Covid-19 has killed over 2.97M people and infected nearly 138M others globally. Here are the latest developments for April 14:
Wednesday, April 14
France to offer free therapy for children affected by Covid
French President Emmanuel Macron has announced free psychological counselling will be provided to children and teenagers having mental health difficulties because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Those ages 3 to 17 will be entitled to 10 free sessions with a psychologist, with a doctor’s prescription.
Macron announced the additional help after meeting doctors and families at a paediatric psychiatric unit. His office says the plan will run for the duration of the pandemic.
Doctors have reported surges of psychiatric emergencies involving young people, including attempted suicides, panic attacks and other symptoms of mental anguish.
Italy to get 7 million does of Pfizer vaccine
Italy is set to receive an additional 7 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine by the end of June.
“Finally, a bit of good news,” the commissioner for Italy’s Covid emergency, Franceso Paolo Figliuolo, says from the tiny northern region of Aosta.
He says the additions were the result of an increase in arrivals to Europe of 50 million Pfizer doses. It is the third boost in doses of the Pfizer vaccine ordered by Italy, which already was set to receive some 25 million doses by the end of June.
Puerto Rico government closes all beaches
The government of Trinidad and Tobago says it is closing all beaches in the twin-island nation for three weeks to stem a rise in coronavirus cases.
Officials also say they’re banning indoor dining at restaurants, bars and casinos. Only groups of five, instead of 10, will be allowed to gather in public. The measures take effect at midnight Thursday.
Trinidad and Tobago had previously canceled one of the biggest carnival celebrations in the Caribbean for this year.
EU President announces contract extension for vaccines with Pfizer
The head of the European Union’s executive arm has announced plans for a major contract extension for vaccines with Pfizer stretching to 2023.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Wednesday that the EU will start negotiating to buy 1.8 billion doses of the Pfizer vaccine through 2023. Pfizer has been a mainstay of the EU’s vaccination drive so far.
Von der Leyen expressed full confidence in the technology used for the Pfizer vaccine, which is different from the technology behind the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Romanian health minister fired
Romania’s prime minister fired the country’s health minister, after a series of incidents related to the virus pandemic created tensions within the governing coalition.
The move came a day after Health Minister Vlad Voiculescu reportedly made changes to the criteria the government uses to determine which virus-control restrictions to impose on local areas without informing Prime Minister Florin Citu.
Citu said the leader of USR-PLUS political alliance, Dan Barna, will serve as interim health minister.
Malawi to destroy 16,000 expired Covid vaccines
Malawi will destroy over 16,000 expired coronavirus vaccines donated to the impoverished country by the African Union three weeks before their use-by-date, a health official said.
The southern African country received 102,000 doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca jabs last month but 16,400 were not administered before they expired.
"We will now destroy and dispose of (them)," Malawi's health secretary Charles Mwansambo told AFP.
India authorises emergency use of Russia's Sputnik V
India has authorised the emergency use of Russia's Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine and will fast-track approval for other shots already passed by other major countries, authorities said, as infection rates soared to a new record high.
The government has faced mounting calls to approve more vaccines during the surge among the 1.3 billion population and a slower-than-expected mass inoculation drive.
Belgium to allow restaurants, cafes to serve outdoors from May 8
Belgium will allow restaurants, cafes and bars to reopen outdoor eating and drinking areas on May 8, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo told a news conference.
The country will also on Sunday end a blanket ban on non-essential travel abroad, but only for trips to other EU countries, and testing and quarantine requirements remain in place.
And a nighttime curfew will be lifted from May 8, with a condition that groups were no bigger than three people, he said.
Production of Russia's Sputnik vaccine to begin in Serbia – makers
Moscow announced the start of production of its Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine in Serbia, the first European country outside Russia and Belarus to begin manufacturing the jab.
"Serbia has become the first country in Southern Europe to produce Sputnik V," the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), which has backed the financing of the vaccine, said in a statement.
A RDIF spokesman told AFP that Serbia would be the first European country apart from Russia and Belarus to produce Sputnik.
US administers 194.8 million doses of vaccines - CDC
The United States had administered 194,791,836 doses of Covid-19 vaccines in the country and distributed 250,998,265 doses, the USCenters for Disease Control and Prevention said.
The tally is for Moderna, Pfizer/BioNTech, and Johnson & Johnson's vaccines as of 6:00 am ET, the agency said.
Moderna shot production unlikely to rise significantly in next few months - CEO
The pace of Moderna Inc's vaccine production is unlikely to speed up markedly in the next few months, though the US drugmaker expects output to have increased significantly by 2022, its chief executive said.
The US government has urged Moderna to speed up its production and delivery schedules for the shots after it temporarily halted the shipment of Johnson & Johnson's vaccine amid reports that six women developed rare blood clots after getting the shot.
"Adding big chunks of capacity takes time," Chief Executive Stephane Bancel said during an investor call.
Spain confident on vaccination targets despite J&J suspension
Spain is confident it can maintain its current vaccination targets despite a US suspension of the Johnson & Johnson shot and delays to its European rollout over clotting concerns, Industry Minister Reyes Maroto said.
Spain received an initial delivery of 300,000 doses of the single-shot drug on Wednesday, which the Health Ministry said would be kept in storage pending new guidance from the European Medicines Agency, expected next week.
Greece orders Covid self-testing for service workers
Greece will make self-testing for Covid-19 compulsory for service workers in sectors including shops, restaurants and transport, authorities said, as the government looks to gradually reopen the economy.
Greece, which coped relatively well during the first wave of the pandemic, was forced to tighten restrictions to combat a surge in infections from late last year.
After starting mass distribution of home-testing kits for high school students and teachers before they returned to classes this week, testing will be extended to more workers, Greek ministers said.
As well as retail, restaurant and transport staff, workers in cleaning services, hair salons and betting shops will be required to do one test a week from April 19, Labour Minister Kostis Hatzidakis told a weekly briefing.
Ireland's first dose vaccination target still on track - minister
Ireland's plan for 80 percent of adults to receive at least one dose of a vaccine by the end of June remains on track after Pfizer Inc-BioNTech announced additional European deliveries, its health minister said.
Ireland restricted the use of AstraZeneca's vaccine this week, while Johnson & Johnson delayed delivery of its shot to Europe. Dublin will also decide over the next week whether to extend the gap between inoculations of the Pfizer jab to eight or 12 weeks, Stephen Donnelly said.
"It's been a bumpy week but ultimately we're still on target," Donnelly told Newstalk radio, adding the government would focus on first doses, having previously forecast that 70 percent of adults would be fully vaccinated by July.
Turkey logs highest daily virus infections, deaths
Turkey recorded 62,797 new coronavirus cases and 279 deaths in the last 24 hours, health ministry data showed, registering the highest daily death toll and rise in cases since the beginning of the pandemic.
With Wednesday's numbers, the total number of cases recorded in Turkey have surpassed 4 million. The total death roll rose to 34,737, according to the data.
President Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday announced several new restrictions and a "partial closure" for the first two weeks of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan to curb the surge in cases.
Portugal extends virus emergency until end of April
Portugal's parliament extended a state of emergency for 15 days as health experts warned that a gradual relaxation of strict lockdown rules now underway could soon lead to a significant jump in coronavirus cases.
The state of emergency grants the government powers to take emergency measures such as imposing a nighttime curfew if deemed necessary, though the general trend is currently to ease a lockdown imposed in January to curb what was then the world's worst virus surge.
Portugal started lifting restrictions last month and has since reopened some schools, restaurant and cafe terraces, museums and hair salons.
People have flocked out of doors to enjoy the warmer spring weather, to see loved ones and enjoy a meal outside after more than two months stuck at home.
Fauci says pause on J&J shot should not prompt vaccine hesitancy
Top US health officials urged Americans to get vaccinated against the virus saying US regulators' pause on Johnson & Johnson shots, following reports it can cause blood clotting, should boost confidence in the vaccines' safety.
