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

Residents line up during a mass testing for COVID-19 in Chaoyang district of Beijing, China.
Mass COVID-19 testing continues in China amid an increase in cases.
Image: REUTERS/Tingshu Wang
  • 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: Asia's confirmed COVID-19-related deaths pass 1 million; New study shows COVID-19's impact on the brain; South Korea reports record COVID-19 cases.

1. How COVID-19 is affecting the globe

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 have passed 457.9 million globally, according to Johns Hopkins University. The number of confirmed deaths has now passed 6.04 million. More than 10.86 billion vaccination doses have been administered globally, according to Our World in Data.

France is to start offering a fourth COVID-19 vaccine dose to those aged over 80, who had their previous shot more than three months ago.

It comes as new COVID-19 infections in France rose 25% on Friday week-on-week, as a downward trend that had started in late January began to reverse.

South Korea reported a new record daily number of confirmed COVID-19 cases on Saturday - 383,665.

Kenya lifted its remaining COVID-19 restrictions on Friday, including a ban on large indoor gatherings.

Australian authorities have urged people to get COVID-19 vaccine booster shots amid concern about the BA.2 Omicron sub-variant.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the nation's political leaders want to move to a new phase of living with COVID-19 as though it were flu, but would consult with health experts.

Mainland China reported 1,807 new local symptomatic COVID-19 cases on Sunday, the highest daily figure in two years. Shanghai announced on Friday it would close all schools until further notice as part of measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The Czech Republic will drop most mask requirements, except on public transport or in health or social care facilities, from today as it eases COVID-19 restrictions.

The Pan American Health Organization said on Wednesday that COVID-19 cases fell by 26% across the Americas last week, with deaths dropping by nearly 19%.

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 Global Alliance for Social Entrepreneurship?

The Global Alliance for Social Entrepreneurship is one of the largest multi-stakeholder collaborations in the social innovation sector.

The Alliance has 100 members – corporations, investors, philanthropists, governments, researchers, media, and industry actors – who work together to build an engaged ecosystem of key public and private sector leaders in support of a social innovation movement that transforms society to be more just, sustainable and equitable.

Launched in response to the COVID-19 crisis by the Schwab Foundation together with Ashoka, Catalyst2030, Echoing Green, GHR Foundation, Skoll Foundation, and Yunus Social Business in April 2020.

In that pursuit, the Global Alliance will continue to mobilise a trusted community of leaders together with core partners - SAP, Bayer Foundation, Motsepe Foundation, GHR Foundation, Porticus, Deloitte, Microsoft and Catalyst 2030, that acts and learns together so that social entrepreneurs can flourish.

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2. Asia's confirmed COVID-19 deaths pass 1 million

Asia passed 1 million confirmed COVID-19-related deaths on Friday, according to a Reuters tally.

The death toll in Asia, home to more than half the world's population, reached 1,000,045, contributing 16% of global deaths related to COVID-19, the tally showed.

New cases remain at record or near-record levels in Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and Viet Nam, but have fallen sharply from their peaks in India, Indonesia and the Philippines.

Deaths have soared to record levels in Japan and South Korea, as well as Hong Kong, SAR. In contrast, the world's second-most populous nation of India, which accounts for almost 52% of Asia's total COVID-19 deaths, reported a sharp fall in both infections and deaths over the past month.

3. COVID-19 can cause brain shrinkage, memory loss - new study

An Oxford University study has found that COVID-19 can cause the brain to shrink, reduce grey matter in the regions that control emotion and memory, and damage areas that control the sense of smell.

The scientists said that the effects were even seen in people who had not been hospitalized with COVID, and whether the impact could be partially reversed or if they would persist in the long term needed further investigation.

"There is strong evidence for brain-related abnormalities in COVID-19," the researchers said in their study, which was released on 7 March.

Even in mild cases, participants in the research showed "a worsening of executive function" responsible for focus and organizing, and on an average brain sizes shrank between 0.2% and 2%.

The peer-reviewed study appeared in the journal Nature.

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