Supplies from US, Britain rush to Covid-stricken India

New Delhi, India: The United States and the United Kingdom rushed ventilators and vaccine supplies to India on Monday as the world fights a devastating, record-breaking coronavirus outbreak that has overwhelmed hospitals and forced crematoriums to operate at maximum capacity.

Patients' families have taken to social media in recent days to plead for oxygen supplies and locations of available hospital beds, prompting the capital, New Delhi, to extend a week-long lockdown.

Even as wealthier countries take measures toward normalcy with faster inoculation programs, the world of 1.3 billion people has become the newest hotspot of a pandemic that has killed more than three million people.

Irfan Salmani told AFP that for the past three days, he had been going from hospital to hospital in Delhi, looking for oxygen for his sister.

"I've never seen anything so terrible," he said. "I've been trying non-stop."

... I've just been facing rejection after rejection."

France, Germany, and Canada have also pledged their support to India, which has been driving up global case numbers in recent days, with 352,991 new infections and 2,812 deaths reported on Monday, the highest tolls since the pandemic began.

More than 80 people died when a fire tore through a Baghdad hospital for Covid-19 patients on Sunday, causing outrage and the suspension of top Iraqi officials.

Thailand imposed new restrictions on Monday following a record daily death toll over the weekend, while Cambodia's capital has been under lockdown for 12 days as the number of cases rises.

Vaccine surplus 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the first of nine airline container loads of supplies from the UK, including ventilators and oxygen concentrators, would arrive in India early Tuesday, promising that the UK would do "whatever it can" to assist.

The White House announced that it would make vaccine-making materials, therapeutics, samples, ventilators, and protective equipment available to India immediately.

However, it made no mention of sending any of the 30 million AstraZeneca vaccine doses it currently has on hand, leading to allegations of hoarding.

In recent weeks, India's Hindu-nationalist government has come under fire for allowing mass gatherings across the country, with millions flocking to religious festivals and political rallies.

A leading newspaper has suspended coverage of the glitzy Indian Premier League, blasting the IPL's decision to keep playing cricket as "commercialism gone crass."

After star India spinner Ravichandran Ashwin withdrew to support his family during the pandemic, the league took another hit on Monday when Australians Adam Zampa and Kane Richardson became the latest players to leave.

Following a legal demand from New Delhi, Twitter announced on Sunday that it had withheld thousands of tweets critical of the government's handling of the crisis, including those from opposition lawmakers.

Funeral in Fiji 

Japan's annual "Golden Week" holiday began with new restrictions in Tokyo and Osaka, with shopping malls and department stores being ordered to close and people being advised to avoid non-essential travel.

Bars and restaurants selling alcoholic beverages have also been asked to close early during the week, which is normally Japan's busiest travel time, and comes just under three months before the Olympics, which have been postponed due to the pandemic.

Suva, Fiji's capital, was put on lockdown for 14 days on Monday after the first population transmission cases in 12 months were discovered following a funeral.

In a population of 930,000, the tourism-dependent islands have reported fewer than 100 cases and just two deaths, and the change comes as a major setback for hopes of opening quarantine-free travel zones with Australia and New Zealand.

Tourists from the United States who have been vaccinated against Covid-19 will be able to visit the European Union in the coming months, according to EU chief Ursula von der Leyen.

She did not have a timeline but told the New York Times that the new rules could be implemented by the summer.

'In the flesh!' 

Motor racing fans got a boost from the news that a small number of spectators would be able to attend the Monaco Grand Prix in May, according to Formula One CEO Stefano Domenicali.

Another limited glimpse of pre-pandemic life was on show in the United States, at an Oscars ceremony that reunited some of Hollywood's A-listers for the first time in more than a year, unmasked and vaccinated.

"Isn't it insane that we're here?" Riz Ahmed, best actor nominee and star of "Sound of Metal," said.

"Flesh-and-blood human beings!"

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