What you need to know about the coronavirus right now

·3-min read
Nurses work at a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) test site at the University of Texas El Paso in El Paso
Nurses work at a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) test site at the University of Texas El Paso in El Paso

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

EU pooling its efforts

The European Union will finance the transfer of patients across borders within the bloc to prevent hospitals from getting overwhelmed as COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations spike in the continent.

The EU Commission is also intensifying its efforts to get potential vaccines against the new coronavirus, Commission head Ursula von der Leyen said. The EU was in talks with four companies, and had already sealed supply deals with another three, she added.

Charles Michel, who chaired a video conference meeting of EU leaders to discuss the health crisis, said EU leaders committed to a fair distribution of vaccines once available. That would be done in proportion to population, von der Leyen said.

First U.S. vaccines could ship late Dec or early Jan, Fauci says

If all goes well, the first doses of a safe and effective coronavirus vaccine will likely become available to some high-risk Americans in late December or early January, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious diseases expert, said on Thursday.

Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said he based this on current projections from vaccine front-runners Moderna Inc and Pfizer Inc.

Even with an effective vaccine to protect against the virus, Fauci said it will take time to get back to something approaching normal as vaccine-induced immunity builds both nationally and globally. He said life will likely not get back to normal "until the end of 2021 at least."

Difficult trajectory in United States

The White House coronavirus task force warned that much of the country is in the grips of an "unrelenting" surge in COVID-19 cases and urged tough countermeasures, as the number of U.S. infections reported on Thursday hit a new daily record of more than 91,000.

"We are on a very difficult trajectory. We're going in the wrong direction," said Fauci, adding that coronavirus cases were on the rise in 47 states, and patients were overwhelming hospitals across the country.

At least a dozen states - Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio and Oregon - reported record one-day increases in COVID-19 cases on Thursday, according to a Reuters tally.

Russian vaccine trial slows as focus shifts to second dose

Russia has temporarily paused the vaccination of new volunteers in its COVID-19 vaccine trial, staff at eight of 25 trial clinics said, with some citing high demand and a shortage of doses. However, the vaccine's developer said the uptake of new participants had only slowed.

The director of the Gamaleya Institute, which developed and is manufacturing the vaccine, said the decision to slow the uptake of new volunteers was due to a new focus on giving those already vaccinated a second dose, the RIA news agency reported. The second component is injected 21 days after the first.

"It's related to the fact that there's colossal demand for the vaccine and they are not producing enough to keep up," said a representative of Crocus Medical, the contract research organisation helping oversee the trial in Moscow together with Russia's health ministry.

Russian officials and vaccine developers have previously flagged challenges in ramping up output of the vaccine, known as Sputnik V, and initial estimates of 30 million doses to be produced by year-end were revised down earlier this month by the industry minister to just over 2 million doses.

(Compiled by Karishma Singh; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)