Covid death toll in India reaches 400,000

India becomes the third country to pass 400,000 deaths from Covid-19, official data showed yesterday, as

The highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus surged through Asia this week, prompting some countries to tighten restrictions and others to speed up vaccinations.

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India says its total death toll is now 400,312 – behind only the United States and Brazil – with a total of nearly 30.5 million cases.

Many experts put the true death toll in India at more than a million, after a devastating spike in cases in April and May that flooded hospitals.

The spike was blamed on the Delta variant and the government’s complacency after Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared victory over the virus in January.

The number of daily cases has since fallen significantly and many activity restrictions have been lifted, raising fears of a new spike in the coming months.

The government aims to vaccinate all 1.1 billion adults in the country this year. But due to shortages, administrative confusion, and hesitancy, only about five percent have so far had two doses.

On June 21 the government tried to kickstart efforts by making the vaccine free for all adults, leading to a surge in demand with more than nine million injections given in a day.

The daily inoculation rate has since slowed again, however, averaging more than four million a day over the past week, according to government figures.

Meanwhile, Johnson and Johnson on Thursday said the single-shot Covid-19 vaccine was effective against the Delta variant, with an immune response lasting at least eight months.

Antibodies and immune system cells in the blood of eight people vaccinated with the J&J jab effectively neutralized the Delta strain, the researchers found. A second study with 20 vaccinated patients at Boston’s Beth Israel Medical Center had similar results.

The highly contagious variant has hit Asia this week, with record numbers of infections in Australia and South Korea, prompting some countries to tighten restrictions and others to speed up vaccinations.

This variant has spread to about 100 countries and the World Health Organization recently warned that it could soon become the dominant form of the virus. It has also prompted a spike in cases in Japan, making this month’s Olympic event grim.

Australia, like several other countries in Asia, has struggled to inject people as early successes in containing the pandemic led to vaccine doubts, and manufacturers were slow to deliver doses.

Australia has fully vaccinated only 6% of its population, while Japan has vaccinated 12%.

Japan reported on Wednesday that the Delta variant now accounts for nearly a third of all cases in the eastern part of the country, including Tokyo, and it could grow to 50% by mid-July.

In South Korea, officials yesterday said daily coronavirus cases hit 800, the highest in nearly six months, with vaccinations below 10%. The country’s average number of new infections has risen for the 10th day in a row, and authorities in Seoul have suspended relaxing social distancing measures.

Indonesia, the world’s fourth most populous country, has imposed emergency measures starting today. It will last until July 20 to contain the spike in cases.

In Myanmar, authorities imposed stay-at-home measures in the country’s second city yesterday as coronavirus cases in the coup-torn country soared, with many health workers on strike to protest the junta.

Residents of Mandalay, as well as two townships in the southern Bago region, are aware of new restrictions barring more than one person from leaving their homes for non-medical reasons.

No time frame was given for the new rules, which were announced by the health and sports ministry’s State Administration Council – as the junta calls itself.

The United States has also seen an increase in infections of the Delta variant in parts of the country where vaccination rates remain low, and the White House said Thursday it would send special assistance to those hot spots.

Europe is also battling an increase in infections, which the WHO says have seen crowds at Euro 2020 football stadiums. It has warned that a new wave is inevitable if people do not stay disciplined.

The UK is set to lift lockdown restrictions on July 19, even as cases of the Delta variant rise. Germany said on Thursday it expected the variant to cause up to 80% of infections this month and Portugal imposed a curfew.

Meanwhile Russia yesterday said it would not impose a new lockdown despite reporting a record number of coronavirus deaths for the fourth day in a row.

The government tally showed 679 pandemic-related deaths in the previous 24 hours, as Russia battled a surging outbreak driven by the highly contagious Delta variant and exacerbated by sluggish vaccination efforts.

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