- This daily news 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: New Zealand outlines plan to lift COVID-19 border restrictions; WHO warning on European COVID-19 deaths; South Korea reports record daily case level.
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1. How COVID-19 is affecting the globe
Confirmed cases of COVID-19 have passed 258.9 million globally, according to Johns Hopkins University. The number of confirmed deaths has now passed 5.16 million. More than 7.77 billion vaccination doses have been administered globally, according to Our World in Data.
South Korea has reported a new daily record number of confirmed COVID-19 cases - 4,116.
France has recorded more than 30,000 new daily COVID-19 infections for the first time since August.
Top US infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci said yesterday that the vast majority of Americans who've been vaccinated against COVID-19 should receive a booster shot.
Germany is considering introducing further restrictions in response to rising COVID-19 cases, outgoing Health Minister Jens Spahn said yesterday.
Spain's Catalonia region is planning to ask for proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative test for entry to bars, restaurants and stadiums. Other regions are also pushing for similar restrictions.
A global licence for serological technology that detects COVID-19 antibodies will be provided royalty-free to poor and middle-income countries, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced yesterday. The agreement is a first-of-its-kind and designed to boost production.
The Czech Republic is considering making COVID-19 vaccines mandatory for those aged over 60, as well as workers in some sectors, such as health and social care.
2. New Zealand announces plan to reopen borders
New Zealand has outlined a plan to ease border restrictions introduced as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The timeline will see the country's borders closed to most international travellers for at least another five months.
Fully vaccinated international travellers will be allowed to enter the country from 30 April, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins told a news conference. The travellers will have to self-isolate for seven days on arrival.
Vaccinated New Zealanders and residence visa holders in neighbouring Australia can travel to New Zealand from 16 January, while vaccinated New Zealanders and residence visa holders from most other countries will be allowed in from 13 February.
"A phased approach to reconnecting with the world is the safest approach to ensure risk is carefully managed," Hipkins said.
3. WHO warning on COVID-19 deaths in Europe
The WHO warned yesterday that a further 700,000 people could die from COVID-19 in Europe by March - taking the total above 2.2 million. The organization urged people to get vaccinated and have booster shots.
Total cumulative deaths from the disease in the 53 countries of the WHO's European region have already surpassed 1.5 million, it said, with the daily rate doubling from late September to 4,200 a day.
The WHO's European region also includes Russia and other former Soviet republics, as well as Turkey.
"Cumulative reported deaths are projected to reach over 2.2 million by spring next year, based on current trends," it said, adding that COVID-19 is now the top regional cause of death.