• This daily round-up brings you a selection of the latest news and updates on the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as tips and tools to help you stay informed and protected.
  • Top stories: Sydney warned to brace for more COVID-19 deaths; US has more than 1,000 deaths in 24 hours; Pope urges everyone to get vaccinated.

1. How COVID-19 is affecting the globe

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 have passed 208.6 million globally, according to Johns Hopkins University. The number of confirmed deaths stands at more than 4.38 million. More than 4.76 billion vaccination doses have been administered globally, according to Our World in Data.

Sydney residents must brace for more deaths, authorities said on Wednesday, as the city continued to break records for new daily infections despite a nearly two-month lockdown. The state of New South Wales reported its biggest daily rise of 633 new cases, including 545 in Sydney.

New Zealand has returned to life in lockdown for the first time in six months in a bid to halt any spread of the infectious Delta variant of the coronavirus. The number of COVID-19 cases had risen to 10 on Wednesday, but modelling suggested numbers could rise to 50-100.

Japan on Tuesday extended its state of emergency in Tokyo and other regions and announced new measures covering seven more prefectures to counter a spike in COVID-19 infections that is threatening the medical system.

Cuba has turned to the military to provide oxygen after its main oxygen plant broke down. The country is in the midst of a Delta variant-driven coronavirus surge that has resulted in record numbers of cases and deaths, swamping some provincial health systems.

South-East Asian countries need more help securing COVID-19 vaccines, as the region struggles to contain record infections and deaths driven by the Delta variant, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said.

Botswana needs to budget an extra 1.13 billion pula ($100 million) to help secure COVID-19 vaccines and equipment as the southern African country battles a third wave of infections, Finance Minister Peggy Serame told parliament on Tuesday.

British inflation fell to the Bank of England's 2% target last month in an unexpectedly sharp slowdown that economists said was most likely a blip as the reopening of the economy after lockdown drives prices higher.

2. US records more than 1,000 COVID-19 deaths in 24 hours

The United States reported more than 1,000 COVID-19 deaths on Tuesday, equating to around 42 fatalities an hour, according to a Reuters tally, as the Delta variant continues to ravage parts of the country with low vaccination rates.

Coronavirus-related deaths have spiked in the US over the past month and are averaging 769 per day, the highest since mid-April, according to the Reuters tally.

President Joe Biden's administration confirmed on Tuesday evening it planned to extend requirements for travellers to wear masks on planes, trains and buses and at airports and train stations until mid-January.

Daily new confirmed COVID-19 deaths per million people.
COVID-19 deaths in the US are rising.
Image: Our World in Data

As in many other countries, the Delta variant has presented a major challenge.

The Reuters tally from state data on Tuesday showed 1,017 deaths, taking the US death toll from the pandemic to just under 623,000 people, the highest number of deaths officially reported by any country in the world.

The last time the US recorded more than 1,000 deaths on a daily basis was in March.

3. Pope Francis: Get vaccinated as a 'gesture of love'

Pope Francis issued an appeal on Wednesday urging people to get inoculated against COVID-19, saying the vaccines could bring an end to the pandemic, but needed to be taken by everyone.

"Thanks to God's grace and to the work of many, we now have vaccines to protect us from COVID-19," the pope said in a video message made on behalf of the non-profit US group the Ad Council and public health coalition COVID Collaborative.

"They grant us the hope of ending the pandemic, but only if they are available to all and if we work together."

Vaccines are widely available in mainly wealthier nations, but mistrust and hesitancy over the newly developed shots have meant that many people are refusing to take them, leaving them especially vulnerable as the Delta variant spreads.

By contrast, poorer nations still do not have access to large-scale vaccine supplies.

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.

Medical experts have warned that ever-more dangerous variants might develop if the virus is allowed to circulate in large pools of non-vaccinated people.

Pope Francis was himself vaccinated in March, saying at the time that it was an ethical obligation.

"Vaccination is a simple but profound way of promoting the common good and caring for each other, especially the most vulnerable. I pray to God that everyone may contribute their own small grain of sand, their own small gesture of love," the pope said in his latest video message.