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

A woman walks on a closed street during lockdown, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, in Shanghai, China.

Shanghai has announced plans to ease COVID-19 restrictions. Image: REUTERS/Aly Song

Joe Myers
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  • This weekly COVID-19 news round-up 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 COVID-19 news stories: North Korea reports COVID-19 outbreak; US passes 1 million confirmed COVID-19 deaths; Shanghai plans to ease restrictions from 1 June.
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1. How COVID-19 is affecting the globe

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 have passed 521.4 million globally, according to Johns Hopkins University. The number of confirmed deaths has now passed 6.26 million. More than 11.65 billion vaccination doses have been administered globally, according to Our World in Data.

Shanghai, China, has set out plans for the return of more normal life from 1 June and the end of a COVID-19 lockdown.

Omicron sub-variants and a relaxing of COVID-19 public health measures are driving a current surge in infections in southern Africa, a World Health Organization official announced on 12 May.

Japan plans to extend up to $100 million in aid to developing countries in the Indo-Pacific region to help them better battle the COVID-19 pandemic, Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said on 13 May.

Switzerland has authorized the use of Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 6-11 years, the drug maker said on 13 May.

The prevalence of COVID-19 infections in England fell to 1 in 45 people in the week ending 7 May, the Office for National Statistics' Infection Survey said, down from an estimated 1 in 35 people who had the infection the previous week.

The World Health Organization announced on 12 May that COVID-19 deaths had exceeded 2 million in the WHO European region.

South Korea's new President Yoon Suk-yeol pledged on 12 May to provide new investment to a global initiative to fund COVID-19 tests, treatments and vaccines for poorer countries.

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. First COVID-19 cases and deaths reported in North Korea

North Korea reported its first COVID-19 outbreak 12 May, describing it as the "gravest national emergency". A national lockdown has been in place since, and the country said yesterday that 42 people had died so far.

State news agency KCNA said the country was taking "swift state emergency measures" to control the epidemic. "All provinces, cities and counties of the country have been totally locked down and working units, production units and residential units closed from each other since the morning of 12 May and strict and intensive examination of all the people is being conducted," KCNA reported on 15 May.

However, there are concerns the outbreak could devastate the country, which has no COVID-19 vaccine programme. Leader Kim Jong Un said the spread of COVID-19 has thrust his country in "great turmoil".


3. US passes 1 million confirmed COVID-19 deaths

The United States has now recorded more than 1 million COVID-19 deaths, according to a Reuters tally. It represents about one death for every 327 Americans, or more than the entire population of San Francisco or Seattle.

President Joe Biden marked on 12 May what he called a "tragic milestone" and urged Americans to "remain vigilant" during the ongoing pandemic.

In a statement, Biden acknowledged the impact of the deaths on families left behind and urged the country not to "grow numb to such sorrow".

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