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

A worker in a protective suit walks at an entrance to a tunnel leading to the Pudong area across the Huangpu river, after restrictions on highway traffic amid the lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Shanghai, China March 28, 2022. REUTERS/Aly Song     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Shanghai has introduced a lockdown in response to rising COVID-19 cases.
Image: REUTERS/Aly Song
  • This weekly news roundup 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 news stories: Shanghai enters lockdown; Singapore to lift quarantine requirements for vaccinated travellers; Countries roll out second COVID-19 vaccine booster doses.

1. How COVID-19 is affecting the globe

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 have passed 480.9 million globally, according to Johns Hopkins University. The number of confirmed deaths has now passed 6.12 million. More than 11.17 billion vaccination doses have been administered globally, according to Our World in Data.

An Israeli study has shown that senior citizens who received a second booster dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine had a 78% lower mortality rate than those who had only received one.

COVID-19 infections continue to rise again in France, with the seven-day moving average of new cases at a six-week high of 110,874 on Friday.

German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach has urged those aged over 60 with risk factors, such as high blood pressure or a weak heart, to get a second booster shot against COVID-19.

Australia is set to roll out a fourth dose of COVID-19 vaccines to it most vulnerable population from next month.

Poland will lift the requirement to wear masks in confined spaces, except for health care facilities, and remove quarantine rules for travellers and roommates of infected people, its Health Minister Adam Niedzielski said on Thursday.

The European Medicines Agency has recommended the use of AstraZeneca's antibody drug for preventing COVID-19 infections.

The toll of the COVID-19 pandemic was reflected in a natural decrease last year in the population of nearly three-quarters of US counties versus the two previous years, the census bureau said on Thursday.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams has announced the city's COVID-19 vaccine mandate will be lifted for professional athletes and performers.

New Zealand announced on Wednesday it would lift COVID-19 vaccine mandates for a number of sectors including teaching and police from 4 April.

An Italian study suggests that efficient ventilation systems can reduce the transmission of COVID-19 in schools by more than 80%.

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

What is the COVID Social Enterprise Action Agenda?

The COVID Social Enterprise Action Agenda builds on the actions that its members have already taken and seeks to inspire new commitments. It outlines 25 concrete recommendations for five key stakeholder groups to support social entrepreneurs during COVID-19:

  • Intermediaries and networks are called on to surface the needs of the social entrepreneurs they serve on the ground and provide them with fitting support
  • (Impact) investors are called on to adapt their investment priorities and processes and to provide flexible capital and must-have technical assistance
  • Corporations are called on to stand with the social entrepreneurs in their supply chains and ecosystems, and join forces with them to “shape a new tomorrow”
  • Funders and philanthropists are called on to expand and expedite their financial support to social entrepreneurs and intermediaries, taking risks reflective of today’s unprecedented times
  • Government institutions at all levels are called on to recognize social entrepreneurs as a driving force in safeguarding jobs and in building a greener and equitable society, and to back them accordingly.

2. Shanghai launches two-phase lockdown

The Chinese financial hub of Shanghai has launched a two-stage lockdown of its 26 million people, with bridges and tunnels closed and highway traffic restricted in a bid to contain rising COVID-19 cases.

The lockdown, announced by Shanghai's city government on Sunday, will split the city in two roughly along the Huangpu River for nine days to allow for 'staggered' testing.

Wu Fan, a member of Shanghai's expert COVID team, told a briefing recent mass testing had found "large scale" infections throughout the city, triggering the stronger response.

"Containing the large scale outbreak in our city is very important because once infected people are put under control, we have blocked transmission," she said, adding that testing would be carried out until all risks were eliminated.

A record 3,450 asymptomatic COVID cases were reported in Shanghai on Sunday, accounting for nearly 70% of the nationwide total, along with 50 symptomatic cases, the city government said.

3. Singapore extends quarantine-free entry

Singapore announced last week that it will lift quarantine requirements for all vaccinated travellers from April.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the financial hub will also drop requirements to wear masks outdoors and allow larger groups to gather.

"Our fight against COVID-19 has reached a major turning point," Lee said in a televised speech that was also streamed on Facebook. "We will be making a decisive move towards living with COVID-19."

Singapore began lifting quarantine restrictions for vaccinated travellers from certain countries in September, with 32 countries on the list before Thursday's extension to vaccinated visitors from any nation.

It joins a number of other Asian countries, including Japan, South Korea and Indonesia in easing restrictions and travel requirements.

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