Covid-19 has infected some 162 million people and killed more than 3.3 million globally. Here are the coronavirus-related developments for May 15:

Bodies of suspected coronavirus victims are seen in shallow graves buried in the sand near a cremation ground on the banks of Ganges River in Prayagraj, India, Saturday, May 15, 2021.
Bodies of suspected coronavirus victims are seen in shallow graves buried in the sand near a cremation ground on the banks of Ganges River in Prayagraj, India, Saturday, May 15, 2021. (AP)

Saturday, May 15:

India admits bodies of Covid victims dumped in some rivers

Bodies of Covid-19 victims have been found dumped in some Indian rivers, a state government said, in the first official acknowledgment of the alarming practice, which it said may stem from poverty and fear of the disease in remote areas.

Images of corpses drifting down the Ganges river, in north India's Uttar Pradesh and Bihar states, which is considered holy in Hinduism, have shocked the country, reeling under the world's worst surge in Covid-19 cases.

Although media reports have linked the increase in the number of bodies found floating in the river and its tributaries in recent days to the pandemic, India's northern state of Uttar Pradesh, home to 240 million people, has until now not publicly revealed the cause of the deaths.

Italy reports 6,659 new cases and 136 deaths

Italy reported 136 coronavirus-related deaths against 182 the day before, the Health Ministry said, while the daily tally of new infections fell to 6,659 from 7,567.

Italy has registered 124,063 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 4.15 million cases to date.

Patients in hospital with Covid-19 - not including those in intensive care - stood at 12,493, against 13,050 a day earlier.

Some 294,686 tests for Covid-19 were carried out in the past day, compared with a previous 298,186, the health ministry said. 

Malaysia reports new daily record of 44 deaths

Malaysia reported 44 new Covid-19 deaths, the highest daily fatality rate so far, while new infections remained above 4,000 for the fourth straight day.

The health ministry said in a tweet that 4,140 new coronavirus cases were reported on Saturday, pushing the total past 466,000 with 1,866 deaths - the third highest infection rate in the region behind Indonesia and the Philippines.

Vietnam's daily cases rise by record 165, one new death

Vietnam reported 165 new coronavirus cases and one new death, its health ministry said, as it sees a steady rise in infections since the virus re-emerged late last month.

Half of the new cases were detected at Quang Chau industrial park in the northern province of Bac Giang, the ministry said in a statement.

Vietnam's latest outbreak has spread to 26 of 63 provinces, authorities said. The country has recorded a total of 3,985 coronavirus cases, with 36 deaths, due largely to its strong containment record.

Portugal to admit tourists from most European countries

Portugal will on Monday resume admitting tourists from most European countries, the interior ministry said, following months of restrictions to prevent the spread of the virus.

Travellers from European Union countries with rates below 500 cases per 100,000 residents can make "all types of visits to Portugal, including even non-essential visits," the ministry said in a statement on Saturday.

It said restrictions, limited to essential trips, would be maintained for five EU countries – Cyprus, Croatia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, and Sweden – plus Brazil, India, and South Africa.

Dutch government eases travel to vacation spots

As infections decline in parts of the world and the summer holiday season tentatively begins, the Dutch government has eased travel restrictions for a group of popular vacation destinations.

Among the countries with a lower risk of infections that can be visited starting Saturday are Portugal, Malta, Ireland, Thailand, Rwanda, the former Dutch colonies of Aruba, Curacao and Sint Maarten and a large group of Greek islands.

Thailand to ease some dining restrictions in capital, offer vaccine to restaurant staff

Thailand plans to allow restaurants to resume dine-in services in capital Bangkok, a senior official said on Saturday, but opening hours and the number of diners will be limited as the country grapples a third wave of infections.

Restaurants in dark red zones like Bangkok will be allowed to reopen for dine-in services but at a limited capacity of 25 percent and will have to close at 1400 GMT, said Taweesin Wisanuyothin, a virus taskforce spokesman. 

Restaurants in dark red zones, which have the highest risk of infection and the strictest restrictions, could previously only open for delivery.

China cancels Mount Everest spring climbing season

China has decided to cancel the 2021 spring climbing season from the Tibetan side of Mount Everest, the world's tallest peak, because of virus concerns, the official Xinhua news agency said.

It cited a notice on Friday from the General Administration of Sport, following a severe pandemic situation.

Russia reports 8,790 new virus cases, 364 deaths

Russia reported 8,790 new virus cases the day after the number of daily infections climbed to 9,462, the highest number of new cases since the end of March.

More than a third of new cases, 3,073, were registered in Moscow, which on Friday reported the highest number of new patients since January.

India struggles to cope with dire virus crisis

India, still struggling to deal with its dire virus crisis, reported 326,098 new infections over the past 24 hours, taking its tally to 24.37 million, while daily deaths showed a slight fall, to 3,890.

Over the past week, the south Asian nation has added about 1.7 million new cases and more than 20,000 deaths. 

Its death toll stands at 266,207, health ministry data shows. 

Australia carries out first repatriation flight from India after travel ban

A plane carrying more than 70 Australians fleeing virus-stricken India landed in the country's north, the first since a controversial ban on arrivals ended.

The plane touched down in Darwin morning after picking up vulnerable passengers from New Delhi, but 72 of its booked passengers were barred from flying after 48 tested positive for and others were deemed close contacts.

Initially planned to carry 150 travellers, just over half of those booked were cleared to board the plane, a Northern Territory Health spokeswoman said.

New Mexico adopts CDC guidance on face masks

New Mexico has adopted guidance on face masks from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that says fully vaccinated Americans no longer need to wear masks indoors or outside in most cases.

Under revisions to the state’s emergency public health order, masks are no longer required of fully vaccinated people in many public settings, though businesses and workplaces may still make face coverings a requirement for all.

Taiwan tightens curbs after surge in domestic cases

Taiwan raised its virus alert level in the capital, Taipei, and the city around it, bringing curbs for a period of two weeks that will shut many venues and restrict gatherings in the wake of 180 new domestic infections.

The new rules will not mean offices, schools or restaurants have to close, but will cause the shutdown of cinemas and other entertainment spots, while limiting family get-togethers to five people indoors and 10 outdoors.

Taipei's government has already ordered red bars, nightclubs and similar venues to shut.

Alaska makes mask-wearing optional

Alaska legislative leaders have voted to make mask-wearing optional at the state Capitol and then shed their own face coverings after the vote.

The decision by the Legislative Council followed new guidelines the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for people who are fully vaccinated. 

The council is composed of House and Senate leaders.

Bars, pubs reopen in Poland for 1st time in 7 months

People in Poland took off their face masks and toasted freedom as restaurants, bars and pubs reopened for the first time in seven months.

The reopening, currently limited to outdoor service, officially began at the stroke of midnight.

Many people though, could not wait for midnight and were out on the streets early to get their party started.

Germany's confirmed virus cases rise by 7,894 

The number of confirmed cases in Germany increased by 7,894 to 3,584,934, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed.

The reported death toll rose by 177 to 86,025, the tally showed. 

Brazil reports 85,536 new virus cases, 2,211 deaths

Brazil recorded 85,536 additional confirmed cases in the past 24 hours, along with 2,211 deaths, the Health Ministry said.

Brazil has registered more than 15.5 million cases since the pandemic began, while the official death toll has risen to 432,628, according to ministry data. 

Mexico posts 2,880 new virus cases, 258 more deaths

Mexico registered 2,880 new virus cases and 258 additional fatalities, according to health ministry data, bringing the overall tallies to 2,377,995 infections and 220,159 deaths.

WHO: Pandemic to be 'far more deadly' this year

The World Health Organization has issued a grim warning that the second year of Covid-19 was set to be "far more deadly."

"We're on track for the second year of this pandemic to be far more deadly than the first," said WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

The pandemic has killed at least 3,370,773 people worldwide since the virus first emerged in late 2019.

With ICUs nearly full, Colombia surpasses 80,000 deaths

Confirmed deaths from Covid-19 in Colombia passed 80,000 with intensive care units almost full in the biggest cities, where large crowds have been gathering for weeks of anti-government protests.

Authorities warned this week that the demonstrations – initially called in opposition to a now-canceled tax reform but which have expanded to tackle inequality and police brutality – were set to prolong an already-devastating third wave of the epidemic.

Bogota's mayor echoed that warning, saying the capital had on Thursday reported its second-highest number of new cases and highest number of deaths since the pandemic began.

"I don't know what more to say, to warn, to beg, to plead," Claudia Lopez said in a Twitter message late on Thursday that urged people to stick to social-distancing rules.

On Friday she announced she was infected and would self-isolate.

Brazil begins mass vaccination of Tokyo-bound Olympians

Brazil has begun a mass vaccination program for athletes, coaches, staff and journalists heading to the Olympic Games in Tokyo in July.

Doctors in six Brazilian cities vaccinated the first groups of 1,800 people, Olympians and Paralympians among them.

"I feel like it gives me security," one getting the Pfizer vaccine, archer Marcus Vinícius D'Almeida, said.

"I was blocked from participating in some countries so now I feel that I can complete my pre-Olympic routine during these last three months without the worry that I will get sick."

Fully vaccinated NFL players, staff don't have to wear masks

The NFL is not requiring fully vaccinated players and staff to wear masks at team facilities following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest guidance regarding Covid-19.

In a memo sent to clubs on Friday and obtained by The Associated Press, the league and the NFL Players Association made the modification after consulting with their medical and scientific experts. Players and tiered staff who haven’t been fully vaccinated must continue to wear masks until they receive it, if they plan to get it.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies