1 May 2021

• India, where new daily coronavirus infections surpassed 400,000, a panel of scientists reveal having warned the federal government in March of a new and more contagious coronavirus variant circulating in the country. The government did not heed the warning, allowing millions of largely unmasked people to attend religious festivals and rallies held by prime minister Narendra Modi. Source

• In India, Prime Minister Narenda Modi is facing increasing criticism for his handling of coronavirus, including holding gigantic rallies, continuing to insist that the virus was under control despite exponentially mounting cases, and advocating against a second nationwide lockdown.  Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, the general secretary of the opposition party Indian National Congress says “The government has failed us all. Even those of us who oppose and fight them could not have foreseen a complete abdication of leadership and governance at a time as devastating as this.” Source

• Twitter disclosed that it complied with requests from India’s government to censor 52 tweets which were critical of how the country is handling the second surge of COVID-19, including  posts by Revanth Reddy, a sitting Member of Parliament and Moloy Ghatak, a West Bengal state minister. Source

• During an interview with Times of London, Serum Institute’s Chief Executive, Adar Poonawalla shared details about the threatening calls that drove him from India to London on 23 April. “‘Threats’ is an understatement,” Mr. Poonawalla said. “The level of expectation and aggression is really unprecedented. I’m staying here an extended time, because I don’t want to go back to that situation. Everything falls on my shoulders, but I can’t do it alone.”  The interview triggered a storm on social media; within a few hours, Mr. Poonawalla tweeted plans to return to India “ in a few days.” Source

• The Philippines receives its first batch of 15,000 doses of the Sputnik V vaccine; the country is in negotiations for an additional 20 million doses. Source

• After reporting more than half of its 67,000 coronavirus cases in just three weeks, Thailand imposes new restrictions, including a national mask mandate and closure of schools, bars and clubs; the highest level of restrictions are imposed in Bangkok, Chiang Mai and four other provinces, including a ban on  indoor dining, private parties and gatherings of over 20 people. Source

• A new model from the University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation predicts that nearly 599,000 people in the US will have died from COVID-19 by 1 August. A reduction in mask use  and an increase in mobility could drive deaths to nearly 618, 000, while universal masking could reduce the under 594,000. Source

• An undercover police officer caught lab workers in Indonesia reusing nasal swabs during COVID-19 tests at Kualanamu International Airport, where travelers must produce a negative result before boarding flights. The employees, who may have administered over 20,000 tests with reused swabs, pocketed about $2000 a day. Authorities are  investigating whether anyone became  infected with  coronavirus from the contaminated swabs. Source

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