• 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: South Asian cases continue to rise; WHO calls for pandemic preparedness treaty; and COVID variants assigned Greek letters.

1. How COVID-19 is affecting the globe

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 have passed 170.7 million globally, according to Johns Hopkins University. The number of confirmed deaths stands at more than 3.55 million. More than 1.9 billion vaccination doses have been administered globally, according to Our World in Data.

Japan plans to start COVID-19 vaccination at workplaces and universities on June 21 to speed up the country's inoculation drive, the government said.

India reported on Tuesday its lowest daily rise in new coronavirus infections since April 8 at 127,510 cases over the past 24 hours, while deaths rose by 2,795.

India's tally of infections stands at 28.2 million, while the death toll has reached 331,895, health ministry data showed.

South Africa has extended its nightly curfew and limited the number of people at gatherings to slow the spread of COVID-19 as positive cases surge, President Cyril Ramaphosa said.

Spain is considering easing rules on wearing face masks outdoors, as early as in mid-June, officials said on Monday, as falling transmission and rising vaccination rates have lowered the risk of COVID-19 infection.

Peru on Monday almost tripled its official COVID-19 death toll to 180,764, following a government review, making it the country with the worst death rate per capita, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Turkey further eased measures meant to curb coronavirus infections on Monday including partially lifting a weekend lockdown and opening restaurants to a limited number of guests.

President Tayyip Erdogan said the lighter measures, in response to falling cases, would go into effect on Tuesday. Under the new rules, nationwide daily curfews are delayed by an hour to 10 p.m.

Daily new confirmed COVID-19 cases per million people in specific range
Cases in South Asia continue to rise.
Image: Our World in Data

2. ‘Time has come’ for pandemic treaty as part of bold reforms - says WHO’s Tedros

Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told the WHO's annual ministerial assembly that the agency faced a "serious challenge" to maintain its COVID-19 response at the current level and required sustainable and flexible funding.

"The one recommendation that I believe will do most to strengthen both WHO and global health security is the recommendation for a treaty on pandemic preparedness and response," Tedros said. "This is an idea whose time has come."

WHO's emergencies director, Mike Ryan, said: "Right now the pathogens have the upper hand. They are emerging more frequently and often silently in a planet that is out of balance.

"We need to turn that very thing that has exposed us in this pandemic, our interconnectedness, we need to turn that into a strength."

3. New naming convention for coronavirus variants

The World Health Organization revealed the new names on Monday amid criticism that those given by scientists such as the so-called South African variant which goes by multiple names including B.1.351, 501Y.V2 and 20H/501Y.V2 were too complicated.

As such, the four coronavirus variants considered of concern by the U.N. agency and known generally by the public as the UK, South Africa, Brazil and India variants have now been given the letters Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta according to the order of their detection.

Other variants of interest continue down the alphabet.

"While they have their advantages, these scientific names can be difficult to say and recall, and are prone to misreporting," said the WHO, explaining the decision.

The choice of the Greek Alphabet came after months of deliberations in which other possibilities such as Greek Gods and invented, pseudo-classical names were considered by experts, according to bacteriologist Mark Pallen who was involved in the talks.