• 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's Indian variant cases double, WHO urges African vaccine support and South Asia surpasses 30 million cases.

1. How COVID-19 is affecting the globe

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 have passed 168.9 million globally, according to Johns Hopkins University. The number of confirmed deaths stands at more than 3.51 million. More than 1.78 billion vaccination doses have been administered globally, according to Our World in Data.

Britain has seen a total of nearly 7,000 cases of the B.1.617.2 coronavirus variant of concern first identified in India, more than double the previous week's total, Public Health England (PHE) said on Thursday.

Germany plans to make enough COVID-19 vaccine doses available to offer a first shot to children aged 12-16 from 7 June, Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday.

On Friday, India reported 186,364 new coronavirus infections during the previous 24 hours, for its lowest daily rise since 14 April, while deaths rose by 3,660.

Sweden will ease some of its COVID-19 restrictions from 1 June as new cases have fallen sharply in recent weeks, the government said on Thursday, as it presented a roadmap to open up society.

The United States had administered 290,724,607 doses of COVID-19 vaccines in the country as of Thursday morning and distributed 361,250,445 doses, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

The COVAX vaccine-sharing facility urgently needs 190 million doses by the end of June as the virus surges in South Asia, the GAVI vaccine alliance and World Health Organization said on Thursday.

The European Union and Japan on Thursday backed Tokyo's hosting of the Olympic Games this year, with EU-produced vaccines helping Japan in its battle against a fourth wave of infections. European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said the EU had authorized the export to Japan of more than 100 million vaccine doses, enough to inoculate about 40% of the population.

COVID-19 vaccine doses administered by continent
Africa continues to struggle with vaccine supply as the WHO reaches out to other nations for support.
Image: Our World in Data

2. Africa urgently needs 20 million second doses of COVID-19 vaccine, says WHO

This comes as many people are approaching the 8- to 12-week interval between doses recommended by the WHO.

The organization also highlighted that Africa needs another 200 million doses of any WHO Emergency Use Listed COVID-19 vaccine to reach its target of vaccinating 10% of its population by September 2021.

“As supplies dry up, dose-sharing is an urgent, critical and short-term solution to ensuring that Africans at the greatest risk of COVID-19 get the much-needed protection,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “Africa needs vaccines now. Any pause in our vaccination campaigns will lead to lost lives and lost hope.”

France is the first country to share doses from its domestic supply, donating over 31 000 doses to Mauritania, with another 74,400 set for imminent delivery. The EU and United States have pledged 180 million doses between them for low-income countries by the end of 2021.

3. South Asia crosses 30 million COVID-19 cases as India battles second wave

Coronavirus infections in the South Asia region surpassed 30 million on Friday, according to a Reuters tally of official data, led by India which is struggling with a second COVID-19 wave and a vaccine shortage across the region.

India, the second-most populous country in the world, this month recorded its highest COVID-19 death toll since the pandemic began last year, accounting for just over a third of the overall total.

The South Asia region – India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Bhutan, Nepal, Maldives and Sri Lanka – accounts for 18% of global cases and almost 10% of deaths. But there is growing concern that official tallies of infections and deaths might not reflect the extent of the problem.