Britain dives back into normal life as India battles new surge

Agence France-Presse . Paris | Published: 19:00, Apr 12,2021 | Updated: 00:34, Apr 13,2021


Customers browse clothing in the pop-up shop Pangaia inside Selfridges department store in London on April 12, 2021 as COVID-19 restrictions are eased across the country in step two of the government's roadmap out of England's third national lockdown on April 12, 2021. — AFP Photo

The novel coronavirus has killed at least 29,37,355 people since the outbreak emerged in China in December 2019, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP at 1000 GMT on Monday.

At least 13,59,52,650 cases of coronavirus have been registered.

On Sunday, 7,993 new deaths and 6,01,284 new cases were recorded worldwide.

Based on latest reports, the countries with the most new deaths were Brazil with 1,803 new deaths, followed by India with 904 and Italy with 331.

The United States is the worst-affected country with 5,62,066 deaths from 3,11,97,872 cases.

After the US, the hardest-hit countries are Brazil with 3,53,137 deaths from 1,34,82,023 cases, Mexico with 2,09,338 deaths from 22,80,213 cases, India with 1,70,179 deaths from 1,35,27,717 cases, and the United Kingdom with 1,27,087 deaths from 43,69,775 cases.

Europe overall has 9,98,343 deaths from 4,64,19,142 cases, Latin America and the Caribbean 8,32,423 deaths from 2,62,53,240 infections, and the United States and Canada 5,85,379 deaths from 3,22,56,410 cases.

Asia has reported 2,85,594 deaths from 1,96,41,260 cases, the Middle East 1,18,899 deaths from 69,90,816 cases, Africa 1,15,712 deaths from 43,51,619 cases, and Oceania 1,005 deaths from 40,165 cases.

Britons enjoyed the freedoms of a pint and a haircut on Monday as months-long coronavirus curbs eased, although in South Asia record case numbers triggered tough new restrictions.

The sharp contrast in their fortunes exemplifies the mixed virus picture around the world, where fast vaccinating countries like Britain are leaving others behind.

India on Monday overtook Brazil as the country with the second-highest number of infections, after logging more than 1,68,000 new cases in a single day.

The recent, rapid increase of infections has taken the total number of cases there to 13.5 million, above Brazil’s 13.48 million.

‘The solution is for everyone to stay home for two months and end this pandemic once and for all. But the public doesn’t listen,’ said Rohit, 28, a waiter in Mumbai.

‘Nobody follows the rules in the restaurant... If we tell customers to wear masks, they are rude and disrespectful to us.’

Experts have warned that huge, mostly maskless and tightly packed crowds at political rallies, mass religious festivals and other public places have fuelled the new wave of cases.

In the Himalayan city Haridwar on Monday, maskless Hindu pilgrims squeezed shoulder-to-shoulder on the banks of the Ganges River jostling for a dip as they observed a Kumbh Mela ritual, despite the risk of infection.

Held once every three years, Kumbh Mela is often labelled the world’s largest religious gathering, but the 2021 event has posed a challenge to health officials who are struggling to enforce pandemic safety measures.

Several regions have tightened curbs on activity while Maharashtra, India’s wealthiest state and current epicentre of the country’s epidemic, imposed a weekend lockdown and night curfew.

But the government is desperate to avoid a repeat of last year’s nationwide March shutdown — one of the world’s toughest — which caused widespread human and economic misery.

English pubs and restaurants can now serve people outside, a move welcomed by the hard-hit hospitality sector despite forecasts of wintry temperatures.

‘It’ll be great to see everybody again and see all the locals,’ Louise Porter, landlady of The Crown Inn in Askrigg, northern England, said.

‘Our lives have just been turned upside down, just like everybody else’s,’ she said, adding, ‘we’re still here to tell the tale’.

Barbers, hairdressers, indoor gyms and swimming pools have also gotten the go-ahead to reopen.

Retail parks and high streets are anticipating a shopping spree, hoping that the partial reprieve after more than three months of stay-at-home orders will trigger a much-needed economic windfall.

Once the worst affected country in Europe, Britain launched a successful vaccination campaign coupled with lockdown measures that cut deaths by 95 per cent and cases by 90 per cent from January.

In France, now the continent’s worst-hit country, an expansion of the vaccine rollout on Monday has buoyed optimism among lockdown-weary residents. Everyone over 55 years old is now eligible for Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca jabs.

Even as the initially sluggish inoculation campaign ramps up, epidemiologists have cautioned against reopening schools anytime soon.

Yet in Greece, high school students were welcomed back to campus for the first time in five months on Monday. Students and teachers will be tested for COVID-19 twice per week, but the reopening has some health experts worried since the country is still in the grips of the pandemic.

The number of infections in Germany crosses the three million mark, according to figures published by the Robert Koch Institute disease control centre.

French pharmaceuticals giant Sanofi, which was beaten by competitors to a COVID-19 vaccine, says it will spend 400 million euros ($475 million) on building a new plant that can produce several vaccines at once.

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