Covid-19 has killed more than 3.2M people and infected over 158M others globally. Here are all the coronavirus-related developments for May 8:

A man works amid the funeral pyres of victims who died due to the Covid-19 coronavirus at a cremation ground in Allahabad, as India recorded more than 4,000 coronavirus deaths in a day for the first time on May 8, 2021.
A man works amid the funeral pyres of victims who died due to the Covid-19 coronavirus at a cremation ground in Allahabad, as India recorded more than 4,000 coronavirus deaths in a day for the first time on May 8, 2021. (AFP)

Saturday, May 8:

Medical journal Lancet condemns India's pandemic response

International medical journal The Lancet has criticised the Indian government's handling of the coronavirus pandemic and called for Prime Minister Narendra Modi's administration to own "up to its mistakes."

"[PM] Modi's actions in attempting to stifle criticism and open discussion during the crisis are inexcusable," The Lancet said in an editorial.

The journal condemned the government for ignoring warnings of a dangerous second wave and pushing a false narrative that India had beat Covid-19 with reports of a low number of cases for months.

"India squandered its early successes in controlling Covid-19. Until April, the government's Covid-19 task force had not met in months. The consequences of that decision are clear before us, and India must now restructure its response while the crisis rages," the editorial said.

"The success of that effort will depend on the government owning up to its mistakes, providing responsible leadership and transparency, and implementing a public health response that has science at its heart," it added.

"The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation estimates that India will see a staggering 1 million deaths from Covid-19 by August 1. If that outcome were to happen, Modi's government would be responsible for presiding over a self-inflicted national catastrophe."

Turkey cases below 20,000 for first time since mid-March

Turkey's daily Covid-19 cases fell below 20,000 for the first time since March 17, with 18,052 infections over the last 24 hours, government data showed.

Last week, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced what he called a "full lockdown" until May 17 to curb a surge in infections and deaths after the country eased restrictions in early March.

The data showed another 281 deaths from the coronavirus, raising the total toll to 42,746. Total cases exceeded 5 million, although there has been a fall in infections since the lockdown.

In recent weeks, Turkey has ranked fourth globally in terms of Covid-19 cases, with daily infections topping 60,000.

Bangladesh detects first cases of Indian variant

Bangladesh has detected its first case of a highly infectious variant first identified in India, the country's health directorate said, weeks after it sealed its borders with its neighbour.

Six cases of the Indian variant had been detected in Bangladesh, Nasima Sultana, additional director general of the health directorate, told reporters.

“Two cases are confirmed to be of the Indian variant, and the others are quite close to it," Sultana said, adding that they all recently returned from neighbouring India and were in isolation.

UK variant accounts for 70 percent of cases in Pakistan

A variant first discovered in the United Kingdom has now accounted for up to 70 percent of infections across Pakistan, a research centre studying the disease in the country has said.

The country has imposed strict nationwide restrictions in the lead up to the Muslim festival of Eid al Fitr next week in a bid to control a spike in cases, including banning public transport over the holiday period.

"There is a 60 percent to 70 percent prevalence of the UK variant in Pakistan (today)," Professor Dr Muhammad Iqbal Chaudhry, director at the International Centre for Chemical and Biological Sciences (ICCBS), University of Karachi, told Reuters, adding that this figure was 2 percent in January.

UK reports over 2,000 new cases

Britain has reported another 2,047 cases and 5 deaths within 28 days of a positive test.

Government data also showed 35,188,981 people had received their first dose of a vaccine and 17,214,436 had both shots.

Italy plans to lift quarantine restrictions for some travellers

Italy has plans to lift quarantine restrictions for travellers arriving from European countries, Britain and Israel as early as mid-May in a bid to revive the tourism industry, Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said.

Quarantine requirement may be scrapped for those arriving from the United States from June, Di Maio said, after meeting Health Minister Roberto Speranza to discuss the easing of restrictions for countries where vaccination levels are high.

"We are working to lift the 'mini-quarantine' for people coming from European countries, the UK and Israel, if they have a negative swab, proof of vaccination or have recovered from COVID within the last 6 months. Same thing for the US", he wrote in a post on Facebook.

Merkel: Vaccine patent waiver could impact quality of shots

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said she was opposed to waiving patent protections for vaccines as this could jeopardise the quality of shots against the disease.

"I made it clear that I do not believe that giving away patents is the solution to make vaccines available to more people," Merkel said when asked about the European Union's readiness to discuss a US proposal to wave patent protections.

"If a patent is given away and the quality is no long controlled I see more risk than chance," Merkel said, adding that manufacturers were better able to modify vaccines to make them effective against new variants.

Pakistan gets first vaccine doses under Covax

Pakistan has received its first batch of 1.2 million Covid-19 vaccine doses under its Covax quota, UNICEF said in a media release.

"Today Pakistan received its first shipment of Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccines (SII-AZ AZD1222) from the COVAX Facility," it said.

COVAX, a global programme to provide vaccines mainly for poor countries, has recently been hit by supply problems.

India's surge hits southern states, prompts more lockdowns

Two southern states in India became the latest to declare lockdowns, as coronavirus cases surge at breakneck speed across the country and pressure mounts on Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government to implement a nationwide shutdown.

At over 300,000, Karnataka's capital of Bengaluru has the highest active caseload of any Indian city. But experts warn the worst is still ahead as India's third largest city buckles under oxygen shortages, overrun hospitals and crowded crematoriums. In Tamil Nadu state, the lockdown announcement followed a daily record of more than 26,000 cases on Friday.

Infections have swelled in India since February in a disastrous turn blamed on more contagious variants as well as government decisions to allow massive crowds to gather for religious festivals and political rallies.

On Saturday, India reported 401,078 confirmed cases, including a record high of 4,187 deaths. Overall, India has more than 21.8 million confirmed infections and nearly 240,000 deaths. Experts say even those dramatic tolls are undercounts.

EU seals deal for up to 1.8B extra BioNTech/Pfizer doses

The EU has concluded a deal with BioNTech/Pfizer for up to 1.8 billion extra doses of its Covid-19 vaccine, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said on Saturday.

"Happy to announce that the EU Commission has just approved a contract for guaranteed 900 million doses (+900 million options) with BioNTech/Pfizer for 2021-2023," she tweeted from an EU summit in Portugal.

"Other contracts and other vaccine technologies will follow," she promised.

Pakistan imposes Eid holiday shutdown

Pakistan has begun a nine-day shutdown affecting travel and tourist hotspots in a bid to prevent a surge in Covid-19 cases during the Muslim holiday of Eid al Fitr.

Already battling a third wave of infections and increasingly nervous about the crisis across the border in India, the government has imposed the most severe restrictions since a one-month lockdown in April last year.

Businesses, hotels and restaurants as well as markets and parks will be closed, while public transport between provinces and within cities has been halted.

The military has been mobilised to monitor the restrictions.

Mosques, however, which have been packed each night throughout Ramadan – with few people wearing masks – will remain open.

Sri Lanka approves Pfizer vaccine for emergency use

Sri Lanka has approved Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use in Sri Lanka, as the island nation battles a third wave of the virus, while suffering a restricted supply of vaccines from neighboring India.

Dr Sudharshani Fernandopulle, the minister overseeing the fight against the epidemic, said in a statement the government would order 5 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

Sri Lanka is seeking to secure other vaccines as the Serum Institute of India, the world's largest vaccine manufacturer, has suspended the delivery of AstraZeneca's Covishield vaccine due to spiraling coronavirus infections in India.

Sri Lanka is the first country in South Asia to approve the Pfizer vaccine. It has also approved Russia's Sputnik and China's Sinopharm vaccines for emergency use.

Russia reports 8,329 new cases

Russia reported 8,329 cases, including 2,765 in Moscow, taking the official national tally since the pandemic began to 4,871,843.

The government coronavirus task force said 370 people had died of coronavirus-linked causes in the past 24 hours, taking the national death toll to 112,992.

Thailand set to boost vaccinations

Thailand expects to offer the Moderna vaccine to most of its population soon as it steps up the rollout of its vaccination campaign, a health official said.

The latest drive comes amid growing public criticism of the slow rollout of free vaccinations offered by the government, which stands at 1.73 million shots so far - less than 1 percent of its population.

Health authorities have yet to start mass vaccinations even as the tourism-reliant country struggles with a third wave of infections.

The government expects 61 million shots of AstraZeneca to be produced locally from June. But these vaccinations and those from Moderna will not be offered free.

Germany's confirmed cases rise by 15,685

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 15,685 to 3,507,673, data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases showed. The reported death toll rose by 238 to 84,648, the tally showed.

Brazil registers 78,886 Covid-19 cases, 2,165 deaths

Brazil has recorded 78,886 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the past 24 hours and 2,165 fatalities from Covid-19, the Health Ministry said.

That raised the total number of confirmed cases in Latin America's largest country to almost 15.1 million, and the official death toll to 419,114.

Mexico's confirmed death toll rises to 218,657

Mexico's Health Ministry reported 3,043 new confirmed coronavirus cases and 484 more deaths, bringing the total number of cases in the country to 2,361,874 and fatalities to 218,657.

Separate government data published in March suggested that the real death toll may be at least 60 percent above the confirmed figure.

Kenya reports 15 deaths, nearly 568 infections

Kenya reported 15 new coronavirus-related deaths and 568 new infections after conducting 9,029 tests in the last 24 hours.

The Health Ministry said the nation of almost 55 million has recorded a total of 2,865 deaths and 162,666 infections from conducting 1.71 million tests.

It registered 173 new recoveries from the virus, bringing the number of confirmed recoveries to 110,653.

AstraZeneca weighs seeking full US approval for Covid-19 shot – WSJ

AstraZeneca Plc may skip asking the US Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorisation for its Covid-19 vaccine, and instead pursue the more time-intensive application for a full-fledged license to sell the shot, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Such a step would further delay any rollout of the British drugmaker's shots in the United States, according to the report, which cited people familiar with the matter.

China reports seven new virus cases

China reported seven new mainland virus cases, down from 13 cases a day earlier, the country's national health authority said.

The National Health Commission said in a statement that all the new cases were imported infections originating from overseas. The number of new asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed cases, dropped to eight from 17 a day earlier.

The total number of confirmed virus cases in mainland China now stands at 90,746, while the death toll remained unchanged at 4,636.

EU calls on US and others to export their vaccines

The European Commission called on the United States and other major Covid-19 vaccine producers to export what they make as the European Union does, rather than talk about waiving intellectual property rights to the shots.

Commission head Ursula von der Leyen told a news conference on the sidelines of a summit of EU leaders that discussions on the waiver would not produce a single dose of Covid-19 vaccine in the short- to medium-term.

"We should be open to lead this discussion. But when we lead this discussion, there needs to be a 360-degree view on it because we need vaccines now for the whole world," she said.

Mexico City to allow open-air events as virus cases fall

Residents of Mexico City will be able to attend open-air concerts and sporting events at limited capacities beginning next week after a sustained drop in coronavirus infections, Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum said.

The new measures set to take effect on May 10 will include expanded access to movie theatres, banks, and hotel-based conventions.

The relaxation of restrictions follows a months-long decline in the number of infections in the city and its sprawling metropolitan areas that house about 22 million people.

The authorities lowered the capital's risk status to yellow on its four-step (red, orange, yellow, green) "traffic light" model the government is using to gradually repeal curbs on the economy and daily life.

CDC says US-bound air travellers can use some self-administered virus tests

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that US-bound international air travellers can meet Covid-19 entry requirements using certain self-administered tests.

In January, the CDC mandated that all airline passengers aged two and older – including US citizens – be able to provide negative Covid tests within three days of coming to the United States or show proof of recovery from Covid-19.

The CDC's decision was praised by Airlines for America, a trade group, saying it would "allow FDA-approved proctored home testing for international passengers entering the US. This is an encouraging step in facilitating the international travel process."

United to scale back India flights, delay Bangalore launch as pandemic rages

United Airlines said it is temporarily pausing service between Chicago and New Delhi in June and delaying the planned launch of flights between San Francisco and Bangalore as a catastrophic explosion of virus cases hits demand.

Until the Chicago-Delhi route is halted on May 31, United said it will use its larger Boeing 777-300ER jets on seven roundtrip flights to accelerate the repatriation of citizens between the two countries and the delivery of vital medical supplies. It was previously using the Boeing 787-9.

Brazil eyes new Pfizer deal next week for 100 million more shots

Brazil expects to sign a new deal next week with Pfizer Inc for 100 million more virus vaccine doses, a Health Ministry official said, which would double the US drugmaker's delivery to the Latin American country this year.

Rodrigo Cruz, executive secretary at the ministry, told journalists the contract has been agreed and just needs to be signed. Earlier this week, Health Minister Marcelo Queiroga said 35 million of these shots are due to be delivered in October. 

Covid threatens Everest climbing comeback plans

More than 30 sick climbers have been evacuated from the foot of Mount Everest, raising fears that coronavirus may scupper a hoped-for bumper season on the world's highest mountain.

Nepal's tourism industry suffered a devastating blow last year when the pandemic prompted a complete shutdown of its summits, costing millions in lost revenue.

Ibuprofen does not worsen Covid symptoms – study

Taking anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen does not increase the risk of developing a severe form of Covid-19 or of dying from it, according to a new study, the largest so far on this class of medicines.

At the start of the coronavirus pandemic there was concern over the potential effects of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which are used to treat everything from minor pain to chronic arthritis and cardiovascular disease.    

But observational research published on Saturday in the medical journal Lancet Rheumatology, based on 72,000 hospitalised patients, found that the drugs "do not increase the mortality or severity" of Covid-19. 

Canada skips Olympic gymnastics qualifier over Covid-19 fears

Canada will skip a last-chance gymnastics qualifier for the Tokyo Olympics next month in Rio over Covid-19 safety concerns, officials announced.

Gymnastics Canada will not send a team to the 2021 Senior Pan American Championships in Brazil on June 4-13, passing up a chance to qualify one more gymnast in men's and women's artistic events and an individual and group in rhythmic competition.

Brazil is in the grip of an escalating Covid-19 crisis, with more than 416,000 deaths from the virus, the highest death toll in the world after the United States.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies