What you need to know about the coronavirus right now

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

Coronavirus voting? South Korea leads the way

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Wednesday she wants to include funding to boost voting by mail in the next pandemic response plan being put together by Democrats in the House of Representatives.

At least $2 billion — ideally $4 billion — would be needed, Pelosi said, adding that Democrats had gotten just $400 million for that purpose in a recent bill.

South Korea goes to the polls for a parliamentary election on April 15 and will allow coronavirus patients to vote by mail or in early absentee voting.

A two-week campaign for the election began on Thursday with candidates wearing masks and shunning handshakes and large rallies.

All voters will similarly be required to don a mask and gloves at polling stations, use sanitisers available there, and maintain their distance from others. Officials will conduct temperature checks at the entrance and regular disinfection.

Things not under control

European Union governments may have worsened their current predicament of mask and medical equipment shortages by overestimating their response capacity, internal and public documents seen by Reuters show.

“There is strong level of preparedness in member states, most have measures in place” to detect and treat COVID-19, a European Commission official said at a closed-door meeting with diplomats from member states on Feb. 5, two weeks after China locked down nearly 60 million people in Hubei province, or roughly the equivalent population of Italy.

EU governments began to realise the gravity of the situation in March, but rather than focusing on joint action, many resorted to protectionist measures, raising trade barriers to hinder the export of medical equipment to their neighbours.

Isolating antibodies ‘effective’ at blocking coronavirus

A team of Chinese scientists has isolated several antibodies that it says are “extremely effective” at blocking the ability of the new coronavirus to enter cells, which eventually could be helpful in treating or preventing COVID-19.

Zhang Linqi at Tsinghua University in Beijing said a drug made with antibodies like the ones his team have found could be used more effectively than the current approaches, including those utilising plasma, which is restricted by blood type.

The team is now focused on identifying the most powerful antibodies and possibly combining them to mitigate the risk of the new coronavirus mutating.

If all goes well, interested developers could mass produce them for testing, first on animals and eventually on humans.

(Open reut.rs/2JuUzGt in an external browser to see an interactive graphic that tracks the spread of coronavirus in your country.)

‘Shoot them dead’ – Philippines president warns lockdown violaters

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said that violaters of the country’s coronavirus lockdown measures could be shot for causing trouble and that abuse of medical workers was a serious crime that wouldn’t be tolerated.

“My orders to the police and military … if there is trouble and there’s an occasion that they fight back and your lives are in danger, shoot them dead,” he said in a televised address late on Wednesday.

“Is that understood? Dead. Instead of causing trouble, I will bury you.”

Duterte’s office typically calls his remarks hyperbole to underline his point.

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