With coronavirus cases surging to record levels, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is facing growing pressure to impose a harsh nationwide lockdown amid a debate whether restrictions imposed by individual states are enough.
Many medical experts, opposition leaders and some of the Supreme Court judges have suggested the lockdown seems to be the only option with the virus raging in cities and towns, where hospitals are forced to turn patients away while relatives scramble to find oxygen.
On Friday, India reported a new record of 414,188 confirmed cases in the past 24 hours. Its tally has risen to more than 21.4 million since the pandemic began with faint hopes of the curve going down quickly.
The Health Ministry also reported 3,915 additional deaths, bringing the total to 234,083. Experts believe both figures are an undercount.
The official daily death count has stayed over 3,000 for the past 10 days.
Over the past month, nearly a dozen out of India’s 28 federal states have announced less stringent restrictions than the nationwide lockdown imposed for two months in March last year.
Modi, who held consultations with top elected leaders and officials of the worst-hit states on Thursday, has so far left the responsibility for fighting the virus to poorly equipped state governments.
Dr. Randeep Guleria, a government health expert, said a complete, aggressive lockdown is needed in India just like last year, especially in areas where more than 10 per cent of those tested have contracted COVID-19.
Rahul Gandhi, an opposition Congress party leader, in a letter to Modi on Friday reiterated his demand for a total lockdown, warning “the human cost will result in many more tragic consequences for our people.”
He said the government should not worry about the economic cost of a shutdown and provide critical financial and food support to the poor.
Modi imposed a two-month stringent lockdown last year on four hours’ notice. It stranded tens of millions of migrant workers who were left jobless and fled to villages with many dying along the way. Experts say the decision helped contain the virus and bought time for the government.
-From The Associated Press, last updated at 7 a.m. ET
What’s happening across Canada
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As of early Friday morning, Canada had reported 1,265,313 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 81,312 considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 24,489.
In Atlantic Canada, Nova Scotia reported another daily high on Thursday, with 182 new cases of COVID-19. The province, which was mostly spared by COVID-19 earlier in the pandemic, added new restrictive measures last week, including a $2,000 fine for anyone caught leaving their counties for non-essential reasons.
In New Brunswick, health officials reported 11 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday and one additional death. Newfoundland and Labrador, meanwhile, reported six new cases of COVID-19. In Prince Edward Island, there were two new cases reported.
In Quebec, health officials reported 907 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, along with seven more deaths attributed to the virus. Health Minister Christian Dubé noted declines in case counts, hospitalizations and test positivity rates were pushing his province “in the right direction.”
Ontario, meanwhile, reported 3,424 new cases and 26 more deaths linked to the virus on Thursday. While that’s an increase from 2,941 reported Wednesday, the province’s seven-day average dropped to 3,369 from a record-high 4,348 on April 19. Hospitalizations in the hard-hit province stood at 1,964, with 877 in ICU because of COVID-related illness.
In the Prairie provinces on Thursday, Manitoba reported 363 new cases of COVID-19 and four additional deaths — the highest daily case number the province has seen in months. In Saskatchewan, meanwhile, health officials reported 156 new cases of COVID-19 and no additional deaths.
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Alberta on Thursday reported 2,211 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday and no additional deaths. COVID-19 hospitalizations stood at 654, with 146 in ICU beds.
British Columbia recorded 694 cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, and one more death for a total of 1,592 fatalities from the virus.
Across the North, the Northwest Territories said Thursday the number of active cases in the territory rose to 47, health officials said.
Nunavut, meanwhile, reported 12 new cases on Thursday, bringing the number of active cases in the territory to 86, with all but two of the cases in Iqaluit. There were no new cases reported in Yukon on Thursday.
-From The Canadian Press and CBC News, last updated at 7:05 a.m. ET
What’s happening around the world
As of early Friday morning, 156.1 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to a tracking tool maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at more than 3.2 million.
In the Asia-Pacific region, Japan’s government is set to extend a state of emergency in Tokyo and three other areas by about three weeks until the end of May to curb a surge in novel coronavirus cases just months before the start of the Tokyo Olympics.
In the Americas, Brazil’s health minister Marcelo Queiroga on Thursday said that he is concerned about the possibility of waiving intellectual property rules for COVID-19 vaccines, as it could jeopardize efforts to purchase vaccines from pharmaceutical companies.
“My fear is that we do not have the conditions, even after waiving (restrictions), to produce these vaccines here in Brazil,” Queiroga said in testimony during the Senate’s investigation into the government’s pandemic response. “Our program is based on vaccines like Pfizer’s and Janssen’s, and that (would) interfere in a negative way with the purchase of vaccines for the national immunization program.”
In the Middle East, all public and private sector workers wishing to attend a workplace in Saudi Arabia will be required to take a COVID-19 vaccination, the human resources ministry said, without specifying when this would be implemented.
In Europe, the medicines agency said it has begun an accelerated authorization process for an experimental coronavirus treatment made by GlaxoSmithKline and Vir BioTechnology. In a statement on Friday, the EU drug regulator said it had started a rolling review of sotrovimab, based on early results from an ongoing study into whether the treatment can prevent hospitalization or death in people who don’t yet have severe COVID-19.
But EMA said it had not yet received the complete data and cautioned that “it is too early to draw any conclusions about the benefit-risk balance of the medication.” An emergency use authorization for sotrovimab has also been submitted to regulators in the U.S. and Canada
In Africa, Ghana received 350,000 doses of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine, which will enable it start offering second doses of the shot after it nearly ran out, the health ministry said.
-From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 7 a.m. ET