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COVID-19: Top news stories about the pandemic on 16 February – World Economic Forum

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Confirmed cases of COVID-19 have passed 415.7 million globally, according to Johns Hopkins University. The number of confirmed deaths has now passed 5.83 million. More than 10.42 billion vaccination doses have been administered globally, according to Our World in Data.
China’s President Xi Jinping has told the leaders of Hong Kong SAR that their “overriding mission” is to stabilise and control a worsening COVID-19 outbreak, media reported on Wednesday as a fast-rising wave of infections overwhelmed authorities.
South Korea’s daily count of new coronavirus cases has exceeded 90,000 for the first time. The 90,443 cases reported for Tuesday represent a surge from the 57,177 recorded a day earlier.
Singapore will expand its quarantine-free travel programme to Hong Kong SAR, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates this month, its health ministry said on Wednesday, and will progressively add more destinations under the scheme.
Canada will ease entry for fully vaccinated international travellers from 28 February as COVID-19 cases decline, allowing a rapid antigen test instead of a molecular one, officials said on Tuesday.
A new wave of infections is moving towards the east of Europe, the World Health Organization said on Tuesday, urging authorities to improve vaccination and other measures. Cases of COVID-19 have more than doubled recently in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Russia and Ukraine, WHO Regional Director for Europe Hans Kluge said.
The Dutch government will lift most of its coronavirus restrictions on Friday, as the record levels of infections triggered by the Omicron variant have not translated to a peak in hospitalisations, Health Minister Ernst Kuipers said on Tuesday.
US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen will urge her G20 counterparts to work towards ending the COVID-19 pandemic in developing countries and ensuring these nations have the resources needed to support an equitable recovery, a US Treasury official said on Tuesday.
Yellen will call on the G20 to tailor their policies to individual country’s circumstances to help secure an inclusive recovery and close the gap in vaccine access for poorer countries, the official said.
This includes supporting efforts by the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the World Health Organization and the World Trade Organization to address global bottlenecks in the deployment of vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics, the official said.
Yellen will also urge G20 countries to support a proposed global fund housed at the World Bank to invest in pandemic prevention and preparedness, calling its estimated $75 billion cost a “bargain” compared to COVID-19’s global economic and human costs.
Vaccinating pregnant women against the coronavirus may help prevent COVID-19 hospitalizations in infants after they are born, especially if the expecting mothers received the shots later in their pregnancy, US researchers reported on Tuesday.
The findings shed light on whether the benefits of vaccination during pregnancy extend to infants who would be too young to receive vaccines.
Researchers from several paediatric hospitals and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention looked at children under six months old between July 2021 and January 2022.
The study analyzed data from 379 hospitalized infants – 176 with COVID-19 and 203 who were admitted for other issues. It found that COVID-19 vaccines were 61% effective overall at preventing hospitalizations in children whose mothers were vaccinated during pregnancy.
That protection rose to 80% when the mothers were vaccinated between 21 weeks and 14 days before delivery. Vaccination effectiveness fell to 32% for babies whose mothers were inoculated earlier during pregnancy.
However, the study’s authors warned that the estimates for effectiveness earlier in pregnancy should be interpreted with caution due to the small sample size.

Simon Torkington, Senior Writer, Formative Content
The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.
Top COVID-19 news stories: China urges Hong Kong SAR to control outbreak; US seeks G20 help on COVID in developing world; study says vaccines in pregnancy protect babies.
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