Covid-19 has killed more than 3M people and infected over 144M others globally. Here are the coronavirus-related developments for April 21:

Citizens wait to receive a dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine, during a vaccination day for 57-year-old and older citizens, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on April 21, 2021.
Citizens wait to receive a dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine, during a vaccination day for 57-year-old and older citizens, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on April 21, 2021. (Reuters)

Wednesday, April 21

Brazil registers nearly 80,000 new Covid-19 cases 

Brazil has recorded 79,719 new cases of coronavirus and 3,472 new Covid-19 deaths, the Health Ministry said.

That takes Brazil's death toll to 381,475 and the total confirmed cases to 14.1 million. 

Greece to reopen tourism services on May 15

Greece has said its tourism services will open on May 15 when a ban on travel between different regions of the country will also be lifted.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis made the announcement in a televised address, adding that restaurants and cafes will be allowed to reopen outdoor areas starting on May 3.

Restrictions, many of which have been in effect since early November, will remain in place over Orthodox Easter on May 2.

Romania to distribute J&J shots to centres by next week

Romania’s national vaccination committee chief has said Johnson & Johnson vaccines will be distributed to vaccination centres by next week.

Last week, Romania received a batch of 60,000 J&J vaccine shots but paused distribution as it waited for safety confirmation from the European Medicines Agency following a small number of rare blood clots.

The announcement came the same day Romania launched its first mobile vaccination centre in Ilfov County near the capital Bucharest, where appointments will not be needed.

Switzerland hopes all adults shots done by end of July

Switzerland said it expects vaccinations for all adults will be completed by the end of July at the current rate of supplies from manufacturers.

Health Minister Alain Berset noted a recent easing of lockdown measures — including opening restaurants and bars for outdoor service — began on Monday. 

However, the country shouldn’t expect any other restrictions lifted until at least May 26. The seven-day average confirmed case counts is currently at about 2,000.

Portugal to start administering J&J vaccines

Portugal said it will start administering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine a day after European regulators gave it the go-ahead following a blood clot concern.

Portuguese Health Minister Marta Temido says the shot will speed up the goal of vaccinating those over 60 years old. But she added national authorities will study findings by European regulators to determine if any restrictions should be placed on its use for younger people.

South African researchers hope to restart J&J vaccination next week

South African researchers hope to restart use of Johnson & Johnson's vaccine next week in an "implementation study" immunising healthcare workers, a top local scientist has said.

South Africa suspended the study last week after US federal health agencies recommended pausing use of J&J's vaccine because of rare cases of blood clots.

"We do hope to start again next week," South African Medical Research Council President Glenda Gray said during a webinar.

Turkey logs highest daily death toll yet

Turkey has recorded 362 deaths in the last 24 hours, the highest daily number since the beginning of the pandemic, data from the Health Ministry showed, bringing the total toll to 36,975.

Data also showed 61,967 new cases were recorded in the same period, bringing the total number of cases since the beginning of the pandemic to 4,446,591.

Greece to roll out J&J vaccine on May 5

Greece has plans to start the rollout of Johnson & Johnson's vaccine on May 5 after Europe's drug regulator backed its use, health authorities said.

Greece had been expected to start J&J vaccinations on Monday before questions emerged over reports of very rare blood clotting disorders associated with the vaccine.

FDA inspection finds problems at J&J vaccine factory

The Baltimore factory contracted to make Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine was dirty, didn’t follow proper manufacturing procedures and had poorly trained staff, resulting in contamination of material that was going to be put in the shots, US regulators have said.

The Food and Drug Administration released a statement and a 13-page report detailing findings from its recent inspection of the now-idle Emergent Biosciences factory.

Agency inspectors said a batch of the bulk drug substance for J&J's single-shot vaccine was contaminated with material used to make vaccines for another Emergent client, AstraZeneca.

France reports over 34,000 new virus cases 

France has reported 34,968 new virus cases, down from 43,098 a day earlier.

Data from the Health Ministry also showed that 5,959 people were in intensive care units, down by 25 from Tuesday.

The ministry reported 313 new deaths in hospitals. 

German lawmakers approve 'emergency brake' virus rules

German lawmakers have approved a proposal by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government to mandate uniform restrictions in areas where the virus is spreading too quickly, among them closures and a nighttime curfew.

As parliament's lower house debated the plan, thousands of protesters gathered on a nearby street. Police broke up the demonstration with pepper spray and made dozens of arrests after participants ignored restrictions and tossed bottles at officers.

The legislation to apply an “emergency brake” consistently in areas with high infection rates is intended to end the patchwork of measures that has often characterised the pandemic response across highly decentralised Germany’s 16 states.

UK reports over 2,300 daily cases

A total of 2,396 more people in the UK have tested positive for the virus, raising the total to 4,395,703 according to official British government data.

The death toll increased by 22 over the past day to reach 127,327.

Italy reports over 13,800 daily cases

Italy has reported 364 more deaths against 390 the day before, the Health Ministry said, while the daily tally of new infections rose to 13,844 from 12,074.

Italy has registered 117,997 deaths linked to Covid-19 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 3.9 million cases to date.

