May 14 (Reuters) - Here's what you need to know about the
coronavirus right now:
Indian variant spreads around globe
India's tally of coronavirus infections climbed past 24
million on Friday, amid reports flowed that the highly
transmissible variant first detected there was spreading around
The Indian B.1.617 variant has been found in eight nations
in the Americas, including Canada and the United States, said
Jairo Mendez, an infectious diseases expert with the World
Britain will adapt its vaccine rollout to protect people
more quickly in areas where the Indian variant has emerged, the
vaccine minister said on Friday.
Nearly half the 150 passengers booked on Australia's first
repatriation flight from India were barred from boarding on
Friday, after they or their close contacts tested positive.
Lab leak theory cannot be ruled out
The origin of the novel coronavirus is still unclear and the
theory that it was caused by a laboratory leak needs to be taken
seriously until there is a rigorous data-led investigation that
proves it wrong, a group of leading scientists said.
"More investigation is still needed to determine the origin
of the pandemic," said the 18 scientists, including Ravindra
Gupta, a clinical microbiologist at the University of Cambridge,
and Jesse Bloom, who studies the evolution of viruses at the
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
"Theories of accidental release from a lab and zoonotic
spillover both remain viable," the scientists said in a letter
to the journal Science.
Singapore brings in strictest curbs since lockdown
Singapore announced on Friday the strictest curbs on social
gatherings and public activities since easing a lockdown last
year, amid a rise in locally acquired infections and with new
coronavirus clusters forming in recent weeks.
The new measures announced by the health ministry, which
will be in force from Sunday to mid June, include limiting
social gatherings to two people and ceasing dining in at
"This is clearly a setback in our fight against COVID-19,"
said Lawrence Wong, the minister for education who co-chairs
Singapore's coronavirus taskforce.
Japan adds 3 prefectures to state of emergency
Japan said on Friday it would declare a state of emergency
in three more prefectures hit hard by the pandemic, in a
surprise move reflecting growing concerns about the virus's
The latest state of emergency declarations would come as
Japan grapples with a surge of a more infectious strain of
COVID-19 just 10 weeks before the Tokyo Olympics are due to
Hokkaido, Okayama and Hiroshima will join Tokyo, Osaka and
four other prefectures on Sunday under a state of emergency
until May 31.
Taiwan community transmissions spread
Taiwan reported a record rise in domestic COVID-19 cases on
Friday with 29 new infections, as community transmissions in
part of central Taipei spread and the government called for
people to be tested.
While Taiwan has reported just 1,291 cases, mostly imported
from abroad, a recent small rise in domestic infections has
spooked a population long used to the island's relative safety.
Health Minister Chen Shih-chung told a news conference that
of the 29 new domestic infections many were connected with an
outbreak in Taipei's Wanhua district, an often gritty area of
old temples, trendy shops and hostess bars.
(Compiled by Linda Noakes; Editing by Giles Elgood)