Covid-19 has infected more than 128 million people and taken some 2.8 million lives. Here are virus-related developments for March 30:

Commuters wait to board suburban trains at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus prior to the night curfew that has been introduced to curb the spread of Coronavirus in Mumbai, Maharashtra state, India on March 30, 2021.
Commuters wait to board suburban trains at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus prior to the night curfew that has been introduced to curb the spread of Coronavirus in Mumbai, Maharashtra state, India on March 30, 2021. (AP)

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

India govt says virus situation turning from 'bad to worse' 

India's virus situation is turning from "bad to worse," a senior government official has said, as infections surge across several states.

"Remember if the cases are more, they will eventually overwhelm the system," senior health official Vinod Kumar Paul told a news conference. 

Turkey reports over 37,000 cases

Turkey has reported 37,303 new cases, according to the Health Ministry.

A total of 37,303 infections, including 1,376 symptomatic patients, were confirmed in the last 24 hours, according to the Health Ministry.

With 155 new related fatalities, the nationwide death toll has reached 31,385.

Spain removes age limits on AstraZeneca, J&J vaccines 

Spain has decided to remove an upper age limit of 65 years on AstraZeneca's vaccine and give Johnson & Johnson's version of the jab to people aged over 66, Cadena Ser radio reported.

A public health commission approved the change at a meeting on Tuesday, the broadcaster said, citing a document it had seen, a week after Spain decided to reintroduce the AstraZeneca treatment for people aged 18-65.

Several European countries had suspended administering the shot over concerns related to cases of blood clots.

Brazil's Fiocruz readies study of AstraZeneca for minors

Brazilian biomedical centre Fiocruz will submit a study proposal for researching the use of AstraZeneca's vaccine in minors, the head of the institute, Nisia Trinidade, has said.

Fiocruz has partnered in Brazil with AstraZeneca to finish, distribute and eventually fully produce the vaccine, which is already approved in Brazil for use in adults. 

German experts recommend AstraZeneca only for over 60s

Germany's vaccine committee, known as STIKO, has recommended using AstraZeneca's vaccine only for people aged 60 and over.

"After several consultations, STIKO, with the help of external experts, decided by a majority to recommend the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine only for persons aged 60 years and older on the basis of available data on the occurrence of rare but very severe thromboembolic side effects," it said.

UK reports over 4,000 new cases

The United Kingdom has reported 4,040 new cases and 56 more deaths over a 24 period, official daily data showed.

The death toll stands at 126,670, and the total number of cases at 4,341,736.

Italy reports over 16,000 new cases

The daily tally of new infections in Italy, the first Western country to be hit by the virus, has risen to 16,017, up from 12,916 on Monday.

Italy reported 529 deaths against 417 the day before, the health ministry said, as a new study showed the more contagious variant first discovered in Britain now accounts for nine out of 10 new Italian cases.

Greece registers over 4,300 daily cases, new high 

Greece has reported 4,340 new cases, its highest daily tally, after increasing the number of tests performed while its hospitals remain under severe pressure from a wave of new infections.

Greece fared better than many other European countries in the first wave of the pandemic last year. 

But a surge in infections has forced the government to tighten restrictions as intensive care units have come close to being overwhelmed.

Estonia prolongs virus curbs by 2 weeks to April 25

Estonia has extended all restrictions by two weeks until April 25, and said travellers arriving from Latvia, Lithuania and Finland would now need to isolate for 10 days.

The government said the extension applied to measures that had been due to expire on April 11 restricting education, sports, public events and youth work, including the closure of spas, water parks, and swimming pools.

Slovak premier, government resign over Russian vaccine deal

Slovakia's Prime Minister Igor Matovic and his government have resigned to ease a political crisis triggered by a secret deal to buy Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine.

It is the first European government to collapse due to its handling of the pandemic but the move will keep the current four-party coalition in power and avoid the possibility of an early election.

BioNTech raises vaccine output goal to 2.5 billion doses 

German firm BioNTech has said it was on track to manufacture 2.5 billion doses of its vaccine this year with US partner Pfizer, 25 percent more than expected.

The company said the boost would allow it to "address increased demand" as countries around the world race to contain new, more contagious virus variants.

The higher output was driven by the recent launch of a new production site in the German city of Marburg, which is now one of the world's largest mRNA vaccine manufacturing plants, it said.

The plant will eventually produce up to one billion jabs a year, once fully operational.

Novavax vaccine could be approved by UK in April

Britain could approve Novavax's vaccine next month, the chief investigator for the shot's trial told the Evening Standard newspaper.

“The regulator will do a very detailed and thorough review and will decide in good time,” said Professor Paul Heath, chief investigator for the Novavax jab trial in the UK.

