Live Updates

April 29 coronavirus news

Overwhelmed cemetery shows toll of India's Covid-19 crisis
07:52

What you need to know

  • India’s crisis is deepening, and several countries have pledged medical assistance as hospitals face oxygen shortages.
  • The number of global Covid-19 cases has risen for the ninth consecutive week, according to the World Health Organization.
  • Fully vaccinated people in the United States can now unmask at small outdoor gatherings, but should still wear masks in indoor public spaces, according to new mask guidance issued by the CDC.

Our live coverage has ended for the day. Follow the latest on the pandemic here.

32 Posts

Authorization of coronavirus vaccine for younger teens can skip FDA advisory process, official says

The US Food and Drug Administration will be able to skip the time-consuming advisory process for deciding authorization of coronavirus vaccines for older children and teens, a government official told CNN Thursday, but it will likely undertake a lengthier review for younger children.

Vaccine maker Pfizer has applied for emergency use authorization for its coronavirus vaccine for teens and children ages 12 to 15. The FDA will have to amend the emergency use authorization (EUA) for the vaccine, but the process should be straightforward, said the official, who was not authorized to speak about the process publicly and requested anonymity.

Extending EUA to younger children is a different matter, the official said.

“In the older group of children if there is nothing exceptional, if everything looks very similar to adults, the feeling is that it is not necessary to take this to an advisory committee meeting,” the official said. “For the younger children, we almost certainly will consider more strongly going to an advisory committee meeting.” 

Pfizer and Moderna both are testing their vaccines in children as young as 6 months and expect to ask the FDA for EUAs covering infants and children later this year.

More context: The FDA is currently reviewing data submitted by Pfizer to support extending the EUA to younger teens. Pfizer said at the end of March that a clinical trial involving 2,260 12-to-15-year-olds showed its efficacy is 100% and it is well tolerated.

The company said the vaccine-elicited strong antibody responses one month after the second dose, exceeding those demonstrated in people ages 16 to 25 in previous trials. The vaccine is currently authorized in the US for emergency use in people ages 16 and older.  

Before issuing the EUAs for the three authorized coronavirus vaccines – made by Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson – the FDA held meetings of its independent Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee to review the data and vote on whether to recommend EUA. That will not happen in extending EUA to 12-15-year-olds, the FDA said.

“While the FDA cannot predict how long its evaluation of the data and information will take, the agency will review the request as expeditiously as possible using its thorough and science-based approach,” the FDA said in an email to CNN on Thursday.

“Based on an initial evaluation of the information submitted, at this time, the agency does not plan to hold a meeting of the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) on this request to amend the EUA for the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 Vaccine, which was discussed and recommended for authorization at a VRBPAC meeting in December 2020. As with all FDA-authorized Covid-19 vaccines, we are committed to transparency with this EUA review process.”

FDA won't release AstraZeneca Covid vaccine for export until it's sure vaccine is safe and effective

The US Food and Drug Administration will not release AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine for export to other countries until it is sure the doses have been manufactured to US quality standards and will be safe and effective, a government official told CNN Thursday.

The White House said Monday it would ship doses of AstraZeneca vaccine to other countries, including India, after a safety review by the FDA. AstraZeneca has yet to apply for emergency use authorization (EUA) in the US, but the company has been making tens of millions of doses in the US in the expectation that it will apply for and receive EUA eventually.

Many other countries have been clamoring for vaccine and international groups have criticized the US for buying up vaccine doses while billions of people around the world go without.

The safety review will be thorough, said a government official with knowledge of the process who was not authorized to speak on the subject and requested anonymity. While an EUA is not needed to export vaccine, the official said, the US would not export any vaccine that did not meet US safety, efficacy and manufacturing quality standards.

Covid-19 deaths top 400,000 in Brazil

A person lights a candle in honor of the victims of the COVID-19 pandemic at the Brazilian Congress on April 27 in Brasilia, Brazil.

Brazil has surpassed 400,000 deaths from coronavirus, making it the second country worldwide to officially pass that grim milestone following the United States.

The country’s health ministry reported more than 3,000 new Covid-19 deaths on Thursday, raising the total number of deaths recorded during the pandemic to at least 401,186.

Brazil’s death toll rapidly increased after Christmas and New Year’s holidays – when locals often travel during school and company summer breaks – turning 2021 into the most severe period in the country’s outbreak since the novel coronavirus reached the country in March of 2020.

“With sadness all around, Brazil today registers 400,000 victims of Covid-19,” Carlos Lula, president of the National Council of Health Secretaries, said in a statement. “The number reflects the pain of families that lost parents, grandparents, children and siblings in a fast, violent and often lonely way. It also reflects mismanagement and the lack of centralized coordination at the federal level.”

As the Covid-19 death tolls have risen in Brazil, whose far-right President Jair Bolsonaro has resisted lockdowns and overseen an often slow and bumpy vaccine rollout, young people are making up a greater share of deaths as older Brazilians are among the few to have secured a vaccine.

Fiocruz, a Brazilian public health research institute, recently reported that patients between the ages of 20 and 29 had the most pronounced increase in Covid-19 deaths among all adults between early January and mid-April this year.

Data from the first full epidemiological week of January compared to the second week of April showed that deaths among Covid-19 patients in that age group grew 1,081%.

Covid-19 deaths and new cases rose across all adult age groups during the same period as Brazil’s daily death toll climbed from about 1,000 a day at the beginning of the year to averaging more than 2,500 a day over the past week.

In the meantime, Brazil’s vaccination campaign is running at a slow pace, with about 6% of its 210 million people fully vaccinated. Several state capitals halted vaccinations this week due to a shortage of CoronaVac, one of four approved vaccines in Brazil.

More than a third of the US has been infected with Covid-19, CDC estimates

Roughly 35% of the population is estimated to have been infected with the virus that causes Covid-19 as of March, according to data shared Thursday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The agency estimates the virus has led to 114.6 million infections, 97.1 million symptomatic illnesses and 5.6 million hospitalizations from February 2020 to March 2021.

This means total infections are estimated to be about four times higher than what’s been officially reported. The US hit 30 million cases toward the end of March.

That gap isn’t quite as wide as what the agency reported in January, when it estimated an even higher proportion of Covid-19 infections were going unrecognized. Since then, the agency says it received more data on how often people with Covid-19 symptoms seek medical care and testing.

“These updated data indicated higher levels of health-seeking behavior than data included in our previous estimates,” CDC said.

It is unclear how these numbers might factor into herd immunity — including how long natural immunity might last and how much overlap there is with people who are now vaccinated. 

More data: Experts have long said the number of actual infections were significantly higher than reported, but how much higher has been a cause for debate.

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington estimates that 30% of the US has been infected as of April 19. This is a large jump from its previous update, just one week prior, when it estimated only 22% of the US had been infected.

“Our estimate of the percent infected to date has increased considerably from last week due to introducing corrections for waning antibodies in our analysis of seroprevalence surveys,” the institute explained last week. Unlike the CDC, the IHME model relies heavily on tests showing the prevalence of antibodies over time across the US. 

Survey finds evidence schools can be a source of coronavirus spread

A new study finds evidence that schools can be a source of coronavirus spread to staff and the families of students if those schools don’t take precautions such as requiring masks and limiting extracurricular activities.

Households where at least one child was back to school full-time in-person were 38% more likely to report someone infected with Covid-19 or a Covid-like illness, the team at Johns Hopkins University reported in the journal Science.

But the risk went down if schools imposed mitigation measures – by 9% for each measure added. If schools imposed seven or more different precautions, the increased risk disappeared, the team reported.

“Among those reporting seven or more mitigation measures, over 80% reported student and teacher mask mandates, restricted entry, extra space between desks and no supply sharing, and over 50% reported student cohorting, reduced class size and daily symptom screening,” epidemiologist Justin Lessler and colleagues wrote.

“The results presented here show a clear association between in-person schooling and the risk of Covid-19-related outcomes in adult household members, and that this association disappears when more than seven school-based mitigation measures are reported,” they added.

“In contrast, closing cafeterias, playgrounds and use of desk shields are associated with lower risk reductions (or even risk increases),” they wrote. “Notably, part-time in-person schooling is not associated with a decrease in the risk of Covid-19-related outcomes compared to full-time in-person schooling after accounting for other mitigation measures.”

By the numbers: The team surveyed more than 500,000 households across the country at the end of last year and the beginning of 2021.

“Schools play a unique role in the social fabric of the United States and other countries, and often create potential transmission connections between otherwise disparate communities,” they wrote.

“Even if transmission in classrooms is rare, activities surrounding in-person schooling, such as student pick-up and drop-off, teacher interactions, and broader changes to behavior when school is in session could lead to increases in community transmission,” they added. “One of the main reasons for a focus on schools is not the risk to students, but the risk that in-person schooling poses to teachers and family members, and its impact on the overall epidemic.”

They survey doesn’t prove in-person schooling is the cause of the increased transmission, they noted. Communities that have returned to full-time in-person school are also more likely to have residents who have returned to visiting bars and restaurants, for example.

