Covid-19 has killed over 2.9M people globally and infected nearly 138M others. Here are the latest coronavirus-related developments for April 15:

Medical staff members tend to a patient infected with Covid-19 in the intensive care unit of the Saint-Camille hospital, in Bry-Sur-Marne, east of Paris on April 15, 2021.
Medical staff members tend to a patient infected with Covid-19 in the intensive care unit of the Saint-Camille hospital, in Bry-Sur-Marne, east of Paris on April 15, 2021. (AFP)

Thursday, April 15

Northern Ireland accelerates lockdown exit plans

Northern Ireland will open outdoor dining from the end of April and hotels from late May, the British region's government said, in an acceleration of its lockdown exit plans that will see it reopen its economy far faster than neighbouring Ireland.

All retail, outdoor restaurant and bar services and gyms will open on April 30, the Northern Ireland Executive said after earlier indicating they would open later in May.

Indoor dining and hotels will follow suit on May 24, subject to Covid-19 infection rates, the executive said in a statement.

Turkey reports record 297 deaths

Turkey recorded 297 deaths due to Covid-19 in the last 24 hours, the highest daily number since the beginning of the pandemic, data from the Health Ministry showed, bringing the total toll to 35,031.

Data also showed 61,400 new cases were recorded in the same period, bringing the total number of cases since the beginning of the pandemic to 4,086,957.

Canada's Ontario reports 4,736 new coronavirus cases

Ontario reported a record 4,736 coronavirus infections.

Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott says the number includes 1,188 new cases in Toronto, the country’s largest city. There were 29 reported deaths.

There are 1,932 people hospitalised in Ontario with Covid-19, and 659 patients in intensive care and 419 on a ventilator.

Albania to receive 2nd batch of AstraZeneca jab

Albania will receive a second batch of AstraZeneca vaccines this weekend.

Prime Minister Edi Rama says the country is expecting 90,800 AstraZeneca vaccines. The first batch of 38,000 arrived a month ago.

Finland seeking talks with Russia over Sputnik V vaccine

Finland's health minister said the Nordic country was initiating talks with Russia over buying its Sputnik V vaccine, which has yet to be approved for use in the European Union.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) is conducting a rolling review of the vaccine as many European countries seek to ramp up inoculation programmes that have been hampered by delivery delays and lagged behind countries such as Britain and the United States.

Booster shots may be needed after vaccines - US official

The United States is preparing for a possibility that a booster shot could be needed between nine to 12 months after a Covid-19 vaccine, a White House official said.

While the duration of immunity after vaccination is being studied, it is possible that vulnerable populations may need to get a booster shot first, said David Kessler, chief science officer for President Joe Biden's Covid-19 response task force. 

Virus could force Olympics cancellation, says top Japanese politician

A senior Japanese said cancelling the Tokyo Olympics over the coronavirus remains a possibility, as a surge in cases renews concerns about the Games with less than 100 days to go.

Toshiro Nikai, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party's number two, said the Olympics must be cancelled "without hesitation" if the virus situation is too severe.

Ukraine starts vaccinating athletes ahead of Olympics

Ukraine launched a vaccination drive to inoculate its athletes against the coronavirus ahead of the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Japan.

A total of 30 athletes set to represent the ex-Soviet country in Tokyo received their first jab of China's CoronaVac vaccine in front of cameras at a hospital in the capital Kiev.

France's virus death toll breaches the 100,000 casualty mark

France's Covid-19 death toll rose to over 100,000 casualties, according to the latest hospital figures from the health ministry, marking a bleak milestone for President Emmanuel Macron's government.

Data from the health ministry's GEODES website said French hospitals registered another 300 virus deaths in the last 24 hours, which - when added to the April 14 overall death figure - pushed the overall tally to more than 100,000 deaths.

France has the world's eighth-highest death toll.

Italy reports 380 virus deaths ,16,974 new cases

Italy reported 380 coronavirus-related deaths against 469 the day before, the health ministry said, while the daily tally of new infections rose to 16,974 from 16,168.

Italy has registered 115,937 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 3.83 million cases to date.

Slovak PM sees Sputnik V jabs by May despite rows with Russia, regulators

Slovakia may start using Russia's Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine in early May, Prime Minister Eduard Heger said, more than two months after a batch of 200,000 doses arrived into the country but which have remained locked in storage.

The deal to import the vaccine proved controversial because it has not been approved by the EU's drug regulator EMA. Also Slovakia has said domestic emergency authorisation was issued for a different dosage than what arrived, and the country's drug watchdog SUKL said it had not received sufficient data to assess the product.

Venezuela gets another 50,000 doses of Sputnik V vaccine

Venezuela has received a batch of 50,000 doses of Russia's Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine, Health Minister Carlos Alvarado said, as cases spike in the South American nation. 

Venezuela had previously acquired 250,000 Sputnik V vaccines and 500,000 doses of the shot developed by China's Sinopharm, which so far have been administered to public officials, health workers, teachers and some senior citizens.

The new round of vaccines will also be administered to firefighters, civil protection personnel and workers who take oxygen to hospitals, said Alvarado.

Russia extends ban on UK flights until June 1

Russia has extended a ban on flights to and from Britain until June due to a variant of the coronavirus first detected there, TASS news agency reported citing a statement by Russia's Federal Air Transport Agency.

Norway postpones decision on AstraZeneca vaccine

Norway will take more time to assess whether to resume the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine against or stop it altogether, health minister Bent Hoeie said.

Norway's Institute of Public Health (FHI) recommended ending the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine, in line with a Danish decision announced on Wednesday, but the government needs more information before making a final call, the minister said.

Norway on March 11 suspended the rollout of the vaccine after a small number of younger inoculated people were hospitalised for a combination of blood clots, bleeding and a low count of platelets, some of whom later died.

UK reports slight rise in daily Covid cases to 2,672

Britain reported 2,672 new virus cases, government data showed, up slightly from 2,491 on Wednesday but taking the fall over the last seven days to almost 7 percent compared with a week earlier.

A further 30 people were reported as having died within 28 days of a positive test for Covid-19, meaning there were 211 deaths between April 9 and 15, a fall of 2.3 percent compared with the previous seven days.

A total of 32.44 million people had received a first dose of a vaccine against coronavirus by April 14 and 8.51 million people had received a second dose.

Italy reports four clot deaths after AstraZeneca shots

Four people died in Italy from rare blood clots after they received the AstraZeneca vaccine, a report from the AIFA national pharmaceutical agency said.

The AIFA report said various side-effects were seen following 0.5 percent of the 9.07 million doses administered between December 27 and March 26, with all three vaccines so far used, by manufacturers Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Moderna, reported to have triggered unwelcome reactions.

Severe side-effects were registered in 0.04 percent of cases.

New Zealand to donate vaccines 

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that it would donate Covid-19 vaccine for 800,000 people via the COVAX dose-sharing facility that aims to protect health workers and other vulnerable people in lower income countries.

She was the first leader to pledge doses at the event held by the Gavi Vaccine Alliance, although European countries including Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden pledged new funds. 

Iran finalises deal for 60M doses of Sputnik V

Iran has finalised a deal with Russia to purchase 60 million doses of Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine.

The state-run IRNA news agency reported that Iran’s ambassador to Russia, Kazem Jalali, says the contract for enough vaccines to inoculate 30 million people was “signed and finalised.” Jalali says Iran will receive the vaccines by the end of the year.

India's New Delhi imposes stricter virus restrictions

India’s two largest cities have imposed stringent restrictions on movement and one planned to use hotels and banquet halls to treat coronavirus patients.

New Delhi announced stay-at-home orders for the weekend. The moves in the capital came after similar measures were imposed in the financial capital of Mumbai.

Those moves came as daily infections in the country shot past 200,000 Thursday amid a devastating surge that is straining a fragile health system. The soaring cases and deaths have forced India to delay exports of vaccines to other countries.

France will have vaccinated 12M people against virus - PM

France will have vaccinated 12 million people with a first shot of the vaccine by Thursday evening, said French Prime Minister Jean Castex.

Castex was speaking after he visited a vaccination centre in the Paris region with his health minister Olivier Veran.

AstraZeneca CEO says committed to supply COVAX, calls for open borders

The CEO of Astrazeneca Pascal Soriot said that although the Anglo-Swedish company had hit "bumps on the road" it had been able to deliver large quantities of vaccines in the first quarter and was ramping up production.

Soriot, speaking to an event of the Gavi Vaccine Alliance, said that it had provided 38 million doses to the COVAX dose-sharing facility, and was committed to continue doing so, but that it was important for borders to remain open.

Greece to allow vaccinated tourists in next week

Greece plans to open its borders to vaccinated visitors from several countries from next week, the government said, as the country seeks to restart its badly-hit tourism sector.  

The scheme is part of a pilot project to allow entry to people with the so-called vaccine passports, an exception until now open only to Israeli visitors.

Under the initiative, travellers will be able to avoid a seven-day quarantine currently imposed on visitors.

The European Union has said it wants to get a vaccine passport off the ground for travellers, though plans have not yet been formalised. 

Brazil in 'humanitarian catastrophe' due to Covid – MSF

Brazil's "failed" response to Covid-19 has driven the country to a "humanitarian catastrophe," Doctors Without Borders said, accusing President Jair Bolsonaro's government of making the health crisis even worse.

"The lack of political will to adequately respond to the pandemic is killing Brazilians in their thousands," the humanitarian group said in a statement.

The statement underlined the deadly surge of Covid-19 that has made Brazil the current epicentre of the pandemic.

Bangladesh virus cases surpass 10,000

The death toll from coronavirus in Bangladesh crossed 10,000.

The country’s health facilities are struggling to cope with the increased demands for hospital beds for the critical patients. There were more than 4,000 confirmed cases and 94 deaths reported in the last day.

Hungary defends Chinese-produced virus vaccine

A Hungarian minister dismissed concerns over the effectiveness of a Chinese-produced virus vaccine , claiming it provided better protection from coronavirus than some Western shots without providing any evidence.

Gergely Gulyas, chief of staff to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, told an online press briefing that all six vaccines currently in use in Hungary are “reliable and effective,” and there is no need to provide a third dose of a jab produced by Chinese state-owned company Sinopharm.

Europe surpasses 1 million virus deaths 

A top official from the World Health Organization says Europe has surpassed 1 million deaths from Covid-19.

Dr. Hans Kluge says the situation remains “serious” with about 1.6 million new cases reported each week in the 53 countries that make up its European region.

Addressing recent concerns about vaccines, Kluge says the risk of people suffering blood clots is far higher for people with Covid-19 than people who receive AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine.

Japan's Osaka reports record 1,208 cases

Japan’s western metropolis of Osaka reported a record 1,208 new coronavirus cases.

Tokyo reported a two-month high of 729 daily cases. A virus alert status began in Tokyo on Monday, allowing the authorities to issue binding orders for shorter hours at bars and restaurants.

Osaka and four other prefectures are also on alert, and the government is expected to add a few more areas for the elevated measures on Friday.

Use Covid-19 lessons to battle deadly superbugs – WHO

Lessons learned during the Covid-19 pandemic should be used to fight the spread of drug-resistant bacteria, which kill tens of thousands of people each year, the World Health Organization said.

The UN health agency warned that the world was running out of options for fighting so-called superbugs, with few new effective antibiotics in the pipeline.

Serbia to produce Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine

Serbia has announced it will begin packing and later producing Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine, which would make it the first European state outside Russia and Belarus to begin manufacturing the jab.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic visited an institute in the Serbian capital, Belgrade, where he said the Russian vaccine will be manufactured in a “few months.” He said for now, the vaccine will be packed in Belgrade after receiving its components from Russia.

CureVac's vaccine attracts rising interest

German biotech firm CureVac said it has seen the number of requests for its experimental vaccine increase over the past few days, as concerns over rare side effects have hit some other coronavirus shots.

Global vaccine supply "incredibly tight" - Gavi

The global supply of vaccine is "incredibly tight" and the COVAX dose-sharing facility is unlikely to procure much more supply in 2021 than doses already reserved, the Gavi vaccine alliance ceo Seth Berkley said.

"We urgently need commitments of a further $2 billion from donors and $1 billion from countries supported by multilateral development banks. Included in the $2 billion we ask for is $150 million from the private sector," Berkley told an event, referring to a funding target for June.

Iran sees rising virus death rate if lockdown rules breached

The new coronavirus is killing one person every four minutes in Iran, state TV reported, a death rate authorities said was sure to quicken if Iranians continue to fail to adhere to health protocols.

"This week is worse than the previous week. The situation will be much worse next week and we have very difficult days ahead," Health Minister Saeed Namaki was quoted by state media as saying.

The health ministry in the Middle East's hardest-hit country on Thursday reported 321 new deaths and 25,078 new cases over the past 24 hours. A banner on state TV said that amounted to a death every four minutes.

Poland starts J&J jabs, says benefits outweigh risks

Poland started administering Johnson & Johnson  shots as benefits from the vaccine outweigh potential risks, government and drug office representatives said.

Sweden registers 7,095 new virus cases, 41 deaths

Sweden, which has shunned lockdowns throughout the pandemic, registered 7,095 new coronavirus cases, health agency statistics showed.

The country of 10 million inhabitants registered 41 new deaths, taking the total to 13,761. 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. 

Malaysia's health ministry calls for ban on Eid travel 

Malaysia's health ministry has proposed retaining a ban on interstate travel throughout the Eid festive season, state news agency Bernama reported, as the number of virus infections in the country jumped to a five-week high.

Muslim-majority Malaysia has gradually eased movement curbs since embarking on a nationwide vaccination programme in February, though the government has yet to decide on whether to allow interstate travel ahead of the Eid Al Fitr festival on May 13. The Southeast Asian nation has seen a surge in cases in recent weeks, with the country reporting 2,148 new coronavirus infections on Thursday, the highest daily rise since March 5.

WHO says Denmark looking to share AstraZeneca vaccines

The World Health Organization Europe head, Hans Kluge, said that Denmark is examining options for sharing AstraZeneca's vaccines with poorer nations, after itself halting use of the shots over concerns over rare blood clots. 

German health minister tells states to tighten restrictions

German Health Minister Jens Spahn urged the country's 16 federal states to impose tougher restrictions quickly to try to slow a third wave of the coronavirus and not to wait until a national law on measures is passed.

His appeal came as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases jumped extensively. 

Hong Kong widens virus vaccine scheme to under 30s

Hong Kong authorities said that the city's vaccine scheme would be widened to include those aged between 16 to 29 years old for the first time, as they aim to boost lacklustre demand for inoculations in the Asian financial hub.

Hong Kong has seen a relatively slow take-up of vaccines since rolling out the scheme in February, with only around 8 percent of Hong Kong's 7.5 million residents having been inoculated so far.

Experts: Proof of vaccine can be on paper or apps

Vaccine passports, or vaccine certificates, are documents that show you were vaccinated against the virus or recently tested negative for the virus. 

They could help you get into places such as stadiums or even countries that are looking to reopen safely.

The certificates are still being developed, and how and whether they’ll be used could vary widely around the world. Experts say they should be free and available on paper, not just on apps, since not everyone has a smartphone.

In the US, federal officials say there are no plans to make them broadly mandatory.

In some states, Republican governors have issued orders barring businesses or state agencies from asking people to show proof of vaccination.

Objections revolve mostly around privacy and security, how people’s personal information will be stored, and fairness. 

Critics say the passports will benefit people and countries with more access to vaccines.

Supporters say they could make reopenings faster and easier. 

Proof of vaccination or a negative test could be a way for businesses and schools to reassure customers, students and parents that steps are being taken to limit transmission of the virus.

International travel bans by countries could also be eased if people are able to show proof they’re vaccinated. Some countries have long had requirements to prove vaccination against yellow fever.

Still, a challenge is creating certification systems that work across vaccine providers and businesses. More than a dozen initiatives are underway to develop a credential that could be stored on a smartphone or printed on paper, using a QR code.

German 2021 growth seen weaker due to virus curbs

German economic growth will be weaker than expected in 2021, leading research institutes says, as ongoing coronavirus restrictions continue to slow recovery on Europe's largest economy.

Germany's gross domestic product will expand by only 3.7 percent this year, five economic think-tanks including Ifo, DIW and RWI said in their annual spring report, revising down more optimistic predictions made in the autumn by one percentage point.

Thailand adds 1,500 cases, mulls new measures

Thailand’s virus cases surpassed 1,500 to set another record, sparking concerns the pandemic may spiral out of hand.

More than 8,000 cases have been recorded since April 1 in a fresh outbreak linked to nightclubs and bars in central Bangkok. The 1,543 new cases pushes the country’s tally to 37,543, with 97 deaths.

Dr. Chawetsan Namwat from the Department of Disease Control said the outbreak appeared to have spread beyond entertainment venues with new cases now linked to activities such as seminars, office meetings and student field trips.

He said the National Infection Control Committee will meet to discuss new measures. Up to 6,000 hospital beds will be added in Bangkok to cope with the rise, he said.

Cambodia orders strict 2-week lockdown of Phnom Penh

Cambodia’s leader has ordered a strict stay-at-home two-week lockdown in the capital Phnom Penh to slow a surge in coronavirus cases, warning “we will die unless we act responsibly.”

With the vaccination campaign still at an early stage, the Health Ministry reported 178 news cases, including 145 plus two deaths in Phnom Penh. Cambodia has so far confirmed 4,874 cases and 35 deaths.

The latest outbreak has been traced to a foreign resident who broke the hotel quarantine and went to a nightclub in early February. The government on February 20 announced a two-week closure of public schools, cinemas, bars and entertainment venues in the capital. As cases rose, the closures were extended throughout the country for schools, gyms, concert halls, museums and other gathering places.

Ex-world leaders urge US to waive vaccine property rules

Some 170 former country leaders and Nobel prize laureates have called on the US to waive intellectual property rules for Covid-19 vaccines to give poorer countries faster access to inoculations.

In an open letter to President Joe Biden, the group said it was "gravely concerned by the very slow progress" in scaling up global vaccine access and inoculation in low- and middle-income countries.

While vaccination rollout in the US and many wealthier countries was bringing hope to their citizens, "for the majority of the world that same hope is yet to be seen", said the signatories who include Nobel winners Muhammad Yunus, Joseph Stiglitz and Mohamed ElBaradei and former world leaders such as Mikhail Gorbachev, Francois Hollande and Gordon Brown.

The group said it was "encouraged" that the Biden administration was considering a temporary waiver of World Trade Organization (WTO) intellectual property rules during the Covid-19 pandemic, as proposed by South Africa and India.

Russia reports 8,944 new cases

Russia has reported 8,944 new cases, including 2,455 in Moscow, taking the official national tally to 4,675,153.

The government coronavirus task force said 398 people had died in the past 24 hours, pushing its death toll to 104,398.

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.

Ireland on track to ease restrictions, lay out summer plan

Ireland is on track to ease restrictions from May 4 to allow the phased reopening of all retail stores and hairdressers and will also develop a plan for further reopenings in June and July, Deputy Prime Minister Leo Varadkar says.

Ireland shut most shops, building sites and hospitality in late December after a surge of Covid-19 infections. It began gradually unwinding economic restrictions this week, with housebuilding permitted and all students returning to schools.

The third shutdown in the last year has turned one of the world's highest incidence rates of Covid-19 in January into one of Europe's lowest.

The number of cases per 100,000 people measured over the past 14 days has fallen to 132 this week.

India skyrockets past 14M virus cases

India reported more than 200,000 new cases on Thursday, skyrocketing past 14 million overall as an intensifying outbreak puts a grim weight on its fragile health care system.

In the capital, New Delhi, more than a dozen hotels and wedding banquet halls were ordered to be converted into centers attached to hospitals.

The bustle of India's biggest city and financial capital, Mumbai, ebbed under lockdown-like curbs to curb the spread of the virus. The action imposed by worst-hit Maharashtra state Wednesday night closed most industries, businesses and public places and limits the movement of people for 15 days, but didn’t stop train and air services.

In recent days, migrant workers hauling backpacks have swarmed overcrowded trains leaving Mumbai, an exodus among panic-stricken day laborers.

In addition to the 200,739 new cases of infection, the Health Ministry also reported 1,038 virus fatalities in the past 24 hours, taking deaths to 173,123 since the pandemic started last year.

India's total cases are second behind the United States and its deaths are fourth behind the US, Brazil and Mexico. The actual numbers may be much higher with limited testing among India's nearly 1.4 billion people.

Homeless Americans finally getting a chance at vaccine shot

Homeless Americans who have been left off priority lists for vaccinations, or even bumped aside as states shifted eligibility to older age groups, are finally getting their shots as vaccine supplies increase.

While the US government has only incomplete data on infections among homeless people, it’s clear that crowded, unsanitary conditions at shelters and underlying poor health increase the danger of infections, severe complications and death.

Virus outbreaks have been documented at homeless shelters in cities such as Boston, San Francisco and Seattle.

Germany's virus cases rise by 29,426

The number of confirmed virus cases in Germany has increased by 29,426 to 3,073,442. 

The reported death toll rose by 293 to 79,381, the data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed. 

Cancelling Olympics remains an option - Japan ruling party official

A senior Japanese ruling party official has said cancelling this year's Olympic Games is an option if the pandemic becomes too dire, less than 100 days out from the planned start of the Games.

If rising cases means "it is said to be impossible we would have to give up," Toshihiro Nikai, secretary general of the Liberal Democratic Party, said in comments in a television interview due to air on Friday, Kyodo reported.

The world's biggest sporting event has already been delayed by a year and is being held without international spectators.

Argentina extends restrictions amid virus surge

Argentina's President has announced new restrictions in the country amid a surge in new infections.

Alberto Fernandez revealed that there would be an evening curfew of between 8pm and 6am where it wouldn't be possible to "circulate the streets."

He also ordered the suspension of all "recreational, social, cultural, sporting and religious activities" as part of the new plan.

Argentina reported on Wednesday that it had 25,157 confirmed cases in the latest 24 hour period, bringing the total number to 2.6 million cases.

Governor pushes for California schools to reopen

Gov. Gavin Newsom has urged all California schools to reopen, emphasising that there are no state or health barriers to getting children back into classrooms and ending distance learning.

His frustration was evident: "Money is not an object now. It's an excuse," he said.  

Newsom spoke at an elementary school in Santa Rosa that began welcoming students back this week.

But his wishes remain an expectation rather than a mandate in California's decentralized education system, where 1,200 school districts negotiate separately with teachers unions and ultimately govern themselves.

EU to get 50M Pfizer doses early as US prolongs J&J pause

The European Union has said that it is expecting 50 million Pfizer vaccine doses earlier than expected, as the United States has said it would continue a pause in vaccinations using the Johnson & Johnson shot for at least another week so regulators can assess possible blood clot links.

Rival drugmaker AstraZeneca faced a similar setback after Denmark banned its use, also over blood clot links.

Concerns over using the J&J and AstraZeneca vaccines have dampen hopes that mass immunizations will lead to a swift exit from the global pandemic that has killed nearly three million people and ravaged the global economy.

