COVID-19: What you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic on 23 February

U.S. President Joe Biden, first lady Jill Biden, U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff attend a moment of silence and candle lighting ceremony to commemorate the grim milestone of 500,000 U.S. deaths from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the White House in Washington, U.S., February 22, 2021. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RC2ZXL9MY8Y7
A service was held at the White House to mark the US passing 500,000 confirmed COVID-19 deaths.
Image: REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
  • This daily round-up 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 stories: US passes 500,000 confirmed COVID-19 deaths; Warning on wealth gap in Europe; England's path out of lockdown.

1. How COVID-19 is affecting the globe

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 have now passed 111.7 million globally, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. The number of confirmed deaths stands at more than 2.47 million.

Current COVID-19 restrictions will remain in place in Philippine capital Manila until mass vaccinations start, President Rodrigo Duterte's spokesperson said yesterday.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has unveiled a path out of lockdown for England, that will see most restrictions lifted by June.

Viet Nam has said health workers, diplomats and military personnel would be among the first to receive COVID-19 vaccines, when the country's inoculation programme starts next month.

The US House of Representatives Budget Committee has approved legislation with $1.9 trillion in new COVID-19 relief.

Indian pharmaceutical companies Bharat Biotech and Biological E. Ltd said yesterday that they could quickly rework their COVID-19 vaccines to fight new variants, once their genetic sequence is known.

Pfizer says it expects to deliver more than 13 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine a week to the United States by the middle of next month.

New Zealand has reported three new locally-transmitted cases of COVID-19, just days after a brief lockdown was lifted in Auckland.

Egypt has received 300,000 doses of a coronavirus vaccine developed by China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm). It's the second shipment Egypt has received of the Sinopharm vaccine.

2. Pandemic could widen Europe's wealth differences

The COVID-19 pandemic is likely to widen wealth gaps in Europe, unless policymakers help end the health crisis globally, support economies and invest in greener economies, the International Monetary Fund has said.

IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva praised EU governments' response for putting more than 3 trillion euros into fiscal support for firms and households.

“But the path to recovery is ... uneven ... because of the difference in starting positions, economic structure and capacity to respond, causing inequalities to grow both across and within countries,” she said during a speech to the European Parliament.

What is the COVID Response Alliance for Social Entrepreneurship?

The COVID Response Alliance for Social Entrepreneurship is a coalition of 82 global leaders, hosted by the World Economic Forum and supported by GHR Foundation and Porticus. Its mission: Join hands in support of social entrepreneurs everywhere as vital first responders to the pandemic and as pioneers of a green, inclusive economic reality.

Its COVID Social Enterprise Action Agenda, outlines 25 concrete recommendations for key stakeholder groups, including funders and philanthropists, investors, government institutions, support organizations, and corporations. These corporations are called on to stand with social entrepreneurs within their supply chains and the broader ecosystem, fulfil their agreements and extend their support to build a more inclusive & resilient economy and to:

  • Honour existing relationships by standing by existing supplier commitments and extending credit lines to social entrepreneur suppliers/partners
  • Forge new partnerships by using a mix of different types of financial and non-financial support to both social entrepreneurs and their constituents
  • Facilitate capital connections so that social entrepreneurs can re-emerge and rebuild after the pandemic
  • Invest in capacity building through individual or multi-company pro-bono/low-bono programmes
  • Deepen and widen corporate’s footprint by committing to sustainable sourcing practices and by building local “shock resilient” ecosystems

For more information see the impact story here.

3. US passes 500,000 COVID-19 deaths

The United States has passed 500,000 confirmed COVID-19 deaths, just over a year since the first confirmed death.

President Joe Biden ordered the US flag to be flown at half-staff on public buildings and grounds until sunset on Friday.

Cumulative confirmed COVID-19 deaths in the United States
Deaths have risen rapidly in recent months.
Image: Our World in Data

“On this solemn occasion, we reflect on their loss and on their loved ones left behind,” Biden said in the proclamation. “We, as a Nation, must remember them so we can begin to heal, to unite, and find purpose as one Nation to defeat this pandemic.”

More than 28 million cases have been recorded in the US, according to a Reuters tally of public health data. Daily cases and hospitalizations have fallen to their lowest levels since before Thanksgiving.