India has postponed exams for trainee doctors and nurses, freeing them up to fight the world’s biggest surge in coronavirus infections, as the health system crumbles under the weight of new cases and hospitals run out of beds and oxygen.
As medical facilities near breaking point, the government postponed an exam for doctors and nurses to allow some to join the coronavirus battle alongside existing personnel, it said in a statement.
In Pune, the second-largest city in the state of Maharashtra, Dr. Mekund Penurkar returned to work just days after losing his father to Covid-19. His mother and brother are in hospital with the virus, but patients are waiting to see him.
The total number of infections so far rose to just short of 20 million, propelled by a 12th straight day of more than 300,000 new cases in a pandemic sparked by a virus first identified in central China at the end of 2019.
Medical experts say actual numbers in India could be five to 10 times higher than those reported.
Hospitals have filled to capacity, supplies of medical oxygen have run short, and morgues and crematoriums have been overloaded with corpses.
Patients are dying on hospital beds, in ambulances and in carparks outside.
Modelling by a team of government advisers shows coronavirus cases could peak by Wednesday this week, a few days earlier than a previous estimate, since the virus has spread faster than expected.
At least 11 states and regions have ordered curbs on movement to stem infections, but Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, widely criticised for allowing the crisis to spin out of control, is reluctant to announce a national lockdown, concerned about the economic impact.
“In my opinion, only a national stay at home order and declaring medical emergency will help to address the current healthcare needs,” Bhramar Mukherjee, an epidemiologist with the University of Michigan, said on Twitter.
Algeria finds first cases of Indian coronavirus variant
Algeria has detected its first cases of the coronavirus variant first discovered in India, state research centre Pasteur Institute has said.
Six cases of the variant have been confirmed in the coastal province of Tipaza, some 70 km west of the capital, Algiers, it said in a statement.
France’s cases slow but hospitalisations creep up
France’s new daily Covid-19 infections fell to an almost two-months low on average on Monday, a figure warranting the government’s decision to start unwinding the country’s third lockdown.
But after falling for five days in a row, the number of people hospitalised for the disease went up by 132, a second consecutive increase, at 28,950.
And among those, the total amount of patients in intensive care units also rose for the second day running, by 45, at 5,630.
That total is down by almost 400 from a recent peak of 6,001 reached a week ago but is still twice as high than the 2,500-3,000 range the government had set itself to exit France’s second lockdown on December 15.
This Monday, a restriction limiting people to a 10 kilometre radius from their homes was lifted and secondary schools partly reopened.
From May 19, France will start relaxing a 7 p.m. nightly curfew – enforced since mid-December – and allow cafes, bars and restaurants to offer outside service.
French health authorities reported 3,760 new confirmed Covid-19 cases, at 5.66 million, the world’s fourth-highest.
The 2.76% week-on-week increase stayed below the 3% threshold for the second day running, a sequence unseen since end July.
And the seven-day moving average of daily new infections, which evens out reporting irregularities, stood at 21,716, going below the 22,000 limit for the first time since March 10 versus more than a recent peak of 42,225 reached on April 14.
The death toll increased by 311, at 105,310, the eighth-highest globally.
Italy sees 256 new deaths
Italy reported 256 coronavirus-related deaths on Monday against 144 the day before, the Health Ministry said, while the daily tally of new infections fell to 5,948 from 9,148.
Italy has registered 121,433 deaths linked to Covid-19 since its outbreak emerged in February last year, the second-highest toll in Europe after Britain and the seventh-highest in the world. The country has reported 4.1 million cases to date.
Patients in hospital with Covid-19 – not including those in intensive care – stood at 18,395 on Monday, slightly up from 18,345 a day earlier.
There were 121 new admissions to intensive care units, up from 109 on Sunday. The total number of intensive care patients fell to 2,490 from a previous 2,524.
Some 121,829 tests for Covid-19 were carried out in the past day, compared with a previous 156,872, the ministry said.
Turkey reports over 24,000 cases
Turkey reported over 24,700 new coronavirus cases, the Health Ministry said.
A total of 24,733 infections, including 2,501 symptomatic patients, were confirmed in the last 24 hours.
Turkey’s overall Covid-19 tally is now over 4.9 million, while the nationwide death toll rose by 347 over the past day to reach 41,191.
As many as 35,438 more patients won the battle against the virus, taking the total number of recoveries past 4.51 million.
India’s case total nears 20 million
India has reported more than 300,000 new coronavirus cases for a 12th straight day, taking its overall caseload to just shy of 20 million, while deaths rose by 3,417.
With 368,147 new cases over the past 24 hours, India’s total infections stand at 19.93 million, while total fatalities are 218,959, according to health ministry data.
Medical experts say real numbers across the country of 1.35 billion may be five to 10 times higher than the official tally.
China has given 275.34M doses of vaccines as of May 2
China has administered 275.34million doses of Covid-19 vaccines in the country as of Sunday, the National Health Commission said.
That compares with 270.41 million doses given as of Saturday, up around 4.93 million doses.
Pfizer in talks with India over expedited approval for vaccine
Pfizer is in discussions with the Indian government seeking an “expedited approval pathway” for its Covid-19 vaccine, its CEO Albert Bourla said on LinkedIn, announcing a donation of medicines worth more than $70 million.
“Unfortunately, our vaccine is not registered in India although our application was submitted months ago,” he said.
“We are currently discussing with the Indian government an expedited approval pathway to make our Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine available for use in the country.”
Indonesia finds two cases of Indian Covid variant in Jakarta
Indonesia has recorded its first cases of a highly infectious Covid-19 variant first detected in India, the health minister has said, as authorities implored people not to travel to their hometowns for the end of the Muslim fasting month.
Indonesia, which has been trying to contain one of the worst Covid-19 outbreaks in Asia, stopped issuing visas last month for foreigners who had been in India in the previous 14 days.
The two cases of the Indian variant, known as B.1.617, were found in Jakar ta, while the minister said a variant first discovered in South Africa was also detected in Bali.
Indonesia has reported more than 1.67 million virus infections and 45,700 deaths since the start of the pandemic, though cases have been declining since peaking in January.
Malaysia makes AstraZeneca vaccine optional amid safety fears
Malaysia will begin a parallel Covid-19 inoculation programme this week for people who chose to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine, after it was removed from an ongoing rollout due to public fears over its safety, a minister has said.
Reports of possible links to very rare blood clots have dented confidence in the shot in Malaysia and elsewhere.
AstraZeneca has pointed to regulator recommendations that the vaccine is safe and effective, though some countries have suspended its use due to rising unease or limited it to certain age groups.
Malaysia, which received its first 268,000 AstraZeneca vaccine doses in April, said it would allow people to choose to receive the jab on a first-come, first-serve basis.
The decision was made after around 8,000 people cancelled online vaccination registrations following the government’s announcement that the shot would be part of the nationwide rollout, Science Minister Khairy Jamaludin told reporters.
Malaysia is facing a spike in coronavirus cases, with more than 415,000 total infections reported.
IPL match postponed after two players positive
The Indian Premier League was forced into its first coronavirus postponement this season on Monday after two players tested positive despite the tournament’s bio-secure “bubble”.
The Kolkata Knight Riders’ match against Virat Kohli’s Royal Challengers Bangalore was called off just hours before its start in Ahmedabad after Varun Chakaravarthy and Sandeep Warrier became infected.
The positive cases come as India’s massive coronavirus surge raises questions about the IPL and concerns over the country’s hosting of the Twenty20 World Cup in October and November.
Russia reports 8,489 new cases, 336 deaths
Russia has reported 8,489 new coronavirus infections, including 2,635 in Moscow, bringing the total national tally of infections to 4,831,744.
The Russian coronavirus crisis centre said 336 more deaths of coronavirus patients had been confirmed in the last 24 hours, taking the official death toll to 111,198.
The federal statistics agency has kept a separate count and reported a toll of around 250,000 deaths related to Covid-19 from last April to this March.
Russia recorded more than 400,000 excess deaths from last April to this March during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to Reuters calculations based on data from the state statistics agency.
Tokyo Games need 500 nurses; nurses say needs are elsewhere
Some nurses in Japan are incensed at a request from Tokyo Olympic organizers to have 500 of them dispatched to help out with the games. They say they’re already near the breaking point dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.
Olympic officials have said they will need 10,000 medical workers to staff the games, and the request for more nurses comes amid a new spike in the virus with Tokyo and Osaka under a state of emergency.
“Beyond feeling anger, I was stunned at the insensitivity,” Mikito Ikeda, a nurse in Nagoya in central Japan, told the Associated Press. “It shows how human life is being taken lightly.”
The Olympics are set to open in just under three months, entailing the entry into Japan – where international borders have been virtually sealed for a year – of 15,000 Olympic and Paralympic athletes and thousands of other officials, judges, sponsors, media and broadcasters.
Thailand reports new daily record of 31 deaths
Thailand has reported a new daily record of 31 coronavirus deaths, the health ministry said, as the Southeast Asian country grapples with a third wave of infections.
After managing to largely control the virus for around a year through shutdowns and strict border controls, Thailand has faced a spike in cases since early April that is proving harder to control and putting pressure on parts of the medical system.
The ministry reported 2,041 new cases, taking the country’s total number to 71,025 since the pandemic began last year.
The total number of fatalities now stands at 276.
Germany’s cases rise by 9,160
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 9,160 to 3,425,982, data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases showed.
The reported death toll rose by 84 to 83,276, the tally showed.
Hospitals in Argentina filled to capacity as cases hit 3M
Cases in Argentina hit 3 million since the pandemic began, as medical workers said hospitals were full to capacity despite toughened government measures to bring down the spread of infections.
The country’s health ministry said there were 11,394 new cases over the last 24-hour period, bringing up the grim new milestone, with 156 new deaths taking fatalities to 64,252.
The government of President Alberto Fernandez this week unveiled a new round of tougher restrictions as another wave of infections has battered the country, filling up intensive care units and setting new daily records for cases and deaths.
But medical staff said it was still not enough.
“People need to be a little more aware and know that the hospitals are full and that health personnel are exhausted,” said Luciana Berti, a 41-year-old surgical assistant.
More international aid lands in India
International aid to alleviate India’s dire oxygen shortage arrived in the South Asian nation as its death toll climbed to a grim new record.
The country of 1.3 billion reported 3,689 deaths on Sunday, another grim daily record, with nearly 400,000 new cases registered across India.
India expanded its vaccination programme to all adults on Saturday, but many of its states are struggling with shortages despite an export freeze for shots produced domestically.
The latest surge in deaths came as medical equipment from abroad, including oxygen-generation plants, was flown into the capital New Delhi as part of a huge international effort.
The US, Russia and Britain sent emergency supplies including oxygen generators, face masks and vaccines.
Aid sent from France included eight oxygen generator plants and 28 ventilators, adding to the ventilators from Germany that arrived the previous night.
The UK, which has already sent 495 oxygen concentrators and 200 ventilators, said it was sending a further 1,000 oxygen ventilators.
US to launch trade talks on vaccine distribution
The US top trade negotiator will begin talks with the World Trade Organization on ways to overcome intellectual property issues that are keeping critically needed vaccines from being more widely distributed worldwide.
The White House has been under pressure in recent weeks to join an effort from lawmakers at home and governments abroad to waive patent rules for the vaccines so that poorer countries can begin to produce their own generic versions of the shots to vaccinate their populations.
The US has been criticised for focusing first on vaccinating Americans, particularly as its vaccine supply begins to outpace demand and doses approved for use elsewhere in the world but not in the US sit idle.
US Trade Representative Katherine Tai will be starting talks with the trade organisation “on how we can get this vaccine more widely distributed, more widely licensed, more widely shared,” said White House chief of staff Ron Klain.
Klain and national security adviser Jake Sullivan said the administration will have more to say on the matter in the coming days.
South Africa receives 4.5M Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines
South Africa took delivery of the first batch of its 4.5 million Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines as the country readies to start ramping up immunisation.
In a statement, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said 325,260 doses landed at the country’s OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg late on Sunday.
A similar number is expected weekly until the end of this month.
“Thereafter the vaccine supply will increase to an average of 636, 480 doses weekly from 31 May which will see us accumulating close to 4.5 million doses by the end of June,” he said.
South Africa is the continent’s worst affected country with over 1.5 million infections, including 54,406 fatalities.
But it has vaccinated only 318,670 people, mainly health workers so far.
This was after it suspended inoculations using Johnson & Johnson anti-Covid vaccines for two weeks last month to vet risks over blood clots.
The resumption of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will target health workers in particular.