Covid-19 has infected more than 166.2 million people and has claimed 3.4 million lives. Here are coronavirus-related updates for May 21:

A patient suffering from Covid-19 receives treatment at the coronavirus disease Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of the
A patient suffering from Covid-19 receives treatment at the coronavirus disease Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of the "Klinikum Darmstadt" clinic in Darmstadt, Germany, May 20, 2021. (Reuters)

Friday, May 21: 

Germany declares UK a virus variant region

Germany's public health institute has declared Britain and Northern Ireland a virus variant region, requiring anyone entering the country from the United Kingdom to quarantine for two weeks on arrival.

Cases of a coronavirus variant of concern first found in India continue to climb in Britain.

"We want to play it safe," a German government source said. "In this important phase of the vaccination campaign, the entry of problematic mutations must be avoided as far as possible."

Mexico to get material for 4M AstraZeneca doses, official says

Mexico will receive the active ingredient for a total of some 4 million AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine shots by the end of next week, a senior Mexican official has said, shipments that should help Latin America fight the virus.

An air cargo for around 1.3 million doses that arrived in Mexico from the United States on Thursday night was the first part of the shipments of Argentine-made active ingredient for the vaccine, the official said.

Germany to take France off coronavirus risk list - sources

Germany plans to remove France from its list of coronavirus risk areas due to a sharp drop in the number of cases there, two government sources have said.

Slovenia and Croatia, popular summer holiday destinations, would also no longer be classified as risk areas, the sources added.

French Covid-19 indicators improve further

French Covid-19 indicators have improved further, with the health ministry reporting 3,631 people in intensive care units with Covid-19, down by 138 from Thursday, while the overall number of Covid patients also fell again to just over 20,000.

France also reported 109 new coronavirus deaths in hospitals, compared with 173 on Friday last week, and 305 on Friday three weeks ago. The total number of deaths stands at 108,437.

The ministry also reported 12,800 new Covid-19 cases, taking the total to 5.58 million, after revising the cumulative total down by 348,846 on Thursday to elimate the double-counting of people who have been tested several times.

France reported 123 new coronavirus deaths on Friday, and the seven-day moving average of daily deaths fell below 150 for the first time since mid-October.

India asks social media firms to remove reference to 'Indian variant' of coronavirus

India's information technology (IT) ministry has written to all social media companies asking them to take down any content that refers to an "Indian variant" of the coronavirus, according to a letter issued on Friday which was seen by Reuters news agency.

Over 27M Covid-19 shots given in Turkey to date

Turkey has administered over 27 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines since launching a mass vaccination campaign on January 14, according to official figures.

Some 27.62 million doses have been administered in Turkey as of Friday evening, according to Health Ministry data.

In total, more than 15.79 million people have received their first doses, while over 11.82 million have been fully vaccinated.

The ministry also confirmed a total of 9,528 new cases, including 846 symptomatic patients, across the country in the past 24 hours.

Turkey's overall case tally is now over 5.16 million, while the nationwide death toll reached 45,840, with 214 more fatalities over the past day.

As many as 8,852 more patients won the battle against the virus, taking the total number of recoveries past 4.99 million.

Over 51.95 million coronavirus tests have been done to date, including 218,846 since Thursday.

The latest figures show that t he number of Covid-19 patients in critical condition stands at 1,977.

Canada extends ban on India flights; Manitoba asks Trudeau for help

Canada has extended its ban on passenger flights from India and Pakistan by 30 days to June 21 as part of a campaign to fight Covid-19, Transport Minister Omar Alghabra has said.

Alghabra said Canada had seen "a significant reduction" in coronavirus infections among arriving airline passengers since Ottawa first announced the bans on April 22 as the number of cases in India soared. The move does not affect cargo flights.

"These ongoing measures will remain in place to help protect Canadians and to manage the elevated risk of imported cases of Covid-19 and variants of concern," he told a briefing.

Colombia bars travellers from India over coronavirus variant

Colombia has barred non-resident arrivals from India through the end of June in an effort to prevent the spread of Covid-19 variant B.1.617, the health ministry has said.

The restrictions came into force on Thursday, although travellers who were already in the air or on their journey to Colombia are exempt.

The variant's potentially higher rates of transmission motivated Colombia's decision, the ministry in a statement.

Italy reports 218 deaths, 5,218 new cases

Italy reported 218 coronavirus-related deaths against 164 the day before, the health ministry has said, while the daily tally of new infections fell to 5,218 from 5,741.

Italy has registered 125,028 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 4.18 million cases to date.

Patients in hospital with Covid-19 - not including those in intensive care - stood at 9,925 on Friday, down from 10,383 a day earlier.

