• This daily round-up brings you a selection of the latest news updates on the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as tips and tools to help you stay informed and protected.
  • Top stories: Russia has highest daily increase since July, Finland warns pandemic expanding at 'alarming' rate, WHO urges more action to fight disinformation.

1. How COVID-19 continues to affect the globe

There are now more than 31.8 million confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide, according to the Johns Hopkins University of Medicine. The number of confirmed deaths has risen to more than 976,000.

Russia reported 6,595 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, its highest daily increase since July 12. Its national tally of cases is the fourth-largest in the world - at 1,128,836. The official death toll stands at 19,948.

The country's sovereign wealth fund has said it would supply the COVID-19 drug Avifavir to 17 additional countries.

Public health experts in Myanmar have warned the country's “maximum containment” strategy could backfire as cases rise. Since March, thousands of people have been housed in government buildings, schools and monasteries mostly run by volunteers.

Finland has warned the pandemic is expanding again more rapidly in the country, and was heading in an “alarming” direction. The number of new cases over two weeks doubled to 798 from 387.

Japanese artist Takahiro Shibata has made a felt and clay face mask artwork that looks like a steaming bowl of ramen noodles, to poke fun at the foggy glasses side-effect of wearing a face mask. Shibata said he wanted “to cheer people up a little bit”.

2. WHO and UN urge stronger action to combat misinformation

The spread of misinformation and disinformation online is putting lives at risk, the WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has warned.

The World Health Organization, the UN and partners have called for countries to take greater action to promote science-based information and prevent the spread of false information, while respecting freedom of expression.

“False information is hindering the response to the pandemic so we must join forces to fight it and to promote science-based public health advice," said Dr Tedros. "The same principles that apply to responding to COVID-19 apply to managing the infodemic. We need to prevent, detect and respond to it, together and in solidarity.”

“As soon as the virus spread across the globe, inaccurate and even dangerous messages proliferated wildly over social media, leaving people confused, misled and ill-advised”, said UN Secretary-General António Guterres.

”Our initiative, called 'Verified', is fighting misinformation with truth. We work with media partners, individuals, influencers and social media platforms to spread content that promotes science, offers solutions and inspires solidarity. This will be especially critical as we work to build public confidence in the safety and efficacy of future COVID-19 vaccines. We need a ‘people’s vaccine’ that is affordable and available to all.”

Vaccines, Health and healthcare, Gavi

What is the World Economic Forum doing about access to vaccines?

In 2000, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance was launched at the World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting in Davos, with an initial pledge of $750 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The aim of Gavi is to make vaccines more accessible and affordable for all - wherever people live in the world.

Along with saving an estimated 10 million lives worldwide in less than 20 years,through the vaccination of nearly 700 million children, - Gavi has most recently ensured a life-saving vaccine for Ebola.

At Davos 2016, we announced Gavi's partnership with Merck to make the life-saving Ebola vaccine a reality.

The Ebola vaccine is the result of years of energy and commitment from Merck; the generosity of Canada’s federal government; leadership by WHO; strong support to test the vaccine from both NGOs such as MSF and the countries affected by the West Africa outbreak; and the rapid response and dedication of the DRC Minister of Health. Without these efforts, it is unlikely this vaccine would be available for several years, if at all.

Read more about the Vaccine Alliance, and how you can contribute to the improvement of access to vaccines globally - in our Impact Story.

3. Trust in the scientific process, say pharmaceutical company chiefs

Companies working on COVID-19 vaccines are looking at how they provide greater transparency, without impacting on vaccine trials, said the CEO of AstraZeneca Plc.

AstraZeneca, which is developing a vaccine with the University of Oxford, stopped its Phase 3 trial earlier this month, after a patient got sick. The trial has now restarted in the UK, but in the US, it's waiting on the go-ahead from the FDA.

COVID-19 vaccine healthcare
A large number of vaccine candidates are currently in testing for COVID-19.
Image: Statista

Speaking at a session updating on vaccine progress at the World Economic Forum's Sustainable Development Impact Summit, Pascal Soriot said:

"Stopping a trial in a vaccine programme is not uncommon and if you place safety at the centre of what you do, you're going to have to stop and look at events.

"Typically, the clinical guidelines recommend you don't disclose patient level information or much information at all because you could compromise the study.

"We're looking at how much transparency we can provide... as an industry without compromising patient privacy or the trial itself."

Paul Stoffels, Vice-Chairman of the Executive Committee; Chief Scientific Officer, Johnson & Johnson said: "We're in difficult circumstances, everyone is expecting a vaccine. In normal circumstances, we're scrutinized by experts who know what can happen in vaccines and have a good estimation of what's an adverse event. We have to be very open about what we are doing."

But this transparency has to be balanced in a careful way so it doesn't hamper the process.

Soriot said: "At the end of the day, people have to accept that they have to trust someone... So many regulators will look at this data and these results with different eyes... Medicine shouldn't be practiced by the media, it should be practiced by experts."

Stoffels added: "We give the decision to external experts to say whether or not there is an issue. People should trust that process."

Soriot said even if people don't trust their own countries, other country regulators are looking at the vaccine.

"You really would have to love conspiracy theories to believe that all regulators around the world would approve a vaccine that's not safe."