The Latest: WH: US will help India with surging virus cases

WASHINGTON — Officials say the U.S. is trying to help India deal with its coronavirus surge, which is straining that country’s health care system amid a record number of infections.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Biden administration’s top medical adviser on the pandemic, says the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is working with its counterpart agency in India to provide technical support and assistance.

India set another global record of daily infections for a second straight day with 332,730 cases. Hospitals officials are using social media, pleading with the Indian government to replenish their oxygen supplies.

“It is a dire situation that we’re trying to help in any way we can,” Fauci said at the White House coronavirus briefing. “They have a situation there where there are variants that have arisen. We have not yet fully characterized the variants and the relationship between the ability of the vaccines to protect. But we’re assuming, clearly, that they need vaccines.”

White House coronavirus coordinator Jeff Zients says the U.S. is “committed to sharing vaccine supply” and “as our confidence around our supply increases, we will explore those options.”



— EU agency says people should get 2nd dose of AstraZeneca, too

— India sets global daily record of 332,730 cases; hospitals need oxygen

— Japan issues 3rd virus emergency in Tokyo, Osaka area

— Drop in U.S. vaccine demand has some places turning down doses


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LONDON — The European Medicines Agency says people who have received a first dose of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine should get the second one, too.

In guidance issued on Friday, the EU drug regulator says people should continue to get a second AstraZeneca dose four to 12 weeks after their first shot despite the rare risk of blood clots linked to the shot.

The Amsterdam-based drug regulator for the 27-nation European Union said earlier this month there was a “possible link” between the AstraZeneca vaccine and rare blood clotting disorders. But it said the benefits of getting the shots outweighed the risks.

The EMA previously described the clots as “very rare” side effects and said the vaccine labels should be modified so doctors and patients are aware. According to data from Britain, which has administered more AstraZeneca vaccines than any other country, there were 30 such cases among 18 million inoculations by late March.


MADRID — Spain’s foreign minister says that the country has sent 5 tons of medical supplies to Brazil responding to a request for foreign aid by authorities in the Latin American country.

Arancha González-Laya says the shipment included material for intubating COVID-19 patients in extreme need of respiratory aid.

“We are doing this because we understand that the fight against COVID has to take a priority,” the minister says.

The coronavirus is taking a rising toll in Brazil as less than 9 million of Brazil’s 210 million residents have been fully vaccinated against the disease. Brazil is second behind the United States with 383,502 confirmed deaths. It’s third globally in cases with 14.1 million.


BRUSSELS — The European Union’s chief executive says the 27-nation bloc is on track to vaccinate most of its adult population against the coronavirus by July, about two months ahead of schedule.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Friday that the EU, home to around 450 million people, has “already passed 123 million vaccinations.”

She says this total ranks the bloc third in the world after the United States and China. The EU has been widely criticized for the slow rollout of vaccines.

Von der Leyen also announced a new contract will be finalized in coming days with Pfizer for 1.8 billion doses for the 2021-23 period. She says the deal will ensure doses for booster shots, vaccines adapted to new variants and possible vaccines for children and teenagers.


GENEVA — French President Emmanuel Macron says the country has donated AstraZeneca doses to West Africa through the U.N.-backed program.

The U.N.-backed COVAX program sends COVID-19 vaccines to low- and middle-income countries. The French leader didn’t specify how many doses were deployed or where they would go through the U.N.-backed COVAX program.

But Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, which helps run COVAX, hailed the “first batch,” saying it was 105,600 doses and will go to Mauritania. It has a population of 4.5 million people.

Macron says France planned to donate at least 500,000 doses through mid-June to the program.

Gavi says France will “ramp up its commitment to at least 5 percent of its total doses by the end of 2021.”

The agency says it follows a transfer of 1.6 million doses from New Zealand to low-income countries and a pledge by Spain to donate doses to COVAX.


PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Cambodia’s Health Ministry announced a record daily 655 coronavirus cases, bringing the country’s total confirmed total to 8,848.

Two new deaths from the disease were also reported, raising the total to 61.

The authorities have linked 8,301, or almost 94%, of the total number of cases to one community outbreak in February, when a foreigner sneaked out of quarantine from a hotel in Phnom Penh to go to a nightclub.

Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered a strict stay-at-home two-week lockdown in the capital Phnom Penh starting April 15, barring residents from venturing out except for food and other necessities at locations authorized by the government. There is also an 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew in the city.

“We are facing an impending disaster and we will die unless we act responsibly and be united,” Hun Sen said in an audio posted last week on social media.

Security forces have been tightly enforcing the restrictions. Police this week had equipped themselves with wooden rods with which they beat violators but discarded them after Interior Minister Sar Kheng told them to use persuasion rather than force.

The army is helping distribute food to poor families whose livelihoods have been disrupted by the lockdown.


LONDON — The European Medicines Agency says it has approved new measures to boost production of coronavirus vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna.

In a statement on Friday, the EU drug regulator says it had authorized an increase in batch size and manufacturing scale-up at a factory in Puurs, Belgium, where the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is made.

The EMA says the approval was “expected to have a significant impact” on the supply of the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine.

The EMA also says it had given the green light to Moderna’s manufacturing site in Rovi, Spain. The new production line should speed up the production of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine for use in the EU.

In recent months, the EU has faced numerous delays in vaccine deliveries and the continent has struggled to vaccinate as high a percentage of its population against COVID-19.


MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin supported the idea to extend public holidays in May to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Anna Popova, head of Russia’s public health watchdog Rospotrebnadzor, asked Putin during a meeting Friday to extend public holidays to May 1-10 instead of two separate holidays weekends on May 1-3 and May 8-10.

Popova said Russians traditionally travel to the countryside for May holidays and commuting back for the working days of May 4-7 may contribute to the spread of the coronavirus.

“If you think this is necessary, fine, we will do it,” Putin responded and promised to sign a relevant decree shortly. His spokesman Dmitry Peskov clarified there will not be a lockdown during the holidays.

Russia, which has reported the world’s fifth largest coronavirus caseload of 4.7 million, has few coronavirus restrictions in place. The country’s health officials have been reporting 8,000-9,000 daily confirmed cases for the past month. Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova told Putin on Friday the situation with the virus in Russian is “more or less stable.”

According to Golikova, more than 11.1 million Russians have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, while 6.8 million have gotten both shots. Russia started vaccinating its population against COVID-19 in December. But with less than 8% of the population getting at least one shot, Russia lags behind many countries in vaccination rate.


NEW DELHI — India set another global record in daily infections for a second straight day with 332,730 cases.

The situation was worsening by the day with hospitals taking to social media pleading with the government to replenish their oxygen supplies and threatening to stop new admissions of patients. India has recorded 2,263 deaths in the past 24 hours for a confirmed total of 186,920.

The government is putting oxygen tankers on special express trains to help save COVID-19 patients who are struggling to breathe. More than a dozen people died when an oxygen-fed fire ripped through a coronavirus ward in a populous western state.

India, a country of nearly 1.4 billion people, has confirmed 16 million coronavirus cases. That’s second only to the United States.


TOKYO — Japan has issued a third state of emergency for Tokyo and three western prefectures to curb a surge in the coronavirus just three months ahead of the Olympics.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced the emergency for Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo from April 25 through May 11.

Japan’s third emergency since the pandemic comes only a month after an earlier weaker emergency ended in the Tokyo area. This time, after a law stipulating virus measures was toughened in February, authorities can issue binding orders for businesses to shorten their hours or close, with compensation for those who comply and penalties for violators.

Suga says the step is intended to stop people from traveling during upcoming holidays.


ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s prime minister has summoned troops to help police implement social-distancing rules as a part of new measures aimed at containing the spread of coronavirus.

Prime Minister Imran Khan says daily confirmed cases and deaths from COVID-19 were steadily increasing in the country. The prime minister said he was not imposing a lockdown but that he would close down cities if Pakistan started facing a situation like in neighboring India, which is reporting record-high numbers of confirmed cases.

The warning from Khan came hours after Pakistan reported 144 deaths in the previous 24 hours. It has reported a total of 16,842 deaths and 784,108 confirmed cases

Earlier, a top health official said Pakistan’s hospitals were being flooded by the steady increase in patients. Many Pakistanis routinely violate social distancing rules, and so far police have failed to achieve better adherence.


KATHMANDU, Nepal — A Norwegian climber became the first to be tested for COVID-19 in the Mount Everest base camp and was flown by helicopter to Kathmandu, where he was hospitalized.

Erlend Ness told The Associated Press in a message Friday that he tested positive on April 15. He said another test on Thursday was negative and he was now staying with a local family in Nepal.

Mountain guide Lukas Furtenbach, warned that if safety measures are not taken, the virus could spread among the hundreds of other climbers, guides and helpers who are now camped on the base of Everest.

Furtenbach, leading a team of 18 climbers to Mount Everest and its sister peak Mount Lhotse, said there could be more than just one case on the mountain as the Norwegian had lived with several others for weeks.

Any outbreak could prematurely end the climbing season, just ahead of a window of good weather in May, he said.


BERLIN — Dozens of German actors have posted videos to protest government policies in the coronavirus pandemic, drawing criticism from some of their colleagues.

Actors who are prominent in the German-speaking world, including Ulrich Tukur, Volker Bruch, Meret Becker, Ulrike Folkerts and Jan Josef Liefers, posted their clips, some of them ironic or satirical, on Instagram or YouTube on Thursday. They used the hashtag #allesdichtmachen – “shut everything down.”

This week, the German parliament approved legislation mandating standard restrictions in areas where the virus is spreading too quickly, including closures and a 10 p.m.-5 a.m. curfew. Many cultural facilities already have been closed for months.

The video protest drew sharp criticism from some other German actors. Satirist Jan Boehmermann posted a link to a documentary about a Berlin intensive care unit on Twitter, with the comment: “The only video you should watch if you have problems with the corona containment measures.”


BUDAPEST — Hungary will allow outdoor terraces at restaurants and bars to open Saturday and plans more openings next week, even as the COVID-19 death rate in the country remains among the highest in the world.

The number of people who have received at least a first dose of a vaccine in Hungary surpassed 3.5 million Friday. It was a threshold set by the government for when outdoor seating areas could reopen.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban says that number was likely to reach 4 million next week, when a new round of openings would be extended to holders of an “immunity certificate” proving they’ve received a vaccine or recovered from the disease.

Hungary’s government has tied its reopening strategy to the number of vaccines it administers. Around 35% of the population has received at least one dose, the second-highest rate in the European Union. But the country has had the highest number of COVID-19 deaths per million inhabitants in the world for over a month, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Orban announced that theaters, cinemas, gyms, swimming pools, spas, zoos, museums, libraries and sports events will be opened next week for those who hold a government-issued immunity certificate. Hotels and indoor dining at restaurants may also accept certificate holders.


JERUSALEM — Israel and Bahrain say they have reached an agreement to recognize each other’s coronavirus vaccination certificates, allowing travelers between the countries to forgo quarantine and other restrictions.

The agreement builds on a U.S.-brokered normalization accord reached last year and marks a further improvement of ties between Israel and the small Arab country in the Persian Gulf.

Israel has carried out one of the most effective vaccination campaigns in the world, leading to a sharp drop in infections and allowing it to reopen schools and businesses, including restaurants, hotels and museums.

But it remains largely closed off to international visitors. Israel plans to allow a limited number of tour groups to enter starting May 23, with individuals allowed at a later stage. All visitors will need to be tested before boarding flights to Israel and show proof of vaccination.


LONDON — Scientists at Oxford University have released more data that confirm coronavirus vaccines made by Pfizer and AstraZeneca both significantly cut the risk of infection after a single dose.

In studies published on Friday, researchers say there was no apparent difference in the vaccines’ ability to reduce COVID-19 infection rates.

The research has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal but is based on data from nose and throat swabs taken from more than 370,000 participants in England and Wales between December and April.

The scientists say three weeks after people had been given a single dose of either the Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccine, the rates of all COVID-19 infections fell by 65%. The reduction was bigger after a second dose and the vaccines appeared to protect people against the variant that was first identified in the U.K.

Dr. Koen Pouwels, a senior researcher at Oxford University, noted there was some evidence of vaccinated people catching COVID-19 and some limited spread of the disease from people who had been immunized.


BANGKOK — Thailand’s health authorities say they have confirmed 2,070 new coronavirus cases, a daily record that brings the country’s total to 50,183.

The rising numbers are severely straining the supply of hospital beds and ICU capacity.

The record number of new infections came a day after a daily high of seven deaths was announced. Four more deaths were announced Friday, bringing Thailand’s total to 121.

At the beginning of March, Thailand had 26,031 cases with double-digit daily increases, but a new outbreak sent the numbers skyrocketing.

Taweesilp Visanuyothin, a spokesman for the Center for COVID-19 Situation Administration, said Bangkok, with the highest number of cases, has only 69 empty ICU beds left out of a total of more than 400.

Under Thai law, infected patients must be held in hospital facilities. But even with the addition of field hospitals, there are not enough beds.