April 19 (Reuters) - A recent surge in COVID-19 cases could see major parts of Japan slide back into states of emergency with authorities in Tokyo and Osaka looking at renewed curbs, while quarantine-free travel started between Australia and New Zealand for the first time in more than a year.
DEATHS AND INFECTIONS
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* The number of coronavirus patients in intensive care units in France edged up on Sunday, amid a nationwide lockdown to try to stem a third wave of infections.
* British scientists launched a trial which will deliberately expose participants who have already had COVID-19 to the coronavirus again to examine immune responses and see if people get reinfected.
* Italy will ease curbs in many areas from April 26, warning caution was still needed to avoid any reversals in the reopening of many long-shuttered activities.
* Just more than half of U.S. adults have now received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose, data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed on Sunday, with nearly 130 million people aged 18 years or more having received their first shot.
* Dr. Anthony Fauci on Sunday predicted that U.S. health regulators will end the temporary pause on distributing Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine, adding he expects a decision could come as soon as Friday.
* Canada will present a budget with billions of dollars for pandemic recovery measures as COVID-19 infections skyrocket, C$2 billion ($1.6 billion) toward national childcare, and new taxes on luxury goods.
* The Canadian province of Ontario will begin offering AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday to people turning 40 or older this year.
* Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said on Sunday the government has made a second payment to the World Health Organization's COVAX initiative to access around 11 million COVID-19 vaccines.
* India's capital New Delhi recorded 25,500 coronavirus cases in a 24-hour period, with about one in three people tested returning a positive result, its chief minister said, urging the federal government to provide more hospital beds to tackle the crisis.
* Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla has agreed to Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga's request to supply additional doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, the vaccine minister of Japan said on Sunday.
MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA
* The coronavirus variant discovered in South Africa can break through the protection provided by Pfizer and BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine to some extent, a real-world data study in Israel found.
* Vaccination against COVID-19 is a requirement to perform the Umra pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi state TV said on Sunday, citing a government official.
* Tunisia on Saturday announced the closure of all schools until April 30, as well as restrictions on movement, to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.
* China's Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine was 67% effective in preventing symptomatic infection, data from a huge real-world study in Chile has shown, a potential boost for the jab which has come under scrutiny over its level of protection against the virus.
* Asian shares hovered near 1-1/2 week highs on Monday, helped by expectations monetary policy will remain accommodative the world over, while COVID-19 vaccine rollouts help ease fears of another dangerous wave of coronavirus infections.
(Compiled by Krishna Chandra Eluri, Devika Syamnath and Milla Nissi; Edited by William Maclean, Anil D'Silva and Subhranshu Sahu)
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