COVID-19: Top news stories about the coronavirus pandemic on 26 November

  • 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: New COVID-19 variant emerges in South Africa; Europe tackles surging COVID-19 cases; UK data shows COVID-19 vaccination to be safe for pregnant women.

1. How COVID-19 is affecting the globe

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 have passed 260 million globally, according to Johns Hopkins University. The number of confirmed deaths has now passed 5.18 million. More than 7.81 billion vaccination doses have been administered globally, according to Our World in Data.

Eligibility for COVID-19 booster shots has been expanded in the United States, with millions of Americans getting their third dose last week.

The Czech Republic reported 27,717 new COVID-19 cases yesterday – the highest single-day total since the beginning of the pandemic.

Pfizer and MSD – known as Merck & Co in North America – have agreed to give licenses to firms in Viet Nam to produce COVID-19 treatment pills, the Vietnamese government has announced.

Three locally transmitted COVID-19 cases in Shanghai city have prompted authorities to limit tourism activities, while the city of Xuzhou has suspended some public transport after a confirmed asymptomatic case.

COVID-19 vaccination is safe for pregnant women and not associated with higher rates of complications, data released by the UK Health Security Agency showed on Thursday.

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

The COVID Response Alliance for Social Entrepreneurship is a coalition of 85 global leaders, hosted by the World Economic Forum. Its mission: Join hands in support of social entrepreneurs everywhere as vital first responders to the pandemic and as pioneers of a green, inclusive economic reality.

Its COVID Social Enterprise Action Agenda, outlines 25 concrete recommendations for key stakeholder groups, including funders and philanthropists, investors, government institutions, support organizations, and corporations. In January of 2021, its members launched its 2021 Roadmap through which its members will roll out an ambitious set of 21 action projects in 10 areas of work. Including corporate access and policy change in support of a social economy.

For more information see the Alliance website or its “impact story” here.

2. New COVID-19 variant detected in South Africa

South African scientists have detected a new variant of COVID-19 and are working to understand its possible implications, they said yesterday.

The variant – called B.1.1.529 – has a “very unusual constellation” of mutations, which are concerning because they could help it evade the body’s immune response and make it more transmissible, scientists told reporters at a news conference.

South Africa has requested an urgent meeting today of a World Health Organization working group on virus evolution to discuss the new variant.

Other countries, including India, Australia, Japan and the UK, have voiced concern, with some moving to impose travel restrictions from South Africa and some neighbouring countries.

“This is the most significant variant we have encountered to date and urgent research is underway to learn more about its transmissibility, severity and vaccine-susceptibility,” the UK’s Health Security Agency Chief Executive Jenny Harries said.

3. European countries tackle surge in COVID-19 cases

Countries across Europe have expanded COVID-19 vaccine booster programmes, introduced plans to vaccinate young children and increased restrictions in response to rising COVID-19 cases.

Slovakia has gone into a two-week lockdown, the Czech Republic has declared a 30-day state of emergency, which includes the early closure of bars and clubs and a ban on Christmas markets, while Germany has crossed the threshold of 100,000 COVID-19-related deaths. Germany also reported a record number of daily COVID-19 cases on Thursday – 75,961.

In France authorities have said that COVID-19 vaccine booster shots would be available to everyone aged over 18, while the Netherlands is planning for new restrictions to slow the spread of the virus. Portugal has also announced it would reimpose restrictions.

The European Union‘s medical regulator has approved the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for use in children aged 5- to 11-years-old. The EU Commisison has also proposed that residents will need booster shots if they wish to travel to other countries in the bloc free of tests or quarantines next summer.

It also proposed accepting all vaccines approved by the World Health Organization for travel shots. The move would allow non-essential travel to the EU from outside the bloc for those vaccinated with Chinese- or Indian-made vaccines.

Meanwhile, the WHO Regional Office for Europe and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), estimates that 470,000 lives have been saved among those aged 60 years and over since the start of COVID-19 vaccination roll-out in 33 countries across the WHO European Region.