COVID-19

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

A vial of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 booster vaccine targeting the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron subvariants at Skippack Pharmacy in Schwenksville, Pennsylvania, US, 8 September 2022.

COVID-19 vaccines targeting Omicron are being rolled out around the world. Image: REUTERS/Hannah Beier/File Photo/File Photo

Joe Myers
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COVID-19

This article is part of: Centre for Health and Healthcare
  • 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: WHO Director-General says end of pandemic is 'in sight'; US President Biden says 'pandemic is over'; COVID-19 boosters approved and being rolled out around the world.

1. How COVID-19 is affecting the globe

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 have passed 612.4 million globally, according to Johns Hopkins University. The number of confirmed deaths has now passed 6.52 million. More than 12.68 billion vaccination doses have been administered globally, according to Our World in Data.

The EU's medicines regulator has recommended the Pfizer/BioNTech bivalent COVID-19 vaccine, which targets the BA.4 and BA. 5 subvariants, as well as the original strain of the virus. It has also backed the use of AstraZeneca's preventative COVID-19 therapy as a treatment for COVID-19.

Singapore, meanwhile, has granted interim approval for Moderna's bivalent COVID-19 vaccine.

Israel will begin to offer the updated COVID-19 booster shots from Pfizer/BioNTech by the end of this month, a senior health official said last week.

People in Europe should take whatever COVID-19 booster is available to them in the coming months, the European Medicines Agency's Executive Director, Emer Cooke, said in a Reuters Next Newsmaker interview ahead of an expected autumn rise in infections.

France's national health body has warned of a resurgence of COVID-19 cases in the country.

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

2. End of COVID-19 pandemic 'in sight' – WHO

We've never been in a better position to end the COVID-19 pandemic, according to World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. "We are not there yet. But the end is in sight," he told reporters at a virtual press conference.

The rollout of vaccines and therapies has helped to stem deaths and hospitalizations, and the Omicron variant that emerged late last year causes less severe disease, the WHO says. Deaths from COVID-19 last week were the lowest since March 2020, the UN agency adds.

But Dr Tedros again urged nations to maintain their vigilance, and likened the pandemic to a marathon race.

"Now is the time to run harder and make sure we cross the line and reap the rewards of all our hard work."

Countries need to take a hard look at their policies and strengthen them for COVID-19 and future viruses, Dr Tedros said. He also urged nations to vaccinate 100% of their high-risk groups and keep testing for the virus.

The acting director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention has also warned that COVID-19 is still a threat across the continent because of low vaccination results.

"The virus is still circulating, and with the low rates of vaccination the pandemic is still very much with us here on the continent," Ahmed Ogwell Ouma told a news conference.

He was responding to a question about whether he agreed with the comments made by Dr Tedros.

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3. US President Biden says the 'pandemic is over'

The "pandemic is over", US President Joe Biden said in an interview aired on 18 September

"We still have a problem with COVID. We're still doing a lot of work on it. But the pandemic is over," he said in an interview for CBS' 60 Minutes programme. "If you notice, no one's wearing masks. Everybody seems to be in pretty good shape. And so I think it's changing."

The death toll from COVID-19 has diminished significantly since early in Biden's term, when more than 3,000 Americans were dying each day. Enhanced COVID care, medications and vaccinations have since become more widely available.

But nearly 400 people a day continue to die from COVID-19 in the United States, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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