Covid-19 has killed over 3M people and infected more than 141M others globally. Here are the latest coronavirus-related developments for April 18:

Muslims, keeping a safe social distance, perform Umrah at the Grand Mosque in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, on October 4, 2020.
Muslims, keeping a safe social distance, perform Umrah at the Grand Mosque in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, on October 4, 2020. (John Salangsang/Invision / Reuters Archive)

Sunday, April 18

Vaccination must for performing Umrah pilgrimage

Vaccination against Covid-19 is a requirement to perform the Umrah pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi state TV has said, citing a government official.

Unlike the annual Hajj pilgrimage, Umrah can be performed any other time of the year.

France restricts travel from four countries

France is imposing entry restrictions on travellers from four countries — Argentina, Chile, South Africa and Brazil — in hopes of keeping out especially contagious coronavirus variants, the government has announced.

The restrictions include mandatory 10-day quarantines with police checks to ensure people arriving in France observe the requirement. Travellers from all four countries will be restricted to French nationals and their families, EU citizens and others with a permanent home in France.

France previously suspended all flights from Brazil. The suspension will be lifted next Saturday, after 10 days, and the new restrictions “progressively” put in place by then, the government said.

France has reported the deaths of 100,00 people in the Covid-19 pandemic.

Turkey reports over 55,800 new cases

Turkey has reported 55,802 new coronavirus cases, including 3,101 symptomatic patients, according to the Health Ministry data.

Turkey’s overall case tally is now over 4.26 million, while the nationwide death toll reached 35,926, with 318 new fatalities.

As many as 43,856 more patients won the battle against the virus, bringing the total number of recoveries to over 3.68 million.

More than 43.76 million coronavirus tests have been conducted in Turkey to date, with 301,243 done since Saturday.

Iran sees highest daily death toll in months as virus surges

Iran's daily coronavirus death toll has climbed over 400 for the first time in months, as the country, which has long had the region's largest outbreak, battles a post-holiday infection surge.

Iranian health authorities recorded 405 fatalities from the virus, pushing the total death toll to 66,732. 

Officials increasingly have warned about the impact of trends seen nationwide during the Persian New Year, or Nowruz. The two-week holiday last month brought increased travel, relaxed restrictions and large gatherings without precautions.

After Covid-19 cases broke record after record earlier this month, the Health Ministry reported 21,644 infections on Sunday, bringing the total count over 2.2 million. 

Fauci expects decision on J&J vaccine as soon as Friday

A decision on whether to resume use of Johnson & Johnson's Covid-19 vaccine could come as soon as Friday, Dr. Anthony Fauci has told CBS's "Face the Nation". 

He further said that he would not be surprised if there is a"resumption in some form".

Britain records 10 deaths in a day, lowest since September 

Ten people have died in Britain in the space of 24 hours after testing positive for Covid-19 within the previous 28 days, according to official data - the lowest number since Sept. 9, although reported deaths tend to fall at the weekend.

According to the data, 32.849 million people had received the first dose of a vaccine, up from 32.693 million on Saturday, and 1,882 new Covid-19 cases were recorded, compared with 2,206the previous day.

Italy reports 251 deaths, 12,694 new cases

Italy has reported 251coronavirus-related deaths on Sunday against 310 the day before, the health ministry said, while the daily tally of new infections edged down to 12,694 from 15,370.

Italy has registered 116,927 deaths linked to Covid-19, the second-highest toll in Europe after Britain and the seventh-highest in the world.

Macron sees no immediate need for Russia's Covid shot

Russia's Sputnik V anti-Covid shot is unlikely to play a part in France's efforts to accelerate its vaccination rollout because it does not yet have approval from the European regulator, President Emmanuel Macron has said.

France made a slow start to its vaccination campaign, in part due to procurement difficulties and more recently links between the AstraZeneca shot and rare cases of blood-clotting, but is now finding its stride.

Macron targets vaccinating 20 million adults, nearly a third of France's total population, by mid-M ay.