There were 51 new admissions to intensive care units, down from 69 on Thursday. The total number of intensive care patients fell to 1,469 from a previous 1,544.

Some 269,744 tests for Covid-19 were carried out in the past day, compared with a previous 251,037, the health ministry said. 

UK reports 2,829 further cases, nine more deaths

Britain has reported a further 2,829 coronavirus cases and nine more deaths within 28 days of a positive test, according to official data which also showed the number of people to have received a first vaccine dose rose to 37,518,614.

Britain to work with WHO on 'pandemic radar' to track diseases

Britain will work with the World Health Organization (WHO) to develop a "pandemic radar" system to identify new coronavirus variants quickly and track emerging diseases globally to ensure the world is never "caught unawares again".

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the plan for a "Global Pandemic Radar" ahead of a G20 Global Health summit on Friday in Rome, where he called on the world to unite to tackle Covid-19 and future pandemics.

He is using Britain's presidency of the G7 to high light the need to be prepared for future pandemics, launching an expert group to examine how the development of vaccines against future diseases can be expedited.

"Tackling Covid-19 globally and ensuring we are better prepared for future health threats is an absolute priority for the UK’s G7 presidency," Johnson said.

Sweat-sniffer dogs make Thai debut as coronavirus detectors

Thailand has deployed dogs trained to detect coronavirus infections by sniffing samples of human sweat, as the country deals with a spike in infections, including many without symptoms of the virus.

Three of six trained Labradors made their debut at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University after trials that the project leader said had shown a success rate of about 95%, with about 2,000 samples sniffed this month.

"The canines are very fast at screening," said co-researcher Thitiwat Sirprasart. "At this pace, we are able to isolate those whom we suspect are infected from those who are virus-free."

The dogs are not required to smell the humans directly. Sweat samples are collected from humans and stored in small metal containers for the dogs to inspect one-by-one.

China's Xi pledges $3B pandemic aid for poor nations

China's President Xi Jinping has pledged an additional $3 billion in aid over the next three years to help developing countries recover from the coronavirus pandemic, and proposed setting up an international forum on vaccine cooperation.

The funds will go toward supporting the Covid-19 response and economic and social recovery, Xi said in a speech at the Group of 20 Global Health Summit.

While developed countries are producing vaccines and rapidly inoculating their populations, poorer nations have complained about a lack of access, with the World Health Organization warning of a "catastrophic moral failure."

Bangladesh orders lockdown in Rohingya camps as cases jump

Bangladesh has ordered a strict lockdown in five camps that are home to nearly 100,000 Rohingya refugees following a sharp rise in coronavirus cases in the world's largest refugee settlement this week, government officials said on Friday.

Nearly a million Rohingya refugees who fled persecution in Myanmar live in 34 sprawling camps in southeastern Bangladesh, and campaigners have warned that the crowded conditions make it difficult to stem the virus's spread.

EU regulator advices against second AstraZeneca shot in those with blood clots

Europe's drug regulator has said AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine must not be given to anyone who has had blood clots with low blood platelets after receiving the shot, and that patients must be monitored for signs within three weeks of vaccination.

The recommendations were provided by the European Medicines Agency as part of an ongoing review of rare, but severe blood clots that have been possibly linked to inoculation after the vaccine and also J&J's coronavirus vaccine.

Excess deaths due to pandemic up to three times higher than reported Covid toll

Up to three times more people have died due to the pandemic than indicated by the officially reported Covid deaths, the World Health Organization said.

"Total deaths are at least 2-3 times higher than officially reported," Samira Asma, WHO Assistant Director-General in charge of data, told reporters as the UN health agency released an annual report on global health statistics.

In 2020, it found there had been at least three million excess deaths due directly or indirectly to Covid-19, while the official number of Covid deaths was 1.8 million at the end of the year.

Greece sees tourism traffic at 50 percent of 2019 levels this year – spokeswoman

Greece expects tourist arrivals this year to reach half the levels seen in 2019, a government spokeswoman said.

"We can expect a traffic at 50 percent of 2019 levels," Greek government spokeswoman Aristotelia Peloni told Greek website

EU to donate at least 100 million vaccines to poorer nations this year

The European Union intends to donate at least 100 million doses of vaccines to poorer nations by the end of this year, the president of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said.

Norway to further ease restrictions from May 27, PM says

Norway will take the next major step in unwinding restrictions related to the pandemic on May 27, allowing larger groups of people to meet and the public serving of alcohol until midnight, Prime Minister Erna Solberg said.

"This means that we can advance the work of getting Norway back up to speed," Solberg told a news conference.

The government last month said the second phase of a four-step plan to unwind the lockdown would likely begin in late May.

Local restrictions will however in some places remain tougher than the national rules to prevent regional flare-ups of the virus.

Spain to let vaccinated travellers from non-EU countries in from June 7

Spain will allow people from non-EU countries who have been vaccinated enter the country from June 7, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said.

The new rule will apply to travellers from the United States, Sanchez pointed out. 

Russia reports 8,937 new cases, 389 deaths

Russia reported 8,937 new cases, including 2,954 in Moscow, taking the official national tally since the pandemic began to 4,983,845.

The government coronavirus task force said 389 people had died of coronavirus-linked causes in the past 24 hours, pushing the national death toll to 117,739.

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

Malaysia reports 6,493 new cases

Malaysia reported 6,493 new cases amid a recent surge in infections, bringing the total to 498,795.

The number of new cases was not too far from the record high of 6,806 reported on Thursday, when Malaysia also saw its highest daily toll of 59 deaths.

Taiwan says has asked US for help getting vaccines

Taiwan Health Minister Chen Shih-chung said  the government has asked the United States for help in getting vaccines, amid a spike in domestic cases on the island.

Thailand reports first local cases of virus variant first found in India

Thailand has detected its first 15 domestically transmitted cases of the highly infectious variant first found in India, the country's coronavirus taskforce said.

The 15 cases were discovered among construction workers in Bangkok. Those were among 3,481 new cases and 32 new deaths announced, bringing the total to 123,066 cases and 735 fatalities overall.

Hungary to lift most remaining curbs – PM Orban

Hungary will lift most remaining curbs, including a night-time curfew, as soon as the number of those vaccinated reaches a milestone of 5 million this weekend, Prime Minister Viktor Orban told radio.

Orban said masks would no longer be needed in public places, and gatherings of up to 500 people can be held in the open air. Also allowed will be weddings with up to 200 people in attendance.

Taiwanese urged to stay home as cases rise

Taiwan reported 312 new confirmed cases as part of its worst outbreak since the beginning of the pandemic.

Health Minister Chen Shih-chung says most of the cases have a clear source, but 72 of the new ones were not apparently linked to the previous infections.

Chen urged the island’s residents to refrain from socialising and stay at home.

Taiwan raised its alert level this week, banning indoor gatherings of more than five people and outdoor gatherings of more than 10.

Australia urges over-50s to get jabbed as vaccine hesitancy grows

Australia pressed over-50s to get their coronavirus shots, as fears mounted that vaccine hesitancy could be priming the country for disaster.

Australia is one of the few countries in the world to eliminate community transmission of Covid-19, but vaccine rollout has been slow.

After chronic delivery delays, there is growing evidence that older Australians are more concerned about the AstraZeneca vaccine's side effects than catching the virus.

Japan approves more Covid-19 vaccines as state of emergency set to widen

Japan is set to expand a state of emergency to cover the southern island of Okinawa, just as it approved two more novel coronavirus vaccines to speed up its lagging inoculation campaign.

After health regulators' green light a day earlier, the government said it approved vaccines developed by Moderna Inc and AstraZeneca PLC, which will join that developed by Pfizer Inc together with BioNTech SE in a vaccination drive that began in mid-February.

Local media reported that the government was unlikely to use the AstraZeneca shots for the time being due to concerns over blood clots. Japan has arranged to buy 120 million doses of the British-Swedish drugmaker's vaccine.

South Korea approves Moderna's  vaccine

South Korea approves Moderna Inc's vaccine, as the country attempts to speed up its inoculation efforts, drug safety minister Kim Gang-lip told a news conference.

The final approval comes after two of three expert panels recommended to grant approval of the two-dose vaccine based on safety and efficacy in late-stage trials in the United States.

US sends 1.2 million vaccine doses to Mexico

The United States sent Mexico nearly 1.2 million doses of AstraZeneca's vaccine, Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said.

The new batch of vaccines arrived after US President Joe Biden said this week he planned to send 60 million AstraZeneca shots to other countries. The United States previously sent 2.7 million doses of the same vaccine to Mexico in March. 

Australia state tries to attract domestic tourists

The premier of the Australian state of Queensland launched a campaign aimed at encouraging people to work in the tourism industry in her state.

The campaign dubbed "Work in Paradise" was launched by premier Annastacia Palaszczuk in Cairns.

Palaszczuk said people will be offered  $1165 US1500 (Australian dollars) as an incentive to move to her state to work in the industry and another  $95 US (250 dollars) in travel expenses.

Tourism Tropical North Queensland's Mark Olsen said the campaign is intended to help businesses and tourism operators recover some of their losses suffered during the pandemic, and to address the shortage of tourism workers in the state's regions.

Africa has much higher mortality rate for very ill Covid patients – study

Seriously ill patients in African countries are more likely to die than those on other continents, which could be because of a lack of critical care equipment, a study published said.

