India reported 368,147 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, the 12th consecutive day the South Asian nation has recorded at least 300,000 cases of the disease.
While India is home to the Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, only 2% of the country’s 1.3 billion people have been vaccinated, according to local reports.
“I don’t think even God could have forecast it was going to get this bad,” Adar Poonawalla, CEO of the Serum Institute of India, told Britain’s newspaper The Sunday Times.
After scathing criticism about his comments during the interview with the newspaper, the 40-year-old billionaire said he was cutting the vaccine’s price and said that move would enable countries to obtain “more vaccinations and save countless lives.”
The United Nations said Monday it is working in India to fight misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines, as well as how the disease is spread. Spokesman Stephane Dujarric said a U.N. team is working with community radio stations across the country to reach more than 17 million people in rural areas about the importance of vaccines and how to prevent coronavirus infection.
The U.S. Defense Department said Monday that it had sent two planeloads of COVID-19 supplies to India and that an additional two flights were set to depart on Wednesday.
Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said the aircraft are delivering critical supplies, including “oxygen generation capabilities and personal protective equipment.”
The U.S. Transportation Command said on its Twitter account that the supplies delivered over the weekend included more than a million each of N95 masks and rapid diagnostic kits as well as more than 440 oxygen cylinders.
In Japan, a request from Tokyo’s Olympics Committee to the Japanese Nursing Association for 500 volunteers for the upcoming Summer Games prompted nurses to express their displeasure with the request on social media.
Susumu Morita, the secretary-general of the Japan Federation of Medical Workers’ Unions, said in a statement, “We must stop the proposal to send nurses who are engaged in the fight against a serious coronavirus pandemic to volunteer at the Olympics.”
Japan has recorded more than 600,000 COVID-19 cases, according to Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, and is currently experiencing a surge.
Also Monday, the European Commission, the European Union’s executive branch, recommended that the bloc’s 27 member states allow entry to fully vaccinated travelers who have received an EU- approved vaccine.
Travel to the EU is currently extremely limited except for a handful of countries with low infection rates, including Australia, New Zealand and South Korea.
In the United States, the seven-day average of new cases per day fell below 50,000 for the first time since October, and air traffic hit its highest level since the pandemic began, with nearly 1.67 million people screened at U.S. airports on Sunday.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is expected to authorize Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine for adolescents next week, according to The Associated Press. The news agency cited anonymous officials familiar with the process who said the FDA was expected to expand its emergency use authorization for Pfizer's two-dose vaccine by early next week to youths ages 12-15. The vaccine is already approved for those 16 and older.
In March, Pfizer released preliminary results from a vaccine trial involving adolescents. The trial showed that none of the fully vaccinated adolescents acquired COVID-19 or experienced serious side effects.
New York state Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Monday that all state-enforced COVID-19-related capacity limits on retail businesses will be lifted May 19. Calling it a “smart reopening,” Cuomo said he was removing the restrictions in coordination with the neighboring state of New Jersey, just as the two states coordinated their lockdowns about 14 months ago.
President Joe Biden’s chief of staff, Ron Klain, told CBS’s “Face the Nation” TV show Sunday, “We are rushing aid to India.” However, the U.S. is also taking new measures to prevent the spread of the virus. The White House said Friday that starting Tuesday, the U.S. will stop incoming flights from India.
Australia is also banning flights from India. Australians who enter the country after traveling to India could face a fine and incarceration.
Indonesian Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin said two COVID-19 variants have entered the country — one from India and the other from South Africa.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is advising travelers to “avoid all travel to Indonesia,” saying “even fully vaccinated travelers may be at risk for getting and spreading COVID-19 variants.”
The Johns Hopkins center reported early Monday 153 million global COVID cases. The U.S. tops the list with 32.4 million infections, followed by India with nearly 20 million and Brazil with 14.8 million.
VOA's Jeff Seldin and Carla Babb contributed to this report.