• 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: Experts warn fight against COVID-19 could return to 'square one'; WHO and UK announce new 'pandemic radar'; Japan and South Korea approve new COVID-19 vaccines.

1. How COVID-19 is affecting the globe

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 have passed 165.5 million globally, according to Johns Hopkins University. The number of confirmed deaths stands at more than 3.43 million. More than 1.56 billion vaccination doses have been administered globally, according to Our World in Data.

India has reported 259,551 new COVID-19 infections, bringing its total confirmed cases to more than 26 million. Nearly 300,000 people have died since the pandemic started.

Two doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine may be about 85-90% effective against symptomatic disease, Public Health England said yesterday. It cautioned it didn't yet have enough data to be conclusive, though.

Britain has reported its highest daily total of new COVID-19 infections in a month, with cases of a variant first found in India continuing to rise.

Malaysia has reported record rises in new daily COVID-19 cases and deaths.

South Korea has approved the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.

Argentina is set to tighten COVID-19 restrictions, with a strict 'circuit-breaker' set to come into force on Saturday. Daily cases and deaths have both broken records over the past week.

Japan has announced a state of emergency will be expanded to cover the island of Okinawa. The country has also announced approval of the Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines.

US President Joe Biden has signed into law the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act following a series of high-profile attacks on Asian-Americans during the pandemic.

Share of people who received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in selected countries
Share of people who have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in selected countries
Image: Our World in Data

2. Experts warn fight against COVID-19 could return to 'square one'

Health specialists are warning that unless wealthy countries plug a hole in the COVAX vaccine-sharing scheme, brought about by India's export ban on COVID-19 shots, the battle against the pandemic risks returning to 'square one'.

COVAX relies heavily on AstraZeneca shots produced by the Serum Institute of India – the world's largest vaccine maker. COVAX was already about 100 million doses short of where it had planned before India halted exports after a surge in domestic infections.

Global experts have warned that rich countries with plentiful stocks must share their supplies, otherwise, they risk prolonging the pandemic.

"We're not going to beat this virus unless we think and act globally," Will Hall, global policy manager for the Wellcome global health trust said. "We all should be concerned about this – the more the virus continues to spread, the greater the risk of it mutating to a stage where our vaccines and treatments no longer work. If that happens we're back to square one."

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.

3. 'Pandemic radar' announced to track diseases

The UK will work with the World Health Organization and other partners to develop a 'pandemic radar' to identify new COVID-19 variants and new diseases quickly.

It's hoped the surveillance network will save lives and protect health systems by spotting diseases before they cause pandemics and enable the development of vaccines, treatments and tests.

"The world must never be caught unawares again by a virus spreading among us unchecked," Prime Minister Boris Johnson said. "We need to build a system of disease surveillance fit for the 21st century, with real-time data sharing and rapid genomic sequencing and response."

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO, added: "The COVID-19 pandemic underscores the vital need for a robust, modern system to keep the world ahead of emerging diseases through active monitoring at the community level, swift and accurate sequencing of new pathogens, and data-sharing across the globe."