"I don't think that the Russian vaccine today is a solution to an acceleration because it will take time to have the authorisation of the European agency and it will take time to produce on our continent such a vaccine," Macron told US news network CBS in an interview aired on Sunday.

Germany calls for unity as it mourns Covid dead

Germany has held a national memorial service for its nearly 80,000 victims of the coronavirus pandemic, with the president urging the country to put aside deep divisions over Covid restrictions to share the pain of grieving families.

Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Frank-Walter Steinmeier joined an ecumenical service in the morning at Berlin's Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, a memorial against war and destruction, before attending a ceremony later at the capital's Konzerthaus concert hall.

With pandemic curbs still in force restricting the number of people who can attend, the ceremonies were being broadcast live on public television.

As debate raged in Germany over measures put in place by Merkel's government, including limits on social contact to halt contagion, Steinmeier said it was a "bitter truth" that such restrictions had "also brought about suffering".

Besides the pain of losing a loved one, relatives are often unable to even hold their family members' hands as they lie dying.

Others have been left grieving on their own, as funerals or memorials are curtailed.

Another 19,185 new infections were recorded in the last 24 hours, according to the disease control agency RKI, with the numbers of deaths also rising by 67 to 79,914.

Israel rescinds outdoor mask requirement

 Israel rescinded the mandatory wearing of face masks outdoors and fully reopened schools in the latest return to relative normality, boosted by a mass-vaccination campaign against the pandemic.

With almost 54 percent of its 9.3 million population having received both shots of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, Israel has logged sharp drops in contagion and cases.

Russia reports 8,632 cases

Russia reported 8,632 new virus cases in the last 24 hours, including 2,252 in the capital Moscow, taking the national tally to 4,702,101.

The country also reported another 389 deaths, raising the official toll to 105,582.

Gaza record record daily deaths

Gaza has recorded its highest-ever daily toll of coronavirus deaths, authorities said, as the Israeli-blockaded territory struggles with a dearth of vaccines.

The Palestinian enclave, hemmed in by a large concrete barrier, the Egyptian border and the Mediterranean Sea, had been largely spared by the Covid-19 illness for much of last year.

But in August, cases were recorded in its densely-populated refugee camps. They have sky-rocketed in recent weeks, forcing Islamist movement Hamas to impose a curfew and other health measures.

On Sunday, the Strip's heal th ministry announced "23 deaths in the past 24 hours", taking its toll to 761 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

"It's the largest number of deaths" in one day, said Mutassim Salah, a senior health official, adding that 305 people were hospitalised with the disease.

Authorities have so far only received 80,000 vaccine doses for the population of some two million people.

Pakistan reports record deaths, infections

Pakistan has set a 10-month record of daily infections and fatalities as a third wave of Covid-19 continues to batter the South Asian nation.

Some 6,127 new infections and 149 casualties were recorded during the past 24 hours, the highest single-day cases and fatalities since June 2020, the Health Ministry data showed.

The country had recorded 6,604 infections and 153 deaths on June 20.

Germany reports 19,185 cases – RKI

The number of confirmed virus cases in Germany has increased by 19,185 to reach 3,142,262 infections, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Sunday.

The reported death toll rose by 67 to 79,914, the tally showed.

Pfizer agreed to supply additional vaccines, says Japan's vaccine minister

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla has agreed to Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga's request to supply additional doses of the vaccine, the vaccine minister of Japan said.

"They have agreed on the essentials of the matter," vaccine tzar Taro Kono said during a live interview on Fuji TV, adding that further details including the shipment schedule will be discussed.

Kono did not specify the number of extra doses sought from Pfizer, but said Japan would secure enough supply by the end of September to inoculate all people over 16.

Australia, largely free of virus, in no hurry to reopen borders – PM

Australia is no hurry to reopen its international borders and risk the country's nearly virus-free lifestyle, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.

Australia closed its borders to all non-citizens and non-residents in March 2020 and has been permitting only limited international arrivals in recent months, mainly its citizens returning from abroad.

