Covid-19 has killed more than 3M people and infected over 144M others globally. Here are all the coronavirus-related developments for April 22:

Vial labelled
Vial labelled "AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine" is displayed on EU flag in this illustration picture taken on March 24, 2021. (Reuters)

Thursday, April 22:

EU says no decision yet on legal action against AstraZeneca

The European Commission has said that no decision had yet been taken on whether to launch legal action against AstraZeneca after Ireland's health minister said the case had been initiated.

"No decision to launch legal actions has been taken at this point in time," a spokesperson for the Commission said.

Indian Covid variant detected in Belgium

The Covid-19 variant contributing to a surge in coronavirus cases in India has been detected in Belgium in a group of Indian students who arrived from Paris, Belgian authorities said.

Twenty nursing students, who arrived in Belgium in mid-April after travelling from Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, have tested positive for the variant, the office of government commissioner Pedro Facon told AFP, confirming media reports.

UK food bank use rises by a third during pandemic

UK food bank use has risen by a third during the past 12 months as the Covid-19 pandemic left more people without the money to buy basic necessities, a charity that distributes food said on Thursday.

The Trussell Trust said the food banks it works with handed out more than 2.5 million food parcels in the year through March, up from 1.9 million a year earlier. The figures represent only a partial picture of the increasing need because independent food aid providers also expanded during the pandemic, the trust said.

The trust called on the British government to do more to help people struggling to make a living and not to rely on food banks to fill gaps in the country's welfare system.

Tunisian intensive care units run out of beds

Intensive care units in Tunisian public and private hospitals are at the limit of their capacity as Covid-19 cases surge, an official in an independent scientific committee that advises the government has said.

Amenallah Messadi added that a surge in cases driven by a more infectious coronavirus variant first detected in Britain had pushed the health system to the brink of collapse.

Sweden registers 7,736 new cases, 19 deaths

Sweden, which has shunned lockdowns throughout the pandemic, has registered 7,736 new Covid-19 cases, health agency statistics showed.

The country of 10 million inhabitants registered 19 new deaths, taking the total to 13,882. The deaths registered have occurred over several days and sometimes weeks.

Sweden's death rate per capita is many times higher than that of its Nordic neighbours' but lower than in most European countries that opted for lockdowns.

Cases in the Netherlands rise more than 9,000

New coronavirus cases in the Netherlands have risen by more than 9,000 in 24 hours, the highest level since early January, data released on Thursday showed.

The National Institute for Health (RIVM) recorded 9,648 cases, indicating a rising trend just days before plans to ease tough lockdown restrictions.

Over 33.2 million Britons receive first vaccine dose

A total of 33.26 million Britons have received the first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine with 11.2 million people having been given both doses, according to official figures.

A further 2,729 cases and 18 deaths within 28 days of a positive test were also reported.

Italy reports 360 deaths, 16,232 new cases

Italy has reported 360 coronavirus-related deaths on Thursday against 364 the day before, the Health Ministry said, while the daily tally of new infections rose to 16,232 from 13,844.

Italy has registered 118,357 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.

Patients in hospital with Covid-19 — not including those in intensive care — stood at 22,094 on Thursday, slightly down from 22,784 a day earlier.

There were 174 new admissions to intensive care units, marginally up from 155 on Tuesday. The total number of intensive care patients edged down to 3,021 from a previous 3,076.

Some 364,804 tests for Covid-19 were carried out in the past day, compared with a previous 350,034, the Health Ministry said.

France reports 283 deaths, 34,318 new cases

France reported 283 coronavirus-related deaths on Thursday. New coronavirus cases in the country rose by 34,318 in 24 hours, data released on Thursday showed.

It also reported that 5,981 people were in intensive care units with Covid-19, up by 22 a day earlier, the second-highest total of 2021 as the country prepares to exit its third lockdown.

Turkey reports over 54,790 new cases

Turkey has reported more than 54,700 new coronavirus cases, according to the Health Ministry data.

A total of 54,791 cases, including 3,128 symptomatic patients, were confirmed across the country, the official figures showed.

The daily case toll was down from 61,967 infections reported on Wednesday, which included 2,932 symptomatic patients.

Turkey’s overall case tally is now over 4.5 million, while the nationwide death toll has reached 37,329, with 354 more fatalities registered over the past day – eight less than Wednesday’s toll.

Germany in talks with Russia for 30M vaccines

Germany is in talks with Russia to buy 30 million doses of the Sputnik V vaccine once it is approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA), Saxony state premier Michael Kretschmer said on Thursday.

"Germany is negotiating 3 x 10 million doses for June, July, August. The prerequisite for this is the swift EMA approval of the vaccine," Kretschmer wrote on Twitter.

Kretschmer posted the tweet after meeting Russian Health Minister Mikhail Murashko as part of a visit to Moscow ostensibly focusing on cultural relations with Russia.

Germany sparked controversy in early April when it said it had started talks with Russia about purchasing doses of the Sputnik vaccine without waiting for coordinated EU action.

Hungary expects to reopen soon

Hungary is expected to reopen restaurant terraces and shorten a night-time curfew from Saturday as the vaccination campaign allows for a further reopening of the economy, Prime Minister Viktor Orban's chief of staff said on Thursday.

Gergely Gulyas told a briefing that by Friday, 3.5 million Hungarians could be vaccinated, which could rise to 4 million, or around 40% of the population, by early next week.

Gulyas said that could allow a further easing of curbs, which will be laid out by Orban in coming days.

Australia to cut flights from India to contain virus risk

Australia will reduce the number of its citizens able to return from India and other red-zone countries to contain the risk of more virulent strains spreading, the government said on Thursday as it announced changes in its vaccination programme.

The restrictions will result in a 30% reduction in direct flights from India to Sydney and chartered flights that land in the Northern Territory.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison, speaking to reporters after a meeting of the National Cabinet, said that he would announce in the next 24 hours when the new restrictions would come into place.

4,000 guests to attend Brit Awards 

Around 4,000 guests will be allowed to attend next month's Brit Awards ceremony as part of the government's pilot scheme easing coronavirus restrictions for live events, organisers said.

Audience members at London's O2 Arena will not need to socially distance or wear face coverings once seated, but will need to produce a negative test result for the virus.

More than half the tickets will go to key workers from London.

Russia reports 397 more deaths

Russia has reported 8,996 new cases, including 2,704 in Moscow, taking the national tally to 4,736,121 since the pandemic began.

The government virus taskforce also confirmed the deaths of 397 people in the last 24 hours, pushing its national death toll to 107,103. 

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

Syria receives batch of UN vaccines to speed up virus fight

The Syrian regime received a batch of 203,000 vaccines in a move aimed at speeding up a sluggish inoculation process in the war-torn country.

The arrival of the UN-secured jabs came as a new wave of infections has overwhelmed medical centers around the country.

The AstraZeneca vaccines will be part of a campaign aiming to vaccinate 20% of the country’s population before the end of the year.

Thailand says Russia agrees to supply Sputnik V vaccine

Russia has accepted in principle a request by Thailand to provide the Sputnik V vaccine to the Southeast Asian country, Thai government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri said.

Details on the amount of vaccine, the price and the timeframe for delivery would be determined in future discussions between the company importing the vaccine and the Thai health ministry, he said.

Tokyo Olympics torch relay has first positive case

Tokyo Olympics organisers have said that a policeman tested positive a day after his assignment last week at the Olympic torch relay.

It is the first positive test connected to the relay since it began March 25 from northeastern Fukushima prefecture.

Organisers say the policeman, who is in his 30s, was assigned to control traffic on the April 17 leg in southwestern Kagawa prefecture. They said the officer developed symptoms and tested positive the next day. Local health authorities are investigating.

Officials say the policeman was wearing a mask and taking social-distancing precautions and other measures.

India records world's highest number of daily Covid cases

India reported a colossal 314,835 new cases over the past 24 hours, the highest daily increase recorded anywhere in the world, as a wave and similar surges elsewhere in the world raises new fears about the virus.

Hospitals across northern and western India including the capital, New Delhi, have issued notices to say they have only a few hours of medical oxygen required to keep patients alive.

More than two-thirds of hospitals had no vacant beds, according to the Delhi government's online database and doctors advised patients to stay at home.

India's total cases are now at 15. 93 million, while deaths rose by 2,104 to reach a total of 184,657, according to the latest health ministry data.

Thailand reports 1,470 cases, daily record 7 deaths

Thailand reported seven new deaths, its highest number of fatalities in a single day since the pandemic started, authorities said, as the country deals with its biggest coronavirus outbreak yet.

So far 117 people have died in Thailand due to Covid-19. It also reported 1,470 new coronavirus cases, taking total infections to 48,113. 

Singapore, Hong Kong call off air travel bubble announcement

Singapore and Hong Kong called off an announcement for an air travel bubble between Asia's two major financial hubs, Bloomberg News reported, citing sources.

The two cities delayed in December an air travel bubble because of a spike in cases in Hong Kong.

Ecuador announces curfew, curbs amid overwhelming hospitals

Ecuador implemented a nighttime curfew and other mobility restrictions as a spike in cases again overwhelms hospitals in the Andean country, which in 2020 experienced one of the region's worst outbreaks.

In 16 of the country's 24 provinces, only workers in the healthcare, food, and other sectors deemed essential will be allowed to circulate over weekends and during evenings from Monday through Thursday, according to the decree signed by President Lenin Moreno.

The measures will take effect on Friday and last for 28 days.

