Covid-19 pandemic has killed over 2.8M people and infected more than 133M globally. Here are the coronavirus-related developments for April 7:

People wearing masks to help protect against the spread of coronavirus, wait to enter a hospital for the Pfizer/BioNtech Covid-19 vaccine, in Ankara, Turkey on April 3, 2021.
People wearing masks to help protect against the spread of coronavirus, wait to enter a hospital for the Pfizer/BioNtech Covid-19 vaccine, in Ankara, Turkey on April 3, 2021. (AP)

Wednesday, April 7

Turkey's daily cases at nearly 55,000

Turkey has recorded 54,740 new cases in the last 24 hours, Health Ministry data showed, the highest daily level since the start of the pandemic.

Last week President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced a tightening of restrictions, including the return of full nationwide weekend lockdowns during the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan, which starts on April 13.

The latest daily death toll was 276, bringing the cumulative toll to 32,943. 

Mexico reports over 5,400 cases

Mexico's government has reported 5,499 new confirmed cases and 596 more fatalities, according to data from the Health Ministry published, bringing the country's total to 2,261,879 infections and 205,598 deaths.

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

France reports over 5,700 people in intensive care units

The French Health Ministry has reported that the number of people in intensive care units increased by 103 to a new 2021 record of 5,729 people.

Week-on-week, the number of patients in intensive care rose by 13.4 percent, the biggest week-on-week increase since November 13.

Oxford says identification of blood clots link shows safety system works

Oxford University has said that the identification of rare blood clots that might be linked to its vaccine showed safety systems worked, emphasising that British and European regulators had found its benefits outweigh the risks.

"We are reassured to see that safety monitoring continues under the close scrutiny of regulators... The identification of rare cases of blood clots, which might be associated with the vaccine, shows that the safety system works," Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, said of the reviews into the shot, developed with AstraZeneca

"(The system) has also allowed MHRA and EMA to conclude that the benefits of vaccination continue to outweigh the risks, while putting in measures to help mitigate any possible risk."

Venezuelan mayor marks homes of patients with red symbol

A mayor in central Venezuela has begun placing red warning symbols on the homes of infected people with and also threatened to cut welfare handouts for those breaking quarantine.

"We are protecting our people," said Luis Duque, the mayor of Sucre municipality in Yaracuy state, pointing to a white paper sign on a home with a red circle and line drawn through.

"This indicates that there is a Covid case or a suspected Covid case, so the people are alert," he added in a video posted this week to his Instagram account.

EU regulator to probe ethical standards of Sputnik vaccine trials

The EU drug regulator will begin investigations next week on whether clinical trials of Russia's Sputnik V vaccine followed global clinical and scientific guidelines, the Financial Times has reported.

The FT report cited unidentified people familiar with the European Medical Agency's approval process as having expressed concern that the Sputnik V trials may not have met ethics standards.

The FT did not describe those concerns in detail. Its report referred to allegations that some participants may have been compelled to participate.

Morocco imposes Ramadan curfew, despite vaccine success

Moroccan authorities have decided to enforce a night-time curfew during the holy month of Ramadan because of a recent rise in cases, as scientists announced the discovery of a new, local variant of the virus.

Many Moroccans voiced their anger over the decision on social networks, describing it as another blow to many businesses already struggling to survive, as well as to family gatherings that are a central part of the holiday.

While the North African kingdom has had one of the region's most successful vaccination programs so far, it is also seeing a growth in infections, especially in Casablanca, the largest city.

Italy reports 627 additional deaths

Italy has reported 627 deaths against 421 the day before, the Health Ministry said, while the daily tally of new infections rose to 13,708 from 7,767 the day before.

Italy has registered 112,374 deaths 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 3.7 million cases to date.

Variant found in Britain most common in US

A variant of the virus first identified in Britain has now become the most common strain circulating in the United States.

The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, said the strain, formally known as B.1.1.7, is "now the most common lineage circulating in United States."

The strain has been shown to be more transmissible and infectious among younger Americans, which Walensky said contributed to rising case counts in recent weeks.

Walensky said new outbreaks have been tied to youth sports and day care centres. She particularly encouraged states with rising caseloads to curtail or suspend youth sport activities to slow the spread of the virus.

The US leads the world with 30.8 million confirmed cases and more than 556,000 confirmed deaths.

Hungary lifts some restrictions despite virus death spike

Hungary's government has lifted several lockdown restrictions, even as some doctors and medical experts urged caution after a record-breaking day of deaths.

Businesses that had been closed since early March reopened their doors, with limits on customer numbers, after Prime Minister Viktor Orban announced the lifting of the lockdown measures late Tuesday.

The move came as Hungary reached 2.5 million first-dose vaccinations — a benchmark the government set for when a gradual reopening could move forward — but coincided with a new high of 311 deaths on Wednesday and a record number of fatalities last week.

India imposes new curbs as cases hit record

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's home state Gujarat has became the latest to tighten curbs as India's infections surged to a record of almost 116,000 new cases in 24 hours.

Experts blame the country's fresh wave on people ignoring guidelines and attending huge religious and political events, as well as weddings and cricket matches in recent months.

India has now recorded 12.8 million cases, the third-highest behind the United States and Brazil, although those nations have much smaller populations. 

More than 166,000 Indians have died.

Bhutan vaccinates 60% of population in record time

Bhutan has said it had given about 60 percent of its entire population a first jab since the Himalayan kingdom started an ambitious vaccination drive nine days ago.

The tiny nation wedged between India and China told AFP news agency that 470,000 people out of 770,000 in total had been administered the first shot of a two-dose regime of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine donated by India.

Its rapid rollout puts Bhutan far ahead of other leading nations in reaching the 60-percent mark, including the Seychelles, Israel and the United Arab Emirates, according to AFP analysis.

Causal link between AstraZeneca shot and clots "plausible but not confirmed"

The World Health Organization's advisory vaccine safety panel has said a causal link between the AstraZeneca vaccine and rare cases of blood clots with low platelets is "considered plausible but is not confirmed."

The independent experts, in a statement issued after a review of the latest global data, said that specialised studies were needed to fully understand the potential relationship between vaccination and possible risk factors.

"It is important to note that whilst concerning, the events under assessm ent are very rare, with low numbers reported among the almost 200 million individuals who have received the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine around the world," the panel said.

It added that it would meet against next week to review additional data.

Greece to reopen schools using self-test kits

Kits for self-administered tests have began arriving in Greek pharmacies, with residents entitled to one a week free of charge as part of efforts to tackle a surge of cases and hospitalisations.

Priority for the home tests is initially being given to teachers and high school students aged 16-18, as authorities announced plans to reopen high schools for students in the final three grades starting April 12. 

Students and teachers returning to school will be required to use the test kits twice weekly.

No 'specific risk' factors for clots with AstraZeneca jab

EU drug regulator has found "possible link" between AstraZeneca vaccine and rare clots, but said benefits still outweigh risks.

EU Medicines Agency's safety committee (PRAC) said it has concluded that unusual blood clots with low blood platelets should be listed as very rare side effects of AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine.

"Specific risk factors such as age, gender or medical history have not been able to be confirmed, as the rare events are seen in all ages," EMA's chief Emer Cooke told a news conference. 

"A plausible explanation for these rare side effects is an immune response to the vaccine."

In reaching its conclusion, the EMA committee took into consideration all currently available evidence, including the advice from an ad hoc expert group.

EMA said it's reminding healthcare professionals and people receiving the vaccine to remain aware of the possibility of very rare cases of blood clots combined with low levels of blood platelets occurring within 2 weeks of vaccination. 

So far, most of the cases reported have occurred in women under 60 years of age within 2 weeks of vaccination. Based on the currently available evidence, specific risk factors have not been confirmed.

People who have received the vaccine should seek medical assistance immediately if they develop symptoms of this combination of blood clots and low blood platelets. 

EU life expectancy drops amid pandemic

Life expectancy across much of the European Union has dropped last year, as the 27-nation bloc struggled with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The EU statistical agency Eurostat said that “following the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic last year, life expectancy at birth fell in the vast majority of the EU member states.” It said the biggest drop was in Spain, with a loss of 1.6 years compared with 2019.

Bulgaria followed with a loss of 1.5 years, followed by Lithuania, Poland and Romania, which all saw a drop of -1.4 years. Denmark and Fin land were the only nations to see a rise in life expectancy, with 0.1 years.

There was no overall EU statistic available since Ireland hadn't reported data.

UK starts Moderna jabs as AstraZeneca probed

Britain has began rolling out its third coronavirus vaccine, from US company Moderna, as questions mounted over jabs from the country's main supplier, AstraZeneca.

The Moderna vaccine, which is already being delivered in Europe and the United States, joined ones from AstraZeneca-Oxford University and Pfizer-BioNTech in Britain's armoury against Covid-19.

The first jabs of the two-stage Moderna inoculation were injected at a hospital in Wales, in a timely diversification of Britain's rollout that was hailed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

"We have ordered 17 million doses that will be going into arms across the UK in the coming weeks. Please get your jab as soon as you are contacted," he tweeted.

Supply problems for AstraZeneca had threatened to complicate Britain's inoculation drive this month, and concerns are building over a potential link between the jab and rare blood clots among a small number of recipients.

Oxford University said late Tuesday that it had paused a British trial of the AstraZeneca vaccine on children.

The university said the trial had posed "no safety concerns", but that it was awaiting more data from Brit ain's Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) before restarting the study.

Former Italian PM Berlusconi in hospital since Tuesday - sources

Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has been in hospital since Tuesday afternoon for check-ups, two sources within his Forza Italia party said on Wednesday.

One of the sources said the 84-year-old media tycoon was hospitalised for follow-up tests after contracting coronavirus in September last year.

Berlusconi underwent major heart surgery in 2016 and has also survived prostate cancer.

Thailand detects first domestic cases of UK variant 

Thailand has detected 24 cases of the coronavirus variant B.1.1.7 first detected in Britain, a virologist said, its first reported domestic transmission of the highly contagious variant.

"This variant is very viral and can spread 1.7 times faster than the usual strain," Yong Poovorawan, a senior virologist from Chulalongkorn University told a health ministry briefing. 

Spain's Castile and Leon region suspends use of AstraZeneca vaccine

The regional authorities of Castile and Leon in central Spain have said they have suspended the use of AstraZeneca vaccine until the European Medicines Agency (EMA) releases a report on its safety. 

Jailed Kremlin critic Navalny tests negative, says lawyer

Jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny has tested negative for the coronavirus, his lawyer Olga Mikhailova said, adding that he has taken a second test.

Navalny, 44, an opponent of President Vladimir Putin, announced that he going on a hunger strike last week in protest at what he said was the refusal of prison authorities to treat him properly for acute back and leg pain.

Human rights group Amnesty International earlier on Wednesday said Navalny had been incarcerated in conditions that amount to torture and may slowly be killing him.

Russia reports 8,294 new cases, 374 deaths

Russia has reported 8,294 new cases, including 1,585 in Moscow, taking the official national tally to 4,606,162.

The government task force said 374 people had died in the past 24 hours, pushing its death toll to 101,480.

The federal statistics agency has kept a separate count and last week reported a much higher toll of more than 225,000 from April 2020 to February.

Osaka governor declares medical state of emergency

The Governor of Osaka Prefecture has declared a medical state of emergency in the area as a surge of cases have put a strain on the local health care system.

Hirofumi Yoshimura said he was alarmed by the fast-spreading new variants.

"It has been said that the British variant is more contagious, and most of the cases we found in Osaka and Hyogo is the British one," Yoshimura told reporters in Osaka.

Osaka logged a record 878 new infection cases on Wednesday.

Special coronavirus measures started earlier this week in Osaka and its neighboring prefectures as Japan tries to minimize the impact to specific areas where infections a re rising ahead of the Tokyo Olympics.

Under the measures, effective for one month until May 5, restaurants and bars in Osaka, Nishinomiya, Amagasaki, Ashiya, Kobe and Sendai are asked to close by 8 p.m.

Residents are requested to stick to basic safety measures including mask-wearing, social distancing and avoiding non-essential outings.

Yoshimura has proposed canceling a torch relay scheduled to pass Osaka City on April 14.

India reports record 115,736 new infections

India has reported a record 115,736 new infections, taking the total to 12.80 million, data from the health ministry showed.

Deaths rose by 630 to 166,177. 

EU regulator to probe ethical standards of Sputnik vaccine trials - FT

The EU drug regulator will begin investigations next week on whether clinical trials of Russia's Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine followed global clinical and scientific guidelines, the Financial Times reported.

The European Medicines Agency's probe comes as people familiar with the regulator's approval process told theFT that Sputnik V trials had not been ethically run.

Kirill Dmitriev, head of Russia's Direct Investment Fund, told the newspaper, "There was no pressure (on participants) and Sputnik V complied with all clinical practices".

North Korea tells WHO it's still virus-free

Isolated North Korea has continued to claim a perfect record in keeping out the coronavirus in its latest report to the World Health Organization.

At the beginning of the pandemic more than a year ago, North Korea described its efforts to keep out the virus as a “matter of national existence.” It shut its borders, banned tourists and jetted out diplomats. It still severely limits cross-border traffic and has quarantined tens of thousands of people who have shown symptoms.

But it still says it has found no case, a widely doubted claim give n its poor health infrastructure and a porous border with China, its economic lifeline.

In an email to The Associated Press on Wednesday, Edwin Salvador, WHO’s representative to North Korea, said the North has reported it tested 23,121 people for the coronavirus from the beginning of the pandemic to April 1 and that all results were negative. Salvador said the North said 732 people were tested between March 26 and April 1.

Germany's confirmed cases rise by 9,677 - RKI

The number of confirmed cases in Germany has increased by 9,677 to 2,910,445, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed.

The reported death toll rose by 298 to 77,401, the tally showed.

Australia blames EU supply issues for slow vaccine rollout

Australia's prime minister has blamed restricted vaccine supply from Europe for his country's halting inoculation efforts, as he faced down growing public frustration over the sluggish rollout.

Scott Morrison said vaccine shortages and "strict export controls" introduced by the European Commission meant Australia received just 700,000 of a contracted 3.8 million doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.

His government, which received global praise for successfully containing Australia's coronavirus outbreak, has fallen far behind its schedule for vaccinati ng people.

It had initially pledged to administer four million doses by the end of March, but had instead managed about 850,000 shots by Wednesday, drawing increasing criticism that Morrison tried to address at a hastily organised press conference.

"I'm simply explaining to the Australian public that supply issues is what's constraining and has constrained, particularly over the recent months, the overall rollout of the vaccine," he said.

"3.1 million vaccines didn't arrive in Australia, that's just a simple fact," he said. "It's not a dispute. It's not a conflict. It's not an argument. It's not a clash. It's just a simple fact."

Brazil's daily death toll surpasses 4,100 for first time  

Brazil registered more than 4,100 Covid-19 deaths in 24 hours for the first time on Tuesday, the health ministry said, as the country reeled from a surge of infections that has made it the current epicentre of the pandemic.

The coronavirus claimed 4,195 lives in the deadliest day of the pandemic yet for the hard-hit country, whose total reported death toll is now nearly 337,000, second only to the United States. 

The country reported 86,979 new infections on Tuesday.

Mexico sees 603 more fatalities

Mexico's government has reported 4,675 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 603 more fatalities, according to data from the health ministry published on Tuesday, bringing the country's total to 2,256,380 infections and 205,002 deaths.

All adults in US eligible for vaccine by April 19: Biden

President Joe Biden has announced that all adults across America will be eligible for Covid-19 shots within two weeks, while economic powerhouse California set a June 15 target to fully reopen businesses.

The positive news from the United States – which has reported the most coronavirus deaths of any country but is now a leader in the vaccine rollout – contrasted with a record daily toll in Brazil and Europe's troubled rollout of the AstraZeneca shot.

Biden announced in a White House speech that he is moving up the deadline for all over 18 to be eligible for vaccines to April 19. 

The previous target had been May 1.

"Our vaccine program is in overdrive. We're making it easier to get a vaccination shot," Biden told the nation. "We're the first country to administer 150 million shots and the first country to fully vaccinate over 62 million people."

Argentina posts record cases

Argentina posted a record daily 20,870 cases of Covid-19 as a second wave of infections hits the South American country that has eased open its battered economy in recent months after a tough lockdown last year.

The daily record, taking total infections to around 2.43 million, comes as cases have risen sharply over the last month and after President Alberto Fernandez said he was infected with the virus on Saturday, though he remains without symptoms.

There have been 56,634 deaths from the virus in the country since the start of the pandemic, with 163 in the most recent 24-hour period.

Toronto schools shutdown amid third wave of infections

Schools in Canada’s largest city will shut down on Wednesday and move to online learning because of a third surge of coronavirus infections fuelled by more-contagious virus variants.

Toronto Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa said in a statement on Tuesday stronger measures are needed to reverse the surge.

“The spread of Covid-19 has never been greater in Toronto, with variants of concern increasing both the risk of transmission and the risk of serious illness or death,” de Villa said in a statement.

Ontario has seen seeing more than 3,000 new infections a day in recent days and record intensive care numbers.

UK pauses children's AstraZeneca trial 

A British trial of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine on children has been paused, Oxford University has said, as global regulators rush to assess its possible link to rare blood clots in adults.

The university, which helped develop the embattled vaccine, said in a statement on Tuesday that there were "no safety concerns" in the trial, but acknowledged fears over a potential link to clots by saying that it was awaiting additional data from Britain's Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency before restarting the study.

"Parents and children should continue to attend all scheduled visits and can contact the trial sites if they have any questions," it added.

It is the latest drama to hit AstraZeneca, which has been embroiled in controversy over its failure to deliver promised doses to the European Union, and over the jab's efficacy and safety profile.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies