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People are vaccinated by health workers at a center in Mumbai, India
India has been trying to ramp up its vaccination program to stem a wave of infectionsImage: Niharika Kulkarni/REUTERS

Coronavirus digest: India posts lowest caseload in six weeks

May 25, 2021

India's second wave appears to be easing as reports suggest an economic stimulus package is being prepared for the worst-hit areas. Melbourne has introduced restrictions after an outbreak. Follow DW for the latest.

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For the first time in six weeks, India has registered fewer than 200,000 coronavirus infections over a 24-hour period, according to a Health Ministry update on Tuesday.

The ministry recorded 196,427 new cases — its lowest daily rise in infections since April 14. At the same time, India logged 3,511 daily deaths from COVID-19.

High caseloads in states such as Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh are witnessing a downward trend, resulting in the latest drop in numbers across the whole country.

India's overall caseload now stands at 26.95 million, while 307,231 have died from COVID-19 since the country of 1.3 billion people registered its first case at the end of January 2020.

Meanwhile, India is preparing an economic stimulus package for the sectors worst affected by the pandemic, Bloomberg reported on Tuesday. The Finance Ministry is working on proposals to bolster the tourism, aviation and hospitality sectors, as well as small- and medium-sized companies.

COVID-19 Special: A 'variant of concern'

Here's a roundup of other major developments around the world.

Oceania

The Australian city of Melbourne reinstated restrictions on Tuesday as authorities scrambled to find the missing link in a new outbreak that has grown to five cases.

Gatherings inside will be limited to five guests, while only 30 people are allowed at public meetings. Face masks will be mandatory in restaurants, pubs and other indoor venues starting from 6 p.m. local time (0800 GMT) on Tuesday until June 4.

All five cases are from an extended family across different households and could be traced back to the variant found in an overseas traveler who returned to Melbourne earlier this month after completing quarantine in the city of Adelaide.

New Zealand was quick to react to the fresh outbreak in Melbourne, suspending quarantine-free travel with the state of Victoria — the fourth time the trans-Tasman travel bubble has been disrupted since it opened last month.

Disposable masks are an environmental plague

Asia

China has offered to send vaccines to Taiwan to help it battle a sharp rise in coronavirus infections, drawing an angry response from Taipei.

Previously, Taipei has accused Beijing of spreading fake news and stymying its efforts to rejoin the World Health Organization (WHO), while China has suggested Taiwan is trying to politicize the pandemic.

After months of relative safety from the pandemic, Taiwan is dealing with a spike in infections and is rapidly running out of vaccines, having received around 700,000 doses, despite being home to more than 23 million people.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong has a surplus of doses due to reluctance among citizens to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

Millions of doses may soon have to be discarded because they are approaching their expiration date.

Hong Kong is one of the few places in the world fortunate enough to have secured more than enough doses to inoculate its entire population of 7.5 million people.

But swirling distrust of the government as it stamps out dissent, combined with online misinformation and a lack of urgency in the comparatively virus-free city, has led to vaccine hesitancy and a sluggish rollout.

On Tuesday, a member of the government's vaccine task force warned that locals "only have a three-month window" before the city's first batch of BioNTech-Pfizer vaccines become too old to be administered.

Automaker Renault-Nissan said it would close its plant in India's Tamil Nadu state until May 30 after workers said they would strike over coronavirus-related safety concerns.

COVID: An unfolding health crisis in rural India

A note by the automaker's India Chief Executive Biju Balendran, which was sent to employees and seen by Reuters, said the plant would be shut from May 26 to May 30 to ensure safety.

"We will continue to closely monitor the situation in Chennai and Tamil Nadu and come back to you shortly with information on when the plant will restart," said Balendran in the note.

Americas

Puerto Rico has brought to an end a nightly curfew, more than a year after it was introduced. The island will also allow vaccinated tourists to visit without a negative coronavirus test result.

Additionally, the Puerto Rican government has announced that, as of Friday, it will offer the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine to anyone who arrives at the Luis Munoz Marin International Airport in San Juan.

