• 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: France to enter new national lockdown; South Korea to issue 'vaccine passport'; India extends vaccination programme.

1. How COVID-19 is affecting the globe

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 have now passed 128.9 million globally, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. The number of confirmed deaths stands at more than 2.8 million. More than 564.5 million vaccination doses have been administered globally, according to Our World in Data.

Pfizer says results from a clinical trial show the vaccine it developed with BioNTech is safe, effective and produces robust antibody responses in 12- to 15-year-olds.

Europe’s medicines regulator has reiterated its backing of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine, saying no particular group of age, sex or a previous medical history was especially susceptible to blood clotting after receiving the shot.

Greece is set to ease some COVID-19 restrictions, announcing that from 5 April small retail shops will be able to open under certain conditions.

Italy has made COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for all health workers.

Belgian hospitals have been ordered to reserve 60% of their intensive care beds for COVID-19 patients as cases rise, doctors said yesterday.

More employers in Britain say working from home is increasing the productivity of their staff, according to a survey published on Thursday. A third of employers think the shift to home-working has boosted productivity, up from 28% last June.

Australia will end a lockdown in Brisbane today, just in time for the Easter holidays, as just one new locally-transmitted infection in Queensland eased fears of a more substantial outbreak.

India has opened up its COVID-19 vaccination programme to people above 45.

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. National lockdown ordered in France

President Emmanuel Macron has ordered a third national lockdown in France in response to a third wave of COVID-19 infections. Schools will also close for three weeks.

“We will lose control if we do not move now,” the president said in a televised address to the nation. The move extends restrictions already in place for some regions to the whole country for a least a month, effective from Saturday.

For school children after this weekend, learning will be done remotely for a week, after which schools go on a two-week holiday, which for most of the country will be earlier than scheduled.

Thereafter, nursery and primary pupils will return to school, while middle and high school pupils continue distance learning for an extra week.

Daily new confirmed COVID-19 cases per million people in selected countries
Cases have risen sharply in France during March.
Image: Our World in Data

3. South Korea to issue to blockchain-protected digital 'vaccine passports'

South Korea has announced that it will issue so-called vaccine passports to immunized citizens. The mobile app, which will allow international travellers to show proof of vaccination, will be officially launched this month.

“The introduction of a vaccine passport or ‘Green Pass’ will only allow those who have been vaccinated to experience the recovery to their daily lives,” Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun told a government meeting, adding the app uses blockchain technology to prevent counterfeit.

Read more about vaccine passports here.