China’s National Health Commission said people returning to rural areas from other provinces over the Lunar New Year period would have to produce a negative COVID-19 test taken within seven days.
Those that work with imported cold chain products, or quarantine facility workers, among other groups, would also have to produce a test, even if they remained in the same province, said the notice. Rural areas’ epidemic control, as well as infections spread via imported frozen goods, have been blamed by officials as weak links partially responsible for the current outbreaks.
Biden issues order requiring masks in federal buildings
President Joe Biden signed his first order at the White House on Wednesday to require masks and physical distancing in all federal buildings and the development of a testing program for federal employees for COVID-19, in a first step to combat a pandemic that has claimed the lives of more than 400,000 Americans.
In October, Biden vowed to require masks on airplanes and on interstate transportation, but he did not take that action on Wednesday. The transportation order is expected Thursday, officials said.
The Biden administration must implement new testing requirements for nearly all international air passengers that begin Tuesday, following a CDC order last week. Under the new rules, all U.S.-bound passengers age 2 and over must get negative COVID-19 test results within three calendar days of travel.
Tokyo Games may be too big a gamble, disease expert says
As embattled Tokyo Olympics organisers enter the final six months of preparations for the delayed Games on Saturday, virus experts believe hosting the world’s biggest sporting event may be too big a gamble.
“We are facing far more danger than last year, so why do you have to hold the Olympic Games, cancelled last year due to risk of infections, this year?,” Kentaro Iwata, a prominent infectious diseases expert from Kobe University, who rose to prominence with videos criticising the quarantine of the Diamond Princess cruise ship in February, told Reuters.
Organisers have maintained that postponing the Games for another year is not on the table, leaving complete cancellation or striving ahead as the only options.
‘No evidence of decline’ in COVID-19 rates in England’s third lockdown
A third pandemic lockdown appears to be having little impact on rates of COVID-19 in England, researchers warned on Thursday, with prevalence of the disease “very high” and “no evidence of decline” in the first 10 days of renewed restrictions.
Until rates of COVID-19 are reduced substantially, health services “will remain under extreme pressure” and the number of deaths will continue to rise rapidly, researchers leading Imperial College London’s REACT-1 prevalence study said.
Paul Elliott, an expert in epidemiology and public health medicine and director of the REACT programme, said the stubborn levels of COVID-19 infection may be in part due to a more transmissible variant of the virus which emerged late last year. “We’ve really got to double down on the public health measures – wear face covers, keep your distance and wash your hands,” Elliott said.
Compiled by Karishma Singh; Editing by Lincoln Feast.