Covid wrap | Over 4 000 deaths in India for 2nd day, Muslims celebrate Eid al-Fitr amid restrictions

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  • India recorded more than 4 000 Covid-19 deaths for a second day in a row on Thursday, while infections stayed below 400 000 for a fourth day, as experts remain unsure when numbers will peak.
  • A survey conducted between February and March 2021 revealed that students, employed or retired people were less vaccine hesitant than average, while 39% of unemployed people or those with a long-term disease of disability were more hesitant.
  • People across Asia celebrated Eid al-Fitr with masks and prayers, but in many places Covid-19 restrictions were in place to limit the joyous mass gatherings and family reunions that usually mark the Muslim holiday.

More than 4 000 Indians die of Covid-19 for second straight day

India recorded more than 4 000 Covid-19 deaths for a second straight day on Thursday, while infections stayed below 400 000 for a fourth day, though the virus has become rampant in rural areas where cases can go unreported due to a lack of testing.

Experts remain unsure when numbers will peak and concern is growing about the transmissibility of the variant that is driving infections in India and spreading worldwide.

Bhramar Mukherjee, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan, said most models had predicted a peak this week and that the country could be seeing signs of that trend.

Still, the number of new cases each day is large enough to overwhelm hospitals, she said on Twitter. "The key word is cautious optimism."


Masked and restricted by Covid-19, Muslims celebrate Eid al-Fitr             

People across Asia celebrated Eid al-Fitr with masks and prayers, but in many places Covid-19 restrictions were in place to limit the joyous mass gatherings and family reunions that usually mark the Muslim holiday.

In Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim-majority country, the faithful wore masks as they arrived at the Dian Al-Mahri mosque in Depok, a city to the south of Indonesian capital Jakarta, and they sanitised their hands before going in.

At the entrance, a poster outlining six steps recommended by the World Health Organisation to prevent the spread of Covid-19 served as a stern reminder of the danger in a country that has the highest number of cases and deaths in Southeast Asia.

"(We are) very lucky that we can pray together this year, when we couldn't do it last year," said Tri Haryati Ningsih, 53.

From Indonesia to Pakistan, governments have imposed restrictions to contain the spread of the virus during Eid, which marks the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.


New Zealand exploring quarantine-free travel with other countries, says PM Ardern             

New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Thursday that her government is exploring opportunities for quarantine-free travel with other nations, as she laid down the course for the nation's re-opening from the pandemic lockdown.

Ardern said in a pre-budget speech in Auckland:

I feel optimistic about the remainder of 2021 and beyond. I feel confident in our plan and approach and heartened by economic indicators.

Ardern said she will lead a trade and promotional delegation to Australia in early July, and will also look to lead delegations into Europe, the United States, China and the wider Asia-Pacific.


Thailand reports record infections

Thailand announced a daily record in new cases on Thursday after nearly 3 000 inmates in two jails were infected, among them a leader of anti-government protests held while awaiting trial for insulting the king.

Authorities reported 32 Covid-19 deaths and a record 4 887 infections after 2 835 prisoners were added to the tally following the mass testing of thousands of inmates in two Bangkok jails.

A corrections department official said those infected included Panupong "Mike Rayon" Jadnok, 24, who has been held since March 8 on charges that include sedition and insulting King Maha Vajiralongkorn.


Singapore reports most Covid-19 cases in 8 months amid airport cluster

Singapore's health ministry on Thursday reported 24 locally transmitted Covid-19 cases, the highest daily number since mid-September, with 17 of the fresh cases linked to a cluster at Changi Airport.

Authorities had started testing all workers at the airport a few days ago after detecting the cluster. They have also restricted access to terminals to only passengers with tickets and essential workers for two weeks from Thursday.

Following months of reporting few new local cases, infections in Singapore have been climbing, prompting authorities to tighten social distancing rules from last week.

As of Wednesday, the number of unlinked cases in the community increased to 12 in the past week from seven in the week before, according to a health ministry statement.

Though Singapore's daily cases are only a fraction of the numbers being reported among its Southeast Asian neighbours, a jump in infections would be a setback for the Asian business hub, which has successfully contained its earlier outbreaks.


Over a quarter of EU adults would refuse Covid-19 shot, survey says     

More than a quarter of adults in the European Union would be unlikely to take the Covid-19 vaccine when it was offered to them, a survey published on Thursday showed.

The results also suggested a strong link between vaccine hesitancy and the use of social media, particularly where social media is the main source of information, according to Eurofound which carried out the survey.

Daphne Ahrendt, Eurofound senior research manager, said:

Unfortunately, these findings reflect a failure to deliver persuasive and clear communication regarding the efficacy and safety of vaccines.

Bulgarians were the most reluctant to get the vaccine, with 67% of adults saying they were unlikely or very unlikely to get it. In Ireland, only 10% of adults said they would not get the shot.


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