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The World Health Organization approved the first COVID-19 vaccine from China on Friday to boost global immunizations as India saw another record number of infections spilling over to neighboring countries.
And while many western countries are reopening at an accelerating pace, authorities in Tokyo and other parts of Japan extended the virus state of emergency less than three months before the Olympics.
In Geneva, WHO approved the Sinopharm vaccine, the first completely non-Western vaccine to receive the green light, and built the global arsenal against the virus.
"The number of cases and the number of deaths is increasing worldwide," said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at a press conference.
"We will see serious situations like the ones we see now in India and Brazil," he warned.
The WHO has already established an emergency list for the vaccines manufactured by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Johnson and Johnson and the AstraZeneca puff, which is manufactured at various locations in India and South Korea.
The listing paves the way for countries around the world to quickly approve and import a vaccine for distribution.
It also opens the door for the jabs to enter Covax's global vaccine sharing program, which is designed to enable equitable access around the world, and particularly in poorer countries.
Record cases in India
According to an AFP report, the Sinopharm vaccine is already used in 42 areas worldwide, followed by AstraZeneca (166), Pfizer-BioNTech (94) and Moderna (46).
However, Mariangela Simao, a senior WHO official, said Sinopharm approval in many other countries could "accelerate access to the vaccine quickly".
India is facing the worst increase in the world, where the country recorded up to half of all global infections in the past week.
On Thursday, India recorded 414,000 new cases – another world record – as well as nearly 4,000 deaths. This is based on official data, which many experts believe is a gross underestimation.
The capital New Delhi is one of the hardest hit areas, along with West Bengal, which recently completed an eight-phase election in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other politicians held mass rallies – events that are now partly responsible for the staggering rise in infections be made.
India's surge has also been exacerbated by chronic shortages of hospital beds and oxygen, which has led to an outpouring of international aid to the country.
Everest climber met
The upswing has affected Indian neighbors Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka, the youngest country to seal their borders with the South Asian giant on Thursday.
The eruption has even reached the height of Nepal's Everest Base Camp, where more than 30 sick climbers have been evacuated from the foot of the world's highest mountain.
In the past three weeks, the daily case trend in Nepal has accelerated, and two out of five people tested now returned positive.
Japan's COVID-19 outbreak is still much lower than many other countries, with around 10,500 deaths.
The introduction of the vaccine is slow, however, and more infectious variants lead to new waves of infection. Record numbers are on in some regions and doctors are warning that hospitals are under pressure.
The pandemic has disrupted testing events for the upcoming Olympics. Several have been postponed, canceled or moved abroad, despite the fact that the World Diving Championship and a rowing qualifier were held in Tokyo this week with athletes from abroad.
The United States and countries in Europe are in a more buoyant mood about vaccine adoption.
Germany appears to have stopped a surge in infections caused by the British variant, its health minister said Friday, but warned against lifting restrictions too early.
Greece will reopen private beaches and museums on Saturday next week as the tourism-dependent country prepares to restart the trip on May 15.
And the UK announced it would ease its travel restrictions to allow people in England to go on vacation to Portugal and Israel because of their low infection rates and high vaccination rates.
The scientific committee that oversaw the country's vaccination program on Friday recommended offering children under 40 an alternative to Oxford-AstraZeneca's COVID surge to "increase vaccination confidence".
Many people have shied away from receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine after UK and European regulators registered a very small number of people who develop blood clots with low platelet levels.
WHO has urged governments not to vaccinate children against COVID-19 until older and globally at risk people have received the vaccine.
The plea came after Canada approved the use of the Pfizer vaccine in children and other wealthy nations were set to follow suit.
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© 2021 AFP
WHO Approves Chinese COVID Vaccine as India Posts New Virus Record (2021 May 7).
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