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Coronavirus Update: New Delhi court threatens to punish Indian government officials if they fail to deliver oxygen to hospitals overwhelmed by COVID cases

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The global tally of confirmed cases of the coronavirus-borne illness moved closer to 153 million on Monday as India remained the global hot spot, with a court in New Delhi saying it would start punishing government officials for failing to deliver much-needed oxygen to hospitals.

India has the second-highest case tally in the world after the U.S. at 19.9 million after recording 368,147 new cases on Monday and 3,417 deaths, according to its health ministry.

The nation of almost 1.4 billion people counted more than 400,000 cases in a single day over the weekend, the highest one-day tally of any country since the start of the pandemic in late 2019. Those numbers are considered to be widely understated, given the pressure on the country’s underfunded healthcare system. More than 200,000 Indians have died of COVID-19, hospitals are overwhelmed and running low on critical supplies, including oxygen.

Don’t miss: Letter from India: ‘We live in mortal fear of COVID-19’

See now: India’s COVID-19 crisis is a ‘crime against humanity,’ says prize-winning author as nation sets new case record

Several hospital authorities asked courts to intervene in securing oxygen supplies in New Delhi, where a lockdown has been extended by a week in an attempt to contain the wave of infections, the Associated Press reported.

“Water has gone above the head. Enough is enough,” said the New Delhi High Court, adding it would start punishing government officials if supplies of oxygen allocated to hospitals are not delivered.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been slammed for his handling of the crisis and in particular for allowing political rallies to be held across the country at which thousands gathered closely without wearing face masks. He has also been criticized for allowing a Hindu festival to go ahead at which thousands took a ritual bath in the river Ganges, also without face masks. Both became superspreader events and allowed a “double-mutant” variant to spread widely. Called the B.1.617 strain, the new variant has two spike proteins instead of one. The World Health Organization said last week that the variant has now been found in at least 17 countries.

Australia became the latest country to ban travel from India, adopting a strict stance that bars even its own citizens from entering the country from India, the BBC reported.

From today, any Australian arriving in the country from India face fines and up to five years in prison. It’s the first time Australians have been criminalized for returning to their country.

The U.S. is suspending travel from India starting Tuesday, in accordance with advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced last week.

The U.S. vaccine program, meanwhile, is starting to slow. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s vaccine tracker is showing that as of 6.00 a.m. ET Sunday, 312.5 million doses had been delivered to states, 245.6 million doses had been administered, and 147 million people had received at least one shot, equal to 44.3% of the population.

A full 104.8 million people are fully vaccinated, equal to 31.6% of the population, meaning they have received two shots of the two-dose vaccines developed by Pfizer Inc.
PFE,
+1.60%

and German partner BioNTech SE
BNTX,
+6.56%

and Moderna Inc.
MRNA,
+4.22%
,
or one shot of the Johnson & Johnson
JNJ,
+0.74%

one-shot vaccine. The AstraZeneca
AZN,
+0.62%

AZN,
+4.28%

vaccine has not been authorized for use in the U.S.

Among Americans 65 years-and -older, 38 million people are fully vaccinated, equal to 69.6% of that group. More than 45 million people in that age bracket have received a first jab, covering 82.7% of that population.

“Cases, deaths, and hospitalizations continued trending in the right direction this week; cases are now at their lowest 7-day average since early
October 2020,” said Chris Meekins, healthcare analyst at Raymond James.

“This encouraging trend shows in the race between vaccines and variants in the U.S.—vaccines are winning. While we have seen strong uptake of vaccinations thus far; that uptake is slowing dramatically as vaccine hesitancy remains high for a not-insignificant portion of the population,” he added.

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In other news:

• Biotech Novavvax Inc.
NVAX,
-9.73%

said it has expanded its Phase 3 clinical trial for its COVID-19 vaccine candidate to include 12 to 17-year-olds in the U.S., MarketWatch’s Jaimy Lee reported. Novavax’s experimental vaccine is currently being tested in a late-stage trial that began in December in the U.S. and Mexico. The pediatric arm aims to enroll 3,000 teens.

• The European Commission on Monday proposed allowing entry by non-essential travelers to the region, in a bid to restart tourism in some of its hardest hit countries. “The Commission proposes to allow entry to the EU for non-essential reasons not only for all persons coming from countries with a good epidemiological situation but also all people who have received the last recommended dose of an EU-authorised vaccine,” said the body in a press release. The EU proposes lifting the threshold linked to the number of new COVID-19 cases used in determining a list of countries from which all travel should be allowed. The EU also proposed an “emergency brake” mechanism, that would allow member states to act quickly over COVID-19 variants to temporarily limit travel from affected countries.

As more U.S. adults get their Covid-19 vaccines, a variety of side effects are emerging. WSJ’s Daniela Hernandez speaks with an infectious disease specialist on what is common, what isn’t and when to seek medical attention. Photo: Associated Press

• Moderna Inc. struck a deal with the Vaccine Alliance, Gavi, to supply up to 500 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine to Covax, the WHO-backed program that aims to deliver vaccines to low- and middle-income countries, MarketWatch’s Tomi Kilgore reported. The first 34 million doses will be delivered in the fourth quarter of 2021. Gavi will retain the option to acquire an additional 466 million doses in 2022. “We recognize that many countries have limited resources to access COVID-19 vaccines,” said Moderna Chief Executive Stéphane Bancel. “We support COVAX’s mission to ensure broad, affordable and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines and we remain committed to doing everything that we can to ending this ongoing pandemic with our mRNA COVID-19 vaccine.” 

Read now: Long-haulers are still struggling — ‘I think this virus has physically and mentally aged me more than 10 years’

• Prince Harry joined a charity concern in Los Angeles on Sunday to promote the equitable distribution of COVID vaccines, the Guardian reported. In his first appearance since returning to the U.S. from the funeral of his grandfather, the Duke of Edinburgh, the Duke of Sussex urged people to “look beyond ourselves with empathy and compassion” during a speech at Vax Live, hosted by Global Citizen at the SoFi stadium before an audience of vaccinated guests.

• Germany’s Oktoberfest, the world’s biggest beer festival, has been canceled for a second straight year as the country struggles to contain the latest wave of COVID cases, Reuters reported. Bavarian Premier Markus Soeder told journalists that it was necessary to cancel major events such as the Oktoberfest again this year because they required large financial commitments and the risk was too large given uncertainty over when the pandemic may ease up. “Also, in classic beer halls measures such as social distancing and mask-wearing cannot be enforced,” Soeder said.

Latest tallies

he global tally for the coronavirus-borne illness rose to 152.9 million on Monday, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University, while the death toll rose to 3.2 million. Almost 90 million people have recovered from COVID-19, the data show.

The U.S. continues to lead the world in cases and deaths by wide margins, with 32.4 million cases, or more than a fifth of the global total, and 577,046 deaths, or almost a fifth of the worldwide toll. 

 Brazil is third after India with 14.8 million cases and second by fatalities at 407,639.

India has replaced Mexico as country with third-highest death toll of 218,959.

Mexico has the fourth-highest death toll at 217,233 and 2.3 million cases, or 15th highest tally.

The U.K. has 4.4 million cases and 127,796 deaths, the fifth-highest in the world and highest in Europe.

China, where the virus was first discovered late last year, has had 102,532 confirmed cases and 4,846 deaths, according to its official numbers, which are widely held to be massively underreported.

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