Pandemic to be ‘far more deadly’ this year, warns WHO
GENEVA May 16: World health experts issued a grim warning Saturday that the second year of Covid-19 was set to be "far more deadly", as Japan extended a state of emergency amid growing calls for the Olympics to be scrapped.
"We're on track for the second year of this pandemic to be far more deadly than the first," said the World Health Organization's director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
The mood also darkened in Japan where the coronavirus state of emergency took in another three regions just 10 weeks before the Olympics, while campaigners submitted a petition with more than 350,000 signatures calling for the Games to be cancelled.
With Tokyo and other areas already under emergency orders until the end of May, Hiroshima, Okayama and northern Hokkaido, which will host the Olympic marathon, will now join them.
The move to combat a fourth wave putting Japan's medical system under strain comes with public opinion firmly opposed to holding the Games this summer.
Kenji Utsunomiya, once candidate for Tokyo governor, urged Games organisers to "prioritise life" over ceremony as he submitted the petition to capital authorities. The pandemic has killed at least 3,346,813 people worldwide since the virus first emerged in late 2019, according to an AFP tally of official data.
There was bad news for Taiwan too with the capital indefinitely closing down entertainment venues, libraries and sports centres in the wake of an outbreak of infections first detected among pilots.
The island has been a global leader in containing the pandemic, with just 1,290 confirmed cases and 12 deaths.
Taipei's decision, effective from Saturday, covers bars, dance clubs, karaoke lounges, nightclubs, saunas and Internet cafes as well as hostess clubs and teahouses. India meanwhile started deploying Russia's Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine, the first foreign-made shot to be used in the country that has been reeling from an explosion in cases and deaths.
The first token batch of Sputnik vaccines -- reportedly 150,000 doses -- arrived on May 1 and a second delivery is expected in the next few days.
A number of leading India-based drugmakers have agreements for local production of Sputnik V with the aim to produce over 850 million doses of the jab per year. India has been adding roughly as many new Covid cases daily as the rest of the world put together.
More than 260,000 Indians have died, according to official figures.
But in Europe, tourist hotspots are opening up.
Greece kickstarted its tourism season on Friday, hoping to reverse last year's miserable summer. "I hope to forget this damn Covid," said Jil Wirries, a 28-year old student from Hanover, Germany, collecting luggage on the island of Crete. "Everything is terrible in Germany... people are depressed... I'm so happy to be here." -AFP