Cyprus has confirmed its first cases of the Covid-19 variant behind the accelerating explosive epidemic in India, detected among four people quarantined on arrival, the health ministry said.
Four samples tested positive for the variant first detected in India, while two more tested positive for the variant first detected in South Africa.
The World Health Organization said last week that the B.1.617 variant of Covid-19, first found in India in October, had been detected in 44 countries.
“These people were quarantined in hotels according to protocols and taken to a center when their PCR (test) results came back positive,” the Mediterranean island’s health ministry said.
“They did not come into contact with other people,” he added.
The cases have been detected in people arriving from India, Nepal, Pakistan and the Philippines, countries subject to Cypriot rules where a 14-day quarantine is required on arrival.
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The variants are considered more dangerous because they are potentially more transmissible, fatal or able to exceed certain vaccine protections.
“The only way to curb the aggressive transmission they cause is high vaccination coverage of the population,” the ministry added.
Cyprus is ramping up its vaccination rollout, with 45% of adults having had at least one vaccine, with hopes of reaching 65% by July.
Daily reported cases climbed in April to a record 941, fueled by the more contagious UK variant, but have since declined significantly after two weeks of tightened restrictions.
Government-controlled southern Cyprus has recorded more than 71,000 cases of Covid-19 and 348 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
Meanwhile, Parisians have returned to cafe terraces and museums after a six-month hiatus forced by Covid, a glimmer of normal life resuming but India grappling with a record daily number of coronavirus deaths.
As health workers administered the 1.5 billionth dose of the Covid-19 vaccine around the world, Europeans and Americans continued to evade months of restrictions.
In recent days, Britons have hugged loved ones and visited pubs, gyms and other indoor venues.
Italy eased curfews, Dutch music fans prepared for the Eurovision Song Contest, and Portugal welcomed returning tourists.
In New York City – one of the virus’ earliest epicenter – rules requiring masks and social distancing are also expected to be relaxed, though some residents remain cautious of a disease that has disrupted life in almost every corner of the globe.
Manhattan restaurant manager Juan Rosas plans to always require masks, even for vaccinated customers.
“I think it’s too early,” he said. “I think they rushed the decision.”
In Paris, the terraces and rooftop gardens that define the city for many visitors have been reserved for the return of alfresco dining throughout France, with some remaining restrictions.
“Like a diesel engine, we’re going to warm up slowly,” bistro owner Stephanie Mathey said.
The City of Lights museums, cinemas and theaters are also reopening in anticipation of a large-scale unlocking of the economy on June 30.
“We are happy to be able to welcome you again,” wrote staff at the Louvre, the world’s most visited museum, on its website, where demand for tickets to a Renaissance sculpture show was high.
The restart of European community life is fueled by the acceleration of vaccination programs, after more than a year of fighting a pandemic known to have killed nearly 3.4 million people worldwide.
According to an AFP count, more than 1.5 billion doses of the vaccine have now been administered in 210 countries and territories.
Almost three-fifths of the total went to three countries: China (421.9 million), the United States (274.4 million) and India (184.4 million).
In Israel, nearly six in 10 residents have been fully vaccinated, while 32% of Europeans have received a dose.
Only 11 countries have yet to deploy vaccines.
The Serum Institute of India – the world’s largest vaccine maker – said yesterday it hopes to resume exports by the end of the year, reopening a vital supply line to many poorer countries.
India’s fragile healthcare system is grappling with a coronavirus outbreak that has killed 283,248 people, including a record 4,529 in the past 24 hours.
Experts say the real toll is likely much higher.
The latest wave ravaged India for six weeks, feeding on shortages of hospital beds, oxygen and critical drugs.
The country was in the throes of a double crisis today, as at least 33 people were killed and more than 90 missing after a monster cyclone hit its west coast.
Hundreds of thousands of people were without power after the storm hit the state of Gujarat on Monday evening and 200,000 people living in dangerous areas were evacuated from their homes.
In the city of Mumbai, authorities were forced to move around 600 Covid-19 patients from field hospitals “to safer places” and vaccinations were briefly suspended.
Taiwan raised its Covid-19 alert level for the entire island as national cases continued to rise, with an additional 267 new cases.
The capital Taipei is already under a higher alert level, which means restrictions on gatherings and the closure of some non-essential shops and entertainment venues.
Most in Tokyo Olympic Village will be vaccinated by the Games – IOC chief
At least three-quarters of athletes and team members staying at the Tokyo Olympic Village will be vaccinated by the Games, said International Olympic Committee chief Thomas Bach.
“At the moment, up to 75% of the inhabitants of the Olympic Village are already vaccinated or were vaccinated in time before the Olympic Games,” he said at a meeting of Olympic officials.
“But our efforts do not stop there. We have good reason to believe that this figure will be well above 80%,” he added, speaking at a meeting of the coordination committee of Olympic and Japanese officials.
Mr Bach also said the IOC was ready to bring additional medical staff to the Games as organizers face controversy in Japan over whether the event will further expand the country’s health system during the pandemic. .
“The IOC proposed to the Organizing Committee to have additional medical staff within the framework of the NOC (National Olympic Committee) delegations”, said Mr. Bach.
The additional staff “would support medical operations and the strict enforcement of Covid-19 countermeasures in the Olympic Village and Olympic venues,” he added.
He did not give any details on how many people could be involved, but the offer seemed intended to respond to persistent criticism that Japanese medical facilities cannot cope with the added pressure created by the Games.
Tokyo 2020 chief Seiko Hashimoto said organizers would accept the offer, adding that vaccinating participants “would be of great help in running a safe and secure Games.”
Just 10 weeks before the Games open, polls still show that most Japanese people want the event postponed or canceled.
Japan is grappling with a new wave of coronavirus infections and its own vaccine rollout has been criticized as being slow.
But Games organizers say strict countermeasures, including the first-ever ban on foreign spectators, will keep the event safe.