Delhi’s main Muslim graveyard is running out of space due to COVID-related deaths, as it surpassed Mumbai to become India’s worst-hit city.
On 15 April, a stream of ambulances arrived at the Jadid Qabristan cemetery on the outskirts of Delhi, where a patch of waste ground was turned into a COVID-19 burial ground last year.
The graves now run-up to the boundary wall, with little space for more.
Head gravedigger Mohammad Shameem said he has had to turn bodies away, with space and staff at a premium.
“Yesterday there were 19 bodies, but we can only handle 15,” he said.
Hospitals are also struggling to cope under the growing strain of increased cases.
Pappu Ali, 43, contracted coronavirus and his family visited several private hospitals in the city searching for a bed. He died after being admitted to a government hospital.
“There were not enough doctors, we couldn’t even find water,” his uncle Mehboob said.
According to official figures, Delhi recorded over 17,000 cases on 14 April, while Mumbai’s highest single-day peak was 11,163 on 4 April.
India reported more than 200,000 new cases in a single day on 15 April, with hospitals reporting a shortage of beds and oxygen.
The financial hub of Mumbai, India’s largest city, has gone into lockdown, but other cities remain open despite a spike in cases.
Following the event, 30 Hindu priests tested positive for coronavirus.
Among those infected with the virus, was the leader of the All India Akhada Parishad, Mahant Narendra Giri, who has been admitted to hospital.
On Thursday night, Uttarakhand reported 2,200 cases in 24 hours – its biggest single-day spike since the pandemic began in December 2019.
As cases around the country surge, India has found itself short of vaccines and is running out of the raw materials required to make new jabs.
The AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine is locally made by the Serum Institute of India (SII) but production has been delayed by a raw material shortage.
SII’s chief executive appealed to US president Joe Biden to end the ban on raw material exports out of the US.
“Respected POTUS, if we are to truly unite in beating the virus, on behalf of the vaccine industry outside the US, I humble request you lift the embargo on raw material exports out of the US so that vaccine production can ramp up,” Adar Poonawalla said on Twitter.
Vaccination centres are rationing supplies, as the country inoculates over 45s having started its roll-out in mid-January with front line workers.
It has administered the most doses in the world, after America and China, but ranks much lower when looking at the per capita figure.
Respected @POTUS, if we are to truly unite in beating this virus, on behalf of the vaccine industry outside the U.S., I humbly request you to lift the embargo of raw material exports out of the U.S. so that vaccine production can ramp up. Your administration has the details. 🙏🙏
— Adar Poonawalla (@adarpoonawalla) April 16, 2021
The government said the country had a stock of about 30 million doses, which will be enough for 10 days.
Despite initial reluctance to use non-Indian vaccines, the government has this week given emergency authorisation to Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine to be imported this month.
It has also urged Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson to sell jabs to India.
A new Indian variant of the virus has been detected in the UK, with 74 cases detected by Public Health England.
India is not on the travel red list, so there is no requirement for hotel quarantine. Travellers returning from India are required to take two COVID-19 tests and quarantine at home for 10 days.
Boris Johnson is scheduled to visit the country at the end of April, his first major international trip since Britain’s exit from the European Union.
Asked if his planned trip to India would still go ahead later this month, a No 10 spokesman said it was still on.
But he said the programme “will be slightly shorter” and added: “As you would expect, safety is obviously important and is a priority for us on this trip, which is why we will make sure that all elements of the visit are COVID-secure.”
Two American friends jailed for life after killing of Italian police officer while teenagers | World News
A jury in Italy has sentenced two Americans to life in prison for the killing of a police officer.
The jury of two judges and six civilians deliberated for more than 12 hours before convicting Finnegan Lee Elder, 21, and Gabriel Natale Hjorth, 20.
There was a gasp in the Rome courtroom as the presiding judge read the verdict: guilty on charges of homicide, attempted extortion, assault, resisting a public official and carrying an attack-style knife without just cause.
Elder stabbed Vice Brigadier Mario Cerciello Rega 11 times on 26 July, 2019, with a knife he had brought with him from California.
Natale-Hjorth helped him hide the weapon in their hotel room and, under Italian law, an accomplice in a murder can also be charged with murder even if they did not actually kill the victim.
The death of 35-year-old Carabinieri paramilitary police officer Mr Cerciello Rega shocked Italy and he was mourned as a national hero.
His widow Rosa Maria Esilio had held a photo of him throughout the trial and cried when she heard the verdict, saying afterwards: “His integrity was defended.
“He was everyone’s son, everyone’s Carabinieri.
“He was a marvellous husband, he was a marvellous man, a servant of the state who merited respect and honour.”
Elder’s parents appeared stunned and, as he was being walked out of the court, his father called out: “Finnegan, I love you.”
His lawyer Renato Borzone said the verdict was a “disgrace for Italy”, having earlier told the court that his client had psychiatric problems, including a constant fear of being attacked.
Something had “short-circuited” when Elder was confronted by the officer, he added.
Natale-Hjorth’s lawyer, Fabio Alonzi, said he was speechless by the verdict.
Mr Cerciello Rega was a newlywed when he was sent with colleague Andrea Varriale to investigate a reported extortion attempt.
Prosecutors in Rome said Elder and Natale-Hjorth had concocted a plan involving a stolen bag and mobile phone with the aim of exchanging them for money they had lost in a failed bid to buy a small amount of cocaine.
The two young men told the court they thought the officers, both in plainclothes and without service pistols, were thugs or mobsters set on assaulting them on a dark and deserted street.
They said the officers had not showed police badges, although this was disputed by Mr Varriale during the trial.
Mr Varriale suffered a back injury while fighting with Natale-Hjorth, and Elder thrust an 18cm knife into Mr Cerciello Rega, who had bled profusely before dying later in hospital.
Both defendants said they had acted in self defence, with Elder saying Mr Cerciello Rega had been on top of him on the ground and he feared being strangled.
After the stabbing, the offenders had run to their hotel room where Natale-Hjorth said Elder had cleaned the knife and asked him to hide it.
Police found the knife hours later behind a ceiling panel in the room.
COVID-19: First nationwide data from Israel shows 95% protection from infection after two doses of Pfizer jab | World News
Two doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine can provide more than 95% protection against infection, severe illness, and death, according to the first nationwide data from Israel.
A single dose of the jab, meanwhile, is associated with 58% protection against infection, 76% against hospital admission, and 77% against death, research published in The Lancet suggests.
The study uses Israeli ministry of health data from between 24 January and 3 April this year, a time when the UK variant was responsible for most of the country’s infections.
By the end of that time period, 72% of people over 16 years and 90% of those over 65 years had received two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech jab.
For those over 16 years, the vaccine provided 96.5% protection against infection, 98% protection against hospital admissions and 98.1% protection against death, from 14 days after the second dose.
Protection for the elderly was almost as strong, with those over 85 getting 94.1% protection against infection, 96.9% against hospital admission, and 97% against death, a week after receiving their second dose.
Israel’s vaccination programme has been one of the fastest in the world, and the country went from more than 10,000 new virus cases a day in January to just a few hundred in March.
The economy has almost fully reopened and people are going to sporting and cultural events outdoors.
Lead author Dr Sharon Alroy-Preis, of the Israeli ministry of health, said: “As the country with the highest proportion of its population vaccinated against COVID-19, Israel provides a unique real-world opportunity to determine the effectiveness of the vaccine and to observe wider effects of the vaccination programme on public health.
“Until this point, no country in the world had described the national public health impact of a nationwide COVID-19 vaccination campaign.
“These insights are hugely important because, while there are still some considerable challenges to overcome, they offer real hope that COVID-19 vaccination will eventually enable us to control the pandemic.”
Jonathan Ball, professor of molecular virology at the University of Nottingham, said: “Importantly, the study shows that two doses of the vaccine significantly increase levels of immunity and protection.
“This is why it is important that people get both doses, and if UK vaccine policy changes, to get a third dose if offered in the autumn.”
Prof Ball said that as new coronavirus variants emerge, “topping up your immunity with the vaccine boost will be even more important” as the virus acquires genetic changes that may make it more resistant.
He added: “Therefore, it will be important to continue to monitor the potential impact of virus change and vaccine effectiveness.”
Dr Luis Jodar, Pfizer’s senior vice president and chief medical officer of vaccines, said more data is needed urgently about the effectiveness of the vaccine against severe disease and death, and the levels of protection it provides to elderly people.
“Research examining long-term vaccine effectiveness will ultimately play a vital role in tackling the pandemic.”
G7 ‘finds its voice again’ with China, Iran and Russia under fire at London meeting | World News
COVID scares aside, this meeting has delivered diplomatically.
Its British hosts believe the dire times we live in demand the most potent form of diplomacy, and that has to be face to face.
COVID-19 is raging across the developing world, throwing up new worrying variants; climate change poses an ever increasing threat and the whole idea of a world order dominated by likeminded democratic allies is in jeopardy.
While a maverick anti-multilateralist was in the White House, and under cover of the pandemic, the West’s rivals have made hay.
The Russians have grown increasingly menacing and meddlesome. Iran continues to hold innocent people hostage in an egregious form of hostage diplomacy. And China, where the virus was spawned, has only grown stronger in its wake, economically but also ideologically.
China offers a nightmare alternative to the free, open democratic world promoted in the West. One of Orwellian totalitarianism.
And it continues to perpetrate the genocide – or something very close to it – of an entire people and their culture in Xinjiang, just as it has smothered and crushed the same in Tibet.
All that justified the risk, say the British, of convening foreign minsters in person at last for a brisk two days of high-density diplomacy that culminated in a meaty 50-page final communique.
The impression it leaves is of a G7 finding its voice again.
It warns Russia against malign activities and cyber threats and urges Myanmar’s military regime to reverse course.
It urges Iran to release dual-national prisoners like Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori, whose family say is increasingly unwell in jail.
And it also pledges to expand COVID-19 vaccine production
But on China it was perhaps most forthright, expressing concern on its human rights abuses in Xinjiang and Tibet, condemning “the targeting of Uighurs, members of other ethnic and religious minority groups, and the existence of a large-scale network of ‘political re-education’ camps, and reports of forced labour systems and forced sterilisation”.
G7 nations say they don’t want to hold China down, but to encourage it “as a major power and economy with advanced technological capability, to participate constructively in the rules-based international system”.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told Sky News: “I think it’s more likely to need to – rather than react in anger – it’s more likely to going to need to take a look in the mirror and take into account this growing body of opinion that thinks these basic international rules have got be adhered to.”
Beijing will hate that kind of rhetoric and the criticism in the communique, but may have to brace itself for more as the G7 prepares for its summit in Cornwall with what appears to be renewed sense of diplomatic vigour.
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