India’s COVID-19 crisis not slowing as variant found there is now considered a global concern

The latest:

India’s coronavirus crisis showed scant sign of easing on Tuesday, with a seven-day average of new cases at a new high and international health authorities warning the country’s variant of the virus poses a global concern.

India’s daily coronavirus cases rose by 329,942, while deaths from the disease rose by 3,876, according to the health ministry. India’s total coronavirus infections are now at 22.99 million, while total fatalities rose to 249,992. The seven-day average of new cases is at a new high of 390,995.

The World Health Organization said the coronavirus variant first identified in the country last year was being classified as a variant of global concern, with some preliminary studies showing that it spreads more easily.

“We are classifying this as a variant of concern at a global level,” Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO technical lead on COVID-19, told a briefing in Geneva on Monday. “There is some available information to suggest increased transmissibility.”

Nations around the globe have sent oxygen cylinders and other medical gear to support India’s crisis, but many hospitals around the nation are struggling with a shortage of the life-saving equipment.

Eleven people died late on Monday in a government hospital in Tirupati, a city in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, due to a delay in the arrival of a tanker carrying oxygen, a government official said.

“There were issues with oxygen pressure due to low availability. It all happened within a span of five minutes,” M Harinarayan, the district’s top bureaucrat, said late Monday, noting the SVR Ruia hospital now had sufficient oxygen.

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Indian security forces were needed at a hospital in Chennai, India to control crowds desperate to get drugs to help their family members with coronavirus. 0:56

Adding to the strain on medical facilities, the Indian government has told doctors to look out for signs of mucormycosis, or “black fungus,” in COVID-19 patients as hospitals report a rise in cases of the rare but potentially fatal infection.

The disease, which can lead to blackening or discolouration over the nose, blurred or double vision, chest pain, breathing difficulties and coughing blood, is strongly linked to diabetes. And diabetes can in turn be exacerbated by steroids such as dexamethasone, used to treat severe COVID-19.

Canada on Tuesday sent a plane carrying additional ventilators to India. Canada, which has also contributed to funds aimed at supporting the COVID-ravaged nation, has already sent hundreds of ventilators, pharmaceuticals and other aid to the country.

-From Reuters, last updated at 10:15 a.m. ET


What’s happening across Canada

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As of 12:10 p.m. ET on Tuesday, Canada had reported 1,296,946 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 78,670 considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 24,706.

As more questions emerge about when and how provinces will reopen, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau struck a cautious note at a briefing on Tuesday. Trudeau said cases are still “too high” in many parts of the country, noting that hospitals in those areas are “under incredible pressure.”

The prime minister said there is hope as more people get doses of COVID-19 vaccines — but even with more vaccinations, restrictions are still needed.

“We can’t ease public health restrictions until cases are way down,” he said, noting that more screening, testing and contact tracing are critical.

“We need to successfully limit community transmission.” 

He also said that at least 75 per cent of eligible Canadians should have had their first dose, echoing a figure put forward previously by Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam.

“And we need to keep ramping up those second doses.” 

Ontario on Tuesday reported 2,073 new cases of COVID-19 and 15 additional deaths. Hospitalizations in the province stood at 1,783, with 802 people in ICU due to COVID-related illness.

In the North, Nunavut was the first territory to provide updated information on Tuesday, reporting 14 additional cases.

Health officials in Yukon and the Northwest Territories had not yet provided updated figures for the day.

In Quebec, there were 660 new cases of COVID-19 reported on Tuesday and nine additional deaths. The update came as the province’s health minister, Christian Dubé, called on young adults to get vaccinated in an open letter published Tuesday, on the eve of appointments opening to those 25 and older.

In Atlantic Canada, New Brunswick on Tuesday reported two new cases of COVID-19 and no additional deaths. Health officials in Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island had not yet provided updated information about the state of the pandemic on Tuesday.

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In the Prairie provinces, Manitoba reported 502 new cases of COVID-19 and four additional deaths, while neighbouring Saskatchewan reported no new deaths and 147 new cases — the lowest case number the province has seen in almost two months.

Alberta on Monday reported 1,597 new cases of COVID-19 and seven additional deaths. The government said 690 people were in hospital and 158 of them are receiving intensive care.

Across the North, Nunavut reported seven new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, while health officials in the Northwest Territories reported three new cases. There were no new cases reported in Yukon.

In British Columbia, meanwhile, health officials reported 1,759 new cases of COVID-19 cases for a three-day period starting Friday. The province recorded 20 new COVID-19 deaths, bringing the total number of fatalities to 1,622.

-From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 12:10 p.m. ET


What’s happening around the world

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles walk behind the Imperial State Crown before the Queen’s speech at the Houses of Parliament in London on Tuesday. The event was taking place with a reduced capacity due to COVID-19 restrictions. (Richard Pohle/AFP/Getty Images)

As of early Tuesday afternoon, more than 159 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according a tracking tool from Johns Hopkins University that looks at the novel coronavirus around the world. The reported global death toll stood at more than 3.3 million.

In the Asia-Pacific region, Malaysia imposed a new nationwide lockdown as the country grapples with a surge in coronavirus cases and highly infectious variants.

In Africa, Sudan is struggling to provide hospital beds, drugs and medical oxygen to COVID-19 patients hit by a third wave of infections.

In the Americas, U.S. regulators authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine for use in children as young as 12 and said they could begin receiving shots as soon as Thursday, widening the inoculation program as vaccination rates have slowed significantly.

A butterfly is released during an event held to honour health-care workers and those who lost loved ones to COVID-19, at Providence St. Jude Medical Center in Fullerton, Calif., on Monday. (Jae C. Hong/The Associated Press)

In Europe, as strict lockdowns are loosened across the region and many EU citizens dream about holidays in the sun, the 27-nation bloc has yet to agree on how to quickly implement a virus certificate scheme to boost summer travel and tourism.

Belgium, for example, plans to ease nearly all lockdown measures from June 9 provided the country’s vaccination campaign keeps up its momentum, and the number of people in intensive care units remains under 500, the government said on Tuesday.

In the Middle East, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain have established a travel corridor for tourists who have been vaccinated against the coronavirus.

The Gulf sheikhdoms jointly announced Monday that fully vaccinated travellers will be able to fly between the countries without having to undergo mandatory quarantines. The deal starts with Eid al-Fitr, one of Islam’s biggest holidays, at the end of this week. Travellers must demonstrate their vaccine status with approved COVID-19 health pass apps.

-From Reuters and The Associated Press, last updated at 12:10 p.m.. ET

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