The European Commission on Sunday called on EU member states to regularly monitor sewage systems for fresh outbreaks of the coronavirus.

“It is crucial that EU countries set up effective wastewater monitoring systems as soon as possible and ensure the relevant data are immediately made available to health authorities,” Environment Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevicius told the German newspaper Welt am Sonntag.

She said they were an “inexpensive, fast and reliable source of information about the spread of the virus and its variants in the population.” Large cities and municipalities should analyze at least two samples weekly in what Sinkevicius said was “a proven concept in public health insurance.”

Some European countries have already begun monitoring sewage systems and were able to forewarn about worsening outbreaks. Wastewater systems are also used to gain knowledge about the extent of the use of illegal drugs in the population.

Here is the other coronavirus-related news from around the world.

Asia Pacific

A German military aircraft with 120 ventilators reached India late Saturday, as plans were made to deliver more supplies to help the South Asian country cope with the catastrophic new wave of the COVID pandemic. The aircraft, which took off from Cologne, brought a team of 13 medical experts who will help set up and operate mobile oxygen production units.

A shortage of oxygen in hospitals has worsened the rising death toll, which has now reached 215,542. On Sunday, India record an additional 3,689 deaths.

Taiwan too has shipped medical supplies to India, including 150 oxygen concentrators and 500 oxygen cylinders, joining more than a dozen other states that have offered help.

On Sunday, vote counting began in five Indian states from elections held in March and early April. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been censured for holding election rallies before the votes that critics say became superspreader events for the virus.

In Australia, the fourth-largest city of Perth faces a second snap lockdown in less than a month, after a hotel security guard and two of his housemates tested positive.

As a precaution, nightclubs will close and a weekend football match at which 45,000 people were previously expected to attend will now be closed to spectators. Perth only emerged from a three-day lockdown last week.

Australia has all but stamped out community infections after closing its borders to non-citizens in March 2020, recording just 29,800 cases and 910 deaths. The country has banned citizens who had been in India within 14 days from returning home, threatening them with fines and jail.

Europe

A German hotel chain is suing the government over what it says is the unfair distribution of COVID relief funds. The Dorint Hotel group, along with other similar establishments, have been closed to tourists since November to reduce the spread of the virus.

According to the Welt am Sonntag newspaper, the Cologne-based firm says larger hotel chains are at a disadvantage because the aid is limited to €12 million ($14.4 million) per company. The hotel is asking the Constitutional Court to rule on the matter.

After deducting all government aid received, Dorint says its losses will reach €63 million by the end of June.

Meanwhile, Germany recorded 16,290 new cases on Sunday taking the overall tally to 3,416,822, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed. The reported death toll rose by 110
to 83,192.

Nationwide, the seven-day incidence rate fell for the sixth day in a row, to 146.5 cases per 100,000 people.

In Belgium, police forcibly broke up a party at a park in Brussels on Saturday, after hundreds of people defied a ban to protest COVID-19 restrictions.

Some protesters tossed bottles at officers and set off fireworks before authorities moved in.

Police deployed water cannon and fired tear gas at the crowds to get them to disperse.

“It’s been a year,” a 21-year-old woman from Brussels complained to the AFP news agency. “A whole year we can’t go out. After a while, you need an alternative.”

Pope Francis on Saturday launched a month-long prayer marathon to hasten the end of the pandemic with a prayer at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican before some 150 believers.

The series will be streamed live each day this month at 6 p.m local time (1600 GMT/UTC) from different Catholic shrines across the world.

They range from Fatima in Portugal and Lourdes in France to shrines in Poland, Nigeria, Cuba and South Korea as well as the Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington DC.

Francis, who said he was praying for “wounded humanity,” will conclude the series at a Vatican Gardens chapel on May 31.

Americas

Several thousand Brazilians marched Saturday in support of far-right president Jair Bolsonaro, ignoring a surging pandemic. Rallies took place in Brasilia, Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.

Brazil with more than 403,000 Covid-19 deaths, is second only to the United States, and Bolsonaro faces widespread criticism for not taking the pandemic more seriously.

Last week, a Senate commission of inquiry was established to examine the government’s handling of the health crisis, with many experts saying it has been incompetent and irresponsible.

Key opposition leaders on Saturday took part in a May Day workers’ event on social media and used their speeches to hit out at the president. Among them were former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who is expected to challenge Bolosonaro in next year’s election.

“This is a sad May Day for the workers of our country, a day of mourning for the 400,000 lives lost to Covid-19, many of them because the government of Bolsonaro refused to buy the vaccines that were being offered,” Lula said.

In Canada, tens of thousands of people rallied Saturday at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, against COVID restrictions. The protesters, mostly unmasked and ignoring social distancing rules, said the curbs imposed by the Quebec government were “unjustified.”

Signs in the crowd expressed opposition to masks, curfew and health passports. A heavy police presence was on hand, although the event proceeded largely in a festive atmosphere to the rhythm of drums.

Starting Monday, the nightly curfew in Montreal will begin at 9:30 p.m., instead of 8 p.m, officials said.

mm/rc (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)



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