• 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: Malaysia reports record number of infections; WHO warns Delta variant fuelling two-track pandemic; Tokyo Governor vows Olympics will be safe.

1. How COVID-19 is affecting the globe

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 have passed 187.2 million globally, according to Johns Hopkins University. The number of confirmed deaths stands at more than 4.03 million. More than 3.44 billion vaccination doses have been administered globally, according to Our World in Data.

More than 900,000 people in France rushed to set up appointments to get vaccinated on Monday night after the president warned that people would see curbs imposed on them if they did not have a health pass that covered a vaccine or negative COVID test.

Malaysia reported 11,079 new coronavirus infections on Tuesday, the most number of cases recorded in a single day since the start of the pandemic.

Myanmar's military authorities pledged on Monday to ramp up oxygen supplies to help treat COVID-19 patients. The country saw a record 80 coronavirus deaths and 5,014 new cases on Monday, state-run MRTV said.

South Korea has halted its rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations to people aged 55-59 for a week, after a spike in new cases sparked a rush for shots, booking up available supplies and crashing the official government reservation website. It came as daily infections topped 1,000 cases for the seventh day straight.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Monday added a warning to the fact sheet for Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine saying that data suggests there is an increased risk of a rare neurological disorder in the six weeks after inoculation.

Australian authorities reported a slight slowdown in new COVID-19 cases in Sydney on Tuesday, but may still extend a lockdown in the country's largest city to douse an outbreak of the highly contagious Delta variant.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte conceded on Monday that coronavirus restrictions had been lifted too soon in the Netherlands and he apologised as infections surged to their highest levels of the year.

Sweden's government said on Monday it will move ahead with a planned easing of pandemic restrictions this week but warned that new variants of the virus demanded vigilance as it urged people to adhere to social distancing recommendations.

2. WHO: Delta variant fuelling two-track pandemic

The Delta variant is fuelling a "two-track pandemic", the World Health Organization's Director-General has warned.

Speaking at a media briefing, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: "The Delta variant is ripping around the world at a scorching pace, driving a new spike in cases and death."

Delta is now in more than 104 countries and will soon become the dominant COVID-19 strain, he said. Cases have risen worldwide for four consecutive weeks, and after 10 weeks of declines, deaths are increasing again.

He warned that it's not hitting all countries equally, depending on vaccine access.

"We're in the midst of a growing two-track pandemic where the haves and have-nots within and between countries are increasingly divergent.

"The global gap in COVID-19 vaccine supply is hugely uneven and inequitable. Some countries and regions are actually ordering millions of booster doses, before other countries have had supplies to vaccinate their health workers and most vulnerable," said Tedros.

Vaccines, Health and healthcare, Gavi

What is the World Economic Forum doing about access to vaccines?

In 2000, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance was launched at the World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting in Davos, with an initial pledge of $750 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The aim of Gavi is to make vaccines more accessible and affordable for all - wherever people live in the world.

Along with saving an estimated 10 million lives worldwide in less than 20 years,through the vaccination of nearly 700 million children, - Gavi has most recently ensured a life-saving vaccine for Ebola.

At Davos 2016, we announced Gavi's partnership with Merck to make the life-saving Ebola vaccine a reality.

The Ebola vaccine is the result of years of energy and commitment from Merck; the generosity of Canada’s federal government; leadership by WHO; strong support to test the vaccine from both NGOs such as MSF and the countries affected by the West Africa outbreak; and the rapid response and dedication of the DRC Minister of Health. Without these efforts, it is unlikely this vaccine would be available for several years, if at all.

Read more about the Vaccine Alliance, and how you can contribute to the improvement of access to vaccines globally - in our Impact Story.

"In places with high vaccination coverage, Delta is spreading quickly; especially infecting unprotected and vulnerable people and steadily putting pressure back on health systems."

In countries with low vaccine coverage, the situation is particularly bad, he added: "Delta and other highly transmissible variants are driving catastrophic waves of cases, which are translating into high numbers of hospitalisations and death."

He said the current wave of infections was demonstrating vaccines are "a powerful tool" to battle the virus, but warned they have "never been the way out of this crisis on their own".

Share of people who have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
How the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out differs around the world.
Image: Our World in Data

It comes as the World Health Organization's chief scientist on Monday advised against people mixing and matching COVID-19 vaccines from different manufacturers, calling it a "dangerous trend" since there was little data available about the health impact.

"It's a little bit of a dangerous trend here. We are in a data-free, evidence-free zone as far as mix and match," Soumya Swaminathan told an online briefing.

"It will be a chaotic situation in countries if citizens start deciding when and who will be taking a second, a third and a fourth dose."

3. Tokyo Governor: Safe, secure Olympics possible

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said on Tuesday that a sufficient number of hospitals combined with a speed-up in the vaccination rollout among the elderly meant the city will be able to hold a "safe and secure" Olympic Games in ten days.

But Koike, speaking to Reuters in an interview at the Tokyo government headquarters which has for the last few weeks doubled as a vaccination site, also warned that the coronavirus pandemic is far from over and the spreading Delta variant remains a risk.

"Very many people will be vaccinated in the coming ten days and during the Olympics. The biggest change as a result of that will be a substantive fall in the ratio of deaths and severe cases among the elderly," Koike said.

"Because of that, and because the medical system is ready, I think we can press ahead with a safe Olympics," said Koike, who has returned to work after a brief break due to fatigue during which she was admitted to hospital.

The Japanese capital entered its fourth state of emergency on Monday causing bars and restaurants to close early, amid a rebound in COVID-19 cases that also pushed the Games organisers last week to ban spectators from nearly all venues.

Spectators from abroad were already banned months ago, and officials are now asking residents to watch the Games on TV to keep the movement of people to a minimum.