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Indian states institute lockdowns amid COVID-19 spike, lagging vaccinations

By
Allen Cone
Indian police personnel patrol the streets during lockdown in Bhopal, India, on Sunday. Indian state Madhya Pradesh imposed a lockdown every Sunda. Photo by Sanjeev Gupta/EPA-EFE
Indian police personnel patrol the streets during lockdown in Bhopal, India, on Sunday. Indian state Madhya Pradesh imposed a lockdown every Sunda. Photo by Sanjeev Gupta/EPA-EFE

March 21 (UPI) -- Coronavirus is surging in India with the highest deaths and cases in several months as vaccine distribution lags and some states instituted lockdowns.

On Sunday, India reported 43,846 infections, the most since November, as well as a few days in four digits a month ago and off the record 97,859 on Sept. 16. Overall, the nation is third in the world with 11,599,130 cases behind the United States with 29,818,529 and Brazil at 11,998,233, according to data gathered by Johns Hopkins University.

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India's 197 increased deaths were the most since mid-January for a total of 159,755 in fourth place behind the U.S. with 542,026, Brazil with 292,856 and Mexico with 197,827.

The central Maharashtra state, which includes India's financial capital Mumbai, accounts for more than half of the new infections, a record 25,681, and has imposed a lockdown in some districts until the end of the month. Also, authorities in Mumbai city said they will roll out mandatory random coronavirus tests in crowded places.

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"The rising numbers are worrisome as public has gotten lax. Usage of masks, sanitizers and vaccinations should help in building herd immunity," Deputy Commissioner Keerthi Jalli in Assam state, Cacher, told the Barak Bulletin. "Public still needs to be on guard."

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Although the government plans to inoculate 300 million people by August, 2.7% of the population of 1.4 billion, the second largest in the world, have had at least one dose, according to tracking by Bloomberg. The nation is a prime manufacturer of vaccines.

The top vaccine makers are U.S.-based Pfizer and Germany's BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, both based in the United States, and AstraZeneca, which is developed with Oxford University, in Britain. China and Russia also have developed vaccines.

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Britain leads the world by percentage of its population with at least one dose at 40.2% followed by the United States at 23.6%.

Asia has recorded 416,467 deaths and is fourth among the continents, and 26,966,705 cases, which is third.

India is the only nation in the top 10 for deaths.

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Mainland China, where COVID-19 originated, has reported only a few deaths since April and stands in 53rd at 4,636 behind Serbia with 4,934. China added 12 cases Sunday and has the world's largest population with 1.5 billion. So, far China has vaccine doses for 2.3% of the population.

China is allowing foreigners to enter the country but they must have received a China-made COVID-19 vaccine.

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"It's very much at the sharp end of vaccine diplomacy," Nicholas Thomas, an associate professor in health security at the City University of Hong Kong, told CNN, adding the nation is "essentially saying if you want to visit us, you need to take our vaccine."

The International Olympic Committee plans to buy vaccines from China for the Summer Olympics in Japan in July and next year in Beijing.

On Saturday, Tokyo announced spectators from outside the country will be banned.

Japan has reported 8,849 deaths, including 19 on Sunday with the record 120. Cases are 1,119 with the record 7,882.

With cases and deaths diminishing, Japan's month-long state of emergency, including bars and restaurants closing by 8 p.m., will be lifted Monday, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced Thursday.

"We set around 500 daily cases as a threshold for lifting the state of emergency and Tokyo has kept infection cases lower than that for 40 consecutive days," the prime minister said.

Vaccinations in Japan began one month ago and the nation is at 0.2% with 559,000 doses administered out of a population of 126.1 million.

South Korea, where the pandemic has stabilized, administered its first vaccines on Feb. 26. South Korea's percentage is 0.7, or 675,426 out of its 51.3 million population.

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South Korea's record is 40 deaths on Dec. 29 with three announced Sunday for a total of 1,696, as well as 456 cases, behind the mark of 1,241 on Dec. 25.

On Friday, Seoul withdrew its mandate that all foreign workers in the city be tested for the coronavirus. This had caused long lines at testing centers and the health minister said "don't discriminate between Korean and foreign nationals and don't infringe on human rights."

Unlike in Asia, coronavirus cases are spiking in Europe.

