Health and Healthcare Systems

COVID-19: What you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic

A healthcare worker fills up a syringe with a dose of Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine for a booster shot in Zurich, Switzerland.

The UK has approved Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 6-11. Image: REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

Joe Myers
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  • This weekly COVID-19 news roundup brings you a selection of the latest news and updates on the coronavirus pandemic, as well as tips and tools to help you stay informed and protected.
  • Top news stories: Global confirmed COVID-19 cases pass 500 million; Cases rising in India; US extends COVID-19 public health emergency.

1. How COVID-19 is affecting the globe

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 have passed 505 million globally, according to Johns Hopkins University. The number of confirmed deaths has now passed 6.19 million. More than 11.47 billion vaccination doses have been administered globally, according to Our World in Data.

Pfizer and BioNTech have said that a third dose of their COVID-19 vaccine produced significant protection against the Omicron variant in healthy children aged 5-11 in a trial.

The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine has been approved for use in children between six and 11 by Britain's medicines regulator.

Life expectancy in the United States fell by nearly two years in 2020 to about 77 years amid the COVID-19 pandemic. It was the sharpest drop among 21 other high-income countries, according to a global study.

It comes as the US extends its COVID-19 public health emergency for at least three more months. A mandate requiring travellers to wear masks on airplanes, trains and in transit hubs has also been extended by 15 days to 3 May.

Hong Kong, SAR, has confirmed it will ease some COVID-19 restrictions from 21 April.

South Korea is set to offer a second COVID-19 vaccine booster shot to people aged over 60. "The government plans to expand the fourth round of vaccination to those aged 60 and older," Health Minister Kwon Deok-cheol told a meeting, adding the infection rate in the age group has continued to rise to stand above 20%.

Almost all residents of Indonesia's most populous island of Java have antibodies against COVID-19, owing to a combination of prior infection and vaccination against the virus, a government-commissioned survey showed.

A Japanese Health Ministry committee said on April 17 it had approved Novavax's COVID-19 vaccine.

Shanghai reported a record number of symptomatic COVID-19 cases on Saturday and other areas across China tightened controls as the country kept up its "dynamic clearance" approach that aims to stamp out the highly transmissible Omicron variant.

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

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2. Global confirmed COVID-19 cases pass 500 million

Global confirmed COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic have passed 500 million. It comes as the highly contagious BA.2 sub-variant of Omicron continues to drive cases across Europe and Asia.

The BA.2 variant now makes up about 86% of all sequenced cases globally, according to the World Health Organization. It is known to be more transmissible than the BA.1 and BA.1.1 Omicron sub-variants. Evidence so far, though, suggests BA.2 is no more likely to cause severe disease.

Scientists continue to emphasize vaccines are critical for avoiding the devastation the virus can cause.

More than 6 million people around the world are confirmed to have died of COVID-19.


3. COVID-19 infections rise in India

India's tally of daily confirmed COVID-19 cases almost doubled on April 18 from the previous day, hitting 2,000 for the first time in a month. The southern state of Kerala also reported a big jump in deaths.

India was at the centre of the global COVID crisis this time last year but the situation has improved since then and most precautions including the wearing of masks have recently been dropped.

But COVID-19 cases have been creeping up in the country of 1.35 billion people in the past few days.

Delhi last week tightened COVID precautions for schools and neighbouring Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous state, again made masks compulsory in public places in some districts.

Authorities reported 2,183 new infections on April 18, taking the running total to more than 43 million, according to health ministry data.

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