Nevertheless there was some good news as BioNTech-Pfizer announced that 50 million doses that were due to arrive in Europe in late 2021 will instead start arriving as early as this month.

More than 820 million vaccine doses have now been administered globally. Demand continues to outstrip supply, and countries are scrambling to secure the much-needed jabs for their people.

Brazil investigates reports of vaccines being exchanged for illegal gold

Federal prosecutors in the Brazilian state of Roraima are investigating reports that illegally-mined gold is being exchanged for vaccines in the Yanomami indigenous reserve, the prosecutors office told Reuters news agency.

Tribal leaders in the Amazon region have complained of the deals and prosecutors say they will investigate the reports as part of an investigation already under way into the diversion of vaccine shots intended for indigenous people.

Brazil is currently experiencing one of the worst waves of the coronavirus pandemic any country has suffered, and its indigenous people are among the most vulnerable.

The Hutukara Association, which represents the Yanomami people, flagged the issue to prosecutors with the backing of the Instituto Socioambiental, a non-governmental organization.

The association said a health worker in the Homoxi district gave illegal miners vaccines in exchange for gold. The worker also sold gasoline and a generator to the miners for gold, the association said.

"The Yanomami have long complained that materials and medicines intended for indigenous health are being diverted to wildcat miners," Hutukara's Dario Kopenawa Ianomami said in a letter outlining the formal complaints sent to prosecutors and the Health Ministry.

Brazil registered 3,459 deaths and 73,513 additional cases, according to data released by the nation's Health Ministry.

The South American country has registered 361,884 total coronavirus deaths and 13,673,507 total confirmed cases.

J&J vaccine in limbo as US panel delays vote on resuming shots

Johnson & Johnson's Covid-19 vaccine remained in limbo as a US health panel called for more data before making a decision on how and whether to resume use of the one-dose shot, putting off a vote for a week or more.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advisory panel decided to delay a vote on how best to use the J&J shot even after a US Food and Drug Administration scientist told advisers he believed warnings could mitigate the risk of extremely rare but serious blood clots.

The panel is reviewing six reported cases of rare brain blood clots in women who received the J&J vaccine, a day after the FDA and CDC jointly recommended pausing its use to assess the issue.

Dr. Lynn Batha, an epidemiologist at the Minnesota health department, and several others spoke in favor of extending the pause to gather more safety information.

"By having more robust information, I think we can be more confident about how we talk about the safety of this vaccine," she told other members of the advisory panel.

Ex-leaders, Nobel winners urge US to back vaccine waiver

More than 60 former heads of state, including former leaders of Britain and France, and over 100 Nobel Prize winners have called on US President Joe Biden to back a waiver of intellectual property rules for vaccines.

A waiver would boost vaccine manufacturing and speed up the response to the pandemic in poorer countries which otherwise might have to wait years, they said in a joint letter to Biden sent to news organisations.

"President Biden has said that no one is safe until everyone is safe, and now with the G7 ahead there is an unparalleled opportunity to provide the leadership that only the U.S. can provide," said former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, referring to an upcoming meeting of the world's wealthiest countries.

The letter asked Biden to back a proposal by South Africa and India at the World Trade Organization to temporarily waive intellectual property rules related to Covid-19 vaccines and treatments.

It said that, based on the current pace of vaccine production, most poor nations will have to wait until at least 2024 to achieve mass Covid-19 immunisation.

Study finds that blocking seats on planes reduces virus risk

A new study says leaving middle seats open could give airline passengers more protection from the virus that causes Covid-19.

Researchers said the risk of passengers being exposed to the virus from an infected person on the plane could be reduced by 23 percent to 57 percent if middle seats are empty, compared with a full flight.

The study released on Wednesday supports the response of airlines that limited seating early in the pandemic. 

However, all US airlines except Delta now sell every seat they can, and Delta will stop blocking middle seats on May 1.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies