World pledges Aid for India as cases surge; South Africa registers 1,101 new cases

World pledges Aid for India as cases surge; South Africa registers 1,101 new cases
McGyver, a sniffer dog from K9 Law Enforcement Company during a Covid sniffing training session in Kempton Park, Gauteng. Sniffer dogs that can smell Covid-19 in humans are scheduled to be used at South African airports before the end of this year. (Photo: Gallo Images / Rapport / Elizabeth Sejake)

South Africa registered 1,101 new Covid-19 cases, bringing the cumulative total to 1,575,471. A further 23 Covid-19-related deaths were reported, taking total deaths to 54,148.

India’s Covid-19 crisis is worsening, with a million cases added in the past three days. The US will send India raw materials and step up financing aid for vaccine production, joining European countries in helping stem the world’s biggest surge in cases. President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser said the US will also consider offering India unused doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine.

With the Delhi capital area facing a severe oxygen shortage, Prime Minister Narendra Modi implored Indians to get vaccinated and to disregard rumours about dangerous side effects.

In Baghdad, more than 80 people were killed when a fire tore through a hospital treating patients, including many with coronavirus.

Key developments

US vaccine demand continues to slow

The US recorded three million vaccine doses on Sunday, another drop suggesting a general drop in demand, according to the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker. The seven-day average fell to 2.8 million, compared with a record 3.4 million on April 13.

After three months of vaccination across the US, a majority of US adults have had their shots, and the effort will soon shift from mass inoculation to mop-up.

The Biden administration is pursuing a strategy of abundance, which the White House has referred to as an “overwhelm the problem” approach. While vaccines will probably still be shipped widely to sites such as pharmacies and health centres, what’s likely to disappear are lines and scarcity.

US to send India vaccine materials

The US will send India raw materials for vaccines and step up financing aid for Covid-19 shot production, joining European countries in helping stem the world’s biggest surge in cases.

Material needed to produce Covishield, the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine made in India, has been sourced and “will immediately be made available for India,” Emily Horne, a spokesperson for US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, said in a statement.

France to send oxygen, equipment to India

France plans to supply India with “significant support in terms of oxygen” in the coming days, French President Emmanuel Macron’s office told Agence France-Presse on Sunday. Ventilators will also be sent, AFP reported.

Bangladesh shuts borders with India

Human movement through land ports between Bangladesh and India will remain suspended for two weeks, the Bangladesh foreign ministry said. Bangladeshi citizens travelling in India will be allowed to return home through three designated land ports.

US to consider sending India unused Astra shots

President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser said the US will consider sending India unused, unapproved doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine to help stem a record-breaking surge in Covid-19 cases there.

“I think that’s going to be something that is up for active consideration,” Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on Sunday on ABC’s This Week, while cautioning that he didn’t “want to be speaking for policy right now”.

The US stockpile of AstraZeneca shots reached more than 20 million doses earlier this month and has grown since then, prompting persistent calls by doctors to donate the shots to other countries that are way behind the US in their vaccination efforts.

Ohio vaccinations fall by half, governor says

Governor Mike DeWine said demand for the vaccine has dropped sharply in Ohio, and he’s reaching out to businesses and schools to increase the number of people vaccinated.

“Well, I’m worried,” the Republican governor said on CBS’s Face the Nation. “We’ve seen our vaccination rate go down about half of what it was three weeks ago, so that’s a concern.” He said 40% of the population has at least one dose. “We just need to continue to move forward,” he said.

Italy restricts travel from India

Italy banned people who have been in India in the past 14 days from entering the country to counter the spread of the virus variant helping fuel the outbreak in India, Health Minister Roberto Speranza said on Sunday. Italian residents are allowed to come back from India after a test on departure and arrival home, and they will be quarantined.

Mauritius set to ease curbs

Mauritius, an Indian Ocean tourism-reliant economy, is set to further ease restrictions starting on 1 May, Prime Minister Pravind Kumar Jugnauth said. No new cases were detected on Sunday.

“The situation has vastly and rapidly improved,” Jugnauth said in a statement.

Under the new rules, inhabitants will no longer require a permit to move around. The obligation to shop based on alphabetical order is waived. Gatherings of up to 10 people will be allowed.

UK to send medical equipment to India

The UK is sending more than 600 pieces of medical kit to India to support the country in its fight against Covid-19, the government announced on Sunday. Nine airline container loads of supplies, including 495 oxygen concentrators, 120 non-invasive ventilators and 20 manual ventilators, will be sent to the country this week. The first shipment is leaving the UK on Monday, arriving in New Delhi in the early hours of Tuesday.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in an emailed statement: “We stand side by side with India as a friend and partner during what is a deeply concerning time in the fight against Covid-19.”

US partisan divide continues with vaccines

A partisan divide remains over vaccines in the US, according to an NBC News poll. The survey of 1,000 adults showed that 82% of Democrats had been vaccinated or plan to as soon as possible, against 45% of Republicans. Overall, 57% said they’d had a vaccine and another 8% plan to as soon as they can.

Some 24% of Republicans said they won’t get vaccinated, against just 4% of Democrats. Another 19% of GOP respondents said they’re waiting to see if there are problems with the shots. Vaccine hesitancy among Republicans has been cited as an impediment to reaching herd immunity in the US.

Most of those polled, 61%, said the worst of the pandemic is behind the US, against 55% in October who assessed that the worst was yet to come.

Germany pledges help to India

“To the people of India I want to express my sympathy on the terrible suffering that Covid-19 has again brought over your communities,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in a message on Twitter. Germany is urgently preparing a support mission, she said.

US adds some 53,000 cases

US cases increased by 53,224 on Saturday, the eighth consecutive day with fewer than 70,000 reported new infections, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg. That compares with peaks of more than 300,000 per day during late December and January.

The seven-day average of positive tests for Covid-19 nationwide declined to 5.18% on Thursday, which compares with almost 15% in early January, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.

Another 723 deaths were reported on Saturday.

Bangladesh restricts Astra

Bangladesh suspended administering first doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from April 26 on uncertainty about resupply of the drug. The country’s Directorate-General of Health Services announced the nationwide suspension on Sunday, and the order will remain in force until further notice. However, those who have received the first dose of the vaccine will still get the second shot on schedule.

Dozens killed in Iraq hospital fire

Iraq’s Interior Ministry said on Sunday that 82 people died and 110 were injured in a catastrophic fire that broke out in a Baghdad hospital.

Among the dead were at least 28 patients on ventilators battling severe symptoms of the coronavirus, tweeted Ali al-Bayati, a spokesman of the country’s independent Human Rights Commission. The commission is a semi-official body.

France fighting variants, PM says

France is “engaged in a battle against these variants which are a threat from which we must protect ourselves,” Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Sunday, mentioning Brazilian and South African forms of the virus. Castex was speaking during a visit on Sunday to Paris’s Roissy international airport, to highlight protective measures taken by the government including increased filtering and scrutiny, PCR tests and a mandatory quarantine for travellers from high-risk countries.

German cases, deaths slow

The number of new Covid-19 cases in Germany slowed to 14,422, the lowest in five days, and the number of new deaths was at a six-day low. At the same time, a key pandemic measure watched by the government rose to the highest in months. The so-called seven-day incidence rate, the number of new infections per 100,000 inhabitants reported within seven days, increased to 165.6 on Sunday, the highest since January.

Third of Swiss probably infected

The Swiss government estimates that about a third of the population has been infected with Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic. At the end of 2020, government scientists found antibodies in about 20% of those tested and now believe that another 10% have been infected, newspaper NZZ am Sonntag reported.

“Conservatively calculated, around a third of the population has been infected since the beginning of the pandemic,” said Federal Office of Public Health spokeswoman, Simone Buchmann.

Of the 2.8 million people thought to have already contracted the virus, many are unaware as they showed no symptoms. Only about 650,000 people in the Alpine nation have received positive Covid tests during the pandemic.

Delhi extends lockdown

The Delhi government extended a lockdown in India’s capital until next Monday, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said at a press conference on Sunday. Delhi is one of the worst affected regions in the country with hospitals turning away patients due to shortages of oxygen.

Delhi needs 700 tons of oxygen while the central government has allotted only 490 tons, Kejriwal said, adding that he was in touch with other states for supplies and expects the shortage to ease in the next two to three days.

Modi urges India to vaccinate

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the country could continue to provide free vaccines to all state governments and asked them to ensure availability of the doses in remote parts of the nation.

India’s home-grown vaccine developer Bharat Biotech International priced its coronavirus shots as much as double that of its local competitor, citing high manufacturing costs even as the nation grapples with record infections. The company will sell Covaxin for 600 rupees ($8) a dose to state governments and 1,200 rupees a dose to private hospitals, it said in a statement on Twitter on Saturday.

India added 349,691 cases, bringing its total to 16.96 million, the government said on Sunday. The country recorded 2,767 Covid-19 related deaths in the 24 hours to Sunday, making a total of 192,311 fatalities.

US pledges support to India

The US will send additional support to India in its fight against the most recent Covid-19 outbreak, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a tweet.

“We are working closely with our partners in the Indian government, and we will rapidly deploy additional support to the people of India and India’s healthcare heroes,” Blinken said on Twitter. DM

— With assistance by Ian Fisher, Max Zimmerman, Suvashree Ghosh, Geraldine Amiel, Rainer Buergin, Andrew Hoffman, Ros Krasny, Emily Ashton, Kamlesh Bhuckory, Alberto Brambilla, and Hari Govind.


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