• 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: COVID-19 travel restrictions raised around the world; Countries continue to detect and react to Omicron variant; US expert panel backs COVID-19 antiviral pill.

1. How COVID-19 is affecting the globe

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 have passed 262.8 million globally, according to Johns Hopkins University. The number of confirmed deaths has now passed 5.21 million. More than 7.99 billion vaccination doses have been administered globally, according to Our World in Data.

China detected 91 domestically transmitted COVID-19 cases with confirmed symptoms on Tuesday, the highest daily count since 2 November.

Australian authorities say they've detected another probable case of the Omicron variant in Sydney.

Serum Institute of India has sent doses of COVID-19 vaccine to Indonesia, in its first export of the Novavax shot through the COVAX vaccine-sharing facility, the Indian government said on Wednesday.

Singapore's COVID-19 vaccination rate has risen to 96% of the eligible population. The city-state has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world.

Nigeria has confirmed its first cases of the Omicron variant in two travellers who arrived from South Africa last week.

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

2. Tightening COVID-19 travel restrictions

The United States, Canada and Hong Kong have all tightened rules around international travel in the wake of the emergence of the Omicron COVID-19 variant.

The US will require all air travellers entering the country to show a negative COVID-19 test performed within one day of departure. Currently, vaccinated travellers can present a negative result within 3 days. Passengers will also be required to test 3-5 days after arrival.

Hong Kong will ban non-residents from entering the city from Japan, Portugal and Sweden from Friday. Residents can only board flights if fully vaccinated and will have to undergo 21-days of quarantine in a hotel at their own cost.

Canada will extend its ban on travellers from southern Africa to also cover those from Nigeria, Malawi and Egypt, health officials said on Tuesday, for a total of 10 countries. Canada will require people arriving by air from all nations except the United States to take a COVID-19 test, Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said.

The moves come as the World Health Organization warned that blanket travel bans will not stop the spread of Omicron. The organization urged 'an evidence-informed and risk-based approach' to any measures, including possible screening or quarantine of international travellers.

What is the COVID Response Alliance for Social Entrepreneurship?

The COVID Response Alliance to Social Entrepreneurs - soon to continue its work as the Global Alliance for Social Entrepreneurship - was launched in April 2020 in response to the devastating effects of the pandemic. Co-founded by the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship together with Ashoka, Echoing Green, GHR Foundation, Skoll Foundation, and Yunus Social Business.

The Alliance provides a trusted community for the world’s leading corporations, investors, governments, intermediaries, academics, and media who share a commitment to social entrepreneurship and innovation.

Since its inception, it has since grown to become the largest multi-stakeholder coalition in the social enterprise sector: its 90+ members collectively support over 100,000 social entrepreneurs across the world. These entrepreneurs, in turn, have a direct or indirect impact on the lives of an estimated 2 billion people.

Together, they work to (i) mobilize support for social entrepreneurs and their agendas; (ii) take action on urgent global agendas using the power of social entrepreneurship, and (iii) share insights from the sector so that social entrepreneurs can flourish and lead the way in shaping an inclusive, just and sustainable world.

3. Expert advisors back Merck's at-home COVID-19 pill

A panel of expert advisors to the United States Food and Drug Administration have narrowly voted to recommend the agency authorize Merck's antiviral COVID-19 pill.

If the FDA authorizes the drug, it would be the first at-home treatment for the virus nearly two years into the pandemic. The authorization would likely be limited to patients at high risk of developing severe disease, although the exact population would be defined by the agency.

"COVID-19 is still an emergency situation," said committee member Dr. David Hardy, who voted yes. "There is a need for something like this. This is the first opportunity that an oral outpatient medication for mildly symptomatic to moderately symptomatic persons would be available, although I do have questions about its overall longer-term efficacy."

Merck published data last week suggesting the drug was less effective than previously thought.