White House Covid-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients said that US regulators' quick response to the clotting reports should give Americans more confidence, not less, that any shots they receive will be safe.
Italy reports 469 coronavirus deaths
Italy reported 469 coronavirus-related deaths against 476 the day before, the health ministry said, while the daily tally of new infections rose to 16,168 from 13,447.
Italy has registered 115,557 deaths linked to the virus 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 3.81 million cases to date.
Patients in hospital - not including those in intensive care - stood at 26,369, down from 26,952 a day earlier.
There were 216 new admissions to intensive care units, down from 242 on Tuesday. The total number of intensive care patients decreased slightly to 3,490 from a previous 3,526.
Some 334,766 tests were carried out in the past day, compared with a previous 304,990, the health ministry said.
Canada says it won't restrict use of AstraZeneca vaccine at this time
Canada's health ministry said it would not restrict use of AstraZeneca PLC's vaccine at this time after a review showed the benefits outweighed the very rare risk of blood clots.
A separate advisory council had earlier recommended Canada stop offering the vaccine to people under 55. The panel is now reviewing that advice, the health ministry said in a statement.
Finland latest to mix vaccines as AstraZeneca crisis delays rollout
Finland said people aged under 65 who got a first dose of the AstraZeneca shot may get a different vaccine for their second dose, as authorities warned about delays to the country's roll-out.
The Institute of Health and Welfare said it was possible to give a second dose from another manufacturer to people aged under 65 who have already been given AstraZeneca and are scheduled to receive a second dose in the coming weeks.
It's the third country after France and Germany to consider mixing vaccines as they limit the use of the AstraZeneca shot amid concerns about blood clots.
UK reports daily cases up slightly at 2,491
Britain reported 2,491 new cases, government data showed, up slightly from 2,472 on Tuesday.
A further 38 people were reported as having died within 28 days of a positive test for Covid-19, meaning there were 234 deaths between April 8 and 14, an increase of 9.3 percent compared with the previous seven days.
A total of 32.37 million people had received a first dose of a vaccine against coronavirus and 8.17 million people had received a second dose.
Lithuania to introduce 'Covid-19 passports' for certain groups
Lithuania agreed to roll out national digital Covid-19 immunity certificates by early May to allow some people to bypass restrictions on certain activities including dining indoors, attending sporting events and holding large parties.
A QR code called Freedom ID will be available to those who have been vaccinated against the coronavirus as well as those who have previously contracted the virus and recovered. Those who test negative for the virus also will be eligible.
"This will be an incentive for the decision to get vaccinated", Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte told a televised government meeting.
Swiss gov't looks to boost domestic Covid-19 vaccine, therapy production
Switzerland will investigate ways to strengthen domestic vaccine and drug development and production, the government said, reacting as global demand far outstrips supply due to rising infections at home and abroad.
"The Interior Ministry will be tasked with working together with the Finance Ministry and Department of Economic Affairs to determine in what form the federal government can strengthen the development and production of Covid-19 medicines, including vaccines and treatment, in Switzerland," the Swiss government said in a statement.
Officials in Bern added that changes to the country's Covid-19 law last month have already provided flexibility for the government in boosting domestic production for the pandemic.
Brazil's P1 coronavirus variant mutating, may become more dangerous - study
Brazil's P1 coronavirus variant, behind a deadly Covid-19 surge in the Latin American country that has raised international alarm, is mutating in ways that could make it better able to evade antibodies, according to scientists studying the virus.
Research conducted by the public health institute Fiocruz into the variants circulating in Brazil found mutations in the spike region of the virus that is used to enter and infect cells.
Those changes, the scientists said, could make the virus more resistant to vaccines - which target the spike protein - with potentially grave implications for the severity of the outbreak in Latin America's most populous nation.
Hungary to reopen restaurant terraces next week – PM Orban
Hungary will allow restaurant terraces to reopen once 3.5 million people are inoculated against Covid-19, a target expected to be hit sometime next Wednesday or Thursday, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said.
Orban also said schools can be reopened gradually, meaning kindergartens will reopen from next Monday, while classroom teaching will resume only in the first four grades of primary schools, with other years to go back to school on May 10.
EU drug regulator to issue recommendation on J&J vaccine next week
Europe's drug regulator said on Wednesday it expects to issue a recommendation on Johnson & Johnson's vaccine next week and that it continues to believe that the benefits of the shot outweighed the risks of side effects.
The European Medicines Agency said J&J was in contact with national authorities, recommending to store the doses already received until the safety committee issues an expedited recommendation.
Armenia to receive 1 million doses of Russia's Sputnik V shot
Armenia has reached a deal for 1 million doses of Russia's Sputnik V virus vaccine, Russia's state-run TASS news agency cited Armenian authorities as saying.
The Armenian health ministry approved the vaccine for domestic use on February 1.
Elderly show equally strong antibody response to first dose of Astra, Pfizer shots
The first study to directly compare immune reactions between Pfizer's and AstraZeneca's vaccines has found similarly strong antibody responses in over 80-year-olds after a first dose of either shot, UK scientists said.
The study also found, however, that a critical component of the immune system known as T cells showed a more enhanced response in those who got the AstraZeneca vaccine than in those who got the Pfizer one - a finding scientists behind the study called worthy of more investigation.
Sweden registers 8,879 new virus cases, 60 deaths
Sweden, which has shunned lockdowns throughout the pandemic, registered 8,879 new coronavirus cases, health agency statistics showed.
The country of 10 million inhabitants registered 60 new deaths, taking the total to 13,720. 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.
Bangladesh virus shutdown triggers exodus from capital
Tens of thousands of people scrambled to get the last trains, buses and ferries out of Dhaka before a nationwide transport shutdown to halt the spread of coronavirus took hold.
With new cases and deaths hitting record numbers, Bangladesh's government has ordered all offices and shops to close for eight days from 6.00 am (midnight GMT).
The country will become virtually cut off with all international flights halted, and domestic transport curtailed.
Denmark to permanently discontinue use of AstraZeneca vaccine
Denmark will become the first country to entirely cease administering AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine following its possible link to very rare cases of blood clots, several Danish media outlets reported, citing unnamed sources.
The decision, which would remove the shot from Denmark's vaccination scheme, could delay the country's vaccine rollout by up to four weeks, based on previous statements by health bodies.
Danish health authorities are expected to announce the decision to halt using the vaccine and present a new timeline for the country's vaccination programme.
The European Union's drug watchdog said last week it had found a possible link between the vaccine and very rare blood clot cases, but said the risk of dying from Covid-19 was "much greater" than the risk of mortality from rare side effects.
Denmark has also put Johnson & Johnson's vaccine on pause pending further investigations into a possible link to rare blood clot cases.
Almost one million Danes have received their first jabs, 77 percent with Pfizer-BioNTech's vaccine, 7.8 percent with Moderna's shot and 15.3 percent with AstraZeneca's, before it was suspended.
Russian President Putin gets second vaccine shot
Russian President Vladimir Putin says he has gotten his second vaccine shot, three weeks after getting the first dose.
The Russian leader announced getting the jab, which was kept out of the public eye, at a session of the Russian Geographical Society, in which he took part via video link.
Putin got his first coronavirus shot on March 23, also out of sight of the cameras, and the Kremlin wouldn't reveal which of the three vaccines currently approved for use in Russia the president has taken.
The Ukrainian capital Kyiv will stay in strict lockdown until April 30 as the daily number of new coronavirus cases and coronavirus-related deaths continues to climb despite tight restrictions imposed in March.
"We have no other choice, otherwise the medical system will not cope with such a number of patients, otherwise there will be even more deaths," mayor Vitali Klitschko told a televised briefing.
Earlier, in order to contain the spread of the coronavirus, Kyiv limited its public transport services, closed schools and kindergartens, theatres and shopping centres, and banned spectators from sporting events.
South Africa not considering terminating J&J contract
South Africa is not considering terminating its contract with Johnson & Johnson (J&J) for 31 million doses of its vaccine, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said a day after it suspended its rollout.
