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Coronavirus digest: Indian COVID variant reaches Philippines

The variants were reported in two workers who had returned from Oman and the UAE. Meanwhile, Hong Kong has scrapped a plan to compulsorily inoculate foreign domestic workers. Follow DW for latest.

A soldier at a checkpoint in the Philippines

The Indian variant was discovered in two Filipino workers who had returned from UAE and Oman.

The Philippines reported its first two cases of the Indian COVID-19 variant on Tuesday.

The country's health ministry said that the variant, B.1.617, was identified in two Filipino workers who returned to the island country in April from the UAE and Oman.

Aletha Guzman, director of the ministry's epidemiology bureau, said that the identified individuals were in isolation since coming back.

The Philippines has temporarily barred flights from India to the country.

Here's a look at some of the other most notable pandemic-related stories around the world at present.

Asia

Hong Kong has scrapped its plan to make COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for foreign workers in the region. Hong Kong, which had planned to roll out jabs for 370,000 foreign workers, scrapped the move after the proposal caused a diplomatic problem with the Philippines. The island country had alleged the decision as discriminatory.

People queue outside a vaccination centre in Hong Kong

Hong Kong scrapped the compulsory inoculation plan following diplomatic tensions with the Philippines

Under the plan, foreign domestic workers would have had to show proof of receiving two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to renew their current visas or get new ones issued. Hong Kong had decided to make vaccinations mandatory for foreign domestic workers after two domestic workers were found infected with virulent strains of COVID-19.

India reported 370,000 new infections and 3,700 deaths from COVID-19 on Monday. The country is in the midst of a dangerous wave that has overwhelmed the country's health care system. Experts believe that the official death count is much higher.

India's new infection numbers came on the heels of the WHO declaring the Indian variant a "variant of concern." The Indian mutation has also spread to India's neighbors, hitting Nepal particularly hard.

Europe

Belgium said on Tuesday that it will scrap most of its coronavirus lockdown rules and reopen most of its economy -- provided that its vaccination drive continues at the same pace and intensive care admissions stay below 500.

From June 9, Belgians will be able to sip their world-renowed beers inside their local pubs, which have been closed since October.

Live music events and gyms will also reopen next month, but will have a cap on the number of people who can attend.

"The more people are vaccinated, the faster we will get our freedom back," Prime Minister Alexander De Croo told a news conference.

A man in Austria has been convicted of intentionally infecting his ex-wife with the coronavirus by coughing at her.

The Linz regional court said Tuesday that the 63-year-old was given a nine-month sentence, suspended for three years.

Judges had convicted the man Monday of attempted serious bodily harm for giving the victim COVID-19 while they were still living in the same house pending the finalization of their divorce last November.

Slovakia said it has halted the uses of the two-dose AstraZeneca vaccine after authorities there said the death of a 47-year-old woman was “likely” linked to the Oxford University-backed jab.

Millions of doses of AstraZeneca have been safely administered in Europe, but concerns linger over a rare type of blood clot seen in an extremely small number of recipients.

On Tuesday, Germany reported 6,125 new cases of COVID-19, over 1,400 less than one week ago. It takes the total case count to 3,533,376, according to latest figures released by the Robert Koch Institute. The country's death toll rose by 283 to 85,112.

The head of the European Medicines Agency told German business daily Handelsblatt that the BioNTech-Pfizer jab could soon be approved for children from 12 to 15 years old in the EU.

The European Commission's second case against AstraZeneca, over delays in delivering the COVID-19 vaccine, has started in a court in Brussels. The EU has asked for symbolic compensation of €1 ($1.21) for a breach of contract by AstraZeneca.

A lawyer representing the bloc said that the European Union was willing to give the company three months of leeway to deliver 120 million doses of the vaccine. The lawyer added that the bloc was also willing to accept AstraZeneca's full obligation of 300 million vaccines by September.

Americas

The United States has authorized use of the BioNTech-Pfizer jab for children between the ages of 12 and 15. This is the second authorization for children, following emergency authorization of the vaccine for those 16 and older. US president Joe Biden said that this was a "promising development" against the virus.

In a separate announcement, the White House said it had tapped ride-sharing apps Uber and Lyft to offer free journeys to people who were going to get vaccinated.

The move is part of President Biden's bid to reopen the country completely on July 4.

am/rt (dpa, AP, AFP)

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