Covid cases top 20 million, suspending IPL

New Delhi, India: On Tuesday, India's coronavirus caseload surpassed 20 million, forcing the suspension of the country's lucrative cricket league, which features some of the sport's biggest global stars.

The plight of the South Asian nation contrasted sharply with that of Europe and the United States, where mass vaccinations have allowed for the relaxation of many coronavirus restrictions.

More than 350,000 new cases were registered in India on Tuesday, down from a high of 402,000 last week, providing some hope that the worst of the destructive wave has passed.

"If daily cases and deaths are analyzed, there is a very early signal of movement in the positive direction," senior health ministry official Lav Aggarwal told reporters.

"But these are very early signals. There is a need to further analyze it."

With severe shortages of medications, hospital beds, and medical oxygen, India's healthcare system has failed to keep up with the massive number of cases.

The glitzy Indian Premier League, the world's richest Twenty20 cricket competition, on the other hand, had continued in empty stadiums, prompting criticism that it was unacceptable in the circumstances.

Organizers mentioned that they did not want to jeopardize the safety of their staff and players, which included some of the world's most famous cricketers from India, Australia, England, and New Zealand.

"These are difficult times, especially in India and while we have tried to bring in some positivity and cheer... it is imperative that the tournament is now suspended," they said in a statement.

The wave in South Asia, fueled by massive gatherings such as the Hindu festival Kumbh Mela, has highlighted the dangers of Covid-19, which has already claimed more than 3.2 million lives worldwide.

Religious gatherings pose a risk in neighboring Pakistan, where authorities are fighting a third wave of infections and encouraging Muslims to take precautions during the Islamic month of Ramadan.

Despite the notices, thousands of Shia Muslims gathered in the eastern city of Lahore on Tuesday for an annual religious procession, many of whom were not wearing masks.

Even as markets and schools have been closed, Pakistani authorities have largely resisted cracking down on such religious practices in recent months.

EU considers resuming travel 

In the meantime, European leaders are looking to take more measures toward recovery, with a plan to restart international travel and tourism as early as next month.

The European Commission proposed on Monday that travelers who have been completely vaccinated with EU-approved shots or who are traveling from countries where Covid-19 is under control be eligible to join the EU.

Vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, and AstraZeneca have already been licensed by the EU.

However, in a warning that Europe's pandemic is far from over, Germany has canceled its world-famous Oktoberfest beer festival for the second year in a row.

With more than 100 million Americans now completely vaccinated, Americans are among those considering summer holidays in Europe.

According to reports in the US media on Monday, authorities are expected to approve the Pfizer shot for children aged 12 and up.

The successful campaign has allowed authorities in several parts of the world's largest economy, including New York and Florida, to begin easing restrictions.

In China, where the virus first appeared in 2019, millions of visitors have flocked to domestic tourist attractions, despite the fact that the country's epidemic has been largely contained.

After visiting iconic sites in Shanghai over the weekend, out-of-town tourists flocked to Beijing's historic alleyways on Tuesday.

WHO appeals to G7 

However, in drought-stricken Brazil, vaccine shortages have caused many large cities to suspend administering second doses of the Chinese-developed CoronaVac shot.

Covid-19 has killed over 400,000 people in Brazil, second only to the United States.

The WHO issued a warning on Monday about global disparities in access to Covid-19 supplies, saying that rich countries must increase support for vaccines, testing, and treatments in developing countries if the pandemic is to be ended.

"We will only solve the vaccine crisis with the leadership of these countries," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, urging decisive action at the G7 summit in June.


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