Covid-19 has killed more than 2.95M people and infected over 137M others globally. Here are the coronavirus-related developments for April 13:

People wearing protective masks stroll at Eminonu district amid the coronavirus disease outbreak, in Istanbul, Turkey March 3, 2021.
People wearing protective masks stroll at Eminonu district amid the coronavirus disease outbreak, in Istanbul, Turkey March 3, 2021. (Reuters)

Tuesday, April 13

Dutch PM Rutte: lockdown measures must remain in place until April 28

The Netherlands' Prime Minister Mark Rutte said most lockdown measures in place to combat the country's coronavirus outbreak must remain in place until at least April 28.

At a press conference in The Hague Rutte said the country's hospitals are too full and new infection rates are too high to permit any significant easing of measures until the third wave of infections has passed.

Under the current regime the country is under an evening curfew and there is a ban on public gatherings of more than two people. 

Turkey adopts 'partial closure' for Ramadan as virus surges

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan announced several new restrictions and a "partial closure" for the first two weeks of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan to curb surging coronavirus infections.

Speaking after a cabinet meeting, Erdogan said the duration of a weekday curfew had been extended, announced limitations on intercity travel and public transport, and banned all events in closed spaces until after Ramadan. 

He also said some grades would go back to online schooling.

The new measures will go into effect on Wednesday night and the steps would be re-evaluated in two weeks.

The country registered 59,187 new virus cases and 273 deaths in last 24 hours, the health ministry said.

Canada's progress against virus being threatened by new variants – PM Trudeau

The progress Canada has made against the virus is being threatened by the spread of more contagious and dangerous virus variants, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in notably downbeat remarks.

"The situation we're facing with Covid-19 remains extremely serious ... this is not the place anyone wanted to be," Trudeau said, citing a rapid rise in the number of cases and an increasingly strained healthcare system.

Ontario, the most populous of the 10 provinces, reported a single-day high of new virus cases on Sunday and has closed schools to in-person learning.

Italy might revamp virus tracing app for vaccine passports

Italy could revitalise the smartphone app it launched last year to trace virus infections and use it for so-called vaccine passports, Innovation Minister Vittorio Colao said.

The app, called Immuni (immune) and developed by a Milan tech start-up Bending Spoons, sends notifications to people who come into contact with a person who tests positive for coronavirus.

But it had a lukewarm reception, with only 10.4 million people out of a 60 million-strong population downloading it so far.

"The Immuni app did not have a great success with the public but it could in the future, and could become useful for vaccination passports," Colao told a parliamentary committee.

Sweden's infections among highest in Europe

The rate of new virus infections in Sweden has jumped to the second-highest in Europe after land-locked San Marino, data showed, as the Scandinavian country which has shunned lockdowns throughout the pandemic faced a third wave of cases.

The number of patients treated at Swedish intensive care units has now risen past the peak of the second wave around the turn of the year. The country has registered 19,105 new cases since Friday, health agency statistics showed.

Sweden had 625 daily new cases per million inhabitants in a rolling seven-day average, statistics from OurWorldInData showed, second only to San Marino, a small nation that is surrounded by Italy.

France reports 5,952 people in intensive care units

France saw the number of people in intensive care units with virus rise by 36 to a new 2021 high of 5,952, reflecting increased pressure on hospitals, health ministry data showed.

France also reported 324 new coronavirus deaths in hospitals, compared to 385 on Monday, taking the cumulative toll since the start of the epidemic close to the 100,000 mark.

France is hoping that a ramp-up of its vaccination campaign, combined with the one-month lockdown in place since end March, will help it regain control over the latest outbreak, fuelled by variants of the novel coronavirus.

Norway to ease virus curbs, vaccine rollout may be delayed 

Norway will start to unwind some restrictions related to the virus pandemic and allow more people to gather from Friday, Prime Minister Erna Solberg said.

However, the country's vaccine rollout risks being delayed by up to almost three months if it does not go ahead and use AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson's shots, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health said.

Norway will say on Thursday whether it will resume using the AstraZeneca vaccine, on hold since a small number of younger inoculated people developed a combination of blood clots, bleeding and a low platelet count, some of whom later died.

Britain reports 2,472 new virus cases, 23 further deaths

Britain reported 2,472 new virus cases, down from 3,568 a day earlier, government data showed, adding that a further 23 people had died within 28 days of a positive test of the novel coronavirus.

Some 32.25 million people have received a first dose of a vaccine against virus, according to the figures.

India's Maharashtra state imposes 15-day lockdown

India's richest state, Maharashtra, will be under lockdown from Wednesday night for 15 days to slow rising coronavirus infections, its chief minister Uddhav Thackeray said.

Maharashtra, home to India's financial capital Mumbai and the country's most industrial state, has been the country's worst hit state, accounting for about a quarter of its 13.5 million cases.

EU seeking clarification from J&J after rollout delay reports

The European Commission is seeking clarification from Johnson & Johnson about its "completely unexpected" announcement of delays in deliveries of Covid-19 vaccines to the European Union, an EU official told Reuters.

Earlier US company said in a statement it would delay the rollout of its vaccine in Europe and was reviewing with European health authorities cases of extremely rare blood clots in people after they received the shot.

The company had confirmed at a meeting on Friday that it would aim to deliver the contracted 55 million doses to the EU by the end of June, the official said.

Slovak shops to reopen as restrictions ease

Slovakia will open shops in a limited capacity for customers with negative virus tests as part of an easing of pandemic restrictions from next week, Finance Minister Igor Matovic said.

The country is coming out of its worst wave of the pandemic and is looking to follow central European neighbours in reopening some schools, retail and other services while kickstarting its vaccination programme.

Last week, Slovakia fell into a dispute with Russia - which called on the government in Bratislava to return doses of the Sputnik V vaccine, citing contract violations - after a Slovak watchdog raised doubts about the shot.

Pfizer to pursue bringing virus vaccine to India 

Pfizer Inc said it would work towards bringing the virus vaccine it developed with Germany's BioNTech to India after the government eased import rules, after withdrawing its application in February.

"We have noted the recent announcement with regard to the regulatory pathway for global vaccines," a Pfizer spokesperson told Reuters in an email.

"We remain committed to continuing our engagement with the government towards making the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine available for use in the government’s immunisation program." 

Israel to allow limited entry of foreign tour groups in May

Israel will start allowing the limited entry of vaccinated tourist groups next month as its own inoculation campaign has sharply brought down Covid-19 infections, an official statement said on Tuesday.

The return of foreigners after Israel had closed its borders at the outset of the pandemic in March 2020 would boost the country's economy, which contracted 2.5 percent in 2020, and battered tourism sector. Israel's jobless rate stands at around 10 percent.

All foreign visitors will be required to present a negative PCR test before boarding a flight to Israel, and a serological test to prove their vaccination upon arrival at Ben-Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv.

Scotland to ease some virus restrictions early

Scotland will ease some lockdown restrictions for domestic travel and outdoor meetings earlier than expected, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said.

She said people would be permitted to travel anywhere within Scotland to see family and friends for outdoor meetings from April 16, ten days earlier than planned, and those meetings could from then take place with six people from up to six households rather than four from two households. 

Johnson & Johnson delays shot rollout in Europe

Johnson & Johnson says it is delaying the rollout of its coronavirus vaccine in Europe amid a US probe into rare blood clots.

“We have been reviewing these cases with European health authorities,” the company said. “We have made the decision to proactively delay the rollout of our vaccine in Europe.”

France suspends flights to Brazil

France suspended all flights from Brazil amid mounting fears over the particularly contagious coronavirus variant that has been sweeping the South American country.

Prime Minister Jean Castex announced the suspension to parliament.

Although France has seen comparatively few known cases of the P.1 variant striking Brazil, the ravages it is causing in Latin America’s largest nation are increasingly raising alarm bells in France.

Portugal might stop easy of lockdown restrictions

Portuguese health experts are warning that the number of coronavirus cases is on the rise as the government mulls whether to continue easing a lockdown that began in mid-January.

