The World Health Organization released a dire alert on Friday, predicting that Covid-19’s second year would be “even more deadly.”
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, “We’re on track for the second year of this pandemic to be much more deadly than the first.”
The news soured the atmosphere in Japan, where the coronavirus outbreak had spread to three more regions just ten weeks before the Olympics.
A petition of more than 350,000 signatures was also sent by campaigners asking for the Games to be canceled.
With Tokyo and other areas already under emergency orders until the end of May, Hiroshima, Okayama and northern Hokkaido, which will host the Olympic marathon, will now join them.
Japanese public opinion is firmly opposed to holding the Games this summer.
The pandemic has killed at least 3,346,813 people worldwide since the virus first emerged in late 2019.
India meanwhile started deploying Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine, the first foreign-made shot to be used in the country that has been reeling from an explosion in cases and deaths.
The first token batch of Sputnik vaccines — reportedly 150,000 doses — arrived on May 1 and a second delivery is expected in the next few days.
A number of leading India-based drugmakers have agreements for local production of Sputnik V with the aim to produce over 850 million doses of the jab per year.
India has been adding roughly as many new Covid cases daily as the rest of the world put together.
More than 260,000 Indians have died, according to official figures.
On Saturday, 326,123 new cases were tallied, along with 3,879 deaths.
India now has 24,372,243 and death toll of 266,229.
In Europe, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned that the arrival of the B1.617.2 variant, one of those believed to be driving the Indian surge, could delay reopening of society and the economy.
“This new variant could pose a serious disruption to our progress,” Johnson said.
Britain’s health ministry has tracked the variant in northwest England and in London.
Germany has already added the UK back onto its list of “risk areas” requiring extra checks — but not necessarily quarantine — for incoming travellers.
Elsewhere around the continent, tourist hotspots are opening up.
On Friday, Greece began its tourist season, hoping to avoid a repeat of last year’s dreadful summer.
Jil Wirries, a 28-year-old student from Hanover, Germany, collecting luggage on the island of Crete, said, “I hope to forget this damn Covid.”
“Everything in Germany is bad… people are sad… I’m overjoyed to be here.”
This week, France and Spain also launched tourism promotions.
However, several people in the United States were perplexed a day after the US Department of Health and Human Services removed all mask-wearing restrictions for fully vaccinated people.