Covid-19 has infected more than 163 million people and claimed at least 3.3 million lives. Here are all virus-related developments for May 16:

A man takes a swab sample for the Covid-19 from his son at a surge testing site in London, Britain, on May 14, 2021.
A man takes a swab sample for the Covid-19 from his son at a surge testing site in London, Britain, on May 14, 2021. (Reuters)

Sunday, May 16: 

India's virus variant expected to dominate UK

Britain's health minister has said a fast-spreading coronavirus variant first identified in India is likely to become the dominant strain of the virus in the UK.

Health officials are conducting door-to-door testing in several areas of the country in an attempt to curb the spread of the variant, which the government has warned could disrupt the UK’s reopening plans. 

Surge vaccinations in key regions are to begin shortly.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the new strain, formally known as B.1.617.2, is more transmissible than the UK's dominant strain. 

He told the BBC "it is likely it will become the dominant variant."

Hancock said scientists had a "high degree of confidence" that current vaccines work against the new variant, and there is no evidence it causes more a severe disease.

The government said it will go ahead with plans to ease lockdown restrictions on Monday. 

People in England will be able to eat a restaurant meal or drink a beer indoors, go to a movie and visit one another’s homes for the first time in months.

But Prime Minister Boris Johnson says that if the variant causes a big surge in cases it could scupper plans to lift all remaining restrictions on June 21.

South Africa targets 5M elderly people in phase 2 of vaccine rollout

South Africa will launch phase two of its vaccine rollout on Monday with the aim of inoculating five million citizens aged over 60 by the end of June, its health minister has said.

"This is provided that the supply of vaccines flows as anticipated. By the end of June we expect to have received 4.5 million doses of Pfizer and 2 million doses from Johnson & Johnson," the minister, Zweli Mkhize, said during a webinar.

Mkhize said that more than 325,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine would arrive at midnight on Sunday, bringing the total of Pfizer doses up to 975,780.

So far South Africa has ordered enough Covid-19 vaccines for 46 million of its 60 million population.

The health minister said the country was still awaiting the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to be released by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) after its administration was paused and then restarted two weeks later due to concerns over blood clots.

South Africa is Africa's worst-hit country in terms of infections and fatalities, with over 55,000 deaths and more than 1.6 million confirmed cases of Covid-19.

Singapore to shut schools as cases rise

Singapore will shut most schools from Wednesday after the city-state reported the highest number of local Covid-19 infections in months, including several that were unlinked, according to authorities.

All primary, secondary and junior colleges will shift to full home-based learning from Wednesday until the end of the school term on May 28.

On Sunday, Singapore confirmed 38 locally transmitted Covid-19 cases, the highest daily number since mid-September, of which 18 are currently unlinked.

Singapore has reported more than 61,000 virus cases, with the bulk linked to outbreaks last year in foreign worker dormitories, and 31 deaths. 

Sunday's new cases were the highest number of local infections outside of the dormitories in a year.

UK vaccinates over 20 million with two Covid jabs

Britain has passed the milestone of vaccinating 20 million adults with two doses of the coronavirus jab, just a day before a raft of restrictions are lifted across most of the country.

According to government statistics, 20,103,658 million have now received their full two vaccine doses – 38.2 precent of the adult population.

Still more have received a first dose – 36,573,354, or 69.4 percent of the adult population – with a total of 56,677,012 million vaccines administered since the start of the UK's campaign on December 8.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the vaccine programme had made "extraordinary strides" in reaching the 20-million mark.

French daily deaths, number of critical patients drops

France has reported 4,255 people in intensive care units with Covid-19, down by 16 from the day before and the 13th day in a row the number of patients needing ICU treatment has dropped.

France also reported 81 deaths in hospital among people who had tested positive for the coronavirus, down from 112 on Saturday. 

Yemen's national soccer coach dies of Covid-19

Yemen's soccer association has said that the country’s national team coach died from Covid-19.

The Yemen Football Association said Sami al Naash died in a hospital in the southern port city of Aden.

Local reports say al-Naash was infected while in a camp for the national team in the southern province of Shabwa last month.

Yemen's national team was preparing for three games in the coming weeks in hopes to qualify for the Asian Cup and the 2022 World Cup finals in Qatar. 

Yemen is playing in Group D along with Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan, Singapore, and Palestine.

The country, which has been convulsed by civil war since 2014, has been experiencing a surge in coronavirus cases that has overwhelmed Yemen’s depleted medical facilities.

Turkey registers over 10,500 new cases

Turkey has reported more than 10,500 new coronavirus cases, the Health Ministry said, as the country is set to lift its 17-day full lockdown in the coming hours.

A total of 10,512 cases, including 920 symptomatic patients, were confirmed across the country in the past 24 hours.

Turkey's overall case tally is now over 5.11 million, while the death toll reached 44,760, with 223 more fatalities over the past day.

Turkey has administered over 25.78 million coronavirus jabs since launching a mass vaccination campaign on January 14, according to official figures.

More than 14.95 million people have received their first doses, while over 10.83 million have been fully vaccinated.

India using nets in rivers to catch bodies of dumped virus victims

Bodies of virus victims have been found dumped in some Indian rivers, a state government said in a letter seen by Reuters, the first official acknowledgement of an alarming practice it said may stem from poverty and fear of the disease in villages.

Images of corpses drifting down the Ganges river, which Hindus consider holy, have shocked a nation reeling under the world's worst surge in infections.

Authorities in India have now installed nets across many of the country's rivers to catch bodies that do not wash up on the banks.

Mongolia outbreak easing

Outbreak in Mongolia appears to be easing after a six weeks in which the sparsely populated country’s death toll rose from 15 to 219.

Authorities reported 541 new cases and two deaths in the latest 24-hour period, China’s Xinhua News Agency said. 

It was the sixth straight day of under 600 new cases, and down from a peak of 1,356 cases about two weeks ago.

Minister says India variant to become 'dominant' in UK

Britain’s health minister says a fast-spreading variant first identified in India is likely to become the dominant strain of the virus in the UK.

Health officials are conducting door-to-door testing in several areas of the country in an attempt to curb the spread of the variant, which the government has warned could disrupt the UK’s reopening plans.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the new strain, formally known as B.1.617.2, is more transmissible than the UK’s dominant strain. He told the BBC “it is likely it will become the dominant variant.”

Singapore reports 38 new local virus cases, highest in months

Singapore's health ministry preliminarily confirmed 38 locally transmitted cases, the highest daily number since mid-September, as the city-state returned to the strictest curbs on gatherings since a lockdown last year.

Singapore has reported more than 61,000 virus cases, with the bulk linked to outbreaks in foreign worker dormitories, and 31 deaths. While none of the new cases are in the dormitories, they are the highest number of local infections outside of the dormitories in a year.

Police move Barcelona crowds along amid post-curbs parties

Police intervened to move along thousands of people drinking and dancing in Barcelona's city centre and on the nearby beach, seeking to prevent dangerous overcrowding on the first full weekend after Spain lifted virus restrictions.

"We have cleared people from central streets and also about 2,000 from the beach, some who of whom were not respecting restrictions on distances or health regulations, but there were no fights," Major Ricardo Salas, of the Barcelona City Guard, told Reuters on Sunday morning.

Russia reports 8,554 new virus cases and 391 deaths

Russia reported 8,554 new cases, bringing the national tally of infections since the pandemic began to 4,940,245.

The government virus crisis centre said that 391 more deaths of coronavirus patients had been confirmed in the past 24 hours, which pushed the Russian virus death toll to 115,871.

Turkey to ease lockdown measures

Turkey will start easing its strict lockdown on Monday by allowing movement during the day while keeping overnight and weekend curfews in place, the Interior Ministry said in a directive.

President Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday Turkey would gradually ease out of a full lockdown imposed 2.5 weeks ago, and lift restrictions more significantly in June.

Brazil struggles to vaccinate as virus toll spirals

Four months into a vaccination campaign marred by shortages and delays, hard-hit Brazil is still struggling to find enough doses, as political and diplomatic blunders prolong its pandemic nightmare.

Around 33 million people – 15 percent of the population – have received at least one vaccine dose in Brazil, a proportion still too small to have a substantial impact on the virus' spread.

UK health service under pressure despite pandemic promises

In April last year, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson thanked the doctors and nurses who saved his life after he spent days in hospital intensive care with the virus.

In an emotional address on television, he promised all the necessary funds for the state-run National Health Service (NHS), which is Europe's biggest employer.

But 12 months on, frontline health workers said that promise rings hollow and they feel "betrayed", as experts warn the system is imploding for lack of investment.

Eurovision makes pandemic-lite return in the Netherlands

The kitschy glamour of Eurovision is back, with the Dutch hosting a scaled-down, pandemic-safe version this week after the song contest was cancelled last year.

