• 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: South Korea reports record high of COVID-19 cases; Japan's stimulus package hits $488 billion; UK study finds Delta sub-variant less likely to cause symptoms.

1. How COVID-19 is affecting the globe

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 have passed 255 million globally, according to Johns Hopkins University. The number of confirmed deaths has now passed 5.12 million. More than 7.56 billion vaccination doses have been administered globally, according to Our World in Data.

AstraZeneca on Thursday cemented its lead in bringing a preventative COVID-19 shot for the non-infected to market for people who do not respond well to vaccines, saying its antibody drug cocktail offered 83% protection over six months.

South Korea reported a record high 3,292 new COVID-19 cases, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said on Thursday, as the country moves into the first phase of its "living with COVID-19" with loosened restrictions.

Russia on Thursday reported 1,251 coronavirus-related deaths in the last 24 hours, an all-time record high that follows a surge in cases. The government coronavirus taskforce reported 37,374 nationwide infections, down from a peak of 41,335 recorded on November 6.

Indian states are sitting on more than 200 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines due to a reluctance among people to get inoculated, the chief executive of top vaccine maker the Serum Institute of India (SII) said on Wednesday.

Brazil registered 11,977 new coronavirus cases and 373 COVID-19 deaths in the last 24 hours, the Health Ministry said on Wednesday.

France registered more than 20,000 new confirmed coronavirus infections on Wednesday for the first time since August 25 as the fifth wave of the epidemic picked up speed. The health ministry reported 20,294 new COVID-19 cases, taking the total to 7.33 million and the seven-day moving average of new cases to above 12,400.

Melbourne's pubs and cafes can have unlimited patrons from Thursday night, while stadiums can return to full capacity as authorities lifted nearly all remaining COVID-19 restrictions for the vaccinated residents in Australia's second-largest city.

Daily new confirmed COVID-19 cases per million people.
Daily new confirmed COVID-19 cases per million people in selected countries.
Image: Our World in Data

2. Japan's stimulus package spending to hit record $488 billion

Japan's new stimulus package will include record spending of about $488 billion due to huge payouts to cushion the economic blow from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Nikkei newspaper reported on Thursday.

The massive spending would underscore Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's resolve to focus on reflating the economy and redistributing wealth to households and small firms still suffering from the coronavirus pandemic's pain.

The government will likely issue new debt to finance part of the 55.7 trillion yen ($488 billion) in spending, which would exceed two big packages compiled last year, the paper said without citing sources.

The total package, which includes funds that do not lead to immediate spending, will likely reach 78.9 trillion yen, the Nikkei said.

Government and ruling party officials are finalising details of the package, which is to be announced on Friday.

health and healthcare, COVID

How has the Forum navigated the global response to COVID-19?

One year on: we look back at how the Forum’s networks have navigated the global response to COVID-19.

Using a multistakeholder approach, the Forum and its partners through its COVID Action Platform have provided countless solutions to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic worldwide, protecting lives and livelihoods.

Throughout 2020, along with launching its COVID Action Platform, the Forum and its Partners launched more than 40 initiatives in response to the pandemic.

The work continues. As one example, the COVID Response Alliance for Social Entrepreneurs is supporting 90,000 social entrepreneurs, with an impact on 1.4 billion people, working to serve the needs of excluded, marginalized and vulnerable groups in more than 190 countries.

Read more about the COVID-19 Tools Accelerator, our support of GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, the Coalition for Epidemics Preparedness and Innovations (CEPI), and the COVAX initiative and innovative approaches to solve the pandemic, like our Common Trust Network – aiming to help roll out a “digital passport” in our Impact Story.

3. UK study suggests Delta subvariant less likely to cause symptoms

A subvariant of Delta that is growing in Britain is less likely to lead to symptomatic COVID-19 infection, a coronavirus prevalence survey found, adding that overall cases had dropped from a peak in October.

The Imperial College London REACT-1 study, released on Thursday, found that the subvariant, known as AY.4.2, had grown to be nearly 12% of samples sequenced, but only a third had "classic" COVID symptoms, compared with nearly a half of those with the currently dominant Delta lineage AY.4.

Two-thirds of people with AY.4.2 had "any" symptom, compared with more than three-quarters with AY.4.

AY.4.2 is thought to be slightly more transmissible, but it has not been shown to cause more severe disease or evade vaccines more easily than Delta.

The researchers said that asymptomatic people might self-isolate less, but also that people with fewer symptoms might spread it less easily through coughing and also may be unlikely to get severely ill.

"It is preferentially appearing to be more transmissible," Imperial epidemiologist Paul Elliott told reporters. "It does seem to be less symptomatic, which is a good thing."