The suspension followed US federal health agencies recommending pausing use of the J&J shot because of rare cases of blood clots. The pause in the United States is expected to be a matter of days.
Poland registers more than 800 deaths
Poland has reported 803 more deaths from Covid-19, its second-highest daily death toll since the start of the pandemic.
Some 21,283 more infections were detected over the past day, raising the overall tally to 2,621,116, including 59,930 fatalities, according to health authorities.
Poland has witnessed an alarming virus surge this month, with the single-day case count hitting a record high of 35,25 1 on April 1 and daily fatalities peaking at 954 on April 8.
Ireland is considering extending the gap between inoculations of the Pfizer vaccine to more than four weeks to keep its vaccine programme on track while other vaccines are restricted, the health minister said.
"We are looking for options for how we can keep the pace of the vaccine programme going given the news we've had" on restrictions to AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, Stephen Donnelly told journalists.
"Certainly extending the interval for Pfizer beyond the four weeks is something that is being looked at," he said.
Poland plans to use newly arrived J&J vaccines
Poland plans to go ahead with immunisations using the Johnson & Johnson vaccine after receiving its first batch of 120,000 doses on Wednesday.
Health Minister Adam Niedzielski said Poland is following the latest recommendations from the European Medicines Agency, which said it is “currently not clear” whether the J&J shot caused rare blood clots reported in some recipients. The EMA approved the vaccine for use in the European Union last month.
The Food and Drug Administration temporarily paused Johnson & Johnson shots in the United States to investigate possible links to blood clots in six women six to 13 days after vaccination.
Poland is trying to speed up its vaccination drive amid high numbers of daily coronavirus cases and Covid-related deaths.
India's new coronavirus infections hit record high
The country reported 184,372 cases in the last 24 hours, health ministry data showed, taking total infections to 13.9 million. Deaths rose by 1,027, to a toll of 172,085.
Still, hundreds of thousands of devout Hindus gathered to bathe in the Ganges river, the third key day of the weeks-long Kumbh Mela - or pitcher festival.
Olympic torch relay cancelled in Japanese city over virus surge
A western Japanese city has cancelled the Tokyo Olympics torch relay over spiking coronavirus cases , the second area to scrap the event as the clock ticks down to the postponed Games.
The decision comes 100 days before the 2020 Olympics begin and accompanies fresh concerns about the viability of the event, with virus cases surging in Japan and abroad.
"We will cancel the torch relay in Matsuyama city. We will hold the celebration for the arrival of the flame in a way that will not involve ordinary spectators," said Tokihiro Nakamura, governor of Ehime prefecture.
Thailand reports daily record of 1,335 new cases
Thailand has reported 1,335 new cases, the biggest daily rise since the start of the pandemic and the third record rise this week, as the country struggles with a new wave of infections.
No new deaths were reported. The new cases took the total number of infections to 35,910, with deaths remaining at 97.
Germany records 21,693 more cases
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany has increased by 21,693 to 3,044,016.
The data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed that the death toll rose by 342 to 79,088.
South Korea reports 731 new cases
South Korea has reported 731 new coronavirus cases, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said as the country battles to stem the number of infections with more testing and vaccination efforts.
Congo to start delayed vaccination with AstraZeneca shots
The Democratic Republic of Congo will start its Covid-19 vaccination campaign on April 19 with 1.7 million AstraZeneca doses it received from the COVAX global vaccines sharing scheme after delaying the rollout for more than a month.
Congo received the vaccines on March 2 and was expected to begin the inoculation campaign almost immediately but delayed rollout after several European countries suspended use of the shots.
A government statement late on Tuesday said a task force had determined that the AstraZeneca vaccines already available in the country presented no risks to the population.
Lack of exercise linked to more severe symptoms and a higher risk of death – study
Among Covid-19 patients, a lack of exercise is linked to more severe symptoms and a higher risk of death, according to a study covering nearly 50,000 people who were infected with the virus.
People physically inactive for at least two years before the pandemic were more likely to be hospitalised, to require intensive care, and to die, researchers reported in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
As a risk factor for serious Covid disease, physical inactivity was surpassed only by advanced age and a history of organ transplant, the study found.
Indeed, compared to other modifiable risk factors such as smoking, obesity or hypertension, "physical inactivity was the strongest risk factor across all outcomes," the authors concluded.
Brazil registers 3,808 Covid-19 deaths
Brazil has registered 3,808 Covid-19 deaths and 82,186 additional coronavirus cases, according to data released by the nation's Health Ministry.
The South American country has now registered 358,425 total Covid-19 deaths and 13,599,994 total confirmed cases.
Australia returns to 'war footing' amid Covid-19 vaccine turmoil
Australia's national cabinet will begin meeting twice a week from Monday, marking a return to a "war footing" in the country's battle against the coronavirus pandemic amid turmoil in its national vaccination programme.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the return to more frequent meetings of the group of federal and state government leaders was necessary to address "serious challenges" caused by patchy international vaccine supplies and changing medical advice.
"This is a complex task and there are problems with the programme that we need to solve to ensure more Australians can be vaccinated safely and more quickly," Morrison said in a statement.
Australia has fared much better than many other developed countries during the pandemic, with just over 29,400 Covid-19 cases and 910 deaths.
Colombian capital to hold another weekend lockdown
Colombia's capital Bogota will repeat a three-day lockdown this weekend in a bid to slow coronavirus infections, Mayor Claudia Lopez has said.
A similar lockdown last weekend has helped slow the transmission of the disease, Lopez said in a press conference.
People should stay home on Friday through Sunday, she added, and limits on when people can shop based on their ID number will continue.
Intensive care units in Bogota have an occupancy rate of 76 percent, less than other cities like Medellin, which has also imposed quarantine measures.
Officials will evaluate again next week whether to extend the lockdown measures, Lopes said.
Colombia has reported more than 2.5 million coronavirus cases, as well as 66,000 deaths.
It has administered more than 3.1 million vaccines doses, including more than 600,000 in Bogota.
US pauses use of J&J vaccine over rare blood clots
US federal health agencies have recommended pausing use of Johnson & Johnson's Covid-19 vaccine for at least a few days after six women under age 50 developed rare blood clots after receiving the shot, dealing a fresh setback to efforts to tackle the pandemic.
Johnson & Johnson said it would delay rollout of the vaccine to Europe, a week after regulators there said they were reviewing rare blood clots in four recipients of the shot in the United States. South Africa also suspended use of J&J's vaccine.
Acting US Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Janet Woodcock said the agency expected the pause to be a matter of days, and was aimed at providing information to healthcare providers on how to diagnose and treat the clots.
The moves come after European regulators said earlier this month they had found a possible link between AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine and a similar rare blood clotting problem that led to a small number of deaths.
FDA official Peter Marks said it was "plainly obvious" the J&J cases were "very similar" to the AstraZeneca ones.
He said there had been no similar blood clot cases reported among recipients of the Moderna or Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines, which use a different technology and accounted for the vast majority of US vaccinations so far.
But J&J's single-dose shot and AstraZeneca's low-cost vaccine are seen as vital weapons in the fight against a pandemic that has claimed more than three million lives.
UK trial on switching Covid-19 vaccines adds Moderna and Novavax shots
A UK study into using different Covid-19 vaccines in two-dose inoculations is being expanded to include shots made by Moderna and Novavax, researchers have said.
The trial, known as the Com-Cov study, was first launched in February to look at whether giving a first dose of one type of Covid-19 shot, and a second dose of another, elicits an immune response that is as good as using two doses of the same vaccine.
The idea, said Matthew Snape, the Oxford University professor leading the trial, "is to explore whether the multiple Covid-19 vaccines that are available can be used more flexibly".
Britain and many other countries in Europe are currently using AstraZeneca's and Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccines in nationwide immunisation campaigns against the coronavirus pandemic.
But reports of very rare blood clots have prompted some governments - including France and Germany - to say the AstraZeneca shot should only be given to certain age groups, or that people who have had a first dose of AstraZeneca's vaccine should switch to a different one for their second dose.