France to open as India cases hit new high

·3-min read

India has registered another world record number of daily coronavirus infections as French authorities charted a way out of the country's third COVID-19 lockdown.

India reported 379,257 new infections and 3645 new deaths on Thursday, health ministry data showed, the highest number of cases and fatalities in a single day since the start of the pandemic.

From May, all adults in India are to be able to get vaccinated.

When people were able to register online from Wednesday, the rush was so great that the servers of the registration website were overloaded at times, Indian media and many Twitter users reported.

Initially, vaccinations are to be available only after online registration.

But vaccines in India are in short supply given the large population of more than 1.3 billion - even though India produces vaccines en masse and is known as the "pharmacy of the world".

So far, less than 10 per cent of people have received at least one vaccine dose.

The fierce second wave has not been helped by huge religious festivals and election campaign events in recent weeks as well as a virus variant which is slightly more infectious and resilient to immunity, according to German virologist Christian Drosten.

The total number of infections has risen to more than 18 million in the country.

In addition, a total of more than 200,000 people have died in connection with the coronavirus in India since the pandemic began.

According to the World Health Organisation, 38 per cent of the coronavirus cases reported worldwide last week were from India.

Meanwhile, France will start relaxing a nightly curfew and allow cafes, bars and restaurants to offer outside service from May 19.

President Emmanuel Macron, who is under pressure from business groups and a weary public to open up the economy again, announced in an interview with regional newspapers a four-phase plan for unwinding France's month-long stay-at-home order.

The easing will come despite the numbers of new daily cases and COVID-19 patients being treated in intensive care being far higher than when the two previous lockdowns were rolled back.

Macron said the vaccine roll-out made this possible.

"I have never gambled on the health and safety of our citizens," Macron said.

"I take responsibility for the choices I make but these are never bets."

The plan envisages the nightly curfew being pushed back to 9pm from 7pm starting on May 19 and to 11pm from June 9 before being scrapped completely on June 30.

Museums, cinemas and theatres will also be allowed to reopen on May 19.

Foreign tourists with a "health pass" will be allowed to visit France again from June 9, according to the timetable published by Ouest France and other newspapers.

The timetable is provisional and could be delayed on a region-by-region basis in areas where intensive care units are close to saturation or the COVID-19 incidence rate exceeds 400 cases per 100,000 inhabitants.

"We will be able to pull an emergency brake in territories where the virus is too present," Macron said.

France's main COVID-19 indicators all showed some signs of improvement on Wednesday, with the seven-day moving average of daily new infections falling to 27,366 compared with 38,000 when the lockdown began.

France has recorded 5.57 million COVID-19 cases and 103,947 deaths since the start of the pandemic.