“I would hope it would be in the spring, possibly end of April.”

WHO chief urges deeper probe into lab leak theory

The World Health Organization chief has called for investigators looking into the origins of the pandemic to delve deeper into a theory about a possible lab leak incident.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus welcomed a long-delayed report from an international mission tasked with probing how the virus first jumped to humans, saying it "advances our understanding in important ways."

But in a briefing to member states, he stressed it also "raises further questions that will need to be addressed by further studies."

The United States and 13 other countries also expressed concerns that the WHO report was delayed and lacked access to complete data, according to a joint statement.

Chile inks deal for 1.8 million doses of CanSino vaccine

Chile's president Sebastian Pinera has said that his government had signed a new deal with CanSino Biologics for its one-dose coronavirus vaccine as the South American nation vaults ahead with one of the world's fastest inoculation drives.

Pinera said in a televised statement that Cansino had agreed to deliver 1.8 million doses of the vaccine in May and June.

More than 30.5 million Britons received first vaccine dose

A total of 30,680,948 Britons have received the first dose of a vaccine, according to official data which also showed a further 56 deaths within 28 days of a positive test and 4,040 new cases.

Poland widens access to vaccines from April

Poland will widen access to vaccines in April to those in their 40s and 50s, as it aims to inoculate all citizens who want to become vaccinated by the end of August, the government has said.

Poland, with a population of 38 million, wants to administer 10 million vaccine doses per month, the government said.

The country has reported a surge in new coronavirus cases in the past weeks, with many hospitals running out of beds and ventilators.

Sweden reports over 16,400 new cases

Sweden, which has shunned lockdowns throughout the pandemic, has registered 16,427 new cases since Friday, health agency statistics showed.

The figure compared with 14,063 cases during the corresponding period last week.

The country of 10 million inhabitants registered 28 new deaths, taking the total to 13,430 . The deaths registered have occurred over several days and sometimes weeks.

Italy to impose quarantine on EU arrivals

Italy will impose a five-day quarantine on travellers arriving from other EU countries, both residents and foreigners, a source in the health ministry said.

Health Minister Roberto Speranza will approve a new rule later in the day, the source said, although it was not immediately clear when it would come into effect nor how long it would last.

The new measure will require anyone arriving from another EU country to show a negative coronavirus test before departing for Italy and a second after five days of self-isolation.

Pakistan's outgoing Finance Minister tests positive

Pakistan's outgoing finance minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh has tested positive, the third senior government official to do so in 24 hours, a week after Prime Minister Imran Khan announced he himself had contracted the virus.

"Just found out that Dr Hafeez has tested positive for Covid-19. I pray for his swift recovery and good health," Minister for Industries and Production Hammad Azhar wrote on Twitter.

Shaikh was removed from his post as finance minister on Monday, over concerns about rising inflation in the country.

Germany announces tougher land border checks

Germany said it would step up random controls at its land borders to ensure people are carrying a negative test upon arrival, amid concern that Easter holiday trips could worsen the country's third wave.

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said he has asked Germany's federal police to "intensify" the checks for the next "eight to 14 days".

"Regardless where you're arriving from, from Poland, France, or Denmark, everyone should expect to be checked, especially with regard to producing a negative test," Seehofer told reporters.

Thai billionaire charged with royal insult over vaccine video

A billionaire Thai opposition figure was charged with defaming the monarchy after he questioned the government's alleged over-reliance on vaccines from a company linked to the royal family.

Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, founder of the now-dissolved Future Forward Party, posted a video on Facebook in January in which he queried whether Thailand was leaning too heavily on Siam Bioscience for its vaccination campaign.

The company is owned by the Crown Property Bureau, which manages the royal family's multi-billion-dollar fortune.

A Bangkok criminal court on Tuesday charged Thanathorn with lese majeste and a computer crime over that video, but he was defiant.

India extends shelf life of AstraZeneca vaccine

India's drug regulator has allowed the AstraZeneca vaccine to be used for up to nine months from its manufacture date, as opposed to the prescribed six months, according to a document reviewed by Reuters and a source.

The approval, given to a licensed version of the drug made by the Serum Institute of India (SII) and exported to dozens of countries, could help health authorities minimise vaccine wastage and better plan their inoculation programmes.

Some African countries have only until the middle of next month to use up more than a million doses of the vaccine, branded Covishield by SII, if the shelf life is not extended.

Pandemic treaty could be advanced by May – WHO

A proposed international treaty on pandemics could be advanced at the World Health Organization's annual ministerial assembly in May, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

The WHO chief said the treaty would help to tackle gaps exposed by Covid-19, strengthen implementation of international health regulations and also provide a framework cooperation in areas such as pandemic prevention and response.

"The treaty, which could be taken forward by the World Health Assembly, would be based on the WHO constitution including the principles of health for all and no discrimination," Tedros, adding that it was for WHO member states to determine the content and whether it was ratified.

Italy's Draghi and wife receive AstraZeneca vaccine

Prime Minister Mario Draghi and his wife Maria Serenella Cappello received their first doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine as Italy looks to ramp up its vaccination campaign.

Italy was one of a number of European countries that earlier this month paused usage of the AstraZeneca shots following reports of about 30 cases of rare brain blood clots in people who had recently had a jab.

Most countries resumed administering it after the European Union's drug watchdog said the benefits outweighed the risks.

Draghi and his wife, who are both 73, received their jabs at a large vaccination centre set up at Rome's main railway station, the prime minister's office said in a brief statement.

Russia reports 8,277 new virus cases, 409 deaths

Russia reported 8,277 new virus cases in the last 24 hours, including 1,291 in Moscow, taking the national tally to 4,536,820.

The country also reported another 409 deaths, raising the official toll to 98,442.

Israel reopens Egypt crossing for first time since pandemic

Israel reopened the Taba border post with Egypt that had been closed throughout the pandemic, allowing limited numbers to cross to the Sinai peninsula for Passover holidays. 

The move was the latest step towards normalcy for Israel, which has fully vaccinated more than half of its roughly 9.3 million residents, the world's fastest per capita pace.

From Tuesday through April 12, 300 Israelis will be allowed through Taba on the Red Sea each day.

Betting on tests, German city reopens despite surge

Germany may be battling a third wave of the pandemic but life feels almost normal in the city of Tuebingen, where anyone with a negative test can enjoy a day of shopping, culture or outdoor dining.

As debate rages nationwide about whether tougher measures are needed to slow surging infections, the historic university city near Stuttgart has chosen a different tack by offering free virus testing centres that hand out "day passes" to those whose results come back negative.

The passes then allow access to what is currently one of Germany's most vibrant city centres.

"Customers' eyes light up when they come in, it's finally a bit of normality again," said Sandra Pauli, who was allowed to reopen he

Struggling Papua New Guinea opens emergency hospital

Papua New Guinea has converted a sports centre into a makeshift virus hospital as the Pacific nation struggles with a surge of virus cases.

The 290-bed clinic received just two patients on Monday and was expected to start admitting overflow patients from Port Moresby General Hospital from Tuesday, relieving a healthcare system under "immense" strain.

After almost a year without widespread community transmission, a rapid rise in infections in the impoverished nation had led to patients being turned away from overwhelmed health facilities or reportedly being treated on the floor of hospitals.

City of London says bulk of workers will return to the office after pandemic

The City of London financial centre, which has resembled a ghost town since the coronavirus swept the world last year, is likely to see most workers return to their offices after the pandemic, the City’s political leader said.

Catherine McGuinness, policy chair at the City of London Corporation, told BBC radio she was confident that trade would return for the cafes, pubs, restaurants and other businesses that rely on the usually teeming crowds of office workers.

But there would probably be changes to the way people work as a result of the pandemic.

"What people are telling us is that they are expecting their central office base to remain at the core of their business with people coming in three or four days, working different hours, so we are expecting the bulk of the return," McGuinness said.

UK wants to vaccinate all adults before sharing vaccine with other countries

Britain will focus on vaccinating the whole of its adult population before it can to provide any surplus shots to other countries such as its close neighbour Ireland, British business minister Kwasi Kwarteng said.

More than 30 million Britons have received their first shots in the fastest vaccine rollout in Europe, with the aim of offering shots to all adults by the end of July.

However, Britain has found itself involved in a public spat with the European Union, where the vaccination programme has been much slower, over the supply of doses.

Chile funerary services grappling with virus deaths

Chile is facing a deadly resurgence in virus cases which has strained health and funerary services.

Authorities said the country recorded more than 7,000 new cases for the fifth day in a row on Monday, each close to the highest national daily toll since the start of the pandemic.

The large number of deaths overwhelmed the cemetery capacity in Valparaiso, which on Sunday was unable to open the spaces needed for bodies stored in morgues.

Georg Hübner, Valparaíso Undersecretary of Health, said bodies would be stored in containers as a temporary solution while the cemetery finds more space.

Cuba begins testing second vaccine on healthcare workers

Cuba began vaccinating tens of thousands of health care workers with a second vaccine, even though it has yet to complete clinical trials.

Last week, Cuba started vaccinating 150,000 health care workers with its Soberana 2 vaccine that is still in the third phase of clinical trials.

India records 56,211 new cases

India recorded 56,211 new cases, a slight dip from the country's record-breaking tallies over the last three days, data from the health ministry showed.

The country's tally dipped below the 60,000 mark after three days, a Reuters tally showed, with its richest state, Maharashtra, accounting for more than 31,000 of the 56,211 cases reported in the last 24 hours. 

Deaths in the last 24 hours stood at 271, and 162,114 have died so far in the pandemic, the health ministry said.

Authorities in Maharashtra were considering whether to impose stricter curbs starting Thursday to contain the rapid spread of the virus, but opposition parties and industrialists have opposed a lockdown.

Germany's confirmed cases rise by 9,549

The number of confirmed cases in Germany increased by 9,549 to 2,791,822, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed.

The reported death toll rose by 180 to 76,093, the tally showed. 

Honduras temporarily bans arrivals from South America amid virus fears

Honduras said it would temporary restrict arrivals from South America, citing fears about the so-called Brazilian variant entering its territory.

Honduras' national risk management system SINAGER said in a statement that it would curb the entry into Honduras of citizens who had stayed in South America in the last 15 days.

The measure was announced after authorities from neighbouring Panama reported a case of the Brazilian variant, which is considered more infectious.

India pushes ahead with virus vaccination drive to head off new surge

Asli Bai Sayat, 72, had to travel for two hours on a camel cart to get her first vaccine shot in the Indian desert state of Rajasthan but she may not have to go so far for the follow-up dose.

After a slow start, India is picking up the pace of its immunisation campaign, simplifying the process, opening more vaccination centres and turning to social media as it tries to head off a new surge in infections that has brought the highest tallies of daily cases and deaths in months.

China reports 8 new virus cases vs 15 a day earlier

China reported eight new virus cases, down from 15 cases a day earlier, the national health authority said.

The National Health Commission said in a statement that all of the new cases were imported infections originating from overseas. 

The number of new asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed cases, fell to six from 18 a day earlier.

The total number of confirmed cases in Mainland China now stands at 90,190, while the death toll remained unchanged at 4,636.

Australia's Queensland reports 8 new community cases

Australia's Queensland state reported eight new locally-acquired virus cases a day after announcing a snap three-day lockdown in Brisbane, the state capital, to contain a fresh cluster.

About 2 million people in Brisbane are required to stay home until Thursday afternoon except for essential work, healthcare, grocery shopping or exercise.

Four new locally transmitted virus cases were reported a day before.

Caracas Covid ward scenes; Sputnik V jabs arrive

Venezuela received 50,000 new doses of the Sputnik-V vaccine, at a time the country grapples with an increase of virus cases that has brought a record number of patients into hospitals.

The government has partially attributed the rise to a virus variant which scientists believe originated in neighbouring Brazil and is more infectious.

But before even the variant known as P1 was found in Venezuela, cases were on the rise while Caracas held a soft lockdown.

Global leaders call for new pandemic treaty

Leaders from 23 countries, the EU and WHO have backed a push for a new global treaty to better prepare the world to tackle future pandemics.

The call came in an op-ed published internationally that was signed off by leaders from five continents, including Germany's Angela Merkel, Britain's Boris Johnson, France's Emmanuel Macron, South Korea's Moon Jae-in and South Africa's Cyril Ramaphosa.

"We believe that nations should work together towards a new international treaty for pandemic preparedness and response," the op-ed said.

"Such a renewed collective commitment would be a milestone in stepping up pandemic preparedness at the highest political level."

Brazil registers 1,660 new more fatalities

Brazil has recorded 1,660 deaths from Covid-19 in the past 24 hours and 38,927 additional confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, the country's Health Ministry has said.

Brazil's official death toll now stands at 313,866, according to ministry data released on Monday, and the total number of cases stands at 12,573,615.

Mexico reports 1,292 new cases

Mexico has reported 1,292 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 203 more fatalities, bringing the country's total to 2,227,842 infections and 201,826 deaths, according to health ministry data.

The government says the real case numbers are likely significantly higher and separate data published recently by the health ministry suggested the actual death toll from coronavirus may be at least 60 percent above the confirmed figure. 

Canada pauses AstraZeneca vaccine for under 55

Canada is suspending the use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine for people under the age of 55 following concerns it may be linked to rare blood clots.

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommended a pause on AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccinations for people under 55 for safety reasons and the Canadian provinces, which administer health in the country, announced the suspensions on Monday.

“There is substantial uncertainty about the benefit of providing AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccines to adults under 55 given the potential risks,” Dr. Shelley Deeks, Vice Chair of the National Advisory Committee on Immunization.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies