What you need to know about the coronavirus right now

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

A teenager receives a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine at a clinic run by the Philadelphia Department of Public Health in partnership with the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium to encourage all eligible teenagers to get vaccinated in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S., May 18, 2021. REUTERS/Hannah Beier

Japan opens mass vaccination sites for elderly

Japan opened mass inoculation centres on Monday as the country races to vaccinate most of its elderly population against COVID-19 before the start of the Tokyo Olympics.

The centres in Tokyo and Osaka will vaccinate thousands of people every day, giving a boost to Japan’s sluggish inoculation drive as officials battle a fourth wave of infections.

Hospitals in Osaka are buckling, running out of beds and ventilators as exhausted doctors warn of a “system collapse” and advise against holding the Olympics.

Taiwan considering extending alert level

Taiwan is considering extending its second highest COVID-19 alert that was due to expire at the end of the week, the health minister said on Monday, as he reported a further increase in domestic cases despite tighter social restrictions.

However, Health Minister Chen Shih-chung also said an infection peak was registered last Monday and should continue to decline.

“Judging from the trend of confirmed cases, it seems that the peak has reached a certain point,” Chen said.

Israel to end COVID-19 restrictions

Israel will end local COVID-19 restrictions after a successful vaccine rollout that has nearly stamped out new infections, its Health Ministry said on Sunday.

With the majority of the population having received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, and about 92% of those 50 and older inoculated or recovered, Israel has been gradually reopening its economy after three lockdowns.

The country reported just 12 new virus cases on Saturday, down from a daily peak of more than 10,000 in January.

Singapore provisionally approves 60-second breathalyser test

Singapore authorities have provisionally approved a COVID-19 breathalyser test that aims to show whether someone is infected with the coronavirus in under a minute, according to the local startup that developed the product.

Breathonix, a spin-off company from the National University of Singapore, said it is now working with the health ministry to run a deployment trial of the technology at one of the city-state’s border points with Malaysia.

The breath analysis will be carried out alongside the current compulsory COVID-19 antigen rapid test.

Bio-detection dogs sniff out COVID-19

Sniffer dogs trained using smelly socks worn by people infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus could soon be used at airports or mass gathering venues to pick up the “corona odour” of COVID-19-infected people, British scientists said on Monday.

Working in teams of two, the COVID-trained dogs could screen a line of several hundred people coming off a plane within half an hour, for example, and detect with up to 94.3% sensitivity those infected, the scientists said.

Presenting results of an early stage study – which involved some 3,500 odour samples donated in the form of unwashed socks or T-shirts worn by members of the public and health workers – the researchers said the dogs were even able to sniff out asymptomatic or mild COVID-19 cases, as well as cases caused by a mutant variant that emerged in the UK late last year.

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