- This daily news roundup 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 news stories: COVAX vaccine supply outstrips demand for the first time; BA.2 Omicron COVID-19 subvariant to remain variant of concern; Singapore and South Korea report record COVID-19 cases.
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1. How COVID-19 is affecting the globe
Confirmed cases of COVID-19 have passed 427.8 million globally, according to Johns Hopkins University. The number of confirmed deaths has now passed 5.9 million. More than 10.6 billion vaccination doses have been administered globally, according to Our World in Data.
New daily COVID-19 infections have passed 170,000 in South Korea for the first time. The country's prime minister, Kim Boo-kyum, called on people not to panic.
It comes as South Korea approves Pfizer/BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine for use on children aged 5-11.
Beijing, China, has reported the highest number of daily local COVID-19 cases since late January.
Singapore's health ministry has reported a record 26,032 new confirmed daily COVID-19 infections. It warned that it could take a few weeks before the current transmission wave peaks and subsides.
A Danish study has found that getting infected twice with two different Omicron COVID-19 subvariants is possible, but rarely happens.
Ireland has announced that most of its remaining COVID-19 pandemic-linked restrictions will be eased from 28 February.
European Union countries have agreed to open their borders to travellers from outside the bloc who have had COVID-19 vaccines authorized by the World Health Organization, easing restrictions on those who received Indian and Chinese vaccines.
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2. COVAX vaccine supply outstrips demand for the first time
COVAX, the global project to share COVID-19 vaccines, is struggling to place more than 300 million doses in the latest sign the problem with vaccinating the world is now more about demand than supply.
Most vaccines went to wealthy nations last year, with less than a third of people in low-income countries vaccinated so far, compared with more than 70% in richer nations.
However, as supply and demand have increased, poorer nations are facing challenges including gaps in cold chains, vaccine hesitancy and lack of funds to support distribution networks, public health officials told Reuters.
Low-income nations only asked for 100 million doses for distribution by the end of May - the first time in 14 allocation rounds that supply has outstripped demand, the document from the COVAX Independent Allocation of Vaccines Group said.
Asked to comment, a Gavi spokesperson said COVAX was now in a situation where there was enough current supply to meet demand but acknowledged that the roll-out of vaccines was an issue in several less-developed nations.
"We will only close the vaccine equity gap once and for all if we are able to help countries roll out vaccines rapidly and at scale," the spokesperson said.
2. BA.2 Omicron COVID-19 subvariant to remain variant of concern
The World Health Organization has advised that the BA.2 sublineage should continue to be considered a variant of concern and should remain classified as Omicron.
The organization's Technical Advisory Group on SARS-CoV-2 Virus Evolution also said that Omicron remains the dominant variant circulating globally. There are several sublineages of Omicron, of which BA.1, BA 1.1 and BA.2 are the most common, with the proportion of reported BA.2 cases increasing in recent weeks compared to BA.1. However, global circulation of all variants is reported to be falling.
Studies into differences between BA.2 and BA.1 are ongoing, the group said.