What you need to know about the coronavirus right now

FILE PHOTO: Outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Buenos Aires
·3 min read

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

EU audits Indian vaccine maker

Europe's drug regulator is auditing the manufacturing site of the Serum Institute of India (SII), a source with knowledge of the matter said, a necessary step before AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine made there can be exported to the bloc.

SII, the world's largest vaccine manufacturer, is producing the AstraZeneca vaccine, developed with Oxford University, for dozens of poor and middle-income countries.

The precise reason for the audit of SII's manufacturing processes and facilities was not clear, but a green light would mean the drug could be exported to the European Union, the source said.

Philippines starts vaccinations

The Philippines kicked off its vaccination programme on Monday, with health workers the first to be inoculated in a delayed campaign as the country tries to secure supplies to address one of Asia's most stubborn coronavirus epidemics.

Healthcare workers in six government hospitals in the capital region received Sinovac Biotech vaccines donated by China on Sunday, the only doses the Philippines has received so far.

The Philippines has reported 576,352 COVID-19 cases overall, including some with the more infectious British coronavirus variant. It has recorded 12,318 deaths.

Modi takes home-grown shot

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was inoculated with the first dose of a home-grown coronavirus vaccine on Monday, kicking off an expansion of the country's immunisation campaign that began in mid-January with healthcare workers.

People above 60, and those who are 45 or more and suffering from certain medical conditions, are now eligible for the vaccinations.

India, which has reported the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the world after the United States, has so far vaccinated more than 12 million health and front-line workers.

U.S. eyes Tuesday deliveries of J&J vaccine

Initial deliveries of the newly approved Johnson & Johnson vaccine should start on Tuesday, senior Biden administration officials said on Sunday, saying they hoped to boost lagging vaccination rates among minorities.

The officials acknowledged that vaccination rates among Black and brown Americans were "not where we ultimately want them to be", but said measures had been put in place to boost those numbers, and sought to assure minorities that the vaccines were safe.

"Even though we know the data are not complete, we do see these early patterns that suggest Black and brown Americans largely are getting vaccinated at rates lower than the representation in the general population," said one of the officials.

Lockdown tests New Zealanders' patience

The mayor of Auckland called for residents to be prioritised for vaccines after New Zealand's biggest city was thrown into its fourth lockdown over the weekend.

The seven-day lockdown imposed by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on a city of 2 million was prompted by just a single new case, reinforcing the New Zealand leader's strict "go hard, go early" response throughout the crisis.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff said the city would lose an estimated 200 jobs and more than NZ$30 million ($21.7 million) per day under the level 3 restrictions.

(Compiled by Linda Noakes; Editing by Giles Elgood)