Here’s what you need to know about the pandemic right now:
Shanghai hits prized ‘zero COVID’ status but lockdown lingers
Shanghai achieved its long-awaited milestone of three consecutive days with no new COVID cases outside quarantine zones on Tuesday but most residents will have to put up with confinement for a while longer before resuming more normal life.
For other cities in China that have been under lockdown, three days with no new cases in the community usually means “zero COVID” status and the beginning of the lifting of restrictions.
The commercial hub of 25 million set out on Monday its clearest timetable yet for exiting a lockdown now in its seventh week, but the plan was met with skepticism by many residents who have seen isolation extended time and again.
North Korea mobilizes army amid COVID wave
North Korea has mobilized its military to distribute COVID medications and deployed more than 10,000 health workers to help trace potential patients as it fights a sweeping coronavirus wave, state media outlet KCNA said on Tuesday.
The isolated country is grappling with its first acknowledged COVID outbreak, which it confirmed last week, fueling concerns over a major crisis due to a lack of vaccines and adequate medical infrastructure.
Japan to allow limited tour groups
Japan said on Tuesday it would start conducting “test tourism” in the form of limited package tours in May as a way of gathering information prior to a full re-opening of the country to tourism.
Though tourism was a major pillar of Japan’s economy, tourists have not been permitted to enter since it adopted strict border controls in 2020 at the start of the pandemic.
Indonesia to drop outdoor mask mandate
Indonesia will no longer require people to mask up outdoors, its president said on Tuesday, as COVID infections decline in the Southeast Asian country.
President Joko Widodo said masks must still be worn indoors and on public transport, also recommending that the elderly and those with underlying health conditions or coughs continue to use them.
FDA declines to authorize common antidepressant as COVID treatment
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has decided not to authorize the antidepressant fluvoxamine to treat COVID, saying that the data has not shown the drug to be an effective therapeutic for fighting the virus.
AstraZeneca boosts COVID portfolio
AstraZeneca moved to bolster its COVID portfolio of antibodies on Tuesday with a $157 million licensing deal for experimental therapies developed by newly-launched biotech RQ Bio.
In addition to the initial sum, the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker faces possible royalty payments as part of the exclusive license to develop pre-clinical COVID antibodies engineered by RQ Bio, the start-up said. AstraZeneca announced the deal but not its size.
(Compiled by Linda Noakes)