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The coronavirus death toll in India rose to 200,000 on Wednesday and a wave of new cases flooded hospitals and sent desperate families to search the capital for oxygen and medication as Europe recorded more than 50 million cases.
The vast South Asian nation of 1.3 billion people is battling a huge surge of 360,000 new infections – a global daily record – and reported more than 3,000 deaths on Wednesday.
In contrast, the United States, Britain, and some European nations are taking tentative steps back toward normal life.
However, Europe has had reason to pause the total number of cases since the pandemic hit 50,021,615. This comes from a list of official sources compiled by AFP at 1715 GMT.
The virus has now killed more than 3.1 million people worldwide, with Europe being the hardest hit region.
The co-founder of BioNTech, who worked with Pfizer to develop a COVID-19 vaccine, is confident the shot will work against the variant that plagues India.
In New Delhi, parking lots have been converted into crematoriums and the number of bodies has led to a shortage of wood for pyre.
Relatives of the sick crowd in front of hospitals and pharmacies in search of treatment and medication.
Priyanka Mandal, 30, has been searching for oxygen for her mother since she fell ill a week ago.
“Medicines aren’t available either … I’ve been to five or six major medical stores,” she told AFP.
“No matter how long it takes, I have to wait here … I just have my mother.”
“Auspicious” full moon
Despite the raging pandemic, 25,000 people attended the final day of the Kumbh Mela religious festival in the northern Indian city of Haridwar on Tuesday, pulled to the banks of the Ganges by an “auspicious” full moon, festival official Harbeer Singh told AFP.
The gathering has attracted millions of pilgrims, mostly without masks, and has fueled criticism of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu-nationalist government for allowing it to move on.
The variant of the virus, feared to contribute to the catastrophic wave in India, has now been found in more than a dozen countries, according to the World Health Organization.
But WHO has stopped saying it is more communicable, more deadly, or able to evade vaccination safeguards.
Many nations have rushed to help, sending much-needed oxygen and aid.
As part of the global effort, Singapore announced on Wednesday that it had delivered two planeloads of oxygen, and Germany would supply 120 ventilators and plans to set up oxygen production.
Russia said it was sending emergency aid to the country – including oxygen support, ventilators and medication – while Switzerland sent $ 1 million to aid for hospitals.
The UK announced on Wednesday that it would send three container-sized oxygen factories to India after an initial aid shipment this week
India is also expected to receive some of the millions of AstraZeneca vaccine doses that the US has announced for export.
And Ugur Sahin, co-founder of BioNTech, said the vaccine his company developed with Pfizer appears to protect against the Indian variant.
“We’re still testing the Indian variant, but the Indian variant has mutations that we have already tested for and that our vaccine will work against, so I’m confident,” said Sahin.
“Nice to be here”
As India struggled with dire conditions, the Dutch celebrated the end of curfew and the opening of cafe terraces.
“It’s great to be here with my girlfriend and friends. I think it feels great when I’m inside for six months,” Marvin Erhart told AFP from a cafe in The Hague.
The lifting of measures follows similar measures in Italy, Portugal and Switzerland that recently lifted restrictions – even as governments make efforts to introduce much-needed vaccines.
Milan’s Scala Opera House announced on Wednesday that it would reopen from May 10th to an audience limited to 500.
France hopes to join the trend and ease further restrictions this month, but continues to struggle to significantly reduce the number of people hospitalized, dying and infected.
President Emmanuel Macron will determine the next steps on Friday.
The European Union (EU) accused Beijing and Moscow on Wednesday of stepping up “state-sponsored disinformation” campaigns against western-developed vaccines while promoting their own.
The EU is keen to speed up its sluggish vaccination campaign after suing Anglo-Swedish company AstraZeneca for alleged breach of its sales contract.
The bloc and the pharmaceutical company will meet in court on May 26th.
The UK has since announced it has ordered an additional 60 million doses of the Pfizer / BioNtech vaccine for a winter refresher program to protect the most vulnerable.
In Japan, the organizers of the Summer Olympics said athletes and close contacts will be running virus tests on a daily basis.
The announcement came after the Australian government announced that an estimated 2,000 athletes and staff would be vaccinated before traveling to the Games, which are due to begin July 23.
The Olympic organizers also said they won’t decide how many, if any, spectators will be able to attend the late games until June. Chief Seiko Hashimoto warned that “from now on it will be very difficult to have full venues”.
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