Africa's populations have so far been less badly hit by the pandemic than other regions when it comes to total number of cases and deaths, but the authors suggest the mortality rate of those who do get sick could be even higher than their figures suggest because of a lack of data.

The study followed 3,000 coronavirus patients admitted to intensive care units across 10 African countries between May and December last year.

Almost half of them died within 30 days of admission.

All Blacks great Read says he had Covid in Japan

Former All Blacks captain Kieran Read revealed he caught coronavirus while playing in Japan, but backed the Tokyo Olympics to go ahead.

Read, who retired this month after ending his stint with Toyota Verblitz, said he tested positive earlier this year when the season was postponed.

Despite his brush with the virus, Read believed the Games would take place and had the support of the Japanese public.

India reports 259,551 new infections

India reported 259,551 new infections over the last 24 hours, while deaths rose by 4,209.

The South Asian nation's infection tally stands at 26.03 million, with a death toll of 291,331, health ministry data showed.

Germany's confirmed cases rise by 8,769 - RKI

The number of confirmed cases in Germany increased by 8,769 to 3,635,162 data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed. 

The reported death toll rose by 226 to 87,128, the tally showed.

Japan to hold off on using AstraZeneca vaccine - media

Japan is likely to hold off on administering AstraZeneca PLC's vaccine despite expected approval, amid concerns about blood clots, public broadcaster NHK and other media reported.

The government it also expected to formally approve on Friday the vaccine developed by Moderna Inc as it seeks to speed up what has been the slowest vaccination campaign among rich countries.

Flight repatriates stranded Spaniards from Nepal

A repatriation flight is rescuing dozens of Spanish nationals who have been stranded in Nepal since a lockdown was imposed in the Himalayan nation to curb the spiking cases.

The charted flight arranged by the Spanish government was taking back 96 Spanish mountaineers, trekkers and tourists who arrived in Nepal to climb the mountain peaks or hike the trails before the country went on lockdown on April 29.

The plane arrived in Nepal bringing in health aid materials given by the Spanish government. The shipment included respirators, 10 concentrators, face masks and antigen test kits.

Nepal has been recording its highest daily new cases and daily deaths this month, while struggling with shortages of hospital beds, medication and oxygen. The country so far has recorded 488,645 confirmed cases while 5,847 people have died.

Argentina announces lockdown restrictions

Argentina will tighten pandemic lockdown measures to combat a severe second Covid-19 wave, President Alberto Fernandez said, underscoring concerns as daily cases and deaths have broken records over the last week.

The strict "circuit-breaker" measures will come into force on Saturday and last until May 31. They include school and non-essential commerce closures and the banning of social, religious and sporting events in the nation of 45 million people.

Citizens who are not classed as essential workers will be allowed to be out close to their homes between 6am and 6pm (0900 GMT and 2100 GMT); otherwise, they must stay at home.

Brazil confirms first cases of Indian variant

Brazil has detected its first six cases of the so-called Indian variant of the Covid-19 virus, in crew members who arrived aboard a Hong Kong-flagged cargo ship, officials said.

Tests "identified the B.1.617.2 variant of the Covid-19 virus in samples taken from crew of the MV Shandong Da Zhi," which arrived from South Africa, the health ministry for the northeastern state of Maranhao said in a statement.

"In all, 15 crew members tested positive for Covid-19 and nine negative. Of the six samples with the highest viral load sent for genetic sequencing, all came back positive for B.1.617.2."

The 360-meter ore carrier is currently in quarantine, anchored off Brazil's coast.

Brazil recorded 82,039 additional cases of the virus in the past 24 hours, along with 2,403 new deaths, Health Ministry figures showed.

Brazil has now registered 15.9 million cases since the pandemic began, and the official death toll stands at 444,094, according to ministry data.

Australia to invite proposals for domestic production of mRNA vaccines

Australia will invite proposals from companies for establishing domestic manufacturing of mRNA vaccines to prepare the country for future pandemics and support long-term health needs, Industry Minister Christian Porter will say.

The federal government will seek interest from the market for two months starting Friday while continuing talks with existing drug manufacturers, Porter will say, according to extracts of the announcement seen by Reuters.

"Through this approach to market, the (government) is establishing a partnership approach to making sure Australia has the opportunity to produce mRNA vaccines and other potential therapeutic products using this technology," Porter will say.

China reports 24 new mainland cases

China reported 24 new cases, up from 12 cases a day earlier, the country's national health authority said.

The National Health Commission said in a statement all of the new cases were imported infections. The number of new asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed cases, rose to 25 from 16 a day earlier.

Total confirmed Covid-19 cases in Mainland China now stand at 90,944, while the death toll remains unchanged at 4,636. 

Source: TRTWorld and agencies