What you need to know about the coronavirus right now

Outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Beijing

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


New virus in pigs has risk for humans

A new "G4" strain of the H1N1 flu virus found in Chinese pigs has become more infectious to humans and needs to be watched closely in case it becomes a potential "pandemic virus", a study published by the U.S. journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) said, although experts said there is no imminent threat.

The study highlights the risks of viruses crossing the species barrier into humans, especially in densely populated regions in China, where millions live in close proximity to farms, breeding facilities, slaughterhouses and wet markets.

The World Health Organization is sending a team to China next week to investigate the origins of the novel coronavirus, its head, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, told a briefing on Monday.


Record surges in California and Texas

California and Texas both marked record spikes in new COVID-19 infections on Monday, a Reuters tally showed, as Los Angeles reported an “alarming” one-day surge in America’s second-largest city that put it over 100,000 cases.

Los Angeles has become a new epicentre in the pandemic as coronavirus cases and hospitalisations surge there despite California Governor Gavin Newsom’s strict orders requiring bars to close and residents to wear masks in nearly all public spaces.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced a “hard pause” on when movie theatres, theme parks and other entertainment venues can reopen.

Nationally, cases rose by more than 40,000, for the fourth time in the past five days.


Local lockdown in Britain

Britain has imposed a stringent lockdown on the English city of Leicester following a local flare-up of the novel coronavirus just as Prime Minister Boris Johnson attempts to nudge the United Kingdom back to normality.

The UK has been one of the world’s worst-hit areas, with more than 54,000 suspected deaths, though infections have been waning in recent weeks and Johnson is rolling back nationwide restrictions to revive the economy.

However, in Leicester, the seven-day infection rate was 135 cases per 100,000 people, three times higher than the next highest city.

Schools in the city will close from Thursday after an unusually high incidence of infections in children there.


Social distancing may reduce severity of infections

A study of young soldiers suggests the benefits of social distancing during the pandemic might extend beyond high-risk individuals. When the Swiss army put social distancing, mask-wearing and hygiene rules into effect on a base where no one had been diagnosed with COVID-19, not only was the later spread of the virus limited, but soldiers who did get infected did not develop symptoms of COVID-19.

The results reported in Clinical Infectious Diseases on Sunday (https://bit.ly/2Vv8KBR) suggest that among healthy young adults, social distancing measures with enhanced hygiene and masks might not only slow coronavirus infection but also reduce the rate of symptomatic patients among those infected, the researchers say.


Digital help for drinkers

Pub drinkers and restaurant clients are set to get digital help from Swedish-based developers whose new app aims to make social distancing rules work as the hospitality industry cautiously reopens.

Sweden has kept bars and restaurants open for table-only service during the pandemic, but authorities have fretted about overcrowding.

Stockholm-based developer Chris Mortimer hopes to help diners and tipplers keep their distance and minimise the risk of spreading the virus.

With Mortimer's app BYEVID, drinkers can either book their pub visit online, ahead of time, or scan a QR code once in the bar, allowing punters and owners to see if the venue has reached its safe capacity.




(Compiled by Linda Noakes and Karishma Singh, Editing by Timothy Heritage)