No pandemic finish in sight with raging outbreaks in India, Brazil

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Canada extends ban on most foreign travelers

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Fresh waves of coronavirus showed no signs of subsiding on Saturday as devastating waves in India and Brazil brought daily infections and deaths to record levels.

Despite the introduction of vaccines in many countries, Covid-19 is still causing destruction around the world. Almost 3.2 million people die and known infections rise to over 150 million.

Asia has seen the majority of new cases, mainly due to the increase in India. The devastating outbreak, which now accounts for more than 40 percent of new infections worldwide, has overwhelmed the health system of the South Asian nation and depleted the critical oxygen supply.

Authorities opened India's massive vaccination program to all adults on Saturday, but many states don't have enough doses to meet demand, despite exports of locally made shots frozen.

"There are so many people who get sick … we just wanted to be here as soon as possible," said Aadya Mehta, 25, who joined a line of around 100 people outside a hospital in the capital, New Delhi.

India reported more than 400,000 cases in 24 hours on Saturday, a world record. However, experts say the official infection and death rates are way below the real picture.

More than 40 countries have committed to sending medical aid. A U.S. military plane carrying more than 400 oxygen cylinders, other hospital equipment, and nearly a million rapid coronavirus tests arrived in New Delhi on Friday.

But the crisis has also resulted in travel warnings and flight bans, which governments fear the outbreak will spread to their coasts.

Australia on Saturday warned those violating India's travel ban to five years in jail.

"They died without the slightest dignity"

Another major nation struggling to vaccinate as many people as possible in the face of a devastating surge is Brazil, which has one of the highest death rates in the world with 189 deaths per 100,000 people.

Almost 2,600 new coronavirus deaths were reported on Friday, bringing the total for April to 82,266 – the second consecutive monthly record and a sharp increase from March.

The surge has brought Brazilian hospitals to the brink of collapse in many areas as the death toll in the country surpassed 400,000 this week.

Protesters from the Rio de Paz human rights group lowered Brazilian flags and mocked body bags into symbolic graves on Rio de Janeiro's famous Copacabana Beach on Friday to protest the government's response to the crisis.

"These body bags represent the Brazilians who had to be buried in shallow graves," said Antonio Carlos Costa, president of the NGO.

"You died without the slightest dignity."

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has been widely criticized for downplaying the virus threat and combating measures against staying home.

The far-right president has defended his pandemic policy and told supporters: "I was not wrong about anything."

The outbreak in neighboring Argentina continued to worry the government, which on Friday extended a night coronavirus curfew for the capital Buenos Aires by three weeks.

US vaccines milestone

In terms of the total number of deaths from Covid-19, Brazil only lags behind the US, where the situation has turned for the better in recent months with a successful launch of vaccines.

The White House said Friday that 100 million people in the country were fully vaccinated and more than 55 percent of American adults had received at least one dose.

The enormous effort has meant that coronavirus restrictions can be relaxed in many parts of the United States.

Fans who wore Mickey Mouse ears lined up at Disneyland, California when it reopened on Friday, more than 400 days after the pandemic forced it to close.

"It's the greatest feeling ever," said Momi Young-Wilkins, a 55-year-old mother, when she took her children to the world-famous park near Los Angeles.

Thanks to vaccinations, some European governments, including France and Belgium, have eased or are considering easing coronavirus restrictions.

However, the extremely uneven distribution of vaccines around the world has led to the need for better access in poor countries and foregoing patent protection to improve access.

A US trade official said Friday that Washington was working with members of the World Trade Organization to ensure "fair" access to vaccines, but was no longer signaling an obligation to forego patent protection.

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© 2021 AFP

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