Covid-19 has infected more than 129 million people and taken over 2.8 million lives. Here are the virus-related developments for April 1:

People enjoy the sun on the banks of the Seine river during a sunny afternoon, amid the coronavirus outbreak in Paris, France, April 1, 2021.
People enjoy the sun on the banks of the Seine river during a sunny afternoon, amid the coronavirus outbreak in Paris, France, April 1, 2021. (Reuters)

Thursday, April 1, 2021

France reports 50,659 new Covid-19 cases  

France has reported 50,659 new coronavirus cases, Health Ministry data showed. 

A total of 5,109 people were in intensive care units in France, up by 56 from a day earlier.

France could hit the peak of the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic in seven to 10 days with the new restrictive measures announced by French President Emmanuel Macron, Health Minister Olivier Veran told France Inter radio.

France also reported 308 new deaths in hospitals from Covid-19, bringing the total tally of deaths in hospitals to 69,904.

Macron ordered France into its third national lockdown and said schools would close for three weeks as he sought to push back the third wave of Covid-19 infections that threatens to overwhelm hospitals.

Meanwhile, alcoholic drinks will be prohibited in French parks and other outdoor public spaces as part of the new limited nationwide lockdown to stem the Covid-19 crisis, Prime Minister Jean Castex announced.

Turkey to roll out local vaccine end of summer

Turkey is expected to roll out its first locally produced Covid-19 vaccine by the end of summer, the country's health minister has said.

Fahrettin Koca made the remarks while addressing a World Health Organization media briefing via video link.

"I believe that our first vaccine will be ready and successful by August, September, by the summer term," Koca said.

He pushed for enabling vaccine production globally without making intellectual property rights an issue. Koca stressed that there are 18 Turkish vaccine candidates on the WHO list.

Turkey has recorded 40,806 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, Health Ministry data showed, the highest level since the beginning of the pandemic.

Meanwhile the country recorded 176 deaths taking death toll to 31,713 fatalities.

Italy reports 501 deaths, 23,649 new cases

Italy has reported 501 coronavirus-related deaths against 467 the day before, the Health Ministry said, while the daily tally of new infections decreased to 23,649 from 23,904.

Some 356,085 tests for Covid-19 were carried out in the past day, compared with a previous 351,221, the ministry said.

Italy has registered 109,847 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 3.6 million cases to date.

Mexico reports 5,381 new cases, 454 deaths

Mexico has reported 5,381 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 454 more fatalities, bringing the country's total to 2,244,268 infections and 203,664 deaths, according to data from the Health Ministry.

The government says the real case numbers are likely significantly higher, and separate data published recently by the Health Ministry suggested the actual death toll from coronavirus may be at least 60 percent above the confirmed figure.

WHO says Europe's vaccination program is 'unacceptably slow'

European nations' immunisation campaigns against Covid-19 are “unacceptably slow” and risk prolonging the pandemic, a senior World Health Organization official has said.

Dr Hans Kluge, WHO's regional director for Europe, said vaccines “present our best way out of this pandemic,” but noted that to date, only 10 percent of Europe’s population has received one dose and that only 4 percent has been fully protected with two doses.

“As long as coverage remains low, we need to apply the same public health and social measures as we have in the past, to compensate for delayed schedules,” Kluge said.

Even those numbers hide the true scope of the problems facing the European Union's 27 nations, where only about 5.6 percent of its people have had a first vaccine shot, according to the bloc. In Britain, that figure is 46 percent of its population.

UK reports 4,479 new cases and 51 new deaths

The United Kingdom has reported 51 new Covid-19 deaths, taking the seven-day total to 320, a drop of 38.5 percent compared with the previous seven-day period, official data showed.

The daily number of new cases was 4,479, with the seven-day total at close to 32,000, down by 16.7 percent over the previous seven days, the data showed.

A total of 31.147 million people have had at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, while 4.513 million have had a second dose. 

Beijing begins to test venues for 2022 Winter Olympics

The organisers of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics have started 10 days of testing for the hockey and other indoor venues.

A curling mixed doubles competition was held at the refashioned “Water Cube," where an ice surface has been laid over the pool that hosted the swimming events at the 2008 Olympics.

