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

1. How COVID-19 is affecting the globe

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 have passed 517.3 million globally, according to Johns Hopkins University. The number of confirmed deaths has now passed 6.25 million. More than 11.65 billion vaccination doses have been administered globally, according to Our World in Data.

The Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention has urged those purchasing COVID-19 vaccines to place orders with South Africa's Aspen Pharmacare.

The European Union's drug regulator says it hopes to approve COVID-19 variant-adapted vaccines by September.

Major US airlines, businesses and travel groups have urged the US government to abandon COVID-19 pre-departure testing requirements for vaccinated international passengers traveling to the US.

It comes as the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended travelers continue to wear masks on airplanes, trains and in airports.

Colombia will offer a second COVID-19 vaccine booster shot to those aged 50 and over, the government announced last week.

Infection with the Omicron variant of COVID-19 can significantly improve the immune system's ability to protect against other variants, but only in people who have been vaccinated, South African researchers have found.

The first World Trade Organization meeting to discuss a draft agreement to temporarily waive intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines went "very well", its chair said on 6 May, although some members voiced reservations.

China is setting up thousands of permanent PCR testing stations, with 9,000 completed in Shanghai alone already.

2. 14.9 million excess deaths associated with COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021

New WHO estimates suggest that the full death toll associated directly or indirectly with the COVID-19 pandemic (the "excess mortality") between 1 January 2020 and 31 December 2021 was approximately 14.9 million.

“These sobering data not only point to the impact of the pandemic but also to the need for all countries to invest in more resilient health systems that can sustain essential health services during crises, including stronger health information systems,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “WHO is committed to working with all countries to strengthen their health information systems to generate better data for better decisions and better outcomes."

Excess mortality is calculated as the difference between the number of deaths that have occurred and the number that would be expected in the absence of the pandemic based on data from earlier years.

3. COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the Americas

COVID-19 cases in the Americas have continued to rise, notably in Central and North America, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said on 4 May.

The Americas reported more than 616,000 new cases in the week beginning 25 April, while the death toll was down by less than 1% in the same comparison to 4,200, the organization said.

PAHO's director, Dr. Carissa F. Etienne, called for stronger measures to tackle the pandemic as cases and hospitalizations rise.

"COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are rising in far too many places, which should prompt us to strengthen our measures to combat the virus, including surveillance and preparedness," Etienne told a news conference.

"We must reach those who remain unvaccinated with the full COVID-19 vaccine primary series, and ensure access to boosters, especially to the most vulnerable," she added.

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