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Coronavirus digest: Amnesty urges EU to lift vaccine patents

The human rights organization has said patents for vaccines must be lifted so that production and global access can meet needs. Follow DW for the latest.

Workers in a BioNTech production facility in Marburg, Germany

Amnesty International has called for patents to be lifted so that vaccines can be produced in more locations to meet global needs

Amnesty International called on the EU to back a proposal to temporarily lift patent protections for COVID-19 vaccines on Tuesday.

The human rights organization criticized the European Commission and EU member states for not ignoring the initiative, which they say would result in a global increase in vaccine production.

Some 400 lawmakers across the EU have joined a campaign along with Nobel prize winners and former heads of state. However, "the discussions have not gone beyond the exchange of clarifications and additional explanations," Amnesty said.

The organization said that the EU, US and Japan were the reason for lack of movement on the issue.

While it is "understandable" that states want to ensure their own populations have full access to vaccines, Maria Scharlau of Amnesty International in Germany said, it is necessary to put aside certain property rights to "clear the way, so that more vaccines can be manufactured in more locations."

Here is the latest coronavirus-related news from around the world.

Asia

India's surge in coronavirus cases eased slightly on Tuesday after five consecutive days of growing infection rates, although new infections remained above 320,000. The country reported 2,771 COVID-19 deaths over the previous 24 hours. The Indian military has pledged to supply urgent medical aid to help tackle the wave of cases.

India's Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Arindam Bagchi, tweeted photos of the first shipment of medical aid from the UK on Tuesday, including 100 ventilators and 95 oxygen concentrators.

US biopharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences Inc has also pledged to give at least 450,000 vials of its COVID-19 treatment drug remdesivir as well as donating ingredients to boost production of the drug there.

Japan is planning to open a new mass vaccination center in Tokyo next month in the run up to the postponed Olympic Games this summer.

The country is battling a fourth wave of infections, while vaccinations are still low in comparison to other rich countries. Around 1.5% of the 126 million population has been vaccinated, according to Reuters.

Bars and nightclubs in Hong Kong will open from April 29 for people who have been vaccinated and use a phone app issued by the government, the city's health secretary announced on Tuesday.

Thailand reported its third consecutive day of record coronavirus deaths on Tuesday as 15 people died after having tested positive for the virus. The country fared relatively well in earlier stages of the pandemic, but experts have warned that the it may be facing bigger problems than it realizes due to insufficient testing.

Sri Lanka reported 997 new coronavirus cases in the previous 24 hours after weeks of reporting no more than 300 a day. The majority of cases were recorded in the capital Colombo. Health officials have warned that numbers may increase still due to crowded new year's celebrations on April 14.

South Korea's President Moon Jae-in has pledged authorization for the US-developed Novavax vaccine soon. The South Korean firm SK Bioscience has a contract to produce some 40 million doses of the vaccine and it is hoped the doses will alleviate problems associated with tightening controls of doses in the US, EU and India.

COVID-19 Special: Vaccinating children and adolescents

Europe

Germany's Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases (RKI) reported 10,976 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday and 344 new deaths. The seven-day infection rate was 167.6 per 100,000, slightly down from Monday.

The first aid delivery from Germany to India should be sent off "in the next few days," a foreign ministry spokesperson said on Tuesday. The German army will deliver the medical equipment to help those with breathing difficulties to help India combat a deadly surge of COVID-19 cases.

The eastern state of Brandenburg will allow vaccinated travelers to skip the 10-day quarantine requirement after entering. However, people coming from areas ranked as "virus variant" zones will still have to go into isolation, the state government said.

Organizers of a trial concert in Barcelona said no major coronavirus outbreaks were reported after their event, expressing hopes that mid-sized cultural events could soon return to public life.

Last month, some 5,000 attended the indoor trial concert after getting tested for COVID-19. The crowd was also instructed to wear FFP2 masks. 

Meanwhile, prosecutors in Belgium warned potential partygoers they should stay away from an unauthorized gathering planned this weekend in one of Brussels' biggest parks. Police briefly detained one of the organizers. 

An April Fools' party had drawn crowds of thousands of people in Brussels and ended in clashes with police. 

In Russia, some vaccinated people are having third and fourth shots of the Sputnik V jab after finding out that their antibodies have fallen, Reuters reported.

However, scientists said a fall in antibody levels does not indicate a decline in immunity, assuring that revaccination was unnecessary.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has announced a nationwide "full lockdown" starting on Thursday, to curb a recent surge in coronavirus infections.

Turkey's schools will close, intercity travel will be restricted and public transport capacity limited, the president said after a cabinet meeting.

Americas

Canada will enlist the support of its military to help curb a surge in COVID-19 cases in the province of Ontario where hospitals have come under strain with an influx of coronavirus patients. Several other provinces introduced measures on Monday to avoid similar outbreaks.

The US will share some 60 million AstraZeneca vaccine doses with other countries starting in the next few weeks, the White House said on Tuesday. The US has not yet authorized use of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on Tuesday that fully vaccinated people don't need to wear masks outdoors in the US unless they are in a big crowd of strangers.

Brazil's health authorities have rejected authorization for the Russian-developed COVID-19 vaccine Sputnik V citing a lack of "consistent and reliable data."

Oceania

Australia has announced a ban on direct passenger flights from India until at least mid-May.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said travel to India posed a "clearly present" risk.

ab/nm (AP, Reuters, dpa, AFP)