What you need to know about the coronavirus right now

·2 min read
A medical worker receives a vaccine for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at a vaccination centre in Serdang

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

How a changing virus is reshaping scientists' views

A new consensus is emerging among scientists about the course of the coronavirus pandemic, according to Reuters interviews with 18 specialists who track the disease or are working to curb its impact. They now believe that SARS-CoV-2 will not only remain with us as an endemic virus, continuing to circulate in communities, but will likely cause a significant burden of illness and death for years to come.

As a result, the scientists said, people could expect to continue to take measures such as routine mask-wearing and avoiding crowded places during COVID-19 surges, especially for people at high risk.

English prevalence dropping at slower rate, study finds

The prevalence of COVID-19 infections in England has dropped since January, but the rate of decline has slowed and cases might be on the rise in some areas, researchers at Imperial College London said on Thursday.

Interim findings for February compared to that of January shows estimated prevalence has risen in London and the South-East, as well as the East and West Midlands. The easing of England's national lockdown is set to begin on Monday, when schools reopen. Britain has given more than 20 million people a first dose of a coronavirus vaccine.

Efficacy of India's own vaccine could boost acceptance

Indian doctors and politicians welcomed efficacy data for a state-backed coronavirus vaccine that was given emergency approval in January without the completion of a late-stage trial, making people reluctant to receive the shot.

The COVAXIN shot was found to be 81% effective in an interim analysis of the late-stage trial, its developer Bharat Biotech said on Wednesday. Any boost to the vaccine's acceptance in India, which on Thursday reported new COVID-19 cases at their highest in five weeks, could also brighten its export prospects. Bharat Biotech said 40 countries were interested in COVAXIN.

Immune system T cell responses to variants remain potent

While worrisome coronavirus variants identified in Brazil, South Africa, and California have mutations that might help them resist antibody treatments and vaccines, the immune system's T cell responses to the variants are unaffected in recovered patients and in people who have received the Moderna Inc or Pfizer Inc/BioNTech vaccines, new data show.

The T cells induced by vaccines can recognise pieces of the virus spike protein, while T cells induced by previous infection recognise multiple parts of the virus, including the spike and other proteins, said Alessandro Sette of the La Jolla Institute for Immunology. "These pieces are largely not changed/mutated in the variants," he explained. "This means that the T cell responses recognize the 'ancestral' sequence and the variants equally well."

(Compiled by Karishma Singh; editing by Richard Pullin)