• This daily round-up brings you a selection of the latest news and updates on the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, as well as tips and tools to help you stay informed and protected.
  • Top stories: Britain asks regulator to assess Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine; WHO's Ryan says vaccine offers chance to gain progressive control; Berlin plans mass vaccination centres.

1. How COVID-19 is affecting the globe

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 have now passed 61 million globally, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. The number of confirmed deaths stands at more than 1.43 million.

South Korea has reported more than 500 new COVID-19 cases for a second consecutive day – levels not seen in nearly nine months.

Ireland is set to reopen pubs and restaurants on 7 December. They were closed on 21 October, when the government shut all non-essential retail, and pubs and restaurants were limited to takeaway service.

Daily new confirmed COVID-19 cases per million people in selected countries
Ireland's cases have been lower than many of its immediate European neighbours.
Image: Our World in Data

Berlin is planning to open six mass vaccination centres, capable of handling up to 4,000 people per day by mid-December.

New post-lockdown tiers have been announced for England, with 20 million people set to be under the toughest level of restrictions.

The European Central Bank must keep borrowing costs low to allow governments to spend their way out of a pandemic-induced recession, ECB board member Fabio Panetta told a Portuguese newspaper.

Australia's second largest state, Victoria, once the country's coronavirus hotspot, has now gone 28 days without detecting any new infections.

2. The potential impact of a vaccine

The introduction of a COVID-19 vaccine should allow the world to gain control over the disease next year, Dr Mike Ryan, the Executive Director of the World Health Organization's Health Emergencies Programme, told Irish TV.

“Life as we used to know it, I think that’s very, very possible but we will have to continue with the hygiene, physical distancing. Vaccines do not equal zero COVID. Adding vaccines to our current measures will allow us to really crush the curve, avoid lockdowns and gain progressive control over the disease,” he said.

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.

But he warned about the potential impact of Christmas.

“We need to be absolutely aware that we need to reduce the chance that we could infect someone else in just organising households carefully around the Christmas festivities."

3. Britain asks regulator to assess Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine

Britain has asked its medical regulator to assess the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca for temporary supply.

“We have formally asked the regulator to assess the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, to understand the data and determine whether it meets rigorous safety standards,” Health Minister Matt Hancock said in a statement.

“This letter is an important step towards deploying a vaccine as quickly as safely possible.”

Questions have been raised though about the robustness of the trial's results, which showed the vaccine could be 90% effective when given as a half dose followed by a full dose. AstraZeneca said the half dose was approved by independent data safety monitors and the UK regulator, adding that the regulator publicly confirmed there was “no concern”.