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

A medical worker administers a nasal swab to a patient at a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) testing centre in Nantes, near Nantes, France, June 30, 2022. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe
France has reported a rise in COVID-19 cases.
Image: REUTERS/Stephane Mahe
  • 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: Omicron-specific COVID-19 jabs could increase protection; Eastern Chinese cities increase restrictions; Bhutan set to reopen to international tourists.

1. How COVID-19 is affecting the globe

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 have passed 549.1 million globally, according to Johns Hopkins University. The number of confirmed deaths has now passed 6.33 million. More than 12.09 billion vaccination doses have been administered globally, according to Our World in Data.

The US Food and Drug Administration has recommended that COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers change the design of their booster shots to tackle the currently dominant Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 COVID-19 subvariants.

Pfizer is seeking full US approval for its oral COVID-19 antiviral treatment, which is currently under emergency use authorization.

It comes as Pfizer and BioNTech announced that they've signed a new $3.2 billion deal with the US government for 105 million doses of their COVID-19 vaccine.

Russia is ending all COVID-19 restrictions, it said on 1 July. However, it did not rule out re-introducing measures if required.

Japan has eased its COVID-related travel advice for China, India and 32 other countries, changing it from "do not make non-urgent trips" to "travel with caution".

A fresh wave of COVID-19 cases in France should peak towards the end of July, according to the government's top scientific advisor.

Bhutan will reopen to international tourists in September for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

Macau SAR, China, has begun a new round of COVID-19 testing for its 600,000 residents, as authorities attempt to prevent the spread of cases.

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. Omicron-specific COVID-19 shots could increase protection

Omicron-specific COVID-19 vaccines can improve protection when used as a booster, global health regulators say.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) says that regulators have agreed on key principles for updating COVID-19 shots to respond to new variants.

While the existing coronavirus vaccines continue to provide good protection against hospitalization and death, the regulators say, vaccine effectiveness has taken a hit as the virus has evolved.

As such, an Omicron-specific or bivalent booster – meaning a vaccine that includes the new strain and the original coronavirus strain – could "increase and extend" protection, an EMA statement says.

3. Cities in eastern China tighten COVID-19 restrictions

Cities in eastern China have tightened COVID-19 curbs after new cases emerged.

Wuxi, a manufacturing hub in the Yangtze Delta on the central coast, has halted operations at many public venues located underground, including shops and supermarkets. Dine-in services in restaurants have been suspended and the government has advised people to work from home.

Si county in Anhui province locked down its 760,000 residents and suspended public traffic as it reported 288 COVID-19 cases on Saturday. And Yiwu, China's export capital for small commodities, has cancelled flights to Beijing for an unspecified period.

The moves are part of China's strict approach to tackling COVID-19 outbreaks, but lockdowns have taken their toll on the country's economy.

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