More than a billion Covid-19 jabs have been administered worldwide, offering hope even as global cases hit a new daily record – due mainly to surging infections in India, where the government, under fire for its handling of the pandemic, has asked Twitter to take down tweets criticising its performance.
As of Saturday at least 1,002,938,540 vaccine doses had been administered in 207 countries and territories, according to an AFP tally. Nevertheless, the global number of new infections hit a record 893,000 on Friday, with India accounting for more than a third of those.
The US said on Saturday it was in high-level talks to deploy extra help to Indian healthcare workers and that it was gravely concerned about the situation there.
As it grapples with its overwhelming second wave, the Indian government asked Twitter to take down dozens of tweets, including some by local lawmakers, that were critical of its handling of the outbreak.
Twitter has withheld some of the tweets after the legal request by the Indian government, a company spokeswoman told Reuters on Saturday.
The government made an emergency order to censor the tweets, Twitter disclosed on Lumen database, a Harvard University project. In the government’s legal request, dated 23 April, 21 tweets were mentioned.
The law cited in the government’s request was the Information Technology Act 2000.
“When we receive a valid legal request, we review it under both the Twitter rules and local law,” a Twitter spokeswoman said in an emailed statement.
“If the content violates Twitter’s rules, the content will be removed from the service. If it is determined to be illegal in a particular jurisdiction, but not in violation of the Twitter rules, we may withhold access to the content in India only.”
Indian authorities announced 346,786 new cases on Saturday, a record for a single country since the start of the pandemic. India also reported 2,624 deaths, a daily record, as a surge of cases has pushed the government to organise special trains to get oxygen supplies to worst-hit cities.
One “oxygen express” carrying 30,000 litres of oxygen arrived in northern Lucknow at dawn on Saturday, where armed guards were waiting to escort trucks to hospitals.
The Indian air force is also being used to transport oxygen tankers and other supplies around the country and to bring oxygen equipment from Singapore.
Thailand, which had long avoided the worst of the virus, was also grappling with a spiralling caseload.
The prime minister, Prayut Chan-O-Cha, said on Saturday that more than 1,400 Covid-19 patients were waiting to be admitted to hospital.
The pandemic has killed more than three million people worldwide since the outbreak emerged in China in December 2019.
Brazil has seen its deadliest month yet of the virus with nearly 68,000 reported fatalities in April so far, with a week still to go.
Worldwide, the number of vaccine doses administered has doubled in less than a month. The majority of poor countries have also started to vaccinate – mainly thanks to the Covax programme – but inoculation is still largely a privilege of wealth. High-income countries, home to 16% of the world’s population, have administered 47% of vaccine doses.
By contrast, low-income countries account for just 0.2% of shots so far.
In the US, regulators have approved the restart of a rollout of Johnson & Johnson vaccines halted over blood clotting concerns.
In Europe, Belgium said on Saturday it would authorise the J&J shot for all adults, having already received 36,000 doses and expecting a total of 1.4m between April and June.
The European Union as a whole said it would have enough vaccines to immunise 70% of its adult population by the end of July.
Germany is implementing tougher new lockdown rules, including night curfews and school closures, after the government passed a disputed new law designed to slow infections.
The rules – passed this week amid huge protests in Berlin – will apply in all regions with incidence rates of more than 100 new infections per 100,000 people over the last seven days.
In Britain, ongoing restrictions are continuing to fuel anger. Police in London said they arrested five people, and eight officers were injured, after disorder at large-scale protests against England’s remaining coronavirus restrictions, the mandatory use of masks and possible introduction of so-called vaccine passports.
With Agence France-Presse and Reuters