India has recorded the world’s highest infection tally for a second day, leaving hospitals across the country scrambling for oxygen supplies.
Meanwhile, France on Friday became the first high-income country to donate COVID-19 vaccines to a developing nation through the United Nations-backed COVAX rollout programme, shipping more than 100,000 doses to Mauritania.
Also on Friday, Japan declared a third state of emergency for Tokyo and three western prefectures.
Here are the latest coronavirus updates from around the world:
Belgium pushes on with bar reopening as hospitals near saturation
Belgium pressed ahead with plans to allow restaurant and cafe terraces to reopen on May 8 despite warnings from health officials that hospital saturation was starting to resemble that of Italy at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Prime Minister Alexander De Croo stressed an accelerated pace of vaccinations against the coronavirus, with about 28 percent of adults having received a first dose.
“If things evolve as they are evolving now, we can continue with our plan to open up outdoors on May 8,” he told a news conference. “The reopening of our economy, our social life, will follow the vaccinations.”
Canadian PM receives first dose of AstraZeneca vaccine
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau received his first dose of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine at an Ottawa pharmacy, telling reporters “I’m very excited” as the needle entered his arm.
Afterwards he posed for television cameras and photographers with his thumbs up and then watched as his wife Sophie received her first shot. Sophie came down with a mild case of the coronavirus at the start of the pandemic last year.
Greece reopens malls, steps up checks at toll stations
Greece will reopen shopping malls on Saturday, authorities said, in a cautious easing of coronavirus restrictions as police stepped up checks on drivers at toll stations to curb movements ahead of the start of the Eastern Orthodox Easter week.
In a further attempt to return towards some kind of normality, the government has said that restaurants will reopen early next month before the opening of the tourist sector on May 15.
Authorities have allowed church services during Holy Week starting on Monday with masks and distancing.
EU to have enough jabs for 70 percent of adults ‘in July’
The EU coronavirus vaccine programme will secure enough doses to immunise 70 percent of adults by the end of July, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said.
The EU chief had previously set a goal of late September, but announced the new target during a visit to a Belgian vaccine plant that is ramping up production.
“I’m confident we will have enough doses to vaccinate 70 percent of all EU adults already in July,” von der Leyen said, at a factory producing the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.
Von der Leyen said the European Union would “in the next days” conclude a new contract with the firm – already a mainstay of the European effort – for an additional 1.8 billion doses of second-generation jabs in 2022 and 2023.
A jab made at home? Scientists are trying it
For the millions of people around the world who do not have access to hard-to-get COVID-19 vaccines, a group of Boston-area scientists has a potential solution. And it is literally a solution, one that you snort in hopes of warding off the deadly virus.
The group is called the Rapid Deployment Vaccine Collaborative, or RaDVaC, and their vaccine is so easy to make that its chief scientist, Preston Estep, said we could whip it up in my kitchen. So we did.
Read more here.
French oxygen giant diverts supply to India
Air Liquide SA is diverting oxygen supplies for industrial clients in India to hospitals as the country is overwhelmed by a surge in COVID-19 patients.
The company is sending most of its liquid oxygen output to the healthcare sector and is looking to import additional supplies from the Middle East, Executive Vice President Francois Jackow said on Friday. Demand for medical oxygen in India has soared roughly 10-fold, or by more than 50 percent of the country’s total production capacity, he added.
Read more here.
India’s COVID-19 infections top global record for second day
People scrambled for life-saving oxygen supplies across India and patients lay dying outside hospitals as the capital, New Delhi, recorded the equivalent of one death from COVID-19 every five minutes.
For the second day running, the country’s overnight infection total was higher than ever recorded anywhere in the world since the pandemic began last year, at 332,730.
The outbreak’s resurgence has hit with such ferocity that hospitals are running out of oxygen, beds and anti-viral drugs.
Many patients have been turned away because there was no space for them, doctors in Delhi said.
France donates COVID vaccines through UN programme
France became the first wealthy country to donate COVID-19 vaccines to a developing nation through a jab mechanism for low and middle-income countries, shipping more than 100,000 doses to Mauritania.
Leaders of the COVAX programme hailed the French donation, which was announced by President Emmanuel Macron, and called on other rich countries to follow suit at a time of intense competition for short supplies of vaccines – as coronavirus infection counts are on the rise.
“We generally have the means to accelerate our solidarity by donating vaccines,” Macron told a World Health Organization event, announcing the donation to COVAX. “These AstraZeneca vaccines, as I am speaking to you, on their way to West Africa.”
Japan issues third virus emergency in Tokyo, Osaka area
Japan declared a third state of emergency for Tokyo and three western prefectures amid scepticism it will be enough to curb a rapid coronavirus resurgence just three months ahead of the Olympics.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced the emergency for Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo from April 25 through May 11.
The step is largely intended to be “short and intensive” to stop people from travelling and spreading the virus during Japan’s “Golden Week” holidays from late April through the first week of May, Suga said.
“I sincerely apologise for causing trouble for many people again,” said Suga, who earlier had pledged to do his utmost to prevent a third emergency. But he said he is alarmed by the fast-spreading new variant of the virus in the four prefectures and tougher steps are needed.
Austria to permit reopenings in almost all sectors from May 19
Almost all Austrian businesses hit by coronavirus restrictions will be allowed to reopen from May 19, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz announced in Vienna.
“These steps toward reopening are taken under strict hygiene rules, but they will be taken,” Kurz said.
Restaurants, hotels, sports facilities and cultural venues, for example, will be allowed to receive customers again if they can present a negative coronavirus test result.