What you need to know about the coronavirus right now

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

Brink of large coronavirus outbreak

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam warned the city is on the brink of a large-scale outbreak and urged people to stay indoors as strict new measures to curb the spread took effect on Wednesday.

The new regulations ban gatherings of more than two people, close dining in restaurants and make the wearing of face masks mandatory in public places, including outdoors. These are the toughest measures introduced in the city since the outbreak.

The government has also tightened testing and quarantine arrangements for sea and air crew members. The measures will be in place for at least seven days.

Aged care home crisis in Australia

Australia has sent defence and emergency medical teams, usually deployed to disaster zones, to aged care homes in Melbourne to help contain the country’s worst outbreak of the virus. There are currently 804 active COVID-19 cases linked to the homes, including workers, state premier Daniel Andrews said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison described as “very distressing” the situation in 13 aged care facilities in the state of Victoria, of which Melbourne is capital.

The outbreaks have largely been due to transmission from workers at the homes, many of whom might not have been aware they were carrying the virus. “When it rains, everyone gets wet. And that is what we’re seeing with broad-based community transmission in Victoria,” Morrison said.

Melbourne, Australia’s second-most populous city, is in the midst of reimposed lockdown that has stalled the reopening of businesses, forced other states to shut borders with Victoria and held off reopening travel with New Zealand.

Vaccine pricing for developed countries

Pfizer Inc said other developed countries would have to pay the same for its coronavirus vaccine as what it has agreed to charge the United States under a contract.

The U.S. government has agreed to pay nearly $2 billion to buy enough of a COVID-19 vaccine being developed by Pfizer and German biotech BioNTech SE to inoculate 50 million people at a price of $39 for a two-dose treatment course.

Pfizer executives expect people will need to receive vaccinations for a number of years to maintain herd immunity globally, either because immunity may diminish over time or the virus will mutate.

The mRNA technology employed in the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine “is ideal for both: you can boost and boost and boost without losing efficacy”, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla told Reuters.

“And also, you can move very fast from one type of vaccine to another by simply modifying the (genetic) code.”

State of play in United States

Half a dozen U.S. states in the South and West reported one-day records for coronavirus deaths on Tuesday and cases in Texas passed the 400,000 mark, dampening early hopes the country was past the worst of an economic crisis that has decimated businesses and put millions of Americans out of work.

California health officials said Latinos, who make up just over a third of the most populous U.S. state, account for 56% of infections and 46% of deaths.

Cases are soaring in the Central Valley agricultural region, with its heavily Latino population, overwhelming hospitals.

In Washington, some Republicans in the U.S. Senate pushed back against their party’s $1 trillion coronavirus relief proposal the day after it was unveiled by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. “I’m not for borrowing another trillion dollars,” Republican Senator Rand Paul told reporters.

(Compiled by Karishma Singh; Editing by Himani Sarkar)