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India surpasses 200,000 COVID-19 deaths 

Healthcare workers and relatives carry a patient with breathing problems

Healthcare workers and relatives carry a patient with breathing problems

The second wave of the coronavirus has pushed India’s health care system to the brink of collapse, with hospitals crammed with so many coronavirus patients that authorities have been forced to convert train cars into COVID-19 isolation wards, while an acute shortage of oxygen continues to aggravate the already desperate situation.

Many parks and parking lots have been converted into makeshift crematories that are working day and night to burn dead bodies.

The international community has begun shipping critical medical supplies to India, including personal protective equipment, ventilators and oxygen concentrators, which collect atmospheric air and convert it into pure oxygen, along with treatments, diagnostic tests and raw materials needed to manufacture vaccine.

The latest global COVID-19 figures from Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center show 148.7 million confirmed infections, including 3.1 million deaths. The U.S. leads the world in both categories with 32.1 million total confirmed cases and 573,381 deaths.

In other developments, a preliminary study in Britain shows that a single dose of a COVID-19 vaccine can reduce the risk of transmitting the virus by nearly half.

Researchers at Public Health England found that people who were infected at least three weeks after being inoculated with a single dose of either the Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccines were between 38 and 49 percent less likely to spread it to people in their households.

British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the study “further reinforces that vaccines are the best way out of this pandemic as they protect you and they may prevent you from unknowingly infecting someone in your household.”

Albert Bourla, the chief executive officer of Pfizer, said Tuesday that an oral antiviral drug to treat COVID-19 could be available for public use by the end of 2021.

During an interview on cable television channel CNBC, Bourla said the U.S.-based drugmaker has begun a clinical trial of a drug that will be given to patients at the onset of the illness, with the aim of keeping them from being hospitalized.

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