India surge continues as France cases dip

·3-min read

India has set another global record in daily coronavirus cases while new infections in France hit a one-month low as the World Health Organisation prepares to assess three further vaccines.

India registered 386,452 new coronavirus cases on Friday, yet another global record high for infections in a single day.

The virus claimed 3498 lives in the past 24 hours, taking the death toll to 208,330, data from the federal health ministry showed.

India has logged more than 300,000 cases for the ninth straight day, registering globally record-breaking infection numbers in the worst outbreak to date.

India's vaccination drive is set to open to everyone older than 18 years from Saturday but many states said they had run out of doses.

Worst-hit major states like Maharashtra, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and the capital New Delhi said they had not been assured of adequate supplies and would not be able to start the vaccinations on Saturday.

India's financial hub of Mumbai closed vaccinations for three days from Friday citing insufficient stocks.

Arvind Kejriwal, chief minister of New Delhi, the worst-hit city, told residents not to queue up for vaccines on Saturday and said people would be informed once new stocks arrive.

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

But the pandemic crisis appears to be easing in France, where the number of people hospitalised for COVID-19 decreased on Friday for the fourth straight day and the average number of new daily infections fell to the lowest in more than a month.

These trends appeared to warrant French President Emmanuel Macron's decision to start unwinding the country's third lockdown starting from Monday.

The overall number of hospitalisations was down by 557 to 28,930 and the number of patients in intensive care wards fell by 129 to 5675.

The health ministry reported 24,299 new confirmed virus infections, taking the total to 5.6 million - the world's fourth-highest - but an increase of 3.2 per cent over last Friday was the lowest week-on-week percentage increase since the end of July 2020.

The WHO expects to release its assessments for emergency use listing of the two main Chinese vaccines for COVID-19 as well as the Moderna shot by the end of next week, WHO Assistant Director-General Mariangela Simao said on Friday.

Simao said the WHO's independent panel was assessing the Moderna vaccine and a vaccine from China's Sinopharm on Friday and was due to look at China's other main vaccine, made by Sinovac Biotech, next week.

"So, by the beginning of next week or the end of next week we will have the final assessment of these three vaccines out," she told a briefing.

WHO emergency use listing is a signal to regulators of countries that a vaccine is safe and effective and would allow those vaccines to be bought and distributed by COVAX, the international program to share vaccines for poor countries.

Simao said it was important to have more vaccines available because of supply problems for other shots, including from India, a main source of jabs for COVAX which has restricted exports because of a surge in domestic cases.

The WHO has so far given emergency use listing to three shots against COVID-19: those made by Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson.