Covid-19: World aid arrives to India, Brazil’s fatalities top 400,000

World wrap: Local untraceable variant in Hong Kong, Indonesia approves Sinopharm

An aerial view of the Nossa Senhora Aparecida cemetery in Manaus, Amazonas state, Brazil, where people who have died from Covid-19 were buried. Photograph: Michael Dantas/AFP via Getty

An aerial view of the Nossa Senhora Aparecida cemetery in Manaus, Amazonas state, Brazil, where people who have died from Covid-19 were buried. Photograph: Michael Dantas/AFP via Getty

 

Global cases of the coronavirus topped 150 million, with India remaining at the epicentre of the pandemic after reporting record new infections on Friday. Brazil’s fatalities exceeded 400,000 as the country recorded more Covid-19 deaths in the first four months of the year than in all of 2020.

New York City is moving to fully reopen on July 1st, while France will ease virus restrictions in four stages starting on May 3rd and ending June 30th.

Singapore’s daily community infections climbed to the highest in more than nine months on Thursday, while Hong Kong will quarantine residents of an apartment building after a variant case was found.

India

World aid has started arriving in India as it struggles to combat what has been described as a humanitarian disaster. India reported 386,452 news cases on Friday, while deaths from Covid-19 jumped by 3,498 over the last 24 hours, according to health ministry data.

However, medical experts believe actual Covid-19 numbers in the world’s second-most populous nation may be five to 10 times greater than the official tally.

The first flight from the United States carrying oxygen cylinders, regulators, rapid diagnostic kits, N95 masks and pulse oximeters arrived in the Indian capital, Delhi, on Friday.

“Just as India came to our aid early in the pandemic, the US is committed to working urgently to provide assistance to India in its time of need,” US secretary of state Antony Blinken said on Twitter.

“Today we are proud to deliver our first shipment of critical oxygen equipment, therapeutics and raw materials for vaccine production.”

The US will send more than $100 million (€83 million) in medical aid. It also has redirected its own order of AstraZeneca supplies to India, to allow it to make more than 20 million doses.

Shipments from other countries continued to pour in, with a third one from the UK reaching earlier in the day. Ireland and Romania also sent supplies, including 700 oxygen concentrators from the Republic, late on Thursday.

All vaccination centres in India’s financial capital of Mumbai were shut for three days starting Friday due to a shortage of vaccines.

Meanwhile, Indian scientists and medical researchers are asking prime minister Narendra Modi to allow them access to data that could help study, predict and curb the spread of the coronavirus.

While the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has granular data on all residents who have been tested so far, it restricts access to it. Almost 300 scientists from research and teaching institutions requested in an online appeal that this database must be opened to outside experts as well.

“The ICMR database is inaccessible to anyone outside of the government and perhaps also to many within the government,” they wrote. “While new pandemics can have unpredictable features, our inability to adequately manage the spread of infections has, to a large extent, resulted from epidemiological data not being systematically collected and released in a timely manner to the scientific community.”

Brazil

Brazil recorded more Covid-19 deaths in the first four months of the year than in all of 2020, breaching the 400,000 mark as it grapples with a shortage of shots that is threatening mass vaccinations.

The health ministry reported 3,001 deaths on Thursday, pushing the total to 401,186 since the pandemic started a little more than a year ago. It is the second highest tally globally, trailing only the US.

Cases rose by 69,389 in the past 24 hours, pushing the toll to 14.6 million, behind India and the US.

Hong Kong

Hong Kong will quarantine residents of a 400-unit apartment building for 21 days after a person was found with what the government called the first local untraceable infection with Covid-19 variants, escalating a controversial policy that is one of the world’s strictest.

The infected person was a 39-year-old domestic helper living in a building in the Caribbean Coast complex in the Tung Chung neighbourhood, the government said. A 10-month-old baby who lived with her was also infected, it said.

The building was locked down starting on Thursday night. All residents were required to take Covid tests and will be taken to serve their three-week quarantine in government centres even if they test negative.

United States

New York City is moving to fully reopen by July 1st with arenas, gyms, stores, restaurants and hair salons returning, mayor Bill de Blasio said.

“This is going to be the summer of New York City,” Mr de Blasio said on Thursday during a press briefing. “We’re all going to get to enjoy this city again and people are going to flock here from all over the country.”

Governor Andrew Cuomo, who has ultimate reopening authority, said he hopes the city can fully reopen before Mr de Blasio’s July 1st target, but isn’t going to make projections. “I don’t want to wait that long,” he said.

Japan

Taro Kono, Japan’s vaccine minister, indicated on a television programme on Thursday that a Covid-19 vaccine made by a Japanese drugmaker could be approved as soon as this year.

Mr Kono said in a TBS programme that four companies are developing vaccines in Japan and he heard there is a company that could meet various conditions required and be approved for use as soon as this year.

Indonesia

Indonesia has approved Sinopharm vaccine for emergency use. The government expects the first batch of the vaccine to arrive on Friday.

Canada

Ontario’s latest Covid-19 wave appears to be peaking, albeit at a high level, as sweeping restrictions introduced earlier this month start to have an impact, along with efforts to vaccinate more people in virus hot spots.

Officials cautioned, however, that because of an earlier swell in infections, intensive care units are still seeing fresh records in the number of virus patients.

Portugal

Portugal will continue to gradually ease confinement measures as planned, with restaurants and stores allowed to have customers until later in the evening.

From Saturday, shops can stay open until 7pm on weekends and 9pm on weekdays, prime minister António Costa said at a press conference in Lisbon on Thursday night. Controls on the land border with Spain will be lifted.

The number of daily infections in Portugal eased in February and March after the country faced one of the world’s worst outbreaks in January.

Pakistan

Pakistan announced week-long national holidays in May for the Muslim festival marking the end of the fasting month to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

Tourist destinations and government offices will be closed while curbs on public transport and businesses have been increased. Pakistan is going through its third wave of coronavirus infections with 874 deaths reported in the week ended April 25th, the highest since the pandemic started.

Philippines

The Philippines has allowed restaurants to partially resume indoor dining services and barbers to open with limited capacity even as the lockdown in the capital region and neighbouring provinces remains.

Argentina

Argentina has reported a record 561 deaths, bringing the total tally to 63,508, according to the country’s evening report.

Another 26,053 new cases were reported, bringing the total to 2,954,943.

Vaccines

Chief executive of BioNTech, Ugur Sahin, is “confident” the company’s Covid-19 vaccine with Pfizer will be effective against a variant of the virus first identified in India, CNBC said.

Mr Sahin said BioNTech has tested its two-dose vaccine against similar “double mutants” and felt assured the shot will still be protective. The company is evaluating the strain and the data will be available in the coming weeks, he said. – Bloomberg, Reuters