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What you need to know about the coronavirus right now

·2-min read
A nursing home worker receives the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine at a health care centre as South Korea starts a vaccination campaign against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Seoul

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

Vaccination passports may save European summer

European Union leaders moved closer on Thursday to an agreement on certificates showing that citizens have been vaccinated against COVID-19, a move that could revive international travel and save this summer's holiday season.

Some countries want an EU-wide approach instead of a patchwork of national schemes that in many cases are not intended to serve as travel documents. Halfway through a summit of leaders on the pandemic, officials said "convergence on a harmonised approach" to certificates was emerging.

Curbs in Australia's Victoria state eased to pre-Xmas levels

Australia's Victoria state will start easing coronavirus restrictions from Friday night, after authorities deemed new locally acquired cases detected for the first time in a week in the state will not pose any public health risk.

Outdoor gatherings will be increased to 100 people and households can host up to 30 guests from 11:59 p.m. on Friday, though masks will remain mandatory in public transport, indoor shopping centres and supermarkets. Crowds at 50% capacity will be allowed into the 100,000-seat Melbourne Cricket Ground when the Australian Football League season starts, the highest permitted threshold in almost a year since all sports were suspended.

South Korea kicks off COVID-19 vaccination campaign

South Korea launched its COVID-19 inoculation campaign on Friday, with shots to be administered in about 200 nursing homes, in an effort that officials call the first step in returning the country to more normal life.

Despite complaints over a slow start, and debate over the efficacy of AstraZeneca's vaccine for older people, surveys show wide interest among South Koreans in being vaccinated. Some health experts have raised doubts about the country's ability to stick to its ambitious goal of protecting 10 million high-risk people by July, on its way to reaching herd immunity, defined as at least a 70% vaccine take-up, by November.

Japan hopes to end state of emergency for 6 prefectures this month

The Japanese government is looking to end a state of emergency in all but Tokyo and three neighbouring prefectures at the end of this month, a week earlier than scheduled, the minister in charge of coronavirus countermeasures said on Friday.

Emergency coronavirus measures will be removed in Osaka, Kyoto, Hyogo, Aichi, Gifu and Fukuoka prefectures if an advisory panel approves the government's proposal.

Israel freezes programme to send vaccines abroad

Israel has frozen its programme to send COVID-19 vaccines abroad to buy international goodwill, Defence Minister Benny Gantz said on Thursday, after the initiative came under legal scrutiny.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has come under fire for donating COVID-19 vaccines to foreign allies, while Palestinians complained that, as an occupying power, Israel should be supplying more to them.

(Compiled by Karishma Singh; Editing by Stephen Coates)