• 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: Act now to curb spread of Omicron - WHO; Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine shows positive Omicron results in lab test; Restrictions reintroduced in England, Denmark.

1. How COVID-19 is affecting the globe

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 have passed 267.9 million globally, according to Johns Hopkins University. The number of confirmed deaths has now passed 5.28 million. More than 8.28 billion vaccination doses have been administered globally, according to Our World in Data.

The US Food and Drug Administration has authorized the use of AstraZeneca's antibody cocktail to prevent COVID-19 infections in individuals with weak immune systems or a history of severe side effects from COVID-19 vaccines.

Pakistan has reported its first case of the Omicron COVID-19 variant.

Cuba has also announced its first confirmed case of the Omicron variant, in a traveller from Mozambique.

South Africa reported nearly 20,000 new COVID-19 cases yesterday, a record high since the Omicron variant was detected. It's not yet clear how many of the infections were caused by the variant.

Denmark has announced the reintroduction of some COVID-19 restrictions to curb the spread of the Omicron variant.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced the reintroduction of some COVID-19 restrictions in England - the country's so-called 'Plan B'.

Vaccine plants in the European Union are expected to produce 3.6 billion COVID-19 shots next year, out of a global output of more than 20 billion, two senior EU officials said yesterday.

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

How is the World Economic Forum helping to identify new technologies to fight COVID-19?

As part of work identifying promising technology use cases to combat COVID, The Boston Consulting Group recently used contextual AI to analyze more than 150 million English language media articles from 30 countries published between December 2019 to May 2020.

The result is a compendium of hundreds of technology use cases. It more than triples the number of solutions, providing better visibility into the diverse uses of technology for the COVID-19 response.

To see a full list of 200+ exciting technology use cases during COVID – please follow this link.

2. Act now to curb spread of Omicron, says WHO

Governments need to reassess national responses to COVID-19 and speed up vaccination programmes to tackle Omicron, though it is it too early to say how well existing shots will protect against the new variant, the World Health Organization said on Wednesday.

The variant's global spread suggests it could have a major impact on the COVID-19 pandemic, and the time to contain it is now before more Omicron patients are hospitalised, WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

"We call on all countries to increase surveillance, testing and sequencing," he told a media briefing. "Any complacency now will cost lives."

As of Wednesday, Omicron had been detected in 57 countries, but the WHO's weekly epidemiological report said more data was needed to assess the severity of disease caused by the variant.

3. Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine neutralises Omicron with three shots

BioNTech and Pfizer said yesterday a three-shot course of their COVID-19 vaccine was able to neutralise the new Omicron variant in a laboratory test, an early signal that booster shots could be key to protection against infection from the newly identified variant.

The companies said two doses of their vaccine resulted in significantly lower neutralising antibodies but could still be protective against severe disease.

"The first line of defence, with two doses of vaccination, might be compromised and three doses of vaccination are required to restore protection," BioNTech Chief Medical Officer Ozlem Tuereci said at a press conference. The companies also said they could deliver an upgraded vaccine targeted specifically at the Omicron variant in March 2022 if one is needed.