Men's hockey players practiced at the nearby National Indoor Stadium, another venue built for the 2008 Games. Figure skating and speedskating venues will also be given a run-through during the April 1-10 test events.

China has limited experience running a high-level ice hockey tournament, so the test event provides an opportunity to fine-tune efforts to meet Olympic standards in facilities management and services for athletes, said Pan Zhongming, deputy director of operations for the National Indoor Stadium.

Uzbekistan launches vaccination drive nationwide

Vaccination against Covid-19 has kicked off in Uzbekistan, one of the last in the region to begin inoculating its population.

Authorities hope to immunize 4 million people, or nearly 12 percent of the 34.6-million population, between April and June, Uzbekistan’s Health Minister Abdukhakim Khadzhibayev told local media.

Uzbekistan has received 660,000 doses of the AstraZeneca shot through the COVAX global vaccine sharing program and 1 million doses of a vaccine developed by the Chinese drugmaker Anhui Zhifei Longcom Biopharmaceutical.

Bolivia closes Brazil border over Covid variant

Bolivia has closed its border with Brazil for at least a week to protect against the spread of a Covid-19 variant from the neighboring country that is struggling with a surge in deaths.

At least 66,000 people in Brazil died of Covid-19 in March, more than twice as many fatalities as the country's second-deadliest month of the pandemic, July 2020.

Pakistan reports highest number of cases since June

Pakistan has reported 4,974 new cases of Covid-19 infections, the highest number of daily cases reported since June 20, 2020. The country has a total of 672,931 cases and the death toll rose by 98 to reach 14,530 fatalities.

Meanwhile, authorities in Pakistan also began vaccinating people over 50 as the country also announced the purchase of 1 million doses of the Sinopharm vaccine from China, the first purchase that comes after initial donations.

China began donating vaccines to Pakistan in February, and since then only health workers and older people have received the shots.

In an effort to contain the spread of the disease, Pakistan has expanded the partial lockdown in cities with a high positive rate.

Malawi starts vaccination drive with AstraZeneca from COVAX

Malawi has kicked off its immunisation campaign,  vaccinating health care workers, the elderly and those with health conditions that put them at higher risk, using the AstraZeneca doses that arrived early in March.

People lined up to get the jabs at hospitals and clinics in Blantyre, the southern African country's largest city, in the first phase of the inoculation drive.

Malawi, one of the world's least developed countries, has launched its vaccine drive with the 360,000 doses that it received through the global COVAX initiative, which aims to ensure that low- and middle-income countries have fair access to vaccines.

Sweden to offer all adults first shot by Aug 15, later than planned

A shortage of vaccines means Sweden expects to offer all adults a first dose of a vaccine by August 15, later than its original plan of the end of June, officials have said.

"As the delivery forecast looks today, everyone over 18 should be able to have their first dose of the vaccine at the latest by August 15," Marie Morell, health care chief of the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions told reporters at a news conference.

Health Minister Lena Hallengren said the delay was due to a shortage of vaccines and changes in recommendations over how the vaccines are used.

French lawmakers to vote on new virus measures

France's prime minister  hasdefended the government's plans to close schools for at least three weeks and to ban domestic travel for a month to slow a resurgence of the coronavirus.

Prime Minister Jean Castex led a parliamentary debate on the new nationwide measures as the National Assembly, France’s lower house, prepared to vote on them Thursday.

Castex told lawmakers that the government has acted “consistently and pragmatically.”

Opposition parties were expected to boycott the vote. Jean-Luc Mélenchon of the leftist La France Insoumise party denounced it as a “bad April Fools'” prank.

While French schools are temporarily closed, Castex confirmed aid for families with children who rely on free school meals.

Germany's president receives AstraZeneca vaccine

Germany’s president has been vaccinated with the AstraZeneca shot, a signal of confidence in the vaccine after the country restricted its use in people under 60.

The presidential office said in a statement that President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who is 65, received his first shot at a hospital in Berlin on Thursday.

On Tuesday, Germany’s independent vaccine expert panel said the AstraZeneca vaccine shouldn’t routinely be given to under-60s because of a rise in reported cases of unusual blood clots in the days after vaccination.

German Health Minister Jens Spahn, who is 40 years old, told reporters Thursday that he would be willing to take AstraZeneca "when it's my turn". Chancellor Angela Merkel has also said she is up for the Anglo-Swedish company's vaccine when it is her turn.

Efforts to talk up the jab's effectiveness among elderly people were undermined by 71-year-old Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, who told the topselling Bild daily he had no plans to take AstraZeneca.

"The answer to Jens Spahn's appeal (to the elderly) is no," Seehofer said, adding that he had nothing against AstraZeneca but didn't want to be "patronised".

Several other countries, including France, Spain and Canada, have also imposed age limits on the AstraZeneca shot over the occurrence of rare but ve ry severe blood clots.

Poland reports new daily record of 35,251 cases

Poland has reported new daily record of 35,251 cases, health ministry data showed, as the country grapples with a third wave of the pandemic that has pushed its health service to its limits.

In total, the country of 38 million has reported 2,356,970 cases of the coronavirus and 53,665 deaths.

Russia reports 9,169 new cases, 383 deaths

Russia has reported 9,169 new cases on Thursday, including 2,151 in Moscow, pushing the infection tally in the country to 4,554,264 since the pandemic began.

The government coronavirus taskforce said that 383 people had died in the last 24 hours, taking Russia's death toll to 99,233.

Russia's statistics service, which is keeping a separate tally, has reported a much higher toll and said that more than 200,000 Russians died through January. 

Canada's most populous province to return lockdown: media

Canada's most populous province is expected to return to lockdown after a sharp rise in Covid-19 infections, local media reported Wednesday.

Premier Doug Ford is set to announce that Ontario -- home to 14 million people, more than a third of the country's population -- will return to lockdown for 28 days from Saturday, TV channels CBC and CTV reported.

The province has reported 2,000 new cases daily for a week, double the daily infections seen in the beginning of March.

India opens up immunisation to more people, vaccine exports to dwindle

India has opened up its coronavirus inoculation programme to people above 45 as infections surge, which will delay vaccine exports from the world's biggest maker of the drug.

The country, with the most number of reported cases after the United States and Brazil, has so far injected 64 million doses and exported nearly as many. This has raised criticism at home as India's per-capita vaccination figure is much lower than many countries.

The government has previously said that people over 45 can register for inoculation from April 1.

India reported 72,330 new infections overnight, data from the health ministry showed on Thursday, the highest since October 11.

The country reported 459 deaths, taking the total to 162,927, the data showed.

Hong Kong says will resume BioNTech  vaccines on April 5

Hong Kong authorities have said they would resume the use of a vaccine from Germany's BioNTech next Monday after abruptly halting inoculations 9 days ago due to defective packaging.

The announcement comes as the city's government tries to convince residents in the Chinese special administrative region to get vaccinated after a sluggish take-up due to dwindling confidence in China's Sinovac vaccine and fears of adverse reactions.

France hoping peak in hospital ICUs will be reached end April -Veran

France's number of patients in intensive care units (ICUs) should reach a peak by the end of the month thanks to the new restrictive measures detailed Wednesday, French Health Minister Olivier Veran has told France Inter radio.

President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday ordered France into its third national lockdown and said schools would close for three weeks as he sought to push back a third wave of  infections that threatens to overwhelm hospitals. 

Ukraine reports record daily deaths for second day in a row

Ukraine has registered a record daily high of 421 coronavirus-related deaths over 24 hours for the second day in a row, health minister Maksym Stepanov said.

On Wednesday, Ukraine reported 407 deaths.

Stepanov said 17,569 new infections were reported over the past day and a record high 5,160 people were hospitalised.

Ukraine has reported a total of 1,691,737 coronavirus cases and 33,246 deaths.

Germany's confirmed cases rise by 24,300 - RKI

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany has increased by 24,300 to 2,833,173, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed. 

The reported death toll rose by 201 to 76,543, the tally showed.

Australia lifts Brisbane lockdown in time for Easter

Australia has ended a lockdown of its third-biggest city Brisbane, just in time for Easter holidays, as only one new locally transmitted case in Queensland state eased fears of a widespread outbreak.

Video and photos on social media showed people wearing masks checking in at cafes and restaurants for lunch or having beer at bars as Brisbane emerged from its three-day snap lockdown at noon local time (0200 GMT).

