No end of pandemic in sight as Covid rages in India, Brazil
Despite the introduction of vaccines in many nations, Covid-19 continues to wreak havoc around the world, claiming nearly 3.2 million lives and infecting over 150 million people.
The majority of new cases have been recorded in Asia, with India accounting for the majority of them. The devastating epidemic, which now accounts for more than 40% of all new infections worldwide, has wreaked havoc on the South Asian country's healthcare system and exhausted vital oxygen supplies.
Despite a ban on exports of locally manufactured vaccines, India's massive vaccination program was opened to all adults on Saturday. However, many states may not have enough doses to satisfy demand.
"There are so many people that are getting sick... we just wanted to be here as soon as possible," said Aadya Mehta, 25, who joined a queue of around 100 people outside a hospital in the capital New Delhi.
On Saturday, India recorded more than 400,000 cases in 24 hours, a world record, but experts say the official infection and death statistics are far from accurate.
Over 40 countries have pledged to send medical assistance. On Friday, a US military plane arrived in New Delhi with more than 400 oxygen cylinders, other hospital supplies, and nearly one million rapid coronavirus samples.
However, governments fearing the outbreak spreading to their shores have issued travel advisories and flight bans as a result of the crisis.
On Saturday, Australia issued a warning to those who violated the country's travel ban on India, threatening them with a five-year prison sentence.
"They died without the slightest dignity"
Another vast nation struggling to inoculate as many people as possible in the face of a destructive spike is Brazil, which has one of the world's highest mortality rates at 189 deaths per 100,000 people.
It reported nearly 2,600 new coronavirus deaths on Friday, bringing the total for April to 82,266 -- the second consecutive monthly record and a sharp rise from March.
The surge has pushed Brazil's hospitals to the brink of collapse in many areas as the country's overall death toll crossed 400,000 this week.
Demonstrators from the human rights group Rio de Paz lowered Brazilian flags and mock body bags into symbolic graves at Rio de Janeiro's famous Copacabana beach on Friday, protesting the government's handling of the crisis.
"Those body bags represent the Brazilians who had to be buried in shallow graves," said Antonio Carlos Costa, the NGO's president.
"They died without the slightest dignity."
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro was widely criticized for downplaying the threat of the virus, and for fighting stay-at-home measures.
The far-right president has defended his pandemic policies, telling supporters: "I was wrong about nothing."
The outbreak in neighboring Argentina also continued to worry the government, which on Friday extended by three weeks a nightly coronavirus curfew for the capital Buenos Aires.
A vaccination landmark in the United States
In terms of overall Covid-19 deaths, Brazil trails only the United States, where the situation has improved in recent months thanks to a robust vaccine rollout.
According to the White House, 100 million citizens in the United States have been completely vaccinated, with more than 55 percent of adults receiving at least one dose.
Coronavirus controls in certain parts of the United States can now be relaxed as a result of the massive effort.
Fans wearing Mickey Mouse ears waited in line at Disneyland in California, which reopened Friday after being closed for more than 400 days due to the pandemic.
"It is the greatest feeling ever," said Momi Young-Wilkins, a 55-year-old mother as she brought her children to the world-famous park near Los Angeles.
Some European governments, including France and Belgium, have relaxed or are considering easing coronavirus restrictions as a result of vaccinations.
However, due to the vastly unequal distribution of vaccines around the world, demands have been made for greater access in developing countries and waivers of patent rights to aid access.
A US trade official said Friday that the US was working with WTO representatives to ensure "equitable" access to vaccinations, but stopped short of saying that patent protections would be lifted.
With AFP inputs.