- 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: Too soon to treat COVID-19 like flu, says WHO; Omicron-specific vaccines might be needed; record daily COVID-19 cases reported in numerous countries.
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1. How COVID-19 is affecting the globe
Confirmed cases of COVID-19 have passed 313.6 million globally, according to Johns Hopkins University. The number of confirmed deaths has now passed 5.5 million. More than 9.49 billion vaccination doses have been administered globally, according to Our World in Data.
Indonesia has started its COVID-19 vaccine booster programme. Cases have hit an almost three-month high amid the rise of the Omicron variant.
South Korea has approved the use of Novavax's COVID-19 vaccine and is also set to start distribution of Pfizer's antiviral pills.
The Biden administration said on Tuesday that US federal agencies should require weekly COVID-19 testing by 15 February for unvaccinated government employees who are working on-site or interacting with the public.
Colombia has reduced the interval between second and third COVID-19 vaccine doses from six to four months.
Israel has cut its isolation time for asymptomatic COVID-19 cases from 10 days to seven.
Ireland is expected to lift restrictions on the movement of people who have been in close contact with someone suffering from COVID-19 if they are fully vaccinated with a booster and have no symptoms.
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.
2. Too soon to treat COVID-19 like flu - WHO
The Omicron variant of COVID-19 is on track to infect more than half of Europeans, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned yesterday.
"At this rate, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation forecasts that more than 50% of the population in the region will be infected with Omicron in the next 6-8 weeks," WHO's Europe director Hans Kluge told a news briefing, referring to a research centre at the University of Washington.
Europe saw more than 7 million newly-reported cases in the first week of 2022, more than doubling over a two-week period, Kluge said.
But treating COVID-19 as an endemic illness, rather than a pandemic, is "a way off", WHO's senior emergency officer for Europe, Catherine Smallwood, told the same briefing.
"We still have a huge amount of uncertainty and a virus that is evolving quite quickly, imposing new challenges. We are certainly not at the point where we are able to call it endemic," she said. "It may become endemic in due course, but pinning that down to 2022 is a little bit difficult at this stage."
3. WHO body says COVID-19 vaccines may need to be updated for Omicron
A World Health Organization (WHO) technical body said yesterday that current COVID-19 vaccines may need to be reworked to ensure they are effective against Omicron and future variants of the coronavirus.
The technical group, made up of independent experts, said it would consider a change in vaccination composition and stressed that shots needed to be more effective in protecting against infection.
"The composition of current COVID-19 vaccines may need to be updated to ensure that COVID-19 vaccines continue to provide WHO-recommended levels of protection against infection and disease by VOCs (variants of concern), including Omicron and future variants," the technical body, tasked with making recommendations to the WHO, said in a statement.
"COVID-19 vaccines need to ... elicit immune responses that are broad, strong and long-lasting in order to reduce the need for successive booster doses," it added.
"A vaccination strategy based on repeated booster doses of the original vaccine composition is unlikely to be appropriate or sustainable."
However, the statement stopped short of advocating an Omicron-specific vaccine at this stage, saying more research was required and urging manufacturers to share data.