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

People wearing masks to prevent contracting the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) walk at a railway station in Seoul, South Korea, 5 March, 2022. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
South Korea reported a record number of COVID-19 cases and deaths on 4 March.
Image: REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
  • 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: two new studies on long COVID; COVID-19 restrictions eased in more countries; record cases and deaths in South Korea.

1. How COVID-19 is affecting the globe

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 have passed 446.2 million globally, according to Johns Hopkins University. The number of confirmed deaths has now passed 5.99 million. More than 10.85 billion vaccination doses have been administered globally, according to Our World in Data.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced on Thursday that 93% of the US population now live in areas where COVID-19 levels are low enough that people do not need to wear masks indoors.

Pfizer is expected to provide around 10 million courses of its COVID-19 antiviral treatment Paxlovid to low- and middle-income countries this year, according to an official with the Global Fund, a healthcare NGO working to buy the pills from the drugmaker.

A World Health Organization expert panel has backed the use of Merck's COVID-19 antiviral pill for high-risk patients.

Germany will provide a further $1.5 billion to a global initiative for better access to COVID-19 vaccines for poorer countries, Finance Minister Christian Lindner said last Tuesday.

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.

Contact us to get involved.

2. Countries continue to ease COVID-19 restrictions

Countries around the world continue to ease their COVID-19 restrictions.

Belgium will relax almost all its remaining restrictions from today, including requirements to wear masks indoors and the need to show a COVID-19 pass for indoor venues from cafes to sports halls.

"I think it is an important page that we are turning. It is a symbol principally of our resilience and perseverance faced with a pandemic that gave us little chance to rest," Prime Minister Alexander De Croo told a news conference.

Turkey also eased similar restrictions last Wednesday, ending the need to wear masks indoors or outdoors where there is enough ventilation. A contact tracing app code will no longer be needed when entering places such as shopping malls or public institutions.

In France, rules requiring people to show a COVID-19 vaccine passport to access venues will be lifted from 14 March. However, it will remain in place for access to elderly home care centres.

And in Greece, a requirement to wear masks outdoors was lifted from Saturday.

3. Two new studies into long COVID

Almost a third of people report at least one ongoing symptom between six and 12 months after their COVID-19 infection, a survey of 152,000 people in Denmark has found.

The study – which is yet to be peer-reviewed – includes one of the largest groups yet of people who were not hospitalized with COVID, and followed them for longer than other major studies, the researchers from Denmark's State Serum Institute said.

The questionnaire-based study suggests that the most commonly reported long-term symptoms are changes in sense of smell and taste, as well as fatigue.

Separately, a small US study of patients suffering from persistent symptoms long after COVID-19 found that nearly 60% had nerve damage possibly caused by a defective immune response – a finding that could point to new treatments.

The study involved in-depth examinations of 17 people with so-called long COVID, a condition that arises within three months of a COVID-19 infection and lasts at least two months.

"I think what's going on here is that the nerves that control things like our breathing, blood vessels and our digestion in some cases are damaged in these long COVID patients," said Dr Anne Louise Oaklander, a neurologist at Massachusetts General Hospital and a lead author on the study published in Neurology: Neuroimmunology & Neuroinflammation.

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