Covid-19 has killed more than 3M people and infected over 143M others globally. Here are the coronavirus-related developments for April 20:

Boxes of Janssen vaccines sit at a warehouse of Hungaropharma, a Hungarian pharmaceutical wholesale company, in Budapest, Hungary on April 13, 2021.
Boxes of Janssen vaccines sit at a warehouse of Hungaropharma, a Hungarian pharmaceutical wholesale company, in Budapest, Hungary on April 13, 2021. (AP)

Tuesday, April 20

EU regulator links J&J vaccine to blood clots

Blood clots should be listed as a "very rare" side effect of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine but its benefits still outweigh the risks, the EU's drug watchdog has said.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) said in a statement on Tuesday that it had found a "possible link" between the jab and the clots, following eight such cases in the United States, one of which was fatal.

Concerns over the vaccine by US pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson and the jab by rival drugmaker AstraZeneca have dampened hopes that vaccines could offer a swift end to the pandemic.

"EMA finds possible link to very rare cases of unusual blood clots with low blood platelets," the Amsterdam-based agency said in a statement, adding that it "confirms (the) overall benefit-risk remains positive."

Turkey reports over 61,000 new cases

Turkey has recorded 61,028 new cases in the last 24 hours bringing the total confirmed cases to 4,384,624, data from the Health Ministry showed, down from a record of more than 63,000 cases reported on Friday.

The data also showed 346 people died in the same period, bringing the total number of deaths since the beginning of the pandemic to 36,613.

French people in intensive care at a 2021 high

France's health authorities has said an additional 14 patients had been take to intensive care units (ICU) with the virus, bringing the total of 5,984 to a new 2021 high.

Netherlands scraps virus curfew as of April 28

The Netherlands' Prime Minister Mark Rutte has said the country will ease its lockdown measures meant to control the spread of the virus as of next week, despite still-high infection rates.

A nationwide nighttime curfew, which has been in place for three months, will be lifted as of April 28, Rutte said, while restaurants and bars will be allowed to serve customers in outdoor seating areas.

The country will also resume the use of Johnson & Johnson's vaccine as of Wednesday, Dutch health minister Hugo de Jonge said.

Italy reports over 12,000 new cases

Italy has reported 390 deaths against 316 the day before, the health ministry said, while the daily tally of new infections rose to 12,074 from 8,864.

Italy has registered 117,633 deaths 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 3.89 million cases to date.

India's Modi urges states to use lockdown as last resort

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has urged state governments to use lockdowns as the last resort to contain the spread of the second wave of infections, even as cases and deaths surge to record highs.

Modi also asked citizens to stay indoors, not spread panic about the virus and form local groups to ensure adherence to protocols.

He said the central government is working with states and private companies to ramp up the supply of oxygen, as well as production and distribution of vaccines. 

Mexico president receives AstraZeneca vaccine

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has received the AstraZeneca vaccine at his regular daily news conference.

The 67-year-old, who had contracted the virus in January, said he wanted to encourage all older adults to also get vaccinated. 

Nepal approves Russia's Sputnik V vaccine

Nepal has given conditional approval for the emergency use of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine, an official of the drug regulator said, as the country recorded the highest daily increase of infections in four months.

Nepal began is vaccination campaign in January with AstraZeneca vaccines provided by India but suspended it last month following lack of supply.

Swedes under 65 to be given alternative to AstraZeneca for second dose
Swedes under 65 vaccinated with one shot of the AstraZeneca vaccine will be given a different vaccine for the second dose, the Swedish Health Agency has said.

Sweden paused the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine in March after reports of rare but serious blood clots among people vaccinated with the AstraZeneca shot. 

Sweden later resumed use but only for people aged 65 or above.

Yemen starts vaccination campaign

Yemen's vaccination campaign has began in government-held areas three weeks after the first shipment from the global COVAX vaccine-sharing scheme arrived in the war-torn country.

Yemen on March 31 received 360,000 doses of AstraZeneca's vaccine, part of a consignment from COVAX expected to total 1.9 million doses this year.

The campaign kicked of in the southern port city of Aden, the government's interim capital in a six-year-old war.

Spain extends ban on Brazil, South Africa arrivals

Spain has extended its ban on arrivals from Brazil and South Africa until May 11 to curb the spread of new strains.

Only legal residents or nationals of Spain and the neighbouring micro-state of Andorra are currently allowed in on flights from these countries.

The only exceptions are for passengers in transit who cannot leave the airport nor remain there longer than 24 hours.

Malaysia's Mahathir urges the king to lift virus emergency

Former Malaysian leader Mahathir Mohamad delivered a petition to the national palace urging the king to revoke a state of emergency, saying it had transformed the country into a "dictatorship".

The monarch declared the nationwide emergency in January, on the advice of Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, in a bid to fight the coronavirus as cases spiraled out of control.

But parliament was also suspended, prompting critics to accuse Muhyiddin of using the virus crisis to cling to power after allies in his crisis-wracked ruling coalition deserted him.

Japanese region seeks new virus emergency 

Japan's third most populated region asked the central government to impose a state of emergency as infections rise just three months before the country hosts the Olympics.

Osaka prefecture only lifted a state of emergency two months ago and restrictions are expected to be tougher this time, possibly involving store and shopping mall closures.

That would still fall short of the harsh lockdowns seen in many other parts of the world, however.

Tokyo and several other areas are expected to follow suit, hoping to avoid the crisis facing Osaka's healthcare system, where beds for virus patients in severe condition have run out.

Russia reports 8,164 new cases, 379 deaths

Russia reported 8,164 new cases, including 1,996 in Moscow, taking the official national tally since the pandemic began to 4,718,854.

The government virus task force said 379 people had died in the past 24 hours, pushing its total death toll to 106,307.

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.

Israel logs new variant first found in India

Israel has registered eight cases of a variant first identified in India and believes that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is at least partially effective against it, an Israeli health official said.

An initial seven cases of the Indian variant were detected in Israel last week among people arriving from abroad and who have since undergone preliminary testing, the Health Ministry said.

"The impression is that the Pfizer vaccine has efficacy against it, albeit a reduced efficacy," the ministry's director-general, Hezi Levy, told Kan public radio, saying the number of cases of the variant in Israel now stood at eight.

Pandemic furlough scheme keeps a lid on UK unemployment

Britain's unemployment rate dipped slightly in the three months to the end of February, official data showed, but analysts warned it could climb again once the government removes pandemic support for jobs.

At 4.9 percent, the proportion of people out of work remained close to multi-year highs, but fell slightly from 5.0 percent in the three months to the end of January, the Office for National Statistics said in a statement.

While joblessness was 0.1 percentage points lower than the previous quarter, it was 0.9 percentage points higher than a year earlier, the ONS said.

It had already dipped from a near five-year high of 5.1 percent in the final calendar quarter of last year.

Analysts expect the rate to shoot higher again however once the government removes its jobs support package paying the bulk of wages for millions of private-sector workers during the pandemic.

Egypt to purchase 20M doses of Sinopharm vaccine

Egypt has agreed to purchase 20 million doses of the vaccine produced by Sinopharm and expects to receive a batch of 500,000 shots this month, its health ministry said.

The agreement boosts vaccination efforts in Egypt, which has a population of 100 million and has so far received a total of just over 1.5 million doses of Sinopharm and of the AstraZeneca shot.

Earlier this month, Egypt announced it was preparing to produce up to 80 million doses of the vaccine produced by China's Sinovac.

NZ test squad receive vaccines ahead of England trip

New Zealand Cricket (NZC) said all of its home-based players heading to England for a two-match test series and the World Test Championship final have received their first dose of a vaccine.

The New Zealand government said last month it would allow athletes to jump the queue in the country's vaccine rollout to allow them to participate in events of "national significance".

The country has also started administering vaccinations to its athletes ahead of their departure for July 23-August 8 Tokyo Olympics.

The cricket team will travel to England for a two-test series starting on June 2 before facing India in the ICC World Test Championship final on June 18 at Southampton.

US ships vaccines for all overseas workforce

The US State Department has delivered vaccines to all of its eligible workforce deployed abroad as of Sunday and is expecting its entire workforce to have been fully vaccinated by mid-May, State Department officials said.

Earlier this year, the department came under fire from its staff as it struggled to vaccinate thousands of diplomats stationed in 220 overseas locations, considered a key human resource in advancing America's national security interests.

The State Department has a total of 76,711 staff deployed overseas and inside the United States, but the vaccination campaign also covers eligible family members and contractors.

Daily cases in India stay above 250,000

India's daily cases retreated from record levels on Tuesday, but stayed above the 250,000 mark for a sixth straight day, with cases increasing by 259,170 over the last 24 hours.

Deaths rose by a record 1,761 to reach a total of 180,530, health ministry data showed.

Austria to funnel 651,000 vaccine doses to Western Balkans

Austria said it plans to funnel 651,000 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech's vaccine to six countries of the Western Balkans by August as part of a EU scheme to provide assistance to neighbouring countries and Africa.

The European Commission outlined its plans for a vaccine-sharing mechanism in January. Austria said it would serve as that mechanism's coordinator for the Western Balkans, and that this first distribution of doses may be followed by others.

Serbia has one of the highest vaccination rates in Europe, but the four other non-EU countries of the former Yugoslavia and Albania have had less success.

Bosnia, where the shortage of vaccines has led to street protests, will get the biggest share with 214,000 doses, followed by Albania with 145,000 and North Macedonia with 119,000. Serbia is last with 36,000.

All adult Americans eligible for vaccine from next week

President Joe Biden's administration ramping up shots, made all its over-18s eligible for vaccination beginning Monday.

"We have enough of it, you need to be protected, and you need in turn to protect your neighbors and your family," Biden said in a video released by the White House.

"So please: get the vaccine."

The US also passed a major vaccine milestone Sunday, with roughly 130 million Americans, half its adult population, receiving at least one dose.

But its top pandemic adviser Anthony Fauci warned that the country remains in a "precarious position".

"We're having a seven-day average of over 60,000 new infections per day.

That's a place you don't want to be," he said Sunday.

"We also have to make sure that people don't throw caution to the wind and declare victory prematurely."

French minister favors regional easing

French health minister Olivier Veran would favour a region-by-region easing of lockdown measures set up to tackle the virus, he told regional paper Le Telegramme in an interview published.

Veran added that while there were signs that the latest surge in cases in France was starting to ease off a little, the virus was still circulating at a high level.

The health ministry said on Monday that 5,970 people were in intensive care units, up from 5,893 a day earlier, in a sign that hospitals remain under pressure.

France also reported 449 new deaths in hospitals, up from 140 on Sunday, taking the cumulative toll to 101,183 since the start of the pandemic.

Philippines to start clinical trials on ivermectin, other drugs

The Philippines will begin clinical trials of several drugs, including the anti-parasite medication ivermectin, in virus patients to determine their efficacy, a senior government official said.

Some politicians in the Philippines have started promoting the use of ivermectin and given out free doses, although the country's food and drugs regulator has cautioned against the use because of a lack of evidence for the drug as a treatment.

The clinical trial for ivermectin, which could last for six months, "will give us a more reliable estimate of the effects of ivermectin as an anti-viral agent in mild and moderate patients," science and technology minister, Fortunato Dela Pena, said in a presentation.

Thailand reports 1,443 new cases, 4 new deaths

Thailand reported 1,443 new cases and 4 new deaths, as it battles the third wave of infections that has spread quickly across the country.

The new cases took the total number of infections to 45,185 with 108 deaths since the pandemic started early last year. A third of its total cases have been reported this month alone.

Scores test positive on India flight to Hong Kong

At least 49 passengers on a flight from New Delhi to Hong Kong have tested positive, authorities said, as the financial hub introduced an emergency ban on all flights from India as it battles a new wave of cases.

All of the passengers who tested positive flew into Hong Kong on a flight run by Indian operator Vistara on April 4.

The positive tests are significant as Hong Kong is regularly recording fewer daily cases than the total detected on the flight since it brought the fourth wave under control in January.

Authorities imposed a two-week ban on all flights from India, Pakistan, and the Philippines from Monday, categorising the countries as "extremely high risk" after detecting the N501Y mutant strain for the first time.

US issues global advisory warning against international travel

The State Department has urged Americans to reconsider any international travel they may have planned and said it would issue specific warnings not to visit roughly 80 percent of the world's countries due to risks from the pandemic.

The United States hasn't had a global advisory warning against international travel since August when guidance was revoked by the Trump administration.

The advice issued by the department isn't a formal global advisory. 

Instead, it says the State Department will start using Centers for Disease Control and Prevention standards as it prepares health and safety guidelines for individual countries. Because of those standards, about 80 percent of countries will be classified as "Level 4" or "do not travel."

Travel is also discouraged for the remaining 20 percent, though not as emphatically. It says people with plans to visit those countries should reconsider before proceeding.

Philippines approves emergency use of J&J, Bharat Biotech vaccines

The Philippines' Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has allowed the emergency use of vaccines made by Johnson & Johnson and India's Bharat Biotech.

Both vaccines can be administered to people aged 18 and above in the Philippines, the agency chief, Rolando Enrique Domingo, said in a mobile text message.

The single-shot coronavirus vaccines developed by J&J's unit Janssen and Bharat Biotech's Covaxin are the fifth and sixth to receive emergency use approval in the Philippines, which is battling one of the worst outbreaks in Asia.

J&J is conducting late-stage clinical trials for its Covid-19 vaccine in the Philippines.

Covid-19 exposes 'grim reality' of private renters

Nearly four in 10 private renters in England have lived in unhealthy or dangerous conditions, a survey by housing charity Shelter showed, with the coronavirus pandemic highlighting the "grim reality" of millions of tenants.

Urgent action is needed to increase the rights of tenants, about half of whom said they had not asked for repairs for fear of eviction, said Shelter, reporting a spike in calls for help about poor conditions in privately rented homes due to Covid-19.

"Over the past year, our homes have been our first line of defense against coronavirus," Polly Neate, the charity's chief executive, said in a written statement.

"Yet this pandemic has exposed the grim reality that too many of the country's 11 million renters, including key workers, families and the elderly, wake up every day to mould, pests and dangerous hazards."

Britain launches expert group to prepare for future pandemics

Britain has said it would launch a new international expert group to help bolster the world's preparedness for the next pandemic and expedite the development of vaccines against future diseases when they emerge.

Launched under Britain's Presidency of the Group of Seven (G7) rich nations, the Pandemic Preparedness Partnership (PPP) will report to the G7 leaders summit in June and will advise on how to achieve Prime Minister Boris Johnson's target of developing vaccines against future diseases within 100 days.

"As G7 President, the UK is determined to work with our partners to build back better from coronavirus and strengthen global preparedness for future pandemics," Health Minister Matt Hancock said ahead of a virtual two-day meeting of the group.

"This new expert group will drive our efforts in the years ahead to protect people everywhere from new diseases and to save lives."

Source: TRTWorld and agencies