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What you need to know about the coronavirus right now

·3-min read
Resident scans a QR code held by a volunteer at the gate of a residential compound in Xinle, Shijiazhuang

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

Most Australian Open players back hard quarantine

Australian Open boss Craig Tiley said on Tuesday the vast majority of players supported the country's strict protocols that have seen 72 of them confined to their hotel rooms for 14 days and unable to train for the Feb. 8-21 tournament.

The measures were imposed after passengers on three charter flights returned positive tests for the novel coronavirus, leading to complaints from some players.

Victorian premier Daniel Andrews said he would not make changes and the measures were essential to stop the spread of the virus. Andrews also said three of four new cases of COVID-19 in hotel quarantine reported on Tuesday may be linked to Australian Open personnel.

Biden to block Trump's plan to lift European travel restrictions

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden plans to quickly extend travel restrictions barring travel by most people who have recently been in much of Europe and Brazil soon after President Donald Trump lifted those requirements effective Jan. 26, a spokeswoman for Biden said.

Trump signed an order Monday lifting the restrictions he imposed early last year in response to the pandemic after winning support from coronavirus task force members and public health officials.

Until Biden acts, Trump's order ends restrictions the same day that new COVID-19 test requirements take effect for all international visitors. Trump is due to leave office on Wednesday.

Independent pandemic review panel critical of China, WHO delays

An independent panel said on Monday that Chinese officials could have applied public health measures more forcefully in January to curb the initial COVID-19 outbreak, and criticised the World Health Organization (WHO) for not declaring an international emergency until Jan. 30.

The panel called for a "global reset" and said that it would make recommendations in a final report to health ministers from the WHO's 194 member states in May.

A team from the WHO is currently in China to investigate the origins of COVID-19. The United States called on China on Monday to allow the team to interview "care givers, former patients and lab workers" in the central city of Wuhan, drawing a rebuke from Beijing.

Previous infection may offer less protection from new variant

Previous infection with the coronavirus may offer less protection against the new variant first identified in South Africa, scientists said on Monday, although they hope that vaccines will still work.

Studies also found that the new variant binds more strongly and readily to human cells. That helps explain why it seems to be spreading around 50% quicker than previous versions, leading South African epidemiologist Salim Abdool Karim said.

The 501Y.V2 variant was identified by South African genomics experts late last year. Earlier, South African researchers said that since vaccines induce a broad immune response it was unlikely that the mutations in the spike protein of the variant would completely negate their effect.

(Compiled by Karishma Singh; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)