In Brazil, where deaths are running at about 3,000 per day, accounting for one-quarter of the lives lost worldwide in recent weeks, the crisis has been likened to a “raging inferno” by one WHO official. A more contagious variant of the virus has been rampaging across the country.
As cases surge, hospitals are running out of critical sedatives. As a result, there have been reports of some doctors diluting what supplies remain and even tying patients to their beds while breathing tubes are pushed down their throats.
The slow vaccine rollout has crushed Brazilians’ pride in their own history of carrying out huge immunization campaigns that were the envy of the developing world.
Taking cues from President Jair Bolsonaro, who has likened the virus to little more than the flu, his health ministry for months bet big on a single vaccine, ignoring other producers. When bottlenecks emerged, it was too late to get large quantities in time.
Watching so many patients suffer and die alone at her Rio de Janeiro hospital impelled nurse Lidiane Melo to take desperate measures.
The global death toll from Covid-19 passed 3 million on Saturday, with the pandemic already having killed more people than most other viral epidemics of the 20th and 21st centuries.
But there have been notable exceptions. The post-first-world-war Spanish Flu wiped out 50 million people, according to some estimates. And over the decades Aids has killed 33 million people.
The Dubai health authority said it would allow women who are breastfeeding and those planning on conceiving to take the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid vaccine, according to the Dubai media office.
In a Twitter post, the media office said this was in line with the latest international studies and guidelines on coronavirus vaccines. It also said the DHA was cutting the time frame of vaccine eligibility for those who have previously contracted Covid-19 to 10 days from three months, provided the case was mild or asymptomatic.
Hundreds waited in grim silence at a Bangkok stadium to get free Covid-19 tests on Saturday as a spiralling infection rate gripped Thailand, on a fourth consecutive day of more than 1,000 new cases.
The capital appears to be at the centre of the kingdom’s third wave after infections were traced back to a nightlife district earlier this month.
In the past 10 days, the national infection total has jumped from 29,900 to more than 40,500 – the sharp increase probably due to a highly infectious variant of the virus originally found in Britain.
“Nearly 10,000 new cases were found within this week,” said Taweesin Visanuyothin, a spokesman for Thailand’s Covid-19 taskforce.
He added that nearly 12,000 patients were still receiving treatment in hospitals, including temporary field sites.
At the stadium testing centre, health workers in full-body PPE shepherded people through a disinfection cabin and directed them to wait in lines for the nasal swab.
Imported coronavirus variants are unlikely to set lockdown easing back to “square one” because immunity from vaccines “won’t just disappear”, according to a key figure on the UK’s immunisation committee.
Prof Adam Finn, a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), said he expected a “gradual erosion” of vaccine protection as the virus evolves but not enough to “scupper” the prime minister’s roadmap, as one leading scientist had predicted.
On Friday, Imperial College’s Prof Danny Altmann said “we should be terribly concerned” after 77 cases of a potentially vaccine-busting Covid-19 mutation first discovered in India were identified in Britain.
“They (variants of concern) are things that can most scupper our escape plan at the moment and give us a third wave. They are a worry,” Altmann told the BBC.
Finn said he thought the immunology expert had been “a bit pessimistic” with his assessment. “We’ve all expected evolution of this virus to occur from the start,” he told Times Radio.
“I also think that we know from other viruses and previous experience that the immunity that vaccines give won’t just disappear.
“It will be a gradual erosion. It won’t be back to square one. I would be really surprised if that happened.
“So, I think, possibly, that interpretation is a bit pessimistic.”
In the UK, a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) was asked whether India should be placed on the “red list” of hotel quarantine countries following the discovery of a new variant there.
Prof Adam Finn said there was a need to remain cautious about international travel. “I think we’re going to go on seeing restrictions on travel for some time to come, with the pandemic raging in so many countries around the world,” he told Times Radio.
“We’ve got very big epidemics going on in India, in Brazil and in other countries that have previously been less affected. This is going to be a problem.
“We’re going to need to continue to be really quite careful to avoid moving the virus around, so I think travel won’t go back to normal yet.”
Pressed on whether Boris Johnson should still be visiting India later this month, Finn added: “I’m sure he’s going to take lots of care to avoid getting infected.
“If you mean the message of going there, well, I think he has to balance up the importance of the trip. The prime minister’s in a different position from the rest of us, of course.”
Prof Adam Finn, a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) in the UK, said immunity from Covid-19 vaccines “won’t just disappear” despite warnings that new variants could “scupper” the route out of lockdown.
He told Times Radio: “We’ve all expected evolution of this virus to occur from the start. The changes that we saw at the end of the year were not really vaccine-related, it was just the virus learning to be more infectious which, of course, gives it an advantage.
“As we see more and more immunity from the infection and vaccination occurring, then mutations in the virus that favour the virus and enable it to escape that type of immunity will inevitably occur.
“We always knew this was going to happen. I also think that we know from other viruses and previous experience that the immunity that vaccines give won’t just disappear.
“It will be a gradual erosion. It won’t be back to square one. I would be really surprised if that happened. So, I think, possibly, that interpretation is a bit pessimistic.”
Global death toll tops 3m
The global death toll for coronavirus has topped 3 million, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
On Saturday, it was revealed there were 3,000,225 deaths and global cases now stand at 139,963,964.
It comes after a surge of cases in India, as a new wave of the pandemic increased the total cases to almost 14.5m, second only to the United States, which has reported more than 32m infections.
The Indian coronavirus mutation could “scupper” the UK’s march to freedom, a leading scientist has warned, despite the lockdown and vaccine programme causing cases to fall to a seven-month low.
The Indian coronavirus mutation could “scupper” the UK’s march to freedom, a leading scientist has warned, despite the lockdown and vaccine programme leading to cases falling to a seven-month low.
Covid-19 infections across the UK dropped to the lowest level since the autumn, according to the latest figures.
But a professor of immunology has called for Britain to be on its guard against a third wave after a possible vaccine-busting mutation was recorded in England and Scotland.
Public Health England (PHE) reported that 77 cases of the B.1.617 variant, which was first discovered in India, have been found.
Prof Danny Altmann of Imperial College London said that as a result, those arriving in the country from India should be subject to a hotel quarantine if the UK is to shut out variants that could set back the prime minister’s lockdown-easing plans.
But despite the warnings, Downing Street has insisted Boris Johnson’s trip to India later this month – his first major international visit since securing a Brexit trade deal with Brussels – will go ahead.
It comes as the group advising ministers on vaccine deployment recommended that pregnant women should be offered a Covid-19 jab at the same time as the rest of the population.
Russia on Saturday reported 9,321 new coronavirus cases over the past 24 hours, including 2,822 in Moscow, taking the national tally to 4,693,469. The country also reported another 398 deaths, raising the official toll to 105,193.
In the UK, Helen Dickinson, the chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said high street shops had seen a “really positive” bounce after non-essential retail was allowed to reopen this week.
“It certainly started really well,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Today.
“Although footfall was down on two years ago – because there wasn’t a lot of point measuring it against last year because we were already in lockdown in 2020 as well – it wasn’t down anything like it had been during the period of lockdown.
“From a retail point of view, people really did come out and support their local businesses and all the retailers I’ve spoken to said those first few days of the past week or so had been really positive in terms of trading.
“I think your piece highlighted the excitement of people getting back out and the excitement of the businesses in getting ready to welcome their customers back safely.”
On the growth of online shopping, Dickinson said she expected some of that to “absolutely shift back” now physical shops were open but said many retailers would continue to embrace the change, adding: “More and more people in the industry are seeing this as an opportunity rather than a threat.”
The global death toll from coronavirus is expected to reach a milestone 3m as the race to vaccinate populations continues and countries such as India grapple with a surge in infections.
The number of deaths now stands at 2.9m, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. India, the world’s most populous country, racked up 234,692 Covid-19 infections in the 24 hours to Saturday morning, health ministry data showed, which was the eighth record daily increase in the last nine days.
Amid a new wave of the pandemic, total cases reached nearly 14.5m, second only to the United States, which has reported more than 32m infections.
New Delhi led major cities across India into a weekend lockdown as the country confronts a fierce new coronavirus wave, with more than 230,000 fresh daily cases and families clamouring for drugs and hospital beds.
Hopes that south Asia might have beaten the pandemic have been dashed, with India recording more than 2m new cases this month alone and Bangladesh and Pakistan also imposing shutdowns.
India added another record 234,000 cases on Saturday to pass 14.5m overall, and 1,341 deaths took its pandemic total to 175,649 deaths.
The per-capita rates remain low by international comparison, but the speed at which cases are rising led the international Red Cross to call the south Asian surge “truly frightening”.