• 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: Austria reimposes full lockdown and makes vaccination compulsory; Russia reports new record for COVID-19 related deaths; US to buy 10 million courses of Pfizer's COVID-19 pill.

1. How COVID-19 is affecting the globe

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 have passed 256 million globally, according to Johns Hopkins University. The number of confirmed deaths has now passed 5.13 million. More than 7.62 billion vaccination doses have been administered globally, according to Our World in Data.

Russia on Friday reported 1,254 coronavirus-related deaths in the last 24 hours, a record daily high that follows a surge in cases. The government coronavirus task force also reported 37,156 nationwide infections, including 3,371 in Moscow, down from a peak of 41,335 recorded on Nov 6.

A wave of coronavirus cases sweeping across Germany has plunged the country into a national emergency, Health Minister Jens Spahn said on Friday, adding that the situation was more serious than a week ago. He said a lockdown could not be ruled out.

Canada will announce on Friday it is authorizing the use of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 5 to 11, a government source said on Thursday. The decision will make it the first shot for young children in Canada. Officials had made clear for weeks that the decision would be favourable, noting that the incidence of COVID-19 is now highest in those under 12.

Florida on Thursday banned schools and businesses from requiring vaccination against COVID-19 and set the stage for a possible withdrawal from the federal agency aimed at protecting workplace safety.

Britain's health ministry on Friday said it would add booster shots to the COVID-19 pass for outbound international travel. The health ministry said that travellers who have had a booster or a third dose would be able to demonstrate their vaccine status through the National Health Service (NHS) COVID Pass from Friday.

2. Austria goes back into lockdown as cases surge

Austria will become the first country in western Europe to reimpose a full coronavirus lockdown this autumn to tackle a new wave of infections, and will require its whole population to be vaccinated as of February, its government said on Friday.

Roughly two-thirds of Austria's population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, one of the lowest rates in western Europe. Its infections are among the highest on the continent, with a seven-day incidence of 991 per 100,000 people.

Austria introduced a lockdown for all those who were unvaccinated on Monday but since then infections have continued to set new records.

Daily new confirmed COVID-19 cases per million people.
Daily new confirmed COVID-19 cases per million people in Germany and Austria.
Image: Our World in Data

The two worst-hit provinces, Salzburg and Upper Austria, said on Thursday they would introduce their own lockdowns, raising pressure on the government to do the same nationally.

"We have not succeeded in convincing enough people to get vaccinated," Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg told a news conference, saying the lockdown would start on Monday and the requirement to be vaccinated on Feb. 1.

"It hurts that such measures still have to be taken."

With cold weather setting in across Europe as winter approaches, governments have been forced to consider reimposing unpopular lockdowns. The Netherlands has reimposed a partial lockdown, with bars and restaurants closing at 8 p.m.

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.

3. US to buy 10 million courses of Pfizer's COVID-19 pill

Pfizer said on Thursday that the US government would pay $5.29 billion for 10 million courses of its experimental COVID-19 antiviral drug, as the country rushes to secure promising oral treatments for the disease.

The deal is for around twice as many treatment courses as Merck & Co Inc has agreed to supply the United States under its contract. The price for the Pfizer pill is nearly 25% lower at roughly $530 per course, compared with about $700 for Merck's.

Pfizer applied for emergency authorization of the drug, branded as Paxlovid, this week after reporting data showing that it was 89% effective at preventing hospitalization or death in at-risk people.

The trial's results suggest that Paxlovid surpasses Merck's Molnupiravir which was shown last month to halve the risk of dying or being hospitalized for COVID-19 patients at high risk of serious illness.

"While this pill still requires a full review by the Food and Drug Administration, I have taken immediate steps to secure enough supply for the American people," President Joe Biden said in a statement.