- This daily news round-up 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 stories: WHO - Omicron less severe than Delta but still poses danger for unvaccinated; COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths rising in the United States; Denmark set to offer a fourth COVID-19 vaccine dose.
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1. How COVID-19 is affecting the globe
Confirmed cases of COVID-19 have passed 317.1 million globally, according to Johns Hopkins University. The number of confirmed deaths has now passed 5.51 million. More than 9.53 billion vaccination doses have been administered globally, according to Our World in Data.
India has eased its COVID-19 rules on testing, quarantine and hospital admissions in a bid to free up resources for the neediest people.
It comes as India reports 247,417 new confirmed COVID-19 cases - the most since late May last year.
Australia has reported a record daily rise in COVID-19 cases, with more than 147,000 new cases reported so far on Thursday, as rising cases straining healthcare systems and supply chains.
The French senate has approved the government's latest measures to tackle the COVID-19 virus - including a vaccine pass.
Pfizer has announced that a late-stage study showed a booster dose of its COVID-19 vaccine can be administered along with its pneumonia vaccine and produced strong safety and immune responses in people aged 65 and above.
Denmark has announced plans to offer a fourth COVID-19 vaccine dose to its most vulnerable citizens.
Sweden will cut the recommended time between second and third COVID-19 vaccine doses from six months to five.
Canada will allow unvaccinated Canadian truckers to cross in from the United States, reversing a decision requiring all truckers to be inoculated against COVID-19, Canada's border agency said yesterday.
AstraZeneca has announced the US government has agreed to purchase an additional 500,000 doses of its antibody cocktail, Evusheld, used to prevent COVID-19.
How is the World Economic Forum helping to identify new technologies to fight COVID-19?
As part of work identifying promising technology use cases to combat COVID, The Boston Consulting Group recently used contextual AI to analyze more than 150 million English language media articles from 30 countries published between December 2019 to May 2020.
The result is a compendium of hundreds of technology use cases. It more than triples the number of solutions, providing better visibility into the diverse uses of technology for the COVID-19 response.
To see a full list of 200+ exciting technology use cases during COVID – please follow this link.
2. WHO: Omicron less severe than Delta but still poses danger for unvaccinated
The Omicron variant of COVID-19 causes less severe disease than the Delta variant, but it remains a 'dangerous virus' - particularly for those who are unvaccinated - the head of the World Health Organization said yesterday.
Speaking at a news briefing, Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said more than 90 countries were yet to meet the target of vaccinating 40% of their populations and more than 85% of people in Africa were yet to receive a single dose.
"We mustn't allow this virus a free ride or wave the white flag, especially when so many people around the globe remain unvaccinated," he said.
Globally, confirmed cases increased by 55%, or 15 million, in the week to 9 January from a week earlier - by far the most cases reported in a single week.
"This huge spike in infections is being driven by the Omicron variant, which is rapidly replacing Delta in almost all countries," Tedros said.
3. COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths rising in the United States
COVID-19 hospitalizations in the United States have increased by about 33% and deaths are up by about 40% from a week earlier, the head of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on Wednesday.
Rochelle Walensky said US COVID-19 cases, driven by Omicron, are expected to peak in the coming weeks.
"The magnitude of this increase is largely related to the Omicron variant, which now represents about 90% of the COVID-19 cases in the country," she told reporters.
The recent increase in COVID deaths is likely a lagging effect of the Delta variant, which was surging before Omicron took hold in the United States in December, Walensky said.
With Delta and other prior variants, deaths have lagged infection rates by a few weeks.
"We may see deaths from Omicron but I suspect that the deaths that we're seeing now are still from Delta," Walensky said, adding that it will take time to understand how Omicron impacts coronavirus death totals.