Over 33.1 million Britons have received first vaccine dose

A total of 33.14 million Britons have received the first dose of a vaccine with 10.78 million people having been given both doses, according to official figures.

A further 2,396 cases and 22 deaths within 28 days of a positive test were also reported.

Swedes warned of new pandemic measures if healthcare pressure rises

The Swedish government has warned of new and tougher steps if people chose to ignore existing restrictions and further raised pressure on healthcare services already struggling to cope with a third wave of the disease.

Sweden, whose still mostly voluntary measures has made it an outlier in its response to the pandemic, has seen the number of people in intensive care rise to its highest level since the initial outbreak a year ago.

In some regions, intensive care has been filled to maximum capacity and the number of available beds for those worst ill is below 20 percent across the nation.

Poland to ease curbs in some regions from April 26

Poland's health minister has said the country will lift restrictions in some regions from April 26, as daily case numbers start to fall.

Children in the first three years of primary school will return to school for some lessons in regions with lower rates of infection, Adam Niedzielski told a news conference.

Hair and beauty salons will also reopen.

Oman to suspend travel from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh 

Oman will bar entry to arrivals from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh starting April 24, as part of measures to contain the pandemic, Omani state TV has reported.

Iraq virus cases surpass one million

Infections in Iraq have surpassed one million, the Health Ministry said, a figure unmatched in the Arab world, in a country that has long faced medical shortages.

The ministry reported 8,696 new infections and 38 deaths in the past 24 hours, bringing the total since the start of the country's outbreak in February last year to 1,001,854, including 15,098 deaths.

France expects to lift domestic travel restrictions on May 3

Domestic travel restrictions imposed to tackle the spread of the virus are expected to be lifted on May 3, the government has said after a cabinet meeting.

Government spokesperson Gabriel Attal also said that President Emmanuel Macron's administration was sticking to a base case scenario of bars and restaurants to reopen outdoor seating by mid-May.

Sri Lanka finds blood clots among AstraZeneca recipients

Sri Lanka has found six cases of blood clots among recipients of the AstraZeneca vaccine, three of whom have died, Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi told parliament.

Nearly a million people have been given the first dose of the Indian-made vaccine in the country. 

No announcement of any halt to the vaccination programme has been made.

Russia aims for herd immunity by autumn

President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday said Russia is aiming for herd immunity against the virus by autumn and hailed his country's development of three vaccines.

"Vaccination is now of paramount importance ... to allow herd immunity to develop in the fall," Putin said during his annual state of the nation address, adding that "our scientists have made a real breakthrough. Now Russia has three reliable vaccines against the coronavirus".

Syria's Idlib to get first batch of vaccines

A first batch of vaccine doses is expected to arrive in war-torn northwestern Syria, where millions of people live in dire humanitarian conditions, a UN official said.

The 53,800 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine were dispatched to the rebel-dominated region as part of the Covax facility, which ensures the world's poorest economies get access to jabs for free.

"Once the vaccines arrive, we are prepared to start vaccination to priority groups through our implementing partners," said Mahmoud Daher, a senior official with the UN's World Health Organization (WHO).

The delivery will be the first to Syria as part of the Covax programme, which has already sent vaccine doses to more than 100 different territories worldwide.

Japan PM cancels trip to India, Philippines

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has cancelled plans to visit India and the Philippines during his country's extended holiday starting in late April amid a sharp rise in cases, a senior government spokesperson said.

Japan's government is considering a state of emergency for Tokyo and several other prefectures, while Indian data showed there had been 295,041 new infections nationwide overnight and 2,023 deaths, India's highest in the pandemic.

Asked about media reports that Suga's trip to the two countries has been cancelled, Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said, "In order to take all possible coronavirus countermeasures, it has been decided Prime Minister Suga won't take any overseas trips during the Golden Week."

Russia reports 8,271 more cases, 399 deaths

Russia has reported 8,271 new cases, including 1,988 in Moscow, taking the official national tally since the pandemic began to 4,727,125.

The government's task force said 399 people had died of the virus in the past 24 hours, pushing the overall death toll to 106,706.

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

Italy starts distributing Johnson & Johnson for those over 60

Italy is distributing 184,000 doses of Johnson & Johnson shots to regional vaccination centers and recommending it for people aged over 60 following the latest evaluation from the European drug regulatory agency.

Italy’s Health Ministry and pharmaceutical agency gave the green light for the shot after a precautional suspension following reports the shot might be linked to very rare blood clots.

The EMA on Tuesday found a possible link between the vaccines and very rare blood clots but said the benefits outweighed the risks.

Papua New Guinea passes 10,000 infections

The number of infections in Papua New Guinea (PNG) rose past 10,000, an alarming milestone for the Pacific country as health officials worry that its fragile health system is at risk of being overwhelmed.

PNG logged 245 new cases in the 24 hours to midday on Tuesday, continuing a run of daily increases of more than 200, putting its total at 10,197, although its tally of reported deaths was steady at 91.

In a departure from previous updates that showed most new cases near the capital, Port Moresby, the National Pandemic Response said the new infections occurred in 17 of the country's 22 provinces, implying a broader spread.

Virus surge in India hits new record as oxygen runs short

India's brutal new outbreak set records with more than 2,000 deaths in 24 hours as hospitals in major cities ran perilously low on oxygen.

India has been in the grips of a wave of infections blamed on lax government rules and a new "double mutant" virus variant, adding almost 3.5 million new cases this month alone.

Health Ministry data showed a record 2,023 fatalities and 295,000 new cases in 24 hours, among the world's biggest daily case totals and on par with numbers seen in the United States during a deadly surge in January.

Some places in China face tight vaccine supply

Some places in China are facing a tight supply of vaccines that has made some residents unable to get their second shots in time, but the crunch would be eased by June as the country steps up production, a health official told state media.

The report comes as the pace of China's massive inoculation campaign has slowed in recent days.

China administered around 3.3 million doses a day on average in the past seven days till Monday, down from 4.2 million doses per day on average in the week ended April 12, Reuters calculations showed.

"At present, domestic vaccine supply is relatively tight, but from May, especially after June, the vaccine supply situation will ease significantly," Zheng Zhongwei, who leads a team coordinating China's vaccine development projects, told the Global Times in an interview.

Zheng did not elaborate how severe the crunch is or where the tight supply has been felt.

UAE considers virus curbs for unvaccinated people

The United Arab Emirates has warned it could impose restrictions on people who have not been vaccinated as the region's business and tourism hub pushes its immunisation campaign.

The country of some 9 million, which has widened the campaign to those aged 16 and above, has vaccinated about 65 percent of the eligible population, the National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority (NCEMA) said on Tuesday.

"Strict measures are being considered to restrict the movement of unvaccinated individuals and to implement preventive measures such as forbidding entry to some places and having access to some services," NCEMA spokesperson Saif al Dhaheri said.

Thailand seeks 35M more shots this year

Thailand is trying to secure 35 million more doses of vaccines from two or three firms this year on top of existing orders of around 65 million doses, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said on Wednesday.

Of the new shots sought, the private sector through the Chamber of Commerce will help source some 10 to 15 million doses, Prayuth said in a Facebook post.

"I have ordered that we distribute and administer all the vaccines that we can find by December," he added.

Prayuth did not name the brands, or specify whether the 35 million included the five to 10 million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech's vaccine that he announced were being sought on Tuesday.

Thailand reported 1,458 new cases and two new deaths, taking the total case number recorded in Thailand to 46,643, and the death toll to 110.

Australia's Victoria state seeks to build onshore mRNA vaccine site

Australia's Victoria state has unveiled plans to develop an onshore messenger-RNA (mRNA) vaccine manufacturing facility and launched three mass virus immunisation centres to speed up the national inoculation programme.

Victoria would spend $39 million (A$50 million) initially to set up the mRNA facility in the state, which authorities said could become the first such centre in the southern hemisphere. 

The mRNA technology is used in vaccines developed by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.

Germany's new cases rise by 24,884

The number of confirmed cases in Germany has increased by 24,884 to 3,188,192, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Wednesday.

The reported death toll rose by 331 to 80,634, the tally showed.

Foreigners flying out of Japan to get shots

Japan's glacial inoculation push is prompting some foreign residents to consider flying to other countries to get vaccinated, as the pandemic surges again with no shots in sight for everyday people.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga negotiated with the CEO of Pfizer Inc on Saturday to secure more vaccine doses, now expected to be enough for all residents by September. That's well after the scheduled start of the Tokyo Olympics and far behind the pace of most major economies.

Japan only started vaccinating its sizable elderly population this month and health experts say it may take till the winter or longer for most of the general populace to get access to the shots.

It's unclear how many foreigners are flying out of Japan to get shots, but it is a hot topic on social media and in business circles.

China reports 21 new cases vs 10 a day earlier

China has reported 21 new mainland cases on April 20, up from 10 cases a day earlier, the country's national health authority said.

The National Health Commission said in a statement that two of the new cases were local infections in southwestern Yunnan province, where a city on the border with Myanmar reported a new cluster in late March.

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

Asian stocks fall as virus worries return to haunt markets

Asian shares and US stock futures have fallen as concern about a resurgence of cases in some countries cast doubt on the strength of global growth and demand for crude oil.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 0.6 percent. Australian stocks dropped 1.25 percent and shares in China were down 0.46 percent.

Stocks in Tokyo slumped by 1.79 percent due to the growing likelihood that Tokyo, Osaka and surrounding areas will be put on lockdown due to a new wave of virus infections. 

Brazil in talks to buy 100M more Pfizer/BioNTech doses

Brazil is in talks to buy another 100 million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech's vaccine, Communications Minister Fabio Faria has said, as the country scrambles to procure more shots after a sluggish start to its vaccination programme.

"The negotiation started about 20 days ago and the (government) is seeking to speed up the process," he wrote on Twitter.

Brazil is one of the current epicentres of the pandemic, driven by a new highly transmissible virus variant, a slow and patchy vaccine rollout, and uneven restrictions to help curb the pathogen's spread.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies