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Covid-19 Live Updates: India, Vaccines and Cases – The New York Times

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A vaccination center at a school in New Delhi on Wednesday. 
Credit…Tauseef Mustafa/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

As India recorded a single-day high in new coronavirus cases on Thursday, its vaccination campaign has been marred by shortages and states are competing against one another to get doses, limiting the government’s hope that the country can soon emerge from a devastating outbreak.

The Indian health ministry recorded about 410,000 cases in 24 hours, a new global high, and 3,980 deaths, the highest daily death toll in any country outside the United States. Experts believe the number of actual infections and deaths is much higher.

A second wave of infections exploded last month, and some Indian states reintroduced partial lockdowns, but daily vaccination numbers have fallen. The government said it had administered nearly two million vaccine doses on Thursday, far lower than the 3.5 million doses a day it reached in March. Over the past week, 1.6 million people on average were vaccinated daily in the country of 1.4 billion.

India’s pace of vaccinations has become a source of global concern as its outbreak devastates the nation and spreads into neighboring countries, and as a variant first identified there begins to be found around the world. The outbreak has prompted India to keep vaccine doses produced by its large drug manufacturing industry at home instead of exporting them, slowing down vaccination campaigns elsewhere.

In an effort to make doses more widely available within India, the authorities have allowed states and private health care providers to buy vaccines directly from manufacturers. But that has left state governments competing with one another for doses, and experts say it has added more troubles to a sluggish rollout. The authorities in Delhi, the capital, and several states have said they had to delay the expansion of vaccine access to younger age groups because of shortages.

India also lacks enough doses to meet the growing demand. Two domestic drug companies — the Serum Institute of India, which is manufacturing the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca, and Bharat Biotech, which is making its own vaccine — are producing fewer than 100 million doses per month.

About 3 percent of India’s population has been fully vaccinated, and 9.2 percent of people have received at least one dose. Experts say that at the current rate the country is unlikely to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s target of inoculating 300 million people by August.

India has recorded 20.6 million coronavirus cases and more than 226,000 deaths, according to a New York Times database.

India’s government has said it will fast-track approvals of foreign-made vaccines, and on Wednesday the Biden administration said it would support waiving intellectual property protections for Covid-19 vaccines to increase supplies for lower-income countries.

But a waiver would need to win unanimous support at the World Trade Organization — and even then, experts say, India’s drug companies would need extensive technological and other support to produced doses.

“The drop in I.P. protections is only one element,” Anant Bhan, a health researcher at Melaka Manipal Medical College in southern India, said of intellectual property. Because of the additional steps required to begin making a vaccine on a huge scale, he said, “It is not going to mean increased access to vaccines in the near future.”

As Mr. Modi has declined to impose a nationwide lockdown like the one he brought in last year, states have adopted their own measures. On Thursday, the southern state of Kerala, which has one of the highest caseloads, announced a near-total lockdown until May 16.

Experts also worry that a crisis may be unfolding in India’s rural areas, where testing capacities are even more limited.

“My main concern is nonavailability of testing and the logistics of not getting people tested in rural areas,” said Gautam Menon, a professor of physics and biology at Ashoka University in northern India. “So we will never get the real numbers for either infection rates or deaths from many such quarters of India.”

The U.S. State Department has approved the departure of family members of U.S. government employees in India and is urging American citizens to take advantage of commercial flights out of the country. It said on Wednesday that it would approve the voluntary departure of nonemergency U.S. government employees.

On Thursday, Sri Lanka became the latest country to bar travelers from India, joining the United States, Britain, Australia and others.

United States › United StatesOn May 5 14-day change
New cases 45,085 –26%
New deaths 794 –3%

World › WorldOn May 5 14-day change
New cases 864,113 +2%
New deaths 14,671 +9%

U.S. vaccinations ›

The European Union is one of the world’s largest producers, exporters and consumers of vaccines.
Credit…Alessandro Grassani for The New York Times

President Joe Biden’s about-face on pushing pharmaceutical companies to share vaccine patents, in an attempt to help poorer countries, faces a considerable challenge in Europe.

Under growing pressure, the European Union — whose approval would be needed — said Thursday it would consider the Biden administration’s decision to reverse course and support a waiver of patents for Covid-19 vaccines as many poor and middle-income nations struggle to secure lifesaving doses.

But in a speech Thursday, the European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, did not endorse the plan, raising questions about whether the bloc would agree to waive patents, something she has said previously she was staunchly against. That position was underscored by a statement from Germany, the bloc’s de facto leader, later in the day that the U.S. proposal could trigger “significant implications” for the production of vaccines.

“The limiting factor in vaccine manufacturing is production capacity and high quality standards, not patents,” a spokeswoman for Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany said in the statement.

In her speech, Ms. von der Leyen, said that the European Union was “ready to discuss any proposals that address the crisis in an effective and pragmatic manner.”

But she also suggested that the focus should instead be on getting more vaccines to countries that needed them by following the bloc’s example in permitting the ample export of doses. The United States has so far balked at that approach, keeping most doses produced domestically for use at home. “We call upon all vaccine-producing countries to allow export and to avoid measures that disrupt the supply chains,” Ms. von der Leyen said.

The two European statements emphasized the challenges of winning critical E.U. support for securing the patent waivers. Many experts feel the waivers are needed to step up the manufacturing of vaccines and getting them to poorer parts of the world, where inoculations have far lagged those of richer countries. The European Union is a major force within the World Trade Organization, where unanimous approval by member countries would be required for any proposal to waive patents.

The European Union — and the United States, until this week — have been major holdouts at the World Trade Organization over a joint proposal by India and South Africa to suspend some intellectual property protections, which could give drugmakers access to the trade secrets of how the vaccines are made.

Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City last month.
Credit…Richard Drew/Associated Press

New York City is launching a new program to provide funding to artists for public works, an effort to lend financial support to artists whose income plummeted during the pandemic and who have clamored for government relief, officials announced on Thursday.

The program, the City Artist Corps, will give money to artists, musicians and other performers to create works across the city, whether through public art, performances, pop-up shows, murals or other community arts projects.

Gonzalo Casals, the city’s cultural affairs commissioner, said the initiative would help ensure that artists were not left out of the city’s recovery from the pandemic.

“We want to make sure that we put funds in the pocket of artists,” Mr. Casals said in an interview. “Artists have been one of the hardest-hit populations. They have so much to offer and so much give.”

Officials said the city will spend $25 million on the program, which is expected to create jobs for more than 1,500 artists in New York City.

The effort marks a significant investment for the arts in the city. The National Endowment for the Arts, an art-funding agency that serves the entire country, has a budget this year of about $162 million.

New York’s vibrant arts and entertainment scene was devastated by the pandemic. Performing-arts venues were forced to close when the city shut down, projects were canceled and budgets were decimated.

A report from the state comptroller’s office found that employment in the city’s arts, entertainment and recreation sector fell 66 percent in 2020.

Because many independent artists work on a project-by-project basis, that figure probably understates the full economic effects. A survey by Americans for the Arts, a nonprofit organization, found that 95 percent of artists had lost income during the pandemic.

The city has already established several initiatives meant to help bolster the struggling arts community, including a program to allow outdoor performances on designated city streets. It also introduced dedicated webinars and counseling for businesses and nonprofit groups connected in some way to live performances.

Mr. Casals said that he and other officials also wanted to assist independent artists who were unconnected to larger institutions and might have been left out of previous city, state and federal programs.

At a news conference, Mayor Bill de Blasio compared the new program to the Federal Art Project, part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal during the Great Depression.

That program, part of the Works Progress Administration, provided struggling artists with paychecks from the government to help them make a living. The money supported artists like Jackson Pollock, Arshile Gorky and Lee Krasner, who would become central to American painting in the decades to come.

Mr. Casals said New York had not fully decided on the details of how it would distribute money, or how artists could qualify for the City Artist Corps. But officials hoped to have some art works on display for the public by July 1, the target date Mr. de Blasio has set for the full reopening of New York City.

“We want to make sure that this summer, New Yorkers, wherever they go, they encounter this,” Mr. Casals said.

Getting a dose of the Pfizer BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine in Aberdeen, Md., on Wednesday. 
Credit…Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Several new studies released on Wednesday offered encouraging news about the ability of widely used vaccines to protect against severe Covid-19 cases, including illness caused by some dangerous variants.

Two published studies found that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was extraordinarily effective against severe disease caused by two variants, including the dominant one in the United States. And the results of an early-stage trial of the Moderna vaccine — though not published or vetted by scientists — suggested that a single dose given as a booster was effective against variants first identified in South Africa and Brazil, the company said.

The emergence of new variants, and whether vaccines are effective against them, is a subject of continued concern as a variant first detected in India, called B.1.617, spreads across the country. There is also a risk that further variants will arise there as the country’s outbreak grows, experts say. Another worrisome variant, P.1, is wreaking havoc across South America.

In the Pfizer studies, which were based on real-world use of the vaccine in Qatar and Israel, the two variants of focus were B.1.1.7, first identified in Britain and now detected in over 100 countries, and B.1.351, first identified in South Africa. The studies showed that the vaccine can prevent some of the most severe outcomes from Covid-19, such as pneumonia and death, caused by those variants.

“At this point in time, we can confidently say that we can use this vaccine, even in the presence of circulating variants of concern,” said Dr. Annelies Wilder-Smith, a researcher in infectious diseases at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

One of the Pfizer studies showed that the vaccine was 87 to 89.5 percent effective at preventing infection with B.1.1.7 among people who were at least two weeks past their second shot. It was 72.1 percent to 75 percent effective at preventing infection with B.1.351. The study was based on information about more than 200,000 people that was pulled from Qatar’s national Covid-19 databases from Feb. 1 to March 31.

Another study, conducted by researchers at Pfizer and at Israel’s Health Ministry, found that the vaccine was more than 95 percent effective at protecting against a coronavirus infection, hospitalization and death among fully vaccinated people 16 and older.

In the United States, experts now believe that attaining herd immunity is unlikely because of the spread of variants and hesitancy among some people in the country to be vaccinated. The variant that has caused the most alarm is B.1.1.7, which is about 60 percent more transmissible than original versions of the virus.

Moderna’s announcement was greeted cautiously, because the results of an early-stage trial have not been published or peer-reviewed. But the company said it was encouraged by results that suggested that a single booster shot of its vaccine would rapidly increase antibodies in vaccinated people, and that those antibodies were effective against the original form of the virus as well as the variants first identified in South Africa and Brazil.

A second booster specifically designed to counter the variant identified in South Africa produced an even stronger immune response, the company said.

A follower of the popular Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr holding a picture of him while receiving a dose of the Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine in Baghdad on Wednesday.
Credit…Hadi Mizban/Associated Press

When Iraqi film stars and political leaders posted videos of themselves getting Covid-19 vaccines in an effort to encourage inoculations, most Iraqis ignored them. But officials say that the Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr’s decision to bare his upper arm for a shot last week has persuaded thousands to follow his example.

Iraq received its first coronavirus vaccine shipment in March, but Iraqis wary of any government initiative have been reluctant to sign up. Just over 400,000 people have been vaccinated — about 1 percent of the country’s population of roughly 40 million. Iraq has received about 600,000 vaccine doses.

Mr. Sadr, who commands millions of followers, was shown on video from the city of Najaf at a vaccination clinic, wearing a surgical mask and his black turban. He rolled down the right sleeve of his robe and undershirt to bare his upper arm for the jab.

Health officials said the video had encouraged thousands of people to go to vaccination centers, many of them in southern Iraq, where Mr. Sadr has strong support. In Najaf, a few hundred vaccinations a day were being administered throughout the province before this week. That number rose to almost 2,000 shots on Monday, and the province started running out of doses on Tuesday.

Some who showed up at vaccination clinics in the Sadr City neighborhood of Baghdad held framed photos of the cleric.

Iraq has recorded more than one million coronavirus cases and 15,640 deaths. Many Iraqis have avoided the vaccines amid widespread and unproven rumors that they could cause birth defects or sterility. Iraqis have little faith in government institutions, which have been weakened by years of corruption and mismanagement.

Many underequipped hospitals have also been overcrowded during the pandemic.

At a Baghdad hospital last month, a fire sparked by an oxygen canister that exploded swept through an isolation ward with no smoke detectors and no functioning sprinkler system. A health ministry official said the death toll had since risen to more than 100.

To try to stem the rise in coronavirus cases, Iraq’s government is imposing a 10-day lockdown starting next week as the holy month of Ramadan ends. Malls, shops and restaurants will be closed, and public gatherings banned.

The government has also directed government institutions to restrict access only to those who can show a vaccination card or a negative coronavirus test.

A man is vaccinated with AstraZeneca in Pforzheim, southern Germany, on Wednesday.
Credit…Michael Probst/Associated Press

BERLIN — Germany’s health minister said that the country would allow anyone 18 and older to get the AstraZeneca vaccine, removing restrictions that limited access to older people and those in certain professions, as the government tries to encourage more people to get vaccinated ahead of the summer.

Doctors should also be allowed to give the two doses quicker than the current standard of 12 weeks between jabs, Jens Spahn, the health minister, said at a news conference on Thursday, emphasizing the need to “exercise more pragmatic flexibility.” He expects that children 12 years and older could start getting vaccinated as early as August.

Germany has wavered on whether people of all ages should get AstraZeneca. Even though the European Medicines Agency and the World Health Organization have continued to say that the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the risks, there are reports that supplies of AstraZeneca doses are going unused in Germany as citizens seek other manufacturers.

While more than 30 percent of the total population has received one dose of a vaccine, only 8.6 percent of Germans are fully vaccinated. And 66 percent of respondents said they preferred Pfizer-BioNTech over other vaccines, while 25 percent said they would consider AstraZeneca, according to a recent study from the University of Koblenz.

The country first recommended the vaccine for people under 65, then suspended use of the vaccine in March over concern about blood clot. The government then limited it to people over 60. The change also represents a departure from some other countries, which have restricted the use of the vaccine to older people or stopped using it altogether. Younger people seem to be more susceptible to the clots.

The vaccination measures have made many Germans turn away from AstraZeneca in the hopes of snagging the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine, which was created in Germany. Vaccines manufactured by Moderna and Johnson & Johnson are also administered in Germany, but the authorities said they would continue to be administered to priority groups until at least June.

The announcement on the AstraZeneca vaccine came as German federal lawmakers on Thursday voted to relax rules for those who are fully vaccinated.

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Germany currently has a curfew in place in areas with high infection rates; households are limited in how many people they can meet, and nonessential shopping is restricted to those with recent negative test results. But under the new law, those who have been fully vaccinated or who have been infected with the coronavirus in the last six months would not have to follow those restrictions. In addition, they would be able to return from travel abroad without quarantining. The law would take effect as early as this weekend, if the measures are adopted by the federal council of states, which they are expected to be. Those who can present proof of a previous infection or vaccination would also be able to skip testing requirements currently in place for certain activities like going to hairdressers or shopping in nonessential stores.

A Russian medical worker preparing a shot of Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine in Simferopol, Crimea, in April.
Credit…Alexander Polegenko/Associated Press

The first dose of Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine provides sufficient protection on its own to be used without a second injection, the country’s Ministry of Health said on Thursday, clearing the way for a faster vaccination campaign in Russia.

The new policy arose from a debate among public health officials in Russia and a number of other countries about the benefits and drawbacks of accelerating vaccinations by skipping or delaying the second dose of vaccines that were originally designed to be administered in two shots a few weeks apart.

As is the case with other two-dose coronavirus vaccines, Sputnik V provides substantial protection, at least for the short term, after the first shot.

The ministry said in a statement that people in Russia who, for various reasons, skipped their second shot of Sputnik V were still far less likely to become sick than unvaccinated people were.

The statement cited an observational study that found Sputnik V to be 79.4 percent effective after a single shot. Russia has previously reported an efficacy of 91.6 percent after two shots.

The observational study was less precise than a standard vaccine trial, because it compared rates of infection in single-shot recipients with the general infection rate in the population, not with a control group. The ministry did not say how many single-shot recipients were studied. A separate placebo-controlled study of the issue is still underway.

The Russian vaccine uses two common cold viruses that have been genetically modified to carry genes of the coronavirus, which prime the immune system to prevent infection. Developers of the vaccine have said the second dose lengthens the period of time a recipient is immune.

In other countries, health authorities have been wary about approving a simplified single-shot approach for vaccination using vaccines that were tested in trials using two shots.

But the first shot of Sputnik V uses the same common cold virus as the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which already has been approved for use in the United States and other countries and has been shown to be safe and effective, with an efficacy of 72 percent in the United States.

The Russian version of this single-shot approach is called Sputnik Lite.

The two-dose Sputnik V vaccine is still being offered in Russia and to dozens of other countries. Russia’s export customers could also speed up their vaccination campaigns if they follow the Russian Ministry of Health’s lead in approving a single-dose strategy.

Community Health Center, Inc. hosted a “student skip day” to administer the Pfizer vaccine to high school students in East Hartford, Conn., on April 26.
Credit…Jessica Hill/Associated Press

The American public’s willingness to get a Covid vaccine is reaching a saturation point among adults, and many parents do not plan to vaccinate their children, a new national survey suggests.

Only 9 percent of respondents said that they had not yet gotten a shot but intended to do so, according to the survey, which was published in the April edition of the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Vaccine Monitor.

Three in 10 parents said they planned to vaccinate their children as soon as they could. No vaccine is yet available in the U.S. for children; the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is expected to be authorized soon for those aged 12 to 15.

The survey found that public confidence in the Johnson & Johnson vaccine has plummeted since health authorities suspended using it for 10 days to examine possible links to a rare, dangerous blood clotting problem.

But it also found significant progress in persuading Republicans, who have been among the most hesitant, to be vaccinated.

The findings highlight the challenges ahead for the Biden administration’s efforts to persuade hesitant people to take the vaccine, even as a growing number of scientists and public health experts have concluded that it is unlikely that the country will reach herd immunity.

Overall, slightly more than half of a nationally representative sample of 2,097 adults surveyed said they had gotten at least one dose of the vaccine, a finding that matches data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The administration announced steps on Tuesday to encourage more pop-up and mobile vaccine clinics and to distribute shots to local pharmacies as well as primary care doctors and pediatricians.

Dining at a restaurant in San Diego last week.
Credit…Ariana Drehsler for The New York Times

After weeks of coronavirus patients flooding emergency rooms in Michigan, hospitalizations are falling. On some recent days, entire states have reported zero new coronavirus deaths. And in New York and Chicago, officials have vowed to fully reopen in the coming weeks, conjuring images of a vibrant summer of concerts, sporting events and packed restaurants.

Americans have entered a new, hopeful phase of the pandemic as the outlook has improved across the nation. The country is recording about 49,000 new cases a day, the lowest number since early October, and hospitalizations have plateaued at about 40,000, a similar level as the early fall.

“We’re in a really good spell and we can act accordingly,” said Andrew Noymer, an epidemiologist at the University of California, Irvine, who said it made sense to loosen restrictions now, when the risk is lower than it might be this winter.

Yet even as a sense of hope spreads, there remain strong reasons for caution. Deaths are hovering around 700 a day — down from a peak of more than 3,000 in January. The pace of vaccinations in the country is slowing, and experts now believe that herd immunity in the United States may not be attainable. More transmissible variants of the virus are also spreading.

That could leave the coronavirus infecting tens of thousands of Americans and killing hundreds more each day for some time.

Although more than half of adults in the country have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, a new national poll suggests that the American public’s willingness to get a Covid-19 vaccine is reaching a saturation point.

Nine percent of unvaccinated respondents said they intended to get a shot, according to the survey, published in the April edition of the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Vaccine Monitor. And with federal authorization of the Pfizer vaccine for people age 12 to 15 expected imminently, parents’ eagerness to have their children vaccinated is also limited, the poll found.

Among the parents surveyed, three in 10 said they would have their children vaccinated immediately, and 26 percent said they wanted to wait and see how the vaccines were working. Eighteen percent said they would have their children vaccinated only if a child’s school required it, and 23 percent said they would not have their children vaccinated.

“We’re in a new stage of talking about vaccine demand,” said Mollyann Brodie, the executive vice president of Kaiser’s Public Opinion and Survey Research Program. “There’s not going to be a single strategy to increase demand across everyone who is left.”

Even so, public health experts say that while they still expect significant local and regional surges in the coming weeks, they do not think they will be as widespread or reach past peaks.

Dr. Jeffrey Duchin, the health officer in Seattle and King County, said there was no playbook for an endgame to this pandemic, but he urged people to get vaccinated.

“I’m sure all of us want to avoid a long game of Whac-a-Mole with imposing and easing restrictions,” he said. “Vaccination is the cure.”

Demonstrators protested conditions at San Quentin State Prison in California, where more than 2,600 inmates have tested positive for the coronavirus over the past year.
Credit…Jim Wilson/The New York Times

The coronavirus tore through prisons, jails and immigration detention centers in the United States over the past year, killing more than 2,700 incarcerated people. Dozens of them died after being approved for release by a parole board, or while being held before trial.

At least nine prison inmates around the country who were already cleared for release died before their scheduled discharge dates. More than 50 men and women died of Covid-19 in local jails while awaiting resolution of the charges that put them there.

Those findings come from a New York Times review of state and federal court records and data, and interviews with prosecutors, judges, defense lawyers and court administrators.

The deaths raise troubling questions about the way the country’s justice system responded to a pandemic that infected incarcerated people at more than three times the national rate.

“Being in jail or prison, especially for a nonviolent offense, should not be a death sentence,” said Andrew H. Warren, the state attorney for Hillsborough County, Fla.

Rebecca Griesbach and

Quality-control problems at a Baltimore plant manufacturing Covid-19 vaccines have led health officials on three continents to pause the distribution of millions of Johnson & Johnson doses, as the troubles of a politically connected U.S. contractor ripple across the world.

Doses made at the plant owned by Emergent BioSolutions have not been cleared by the Food and Drug Administration for use in the United States, and the Biden administration has repeatedly assured Americans that none of the Johnson & Johnson shots administered domestically were made there.

But millions of doses have been shipped abroad, including to Canada, the European Union and South Africa. Regulators in various countries are now working to ensure that those doses are safe after the disclosure in March that workers at the Baltimore plant accidentally contaminated a batch of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine with the harmless virus used to manufacture AstraZeneca’s. Both vaccines were produced at the same site. The mistake forced Emergent to throw out up to 15 million Johnson & Johnson doses after tests showed that the batch failed to meet purity requirements.

E.U. officials, as well as those in Canada and South Africa, said there was no evidence that any of the doses they had received were tainted. But the problems identified in Baltimore have slowed their vaccination efforts while they perform additional quality assessments as a precaution.

A Covid-19 patient at a hospital in Moradabad, India, on Wednesday.
Credit…Prakash Singh/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Members of the global Indian diaspora, nearly 17 million, have mobilized from afar to help back home, where the Indian health system is buckling under the weight of a devastating coronavirus wave. Here is one U.S. resident’s story.

The calls come at all hours, sometimes 15 a day, from some of India’s most oppressed and severely ill people, buzzing a cellphone that belongs to Dolly Arjun, an Indian-American physician assistant in Boston.

A few years ago, Ms. Arjun founded a telehealth program to provide free health care to members of India’s Indigenous tribes and to Dalits, who are at the lowest rungs of India’s entrenched caste system and have long faced discrimination. Dalits are typically the last to receive assistance in humanitarian disasters and often live in impoverished rural villages with no hospitals, medical care or schools.

Now, with a devastating wave of coronavirus infections surging across India, Dalits are facing a new peril, Ms. Arjun said. She said she was desperate to help, even though she is emotionally exhausted after a year of working with Covid-19 patients in Massachusetts.

“Tons of people are dying,” Ms. Arjun said. “This is just a human to human need.”

Her focus is not just Hippocratic. She is Dalit herself, a rarity among Indian medical professionals in the United States, most of whom come from upper-caste urban families. “The only reason they might know a Dalit person is because it’s their servant at home,” Ms. Arjun said.

Her telemedicine program has health workers in India who can translate for patients in local languages, but finding medical professionals in the United States to join the effort has not been easy, she said. Still, Ms. Arjun has recruited two physicians.

Patients contact the group through WhatsApp, Facebook and YouTube, and the medical professionals call back on video. Often their first task is to reassure patients who have little understanding of the coronavirus or the appropriate medical treatments, Ms. Arjun said.

“Part of what’s happening now is patients are being told Covid is going to kill you, so they are panicked,” Ms. Arjun said.

She noted that in one Indian state the government has been broadly distributing packets of medications — including 25 days-worth of antibiotics, which cannot treat viruses — to residents, regardless of whether they have tested positive for Covid-19 or show symptoms.

Sometimes, however, the telehealth calls detect life-or-death emergencies. In late April, Ms. Arjun logged onto a WhatsApp video call with a young Dalit man and his 60-year-old father, who was at home with breathing problems in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, where it was around midnight.

“They didn’t know what to do,” she said. “They told us there were no hospitals or oxygen available, and they hadn’t seen a doctor.”

After assessing the man, Ms. Arjun urged the family to check to see whether any hospital beds were available instead of assuming that they were full. “It took a lot of convincing,” she said.

The next day, he was admitted and began to improve, but the hospital was running out of oxygen. Ms. Arjun put out a call on several WhatsApp groups for an oxygen cylinder, though the family did not know the name of the hospital and then fell out of contact.

Days later, she learned that the man had died.

Global Roundup

A checkpoint in Suva, Fiji, last week, after the Fijian capital entered a 14-day lockdown.
Credit…Leon Lord/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The police and the military in Fiji locked down a major hospital on the island of Viti Levu on Wednesday night, aiming to contain the country’s second coronavirus outbreak.

More than 400 patients and employees are inside the hospital, said Dr. James Fong, the health ministry’s permanent secretary. The lockdown was precipitated by the death of a patient in the intensive-care unit, the third known person to have died from the virus in Fiji. The virus is believed to have passed from the patient to at least two doctors.

Health workers hope to use the lockdown to determine which patients and workers might have come into contact with those infected. Officials said that those inside the hospital would be provided with food and other supplies. Sections of the hospital have been converted into intensive-care units in case other severe infections arise.

With a population of around one million, Fiji has about 50 active cases of the virus, out of 125 total cases reported since the start of the pandemic. Many of the active cases are thought to be of a coronavirus variant first discovered in India.

Recent social restrictions have often been ignored in the South Pacific island nation: The Fijian police have arrested more than 100 people for breaches, with many infractions said to be connected to alcohol or kava, a local intoxicant.

Dr. Fong said at a news conference this week that the country’s containment strategy could take months. “Every Fijian must be ready,” he said.

“We are not up against an identical enemy this time around,” Dr. Fong added. “The chains of transmission are more widespread, and the variant is more transmissible.”

In other news around the world:

  • President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines apologized to the public on Wednesday for having received a shot of a Covid-19 vaccine produced by the Chinese firm Sinopharm that has not been approved for use in his country — although his spokesman said on Thursday that Mr. Duterte would still receive a second dose of it. The president also asked that a donation of 1,000 doses be sent back to China. Mr. Duterte had broadcast his vaccination live on social media on Monday.

  • A coastal town in Japan has provoked debate after spending nearly $230,000 in federal Covid-19 relief money on a 43-foot statue of a flying squid. Noto, a fishing town where the squid is a delicacy, erected the statue in March in a bid to promote tourism after the pandemic subsides. The five-and-a-half-ton pink sea creature sits outside a squid-themed restaurant and tourist center.

  • New Zealand said it would pause travel from Australia’s state of New South Wales after health officials there said that they were investigating a case of community transmission in Sydney, the first such case in the city in more than a month. Sydney officials have linked the infection to a traveler who returned from the United States and was isolating in a hotel, but have not established how the infection escaped hotel quarantine. The man’s wife also tested positive on Thursday. The cases have prompted Sydney to limit indoor gatherings to 20 people and require masks indoors from Thursday until Sunday. New Zealand and Australia began a quarantine-free travel bubble last month.

  • Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia said on Thursday that his government was considering resuming repatriation flights for Australian nationals in India after May 15, after a controversial travel ban last week made it a criminal offense for citizens and residents of Australia to enter the country from India. Critics accused the government of racism, but the authorities framed it as necessary to prevent transmission from a devastating outbreak in India.

Isabella Kwai, Jason Gutierrez, Hisako Ueno and Shashank Bengali contributed reporting.

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