Haiti has imposed a nightly curfew and other restrictions under an eight-day "health emergency" meant to curb the spread of the coronavirus. All outdoor activity will be banned from 10 p.m. until 5 a.m. local time (0200 GMT to 0900 GMT).

The White House reaffirmed its support for this summer's Olympics to continue, and for US athletes to compete despite a new wave of cases and a US travel advisory for Japan.

"Our position has not changed on the Olympics," said White House press secretary Jen Psaki.

New York City and Los Angeles have announced plans to fully reopen schools — part of a parent-led nationwide trend amid a sustained decline in cases.

A report by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said there were 10,262 COVID-19 cases in people who were fully vaccinated against the illness, out of the 101 million people fully vaccinated in the country. That is 0.01% of the population that was fully vaccinated.

The CDC examined the first four months of 2021. Among the total such "breakthrough" cases, 2,725 were asymptomatic, 706 were hospitalized due to COVID-19, and 132 died from reasons related to COVID-19.

"The number of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths that will be prevented among vaccinated persons will far exceed the number of vaccine breakthrough cases," said the report.

Europe

EU leaders welcomed the introduction of a bloc-wide COVID-19 digital certificate, which will show the user's vaccination status, immunity from COVID-19, or the result of a COVID-19 test.

EU countries and the European Parliament agreed on the legislation to come into force in mid-June for the digital certificate. European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said all the technological aspects would be ready by June 1.

"Progressively, we should return to the ability to move freely throughout the European Union," said European Council President Charles Michel.

Denmark's COVID-19 passport success

The European soccer confederation UEFA put up 1,700 tickets for sale to the Champions League Final between Manchester City and Chelsea FC in Porto, Portugal. The Estadio do Dragao stadium will be one-third full. Both teams were given 6,000 tickets to sell to their fans.

Spectators must show a negative PCR test from no earlier than Wednesday or a negative antigen test from Friday or Saturday in order to be let in for Saturday's match.

More than 20,000 fans will be allowed in Madrid's Wanda Metropolitano Stadium for the Spanish men's soccer friendly against Portugal on June 4. It will be the first time fans will be allowed in a top-level soccer match at the stadium since March 2020. The stadium will be set to 30% capacity, and fans will have to wear masks at all times.

Sweden said it would donate 3 million vaccine doses to COVAX in 2021, up from a previous pledge of 1 million doses.

"In this way Sweden contributes to more than our share of the EU's target of donating at least 100 million doses to low- and middle income countries in 2021," said the government in a statement.

The Czech Republic's fourth health minister since the pandemic began has resigned.

Petr Arenberger was the director of Prague's University Hospital Vinohrady, he only became health minister on April 7. He came under fire for alleged irregularities in his tax returns.

Arenberger called Prime Minister Andrej Babis, who was attending an EU summit, to announce his resignation. Babis said pressure on Arenberger was the "main reason" for his resignation.

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Almost two-thirds of German citizens are in favor of an immediate return to in-person teaching. Just over 65% of those spoken to by Civey research group were of the firm opinion that children should go back to in-school classes as soon as possible.

World

A leading scientist on the WHO's COVID-19 mission to China said an additional trip could be helpful to gather additional research on the origins of the disease.

Dutch virologist Marion Koopmans' comment came after the US called for international experts to be allowed to evaluate the source of the virus and the early days of the outbreak. Discussions about the outbreak gained renewed attention this week after US intelligence agencies examined reports that researchers at a virology laboratory in Wuhan were seriously ill in 2019 one month before the first COVID-19 cases were reported.

Koopmans was part of the team that traveled to China earlier this year and released a report in March that said the virus was likely transmitted from bats to humans via another animal.

South Africa said that the WHO's World Health Assembly will meet from November 29 to December 1 this year to negotiate anew international treaty on pandemic preparedness.

South African ambassador Mxolisi Nkosi told the WHO's annual ministerial assembly "probably the most important lesson COVID-19 has taught us is the need for stronger and more agile collective defenses against health threats as well as for building resilience to address future potential pandemics."

The problem with patent rights

jsi,kbd/rs (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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