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Coronavirus digest: Vaccinated Germans enjoy new freedoms

From Sunday, those who are fully immunized against COVID-19 are exempt from many restrictions in Germany. The WHO has warned that a variant spreading in India may be dodging vaccine protection. Follow DW for the latest.

Public transport passengers wearing masks in a train station.

Immunized people will still be required to adhere to social distancing measures

German residents who are considered fully immune to the coronavirus will no longer be subject to nightly curfews and restrictions on meeting people starting Sunday.

Anyone who has had both doses of the vaccine or who has recovered after falling ill will be able to meet with others in the same category in private without any restrictions.

The fully immune also won't need to show proof they tested negative to enter shops and be in quarantine after travel, except in specific cases — for example, if they enter from an area where a variant of the virus is rampant.

However, they will still be required to adhere to social distancing measures, including wearing masks in shops and on public transport.

Berlin's mayor Michael Müller admitted that it was going to be "damn difficult to check" whether people were exempt from the rules or not.

Müller urged people to carry proof of vaccination with them until the arrival of the European Union's planned digital vaccination certificates.

More than 31% of the population have received the first shot of vaccine and 8.8% have been fully vaccinated.

Watch video 02:00

Germany to loosen COVID restrictions for vaccinated people

Here's a roundup of some of the other major COVID-related stories around the world on Sunday.

Europe

Germany has recorded 12,656 more cases, taking the overall number of infections to 3,520,329, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for Infectious Diseases showed on Sunday. The reported death toll rose by 127 to 84,775, the tally showed.

The seven-day incidence rate continued dropping, now at 118.6 cases per 100,000 people per week, down from 146.5 the previous week.

Spain has lifted a state of emergency in place since October to fight the pandemic, allowing Spaniards to travel between regions for the first time in months.  

People headed to the streets to celebrate as soon as the emergency measure expired at midnight (2200 GMT/UTC Saturday). 

While intra-regional travel bans have ended and curfews have been lifted, not all of the restrictions are being relaxed in Spain.

Regions can still restrict opening hours and impose capacity limits in bars and restaurants.

Watch video 01:37

Spain parties as lockdown lifts

Italy is planning to lift quarantine restrictions for travelers arriving from European Union countries, Britain and Israel as early as mid-May in a bid to revive the tourism industry, said Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio in a Facebook post.

Traveling to Italy should be made easier for travelers who have been fully vaccinated against COVID, he said.

He added that he was working with the health minister to abolish the "mini-quarantine" for European Union citizens and travelers from Britain and Israel who have tested negative for the virus, were vaccinated or had recovered from COVID.

Visitors traveling to Italy from other EU countries currently have to test negative before traveling, spend five days in quarantine in the country and then take a second test.

Di Maio announced that rules for travelers arriving from the United States should also be relaxed in June.

Italy's case numbers have been falling recently and its vaccination campaign continues to make progress.

The European Union has not yet renewed orders for AstraZeneca jabs beyond June when the current contract ends, European Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton said on Sunday.

The EU earlier said it had launched legal action against AstraZeneca over delayed deliveries. 

Romania has turned its Bran Castle, the inspiration for Dracula into a mass coronavirus vaccination center.
The government has set up "marathon" coronavirus vaccine drives at several major venues to immunize as many citizens as possible.

Asia

Laos has reported its first COVID-19 related death. The victim was a 53-year-old Vietnamese woman who had underlying medical problems, including diabetes, local media cited health authorities as saying. The Southeast Asian country has identified only 1,302 infections since the pandemic began.

India's total COVID-19 cases rose by over 400,000 for the fourth consecutive day even as several states imposed strict lockdowns to curb the spread of the virus.

The Health Ministry reported 4,092 fatalities over the past 24 hours, taking the overall death toll to 242,362. Cases rose by 403,738, increasing the total since the start of the pandemic to 22.3 million.

In an interview with AFP, the World Health Organization's chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan said a COVID-19 variant spreading in India is more contagious and may be dodging vaccine protections, contributing to the country's explosive outbreak.

She warned that "the epidemiological features that we see in India today do indicate that it's an extremely rapidly spreading variant."

Swaminathan said the B.1.617 variant, which was first detected last October, was clearly a contributing factor to the catastrophe unfolding in her homeland.

The WHO recently listed B.1.617 — which counts several sub-lineages with slightly different mutations and characteristics — as a "variant of interest."

Watch video 01:41

COVID 19: India records 4,000 deaths in 24 hours

Bangladesh detected its first case of the highly infectious variant first identified in India, the country's health directorate said, prompting the government to keep its border sealed for another two weeks.

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

In Pakistan, a virus variant first detected in the United Kingdom (B.1.1.7) now accounts for up to 70% of COVID-19 infections, said a research center studying the disease in the country. 

Pakistan 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.

Watch video 02:38

Pakistan: Ramadan poses severe challenge to combating COVID

China will set up "a line of separation" at the summit of Mount Everest to prevent the interaction of climbers from COVID-hit Nepal and those ascending from the Tibetan side, Chinese state news agency Xinhua reported on Sunday.

Since late April,  the Everest base camp on the Nepalese side has been hit by COVID-19 cases. 

Starved of tourism revenue, the Nepalese government has not yet canceled the spring climbing season —  typically from April to early June before the monsoon rains.

Watch video 02:13

Everest COVID infections on the rise

Africa

South Africa's Health Ministry said four cases of the B.1.617 variant fuelling the devastating COVID surge in India had been recorded in the country.

Eleven cases of the B.1.1.7 variant first detected in the UK had also been found, the statement added, noting that community transmission of that variant had "already set in."

South Africa is at least the fourth country on the continent to pick up the B.1.617 variant, alongside Kenya, Uganda and Morocco.

Watch video 12:06

COVID-19 Special: Why are Africa's numbers relatively low?

Americas

In Guatemala, people took to the streets in the capital to demand the resignation of President Alejandro Giammattei, holding him responsible for a lack of COVID-19 vaccines in the country.

Since February, 658,200 vaccine doses have arrived in Guatemala, some purchased and some donated. The country has a population of more than 16 million.

For the protesters, the numbers reflect mismanagement and fuel suspicions of corruption.

Since March of last year, the Central American country has recorded 233,696 cases of COVID-19 and 7,695 deaths.

Oceania

New Zealand health officials cleared the way for quarantine-free flights to resume to the Australian city of Sydney as fears of a COVID outbreak in New South Wales state eased.

Flights were suspended on Thursday after two people in Sydney tested positive for the virus.

It was the third disruption since the quarantine-free travel bubble between New Zealand and Australia opened on April 18, almost 400 days after both closed their international borders due to the pandemic.

Middle East 

Saudi Arabia will organize the pilgrimage to Mecca this year, but under special conditions to guard against the spread of the coronavirus, the Ministry of Pilgrimage announced on Sunday. 

Local media reported that the measures and conditions would be announced later. 

Last year, Saudi Arabia allowed a limited number of domestic pilgrim to perform the Hajj.

Israel's Health Minister Yuli Edelstein announced on Sunday that there were fewer than 1,000 active COVID-19 cases in Israel for the first time since March 2020. 

There were more than 70,000 infections at the peak of the pandemic, Edelstein said. 

The number of seriously ill COVID-19 patients has been less than 100 in Israel for the past week.

Edelstein contributed the drop in infections to the successful coronavirus vaccination campaign. 

Watch video 02:31

COVID: Israelis enjoy their newfound freedom

sri/mm (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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