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What you need to know about the coronavirus right now

·3-min read
FILE PHOTO: Mass cremation of COVID-19 victims in New Delhi

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

Concern grows over Indian variant

India recorded more than 4,000 COVID-19 deaths for a second day in a row on Thursday, while infections stayed below 400,000 for a fourth day, though the virus has become rampant in rural areas where cases can go unreported due to a lack of testing.

Experts remain unsure when numbers will peak and concern is growing about the transmissibility of the variant that is driving infections in India and spreading worldwide.

Bhramar Mukherjee, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan, said most models had predicted a peak this week and that the country could be seeing signs of that trend.

Thailand reports record infections

Thailand announced a daily record in new cases on Thursday after nearly 3,000 inmates in two jails were infected, among them a leader of anti-government protests held while awaiting trial for insulting the king.

Authorities reported 32 COVID-19 deaths and a record 4,887 infections after 2,835 prisoners were added to the tally following the mass testing of thousands of inmates in two Bangkok jails.

A corrections department official said those infected included Panupong "Mike Rayon" Jadnok, 24, who has been held since March 8 on charges that include sedition and insulting King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

Singapore reports most cases in eight months

Singapore's health ministry on Thursday reported 24 locally transmitted COVID-19 cases, the highest daily number since mid-September, with 17 of the new cases linked to a cluster at Chang Airport.

Authorities started testing all workers at the airport a few days ago after detecting the cluster. They have also restricted access to terminals to passengers with tickets and essential workers for two weeks from Thursday.

Following months of reporting few new local cases, infections in Singapore have been climbing, prompting authorities to tighten social distancing rules from last week.

Taiwanese cities tighten restrictions

Taiwanese cities are tightening restrictions on access to public venues such as gyms and libraries after a rare rise in domestic infections.

Early and effective prevention steps, including largely closing its borders, succeeded in shielding Taiwan from the worst of the pandemic. It has reported just 1,231 infections so far.

But markets and the government have been on edge since renewed domestic outbreaks began late last month, with 16 new domestic cases announced on Wednesday, a record daily high.

England's infections halved since March

The prevalence of coronavirus infections in England has halved since March helped by the swift rollouts of vaccines, but new variants remain a threat, according to the findings of a closely watched survey released on Thursday.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday gave the green light to hugging and the serving of pints inside pubs from next week after months of strict restrictions as he set out the next phase of easing the pandemic lockdown.

The REACT study, run by scientists at Imperial College London, found that the number of infections has fallen again with an average of only one in 1,000 people infected.

(Compiled by Linda Noakes; Editing by David Clarke)