May 7 coronavirus news

By Joshua Berlinger, Brad Lendon, Aditi Sangal and Angela Dewan, CNN

Updated 0604 GMT (1404 HKT) May 10, 2021
14 Posts
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9:26 a.m. ET, May 7, 2021

Germany will relax restrictions for the fully vaccinated as the end of its third wave comes in sight

From Nadine Schmidt, Colin Ivory Meyer and Stephanie Halasz

Empty tables and chairs are cordoned off outside a downtown restaurant during the lockdown in Chemnitz, Germany on May 6.
Empty tables and chairs are cordoned off outside a downtown restaurant during the lockdown in Chemnitz, Germany on May 6. Bodo Schackow/dpa/AP

Germany's third wave of the coronavirus pandemic appears to be coming to an end, the German health minister said Friday.

''The trend of recent weeks has shown that the third wave appears to be over,'' Jens Spahn said at a weekly health briefing, while adding a warning that while the infection numbers are increasing, they are "still at a very high level.”

The country's social distancing measures as well as the accelerating vaccination campaign were contributing factors for this trend, Spahn added.

Germany's infection rate has fallen to under 126 cases per 100,000 residents in seven days, he said.

The incidence rate of coronavirus infections was falling across all age groups, Lothar Wieler, the head of Germany's infectious disease agency Robert Koch Institute.

“The current development with decreasing infection numbers, slowly decreasing numbers of Covid patients in the intensive care units and the accelerating vaccination campaign is very positive and it gives hope that we will control the pandemic soon," he said.

Meanwhile, a new legislation in Germany will come into force this weekend, allowing more freedoms for the fully vaccinated and those who have recovered from Covid-19.

These groups will no longer need a negative test if they want to go shopping, to the hairdresser or visit a botanical garden. Vaccinated people will also be allowed to meet in private without restrictions. Quarantining after traveling abroad will not be mandatory if fully inoculated, with a few regional exceptions.

The government said it is not about granting privileges but reinstating constitutional rights, however, the regulation's opponents fear that it may create a two-class society.

Following a shaky start, Germany has sped up its vaccination program. Nearly 31% people have received a first dose of coronavirus vaccine and nearly 9% are fully vaccinated, the Robert Koch Institute said.

Earlier this week, Spahn said that the government is working to provide a digital vaccination card to those who have been inoculated by the end of June at the latest.   

8:26 a.m. ET, May 7, 2021

There are so many funeral pyres in India, some workers are reporting wood shortages

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

Wood is brought in for the cremation of Covid-19 victims at Sector 94 crematorium, on May 4 in Noida, India.
Wood is brought in for the cremation of Covid-19 victims at Sector 94 crematorium, on May 4 in Noida, India. Sunil Ghosh/Hindustan Times/Getty Images

Crematoriums in India are reporting wood shortages for funeral pyres as they struggle to deal with the deluge of bodies. 

Cremations start before dawn as workers clear out the embers from the night before, CNN’s Chief International Correspondent Clarissa Ward reports from Varanasi, one of the holiest cities in the country.

There are 100 to 150 bodies per day coming to the crematorium in Varanasi, a worker, whose family has worked there for generations, tells Ward.

The government has been criticized for its response to the crisis and for undercounting death numbers.

The city’s main crematorium has been so overwhelmed that it has set up a makeshift one on the banks of the Ganges river. In the two hours that Ward and the CNN team spent there, seven bodies were brought in. 

A wood merchant says demand is four times higher than usual and that their three main suppliers ran out of wood. 

Ward told CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta that the lockdowns in India’s cities are not comparable to those seen in New York or London. 

“In Varanasi, for example, markets can be open every day until about 11:00 a.m. and the streets are busy during those hours. There was also a wedding in our hotel last night,” she said. 

“And on the streets of Delhi…it's just not realistic. If you can't get oxygen for your loved ones and you have to go wait in a line for 10 hours sometimes, then you're not in the position to have the luxury of social distancing. This is a fight for survival, and terms like lockdown and social distancing just don't really apply when you're in that kind of situation and you're desperately trying to source things to save the lives of your loved ones,” Ward added. 

Watch Ward's reporting:

8:07 a.m. ET, May 7, 2021

Pfizer/BioNTech initiates full FDA approval for their Covid-19 vaccine

Lauren Mascarenhas and Jessica Firger

Pfizer/BioNTech has initiated its application to the US Food and Drug Administration for full FDA approval of its Covid-19 vaccine for people ages 16 and older, the companies said Friday.

This is the first Covid-19 vaccine in the United States to be assessed for full approval from the FDA. 

Pfizer's mRNA two-shot vaccine is currently being used in the US under emergency use authorization (EUA) from the FDA. The companies say 170 million doses of the vaccine have been distributed across the US to date.