Residents are, however, still required to wear masks in public and some social distancing restrictions will remain in place, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said earlier in the day as she announced the easing of curbs.

Chinese city on border with Myanmar reports 6 new cases

Health authorities in China's southwestern Yunnan province said six new confirmed cases were reported in Ruili city that borders Myanmar on March 31, amid efforts to contain a new outbreak there.

The city put residents in its urban area into home quarantine, began restricting people and vehicles' exit from the city and began a mass screening drive on Wednesday after reporting six new cases and three asymptomatic patients - those who are infected with the novel coronavirus but do not show symptoms of the disease.

Two of the new confirmed patients and 10 of the asymptomatic patients are Myanmar citizens, the Health Commission of Yunnan Province said in a statement.

Facebook virus lies 'biggest challenge' to PNG vaccine drive: minister

Papua New Guinea's health minister called disinformation spread on Facebook the "biggest challenge" to efforts to curb the rampant spread of Covid-19 in the poor Pacific nation.

Jelta Wong said "dangerous" posts and anti-vax conspiracy theories were hampering the drive to get people to seek treatment and testing for the disease as infection numbers soar.

"When Facebook hit Papua New Guinea everybody became an expert," Wong told an online event organised by Sydney's Lowy Institute think tank.

Diplomatic allies Taiwan and Palau begin travel bubble

Taiwan and Palau launched what is being billed as Asia-Pacific's first coronavirus travel bubble as the two diplomatic allies try to kickstart their battered tourist industries after successfully keeping infections at bay.

Around 100 excited Taiwanese tourists arrived at Taoyuan international airport near Taipei on Thursday morning, checking in five hours before their afternoon flight in order to be tested for the coronavirus.

WHO sounds warning over upcoming religious festivals

Days ahead of Easter and two weeks before Ramadan, the World Health Organization has cautioned against crowded indoor celebrations that could trigger a fresh surge in coronavirus infections.

"In countries experiencing widespread community transmission of the virus, virtual meetings, postponing or reducing such gatherings should be seriously considered," said a WHO statement.

"Regardless of location, any religious service should be held outdoors wherever possible or be limited in size and duration, with physical distancing, ventilation, hand hygiene and mask use, as appropriate," it added.

Better would be for people to mark the festivals with those they lived with and avoid meeting others – especially if feeling unwell or in isolation or quarantine, it said.

"Indoor gatherings, even smaller ones, can be especially risky."

Brazil sees record deaths

Brazil on has reported a daily record of 3,869 new Covid-19 deaths, with 90,638 new coronavirus cases in the prior 24 hours, the health ministry said

Mexico reports 5,977 new coronavirus cases, 577 deaths

Mexico has reported 5,977 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 577 more fatalities, bringing the country's total to 2,238,887 infections and 203,210 deaths, according to data from the health ministry.

The government says the real case numbers are likely significantly higher, and separate data published recently by the health ministry suggested the actual death toll from coronavirus may be at least 60 percent above the confirmed figure.

UK variant accounts for 75 percent of all cases in Turkey

Turkey has registered 180,448 UK variant cases of the novel coronavirus in 81 provinces, the country's health minister has said in a statement.

Following a meeting of the Coronavirus Scientific Advisory Board on Wednesday, Fahrettin Koca said the UK variant accounts for 75 percent of all cases in the country.

According to the statement on Twitter, the minister said Turkey has also detected 169 cases of the South African strain in 11 provinces, four cases of the Brazilian variant in two provinces, and two of the California-New York strain in one province.

About vaccine procurement, he said that besides the SinoVac and BioNTech, Turkey has new supply sources to speed up the vaccination drive.

"As a result of negotiations with different producers, Turkey soon will be able to purchase more Covid-19 vaccines," he said.

Italy extends coronavirus restrictions through April

Coronavirus restrictions in most of Italy that closed restaurants, shops and museums through Easter will be extended through April, the government has said.

But "an easing of measures" could be decided if the trend of the epidemic and the vaccination rollout warrant it, according to the decree approved late on Wednesday by the government of Prime Minister Mario Draghi.

Under the new decree, schools for lower grades will remain open, and it makes vaccines for healthcare workers compulsory.

Anyone refusing to be vaccinating can be reassigned, where possible, in roles away from the public. If not, their pay will be suspended.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies