Covid-19 has infected more than 164 million people and claimed at least 3.4 million lives. Here are all virus-related developments for May 19:

Travellers arrive at Porto Airport on the first day that tourists from Britain and most EU countries are allowed to enter Portugal without needing to quarantine, as Covid-19 restrictions continue to ease, Porto, Portugal, on May 17, 2021.
Travellers arrive at Porto Airport on the first day that tourists from Britain and most EU countries are allowed to enter Portugal without needing to quarantine, as Covid-19 restrictions continue to ease, Porto, Portugal, on May 17, 2021. (Reuters)

Wednesday, May 19: 

EU to reopen borders to fully vaccinated travelers

EU member states have agreed to reopen the bloc's borders to travellers who have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, European sources said.

Meeting in Brussels, diplomats also agreed to increase the level of new cases a country can hit before being declared unsafe – a measure that would open up travel into the EU from more places.

The recommendations will be adopted by EU ministers on Friday, they said. An EU Commission spokesperson confirmed that the envoys had endorsed the update to travel rules.

Since March 2020, non-essential travel into the 27-member European Union has been banned, apart from a small number of countries deemed safe because of their low Covid case rate.

But businesses on the continent are reopening as virus restrictions are phased out and bars, hotels and restaurants are worried about the summer tourist trade.

Diplomats said that, under the new rules, travellers who could demonstrate that they had received the required number of doses of an EU-approved vaccine could enter the bloc.

In addition, the number of cases per 100,000 people that a country could register over two weeks and still be considered for the green list will rise from 25 to 75.

Pan American Health Organization sees 'dramatic' improvement in US

Covid-19 infections have dropped across the Americas, with the most dramatic improvement seen in the United States due to mass vaccination, the head of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Carissa Etienne, said on Wednesday.

But she warned that there were "glaring gaps" in vaccine distribution in the region, with the lion's share going to the United States, while just three percent of Latin Americans have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19.

UK reports 3 new deaths from Covid-19, 2,696 new cases

Britain has reported three new deaths from Covid-19 within 28 days of a positive test and a further 2,696 cases of the disease, official government data showed.

That compared to 7 deaths and 2,412 cases reported a day earlier.

The data showed that 36.99 million people had received a first dose of a coronavirus vaccine.

Malawi burns 20,000 AstraZeneca vaccine doses that expired

Malawi has burned nearly 20,000 expired AstraZeneca vaccines, amid conflicting advice over what to do with the doses.

Health Minister Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda put some of the vials of the expired doses into an incinerator to start the destruction on Wednesday at Kamuzu Central Hospital in Lilongwe, the capital.

“We are destroying (these vaccines) because as government policy no expired health commodities are to be used,” she said. 

The burned vaccines were the remainder of 102,000 doses that arrived in Malawi on March 26 with just 18 days until they expired on April 13. All other doses of the shipment, donated by the African Union, were successfully administered, she said.

Last month the World Health Organization urged African nations not to destroy expired doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine after several countries received doses from India with a very short shelf life. But this week, WHO reversed its position and said that the vaccines should be destroyed.

US will donate substantial portion of vaccines through COVAX

The United States will donate a significant number of Covid-19 vaccines through the World Health Organization's COVAX scheme for distributing doses to poorer countries, the US coordinator on global Covid, Gayle Smith, has told a news conference.

US President Joe Biden announced on Monday that his administration will send by the end of June a total of 20 million doses of the Pfizer Inc/BioNTech SE, Moderna Inc and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, on top of 60 million AstraZeneca Plc doses he had already planned to give to other countries.

"The allocation of the vaccines will include obviously a substantial portion through COVAX, but we have not made final decisions," Smith said.

Pfizer to open vaccine production facility in Ireland

Pfizer is to begin producing ingredients for its Covid-19 vaccine at an Irish facility, the US drugmaker said in a statement.

The plant, which will produce "mRNA drug substance" and employ 75 new staff, will be brought onto the network by the end of 2021 with an investment of up to $40 million, the statement said.

Sweden registers 4,609 new cases, 48 deaths

Sweden has registered 4,609 new Covid-19 cases, health agency statistics showed.

 The country of 10 million inhabitants registered 48 new deaths, taking the total to 14,349. The deaths registered have occurred over several days and sometimes weeks.

