COVID-19: What you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic on 18 May

A man enjoys the sunny weather on the first day that tourists from Britain and most EU countries are allowed to enter Portugal without needing to quarantine, as coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions continue to ease, in Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal May 17, 2021. REUTERS/Violeta Santos Moura     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RC2UHN9YUGC0

Tourists from Britain and most EU countries are now able to visit Portugal without needing quarantine. Image: REUTERS/Violeta Santos Moura

Joe Myers
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  • 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: WHO chief calls on COVID-19 vaccine makers to advance doses for COVAX; Italy eases restrictions; Confirmed COVID-19 cases in India pass 25 million.
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1. How COVID-19 is affecting the globe

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 have passed 163.6 million globally, according to Johns Hopkins University. The number of confirmed deaths stands at more than 3.39 million. More than 1.47 billion vaccination doses have been administered globally, according to Our World in Data.

Japan's economy has shrunk more than expected in the first quarter, with the pandemic hitting spending.

Confirmed total COVID-19 cases in India have passed 25 million, becoming the second nation after the United States to do so.

It comes as India reported a further decline in new daily confirmed cases - down to 281,386. But the World Health Organization's Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan has warned that the positive test rate remained 'very high'.

New York state has announced it will drop mask requirements in most places this week for people vaccinated against COVID-19, in line with new U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance. California has announced it would keep its mask order in place for another month.

It comes as weekly deaths from COVID-19 in the United States fell to their lowest in nearly 14 months. 4,165 deaths were reported in total for the week ending 16 May.

Brazil is set to receive ingredients from China to produce up to 25 million doses of the AstraZeneca and Sinovac COVID-19 vaccines in the coming days.

Germany will stop prioritizing more vulnerable groups for COVID-19 vaccines from 7 June, opening up their programme to all adults.


2. WHO chief calls on COVID-19 vaccine makers to advance doses for COVAX

The World Health Organization's Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has repeated calls from Unicef outlining the shortage in supplies facing COVAX, the vaccine-sharing facility.

"The surge in cases has compromised global vaccine supply and there is already a shortfall of 190 million doses to COVAX by the end of June," he told yesterday's media briefing.

He called on manufacturers and high-income countries to advance commitments to deliver doses to COVAX and to share supplies.

"Only by working through COVAX can we quickly get vaccines to those health workers that have been on the frontlines of this pandemic for more than a year," he said.

It comes as US President Joe Biden announced plans to send at least 20 million more COVID-19 vaccines abroad by the end of next months.


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3. Italy to ease restrictions

Italy has pushed back a nightly curfew from 10pm to 11pm, while also easing other restrictions in areas where infections are low.

Italy has the second-highest COVID-19 death toll in Europe after the UK, but has seen cases and deaths decline in recent weeks.

"The figures of the last few months have imposed difficult, sometimes painful choices, but today they give us reason for relief," said Health Minister Roberto Speranza.

A four-tier colour-coded system decided curbs in the country's 20 regions. For example, bars and restaurants can serve clients outside in low-risk yellow and white areas.

Daily new confirmed COVID-19 cases per million people in Italy
Cases have been falling steadily in Italy. Image: Our World in Data
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