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Global COVID-19 death toll nears 3 million as India cases surge


PARIS: The global coronavirus death toll was expected to reach 3 million on Saturday (Apr 17), as the race for immunisation continues and countries such as 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 REPORTS ANOTHER RECORD DAILY INCREASE

Hopes that South Asian countries might have seen the worst of the pandemic have been dashed, with India recording more than 2 million new cases this month alone and Bangladesh and Pakistan imposing new shutdowns.

India reported a record daily increase of 234,692 COVID-19 infections over the last 24 hours, health ministry data showed on Saturday.

It was the eighth record daily increase in the last nine days.

Total cases reached nearly 14.5 million, second only to the United States which has reported more than 32 million infections.

India’s deaths from COVID-19 rose by 1,341 to reach a total of 175,649, the data showed.

New Delhi, India’s capital, went into a weekend lockdown on Saturday.

New Delhi went into a weekend lockdown Saturday as India faces a ferocious new coronavirus wave

New Delhi went into a weekend lockdown on Apr 17, 2021, as India faces a ferocious new coronavirus wave. (Photo: AFP/Archana THIYAGARAJAN)

READ: India battles record COVID surge as rallies, Hindu festival draw huge crowds

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.

READ: Japan PM determined to hold ‘safe and secure’ Olympic Games

Coronavirus preparations are being made for another global sporting showcase – the World Cup in Qatar next year.

Spread of the coronavirus

Global death toll and coronavirus cases as of April 16 at 1000 GMT, based on AFP tallies. (Graphic: AFP/Simon MALFATTO)

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.

READ: Qatar seeking COVID-19 jabs for all World Cup visitors

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.

READ: Brazil asks women to delay pregnancy over new COVID-19 variant fears

READ: Brazil’s COVID-19 response cost thousands of lives, says humanitarian group

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, which has started coronavirus-free train journeys between Milan and Rome, will ease

Italy, which has started coronavirus-free train journeys between Milan and Rome, will ease coronavirus restrictions for schools and restaurants from Apr 26. (Photo: AFP/Piero CRUCIATTI)

Italy announced Friday it will ease coronavirus restrictions for schools and restaurants from Apr 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.

READ: Italy to ease COVID-19 rules from Apr 26

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.

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