NEW DELHI — India has confirmed 4,205 more deaths, setting another daily record and taking its official COVID-19 toll past 250,000 as it battles a ferocious surge in infections.
Around 370,000 new cases were added in the last 24 hours, pushing India’s total past 23 million, according to the health ministry. The figures are considered vast undercounts due to insufficient testing and records among other factors.
On Tuesday, authorities warned that nearly 90% of districts in the country are seeing a high positivity rate, sparking fears the coronavirus is spreading to India’s rural areas faster than it during a surge last year.
Infections have swelled in India since February in a disastrous turn blamed on more contagious variants as well as government decisions to allow massive crowds to gather for religious festivals and political rallies.
Even though daily cases have shown very early signs of flattening, experts have cautioned authorities to not let down their guard. With nearly 4 million cases still active, health care systems remain strained with limited hospital beds, oxygen and medicine.
Many states have imposed their own restrictions to curb infections, and the southern state of Telangana became the latest to announce a 10-day lockdown on Tuesday. Calls and pressure for a nationwide lockdown have been mounting.
THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— Public service jobs in the US are increasingly thankless and exhausting, a situation worsened by pandemic
— Variant detected in India may spread more easily, but testing to track and understand it better has been slow
— COVID-19 pet boom has veterinarians backlogged, burned out
— Follow more of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
SALEM, Ore. — Oregon lawmakers have passed a bill to give tenants who are struggling with financial hardships due to the pandemic more time to pay past-due rent.
Currently tenants have until July, but the legislation will extend the deadline to next Feb. 28. The bill already passed the Senate and now goes to the governor.
The measure protects renters from the long-term impact of not making payments on time by barring such information from being reported to consumer credit agencies or being used in consideration of future rental applications. The measure also bars landlords from screening out applicants based on pandemic-era evictions.
In March, more than 17% of Oregon renters in a U.S. Census survey reported being behind on rent payments.
COLUMBIA, South Carolina — South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster has issued an executive order allowing parents to opt their children out of wearing masks in public schools.
In his announcement Tuesday, the governor cited the widespread access to coronavirus vaccines for adults across the state.
McMaster’s statement says that “it goes against all logic to continue to force our children — especially our youngest children — to wear masks against their parents’ wishes.”
The order also bars state and local government agencies from requiring people to show proof of vaccination in order to receive government services or access public buildings and facilities.
The governor’s order also limits local governments from issuing mask ordinances based on his prior emergency declarations related to the pandemic. Those governments will have to find justification for such mask rules within their own ordinances.
TORONTO — Canada’s largest province says it will stop giving out first doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine due to concerns over blood clots.
Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams says the decision has been made out of an abundance of caution because of increased instances of a rare blood clotting disorder linked to the shot.
AstraZeneca is restricted in some European countries because of a potential link to extremely rare blood clots. In Canada, at least 12 cases have been confirmed out of more than 2 million doses given and three women have died.
Ontario says it has 49,280 doses of the shot remaining in the province out of over 707,000 received. Health officials are awaiting results of a clinical trial in the United Kingdom looking at giving a different vaccine for the second dose. That would allow people who got AstraZeneca first to be given Pfizer or Moderna for their second dose.
PARIS — French Health Minister Olivier Veran, a neurologist, has administrated vaccine shots to several people himself in the Paris’ southern suburb of Montrouge, as France seeks to speed up its COVID-19 vaccination program.
On Tuesday, authorities allowed all people over 18 to get access to vaccines if some appointments remain available for the following day. All people over 50 and those with specific health issues can book in advance.
As the country is gradually reopening, the French government expect 20 million people, or 38% of the adult population, will have received at least one dose at mid-May. At the current speed, between 2.5 million and 3 million people are vaccinated every week.
Terrasses of cafes and restaurants, museums and non essential shops are set to reopen on May 19.
Numbers of daily infections have started decreasing in recent weeks. Over 4,700 COVID-19 patients were still in intensive care units on Tuesday.
France has reported almost 107,000 virus-related deaths.
BANGKOK — Buddhist monks in Thailand held a national prayer event Tuesday evening to boost morale as the country struggles to curb a surge of COVID-19 cases.
The National Office of Buddhism ordered all temples nationwide to hold the prayer event and issued a handbook with ceremonial chants used to banish danger and disease during Buddha’s era. The office said it was taking action because the country’s third wave of the coronavirus was affecting the minds and bodies of monks and other Buddhists.
Thailand’s Supreme Patriarch, Somdet Phra Maha Muniwong — head of the country’s Buddhist clergy — led a prayer session lasting about an hour from his temple in Bangkok, which was broadcast live by the government’s television station. The words to the chants were shown onscreen for viewers who want to pray along from home.
Thai health authorities earlier Tuesday announced 1,919 new cases of the disease, bringing the total to 86,924. They also announced 31 more deaths, bringing fatalities to 452. Most of its infections and deaths have occurred since April 1.