Health and Healthcare Systems

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

People wearing a face masks at Incheon International Airport in South Korea.

A child wearing a face mask to prevent from contracting the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) walks at Incheon International Airport, in Incheon, South Korea, 25 March 2022. Image: REUTERS/Heo Ran

Ian Shine
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
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Pandemic Preparedness and Response

  • 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 COVID-19 news stories: WHO questions North Korea claim of falling COVID numbers; US could begin vaccinating under-fives; Restrictions easing on international travel.

1. How COVID-19 is affecting the globe

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 have passed 532 million globally, according to Johns Hopkins University. The number of confirmed deaths has now passed 6.29 million. More than 11.82 billion vaccination doses have been administered globally, according to Our World in Data.

Beijing has further relaxed COVID-19 curbs by allowing indoor dining, as infection rates fall in China's capital, state media said on 5 June. Residents will need to show a PCR test taken within 72 hours to enter public spaces and use public transport, the Beijing Daily newspaper reported.

South Korea will lift its quarantine requirement for unvaccinated foreign arrivals from 8 June. However, it will still require all visitors to record a negative PCR test before entry and within 72 hours of arrival.

Japan is also set to ease border controls for foreign tourists from 10 July as coronavirus infections ease.

US airlines are stepping up efforts to get the White House to end COVID-19 pre-departure testing requirements for international air travel. Airlines say many Americans are not traveling internationally because of concerns they will test positive and be stranded abroad. International US air travel remains down about 14% from pre-pandemic levels.

India has approved Biological E's COVID-19 vaccine as the first mix-and-match booster dose in the country. The Corbevax vaccine can be given as a booster to people aged 18 and over who have already received two doses of AstraZeneca's Covishield or Bharat Biotech's Covaxin.

The European Investment Bank has committed $80 million to finance construction of a new facility in Senegal that will produce COVID-19 and other vaccines for use across Africa.

The risk of developing long COVID is lower for vaccinated people than for the unvaccinated, but only by about 15%, according to a large study from the US Department of Veterans Affairs. The study was conducted when the Delta variant was predominant.

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. WHO questions North Korea COVID claims

The World Health Organization (WHO) says it believes North Korea's COVID-19 situation is getting worse, despite Pyongyang's claims of progress in fighting its first-ever coronavirus outbreak. North Korean state media KCNA says the COVID wave has abated, after daily numbers of people with fever topped 390,000 about two weeks ago. State media reported another 73,780 people with fever symptoms on 5 June.

Pyongyang has never directly confirmed how many people have tested positive for the virus, but experts suspect underreporting in the figures released through government-controlled media, making it difficult to assess the scale of the situation.

The WHO's Health Emergencies Programme Executive Director, Michael Ryan, said the organization is working with North Korea's neighbours such as South Korea and China to try to get a better picture of the situation. The WHO has offered North Korea assistance on multiple occasions, including vaccines and supplies, he said.

State media says provinces are "intensifying" their anti-epidemic campaigns, including enforcing some lockdowns and coastal blockades, increasing production of drugs and medical supplies, and carrying out disinfection work.

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3. US could begin vaccinating under-fives

The US government expects vaccinations of young children to begin as early as 21 June, if federal authorities approve their use in coming weeks. The White House would make 10 million vaccines available to state and local authorities for under-fives, COVID response coordinator Ashish Jha says.

No COVID-19 shot is yet approved for children in that age group in most parts of the world. Pfizer and its partner BioNTech have completed filings with the US Food and Drug Administration seeking authorization for their COVID-19 vaccine in young children. Moderna in March released trial data that showed a two-dose formulation of its vaccine was safe and generated a similar immune response in young children as in adults.

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