Health News Roundup: COVID-19 infections surge in Nepal; Italy tiptoes towards post-COVID normality and more

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Following is a summary of current health news briefs.

What you need to know about the coronavirus right now

Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus right now: Indian hospitals swamped

Exclusive-India’s federal government won’t import vaccines, leaving it to states -sources

India’s government has decided to leave the import of COVID-19 vaccines to state authorities and companies, two government officials told Reuters, a decision that may slow acquisitions of shots as a second wave of the pandemic rips through the country. They said Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government would instead aim to support domestic vaccine makers by guaranteeing purchases from them. The government this month paid Indian producers in advance, for the first time, for vaccine doses.

COVID-19 infections surge in Nepal, fueled by mutant strains from India

Authorities in Nepal were grappling to contain the rapid rise of COVID-19 cases with experts fearing that thousands of people in the Himalayan state have caught the more infectious mutant strains emerging out of India. Nepal, which shares a long porous border with India, reported 3,032 new infections on Sunday, the highest daily surge recorded this year. It took the total caseload since the pandemic first struck Nepal to 300,119, and there have so far been 3,164 deaths, according to government data.

India sends army to help hospitals hit by COVID-19 as countries promise aid

India ordered its armed forces on Monday to help tackle surging new coronavirus infections that are overwhelming hospitals, as countries including Britain, Germany, and the United States pledged to send urgent medical aid. In a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat said oxygen would be released to hospitals from armed forces reserves and retired medical military personnel would join COVID-19 health facilities. And where possible, military medical infrastructure will be made available to civilians, a government statement said, as new coronavirus infections hit a record peak for the fifth day.

EU sues AstraZeneca over delayed deliveries of COVID-19 vaccine

The European Commission said on Monday it had launched legal action against AstraZeneca for not respecting its contract for the supply of COVID-19 vaccines and for not having a “reliable” plan to ensure timely deliveries. AstraZeneca said in response that the legal action by the EU was without merit and pledged to defend itself strongly in court.

Italy tiptoes towards post-COVID normality

Italy inched forward towards normality on Monday as coffee bars, restaurants, cinemas, and theatres reopened in most regions as part of a phased springtime relaxation of COVID lockdowns. “Finally!” said Lorenzo Campania, an elderly man from a small village near Rome, as he had breakfast seated at an outdoor table near the capital’s central Piazza Venezia.

Moderna vaccine to be reviewed for WHO emergency listing on April 30 – WHO spokesman

Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine will be reviewed on April 30 by technical experts for possible WHO emergency-use listing, a World Health Organization spokesman told Reuters. “We are discussing the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine on Friday…,” WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier said in reply to a query. A decision on the U.S. drugmaker’s vaccine, now being evaluated under the abridged procedure on the basis of prior review by the European Medicines Agency, was expected in one to four days after that, Lindmeier said.

Important to get U.S. vaccine help along border, Mexican official says

Mexico is ramping up requests for more COVID-19 shots from the United States, and in the coming days may ask for assistance vaccinating people along the countries’ shared border, the Mexican government official in charge of vaccine diplomacy said. Mexico has received 2.7 million doses of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine from the United States, but has not made progress on accessing larger U.S. stocks, deputy foreign minister for multilateral affairs Martha Delgado said in an interview with Reuters late last week.

Latin America’s vaccine shortage threatens fragile revival as pandemic rages

Latin Americans, hard-hit by the coronavirus pandemic, are struggling to get vaccinated, a threat to the region’s fragile economic recovery as lockdowns tighten amid a dangerous surge of infections and rising death tolls. The region of some 660 million people has recorded almost 30% of the world’s 3.2 million COVID-19 deaths to date, despite being home to just 8% of the world’s population. While countries in Africa and Asia also lag behind Europe and North America on inoculations, health experts say Latin America’s need for vaccines is the most urgent.

French primary pupils return to school despite high COVID numbers

France sent primary and nursery pupils back to school on Monday, the first phase of reopening after a three-week COVID-19 lockdown, even as daily new infections remained stubbornly high.

President Emmanuel Macron said a return to school would help fight social inequality, allowing parents who struggle to pay for childcare to get back to work, but trade unions warned that new infections would lead to a “torrent” of classroom closures.

(With inputs from agencies.)

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