Europe had the most cases among the continents with 37,574,11 including 198,152 Saturday and 157,604 Sunday.

With 877,864 total deaths, six European nations are in the top 10 for most deaths. Britain is fifth with 126,155, Italy is sixth with 104,942, Russia seventh with 95,030, France eighth with 92,305, Germany ninth with 75,240 and Spain 10th with 72,910. Also, Poland is 16th with 49,300.

The vaccination rates include 8.7% in Italy, 3.4% in Russia, 8.7% in France and 8.8% in Spain.

Britain experienced a spike recently but in the past two weeks, cases and deaths have subsided as it contends with a variant that emerged within its borders.

Deaths reached a peak of 1,823 on Jan. 20 but dropped to 96 Saturday and then 33 Sunday, the least since 19 on Oct. 5. Earlier this month it went under triple digits for the first time since the middle of October.

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Cases reached a peak of 68,053 but were 5,312 Sunday.

On Friday, Health Minister Matt Hancock said half the population had been vaccinated.

"The U.K. vaccination program is a big success story," Hancock posted on Twitter. "It's down to the hard work of many, many people. This isn't easy, but we're making massive strides."

Hancock hopes for restrictions to ease on March 31. The first one ordered was one year ago on March 23.

Half of Italy's 20 regions, including Rome, Milan and Venice, entered new coronavirus restrictions on Monday through April 6. In "red zones," people can leave their houses only for work or health reasons, with all non-essential shops closed.

On Monday, all of Italy will be in the red or orange zone.

The entire country will be considered a "red zone" on Easter weekend from April 3 to April 5. A national lockdown was in place from March to May 2020 with localized lockdowns in regions later instituted.

Cases have been surging with six days in a row above 20,000 including 20,159 Sunday. The record was 40,896 on Nov. 13.

And deaths have spiked in the past week, including 502 Tuesday after a record 993 on Dec. 3. Sunday's increase was 300.

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Like Italy, France also has been dealing with the British variant.

Cases surged to 38,501 on Thursday, the most since November, including a record 88,790 then. Sunday's increase was 30,581.

Deaths are down from a fall peak of 932 and a record 1,437 on April 15 to 138 Sunday.

France instituted a monthlong partial lockdown during this third wave, affecting 21 million people, including those in Paris. Only essential businesses and schools will stay open, Prime Minister Jean Castex announced Thursday. Paris, like most of the country, already was in a nightly curfew since mid-January.

"It's not good news and I know how tired you are with the succession of restrictions," Castex said during a news conference. "These measures are vital and balanced. They aim to put the break on the virus without locking us down."

Russia's reported increase of 371 deaths Sunday is down from a peak of 635 and cases are 9,299 from a record 29,935. Russia has developed its own vaccine, Sputnik V, which is being distributed worldwide.

In Germany, cases and deaths also have been subsiding with 74 Sunday with a record 1,244 and 11,149 with a record 31,553.

Germany's general lockdown is set to expire on March 28 but cities are stopping the pause.

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Berlin has decided to stop the easing of the lockdown after a sharp rise in coronavirus cases in recent days.

Mayor Michael Müller described the situation as "grueling" and said Tuesday restrictions won't be eased.

But Germany's second-biggest city, Hamburg, imposed a full lockdown Saturday because the seven-day incidence of COVID-19 cases rose above 100 per 100,000 people.

"I fear that the situation will deteriorate further. We are in a strong third wave," Mayor Peter Tschentscher said. "We are dealing with a very contagious variant of the virus. We are acting earlier -- something we found to be very good in previous waves."

Lockdowns remain throughout Spain except in Madrid, Extremadura and the Balearic and Canary Islands. The regions have also agreed to restrict travel over the Easter break in addition to a nighttime curfew.

Though the citizens are restricted, residents in other European nations are traveling to Spain, including the Balearic Islands.

Spain last reported data Thursday: 117 deaths compared with a winter peak of 766 Feb. 6 and a record 996 on April 2. The case increase was 6,216, behind the mark of 35,118 in January.

In South America, four nations are in the top 15 for most deaths. Besides Brazil, Colombia is in 11th with 62,028, Argentina in 13th with 54,545 and Peru in 15th with 50,198. Chile is 23rd with 22,279 deaths but its vaccination rate for the nation is 29.1% at least one dose, best in South America.

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In all, the death toll is 516,577 and 19,9451,404 cases on the continent.

Brazil had the most daily deaths in the world for several days last week, including four days in a row above 2,700 with the most 2,798 on Wednesday. Saturday's rise was 2,331 and Sunday's was 1,259.

One-quarter of all coronavirus deaths worldwide have been recorded in Brazil, according to a CNN analysis.

Cases peaked at 90,830 Thursday with 73,450 Saturday and 47,774 Sunday.

And hospitals are at capacity with 16 of 26 states at or above 90% of intensive care units' available beds.

Brazil's vaccination efforts have stalled. In February, the government said 46 million vaccine doses for the 213.6 million residents would be available in March but it had only vaccinated 10 million people as of Friday.

"There are clear signs that we are in a phase of very critical acceleration of the epidemic and it is unprecedented," said Jesem Orellana, a Brazilian epidemiologist, told CNN.

President Jair Bolsonaro contracted the virus but doesn't want to take the vaccine, and has downplayed the illness and is against safety measures. He doesn't even want states to enact their own rules and is going to the Supreme Court to halt any curfews. And he alleges the economy suffers because of restrictions.

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In North America, Mexico reported the third-most deaths in the world on Sunday with 608, which is down from the record 1,803 on Jan. 21. Cases were 5,729 after the record 22,339 on Jan. 21.

Mexico was the first Latin American nation to begin administering vaccinations, but the rate is low at 3.5% for at least one dose among its 129.9 million people.

On Thursday, U.S. President Joe Biden announced 2.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca will be sent to Mexico and 1.5 million to Canada.

That vaccine has not been authorized for use in the United States and several European nations have stopped distribution. On Thursday, the European Union's top pharmaceutical regulator concluded the vaccine was safe.

Although Canada's deaths and cases percentages are nowhere near other countries, the nation is lagging in vaccinations. The nation of 38 million has administered 3.8 million doses with 6.1% of its population getting at least one shot.

"Vaccines are the path out of this pandemic," Trudeau said during a news conference Friday.

"Canada and the U.S. are each other's closest friends and most important allies. I know we'll continue working to keep Canadians and Americans safe."

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All but around 28,000 of the total deaths in North America are in Mexico, Canada and the United States. North America has the second-most deaths of the continents, 803,664 behind Europe, and the second-most cases with 35,098,361.

Canada is 22nd in the world in deaths at 22,676 with 33 reported on Sunday, down from a record 257 and cases were 3,269 from 11,383.

Oceania, with only 42.3 million people, has 1,115 deaths and 53,830 cases.

New Zealand's deaths remain at 26 with the last one reported on Feb. 16 and Australia's toll stands at 909 with the last two deaths occurring on Nov. 30 and Dec. 29.

New Zealand reported nine cases on Sunday, tallying 30 in one week, for a total of 2,423, and Australia was up five Sunday for 29,196, an increase of about 79 in seven days.

On Sunday, Australia's Federal Health Department secretary Brendan Murphy said he is hopeful life will get back to a "new normal" for international travel next year.

"As we get more and more Australians vaccinated, and as more and more countries around the world get vaccinated, we will start to progressively look at what sort of border and quarantine measures we have to do," he told Sky News. "We might think about, for example, reducing the length of quarantine or more home quarantine, particularly for vaccinated people."

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Vaccinations are lagging in Africa.

The COVAX program is supplying 600 million doses to Africa, which is one-fifth of the population.

So far 16 million vaccine doses have been delivered to 27 countries by the program started by the World Health Organization with UNICEF involved in the distribution.

South Africa has vaccinated 0.3% of its population with its first dose, or 82,983, in a nation of 59.8 million.

South Africa, which is dealing with a variant that emerged within its borders, has 52,111 deaths, including 29 Sunday, and 1,537,852 cases with a gain of 1,051 on Sunday. Cases reached a high of 21,980 on Jan. 8 and deaths at 839 on Jan. 19.

Africa has reported 110,143 fatalities and 4,138,592 infections.

Far behind are Egypt with 11,557 deaths and Morocco with 8,767.

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