Outdoor restrictions in Connecticut will be lifted on May 1, governor says

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont speaks at a COVID-19 vaccination clinic and food giveaway event in East Windsor, Connecticut, on April 29.

On May 1, the curfew for businesses in Connecticut will move to midnight and outdoor restrictions will be lifted that same day.

For example, the use of masks in outdoor settings are not required, and there will be no table size limit for outdoor events, Gov. Ned Lamont said Thursday.  

Over 80% of people 65 and over in the state have been vaccinated with at least their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, Lamont said. 

Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine clinics have resumed vaccination after the federal pause, he said. 

The number of Johnson & Johnson vaccines increases every day, said Josh Geballe, the state’s chief operating officer.

“We’re hopeful to see a strong demand for J & J going forward,” he added. 

India's ruling party says the "responsibility is ours" when it comes to the worsening Covid-19 crisis

A health worker walks inside a banquet hall temporarily converted into a COVID-19 ward in New Delhi on April 27.

The responsibility for the devastating second wave that is sweeping India belongs “first and foremost” to the government but the situation could not have been foreseen, according to Narendra Taneja, a spokesperson for the country’s ruling Bharatiya Janata party.

“We are in power, we are the government in India so of course responsibility is first and foremost ours, good or bad, whatever it is. It is our responsibility and we’re trying our very level best,” Taneja told CNN on Thursday. “A lot of people are saying that… we knew in February. At that time, scientists and doctors were more or less of the same view.”

Taneja added: “Evidently something went wrong, evidently we were hit by a tsunami, and as you know, you’re often not aware. In most cases 80-90% reasons could be external. We don’t know. We don’t want to blame anybody. We know we’re in power, we are responsible…our focus is now on how we can save lives.”

Some context: Indian Prime Narendra Minister Modi and his Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) have come under fire for holding several mass rallies in the eastern West Bengal state with thousands in attendance between March and April ahead of state elections. Thursday was the last day of voting and polls have now closed in West Bengal.

When asked why his party continued to hold such events as cases rose, Taneja pushed back and said the “autonomous” Election Commission of India was responsible for allowing elections events to continue to take place over a one and a half month period.

Taneja said that BJP had “no option” on whether to hold rallies because of the Election Commission’s decision on when polls were held, saying “we as a political party—for that matter, all political parties in India—had no option but to go along with it.” 

CDC's ensemble forecast now projects up to 595,000 US Covid-19 deaths by May 22

An ensemble forecast published Wednesday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now projects that there will be 583,000 to 595,000 coronavirus deaths reported by May 22. 

The national ensemble predicts that the number of newly reported deaths will remain stable or have an uncertain trend over the next four weeks, the forecast said. 

The previous ensemble forecast, published April 21, projected up to 596,000 deaths by May 15. 

US undergraduate enrollment in "steepest decline" since pandemic started, new data shows

Undergraduate enrollment in colleges and universities saw the “steepest decline” for the spring 2021 semester since the pandemic started, according to new data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center released on Thursday.

Overall enrollment for the spring semester was down 5.9% compared with one year ago, while community colleges saw an 11.3% drop. The largest decline in enrollment is among 18-20 year-olds, who account for more than 40% of all undergraduate students. 

The data shows growth in graduate enrollment, however, with a 4.4% increase for the spring semester.

The data was also broken down by race and ethnicity, showing that Native Americans saw the largest decline, 13%, of any ethnic group this spring. Enrollment among White students dropped 8.5%, 8.8% among Black students, 7.3% among Latinx students, and 4.8% among Asian students.

The states seeing the most undergraduate decline are Alaska, Delaware, New Mexico, Oregon and South Dakota, which all dropped double digits from last year.

Three states saw a small uptick in undergraduate enrollment: Nebraska, Utah, and West Virginia. 

India suffering through the worst air quality in the world amid Covid surge

In addition to battling an unprecedented surge in Covid-19 cases, parts of India, especially in and around New Delhi, are experiencing the worst air quality in the world at the moment.

According to AQICN.org, a global air quality index real-time aggregator, air quality in India today is the worst of any country in the world.

The air quality index at the US Embassy in New Delhi has reached the “hazardous” level (AQI greater than 300) every day this week, the worst stretch of April air quality since the monitoring began in 2014.

While India is no stranger to horrible air quality, as many of its cities top the annual rankings for the worst air in the world, these readings represent much higher-than-normal levels for April. The coldest months of November through February typically see the worst air quality in northern India, as crop-burning combines with weather patterns to trap pollutants near the surface. By April, air quality levels are typically better.

Why this matters: High levels of pollution are known to worsen the impacts from Covid-19, and research from the US has shown that you are more likely to die from Covid-19 if you live in an area with higher levels of pollution. 

Mumbai announces suspension of Covid-19 vaccinations for 3 days due to shortage

People wait to receive a Covid-19 vaccination on April 29 in Mumbai, India.

Citing a vaccine shortage, Mumbai’s municipal administration announced the suspension of all Covid-19 vaccinations across the city Thursday evening.

“Owing to non-availability of vaccine stock, no vaccination will be conducted at any Govt/BMC/Pvt CVC for the next 3 days (30 Apr-2 May). All efforts are being made to make more stock available & resume the drive,” tweeted the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, the local body which oversees administration in the city.

The state government of Maharashtra, where Mumbai is located, has repeatedly issued pleas regarding the shortage of vaccinations even as India prepares to launch a massive vaccination drive on May 1 for people between the ages of 18 and 44.

The latest announcement follows an extension in Covid-19 restrictions across the state through May 15, which announced earlier Thursday.

Mumbai recorded at least 4,192 new cases, including at least 82 deaths Thursday, according to the city administration.

First flights carrying emergency Covid-19 assistance for India left US last night

The first flights carrying emergency supplies to assist India as it battles a new wave of Covid-19 cases left the US Wednesday night, White House deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Thursday. 

“The first of two assistance flights left the US for India at around 8 p.m. and midnight last night, which was April 28. The planes carried the first tranche of assistance, which includes oxygen cylinders, rapid diagnostic tests and N95 masks to protect frontline workers,” Jean-Pierre told reporters aboard Air Force One. 

Jean-Pierre continued: “Additional flights carrying the remaining assistance, including oxygen generators and concentrators are scheduled to depart in the upcoming days.”

The White House said Wednesday it was delivering supplies worth more than $100 million in the coming days to provide urgent relief to India.  

India is facing a national crisis as the number of new Covid-19 cases rises to record levels each day and sick people are being turned away from hospitals that have run out of beds and oxygen.

France announces a 4-step process to lift lockdown

France will see a progressive lifting of Covid-19 restrictions in four steps starting Monday until June 30, French President Emmanuel Macron said in an interview released today.

Here’s a look at the steps:

  • Monday will mark the end of certificates required for movement, as well as the end of domestic travel restrictions. 
  • Starting on May 19 curfews will start at 9 p.m local time (as opposed to 7 p.m. currently) and shops, terraces and museums, cinemas and theaters will reopen with limited capacity. 
  • On June 9, curfews pushed further to 11 p.m local time. There will also be a return to offices, and cafes, restaurants and gyms can reopen. Subject to a “health pass,” sports and cultural events of up to 5,000 attendees will be allowed. Tourists will be allowed to return, also subject to a “health pass.”
  • The fourth and last step, on June 30, would see the end of curfews, but nightclubs would remain closed.

The progressive easing of restrictions is contingent on the situation in each department, which are administrative regions in France.

“I have good hope that the entire France will be able to get to the stage of May 19th. These are nation-wide measures, but we’ll be able to pull sanitary “urgent brakes” in places where the virus circulation would be too high,” Macron said in the interview, which took place with France’s regional press on Wednesday.

France went into a national lockdown again on April 3 due to a sharp increase in coronavirus cases. The nationwide nightly curfew, which came into effect on Jan. 16, currently runs from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. local time.

EU's Covid-19 certificates must facilitate free movement without discrimination, parliament says

The European Union’s much awaited “Covid-19 certificate” must “facilitate free movement without discrimination.” 

The EU made the announcement in a press release published Thursday by the European Parliament.  

The certificates were initially slated to be called “Digital Green Certificates” and recommended for use only by EU citizens traveling within the EU. 

The EU has already launched discussions with the United States regarding the possibility of granting certificates to vaccinated US citizens according to EU spokesperson Adalbert Jahnz. 

Under the legislative proposal approved Thursday, holders of an EU Covid-19 certificate “should not be subject to additional travel restrictions, such as quarantine, self-isolation or testing.”

The proposal only applies to EU nationals who may use the certificates “for 12 months and not longer.”  

Members of the European Parliament added that in order to avoid discrimination against those not vaccinated and for economic reasons, EU countries should “ensure universal, accessible, timely and free of charge testing.”

The EU Parliament and the EU Council will now begin negotiations, with the aim to reach an agreement ahead of the summer tourist season.  

Indian government says it has more than 12 million Covid-19 vaccines, rebutting shortage reports

People wait to receive a Covid-19 vaccine in Mumbai, India, on Thursday, April 29.

The Indian Health Ministry announced Thursday that more than 10 million Covid-19 vaccines – both AstraZeneca and Covaxin — are currently in storage with states across India, and 2 million more will be distributed within the next three days. 

In a rebuttal to statements on severe vaccine shortages in multiple cities and districts across India, the health ministry released data detailing the free vaccine supply to different states in the coming days. 

On Thursday, the Delhi health minister Satyendar Jain told local reporters that the national capital did not have any vaccines left and had issued a request for more. 

According to the health ministry, Delhi has received 3.8 million vaccines to date, and has more than 500,000 doses in storage. 

Maharashtra state has also issued an appeal for more vaccines. 

“Because of the unavailability (of vaccines) from the central government, we are unable to cater to the needs of every center here,” Maharashtra state health minister Rajesh Tope told CNN Wednesday. 

The Indian government has supplied a total of 161 million vaccines across the country.

New York City mayor says he plans to "fully reopen" the city on July 1

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks at an event in New York City on April 28.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says he plans to “fully reopen” the city on July 1.

When asked if that even included indoor dining, de Blasio said “based on all the progress that we’ve made in this city, we can go back to full strength.”

Asked if Broadway would be ready to go by July 1 he said it “takes time because they have to mount a whole production.” While most of Broadway is aiming for September he notes “some of the smaller shows might be able to come in earlier.”

And when pressed on whether or not the New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo could intervene and stop what the mayor intends regarding full opening, de Blasio said that federal and state governments “always have a say.”

“I’m saying as leader of NYC we’re ready to come back and come back strong,” he said. “We know the vaccination effort is going to grow and grow, we got to keep working hard at that but what’s amazing is every single day we’re beating back Covid more and more.”

He also said now that vaccination sites are accepting individuals without an appointment, he adds “walk in reality is changing everything.” 

“We do have work to do, I want to emphasize,” he continued. “Anyone who likes what I’m saying, help us out by going out and getting vaccinated if you haven’t already,” he said.

Leader of India’s Rajasthan state tests positive for Covid-19

Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot is pictured addressing the media in Jaipur, India, on February 24.

The chief minister of India’s northwestern Rajasthan state, Ashok Gehlot, tested positive for Covid-19 on Thursday.

“After getting tested, today my report came back positive. I am asymptomatic and am feeling well. Following the Covid protocol, I will work while I am in isolation,” Gehlot wrote on Twitter.
On Wednesday, Gehlot first said on Twitter that his wife, Sunita Gehlot had tested positive.

With an estimated population of 68,548,437, Rajasthan is the seventh most populous state in India, and home to the Jaipur, also called the “Pink City.”

The state recorded 8,190 coronavirus cases on Thursday, according to the Indian Department of Health, increasing its total number of active cases to 163,372. 

120 deaths were also reported in Rajasthan, according to the health department, adding to the state’s death toll of 3,926 people.

Gehlot is the latest in a string of high profile Indian political figures to test positive for the virus. 

One of the most notable politicians to recently contract Covid-19 was former Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who led the country from 2004 to 2014. 

A spokesperson for Singh’s party said on Twitter on April 19 that the former leader had been admitted to hospital for Covid-19 treatment.

The chief ministers for the states of Kerala and Tripura also tested positive in April.

Air India to reintroduce near pre-pandemic frequency of direct flights to US

An Air India passenger flight prepares to land at Biju Patnaik International Airport in Bhubaneswar, India, on February 16.

India’s national airline, Air India, is planning to reintroduce near pre-pandemic frequency of direct flights to the US in the first half of May – in spite of the country’s surging coronavirus cases.  

An Air India spokesperson told CNN that the airline is planning to operate 32 direct flights to the US per week from May 11. Before the pandemic, Air India operated 33 flights per week.

The airline is currently operating 29 flights per week to the US, and will be gradually adding flights to their schedule starting Thursday.

When asked if the re-introduction of additional direct flights to the US was fueled by demand following the latest surge in Covid-19 cases in India, the Air India spokesperson said:
“Our non-stop flights on the India-USA-India sector have always been very popular. Any surge in interest for seats on our flights to the USA, can be attributed to various factors.”

On Wednesday, the World Health Organization (WHO) said that India accounted for 38% of global coronavirus cases recorded in the week leading up to April 25.

According to guidance posted on the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website, “All air passengers coming to the United States, including U.S. citizens and fully vaccinated people, are required to have a negative Covid-19 viral test result no more than 3 days before travel or documentation of recovery from Covid-19 in the past 3 months before they board a flight to the United States.”

Meanwhile, a number of countries including the UK, France, Italy and Canada have placed either quarantine restrictions or an outright ban on travel from India.

UK says it doesn't have excess Covid-19 vaccine doses to send to India, but is providing them at cost

Britain's Health Secretary Matt Hancock speaks during a virtual press conference at Downing Street in London, on Wednesday, April 28.

The British health minister has said that the UK does not currently have any excess doses to send to India – currently home to the world’s worst coronavirus outbreak – despite the country’s ongoing vaccination rollout that has successfully vaccinated its priority groups and is now targeting younger ages.

In spite of mounting calls for rich nations to equitably distribute their surplus vaccines, Hancock said that they are providing India with the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine at cost and are also working closely with the Serum Institute of India (SII).

The SII “are making and producing more doses of vaccine than any other single organization. And obviously that means that they can provide vaccine to people in India at cost,” Hancock said.

“We’re leaning in, both on what we can provide and the material goods we can provide now like ventilators that we thankfully don’t need any more here,” he said.

“India can produce its own vaccine, based on British technology, that is… the biggest contribution that we can make which effectively comes from British science,” Hancock added.

India is in throes of a deadly second wave of the coronavirus which has seen cases surge above 300,000 for eight consecutive days, and a death toll that has surpassed 200,000 – after the country reported 3,293 deaths on Wednesday.

Hancock’s comments on vaccine exports come as a recent Ipsos MORI survey found that many people in the UK are keen to send vaccines to India.

The survey, which polled 1,016 adults aged 16-75 on Tuesday, found:

  • Around two-thirds (63%) surveyed said they support the UK giving some of its vaccines to India when everyone in the UK has been vaccinated
  • 43% of respondents supported sending vaccines to India “as soon as possible” even if it meant relaxing UK lockdown restrictions at a slower pace. 
  • 36% of respondents said they were in favor of sending vaccines “as soon as possible” even if it delayed the UK’s vaccine rollout – or resulted in a longer wait time for vaccines for their friends and family. 

Over 33.9 million people in the UK have already received a first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, with over 13.5 million now fully vaccinated, according to the latest government data.

On Wednesday, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) announced that said it will be sending three “oxygen factories” to India, saying in a statement that the three oxygen generation units – each the size of a shipping container - would be sent from surplus stock from Northern Ireland and would produce 500 litres of oxygen per minute each, which is enough for 50 people to use at a time.

The UK had already committed to providing India with 495 oxygen concentrators and 200 ventilators sent from surplus stock, the first batch of which arrived in India on Tuesday, the FCO statement said.

“International collaboration is more essential than ever, and this additional UK support package will help meet India’s current needs, particularly for more oxygen,” Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said in a statement.

The FCO statement comes as the aid sector has heavily criticized the UK’s plan to cut 85% of the aid it has pledged to the United Nations’ family planning program.

A top UN official on Wednesday called the move “devastating for women and girls and their families across the world.”

“When funding stops, women and girls suffer, especially the poor, those living in remote, underserved communities and those living through humanitarian crises,” Natalia Kanem – head of the UN’s sexual and reproductive health agency, said Wednesday in a statement.

This means that the UK’s expected contribution of £154 million (approximately US $211 million) will be reduced to around £23 million (US$32 million).

Speaking about the cuts, Raab said it was part of the Foreign Office’s efforts to ensure “maximum strategic coherence, impact and value for taxpayers’ money.”

Last year, the UK also garnered criticism from the humanitarian sector when it reduced its aid spending from 0.7% of the national income to 0.5%. 

Turkey prepares for a national lockdown, beginning Thursday evening

Vegetable seller Hakan Keskin, 40, is pictured at the farmers market in Ayvalik, Turkey. “This is our last chance before 3 hard weeks ahead. It’s going to be difficult our vegetables are going to get old and we won’t be making any money. It’s going to be hard days ahead for us.”

Turkey is bracing itself for its first national coronavirus lockdown as infection rates continue to climb in the country, now the highest in Europe.

The lockdown will begin on Thursday at 7 p.m. local time and will last through the remainder of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and over the Eid al Fitr holiday. It is scheduled to end at 5 a.m. local time on May 17, according to a statement from the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

On Thursday, streets across the country’s main cities were packed with people preparing for the restrictions, with traffic accidents and queues of traffic reported across the country’s main Anatolian Highway.

In the seaside town of Ayvalik on Thursday, the streets were thronged with shoppers stocking up on essentials before the three-week lockdown kicks into effect.

Hakan Keskin, a vegetable seller at the farmers’ market in Ayavilik told CNN that “there are more people at the market today and they are buying more of everything.” He added Thursday was the “last chance” for vendors such as himself to sell before the “3 hard weeks ahead.”

“It’s going to be difficult, our vegetables are going to get old and we won’t be making any money,” he said.

Leyla Ilmen, who was shopping at the farmers’ market, told CNN that there were “more people than usual” and that “everything is more expensive.”

Turkey initially responded to a surge in Covid-19 infections back in early April – when the country recorded its highest daily cases and deaths with more than 60,000 daily new cases – by tightening some Covid-19 restrictions. But on Monday, the government took that step further by announcing the national lockdown.

On Wednesday, Turkey recorded 40.444 new Covid-19 cases and 341 deaths, according to the Turkish Health Ministry Covid-19 online dashboard. 

The lockdown comes as the country faces expected delays in its vaccine rollout, according to Health Minister Fahrettin Koca.

To counter any delays in the campaign over the next two months, Koca said that the government had consequently decided to space out the two doses for the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine.

The doses will be now be administered 6 to 8 weeks apart instead of the current interval of 28 days, the health minister said.  

Koca added that there is also concern around the import of one of the variants first identified in India, known as B1.617.

“We identified 5 cases of the Indian variant in Istanbul. Those cases have been isolated and are under observation” Koca said.

Meanwhile, the highly transmissive UK variant, known as B.1.1.7, continues to be the most prevalent in Turkey, he said.

Washington Post columnist speaks to CNN about losing a parent in India to Covid-19

Washington Post columnist and Mojo Story editor Barkha Dutt who recently lost her father to Covid-19, recounted to CNN’s Kim Brunhuber how a faulty oxygen cylinder resulted in her father’s unfortunate death. 

Despite being “a journalist who knows doctors” and one who can “pay for the best private medical treatment,” Dutt said she was unable to overcome the obstacles posed by India’s collapsing healthcare system. 

In spite of her own personal loss, Dutt said that she felt she had a “duty” to shed light on the plight of “the orphans of the Indian state.”

In a moving interview, Dutt asks who will be held accountable for the “thousands that are dying,” many of whom remain uncounted.

Watch the interview here:

05:54

Germany puts anti-lockdown group 'Querdenker' under surveillance for possible extremist ties

Germany’s intelligence service said on Wednesday it would put some members of the country’s anti-lockdown movement under surveillance as concerns grow that their movement is attempting to undermine the legitimacy of the state.

In a statement, Germany’s Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) said they are focusing on members of the ”Querdenker” movement which promotes coronavirus scepticism, conspiracy theories and anti-vaccine rhetoric.

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said the Querdenker movement has already shown a willingness to use violence and warned that extremists were “trying to take control of the movement.”

“Right wing extremists are trying to take control [of these events] - and what we cannot tolerate at all is violence,” the interior minister said at a press conference in Berlin on Wednesday.

The movement - whose name means “thinking outside the box” – have been protesting anti-lockdown measures since the start of the pandemic and have ties to the far right. 

During anti-lockdown protests, members frequently clashed with police and attacked members of the media.  

The move comes as Germany reported an increase of 24,736 new coronavirus cases within the last 24 hours on Thursday, according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), Germany’s national agency for disease and control prevention.

The death toll in Germany has risen by 264, according to RKI data, bringing the total number of Covid-19 deaths to 82,544.

More than 13 million people in India applied for Covid-19 vaccines after minimum age lowered to 18

Syringes filled with COVISHIELD vaccine for COVID-19 lie on ice box at a primary health center in Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, on April 28.

About 13.3 million people applied for Covid-19 vaccinations in India on Thursday, the first day the vaccine was made available to everyone between the ages 18 and 44, according to the government’s dedicated vaccination website, CoWIN.

India is administering two vaccines domestically: the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot, also known as Covishield, and its homegrown Covaxin, developed jointly by Bharat Biotech and the government-run Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).

CoWIN opened for registrations on Wednesday. As of Thursday at 12 p.m. local time, a further 4.15 million have registered to receive vaccinations. 

India kickstarted its vaccination program in January for health care workers and priority groups, hoping to fully inoculate 300 million people by August. The start was sluggish due to logistical issues and vaccine hesitancy among the population – especially toward Covaxin, which was approved for emergency use before the efficacy data of its third phase trial were released.

As of Wednesday evening local time, 150,020,648 vaccine doses had been administered in India

Why India's crisis is a global problem

A health worker collects a swab sample for an RT-PCR Covid-19 test at a community center in New Delhi, India, on April 28.

There is a split scenario unfolding as the world battles the pandemic.

In countries like the United States and the United Kingdom, jubilant, newly-vaccinated people hug their loved ones after a long period of separation. In India, distraught families count their dead.

Sick people are being turned away from hospitals that have run out of beds and oxygen, as the number of new cases rises to record levels each day, creating a national crisis with global repercussions.

The more the virus spreads, the more chances it has to mutate and create variants that could eventually resist current vaccines, threatening to undermine other countries’ progress in containing the pandemic, experts warn.

That’s why India’s Covid outbreak is a global problem that needs a coordinated response.

Read more:

TOPSHOT - A worker fills medical oxygen cylinders to be transported to hospitals amid Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic at a facility on the outskirts of Chennai on April 24, 2021. (Photo by Arun SANKAR / AFP) (Photo by ARUN SANKAR/AFP via Getty Images)

Analysis: India's Covid-19 crisis is a problem for the world

Manila to maintain strict Covid-19 restrictions until mid-May

Cyclists ride along a bike lane alongside traffic in Quezon city, Metro Manila, Philippines, on April 27.

Strict travel and public health restrictions will remain in metro Manila and surrounding areas until mid-May, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte announced Wednesday.

The latest restriction were imposed in mid-April. They limited travel in and out of the capital and shut many businesses outside of essential goods and services, according to CNN affiliate CNN Philippines.

Duterte apologized for the extension of restrictions and said Covid-19 has moved beyond a public health issue to one of national interest. Though he scolded people for violating health protocols, the outspoken leader said the ultimate blame remains with the government.

Duterte said lines are forming for admission to hospitals and that the government is running our of resources to provide aid to everyone.

After adding 1 million Covid-19 cases in 3 days, India tops 18 million cumulative cases

India recorded 1 million Covid-19 cases over the last three days, pushing the total number of cases in the country to more than 18 million since the pandemic began, according to figures released today by the country’s Health Ministry.

Authorities reported 379,257 new coronavirus cases and 3,645 on Thursday, both new single-day records for India. It was the eight day in a row total cases topped 300,000

To date, India has seen 18,376,524 Covid-19 cases. At least 204,832 people have died as a result of the pandemic.

India launched its vaccination drive on January 16 and will open up vaccinations to everyone above the age of 18 on May 1. As of Wednesday evening local time, 150,020,648 vaccine doses had been administered.

India is one of the world's top 10 buyers of Covid vaccines, but it still needs more

A health worker inoculates a man with a dose of the Covishield vaccine for Covid-19 at the Railway Hospital in Prayagraj, India, on April 28

India has the world’s biggest vaccine producing capacity but is suffering a devastating second wave of coronavirus infections – just as supplies of Covid-19 vaccines for its huge population are running low.

The government has purchased at least 205.5 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines, according to data from the Duke Global Health Innovation Center, placing India in the top 10 vaccine buyers in the world. But those shots would only cover 8% of its 1.4 billion population.

As of Tuesday, India had administered 147.7 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines, according to the health ministry. Some 2.4 million of those were given on that day alone, the ministry said.

While that sounds like a lot of shots, India ranks low in per capita vaccination, with only 11 doses administered per 100 people compared to 69 in the United States and Britain, according to Our World in Data.

Read more about India’s vaccine rollout here:

Modi calls for people to vote "in line with Covid-19 protocols" on final day of local elections

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for people to continue to come out “in line with Covid-19 protocols” and vote during the last phase of West Bengal state elections.

Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have come under fire for holding several rallies ahead of the elections in West Bengal, with thousands in attendance and failing to abide by social distancing guidelines.

Critics have accused the BJP of putting politics before public health. India is now facing a massive new wave of Covid-19 cases across the country and nationwide shortages of oxygen.

On April 22, the Election Commission of India tightened restrictions for the remaining phases of the West Bengal state assembly elections, banning road shows, vehicle rallies and large public meetings with more than 500 people after finding political parties and candidates were flouting Covid-19 guidelines. 

However, political parties – including the BJP – continued to hold rallies throughout the week, even as India continued to record more than 300,000 cases per day.

Thursday is the last day of voting in West Bengal. The polls opened around 7 a.m. local time (9:30p ET) and are expected to close at 6:30 p.m. local (9a ET).

Southern Tamil Nadu and Kerala states, West Bengal and Assam states in the east and the union territory of Puducherry went to the polls on March 27, with voting taking place across eight phases and ending on April 29. All votes are to be counted on May 2, with the results announced on the same day, though India’s Election Commission has banned victory procession.

On Thursday, the Election Commission also issued guidelines ordering all polling officials and candidates to provide negative Covid-19 test reports or to have had both doses of Covid-19 vaccine ahead of May 2.

Colombia reports record number of deaths in a day as protesters take to the streets