Covid death toll nears 3 million as India cases surge
PARIS, – The global coronavirus death toll was expected to reach three million on Saturday, as the race for immunisation continues and countries like India grapple with rising infections and new lockdowns.
The virus that surfaced in late 2019 in central China and the ensuing pandemic has infected more than 100 million people, leaving billions more under crippling lockdowns and ravaging the global economy.
India’s capital New Delhi went into a weekend lockdown Saturday as the world’s second-most populous nation faces more than 200,000 fresh daily cases and families clamouring for drugs and hospital beds.
Hopes that South Asian countries might have seen the worst of the pandemic have been dashed, with India recording over two million new cases this month alone and Bangladesh and Pakistan imposing new shutdowns.
In Japan, rising virus cases have stoked speculation that the Olympic Games — postponed last year due to the pandemic — could be cancelled.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, in his first meeting with US President Joe Biden, said his government was listening to experts and doing its “utmost” to prepare for the Tokyo games in July.
“They are doing everything possible to contain infection and to realise safe and secure games from scientific and objective perspectives,” Suga told a joint news conference, at which Biden backed Japan’s efforts to host the global event.
Coronavirus preparations are being made for another global sporting showcase — the World Cup in Qatar next year.
The Gulf kingdom is in talks with coronavirus vaccine makers to ensure all fans attending the 2022 World Cup in the country have been vaccinated, its foreign minister said Friday.
The virus continues to impact events elsewhere in the world. On Saturday, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II bids a final farewell to her late husband, Prince Philip, at a funeral restricted by coronavirus and likely watched by millions from afar. The public has been asked to stay away because of the global pandemic.
– ‘Cautious optimism’ in Europe –
In Brazil, the country with the third-highest death toll in the world, night shifts have been added to several cemeteries as diggers work around the clock to bury the dead.
One of these is Vila Formosa, the largest cemetery in Latin America and a showcase for the lethal cost of the pandemic in Brazil, where more than 360,000 people have died from Covid-19.
Despite the high infection rate, the government of Brazil’s most populous state Sao Paulo announced it will allow businesses and places of worship to reopen from Sunday.
But there was better news in Europe, where some countries are easing their lockdowns in response to not only fatigue, but falling infection numbers and progress with vaccinations.
Italy announced Friday it will ease coronavirus restrictions for schools and restaurants from April 26.
Expressing “cautious optimism”, Prime Minister Mario Draghi said his government was taking a “calculated risk”
Italy will also allow up to a thousand spectators at outdoor events from May 1, when it eases its stadium fan ban in regions less affected by the coronavirus.
In more good news for Brits after the partial reopening of society this week, Germany on Friday removed the United Kingdom from the list of risk zones for coronavirus infections, meaning that travellers will no longer need to quarantine upon arrival.