• This daily round-up brings you a selection of the latest news updates on the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, as well as tips and tools to help you stay informed and protected.
  • Today's headlines: Coronavirus deaths pass 400,000; Saudi cases pass 100,000; Some Hydroxychloroquine trials move forward after others halted.

What is the World Economic Forum doing about the coronavirus outbreak?

Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic requires global cooperation among governments, international organizations and the business community, which is at the centre of the World Economic Forum’s mission as the International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation.

Since its launch on 11 March, the Forum’s COVID Action Platform has brought together 1,667 stakeholders from 1,106 businesses and organizations to mitigate the risk and impact of the unprecedented global health emergency that is COVID-19.

The platform is created with the support of the World Health Organization and is open to all businesses and industry groups, as well as other stakeholders, aiming to integrate and inform joint action.

As an organization, the Forum has a track record of supporting efforts to contain epidemics. In 2017, at our Annual Meeting, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) was launched – bringing together experts from government, business, health, academia and civil society to accelerate the development of vaccines. CEPI is currently supporting the race to develop a vaccine against this strand of the coronavirus.

1. How COVID-19 is affecting the globe

  • Confirmed coronavirus cases have surpassed 7 million worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University. More than 402,000 people have died from the virus, while over 3.1 million have recovered.
covid-19 coronavirus
Global view of cumulative confirmed COVID-19 cases
Image: John Hopkins University

The World Health Organization (WHO) shared new guidance regarding mask wearing at Friday's coronavirus briefing. Here's what's changed for health workers and the general public.

  • In areas with widespread transmission, the WHO advises medical masks for all people working in clinical areas of a health facility, not only workers dealing with patients with COVID-19. In other words, said the Director General, when doctors are doing a ward round on the cardiology or palliative care units where there are no confirmed COVID-19 patients, they should still wear a medical mask.
  • In areas with community transmission, the WHO now advises that members of the general public aged 60 and older and those with underlying conditions should wear a medical mask in situations where physical distancing is not possible.
  • The general public should wear non-medical masks where there is widespread transmission and when physical distancing is difficult, such as on public transport, in shops or in other confined or crowded environments.
  • Additionally, the WHO has released new guidance on cloth masks, recommending that they consist of at least three layers of different materials: an inner layer being an absorbent material like cotton, a middle layer of non-woven materials such as polypropylene (for the filter) and an outer layer, which is a non absorbent material such as a polyester or a polyester blend.

WHO officials stressed that the new advice is an update to previous guidance, and that masks should only ever be used as part of an overall comprehensive strategy. "The cornerstone of the response in every country must be to find, isolate, test and care for every case and to trace and quarantine every contact", said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.

3. Testosterone suspected as reason men suffer more from COVID-19
Male COVID-19 mortality has exceeded that of women and new evidence could explain why, according to an article this week from Agenda. Androgens – male hormones such as testosterone – could be helping the virus get inside cells and help to explain why males are worse affected.

One study from Italy has showed that men with prostate cancer receiving drugs that suppress androgens were much less likely to be infected with SARS-CoV-2. Another study from the United States has found a strong link between androgen levels in the blood and the COVID-19 severity.

Such evidence is leading some researchers to look into testing already approved drugs that block the effects of androgens to see if they could slow the virus and help immune systems fight back.

4. How Ethiopia tackled COVID-19
Ethiopia has just over 2,000 cases and its ability to contain the virus has depended on an unconventional approach, according to a senior Ethiopian minister for the Conversation this week. The country acted early, introduced strict passenger-screening protocols at its international airport in January. Local governments organized house-to-house screenings of more than 11 million households while Ethio Telecom used cell-phone ring tones to remind people of the importance of handwashing and wearing facemasks.

The country avoided lockdown and encouraged production and other economic activities to continue during the crisis. While it's still early to judge the success of these efforts, Ethiopia's ability to customize its response to its country's needs have been key. Wrote author Arkebe Oqubay, a senior minister and special adviser to the prime minister of Ethiopia: "African governments’ COVID-19 strategies must reflect the local context, the evolving nature of the pandemic, binding resource constraints, and weak international collaboration."