The Latest: US pledges medical aid for India to combat surge | World News

WASHINGTON — The U.S. is pledging immediate medical aid to India to help combat its surge in coronavirus cases.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan spoke by phone Sunday with his Indian counterpart, Ajit Doval, and expressed sympathy and support.

According to the White House statement, the U.S. is “working around the clock” to immediately deploy to India drug treatments, rapid diagnostic COVID-19 testing kits, ventilators and personal protective equipment and will seek to provide oxygen supplies as well.

The White House says it had identified sources of raw material urgently needed for India’s manufacture of the Covishield vaccine and will make that available. The U.S. also intends to pay for an expansion of manufacturing capability for BioE, the vaccine manufacturer in India, so it can ramp up and produce at least 1 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines by the end of 2022.

A team of U.S. public health advisers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and USAID will also be sent to assist Indian officials.



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LONDON— Britain says it is sending 600 pieces of medical equipment including ventilators to India to help the country in its fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said Sunday the first of nine plane-loads of kit would arrive in New Delhi on Thursday.

The move follows discussion with the Indian government. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who had been due to visit India this week before the worsening situation there forced him to cancel, said Britain stands “side by side with India as a friend and partner” and would do whatever it could to support India through the crisis.

The assistance package includes 495 oxygen concentrators, 120 non-invasive ventilators and 20 manual ventilators from surplus U.K. stocks.


ROME — Italy’s health minister on Sunday signed an ordinance forbidding entrance into Italy to anyone who has been in India in the last 14 days.

However, Minister Roberto Speranza added that Italian residents could return if they take a COVID-19 swab test when they depart India and again when they reach Italy and then quarantine.

Anyone who entered from India — where numbers of new coronavirus infections have been surging — in the two weeks before the ordinance was issued must also be tested and contact Italian health authorities.

“Our scientists are at work to study the new variant” of the virus found in India, the minister said. “We cannot lower our guard,’’ Speranza said, noting that India in last week had recorded daily totals of new confirmed cases in the hundreds of thousands.

Italy’s vaccination rollout has been picking up its pace in recent days. As of Sunday, just under 21% of Italy’s population had received at least one vaccine dose.


WASHINGTON — West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore Capito says fellow Republican senator Ron Johnson’s recent statement that Americans shouldn’t care if their neighbors get the coronavirus vaccine was unhelpful.

Johnson, of Wisconsin, questioned the need for widespread COVID-19 vaccinations during an interview last week with conservative talk radio host Vicki McKenna. He said there’s “no reason to be pushing vaccines on people,” particularly very young people, at a moment when the federal government is trying to counter hesitancy among some Americans over getting inoculated.

Public health officials around globe are urging people to get vaccinated as soon as possible, saying that reaching herd immunity is the best shot at stopping the uncontrolled spread of the virus.


ORLANDO, Fla. — Shots using the Johnson & Johnson vaccine have resumed at federally supported mass vaccination sites throughout Florida, state emergency officials said.

The Florida Division of Emergency Management tweeted Sunday that it was resuming the Johnson & Johnson shots at the vaccination sites in Tampa, Orlando, Jacksonville and Miami after reviewing guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration.

The federal agencies on Friday called for the 11-day pause on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to be lifted after federal regulators reviewed data on blood clots and assessed risks associated with the vaccine.


BERLIN — Germany is considering sending emergency assistance to India to help the country cope with a surge in COVID-19 cases that threatens to overwhelm the country’s hospitals.

The German Defense Ministry said Sunday it’s examining the possibility of providing a mobile oxygen generator and other aid to India.

Chancellor Angela Merkel earlier expressed her sympathy to the people of India and said Germany was “urgently preparing a mission of support.”

The German military has so far conducted 38 support missions for other nations or international organizations during the coronavirus pandemic.


BERLIN — Germany’s Health Ministry says sharp increase in vaccine deliveries over the coming months means it will likely be able to begin offering the shots to all adults from June.

Like most countries, Germany currently prioritizes vaccination of people who are most vulnerable to serious illness from COVID-19 due to their age, preexisting conditions or exposure to potentially infected people.

In a briefing document issued by the Health Ministry ahead of a Cabinet meeting Monday, officials say that pending further delivery commitments from AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, “it should be possible to end the prioritization by June at the latest.”

They caution that not everyone will immediately be able to get a shot, however, and that the vaccination campaign will likely continue over the summer as planned.


CAIRO — Egypt’s president has received his first dose of coronavirus vaccine, although his office did not say what type of vaccine was used. Egypt in general uses China’s Sinopharm or the AstraZeneca vaccines.

Abdel Fattah el-Sissi got the dose as part of the national vaccination campaign, his office said in a Facebook post Sunday.

El-Sissi’s vaccination appeared aimed to encourage more people to get vaccinated, particularly health care workers.

Health Minister Hala Zayed on Saturday called for health workers to register to be vaccinated. She said only 50% of the targeted health care workers have signed up.

Egypt, the Arab world’s most populous country with over 100 million people, has reported at least 221,570 confirmed cases, including some 13,000 deaths.

However, the actual numbers of COVID-19 cases, like elsewhere in the world, are thought to be far higher, in part due to limited testing.


ISLAMABAD — India’s rival Pakistan is offering to send essential medical supplies to its neighbor that’s in the grip of a devastating coronavirus surge that has depleted oxygen stocks and other hospital needs.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs says that as a gesture of solidarity with the people of India, Pakistan has offered to provide relief support including ventilators, oxygen supply kits, digital X-ray machines, PPE and and related items.

It said authorities of both countries can work out modalities for a quick delivery of the items and can also explore possible ways of further cooperation to mitigate the challenges posed by the pandemic.

The offer came a day after Prime Minister Imran Khan in a tweet prayed for the “speedy recovery of the Indian people affected by the virus.”

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi says Pakistan, believing in a policy of humanity first, made the offer to India and is awaiting a response.


BANGKOK — Thailand on Sunday reported 2,438 new cases and 11 deaths, as Bangkok braced for the closure of entertainment and sport venues as part of measures health care workers say are not enough to relieve overburdened hospitals.

The Thai capital has seen a rapid rise in infections since early April, and its governor, Aswin Kwanmuang, announced the two-week closures starting Monday.

They include gyms, public parks, zoos, exhibition and meeting centers, nurseries and boxing stadiums. Those not wearing masks in public face penalties.

Shortages of hospital beds, stemming from a regulation that everyone testing positive for COVID-19 must be treated in a hospital, are causing frustration. Media reported two people died in their homes after they were turned down by hospitals.

Some health workers are calling for a general lockdown, saying the government’s hospital admission policies have exhausted the system.

The Thoracic Society of Thailand wrote an open letter demanding the government restrict the movement of people to reduce the number of new cases.


TOKYO — Japan’s department stores, bars and theaters shuttered Sunday as part of emergency measures to slow a surge in infections.

The 17-day restrictions are declared for Tokyo, Kyoto, Hyogo and Osaka, ahead of the “Golden Week” holidays, when Japanese usually travel extensively.

There’s doubt about the effectiveness of the effort, which focuses on eateries and theme parks staying closed or limiting hours. Trains and streets remain as packed as ever, and schools will stay open.

Japan has already declared three emergencies over the coronavirus. The vaccine rollout has been slow, with barely 1% of its population inoculated.

One setback is that Japan requires additional testing for vaccines approved overseas, and only the Pfizer vaccine is now in use.

Experts say the unfolding wave of infections includes more deadly variants. Japan has attributed about 10,000 deaths to COVID-19, among the worst in Asia. A domestically produced vaccine is not expected until next year or 2023.


TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras — President Joe Biden has highlighted how the United States has administered 200 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine before his first 100 days in office.

He’s also signaled it’s time for the U.S. to begin sharing its surplus of doses. The staggering inequality of vaccines is clear throughout the Americas, Africa and parts of Asia. China and Russia have aggressively pushed their homegrown vaccines around the world.

But the U.S. just shared its first 4 million doses last month with Canada and Mexico. Biden has said those countries would be targets for additional doses, and so too would countries in Central America.

Honduras has obtained only 59,000 vaccine doses for its 10 million people. Similar gaps in vaccine access are found across Africa, where just 36 million doses have been acquired for the continent’s 1.3 billion people, as well as in parts of Asia.

In the U.S, more than one-fourth of the population — nearly 90 million people — has been fully vaccinated. Some states are turning down planned shipments from the federal government.


AUSTIN, Texas — State health officials say more than 1.7 million COVID-19 vaccine doses are headed to Texas next week.

The Texas Department of State Health Services say more than 708,000 first doses are headed to 928 providers in 129 Texas counties, while more than 570,000 second doses also have been ordered.

About 470,000 first and second doses have been allocated to pharmacies, federally qualified health centers and dialysis centers.

So far, more than 23.4 million doses have been distributed to Texas, and more than 36% of the state’s population has received at least one dose, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 24% of the population has been fully immunized.


PARIS — France and other countries in Europe are preparing to relax coronavirus restrictions while still pouring medical, financial and technological resources into keeping thousands of COVID-19 patients alive.

Inside one of Paris’ biggest hospitals, state-of-the-art artificial lungs are giving the most critical patients a last-ditch shot at survival. Outside, healthy people are planning getaways and drinks with friends as the country embarks on the perilous process of easing out of its latest lockdown.

French President Emmanuel Macron is reopening elementary schools on Monday and allowing people to move about more freely again in May.

Some frontline caregivers in hospitals see the easing as premature. Intensive care unit admissions at French hospitals remain stubbornly higher than at any point since the pandemic’s first deadly surge.

In France, Greece and elsewhere, governments are using ramped-up vaccinations to bolster arguments to ease restrictions. However, just one-quarter of adults in Europe have received a first dose.

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