India’s COVID-19 caseload yesterday topped 20 million, in stark contrast to gradual reopenings in the US and Europe, where mass vaccinations have allowed the easing of many restrictions.
More than 350,000 new cases were reported in India yesterday, a drop from the peak of 402,000 last week, giving some cause for optimism that the worst of the devastating wave might have passed.
“If daily cases and deaths are analyzed, there is a very early signal of movement in the positive direction,” senior Indian Ministry of Health and Family Welfare official Lav Aggarwal told reporters.
“But these are very early signals. There is a need to further analyze it,” he added.
India’s healthcare infrastructure has struggled to cope with the huge number of cases, with deep shortages of medicines, hospital beds and medical oxygen.
The wave in India — spurred by huge gatherings, including the Hindu festival Kumbh Mela — has highlighted the danger of COVID-19, which has claimed more than 3.2 million lives worldwide.
Religious events are a threat in Pakistan, too, where authorities are battling a third wave of infections and urging Muslims to observe precautions during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
Despite the warnings, thousands of Shiite Muslims — many not wearing masks — yesterday gathered in Lahore for an annual religious procession.
Pakistani authorities have largely avoided clamping down on such religious activities in the past few months even as markets and schools have been closed.
Meanwhile, leaders in Europe were looking to take further steps toward recovery with a proposal to revive international travel and tourism as early as next month.
The European Commission on Monday proposed that travelers who are fully vaccinated with EU-approved shots or those coming from countries where COVID-19 is under control should be allowed to enter the bloc.
The EU has so far approved the Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca vaccines.
However, in a sign that the pandemic is not yet over in Europe, Germany canceled its world-famous Oktoberfest beer festival for a second year running.
Americans are among those eyeing possible European vacations this summer, with more than 100 million people in the US now fully vaccinated.
US media on Monday reported that authorities were expected to authorise the Pfizer shot for children aged 12 and up.
The successful drive has allowed authorities in many parts of the world’s biggest economy to start relaxing curbs, including New York and Florida.
In China, where the virus first emerged in 2019, millions of tourists have flocked to domestic tourist attractions with the nation’s outbreak largely under control.
Beijing’s historic alleyways were yesterday packed with visitors, after out-of-towners also mobbed popular sites in Shanghai over the weekend.
However, in hard-hit Brazil, vaccine shortages have forced several large cities to suspend administering second doses of the Chinese-developed CoronaVac shot.
COVID-19 has claimed more than 400,000 lives in Brazil — second only to the US.
Warning about the global inequality in access to COVID-19 supplies, the WHO on Monday said that rich countries must step up their funding for vaccines, tests and treatments in poorer nations if the pandemic is to be brought to an end.
“We will only solve the vaccine crisis with the leadership of these countries,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, urging decisive action at the G7 summit next month.
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