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

Residents line up for nucleic acid testing at a residential area, during the second stage of a two-stage lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Shanghai, China 4 April 2022. REUTERS/Aly Song
Widespread COVID-19 testing is taking place in Shanghai, China.
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: WHO outlines plan to end emergency phase of pandemic; Shanghai to test all 26 million residents; Restrictions eased in countries including Switzerland, South Korea and Italy.

1. How COVID-19 is affecting the globe

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 have passed 491.4 million globally, according to Johns Hopkins University. The number of confirmed deaths has now passed 6.15 million. More than 11.29 billion vaccination doses have been administered globally, according to Our World in Data.

Brazil has eased restrictions for incoming international travellers. Vaccinated Brazilians and foreigners are now exempt from providing proof of a COVID-19 test with a negative or non-detectable result.

Rates of COVID-19 among people in England rose to their highest since the pandemic began, data from Britain's Office for National Statistics showed on 1 April.

Also on 1 April, Italy began to phase out its COVID-19 restrictions, ending a state of emergency declared more than two years ago.

South Korea is set to further ease its social distancing rules this week and could scrap most pandemic-related restrictions later in April.

Germany plans to end mandatory quarantine for most people who catch COVID-19, the health ministry proposed last week. Under existing rules, people with COVID-19 must quarantine for at least seven days. This would change to a voluntary five-day period.

Switzerland also lifted the last of its COVID-19 restrictions from 1 April, including the requirement to self-isolate for five days after a positive test.

Children aged 5-11 who received the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine were 68% less likely to be hospitalized during the Omicron wave in the United States than unvaccinated children, according to a new study.

While people who recover from COVID-19 usually gain some immune defences against reinfection, they still get additional protection from vaccines, especially against severe disease, according to two studies published on 31 March in The Lancet Infectious Diseases.

More than a third of high-school students surveyed in the United States experienced stress, anxiety or depression during the pandemic, and nearly a fifth said they seriously considered suicide, researchers reported on 31 March.

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. WHO outlines plans to end emergency phase of COVID-19 pandemic

The World Health Organization (WHO) outlined an updated plan for COVID-19 on 30 March. It laid out key strategies that, if implemented, would allow the world to end the emergency phase of the pandemic this year.

The WHO is calling on countries to increase or continue virus surveillance capabilities and to improve detection of long COVID. It also continues to promote a goal of vaccinating 70% of the world against COVID-19 – among other strategies.

The plan includes three possible scenarios for how the virus might evolve in the coming year. "Based on what we know now, the most likely scenario is that the COVID-19 virus continues to evolve, but the severity of disease it causes reduces over time as immunity increases due to vaccination and infection," Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

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.

3. China sends military, doctors to Shanghai to test 26 million residents for COVID-19

China has sent the military and thousands of healthcare workers to Shanghai to help carry out COVID-19 tests for all of its 26 million residents.

More than 10,000 healthcare workers from other areas have arrived in Shanghai, according to state media reports. An armed forces newspaper said the People's Liberation Army dispatched more than 2,000 medical personnel to Shanghai from across the army, navy and joint logistics support forces.

Shanghai began a two-stage lockdown on 28 March that has been expanded to confine practically all residents to their homes. The city reported 8,581 asymptomatic COVID-19 cases and 425 symptomatic COVID cases for 3 April.

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