The incidence rate per 100,000 people over 14 days has climbed to 71, up from 63 a week ago.

Health experts say within a month the incidence rate — a key pandemic metric — could reach 120, which is the red line when the government says it will stop easing lockdown limits.

Denmark to continue vaccinations

Danish Health Minister Magnus Heunicke says 104,824 people were vaccinated in one day as Denmark tested its system ahead of a June rollout where 400,000 will be vaccinated per day.

“The result is now being evaluated, so we are ready for continued effective rollout,” Heunicke wrote on Twitter.

Stephanie Lose, head of the Danish Regions, an interest organisation for Denmark’s five regions running health care across the country of nearly 6 million, noted that there were some local problems to be solved, including access, parking, logistics and some minor IT issues. In addition, queues occurred in several places because many showed up too early.

Denmark inoculated people in 68 vaccine centres. The number of jabs was lowered again on Tuesday.

Philippines' Duterte says will 'waive' Covid-19 vaccine

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said he will "waive" his chance to get a Covid-19 vaccine, arguing elderly people like him should not be prioritised.

Just over one million people in the Philippines have received their first shot since the beginning of March – a fraction of the number needed to reach herd immunity in the country of 110 million.

The slow rollout and limited supply have fuelled criticism of the government's handling of the pandemic as a record surge in infections threatens to overwhelm hospitals in the locked-down capital and surrounding provinces.

The vaccination campaign initially targeted healthcare workers and soldiers, but it has since widened to include the elderly and those with co-morbidities.

WHO urges halt to sale of live wild mammals in food markets

The WHO has called for a halt to the sale of live wild mammals in food markets to prevent the emergence of new diseases such as Covid-19.

The WHO said because traditional markets play a central role in providing food and livelihoods for large populations, banning the sale of live wild mammals could protect the health of market workers and customers alike.

The call came in fresh guidance drawn up in conjunction the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

The three agencies said wild animals were the source of most emerging infectious diseases in humans and recommended measures to reduce the potential risk.

"Covid-19 has brought new attention to this threat, given the magnitude of its consequences," WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib told reporters.

US regulators recommend pause on Johnson & Johnson's vaccine 

Top US health authorities have recommended a "pause" in the use of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine "out of an abundance of caution" as they investigate any links between it and blood clots, a regulator said.

The US Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control are assessing the "potential significance" of six reported cases of a rare blood clot in patients who have received the shot, the FDA tweeted. "Until that process is complete, we are recommending this pause," it said.

Britain offers all over-50s first shots, beats target

Britain has offered all people aged above-50 years a first dose of Covid-19 vaccine and launched the Moderna shot in England, the government said, putting it on track to give a shot to all adults by the end of July.

Britain has seen one of the world's quickest vaccine rollouts, behind only Israel in the proportion of its population receiving at least one dose of a Covid-19 shot.

The government said it had now offered at least one shot to priority cohorts 1 to 9, which include all adults over 50, the clinically vulnerable, and health and social care workers, ahead of a target to do so by Thursday.

"We will now move forward with completing essential second doses and making progress towards our target of offering all adults a vaccine by the end of July," Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a statement.

Russia reports 8,173 new cases, 338 deaths

Russia has reported 8,173 new Covid-19 cases on Tuesday, including 1,782 in Moscow, taking the official national tally to 4,657,883.

The government coronavirus task force said 338 people had died in the past 24 hours, pushing its death toll to 103,601.

The federal statistics agency, which keeps a separate count has reported a much higher toll of more than 225,000 from April 2020 to February.

Medvedev out of Monte Carlo after positive Covid-19 test

Second-ranked Daniil Medvedev has withdrawn from the Monte Carlo Masters following a positive Covid-19 test.

The ATP said Medvedev has been placed in isolation. His condition is being assessed by the tournament doctor and the ATP medical team.

“It’s a big disappointment not to play in Monte Carlo," Medvedev said. "My focus is now on recovery and I look forward to getting back out on Tour as soon and as safely as possible.”

The clay-court tournament is back on the calendar with no fans attending after it was canceled last year because of the coronavirus pandemic. The ATP said Medvedev was replaced in the main draw and withdrawn from doubles competition.

Real Madrid skipper Ramos tests positive for coronavirus

Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos, who was already out of this week's Champions League meeting with Liverpool because of a calf injury, has tested positive for Covid-19, the club announced on Tuesday.

"Our player Sergio Ramos tested positive in the last Covid-19 test he performed," Real Madrid said in a statement.

Ramos is the second case of coronavirus detected in the Real Madrid squad in a week. French defender Raphael Varane tested positive last Tuesday.

Varane has not yet been given the green light to rejoin his teammates.

Ramos injured his left calf while with Spain during the international window but he has been a vocal presence on the sidelines since.

The positive test means he has to stay away from his teammates until he tests negative.

The 35-year-old defender is going through one of the most difficult seasons of his career - he underwent knee surgery in February and, after returning in mid-March, missed the Liga game against Celta Vigo on March 20 because of a shin injury.

Ramos has still revealed his plans once his contract with Real Madrid expires on June 30.

Australia has 2nd likely Astra-Zeneca clot case

The Australian government has said it has decided against buying the single-dose Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine and identified a second case of a rare blood clot likely linked to the AstraZeneca shot.

Australia has been relatively successful in containing the spread of the virus, but criticism is mounting over the pace of its vaccination rollout.

Australia had planned to rely on Australian-manufactured AstraZeneca to reach a target of delivering at least one dose of vaccine to all eligible adults among a population of 26 million by October.

But the government abandoned that target after it advised last week that Pfizer was now the preferred option for people under 50 years because of a potential risk of rare blood clots linked to AstraZeneca.

A man in Victoria state who received an AstraZeneca injection on March 22 had to be hospitalised with blood clots. A second case was reported Tuesday of a woman who was inoculated in Western Australia state and hospitalized in Darwin , regulator said in a statement.

With 700,000 AstraZeneca doses injected in Australia since early March, the two cases equate to a clotting frequency of 1-in-350,000, the regulator said. British authorities say the risk of such blood clots is 1-in-250,000 in that country.

The government has doubled its Pfizer order to 40 million doses and Hunt said delivery of the additional 20 million doses was expected in the last three months of 2021.

India again reports world's highest daily Covid infections

India has reported 161,736 new coronavirus infections, hitting the world's highest daily tally once again, for a total of 13.69 million cases, health ministry data showed.

Deaths rose by 879 to 171,058. Numbers typically fall on Tuesdays because of delayed results from tests done on weekends.

The Indian city of Pune is running out of ventilators as gasping coronavirus patients crowd its hospitals. Social media is full of people searching for beds, while relatives throng pharmacies looking for antiviral medicines that hospitals ran out of long ago.

The surge, which can be seen across India, is particularly alarming because the country is a major vaccine producer and a critical supplier to the UN-backed COVAX initiative. 

That program aims to bring shots to some of the world's poorest countries. Already the rise in cases has forced India to focus on satisfying its domestic demand — and delay deliveries to COVAX and elsewhere, including the United Kingdom and Canada.

India's decision “means there is very little, if anything, left for COVAX and everybody else,” said Brook Baker, a vaccines expert at Northeastern University.

Germany's confirmed cases rise by 10,810 - RKI

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany has increased by 10,810 to 3,022,323, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Tuesday. The reported death toll rose by 294 to 78,746, the tally showed.

The German government is expected to agree on Tuesday on controversial changes to a national infections control law which would hand Berlin more centralised power to impose sweeping measures to curb the raging coronavirus pandemic.

The proposed changes, criticised by some states, could give Chancellor Angela Merkel's government the power to impose night-time curfews and close schools in areas with high infection rates.

The move aims to end a political tug-of-war between the federal government and powerful regions over coronavirus measures, as Germany remains gripped by a dangerous third wave of the pandemic which is putting increased strain on the country's health system.

Fauci backs AstraZeneca shot "if safety issues can be overcome"

US infectious disease official Anthony Fauci has said if safety concerns about AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine were straightened out it had good efficacy, but it might not be needed for Americans because of supplies of other shots.

"I think that the AstraZeneca vaccine from a standpoint of efficacy is a good vaccine, and if the safety issue gets straightened out in the European Union... the efficacy of that vaccine is really quite good," he told BBC radio on Tuesday.

"Whether or not we ever use AZ is unclear but it looks right now at this point in time that we will not need it. It's not a negative indictment of AZ, it is just possible that given the supply that we have from other companies that we may not need to use an AZ vaccine."

The AstraZeneca vaccine is being investigated by European regulators over concerns about rare cases of blood clots. It has not yet been approved in the United States.

British variant of Covid-19 not linked to more serious infections – study

A highly contagious variant of Covid-19 first identified in Britain does not cause more severe disease in hospitalised patients, according to a new study published in the medical journal The Lancet Infectious Diseases.

The strain, known as B.1.1.7, was identified in Britain late last year and has become the most common strain in the United States, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The study analysed a group of 496 Covid-19 patients who were admitted to British hospitals in November and December last year, comparing outcomes in patients infected with B.1.1.7 or other variants. 

The researchers found no difference in risks of severe disease, death, or other clinical outcomes in patients with B.1.1.7 and other variants.

"Our data, within the context and limitations of a real-world study, provide initial reassurance that severity in hospitalised patients with B.1.1.7 is not markedly different from severity in those without," the researchers said in the study.

A separate study published in The Lancet Public Health medical journal found that vaccines were likely to be effective against the British variant since there was no apparent increase in reinfection rate when compared to non-UK variants.

According to British scientists, the British variant was about 40 percent-70 percent more transmissible than previously dominant variants.

The studies also confirmed the previous findings that B.1.1.7 was more transmissible.

Australia shelves plans to buy J&J's one-dose vaccine

Australia has no current plans to add Johnson & Johnson's one-dose coronavirus vaccine to its immunisation drive, authorities have said, as it moves away from procuring vaccines under review over blood clots.

Johnson & Johnson (J&J) and AstraZeneca anti-COVID vaccine doses use an adenovirus, a harmless class of common-cold viruses, to introduce coronavirus proteins into cells in the body and trigger an immune response.

But both vaccines are under review by Europe's drug regulator after it found rare cases of blood clots among some adult vaccine recipients, although it said the advantages still outweighed the risks.

"The government does not intend to purchase any further adenovirus vaccines at this time," a Health Ministry spokeswoman told Reuters news agency.

Australia on Sunday abandoned its goal to vaccinate its near 26 million population by the end of this year after recommending under-50s should not be given the AstraZeneca doses, throwing its vaccination programme into disarray.

World Bank, Gavi urge countries with excess Covid-19 vaccines to release them

World Bank President David Malpass and Jose Manuel Barroso, chair of the Gavi vaccine alliance, have discussed the importance of countries with excess Covid-19 vaccine supplies releasing them as soon as possible, the World Bank said.

Malpass expressed his desire to work closely with Gavi on a 2022 strategy, including helping expand vaccine production capacity for developing countries, the bank said in a statement.

The two officials also discussed the need for more transparency by countries, suppliers and development partners on vaccine contracts, and regarding national export and supply commitments and requirements, the bank said.

"During their meeting, President Malpass and Mr. Barroso discussed challenges facing acquisition and deployment of Covid-19 vaccines by developing countries and the importance of countries with excess vaccine supplies releasing them as soon as possible," it said.

China reports nine new Covid-19 cases

China reported nine new Covid-19 cases on April 12, down from 16 cases a day earlier, the country's national health authority said on Tuesday.

The National Health Commission said in a statement that one of the new cases was a local infection reported in Yunnan province, which is dealing with a cluster that emerged in Ruili city on the border with Myanmar.

The number of new asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed cases, rose to 18 from 12 cases a day earlier.

The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in mainland China now stands at 90,435, while the death toll remained unchanged at 4,636.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies