• 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: Germany announces restriction-easing plan; France hopes to ease restrictions from mid-April; interim data shows Bharat Biotech's vaccine to have 81% efficacy in preventing symptomatic COVID-19.

1. How COVID-19 is affecting the globe

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 have now passed 115.1 million globally, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. The number of confirmed deaths stands at more than 2.56 million.

Britain's medical regulator has said it will fast-track vaccines for COVID-19 variants, saying the makers of already-authorized shots would not need new lengthy clinical trials to prove their adapted vaccines work.

The US economic recovery continued at a modest pace through the first weeks of 2021, according to the Federal Reserve.

Kenya received over 1 million doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine yesterday. Meanwhile, Rwanda said it was the first country in Africa to secure the Pfizer vaccine.

COVID-19 cases have surged in Poland's northeastern lake district, with infection rates per 100,000 people consistently more than double the national average.

Bharat Biotech's vaccine has shown 81% efficacy in preventing symptomatic COVID-19 in an interim analysis of a late-stage trial in India.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said yesterday the government is considering a two-week extension of the state of emergency in the Tokyo area.

Brazil recorded its highest single-day COVID-19 death toll on Tuesday, with more than 1,700 deaths, according to The New York Times.

It comes as preliminary studies of a more contagious variant sweeping the Brazilian city of Manaus shows infections in people who have already recovered from different variants.

COVID-19

How is the World Economic Forum helping to identify new technologies to fight COVID-19?

As part of work identifying promising technology use cases to combat COVID, The Boston Consulting Group recently used contextual AI to analyze more than 150 million English language media articles from 30 countries published between December 2019 to May 2020.

The result is a compendium of hundreds of technology use cases. It more than triples the number of solutions, providing better visibility into the diverse uses of technology for the COVID-19 response.

To see a full list of 200+ exciting technology use cases during COVID – please follow this link.

2. Germany and France look to ease COVID-19 restrictions

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and state leaders yesterday agreed a phased easing of COVID-19 restrictions - but added an "emergency brake" to let authorities reimpose restrictions if case numbers spike.

The five-stage plan will see gradual re-openings for retail, hospitality and, eventually, open air events with up to 50 people allowed. From Monday, up to five people from two households will be allowed to meet - with children under 14 exempt.

“We are at the threshold of a new phase of the pandemic that we can go into not carelessly but still with justified hope,” Merkel told reporters.

Daily new confirmed COVID-19 cases per million people in Germany and France
Cases have started to creep up in Germany.
Image: Our World in Data

“We will still face hard times, it is true, but for the first time in months, the return to more normal living conditions is in sight,” government spokesman Gabriel Attal told reporters yesterday after a cabinet meeting. “It is neither a distant nor uncertain horizon - it is an horizon that is getting closer and closer. We hope maybe from mid-April, and we are preparing for it.”

Earlier this week, Health Minister Olivier Veran said current measures aimed at controlling the spread of the virus will stay in place for at least the next four to six weeks.