Panic in Kenya as vaccine runs out of stocks

As India bans the export of vaccines, Kenya and many other East African countries are running out of stocks, sending panic across the region.

According to Health Ministry in Kenya, they had administered the first jab of AstraZeneca vaccine to 933,436 Kenyans. But now as the time for giving them a second dose is fast approaching, there are no vaccines left.

Ireland expects most adults to be fully vaccinated by September's end

Ireland hopes to have the vast majority of its adult population fully vaccinated against the virus by the end of September, deputy prime minister, Leo Varadkar, said.

The government's current target is to administer one dose to at least 80 percent of the population by the end of June.

"We hope to have the vast majority of our adult population vaccinated at least once by the end of June and fully by the end of September," Varadkar told a parliamentary committee. 

Singapore summons Indian envoy in virus row

Singapore called in India's envoy to protest "unfounded" claims by New Delhi's chief minister that a virus strain from the city-state was dangerous for children.

India is suffering one of the world's worst outbreaks while tiny Singapore has been praised for keeping the disease in check with relatively few infections.

But following a slight uptick in Singapore, Delhi chief minister, Arvind Kejriwal, tweeted a warning about a "new coronavirus strain" from the city-state that is "extremely dangerous for children," and urged the government to impose a flight ban.

Malaysia reports new daily high of over 6,000 cases

Malaysian authorities on Wednesday reported 6,075 new virus cases, a daily record as the country grapples with a surge in infections.

The figure breaks the previous high recorded on January 30, when the Health Ministry reported 5,728 daily cases.

On Monday, Malaysia's health minister said the government may consider a total lockdown of the country's most industrial state of Selangor if current curbs fail to contain the spread of the virus.

Russia reports 7,920 cases

Russia reported 7,920 new virus cases, including 2,096 in Moscow, taking the official national tally since the pandemic began to 4,965,676.

The government coronavirus task force said 390 people had died of virus-linked causes in the past 24 hours, pushing the national death toll to 116,965.

The federal statistics agency has kept a separate count and has said Russia recorded around 250,000 deaths related to the virus from April 2020 to March 2021.

PM Modi's rating falls to new low as India reels from the virus

Indian PM Narendra Modi's approval ratings have fallen to a new low, two surveys showed, as the country struggles to contain a devastating second wave of the virus pandemic.

Modi, who swept to power in 2014 and was re-elected in 2019 with the biggest majority of any Indian politician in three decades, has long fostered the image of a powerful nationalist leader.

But India's virus caseload surged past 25 million this week, exposing a lack of preparation and eroding Modi's support base, according to US data intelligence company Morning Consult's tracker of a dozen global leaders.

Under pressure EU presents WTO plan to boost vaccine output

The European Union put forward a plan it believes will help boost production and availability of vaccines more effectively than a proposed waiver of patent rights now backed by the United States.

Under pressure from developing countries to agree to waiving intellectual property (IP) rights for vaccines and treatments, the EU plan will focus on export restrictions, pledges from vaccine developers and use of existing World Trade Organization rules.

"Universal and fair access to vaccines and treatments must be the global community's number one priority," EU Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis told the European Parliament.

Nepal, Bangladesh scramble to secure shots as India curbs exports

Nepal and Bangladesh are making frantic diplomatic efforts to secure vaccines to prop up their faltering inoculation drives as their stocks run out and supply prospects have become clouded by a prolonged Indian curb on vaccine exports.

Reuters reported on Tuesday that India was unlikely to resume major exports of vaccines until October at the earliest as it diverts shots for domestic use, a longer-than-expected delay set to worsen a shortage of supplies coming through the COVAX global vaccine sharing scheme, designed to help low-income countries.

Restrictions reimposed as virus resurges in much of Asia

Taxi drivers are starved for customers, weddings are suddenly cancelled, schools are closed, and restaurant service is restricted across much of Asia as the virus makes a resurgence in countries where it had seemed to be well under control.

Sparsely populated Mongolia has seen its death toll soar from 15 to 233, while Taiwan, considered a major success in battling the virus, has recorded more than 1,000 cases since last week and placed over 600,000 people in two-week medical isolation.

Hong Kong and Singapore have postponed a quarantine-free travel bubble for a second time after an outbreak in Singapore of uncertain origin.

China, which has all but stamped out local infections, has seen new cases apparently linked to contact with people arriving from abroad.

The resurgence hasn’t come close to the carnage wrought in India and parts of Europe, but it is a keen reminder that the virus remains resilient, despite strict mask mandates, case tracing, mass testing and wider deployment of the newest weapon against it, vaccinations.

That’s setting back efforts to get social and economic life back to normal, particularly in school s and sectors like the hospitality industry that are built on public contact.

India reports record 4,529 deaths in one day 

India reported a record 4,529 deaths and 267,334 new infections over the last 24 hours.

The South Asian nation's infection tally stands at 25.5 million, with a death toll of 283,248, health ministry data showed.

Study shows AstraZeneca vaccine works well as third booster

A study has found that AstraZeneca and Oxford University's vaccine works well as a third booster jab, the Financial Times newspaper said.

An upcoming study by Oxford University showed that a third dose of the vaccine boosted antibodies to the virus spike protein among participants, it added.

Taiwan says 400,000 more vaccines arriving 

Taiwan's Cabinet said that 400,000 more doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine would be arriving on the island.

Japan looking into allowing pharmacists to administer vaccines 

Japan's health ministry is looking into allowing pharmacists to administer vaccines, a government spokesman said, at a time when voter polls have shown public dissatisfaction with progress in the inoculation campaign.

After six months, French cafes, museums and cinemas reopen

The French are expected to flock to restaurants, museums and cinemas when they reopen on Wednesday, but bad weather and social distancing may cast a pall over scenes of people toasting a return to semi-normality after months of curbs.

Cafes and restaurants with terraces or rooftop gardens have been inundated with bookings for the return of outdoor dining, under the second phase of a lockdown-lifting plan that should culminate in a full reopening of the economy on June 30.

Museums, cinemas and theatres are also reopening after being closed for more than six months, during which they relied chiefly on state aid to remain afloat.

Germany's virus cases rise by 11,040 – RKI

The number of confirmed virus cases in Germany increased by 11,040 to 3,614,095, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed.

The reported death toll rose by 284 to 86,665, the tally showed. 

Mexico reports 253 additional deaths

Mexico's health ministry reported an additional 253 fatalities, bringing the total death toll in the country to 220,746.

Sudan bans travellers from India, imposes restrictions

Sudan has banned travellers arriving from India and imposed new restrictions including closing schools, as virus cases rise.

"Entry will be prevented for all travellers arriving directly from India or through any other country after having visited India in the past 14 days," said the country's ruling council in a statement.

Travellers from Egypt and Ethiopia will be re-tested upon arrival, it said.

India is experiencing elevated numbers of cases following the spread of a variant which has been classified by the World Health Organisation as a "variant of concern."

Sudan has registered 34,707 cases including 1,116 fatalities as of May 16.

Brazil reports over 75,400 new cases

Brazil has recorded 75,445 additional cases in the past 24 hours, along with 2,513 new deaths, Health Ministry figures showed.

Brazil has now registered 15.73 million cases since the pandemic began, and the official death toll stands at 439,050, according to ministry data.

Kuwait ends quarantine for incoming vaccinated travellers

Kuwait's cabinet has said that direct commercial flights for India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka are limited to departing flights only, while cargo flights will continue, until further notice, the cabinet wrote on Twitter.

The cabinet also ended requiring quarantine for incoming travellers who are vaccinated or those who have recovered from the virus not more than 90 days ago, provided they conduct a PCR test within three days from their arrival date. 

Saudi to invest $1B to support Africa's post-pandemic recovery

Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman has said that the kingdom will continue to support African countries to help their recovery following the blow to their economies, with investments and loans worth around $1 billion this year.

"Saudi Development Fund will carry out future projects, loans and grants worth three billion riyals, or around $1 billion, in developing countries in Africa this year," Prince Mohammed said in a televised speech to a debt relief conference in Paris

Argentina hits new one-day death record at 745 fatalities

Argentina has reported a record one-day death toll of 745 as the South American country gets hit by a second wave of infections that brought the number of positive tests recorded in a 24-hour period to 35,543.

Since the pandemic began in the first quarter of 2020, Argentina has confirmed a total 3.371 million infections and 71,771 deaths.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies