Covid-19 has infected more than 163 million people and claimed at least 3.3 million lives. Here are all virus-related developments for May 17:

A Covid-19 vaccine dose is prepared at the American Museum of Natural History, in Manhattan, New York City, New York, US, on May 14, 2021.
A Covid-19 vaccine dose is prepared at the American Museum of Natural History, in Manhattan, New York City, New York, US, on May 14, 2021. (Reuters)

Monday, May 17: 

US boosts world vaccine sharing commitment to 80M doses

US President Joe Biden will announce that the US will share an additional 20 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines with the world in the coming six weeks, the White House said.

The doses would come from existing US production of Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccine stocks, according White House press secretary Jen Psaki, who said more details would be released in the coming days.

It comes on top of the Biden's administration's prior commitment to share about 60 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is not yet authorized for use in the US, by the end of June. 

The AstraZeneca doses will be available to ship once they clear a safety review by the Food and Drug Administration.

Biden is also tapping Covid-19 coordinator Jeff Zients to lead the administration's efforts to share doses with the world. The Biden administration has yet to announce how they will be shared or which countries will receive them.

To date, the US has shared about 4.5 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine with Canada and Mexico.

Turkey reports over 10,000 cases

Turkey has registered over 10,000 new coronavirus cases, the country's Health Ministry announced.

A total of 10,174 cases, including 923 symptomatic patients, were confirmed across the country in the past 24 hours.

Turkey's overall case tally is now over 5.12 million, while the nationwide death toll reached 44,983, with 223 more fatalities over the past day. 

Turkey has administered over 26.22 million coronavirus jabs since launching a mass vaccination campaign on January 14, according to official figures.

More than 15.04 million people have received their first doses, while over 11.18 million have been fully vaccinated.

Italy shortens curfew, eases other restrictions 

Italy's ruling parties have agreed to shorten a nightly curfew to 11 pm from 10 pm with immediate effect and ease other coronavirus curbs in areas where infections are low, government sources said.

Speaking after a meeting of medical advisers to Mario Draghi's government and coalition representatives, the sources said in these areas the curfew will begin at midnight from June 7, and be abolished altogether from June 21.

Italy, which has the second-highest Covid-19 death toll in Europe after Britain, is gradually loosening restrictions on business and people's freedom of movement as daily deaths and cases decline, and more people are vaccinated.

As of Monday, some 8.6 million Italians, or 14.5 percent of the population, have been fully vaccinated, while slightly over 30 percent have received at least one shot.

Italy has registered over 124,000 deaths linked to Covid-19 since its outbreak emerged in February last year. But the daily toll has steadily fallen in recent weeks, with less than 100 fatalities reported on Sunday for the first time since October.

Monday saw an increase to 140 deaths.

Germany to offer free Covid-19 shots for all adults from June 7

Germany will stop restricting coronavirus vaccines to more vulnerable groups from June 7, paving the way for the entire adult population to get free immunisations from that date onwards, Health Minister Jens Spahn said.

The decision to end the prioritisation in Germany's vaccination campaign does not mean everybody will get vaccinated immediately in June, Spahn said, pointing to ongoing logistical and supply bottlenecks.

But Spahn repeated the government's pledge that every citizen who wants to get vaccinated should get a Covid-19 shot in the course of the summer.

The minister added that authorities were already discussing when and how to allow Covid-19 vaccinations for adolescents between the ages of 12 and 16.

The European Union's drug regulator, the European Medicines Agency (EMA), is aiming to approve Pfizer and BioNTech's Covid-19 vaccine for use children as young as 12-years-old in June, possibly even at the end of this month.

Malaysia reports new daily record 45 deaths

Malaysia has reported 45 new Covid-19 deaths, its highest daily fatality number so far.

The health ministry also recorded 4,446 new coronavirus cases, raising the total number of infections to 474,556 with 1,947 deaths. 

Malaysia has recorded the third highest number of infections in Southeast Asia behind Indonesia and the Philippines.

Panama cautious after day without deaths

Panama has raised capacity on public transportation across the country, a day after celebrating the first day in 14 months without a Covid-19 death.

The pause in Covid-19 deaths came despite a slight rise in confirmed infections that led to quarantines being imposed in two western provinces.

On Sunday, Health Minister Luis Francisco Sucre announced that there were no new deaths to announce for the previous 24-hour period.

The government urged people to continue to be cautious, however. Neighbouring Costa Rica has been experiencing its most difficult moment of the pandemic in recent weeks.

Panama has reported more than 370,000 confirmed infections and 6,296 Covid-19 deaths.

On Monday, the government said that buses could now operate at 80 percent capacity, but that riders would have to use face shields and masks.

New vaccine by Sanofi-GSK shows positive results

An experimental vaccine developed by Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline showed a robust immune response in early-stage clinical trial results, enabling them to move to a late-stage study, the French drugmaker has said.

Sanofi and Britain's GSK said a global Phase III trial would start in the coming weeks and involve more than 35,000 adults, with the hope of seeing the vaccine approved by the fourth quarter after having initially targeted the first half of this year before a setback.

Sanofi and GSK last December were forced to restart their trial when the vaccine showed a low immune response in older adults as a result of a weak antigen formulation.

Spain sends plane to Nepal to help evacuations

Spain is sending a plane to Nepal to pick up and bring home some 40 Spanish mountaineers, aid workers and others who have been affected by the travel bans imposed amid high infection rates there.

Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya said that the plane will also take ventilators and other medical supplies to Nepal to treat patients with the virus.

South Africa starts mass vaccination drive

South Africa has started its mass vaccination drive with the goal of inoculating nearly 5 million citizens 60 and over by the end of June.

Shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine were given to South Africans on Monday to start the campaign.

So far the country has inoculated just over 478,000 of its health care workers with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and it plans to give the shots to the remainder of its 1.2 million health workers this week.

Netherlands eases lockdown as infections fall

The Netherlands will ease its coronavirus lockdown measures slightly this week as the rollout of vaccinations has eased pressure on hospitals, Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said.

Amusement parks and zoos will be allowed to reopen as of Wednesday, while outdoor service at bars and restaurants will be extended by two hours until 8pm.

Next steps to ease the lockdown are expected in the coming three weeks, De Jonge said. 

Malaysia mulls shutdown of richest state amid virus surge

Malaysia's Health Ministry said it may push for a total lockdown of the country's most industrialised state if current curbs are unable to rein in a spike in new cases.

The government banned social activities and travel between districts and states two weeks ago, as part of a Movement Control Order (MCO) imposed before the Eid al Fitr holidays, as it grapples with a surge in infections that experts have said may involve highly contagious variants.

Russia reports 9,328 new virus cases, 340 deaths

Russia reported 9,328 new virus cases, including 3,573 in Moscow, taking the national infection tally to 4,949 573.

The virus taskforce said 340 people had died, taking its death toll to 116,211. 

The state statistics agency keeps a separate tally and has said it recorded around 250,000 deaths between April 2020 and March 2021.

Today's the day: British holidaymakers return to Portugal as travel ban ends

A four-month long ban on travel between Britain and Portugal ended, allowing visitors to soak up the sun on Portuguese beaches once again in a much-needed boost for the struggling tourism sector.

About 20 flights from Britain are due to land in Portugal on Monday, with most heading to the southern Algarve region, famous for its beaches and golf courses but nearly deserted as the pandemic kept visitors away.

Hong Kong says travel bubble with Singapore delayed for 2nd time

The Hong Kong government said a travel bubble arrangement with Singapore scheduled to begin on May 26 will be postponed as cases in the city-state have seen a marked increase in recent days.

It is the second time the arrangement that allowed travellers to avoid quarantine in either city has been postponed.

"A further announcement will be made on, or before, June 13," the Hong Kong government said in a statement. 

Frontline staff at Bangkok hospital brace for new virus cases

As Thailand struggles to deal with its worst wave of infections, staff in the intensive care unit of Bangkok's King Chulalongkorn Memorial Hospital are fearful of what may be to come.

The Southeast Asian country had managed to contain virus cases for much of the pandemic, but a third wave that began in April and includes more contagious variants has proven harder to control, putting a strain on medical facilities.

More than a dozen nurses dressed in full personal protective equipment care for patients at the ICU ward each shift, along with up to four doctors.

Free at last to hug and party: UK reopens for business

 Friends will hug, pints will be pulled and swathes of the British economy will reopen, giving 65 million people a measure of freedom after the gloom of a four-month virus lockdown.

Most of the British will be free once again to hug, albeit cautiously, drink in their pub, sit down to an indoor meal or visit the cinema after a series of lockdowns that imposed the strictest restrictions in peacetime history.

'It's a great feeling': Saudis free to travel abroad after more than a year

There was excitement but no crowds early in the morning at Riyadh's international airport as Saudi Arabia lifted a ban on citizens travelling out of the Gulf state without prior permission from authorities.

Saudi nationals who have received at least one virus vaccination shot a minimum two weeks prior to travel, those who have recovered within the last six months, and those under 18 will be allowed to travel for the first time since March 2020.

Taiwan scrambles for vaccines as domestic virus cases rise

A surge of infections in Taiwan, one of the world's virus mitigation success stories, has left it scrambling to get vaccines as its stock of 300,000 doses starts running out with only about 1 percent of its 23 million people vaccinated.

Taiwan has been a model of how to control the pandemic since it began and life had carried on almost as normal with none of the lockdowns and overwhelmed hospitals seen elsewhere, thanks largely to effective case tracking and closed borders.

UNICEF: Rich countries can afford to fill Covax shortfall

Countries belonging to the G7 and the European Union can afford to donate more than 150 million vaccines to countries in need without compromising their own goals, UNICEF said on Monday.

The world's seven richest states and the EU could help close the world's vaccine gap by sharing just 20 percent of their June, July and August stocks with the COVAX jab scheme for poorer nations.

The head of UNICEF asked G7 countries to donate supplies to the COVAX vaccine-sharing scheme as an emergency measure to address a severe shortfall caused by disruption to Indian vaccine exports.

India has curbed exports of the AstraZeneca vaccine made by its Serum Institute, which had been pledged to COVAX, to be used by the country as it battles a massive second wave of infections.

UNICEF, which is in charge of supplying vaccines through COVAX, estimates the supply shortfall at 140 million doses by the end of May and about 190 million by the end of June.

Australian cricketers land in Sydney after fleeing virus-hit India

Australian cricketers arrived back in Sydney on a charter flight, more than a week after fleeing virus-stricken India for the Maldives, local media reported.

Cricket authorities had been rushing to evacuate players and support staff after the lucrative Indian Premier League was suspended earlier this month as coronavirus cases surged in the country.

French hope bad weather won't rain off virus reopening

With vaccinations accelerating and infections down, the French are looking forward to the loosening of many coronavirus restrictions on Wednesday, although outdoor lunches at restaurants risk being rained off.

Groups of up to six will be able to eat together as restaurant terraces open at 50-percent capacity, joining museums, theatres and cinemas, while the curfew will be pushed back from 7 to 9 pm.

It is the latest step in a gradual reopening plan that began with allowing inter-regional travel from the start of May.

"Resuming social contact is one of the factors in public wellbeing," public health chief Jerome Salomon told the JDD Sunday newspaper.

UK restrictions eased despite variant concerns

Most of the UK takes a major step towards normality on Monday as restrictions are eased, despite concerns over the spread of a more transmissible variant of the disease.

Across England, Wales and most of Scotland, indoor hospitality in pubs, restaurants and cafés returns and cinemas, museums and sports venues are to open their doors for the first time in months.

India reports 281,386 new daily infections

India reported 281,386 new infections over the last 24 hours, while deaths rose by 4,106.

The South Asian nation's total case load is 24.97 million with the death toll at 274,390, Health Ministry data showed.

Germany's confirmed virus cases rise by 5,412 - RKI

The number of confirmed cases in Germany increased by 5,412 to 3,598,846, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed. 

The reported death toll rose by 64 to 86,160, the tally showed. 

Thailand reports daily record of virus cases, including prison clusters

Thailand has reported a daily record of 9,635 new cases, including 6,853 infections among prisoners from jail clusters, as the Southeast Asian country struggles with a third wave of infections.

The combined cases bring the country's total infections to 111,082.

Thailand's virus task force also recorded 25 new deaths, bringing the total number of fatalities to 614 since the pandemic started last year.

Brazil's death toll tops 435,000

Brazil has recorded 40,941 additional confirmed cases in the past 24 hours, along with 1,036 deaths, the Health Ministry said.

Brazil has now registered 15.63 million cases since the pandemic began, and the official death toll stands at 435,751, according to ministry data.

Mexico reports over 1,200 new cases

Mexico's Health Ministry has reported 1,233 new confirmed cases in the country and 53 more fatalities, bringing its total to 2,381,923 infections and 220,437 deaths.

The government has said the real number of cases is likely significantly higher, and separate data published recently suggested the actual death toll is at least 60 percent above the confirmed figure.

Saudi Arabia easing restrictions on vaccinated people

Saudi Arabia has announced that foreign visitors arriving by air from most countries will no longer need to quarantine if they have been vaccinated.

Visitors from 20 other countries — including the United States, India, Britain, Germany, France and the United Arab Emirates — remain banned from entering the kingdom, however, under measures to curb the spread of the virus.

Algeria reopening border after year-long closure

Algeria has announced it plans to resume international flights from June 1 following a more than year-long closure of its borders to curb the spread of the virus.

"The council of ministers approved proposals for a partial reopening of Algeria's land and air borders at the start of June," the presidency said in a statement after a cabinet meeting.

It said the opening would start with "a plan for five daily flights from and to Algiers, Constantine and Oran airports" from June 1.

Algeria has kept its borders closed since March 17, 2020. It had organised flights home for its nationals abroad although they were also suspended earlier this year.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies