What you need to know about the coronavirus right now:
South Korea scrambles to add hospital beds
South Korea promised on Thursday to double its critical-care hospital beds amid a severe shortage, highlighting the strain of the pandemic on even well-equipped countries.
The spike in serious cases, with older people making up an increasing proportion of patients amid a broader resurgence, marks a sharp turn for a country that was seen as successful in crushing one of the worst early outbreaks of the new coronavirus outside China.
Fewer than 10 intensive-care beds were available in the greater Seoul area, a metropolis of 26 million people, as of Tuesday, health authorities said.
The crisis is growing more acute as more than 40% of the country’s new coronavirus victims are 60 or older, up from 20% a month ago, health authorities said.
U.S. says it will not pay what it owes WHO
The United States will not pay some $80 million it owes the World Health Organization (WHO) and will instead redirect the money to help pay its United Nations bill in New York, a Trump administration official said.
The United States plans to leave the Geneva-based WHO on July 6, 2021 after President Donald Trump accused it of becoming a puppet for China during the coronavirus pandemic. The WHO has rejected Trump’s assertion.
Under a 1948 joint resolution of the U.S. Congress, Trump had to give one-year notice of the U.S. withdrawal from the WHO and is required to pay what Washington owes for the organization’s current fiscal year.
The United States currently owes the WHO some $18 million for financial year 2019 and $62 million for financial year 2020.
Former Vice President Joe Biden has said the United States will rejoin the WHO if he defeats Trump in the presidential election in November.
Myanmar seals off capital
Myanmar has imposed mandatory quarantine and coronavirus tests for visitors to its capital city after reporting dozens more infections on Wednesday and leader Aung San Suu Kyi warned of a “disaster for the country”.
Anyone entering the capital, Naypyitaw, where the government is based, will be quarantined, tested, and allowed in only if their result is negative, according to a government order published on Facebook.
People coming from Myanmar’s worst-hit areas will be quarantined in a facility for at least seven days, according to the order by the Naypyitaw Council, while others will be allowed to leave earlier if they test negative.
UK ramps up trials of 20-minute tests
Britain said it was investing in trials of a 20-minute Covid-19 test, with a view to rolling out widespread, systematic testing to detect outbreaks early, amid criticism over backlogs in its current testing system.
Health minister Matt Hancock has said he hopes mass testing using faster Covid-19 tests can be rolled out towards the end of the year, adding that they are key to restoring freedoms after months of Covid-19 restrictions.
“I want to solve the problem by having the next generation tests at a radically bigger scale. You can’t do that on the current technology very easily,” he told BBC television.
Britain is looking to develop tests which do not need to be read in a lab, giving results in a matter of minutes, rather than the current next-day target.
‘Do we have enough soap?’
Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg told children on Thursday she was confident a vaccine against the novel coronavirus will be found and that the disease could become one of many kids are vaccinated against.
She spoke at her third news conference held specially for children, with adults not allowed to ask questions, since the crisis began. At the first such briefing on March 16, Solberg told children it was “OK” to feel scared about the pandemic.
“I think we’ll be able to find a vaccine and that means that corona will continue to exist but because we will be vaccinated we will not become ill or not so ill from it,” Solberg said.
Other questions asked by children included: “Do we have enough soap?”, “Does Norway have any money left after the pandemic?” and “Could we have Antibac that smells nice?”