World reaches 1 billion COVID-19 vaccination milestone: AFP tally

Paris, France: On Saturday, the number of Covid-19 vaccines administered globally exceeded one billion, providing optimism even as the number of virus cases worldwide sets a new daily high, owing primarily to an outbreak of infections in India.

According to an AFP tally, at least 1,002,938,540 vaccine doses have been distributed in 207 countries and territories.

Nonetheless, the number of new infections surpassed 893,000 globally on Friday, setting a new daily high.

More than a third of these were recorded in India, where authorities announced 346,786 new cases on Saturday, a record for a single country since the pandemic's inception.

Thailand, which had long spared the worst of the virus, was also dealing with an increasing number of cases.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha announced on Saturday that over 1,400 Covid-19 patients were awaiting admission to hospitals.

Since the outbreak in China in December 2019, the pandemic has killed over three million people worldwide.

Even though there is still a week left in April, Brazil has experienced its deadliest month of the outbreak, with nearly 68,000 confirmed fatalities.

On Saturday, India recorded 2,624 deaths, a daily high, as a flood of cases prompted the government to organize special trains to transport oxygen supplies to the worst-affected cities.

At dawn on Saturday, an "oxygen express" carrying 30,000 liters of oxygen arrived in northern Lucknow, where armed guards were waiting to accompany trucks to hospitals.

The Indian air force is also used to transport oxygen tankers and other supplies throughout the world, as well as to carry oxygen equipment from Singapore.

Tragically, oxygen cylinders were involved in a fire that ripped through a virus intensive care unit in Baghdad, Iraq, killing at least 23 people.

Accelerating rollouts 

With the pandemic showing no signs of abating, policymakers around the world are betting on vaccinations.

In less than a month, the number of vaccine doses given globally has more than doubled.

Nonetheless, although the majority of developing countries have begun to vaccinate, owing largely to the Covax policy, vaccination remains largely a luxury of high-income countries, which account for 16 percent of the world's population and administer 47 percent of vaccine doses.

Low-income nations, on the other hand, account for just 0.2 percent of all shots fired so far.

In the United States, authorities have approved the resumption of a Johnson & Johnson vaccine rollout that had been delayed due to blood clotting issues.

In Europe, Belgium announced on Saturday that it will legalize the J&J vaccine for all adults, having already received 36,000 doses and anticipating 1.4 million between April and June.

The European Union as a whole claimed that by the end of July, it would have enough vaccines to immunize 70% of its adult population.

Margaret Keenan, a 91-year-old British grandmother who became the first person in the Western world to receive an authorized coronavirus vaccine on December 8, urged people to get vaccinated.

"It really is the best thing I've ever done," she said.

"I'm telling everyone to go and get it... I hope everyone comes forward," she said.

Demonstrations against lockdowns 

Amid the optimism, the threat of the virus remains constant, with Germany introducing stricter new lockdown laws, including night curfews and school closures, after the government passed a contentious new law aimed at slowing infections.

The contentious new laws, which were passed this week amid massive protests in Berlin, would apply to all regions with more than 100 new infections per 100,000 people in the previous seven days.

In the United Kingdom, ongoing limitations are fueling resentment.

After large-scale demonstrations against England's remaining coronavirus limits, the mandatory use of masks, and the potential implementation of so-called vaccine passports, police in London said they detained five people and wounded eight officers.

Following months of restrictions and a robust mass vaccination program, Britain started steadily lifting Covid-19 restrictions last month. This month, pubs were permitted to serve customers outside, and non-essential stores reopened.

Demonstrators marched down many major thoroughfares, including the main shopping district Oxford Street, with thousands in attendance, according to videos and photographs.

Following the march, hundreds of people gathered in Hyde Park late in the afternoon.

Despite city ordinances that restrict outdoor events to 30 people, organizers used a variety of websites and online platform pages to promote attendance.

This story has been updated throughout.

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