India Reports Record 273,810 Daily COVID Cases

India’s health ministry Monday announced a record 273,810 new COVID cases in the previous 24-hour period while officials in the capital, New Delhi, announced a weeklong lockdown. The infections reported Monday are the most the country has seen in a single day since the pandemic began. About 1 in 3 people tested for COVID-19 in New Delhi recently returned a positive result, according to the city’s chief minister Sunday.  “The bigger worry is that in last 24 hours, positivity rate has increased to around 30% from 24%,” Arvind Kejriwal, chief minister of Delhi, told a news briefing Sunday.  “The cases are rising very rapidly. The beds are filling fast,” he said.  People in Delhi have turned to social media to complain about the lack of oxygen canisters and the shortages of hospital beds and drugs.  People queue outside a wine store to buy liquor after the Delhi government ordered a six-day lockdown to limit the spread of the coronavirus disease, in New Delhi, India, April 19, 2021.With more than 15 million total infections, India is second to the United States, which has recorded 31.6 million cases.  Former Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, 88, was hospitalized Monday in New Delhi after testing positive for COVID-19. Just more than 1% of India’s population has been vaccinated, according to Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.  Indian officials announced Monday that everyone 18 or older will be eligible to receive a vaccine beginning May 1. Greta Thunberg In other developments Monday, global climate change activist Greta Thunberg said it was unethical for rich countries to vaccinate their younger citizens before vulnerable groups in developing countries receive inoculations. FILE – Climate activist Greta Thunberg arrives for a news conference in Berlin, Germany, Aug. 20, 2020.”Vaccine nationalism is what is running the vaccine distribution,” Thunberg said from Sweden during a virtual press briefing by the World Health Organization in Geneva. WHO head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, “We have the tools to bring this pandemic under control in a matter of months if we apply them consistently and equitably.” In Turkey, deaths from COVID-19 reached a new daily high of 341. The country began Monday making COVID-19 vaccines available for all people 55 and older. Also Monday, pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and BioNTech said they would provide 100 million more doses of their coronavirus vaccine to the European Union this year. The extra doses bring the total doses promised by Pfizer and BioNTech to the EU to 600 million in 2021.  In IranOn Sunday, Iran reported its highest daily death toll from the coronavirus in months, as hospitals in the capital and elsewhere were filling to capacity.  Iran’s health ministry reported 405 deaths from the virus and confirmed more than 21,000 infections Sunday.  Iran’s vaccination campaign has been slow and dependent on a range of domestically made vaccines. About one-tenth of 1% of its population has been fully vaccinated, according to Johns Hopkins.  Vaccine numbersMeanwhile Sunday, Israel lifted the requirement that masks be worn outdoors. Nearly 56% of its population is fully vaccinated against the virus, according to Johns Hopkins.  Pedestrians walk on a boulevard as Israel rescinds the mandatory wearing of face masks outdoors in the latest return to relative normality, boosted by a mass-vaccination campaign against the coronavirus pandemic, in Tel Aviv, Israel, April 18, 2021.The United States reported Sunday that just over half of its adult population has received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.  The United States halted use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine while it investigates rare incidents of blood clots, but Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden, said he expects use of the shot to resume within a week.  “I doubt very seriously if they just cancel it. I don’t think that’s going to happen. I do think that there will likely be some sort of warning or restriction or risk assessment,” Fauci said on NBC’s Meet the Press.  There have been more than 3 million global deaths from the coronavirus.   
 

South Sudan Stops Using Doses of AstraZeneca Vaccine Over Expiration Fears

South Sudan health officials have stopped administering 60,000 doses of the COVID-19 AstraZeneca vaccine that are past the expiration date but still have a shelf life of at least six months, according to the drugmaker and the World Health Organization.  The doses, which were donated by the mobile telecommunications network MTN and the African Union (AU), arrived in Juba about three weeks ago. Dr. Richard Lako, the incident manager for COVID-19 operations at the South Sudan health ministry, told reporters Sunday in Juba that the vaccine is no longer being used. “We later discovered the lifespan of this vaccine is just remaining 14 days, so immediately we started engaging because if we start them, we may not be able to finish, so the ministry is now engaging the AU and the team with regards to that effect,” Lako said. FILE – A member of South Sudanese Ministry of Health Rapid Response Team takes a nasal sample from a woman at her home in Juba, South Sudan, April 14, 2020.The health ministry is working with the country’s food and drug authorities to safely dispose of the doses, according to Lako.   “Not all medicine disposal can be done easily. Vaccines are very difficult and it has to be handled differently. The drug and food authority already led the policy which, as a ministry, we have to abide by and now engage with the AU and other people to see how we deal with this,” he said. World Health Organization officials present at the briefing declined to answer questions about the vaccine’s expiration date, but India’s drug regulator has allowed the vaccine — which goes by the brand name Covishield and is made by the Serum Institute of India — to be used for up to nine months from its manufacture date, rather than the prescribed six months. AstraZeneca says its product can be stored, transported and handled at normal refrigerated conditions for at least six months. The World Health Organization website also gives the shelf life of six months for Covishield and the South Korean-made AstraZeneca shot. The AstraZeneca doses have been exported to dozens of countries, including South Sudan. Dr. Guyo Argata Guracha, the WHO emergency team leader in South Sudan, noted at Sunday’s weekly COVID press briefing the vaccine’s expiration date is different from the vaccine’s shelf life. “From the WHO point of view, these are new vaccines, the expiry or it is called shelf life not even expiry date really — actually let it be shelf life, we don’t have to talk about expiry date — the shelf life of this vaccine is six months from now. We cannot say it is really expired but we can talk of the shelf life, which is six months,” Guracha said. The doses donated by MTN and the AU arrived in Juba shortly after 132,000 AstraZeneca doses arrived in the capital from the COVAX facility, a global collaboration that was formed to speed up the production and equitable distribution of COVID-19 tests, treatments and vaccines. Lako said the COVAX doses remain usable up to July. He said about 2,000 people — mostly health workers — have been vaccinated in South Sudan. The government recently lifted a partial lockdown on the country after registering a significant drop in COVID-19 cases over several weeks, but that doesn’t mean the public should stop wearing face masks, Lako said. “The cases are coming down but COVID-19 is there, we still have some pockets of reporting areas. We have actually spotted in the last three or four weeks still places like Pariang, Pamet, Nimule, Mapuordit and Agok in particular,” added Lako. To date, South Sudan has recorded 10,475 positive cases, 10,215 recoveries, and 114 COVID-19 deaths.   
 

‘Downton Abbey’ Cast Returns for Sequel Opening in December

The original principal cast of “Downton Abbey” are returning for a second film that will arrive in theaters December 22 this year, Focus Features announced Monday.
 
“Downton Abbey” creator Julian Fellowes has written the sequel’s screenplay, and Simon Curtis (“My Week With Marilyn”) is directing. Hugh Bonneville, Michelle Dockery and 86-year-old Maggie Smith will all be back, along with some new faces, including Hugh Dancy, Laura Haddock, Nathalie Baye and Dominic West.  
Production began last week on “Downton Abbey 2.”
 
“After a very challenging year with so many of us separated from family and friends, it is a huge comfort to think that better times are ahead and that next Christmas we will be re-united with the much beloved characters of ‘Downton Abbey,'” said producer Gareth Neame.  
The 2019 film, coming three years after the series ending, made $194.3 million on a modest budget of less than $20 million.

NASA’s Mars Helicopter Takes First Successful Test Flight

The U.S. space agency, NASA, Monday received images and data confirming its small helicopter, Ingenuity, successfully performed the first controlled powered flight of an aircraft on a planet other than Earth. Scientists in the control room at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) at the California Institute of Technology burst into applause and cheers when data confirmed Ingenuity had successfully spun its rotors, lifted off to a height of three meters and landed safely back on the surface of Mars.   “Wow!”The @NASAJPL team is all cheers as they receive video data from the @NASAPersevere rover of the Ingenuity #MarsHelicopter flight: pic.twitter.com/8eH4H6jGKs— NASA (@NASA) April 19, 2021A picture taken by the small craft of its own shadow on the ground below it arrived seconds later, as did video of the flight taken by NASA’s Perseverance rover probe several meters away.   
 
Ingenuity, weighing a mere 1.8 kilograms, was stowed away on the Perseverance when it landed on Mars in February. It was unfolded and dropped from the rover about two weeks ago to prepare its launch.  The first test of the helicopter had been scheduled for more than a week ago, but a software problem was discovered that required an update.  In this image from NASA, NASA’s experimental Mars helicopter Ingenuity lands on the surface of Mars, April 19, 2021. The helicopter is considered by NASA to be a technology demonstration, designed to test a new capability — in this case, flight in the thin Martian atmosphere — for the first time. It has specially designed rotors that spin much faster than they would have to on Earth to achieve flight. It also has innovative batteries and solar cells for recharging. 
 
Aside from cameras, Ingenuity carries no scientific instruments.  

‘Ultimate Betrayal’ – Premier League Fan Groups Unite to Condemn Super League

Fans of the Premier League clubs named as part of the breakaway Super League launched on Sunday have joined forces to condemn the move with Chelsea’s Supporters’ Trust describing it as the “ultimate betrayal.”
 
The Tottenham Hotspur Supporters’ Trust said it was “deeply concerned” at their club’s involvement while Arsenal’s Supporters’ Trust described it on Twitter as “the death of the club as a sporting institution.”
 
Manchester United’s Supporters’ Trust (MUST) also stood firm against the Super League which would have the club’s co-chairman, American Joel Glazer, as it’s vice-chairman.
 
“These proposals are completely unacceptable and will shock Manchester United fans, as well as those of many other clubs,” it said in a statement.
 
“When Sir Matt Busby led us into the European Cup in the 1950s, the modern Manchester United was founded in the tragedy and then triumph that followed. To even contemplate walking away from that competition would be a betrayal of everything this club has ever stood for.”
 
Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham were named as six of the 12 founders of the Super League which has been widely condemned across the game and beyond and is likely to spark a bitter battle for control of the game in Europe.
 
In statement the Chelsea Supporters’ Trust (CST) said: “Our members and football supporters across the world have experienced the ultimate betrayal.
 
“This is a decision of greed to line the pockets of those at the top and it has been made with no consideration for the loyal supporters, our history, our future and the future of football in this country.
 
“This is unforgivable. Enough is enough.”
 
Unlike Chelsea, Tottenham’s record of winning silverware has been lamentable over the past few decades and they have not won the English title since 1961.
 
Their last trophy was in 2008 and while they have a state-of-the-art 60,000-seater stadium regarded as one of the best in Europe, they are unlikely to qualify for the Champions League next season. On Monday they sacked manager Jose Mourinho.
 
“The Board of Tottenham Hotspur Supporters’ Trust is deeply concerned by rapidly escalating reports linking Tottenham Hotspur Football Club with a breakaway European Super League: a concept driven by avarice and self-interest at the expense of the intrinsic values of the game we hold so dear,” a statement on the THST website said.
 
“Along with fan groups at Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal and Chelsea, we wholeheartedly oppose the move to create a closed shop for Europe’s elite.”
 
“We call on (owners) ENIC, the temporary custodians of our great club, to distance themselves from any rebel group and to consider the implications fully before making decisions that will fundamentally change the course of history for Tottenham Hotspur forever,” it said.
 
“The future of our Club is at stake.”
 
Manchester City Official Supporter’s Club (OSC) also voiced its opposition.
 
“This proposed new competition has no sporting merit and would seem to be motivated by greed,” it said. “Those involved have zero regard for the game’s traditions.”
 
Responding to the Arsenal Supporters’ Trust post on Twitter, Liverpool’s Spirit of Shankly group replied: “Solidarity needed now more than ever.”
 
In a further Tweet SOS said: “Embarrassing as fan representatives we are appalled & completely oppose this decision. (Owners) Fenway Sports Group have ignored fans in their relentless and greedy pursuit of money.”

India Reports a Record 273,810 COVID Cases in One Day

India’s Health Ministry Monday announced a record 273,810 new COVID cases in the previous 24-hour period. About 1 in 3 people tested for COVID-19 in the Indian capital of New Delhi recently returned a positive result, according to the city’s chief minister Sunday. “The bigger worry is that in last 24 hours positivity rate has increased to around 30% from 24%,” chief minister Arvind Kejriwal told a news briefing Sunday. “The cases are rising very rapidly. The beds are filling fast,” he said. People in Delhi have turned to social media to complain about the lack of oxygen cannisters and the shortages of hospital beds and drugs. With more than 15 million people with the infection, India is second to the U.S. which has 31.6 million infections. Just more than 1% of India’s population has been vaccinated, according to Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. Cases surge in Iran On Sunday, Iran reported its highest daily death toll from the coronavirus in months, as hospitals in the capital and elsewhere were filling to capacity. Iran’s Health Ministry reported 405 deaths from the virus and confirmed more than 21,000 infections Sunday. The country’s highest single-day death toll was 480 last November. People walk next to closed shops of Tehran Bazaar following the tightening of restrictions to curb the surge of COVID-19 cases, Tehran, Apr. 10, 2021. (Majid Asgaripour/(West Asia News Agency via Reuters)Iran has battled one of the worst outbreaks in the region but has said it cannot sustain long lockdowns to quell the virus for fear of too much economic damage. Iran’s vaccination campaign has been slow, dependent on a range of domestically made vaccines. About one-tenth of 1% of its population has been fully vaccinated, according to Johns Hopkins. Meanwhile Sunday, Israel lifted the requirement that masks be worn outdoors. Nearly 56% of its population is fully vaccinated against the virus, according to Johns Hopkins. The mask mandate remains in place, however, for enclosed spaces. Half US adult population vaccinatedThe United States reported Sunday that just over half of its adult population has received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. FILE – A woman receives the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at a FEMA vaccination center at Miami Dade College, April 5, 2021.The United States halted use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine while it investigates rare incidents of blood clots, but Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden, said he expects use of the shot to resume within a week. “I doubt very seriously if they just cancel it. I don’t think that’s going to happen. I do think that there will likely be some sort of warning or restriction or risk assessment,” Fauci said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” Fauci, former President Barack Obama and several American celebrities appeared Sunday night on “Roll Up Your Sleeves,” a nationally televised special aimed at decreasing vaccine hesitancy in the United States. France to impose quarantinesBeginning April 24, France will require all travelers from Brazil, as well as Argentina, Chile and South Africa, to quarantine for 10 days over concerns of coronavirus variants coming in from those regions, the government announced Saturday. Police is tasked at monitoring arrivals to ensure compliance. Cemetery workers wearing protective gear lower the coffin of a person who died from complications related to COVID-19 into a gravesite at the Vila Formosa cemetery in Sao Paulo, Brazil, April 7, 2021.Brazil had 13.9 million COVID cases as of early Monday, according to Johns Hopkins. Only the U.S. and India have more cases. Flights from Brazil into France will remain suspended until the new rules take effect.  More than 373,000 people have died in Brazil from COVID, according to data from Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. The U.S. is the only country that has more COVID deaths, at more than 567,000. There have been more than 3 million global deaths from the coronavirus.