The border closure, together with snap lockdowns, swift contact tracking and high community compliance with health measures, have made Australia one of the world's most successful countries in curbing the pandemic, limiting virus cases to under 29,500 infections and 910 deaths.

Germany mourns 80,000 pandemic victims at memorial

Germany holds a national memorial service for its 80,000 victims of the coronavirus, sharing the pain of grieving families and those who died alone because of curbs.

Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Frank-Walter Steinmeier will join an ecumenical service in the morning at Berlin's Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, a memorial against war and destruction.

They will later attend a ceremony at the capital's Konzerthaus, where the president will make a speech.

Brazil reports 67,636 new cases, 2,929 deaths 

Brazil recorded 67,636 additional confirmed cases in the past 24 hours, along with 2,929 deaths, the Health Ministry said on Saturday.

Brazil has registered more than 13.9 million cases since the pandemic began, while the official death toll has risen to 371,678, according to ministry data. 

Canada has second case of rare blood clots after AstraZeneca Covid immunisation

A second person in Canada has experienced rare blood clots with low platelets after immunisation with AstraZeneca's vaccine, the Public Health Agency of Canada said on Saturday.

The agency said in a statement it received the report about an individual in Alberta. The agency added that such reports remain very rare.

France to impose 10-day quarantine for travellers coming from Brazil

France will order a strict 10-day quarantine for all travellers coming from Brazil starting April 24, the prime minister's office said on Saturday, in a bid to prevent the spread of a coronavirus variant first found in the South American county.

France decided this week to suspend all flights to and from Brazil. The measure will be extended until April 23, the prime minister's office said in the same statement.

Starting April 24, only people residing in France or holding a French or European Union passport will be allowed to fly to the country.

The government will impose a 10-day quarantine on all travellers upon arrival, the prime minister's office said, and authorities will make checks before and after the flight that the travellers made the proper arrangements to isolate themselves.

The police will also be used to ensure the quarantine is respected, it said. Prior to boarding on the plane, authorised travellers will be required to present a negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test that is less than 36 hours old.

The same measures will also gradually be put in place by April 24 for people returning from Argentina, Chile and South Africa, where the presence of other coronavirus variants were detected, the prime minister's office said.

Mexico records 4,157 cases, 535 new deaths

Mexico's recorded another 4,157 cases and 535 new deaths on Saturday, according to health ministry data, bringing the total number of cases to 2,304,096 and 212,228 deaths. 

South Africa regulator recommends lifting J&J vaccine pause after some conditions

South Africa's health regulator, on Saturday, recommended that the government lift the pause on administering drugmaker Johnson & Johnson's vaccines, given that certain conditions are met.

"These conditions include, but are not limited to, strengthened screening and monitoring of participants who are at high risk of a blood clotting disorder," the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) said.

"In addition, measures are to be implemented to ensure the safe management of any participants who develop vaccine-induced thrombosis and thrombocytopenia (VITT)," the statement added.

SAHPRA said on Wednesday that it had recently reviewed data from Johnson & Johnson's local research study immunising healthcare workers and found no major safety concerns.

South Africa suspended the rollout of the J&J vaccine in the "implementation study" on Tuesday, after US health agencies recommended pausing its use because of rare cases of blood clots in six people inoculated with it, out of some 7 million people who have received the shot in the United States.

A US panel will meet again next week to discuss whether the pause on the use of the vaccine should continue, after delaying a vote on the matter earlier this week.

Italian showbiz workers protest virus lockdowns

Hundreds of showbiz workers gathered in the centre of Rome to protest against the coronavirus lockdowns that have closed the curtains of theatres, cinemas and live music.

The protesters, supported by Italian singers and actors, brought hundreds of trunks to the central Piazza del Popolo, beating the cases with their hands in protest against the lockdown measures.

On Friday Italy announced its plans to start emerging from rolling partial lockdowns that were imposed during a fall virus surge.

Premier Mario Draghi announced the reopening of outdoor dining and schools at all grade levels in lower-risk regions starting April 26.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies