COVID-19 will be far more deadly this year – WHO warns

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The World Health Organization issued a grim warning on Friday that the second year of Covid-19 was set to be “far more deadly”.

“We’re on track for the second year of this pandemic to be far more deadly than the first,” said WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

The announcement darkened the mood in Japan where the coronavirus state of emergency took in another three regions just 10 weeks before the Olympics.

Campaigners also submitted a petition with more than 350,000 signatures calling for the Games to be cancelled.

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.

Greece kickstarted its tourism season on Friday, hoping to reverse last year’s miserable summer.

“I hope to forget this damn Covid,” said Jil Wirries, a 28-year old student from Hanover, Germany, collecting luggage on the island of Crete.

“Everything is terrible in Germany… people are depressed… I’m so happy to be here.”

France and Spain launched tourism campaigns this week too.

But in the United States many were confused a day after the top health agency lifted all mask-wearing requirements for fully vaccinated people.