India, Bangladesh battling raging virus

Passengers get tested for COVID-19 outside a train station in Bengaluru, India.
Passengers get tested for COVID-19 outside a train station in Bengaluru, India.

India and neighbouring Bangladesh are struggling to cope with surging coronavirus cases, as South Korea restarts its use of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Authorities in India have blamed the ferocious resurgence of the virus mainly on crowding and a reluctance to wear masks.

Still, religious gatherings have continued and Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah have themselves addressed election campaigns attended by tens of thousands of people, many without masks.

India on Sunday banned the export of anti-viral drug Remdesivir and its active pharmaceutical ingredients as demand rocketed due to a record surge in COVID-19 infections, leading to a crippling shortages in many parts.

Harried relatives of patients made a kilometre-long queue to buy Remdesivir outside a big hospital in the western state of Gujarat, witnesses said.

India, known as the pharmacy of the world, has already stalled major exports of coronavirus vaccines though its supply too has run short in some states of the country.

India leads the world in the daily average number of new infections and deaths have also surged, with the health ministry reporting 839 fatalities on Sunday - the highest in more than five months - taking the total to 169,275.

In nearby Bangladesh, authorities announced plans to ban all international and domestic flights for a week from Wednesday to counter a spike in coronavirus infections.

More than 500 flights will be cancelled because of the ban, said the Air Vice Marshal M Mafidur Rahman from the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh.

Bangladeshi airports have now been operating an average of 70 to 75 flights per day, he said.

A surge in COVID-19 cases also prompted the government to extends its lockdown for another seven days from Wednesday.

Meanwhile, South Korea says it will resume administrating AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine to all eligible people between the ages of 30 and 60.

Last week, South Korea suspended the use of AstraZeneca jabs for people under 60 while awaiting the outcome of the European Medicine Agency's review.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said it will restart the use of the vaccine beginning on Monday, citing studies showing that the vaccine's benefits outweighs the risk of side effects.

An agency statement said people under 30 will be excluded.

Reuters/AP/dpa

Australian Associated Press