Around 3,500 tested fans will be allowed to attend the May 22 final in Rotterdam as the return of the pageant injects some glitz into Europe's cautious reopening.

New favelas around Sao Paulo as result of pandemic

New favelas are sprouting up in Sao Paulo, inhabited by recently-unemployed workers who lost their jobs and homes as a result of the pandemic.

In the north of Brazil's largest city, dozens of families first started occupying empty land near apartments and other properties.

One by one, shacks were built by residents who used discarded wood from construction sites, in what became the start of the Penha Brasil favela.

Around 230 families live in the new settlement, according to community leaders.

India's total infection toll nears 25M

India's tally of infections reached nearly 24,7 million, boosted by 311,170 new cases over the last 24 hours, while deaths rose by 4,077.

The South Asian nation's tally stands at 24.68 million with the death toll at 270,284, health ministry data showed.

Australia treasurer sticks by plan to reopen border in mid-2022

Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the government will stick to plans to start reopening the country only from mid-next year, as pressure mounts on the ruling conservatives to end the international border closure.

"We will follow the medical advice that has served us very well through this crisis," Frydenberg said in a television interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

Germany's reports 8,500 new daily cases

The number of confirmed cases in Germany increased by 8,500 to 3,593,434, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed.

The reported death toll rose by 71 to 86,096, the tally showed.

Philippines douses five-hour blaze in hospital treating Covid-19 patients

Firefighters put out a blaze early at one of the Philippines' largest hospitals that had prompted the evacuation of dozens of patients from the facility, which also treats virus patients.

No casualties were reported in the fire at the government-run Philippine General Hospital in the capital, Manila, which was extinguished at dawn. Its cause is not known.

Taiwan urges no panic buying as new virus rules kick off

Taiwan appealed to people to avoid panic buying of items such as instant noodles and toilet paper as new curbs on gatherings and movement took effect to rein in the spread of the virus during a spike in domestic infections.

Taiwan raised its virus alert level in the capital, Taipei, and the surrounding city, on Saturday, imposing two weeks of restrictions that will shut many venues and limit gatherings.

CDC recommends US schools continue using masks

Schools in the United States should continue to use masks for the 2020-2021 academic year as all students will not be fully vaccinated, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said.

The CDC in its latest guidance said all kindergarten through grade 12 schools "should implement and layer prevention strategies and should prioritize universal and correct use of masks and physical distancing."

The recommendation comes after the agency on Thursday said fully vaccinated people do not need to wear masks outdoors and can avoid wearing them indoors in most places.

The CDC said masks should be worn at all times by all people in school facilities and buses, while maintaining a six foot distance between teachers and students. 

Trinidad and Tobago declares state of emergency as Covid-19 cases surge

Trinidad and Tobago will impose a state of emergency from midnight to contain an increase in cases and related deaths, Prime Minister Keith Rowley said.

Rowley also imposed a curfew from 9 pm to 5 am local time (0100 GMT to 0900 GMT), with some exceptions to essential services including the energy sector, supermarkets, and pharmacies.

The twin island state was experiencing a third wave of the virus, Rowley said.

Seven hospitals caring for virus patients are at a critical stage of 73 percent overall occupancy, Principal Medical Officer Dr Maryam Abdool-Richards added.

With a population of more than 1.3 million people, Trinidad and Tobago has registered 15,375 infections, 5,214 of them active, and 265 deaths, health ministry data showed.

Health officials have cited a highly transmissible Brazilian variant, first identified in a Venezuelan migrant, as a factor in the increase in cases.

Brazil registers 67,009 new cases 

Brazil recorded 67,009 additional confirmed coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, along with 2,087 deaths, the Health Ministry said.

Brazil has registered nearly 15.6 million cases since the pandemic began, and the official death toll now stands at 434,715, according to ministry data.

Greece extends lockdown on Kalymnos island

Greece has extended a lockdown on the island of Kalymnos for a week as coronavirus infections there remained high, authorities said.

Under the lockdown imposed on May 4, residents are allowed to leave home only for workplaces that remain open, to visit the doctor or pharmacy, to walk their pets or for shopping until 6 pm (1500 GMT) at the supermarket. They can leave the island only for health reasons. The restrictions will remain in place until 6 am (0300 GMT) on May 24.

Greece formally opened to visitors on Saturday, kicking off a summer season it hopes will resurrect its tourism industry battered by the coronavirus pandemic.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies