The number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus-borne illness COVID-19 climbed above 142 million on Tuesday, and India remained a hot spot, recording more than 250,000 new infections and over 1,700 deaths in the past 24 hours alone.
The capital New Delhi entered lockdown again on Monday in an effort to curb a surge in cases that has hospitals overflowing, intensive-care units full and oxygen in short supply.
India is part of a wave of new cases that is pushing the global tally higher, even as some countries, including the U.S., are making good progress with vaccination, overshadowing the extent of the crisis in other places, including Brazil and France. The wave is partly due to new variants that are more infectious than the original virus.
But India’s high infection rate is also due to some recent superspreader events, including a Hindu festival that saw many gather to bathe in the river Ganges while failing to wear face masks, as well as some busy state election rallies.
The U.S. State Department is warning against travel to India and the U.K. added the country to its travel “red list.” Hong Kong has banned all flights from India and Singapore has added a week to the 14-day quarantine period it demands of travelers from there, according to the Straits Times.
India’s case burden is also overwhelming its vaccination effort and that has implications for the world, as India is the biggest producer of vaccines. The country was forced to delay deliveries to other places to keep up with domestic demand. On Monday, the government said it would expand the vaccine program to every adult, but it’s unclear how it will meet that supply, according to the AP.
The World Health Organization, meanwhile, again highlighted the issue of vaccine equity on Monday, urging richer countries not to hog vaccines and noting that failing to vaccinate poorer countries will simply allow more variants to emerge and potentially produce one that will not respond to current vaccines.
Environmentalist Greta Thunberg joined a WHO news briefing with the news that she will donate 100,000 euros ($120,000) via her foundation to the WHO Foundation to support its Covax program, which aims to distribute vaccines to the most at-risk in the poorer countries of the world.
In case you missed it: UN chief joins WHO in slamming rich countries for hogging COVID vaccines
“The international community must do more to address the tragedy that is vaccine inequity,” the Swedish Thunberg told reporters. “We have the means at our disposal to correct the great imbalance that exists around the world today in the fight against COVID-19. Just as with the climate crisis, we must help those who are the most vulnerable first. “
On average, 1 in 4 people in high-income countries have received a coronavirus vaccine, compared with just one in more than 500 in low-income countries.
In the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s vaccine tracker is showing that as of 6 a.m. ET Monday, 264.5 million doses had been delivered to states, 211.6 million doses had been administered, and 132.3 million people had received at least one shot, equal to 39.9% of the population.
A full 85.4 million people are fully vaccinated, equal to 25.7% of the population, meaning they have received two shots of the two-dose vaccines developed by Pfizer Inc.
and German partner BioNTech SE
and Moderna Inc.
or one shot of the Johnson & Johnson
one-shot vaccine. The AstraZeneca vaccine has not been authorized for use in the U.S.
Among Americans 65-years old and older, 35.5 million people are fully vaccinated, equal to 64.9% of that group. Almost 44 million people in that age bracket have received a first jab, covering 80.1% of that population.
In other news:
• The U.S. earnings season saw two companies report Tuesday with a focus on COVID-19. Johnson & Johnson posted better-than-expected numbers for its first quarter and said COVID vaccine sales added $100 million to revenue. Abbot Labs
meanwhile, said profit more than tripled as it generated $1.8 billion of its $2.2 billion in sales from COVID tests.
• The U.S. State Department urged Americans to reconsider any international travel they may have planned and said it would issue specific warnings not to visit roughly 80% of the world’s countries due to risks from the coronavirus pandemic, the AP reported. The U.S. hasn’t had a global advisory warning against international travel since August, when guidance was revoked by the previous administration. The advice issued by the department isn’t a formal global advisory. Instead, it says the State Department will start using Centers for Disease Control and Prevention standards as it prepares health and safety guidelines for individual countries. Because of those standards, about 80% of countries will be classified as “Level 4” or “do not travel.”
• The coronavirus pandemic has been used as grounds to block journalists’ access to information sources and reporting in the field, the nonprofit Reporter without Borders reported. The organization’s 2021 World Press Freedom Index found that journalism, “the vaccine against disinformation,” has been blocked in more than 130 countries, accounting for 73% of the 180 countries it evaluated. “The data shows that journalists are finding it increasingly hard to investigate and report sensitive stories, especially in Asia, the Middle East and Europe,” said the report. Journalists have been subjected to intimidation and threats, to strict media laws and even the criminalization of reports viewed as critical of government responses to the crisis, such as shortages of medical supplies or growing death tolls. That list includes Brazil, Egypt, Iran and China, the report found.
Index region by region:
Source: Reporters without Borders
• The European Medicines Agency said its safety committee concluded that a warning about unusual blood clots with low blood platelets should be added to the product information for Johnson & Johnson’s COVID vaccine, which it said had benefits that outweighed the risk of “very rare” side effects. All eight of the U.S. cases, after more than 7 million vaccinations, occurred in people under 60 years of age within three weeks after vaccination, and mostly in women. The cases reviewed were very similar to the cases that occurred with the COVID-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca
the EMA said. The rollout of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine in Europe was paused by the company.
• The European Union will have enough vaccine doses to cover 70% of adults by mid-July, the Guardian reported, citing internal markets commissioner Thierry Breton, who is responsible for vaccines in the trading bloc. “Fifty-three factories are producing vaccines in the EU. Our continent is now the largest producer in the world after the United States,” internal markets commissioner Thierry Breton told French daily Le Figaro in an interview. The 70% threshold is important as some experts say it’s needed to achieve “herd immunity,” or the point at which the virus has too few hosts to proliferate.
The global tally for the coronavirus-borne illness rose above 142 million on Tuesday, the Johns Hopkins data shows, as the death toll climbed above 3.03 million, after breaching the 3 million mark on Saturday.
The U.S. leads the world in cases and deaths by wide margins, with 31.7 million cases, or more than 20% of the global total, while the 567,729 death toll makes up about 20% of the global toll.
Outside of the U.S., Brazil is third by cases after India at 13.9 million and second with a death toll of 374,682.
Mexico is third by deaths at 212,466 and 14th highest by cases at 2.3 million.
The U.K. has 4.4 million cases and 127,524 deaths, the highest in Europe and fifth highest in the world.
China, where the virus was first discovered late last year, has had 102,272 confirmed cases and 4,845 deaths, according to its official numbers.