• 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: New lockdown in New Zealand; Israel easing restrictions; vaccine rollouts begin in more countries.

1. How COVID-19 is affecting the globe

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 have now passed 108.8 million globally, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. The number of confirmed deaths stands at more than 2.4 million.

Australia and New Zealand are set to begin vaccination programmes in the coming days, as both countries received their first shipments.

It comes as officials in Victoria, Australia, have said it's too early to say if a snap five-day lockdown will end as planned on Wednesday evening.

South Korea has announced an easing of some of its strictest social distancing rules for businesses, although limits on private gatherings remain. Its own vaccination programme is set to begin from 26 February.

Singapore's economy contracted less than initially expected in the fourth quarter, but it is on a path to a gradual recovery this year.

COVID-19 restrictions have been eased in Poland. Ski slopes have reopened for a two-week trial period, while cinemas, theatres and hotels have been allowed to open at maximum 50% capacity.

Lebanon has begun its COVID-19 vaccine rollout, starting with the head of critical care at its biggest public hospital and celebrated 93-year-old actor and comedian Salah Tizani.

Japan's Health Ministry said yesterday it had officially approved the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.

From today, passengers arriving in England from any 33 'red list' countries will have to spend 14 days quarantined in a hotel room, after new border restrictions were introduced.

What is the COVID Response Alliance for Social Entrepreneurship?

The COVID Response Alliance for Social Entrepreneurship is a coalition of 85 global leaders, hosted by the World Economic Forum. Its mission: Join hands in support of social entrepreneurs everywhere as vital first responders to the pandemic and as pioneers of a green, inclusive economic reality.

Its COVID Social Enterprise Action Agenda, outlines 25 concrete recommendations for key stakeholder groups, including funders and philanthropists, investors, government institutions, support organizations, and corporations. In January of 2021, its members launched its 2021 Roadmap through which its members will roll out an ambitious set of 21 action projects in 10 areas of work. Including corporate access and policy change in support of a social economy.

For more information see the Alliance website or its “impact story” here.

2. New lockdown in New Zealand

A new three-day 'level 3' lockdown was introduced for Auckland residents yesterday, while the rest of New Zealand was put on level 2 restrictions.

The move came after three new COVID-19 cases were detected in the city, which were later confirmed to involve the more transmissible UK variant.

“We were absolutely right to make the decision to be extra cautious because we assumed it was going to be one of the more transmissible variants,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on a Facebook Live post.

Level 3 restrictions require Auckland's near 2 million residents to stay at home except for essential shopping and work.

New Zealand's total confirmed cases and deaths are far below other developed nations, with 2,330 confirmed and probable cases since the start of the pandemic and 25 deaths.

Daily new confirmed COVID-19 cases
Cases in New Zealand have remain low throughout the pandemic.
Image: Our World in Data

3. Israel begins easing restrictions

Israel plans to reopen restaurants around 9 March and restart tourism with Cyprus, officials said yesterday.

Hotels and gyms will partially reopen on 23 February to those fully inoculated or deemed immune after recovering from COVID-19. To gain entry, users would have to present a 'Green Pass' on a Health Ministry app linked to their medical files. Rollout of the app is due this week.

“We want to open gradually, carefully so we don’t have another breakout of another wave, and another lockdown,” Nachman Ash, the national pandemic-response coordinator, told Ynet TV.