India reported more than 4,000 single-day coronavirus deaths for the first time as the nation battles the world’s worst outbreak. China’s Sinopharm Group won World Health Organization backing for its Covid-19 vaccine, paving the way for a wider rollout in countries scrambling for jabs.
Singapore will reduce entry approvals for foreign workers, and delay the arrival of many already approved, to reduce imported cases. Thailand posted more than 2,400 new cases, the highest single-day tally in two weeks. The country is in the grip of a third wave, the worst since the pandemic began. New cases and deaths have almost tripled since the end of March.
Britain will permit relatively free leisure travel to 12 nations and territories. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said she’s open to discussing President Joe Biden’s proposal to waive vaccine patents but the U.S. needs to dramatically ramp up the shots it’s exporting in the short term.
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India Reports Record Daily Death Toll (11:41 a.m. HK)
India reported a record 4,187 deaths as the nation battles the world’s worst outbreak of the virus. The country added 401,078 new cases as the capital New Delhi and other big metro cities continue to report fresh infections. Tamil Nadu, a southern state, joined a growing list of provinces to announce a lockdown to curb the spread and ease pressure on the health system.
Hospitals around the country have been overwhelmed by the fresh wave of infections with oxygen supplies running short in medical facilities due to the sudden surge in demand.
Thailand Has Largest Daily Tally in Two Weeks (10:05 a.m. HK)
Thailand reported 2,419 new cases on Saturday, the highest single-day tally in two weeks, as its capital Bangkok remained a hotspot for infections. The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration late Friday ordered an extension of containment measures including closure of schools, entertainment venues and a ban on dining in restaurants by more than a week to May 17.
Thailand remains in the grip of a third wave, the worst to hit the nation since the pandemic began. New cases and deaths have almost tripled since the end of March with the emergence of a new outbreak tied to nightlife entertainment venues in Bangkok, which has since spread to much of the nation. Total cases have risen to 81,274 from 28,863 at the end of March, while deaths have soared to 382 from less than 100, official data show.
U.S. Vaccine Pace Ticks Up Slightly (6:17 p.m. NY)
The U.S. recorded 2.83 million vaccine doses on Friday, marking the first uptick in the 7-day average in more than three weeks. The average rose from 2.08 million to 2.09 million after three consecutive single-day increases, according to data compiled by the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker.
Demand for vaccines has been falling since a peak of 4.63 million doses recorded on April 10. The U.S. has administered a total of 255 million doses.
CDC Pinpoints Airborne Spread (5:11 p.m. NY)
Inhaling air filled with tiny virus-laden particles, being splashed or sprayed on with droplets or touching one’s mouth, eyes or nose with contaminated hands are the primary ways the novel coronavirus spreads, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday. Prevention tactics, including masking and hand washing, remain effective, the CDC said. Most airborne transmission occurs within 3 to 6 feet, though it can occur at greater lengths.
The update comes more than one year since Covid-19 started spreading in the U.S. and after some scientists called for the U.S. health agency to acknowledge the role airborne transmission plays in spreading the virus.
Poorer Nations Didn’t Order: Pfizer (3:50 p.m. NY)
Pfizer Inc.’s chief executive said that low- and middle-income countries had opted not to order the company’s Covid-19 shot, in a letter posted online after the Biden administration said it supported waiving patents to expand global access to vaccines.
“We reached out to all nations asking them to place orders so we could allocate doses for them,” Chief Executive Officer Albert Bourla said in a letter addressed to Pfizer employees. “In reality, the high-income countries reserved most of the doses. I became personally concerned with that and I reached out to many heads of middle/low-income countries by letter, phone and even text to urge them to reserve doses because the supply was limited.”
EU Calls on U.S. to Export Vaccines (3:25 p.m. NY)
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said she is open to discussing President Joe Biden’s proposal to waive patents on Covid-19 vaccines but that the U.S. needs to dramatically ramp up the number of shots it’s exporting in the short term.
Von der Leyen said that vaccine manufacturers in the European Union have exported about half of the shots they’ve produced, some 200 million in total, and urged the U.S. to match that effort.
The U.S. has so far gobbled up nearly all of the doses produced on its soil. It has sent 4.2 million AstraZeneca shots — which aren’t yet authorized for use in the U.S. — to Mexico and Canada and says it plans to ship another 60 million of those doses by the end of June.
Sao Paulo Extends Transition Plan (1:36 p.m. NY)
The state of Sao Paulo in Brazil will remain for another two weeks in its so-called “transition phase” of restrictions, but allowing service and commerce to extend opening hours until 9 p.m., with a 30% operating capacity from 25% earlier, Governor Joao Doria announced at a press conference.
The new stage of the restriction phase will take place between May 8 and May 23. Indicators are not signaling a third wave, said Joao Gabbardo, executive coordinator of the Contingency Center, a group that suggested restrictions to the state government.
Nigeria Seeks 30 Million Doses of J&J Vaccine (1:24 p.m. NY)
Nigeria plans to get 29.6 million doses of Johnson & Johnson vaccine through the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust led by Afreximbank.
The government is working on a supplementary budget to cover vaccine procurement and delivery, Finance Minister Zainab Ahmed said in a statement on Friday. Already, 29 billion naira have been released for the deployment of vaccines, which is 52% of what is required from 2021 to 2022, she said.
U.K. to Ease Travel Restrictions (12:37 p.m. NY)
Britain will permit relatively free leisure travel to 12 nations and territories including Portugal as it seeks to reopen tourism while keeping control over the coronavirus pandemic.
A legal ban on international leisure trips will be eased from May 17, as expected, the Department for Transport said Friday. Return journeys from approved countries will require Covid-19 tests but no period of quarantine.
Greece Eases More Curbs (11:54 a.m. NY)
Greece is further easing restrictive measures as part of a plan to gradually return to more normal conditions, Deputy Citizen Protection Minister Nikos Hardalias said Friday. Some local beaches will again open from May 8, courts, primary and night schools from May 10 while museums will open their doors on May 14 and open-air cinemas from May 21. Greece opens to international tourism from May 15, when more measures are expected to be lifted including the current ban on inter-regional travel.
WHO Approves Sinopharm Shot (11:41 a.m. NY)
China’s Sinopharm won the backing of the World Health Organization for its Covid-19 vaccine, paving the way for a wider rollout of the shot in countries scrambling for immunizations. The backing of Sinopharm’s shot adds another inoculation to Covax, a program backed by WHO and other global health groups dedicated to ensuring every country has access to vaccinations.
Singapore Limits Foreign Workers (10:17 a.m. NY)
Singapore will reduce approvals for foreign workers planning to enter the country in the coming weeks, and delay the arrivals of many of those already approved to enter, the government said Friday.
The move, aimed at reducing imported cases of Covid-19, comes hours before Singapore is set to launch a three-week crackdown that will limit the size of group gatherings to five. The government earlier this week had already extended travel quarantine to 21 days from the current 14, except for travelers from lower risk places.
Ghana Gets More Covax Shots (7:21 a.m. N.Y.)
Ghana has become the first country to get a second delivery of vaccines from the World Health Organization-backed Covax facility after India, which manufactures the shots, halted exports.
The batch of 350,000 AstraZeneca Plc vaccines made by the Serum Institute of India arrived from the Democratic Republic of Congo Friday.