Brazil restricts flights to stop spread of variant found in India

A man who does not wear a facemask rides a public transport bus full of people during the COVID-19 pandemic at the Laranjeiras neighbourhood in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on May 14, 2021. (MAURO PIMENTEL / AFP)

PARIS / BUENOS AIRES / SAO PAULO / SANTIAGO / QUITO / ADDIS ABABA / ROME / RABAT / LONDON – Brazil, still fighting off a major outbreak driven in part by a virus variant, will restrict flights from India, the UK and South Africa to avoid the spread of a strain first found in India. The restrictions will be place for two weeks and exempt cargo carriers, the government said.

Deaths in Brazil declined for a fifth consecutive week, dropping to the lowest level since mid-March, according to health ministry data. The country reported 2,087 new fatalities on Saturday, for a total 434,715, the most after the US.

Weekly cases ticked up for the third time, but remain almost 100,000 below a peak in March. Another 67,009 cases were reported Saturday, for a total of almost 15.6 million.

ALSO READ: Trudeau govt begins work on reopening US-Canada border


Argentina on Saturday reported 400 more deaths from COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, raising the nationwide tally to 70,253, the health ministry said.

Meanwhile, 21,469 new infections were reported, bringing the national count to 3,290,935, the ministry said.


The Chilean Ministry of Health reported on Saturday 6,769 new cases of COVID-19 and 87 more deaths.

Health Minister Enrique Paris said that cases have fallen 4 percent in the last seven days, with the regions of Tarapaca, Valparaiso, and Maule showing the biggest decreases while the regions of Magallanes, Aysen, Antofagasta, the Santiago Metropolitan Region, Arica (north), and Coquimbo reported an increase in cases.


Ecuador on Saturday registered 2,518 new cases and 151 more deaths from COVID-19, bringing the total number of cases to 409,520 and the death toll to 14,408, the Ministry of Health reported.

Ecuador is facing a new wave of contagion due to citizen indiscipline and the circulation in the country of new variants of COVID-19 that are much more contagious.


Ethiopia registered 419 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, taking the nationwide tally to 265,832 as of Saturday evening, the country's Ministry of Health said.

Meanwhile, 12 new deaths from COVID-19 were reported, bringing the national death toll to 3,976, the ministry said.

The East African country reported 1,496 more recoveries, taking the national count to 218,866.

Ethiopia, Africa's second-most populous nation, has so far reported the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the East Africa region.

A man received a dose of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at the giant vaccination center against the Covid-19 set up at the Porte de Versailles convention centre in Paris on May 15, 2021. (GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT / AFP)


France has administered the first doses of COVID-19 vaccines to 20 million people, reaching its target days ahead of the reopening of catering businesses and cultural venues, French Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Saturday.

Castex announced on Twitter the hitting of the 20-million mark, a number that represents some 30 percent of the population.

"This is a very important moment for the whole country because it supports our prospects for ending the crisis, reinforced by the evolution of the epidemic data, which is regressing everywhere in France," Castex said earlier in the day during a visit to the mass vaccination site at the Porte de Versailles conference center in Paris.

"The next target is 30 million first doses. It is within our reach," he added.


Germany’s contagion rate fell further below a key level, a trend that could trigger a loosening of some pandemic restrictions.

Infections dropped to 83.1 per 100,000 people over the past seven days, according to the RKI public-health institute. The incidence rate dipped under 100 on Friday and regional governments can start to lift restrictions if it remains below that level for five consecutive working days.

“This is a hopeful sign but we still need to be careful,” Health Minister Jens Spahn said in a tweet.

Women run on Falaserna (Phalasarna) beach on the western coast of Crete island, Greece, on May 15, 2021. (LOUISA GOULIAMAKI / AFP)


Greece formally opened to visitors on Saturday, kicking off a summer season it hopes will resurrect its vital tourism industry battered by the coronavirus pandemic.

After months of lockdown restrictions, Greece also opened its museums this week, including the Acropolis museum, home to renowned sculptures from Greek antiquity.

"I feel really alive and good because it has been such a hard and long year because of COVID," said Victoria Sanchez, a 22-year-old student on holiday from the Czech Republic.

"I feel again alive," she said, as she strolled near the Roman Agora in downtown Athens.

As of Saturday, foreign tourists will be allowed in Greece if they have been vaccinated or can show negative COVID-19 test results. Travel between regions, including to the islands, will also be allowed for those with negative tests or vaccinations.


Coronavirus infections across all age groups in Italy fell by 80 percent after the first five weeks of vaccine rollout, the country's National Institute of Health (ISS) and the Ministry of Health reported Saturday.

The time covered by the comprehensive national report on the real-world effectiveness of coronavirus vaccines runs from Dec. 27, 2020, when the national vaccination campaign started, through May 3.

In broad terms, the report said that the risk associated with COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, decreased progressively starting two weeks after the first vaccination, and that as of 35 days from the first dose the data showed "an 80-percent reduction in infections, a 90-percent reduction in hospitalizations, and a 95-percent reduction in deaths," and a similar pattern was seen regardless of gender and age.

A total of 112 people tested positive for COVID-19 in Morocco on Saturday, taking the national tally of infections to 514,817, the ministry of health said in a statement.

In the past 24 hours, six people have died from the disease, taking the death toll to 9,098 in the country, and 211 people are in intensive care units.


Police intervened to move along thousands of people drinking and dancing in Barcelona's city centre and on the nearby beach, seeking to prevent dangerous overcrowding on the first full weekend after Spain lifted COVID-19 restrictions.

"We have cleared people from central streets and also about 2,000 from the beach, some who of whom were not respecting restrictions on distances or health regulations, but there were no fights," Major Ricardo Salas, of the Barcelona City Guard, told Reuters on Sunday morning.

The government lifted a six-month state of emergency on May 9 at midnight (2200 GMT), so this was the first chance for revellers to party throughout the weekend.

There are still some restrictions in place. In Catalonia, for example, bars and restaurants are open from 7 am until 11 pm and the maximum number of people allowed at tables is four.

Men wearing a face mask walk near the beach of the Old Seaside Village of Boccadasse on May 15, 2021 in Genoa. (MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP)

READ MORE: Germany rejects EU executive call to ease virus border curbs


Another 2,027 people in Britain have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total number of coronavirus cases in the country to 4,448,851, according to official figures released Saturday.

The country also reported another seven coronavirus-related deaths. The total number of coronavirus-related deaths in Britain now stands at 127,675. These figures only include the deaths of people who died within 28 days of their first positive test.