Britain's Heathrow Airport turns down airline requests for extra flights from India

Britain's Heathrow Airport has refused to allow extra flights from India before the country is added on Friday to Britain's "red-list" of locations from which most travel is banned due to a high number of cases, the airport said.

The move by Britain comes after it detected more than 100 cases of a coronavirus variant first identified in India, Health Minister Matt Hancock said on Monday.

Heathrow Airport's refusal to allow extra flights from India was reported earlier by the BBC, with the airport adding that it turned down the requests from airlines because of concerns about queues at passport control.

The airport also told Reuters it did not want to exacerbate existing pressures at the border by allowing more passengers to fly in.

Spain likely to start J&J vaccinations

Spanish regions are likely to begin using Johnson & Johnson's vaccine to inoculate 70-79-year-olds, Health Minister Carolina Darias said on Wednesday.

Spain has already distributed the first batch of vials to regional health authorities, which are in charge of administering the injections.

An initial shipment of 146,000 doses of the single-shot drug landed in Spain last week but they were impounded in a warehouse on arrival over concerns the vaccines cause a rare type of clotting disorder.

Tokyo Motor Show cancelled due to pandemic

This year's Tokyo Motor Show has been cancelled for the first time ever because of the coronavirus, Japan's auto industry group said.

The biennial car show, one of Japan's biggest industrial events, had been scheduled for the autumn after the Tokyo Olympics take place this summer.

The last Tokyo Motor Show in 2019 drew around 1.3 million people, according to the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA).

US adds 116 countries to its 'Do Not Travel' advisory list

The US State Department has added at least 116 countries this week to its "Level Four: Do Not Travel" advisory list, putting the UK, Canada, France, Israel, Mexico, Germany, and others on the list, citing a "very high level of Covid-19."

Before Tuesday, the State Department listed 34 out of about 200 countries as "Do Not Travel." The State Department now lists 150 countries at Level Four. It declined to say when it would complete the updates.

The State Department said the move did not imply a reassessment of current health situations in some countries, but rather "reflects an adjustment in the State Department's Travel Advisory system to rely more on CDC's existing epidemiological assessments."

The recommendations are not mandatory and do not bar Americans from travel.

Other countries in the "Do Not Travel" list include Finland, Egypt, Belgium, Turkey, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland, and Spain. Some countries like China and Japan remain at Level 3: Reconsider Travel."

US economy on a solid footing, coronavirus still top threat

The US economy will grow at its fastest annual pace in decades this year and outperform most of its major peers, with the outlook upgraded sharply, but another Covid-19 surge was the biggest risk over the next three months, a Reuters news agency poll has shown.

There was a new wave of optimism among economic forecasters predicting a boost to economic activity from the $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package already passed and also from US President Joe Biden's proposed $2 trillion-plus infrastructure plan, according to the April 16-20 poll of over 100 economists.

The world's largest economy was predicted to grow on average 6.2 percent this year, the brightest outlook since polling began for the period more than two years ago and if achieved would mark the fastest annual expansion since 1984.

While the International Monetary Fund's latest projection of 6.4 percent expansion was slightly more optimistic than the poll consensus, about 15 percent of 105 economists predicted the economy would grow 7 percent or more this year, with the range of forecasts showing higher highs and higher lows compared with last month.

China reports six new cases 

China has reported six new mainland cases, down from 21 cases a day earlier, the country's national health authority said.

All the new cases were imported infections that originated overseas, the National Health Commission said in a statement. 

The number of new asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed cases, rose to 16 from seven a day earlier.

The total number of confirmed cases in mainland China now stands at 90,547, while the death toll remains unchanged at 4,636.

BRIT music awards to host 4,000-strong audience in UK pilot event

Some 4,000 people will attend the BRIT Awards next month, in what organisers of Britain's pop music honours have said would be the first major indoor music event with a live audience as the country emerges from lockdown.

The ceremony, to be held on May 11 at London's O2 arena, will form part of the UK government’s Events Research Programme, looking at whether major events can take place in closed environments without social distancing.

This means audience members, of which 2,500 will be key workers who will be gifted tickets, will not have to wear face masks inside the arena but will have to provide proof of a negative lateral flow test result to enter the venue.

Argentina deaths hit 60,000 in pandemic's 'worst moment'

Argentina is going through its "worst moment" of the Covid-19 pandemic, the health minister has said, as deaths from the virus hit 60,000 amid a sharp second wave that has forced the country to re-impose some lockdown measures.

Health Minister Carla Vizzotti warned that the South American country's healthcare system was at risk, especially in the metropolitan area around the capital Buenos Aires, which had forced the government to restrict movement and suspend indoor activities.

Argentina, which is rolling out an inoculation program largely around Russia's Sputnik V vaccine, has recorded some 2.77 million Covid-19 cases and has set a series of new daily records for infections in recent weeks. The death toll rose by 291 on Wednesday to 60,083.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies