The European Commission proposed easing restrictions on business and leisure travel for those who have been fully inoculated against Covid-19, adding to signs of a gradual return to normalcy as vaccinations gather pace.
The European Union’s executive arm recommended welcoming tourists from countries with relatively low infection rates as well as those who are fully vaccinated.
In the U.S., cases slowed to 45,236, the fewest on a Saturday since late September. Daily cases rose 0.1% on Sunday, slower than the average daily increase of 0.2% over the past week.
Daily deaths in India hit a record 3,689 on Sunday, while the number of cases slowed slightly after the country became the first to cross the mark of 400,000 cases in a day. Prime Minister Narendra Modi lost a crucial election as the crisis deepens, with an official in his Bharatiya Janata Party conceding defeat in the populous state of West Bengal. Modi had been widely criticized for continuing to hold mass rallies in the state as infections rose.
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The European Commission’s new travel proposals require approval from member states. A Commission official said he was hopeful they would be adopted by the end of this month.
The new parameters would replace a current blanket ban for non-essential travel to the EU for residents of all but a handful of countries that has been in place for more than a year. The bloc is working on the introduction of a vaccine passport system.
The Narendra Modi-led federal government hasn’t placed an order larger than 110 million doses from the biggest local maker since sales started in December, according to a person familiar with the matter. That’s enough for just 4% of its population of 1.4 billion people.
The lack of a larger central stockpile, coupled with a devastating wave in the country, is now making local state governments scramble and compete with one another in placing orders with manufacturers after the federal government turned over the responsibility of procuring vaccines to them last month.
Russia reported 8,489 fresh coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours. The new additions took the total to 4.832 million, according to data from the Russian government’s virus response center. In the past day, 336 people died of the disease.
Madagascar, one of the last countries in the world to begin its vaccination program, will receive the first batch of inoculations this week, Health Minister Jean-Louis Rakotovao said.
The Indian Ocean island nation will get doses of Covishield on May 7 under the Covax initiative, and plans to begin vaccinating health workers and military staff, Rakotovao said Monday in the capital, Antananarivo. Madagascar initially declined to sign-up for the Covax initiative and instead recommended residents use a plant-based tonic to treat Covid-19.
Singapore saw its first fatality from Covid-19 in almost two months over the weekend, amid a flareup of cases. An 88-year-old woman with a history of cancer and cardiac failure passed away on Saturday after she was treated in a hospital, where a cluster of 27 cases has been identified since last week.
The cluster is Singapore’s first in a hospital and raises concern that the city’s hard-won success in fighting the virus is slipping, potentially threatening efforts to open up a long-awaited travel bubble with Hong Kong and host major events including the World Economic Forum and Shangri-la Dialogue.
Singapore also confirmed 10 new cases of locally transmitted Covid-19 linked to earlier clusters as of 12 p.m. on May 3.
Oman plans to impose one of the strictest restrictions in the Gulf during the Eid religious holidays next week. It will ban most commercial activities for a week from May 8 and cancel Eid prayers and gatherings. Food sale outlets, petrol stations, home delivery services, health care providers and pharmacies will be exempt.
Covid infections in Taiwan are on the brink of spreading beyond the families of 24 confirmed cases, which includes pilots of China Airlines and employees of the Novotel at Taoyuan International Airport, Apple Daily reports, citing health minister Chen Shih-chung. The country reported two local cases on Monday.
It’s unlikely authorities will be able to track down the source of the first infection in the cluster, Chen said, with one possible scenario being flight crew infecting hotel workers. Taiwan last reported a flareup in January and February, when infections at the Taoyuan General Hospital rose to 21 cases. Taiwan has 1,137 confirmed cases as of Sunday, including 997 imported cases, 92 local cases, and 9 pending investigation.
Thailand reported 31 Covid-19 fatalities, the highest single-day count so far, to total 276 as an outbreak which began in April continues to spread.
It also reported 2,041 new infections, taking the total caseload to 70,425. Bangkok added 675 cases on Monday and remains the epicenter. Most cases in recent weeks came from households with infections spreading among family members or work colleagues, said Apisamai Srirangsan, spokeswoman at the Center of Covid-19 Situation Administration.
The number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in India slowed for a second day to a total of 19.93 million. New infections of 368,147 reported on Monday were the lowest in five days. Casualties stood at 3,417 compared with 3,689 on Sunday.
Vietnam, which has among the lowest number of infections in Southeast Asia, has ordered non-essential venues like clubs, gaming sites and karaoke parlors to shut to prevent the coronavirus from spreading after new local cases last week for the first time in a month.
The government also ordered the suspension of events that will attract crowds, the health ministry said but didn’t disclose details on the timing of the curbs.
Covid tests in Hong Kong hit a daily record on Saturday after the government made it compulsory for all foreign domestic workers in the city to get tested after finding the first locally acquired case of a Covid-19 variant.
The move has prompted a warning from the Philippines’ consul general in Hong Kong not to force foreign domestic workers to get vaccinated because such a move was discriminatory.
The government tested more than 113,000 people on Saturday, 52,000 of which were foreign domestic workers, it said. No tests came back preliminarily positive by Sunday evening.
The International Olympic Committee estimates that about 60% of 10,000 athletes going to Japan for the Tokyo Olympic Games will be vaccinated, the Nikkei newspaper reported, citing people involved in the games.
The IOC recommends that athletes get the vaccine but it isn’t obligatory. The committee reported its estimates at a five-party meeting on April 28, which included the Tokyo government, the Nikkei said.
Talks starting this week between the U.S. and World Trade Organization over expanding access to vaccines will focus on how to get them “widely distributed, more widely licensed, more widely shared,” according to White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain. “We’re going to have more to say about that in the days to come.”
Trade Representative Katherine Tai is leading the U.S. side, Klein said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday. “Intellectual property rights is part of the problem, but really, manufacturing is the biggest problem,” he added.
India, South Africa and other countries are seeking a WTO waiver to ease intellectual property protections for Covid-19 vaccines. The U.S. administration is reluctant to let countries force drug makers to turn over proprietary know-how.
The U.K. has now given a second vaccine to 15.3 million people, more than a quarter of the adult population. Almost 35 million people, over half the entire population have received a first shot.
The vaccine rollout, coupled with months of lockdown measures have led to a sharp drop in cases and deaths. New cases were at 1,671, the fewest since September and only 14 daily Covid-related deaths were reported by health authorities Sunday.
The decline in cases and deaths is allowing the government to ease lockdown measures, and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said Sunday that the government would “shortly” announce details on how restrictions on leisure travel will be lifted on May 17.
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