"We are proud of the tremendous progress we've made since December in delivering vaccines to millions of Americans, in collaboration with the U.S. Government," Albert Bourla, chairman and chief executive officer of Pfizer, said in a statement. "We look forward to working with the FDA to complete this rolling submission and support their review, with the goal of securing full regulatory approval of the vaccine in the coming months."

To apply, the FDA requires vaccine manufacturers submit data on manufacturing processes, facilities, and additional information that demonstrates that the vaccine can be produced reliably and consistently. They are also required to submit all pre-clinical and clinical trial data. 

Pfizer/BioNTech will submit that information to the FDA over the next few weeks on a rolling basis. Once all the required information is submitted, a goal date will be set for a decision by the FDA. Pfizer/BioNTech has requested priority review, which asks the FDA to take action within 6 months, compared to the 10 months designated under standard review.

Read the full story here.

7:09 a.m. ET, May 7, 2021

Under 40s in UK to be given alternative vaccine to AstraZeneca when possible         

From CNN's Lindsay Isaac

People under the age of 40 in the UK will be given an alternative vaccine to AstraZeneca when possible, authorities said Friday, following reports of 242 cases of a very rare blood clotting condition in the country.

The decision by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) follows an April decision to offer a preference of vaccines to people under age 30, as the condition appears to affect younger adults.

In its updated advice the JCVI has determined that people aged 30-39 "should be preferentially offered an alternative to the AstraZeneca vaccine when possible and as long as there is no delay to getting the vaccine,” Prof Wei Shen Lim of JCVI said in a press conference.

“The benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine against Covid-19 continue to outweigh the risks for the vast majority of people,” he said, adding the benefit is “more finely balanced for young people and that evidence should be taken into consideration.”

“The chances of a younger person becoming seriously ill with COVID-19 get smaller as infection rates increasingly come under control in the UK.”

In a statement Public Health England said: “Up to 28 April 2021, the MHRA had received 242 reports of blood clotting cases in people who also had low levels of platelets in the UK, following the use of Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine. These numbers are very small compared to the millions of people who have received the vaccine. The overall incidence of case reports of thromboembolic events with low platelets after first or unknown doses was 10.5 per million doses.”

The majority of these extremely rare events occurred after the first dose, it adds. People who have already had a first dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine should receive a second dose of the same jab, irrespective of age, except for the very small number of people who experienced blood clots with low platelet counts from their first vaccination.

6:18 a.m. ET, May 7, 2021

Here's how the pandemic has affected India

From CNN's Byron Manley, Krystina Sveda, Henrik Pettersson and Aditi Sangal

Delhi, Goa and Lakshwadeep are among the worst affected states and union territories in India. They are all reporting more than one new Covid-19 case per 1,000 people per day. That's 10 times the global average of one in 10,000.

Here's what's going on and where.

5:23 a.m. ET, May 7, 2021

Coronavirus positivity rate climbs to over 50% in India's Goa after rise in tourist arrivals

From Manveena Suri in New Delhi

The positivity rate of Covid-19 cases in the Indian state of Goa has risen to 51.4%, Goa's health minister, Vishwajit P. Rane, told CNN, linking a spike in infections to holidaymakers and lax Covid restrictions.

The state, famous with tourists for its beaches, reported 3,869 new cases on Thursday, and is one of many parts of the country struggling to slow down a devastating second wave of the virus. Goa's total number of cases stands at 108,267, including 1,501 deaths.

Rane attributed the spike to a combination of lax restrictions and an influx of domestic tourists from the start of Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, in November up until February.

“As you are aware, there were no restrictions of any kind and that is something we should have looked into at that point of time," he told CNN.

"Goa was one of the most favored destinations and people used to come and we found that people were not following the SOPs and protocols."

He added:

“Everybody was taking things for granted. No one was following social distancing. Masks are something that you cannot do away with. I’ve also said (on Twitter) that super-spreader events should be stopped … Sometimes you feel if things had been implemented at that point of time, we would not have had this situation.”

Authorities are now "seriously considering" a lockdown, Rane said.

“That is the need of the hour. If we aren’t able to put in more stringent measures, we won’t be able to slow down the spread of the virus and there will be too much pressure on the health system, which is already overloaded," he told CNN on Friday.

Goa imposed a four-day lockdown on April 29, according to CNN affiliate News18. After the lockdown lifted on May 3, non-essential business have been ordered to remain closed and political and social gatherings are also banned.

4:32 a.m. ET, May 7, 2021

Indonesian authorities have uncovered an alleged illegal Covid-19 test kit business

From journalist Masrur Jamaluddin in Jakarta

Indonesian authorities have charged a 34-year-old suspect with running a months-long illegal Covid-19 testing scam, authorities said.

The business purportedly sold thousands of unapproved test kits in recent months, according to Grand Commissioner Iskandar Fitriana Sutisna, a spoksman for the Central Java Province Police, raking in $200,000 in sales and about $70,000 in profit.

Police were tipped off to the alleged scheme by a former customer, who told authorities that he received a suspicious testing kit. Undercover officers then bought testing kits from the business that turned out not to have the proper labels -- a crime under Indonesian law.

Iskandar said the investigation led them to a warehouse, where they seized 450 boxes that each contained about 25 test kits, all of which appeared to be mislabeled with four different brands. The police also found thousands of sticks for doing swab tests.

The suspected admitted he had bought the falsified goods, authorities said. He faces a maximum penalty of 15 years of imprisonment and a $140,000 fine.

This is the second suspected scam related to Covid-19 tests Indonesian authorities have revealed in recent days.

Five employees for major Indonesian pharmaceutical company Kimia Farma were arrested on April 27 for allegedly washing and repackaging rapid antigen nasal swab kits to reuse them on passengers at the Kualanamu International Airport in Medan, North Sumatra.

4:10 a.m. ET, May 7, 2021

Forecast predicts 185 million Americans will be vaccinated against coronavirus by September, but warns of potential winter surge

From CNN Health’s Lauren Mascarenhas

A woman receives her first dose of the Pfizer vaccine at Ripken Baseball in Aberdeen, Maryland, on May 05.
A woman receives her first dose of the Pfizer vaccine at Ripken Baseball in Aberdeen, Maryland, on May 05. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

A coronavirus forecast released Thursday by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington (IHME) projects 185 million Americans will be vaccinated against coronavirus by September, but warns vaccine hesitancy could contribute to a potential winter surge.

The IHME model projects daily deaths from Covid-19 will decline, resulting in 948,859 Americans dead from coronavirus by September. That scenario accounts for continued spread of the B.1.1.7 virus variant, the one first detected in the UK, in the US and a scale up of vaccination efforts over the next 90 days.  

The team recently changed its modeling methodology to account for underreporting of Covid-19 deaths, resulting in higher death estimates than previous forecasts.

The IHME team says it expects over 70% of Americans will receive at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine by the end of May, and 65% will be fully vaccinated by mid-June. President Joe Biden announced a plan Tuesday to administer at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine to 70% of the nation’s adult population by July 4.

“After those points, further increases will be limited by demand,” the team said.

There is the potential for a winter surge, the team said. It largely depends on how many more Americans get vaccinated and whether vaccines prove effective against virus variants.

The coronavirus surge in India, linked to the B.1.617 virus variant, has proven that under certain circumstances, virus transmission can “rapidly and explosively” rise, IHME notes. 

In a worst-case scenario, in which vaccinated people revert to pre-pandemic levels of mobility, the model estimates 984,950 US Covid-19 deaths by September. If 95% of Americans started wearing masks, the model projects 939,122 deaths by that time.

Deaths likely undercounted: An IHME analysis also found it's likely that the actual death toll from Covid-19 is likely 6.9 million, more than double the 3.2 million deaths that have been officially reported.

The institute said fatalities were likely “significantly underreported in almost every country” due to a combination of factors, including varied testing capacity to confirm Covid-19 cases and deaths and deaths among older individuals that went unrecorded early in the pandemic, particularly among those in long-term care facilities in high-income countries. 

Most of the underreporting is “unintentional,” Dr. Christopher Murray, director of IHME, said in a news briefing Thursday.

“Part of it is just lack of testing and part of it is health care systems just under pressure.”
 

The United States has reported more deaths than any other country, and the updated IHME analysis estimates the actual number of Covid-19 deaths in the US to be more than 905,000 -- about 58% higher than the reported count of about 574,000. The new analysis estimates the Covid-19 death toll in the US to rise to 949,000 by September. 

 

3:05 a.m. ET, May 7, 2021

Unaccompanied minors among Australian citizens trapped in India by travel ban

From CNN’s Angus Watson in Sydney

At least 173 unaccompanied minors are among more than 900 vulnerable Australian citizens trapped in India by their government’s ban on arrivals from the country, authorities said.

“In our database we have 173 clients registered as under 18 in India outside a family group, that is they are on their own and are seeking to return to Australia,” Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade official Lynette Wood told a Senate inquiry Friday. 

The Australian government currently bars anyone from entering Australia if they have been in India over the past 14 days. 

The ban came into effect on May 3 and will last until May 15.

The Australian government has said it will facilitate at least three flights to repatriate Australians in India between May 15 and 31. 

Vulnerable Australians will be prioritized for those flights, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Friday.

There are at least 9,000 Australian citizens in India who registered with the government that they would like to return home.