Frederik Andersen has the experience, Jack Campbell has the gloves but which goaltender should get the nod as the Leafs prepare for a postseason with more pressure than ever?
Frederik Andersen has the experience, Jack Campbell has the gloves but which goaltender should get the nod as the Leafs prepare for a postseason with more pressure than ever?
Lily James and Sebastian Stan are due to play the lead roles in based-on-truth comedy series 'Pam & Tommy'.
The Government has been accused of being too cautious in its approach to allowing international travel.
LONDON — Counting resumed Saturday in Scotland’s parliamentary election with the governing Scottish National Party very close to securing a majority that would see it make a push for another independence referendum. With 49 constituencies counted, the SNP had won 40 seats and is clearly on course to win its fourth straight term in office. However, given the country’s electoral system, which also allocates some seats by a form of proportional representation, it may fall short of the 65 seats it would need in the Edinburgh-based parliament to have a majority. Ballots also continue to be counted in the Welsh parliamentary election and a swath of local elections in England. But it’s the Scottish election that could have the biggest U.K.-wide implications as it could fast-track another referendum on its future within the U.K. Were the SNP to win a majority, its leader, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, would argue that she has a mandate to call another referendum. Were the party to fall short, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has the ultimate power to allow a referendum, could argue that she didn’t. On Saturday, he wrote in the Daily Telegraph newspaper that another referendum would be “irresponsible and reckless” in the “current context” as Britain emerges from the coronavirus crisis. Speaking after winning her seat in Glasgow on Friday, Sturgeon said her immediate priority would be to deal with the pandemic and “then when the time is right to offer this country the choice of a better future.” Scotland has been part of the U.K. since 1707 and the issue of Scottish independence appeared settled when Scottish voters rejected secession by 55%-45% in a 2014 referendum. But the U.K.-wide decision in 2016 to leave the European Union ran against the wishes of most Scots — 62% voted in favour of staying within the bloc while most voters in England and Wales wanted to leave. That gave the Scottish nationalist cause fresh legs. Scotland’s deputy first minister, John Swinney, said that the party would still have the right to call an election if it fell short but enough other pro-independence members were elected, such as from the Scottish Greens. “I’m very confident that will be the case,” he told the BBC. So far the elections in England have been largely positive for Johnson’s Conservatives, notably its victory in a special election in the post-industrial town of Hartlepool for a parliamentary seat that the main opposition Labour Party had held since 1974. The win extended the party’s grip on parts of England that had been Labour strongholds for decades, if not a century. Many of these seats that have flipped from red to blue voted heavily in 2016 for Britain’s departure from the European Union. The speedy rollout of coronavirus vaccines also appears to have given the Conservatives a boost. On what was dubbed Super Thursday, around 50 million voters were eligible to take part in scores of elections, some of which had been postponed a year because of the pandemic that has left the U.K. with Europe’s largest coronavirus death toll. For the Labour Party and its leader, Keir Starmer, the Hartlepool result was a huge disappointment and has led to another bout of soul-searching in the party. Hopes had been high that Starmer would help Labour reconnect with its lost voters in the north of England when he took the helm a little more than a year ago after succeeding the more left-wing Jeremy Corbyn, who led the party in 2019 to its worst election performance since 1935. Starmer, a former director of public prosecutions, said he took full responsibility for the party’s defeat in Hartlepool, adding that he would soon be setting out a strategy of how it can reconnect with its traditional voters. He didn’t give further details. Starmer and Labour should have some results to cheer over the weekend with Sadiq Khan and Andy Burnham expected to win second terms as the mayors of London and Manchester, respectively. The Labour government in Wales has also done better than anticipated and is set to hold onto power. Pan Pylas, The Associated Press
Daddy issues and moral imperatives abound in this ideologically vacuous superhero series.
Covid restricted Keir Starmer from setting out vision for UK, says Labour. Labour supported government in pandemic and did not play party political games, says shadow home secretary
Manchester City’s clash with Chelsea is currently scheduled to take place on Saturday, May 29 in Istanbul.
The ex-football manager is EastEnders' shock loan signing. Here are five other TV celebrity cameos.
Since its latest earnings call, Hologic (NASDAQ: HOLX) has been looking for ways to keep its investors smiling. Do the latest results from Hologic foretell its doom? Entering the first quarter of 2021, Hologic was riding a winning streak of three consecutive quarters.
Datopotamab Deruxtecan Late-Breaking Data at ESMO Breast Shows Promising Preliminary Response and Disease Control in Patients with Metastatic TNBC
The Gunners were eliminated from Europe on Thursday and a return next season looks unlikely, while defeat for Albion would confirm relegation.
RIO DE JANEIRO — Some have claimed she’s indulging a forbidden romance. More likely, loneliness compels her to seek company at Rio de Janeiro’s zoo. Either way, a blue-and-yellow macaw that zookeepers named Juliet is believed to be the only wild bird of its kind left in the Brazilian city where the birds once flew far and wide. Almost every morning for the last two decades, Juliet has appeared. She swoops onto the zoo enclosure where macaws are kept and, through its fence, engages in grooming behaviour that looks like conjugal canoodling. Sometimes she just sits, relishing the presence of others. She is quieter — shier? more coy? — than her squawking chums. Blue-and-yellow macaws live to be about 35 years old and Juliet — no spring chicken — should have found a lifelong mate years ago, according to Neiva Guedes, president of the Hyacinth Macaw Institute, an environmental group. But Juliet hasn’t coupled, built a nest or had chicks, so at most she’s “still just dating.” “They’re social birds, and that means they don’t like to live alone, whether in nature or captivity. They need company,” said Guedes, who also co-ordinates a project that researches macaws in urban settings. Juliet “very probably feels lonely, and for that reason goes to the enclosure to communicate and interact.” Aside from Juliet, the last sighting of a blue-and-yellow macaw flying free in Rio was in 1818 by an Austrian naturalist, according to Marcelo Rheingantz, a biologist at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, and there are no other types of macaws in the city. The lovebirds featured in the 2011 film “Rio? are Spix’s macaws, which are native to a different region of Brazil and possibly extinct in the wild. Being boisterous with brilliant plumage helps macaws find each other in dense forest, but also makes them easier targets for hunters and animal traffickers. They're often seen in other Brazilian states and across the Amazon, and it is suspected Juliet escaped from captivity. Biologists at BioParque aren’t sure if Juliet’s nuzzling is limited to one caged Romeo, or a few of them. They’re not even certain Juliet is female; macaw gender is near impossible to determine by sight, and requires either genetic testing of feathers or blood, or examination of the gonads. Either would be interference merely to satisfy human curiosity with no scientific end, biologist Angelita Capobianco said inside the enclosure. Nor would they consider confining Juliet, who often soars overhead and appears well-nourished. “We don’t want to project human feelings. I look at the animal, and see an animal at ease,” Capobianco said, noting Juliet has never exhibited behaviour to indicate disturbance, such as insistently pecking at the fence. “Who am I to decide it should only stay here? I won’t. It comes and goes, and its feathers are beautiful.” After more than a year of COVID-19 quarantine and travel bans, the appeal of roaming without restriction is evident to humankind. Macaws are used to flying great distances of more than 30 kilometres (20 miles) a day, Guedes said. Last year, BioParque g ave its macaws more space: a 1,000-square-meter (10,700-square-foot) aviary where they fly beside green parrots and golden parakeets to compose an aerial, technicolour swirl. It’s a massive upgrade from prior enclosures that were roughly 100 square feet. BioParque reopened to the public in March, after privatization of Rio’s dilapidated zoo and almost 17 months of renovations. BioParque aims to feature species associated with research programs at universities and institutes. One such initiative is Refauna, which reintroduces species into protected areas with an eye on rebuilding ecosystems, and is participating with BioParque to start breeding blue-and-yellow macaws. The plan is for parents to raise some 20 chicks that will receive training on forest food sources, the peril of predators and avoidance of power lines. Then the youngsters will be released into Rio’s immense Tijuca Forest National Park, where Juliet has been sighted and is thought to sleep each night. “Their role could be important in terms of ecosystem and reforestation. It’s a big animal with big beak that can crack the biggest seeds, and not all birds can,” said Rheingantz, the university biologist, who is also Refauna’s technical co-ordinator. “The idea is for it to start dispersing those seeds, complementing forest animals that can’t.” After some pandemic-induced delays, the project has slowly restarted and Rheingantz expects to release blue-and-yellow macaws into Tijuca park toward the end of 2022. After two decades of relative solitude, Juliet will then have the chance to fly with friends. Neves said Juliet could teach them how to navigate the forest, or even find a love of her own. David Biller, The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — It won’t speed the manufacture of vaccines. It enraged the developers who delivered lifesaving doses in record time. But President Joe Biden’s decision to support waiving intellectual property rights for coronavirus shots had a broader purpose: to broadcast his administration’s commitment to global leadership. More than a month of internal debate led up to Biden’s decision this week to endorse international calls to strip patent protections for vaccines. The policy shift, embraced by many charitable service organizations around the world and liberals at home, wasn’t new. Biden endorsed it during his campaign for the White House. But the idea was the subject of pitched discussions inside the administration over how best to bring the pandemic to an end while restoring U.S. influence abroad. In the best case, officials acknowledge it will take at least a year for any additional vaccines to be produced due to the change. Key European leaders are adamantly opposed to the waivers, and securing the required consensus at the World Trade Organization many never happen. The specialized production, particularly of the cutting-edge mRNA vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna, would take even longer. Moreover, the matter could become less pressing if vaccine manufacturers can produce enough to satisfy international demand themselves. To Biden, White House officials said, that’s largely beside the point, as officials cast the decision as indicative of the president’s efforts to return the U.S. to the position of leadership after four years of unilateralism and protectionism under former President Donald Trump. “This is a global health crisis, and the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic call for extraordinary measures,” U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai said Wednesday in announcing the move. The announcement was met with surprise and disappointment by some of Biden’s closest European allies. German Chancellor Angela Merkel quickly weighed in against it, with a government spokesman saying it would cause “severe complications” for the production of vaccines. The timing of the decision also blindsided the vaccine companies, which had aggressively discouraged the administration from making a choice they feel will hurt American producers. Officials noted, however, that Tai held more than two dozen meetings with stakeholders, including the drug makers. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo also opposed the plan, but was excluded from the final meeting, two people familiar with the decision-making process but not authorized to speak publicly about private deliberations said on condition of anonymity. Other White House officials highlighted the practical limitations of Biden’s decision, but the symbolism won the day. Trade groups warned it could curtail future investment in lifesaving drugs, and vaccine manufacturers and some Republican lawmakers warned that it would amount to a giveaway of American technological knowhow to China. Vaccine manufacturing historically has not been a huge profit driver for drug makers. “The Chinese Communist Party is already celebrating this gift from President Biden,” tweeted Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, as he highlighted a comment from a Chinese official praising Biden’s action. A vaccine manufactured by a Chinese company was given emergency use authorization Friday by the World Health Organization, potentially creating a pathway for millions of the doses to reach needy countries through a U.N.-backed program rolling out coronavirus vaccines. The decision by a WHO technical advisory group — a first for a Chinese vaccine — opens the possibility that Sinopharm’s offering could be included in the U.N.-backed COVAX program in coming weeks or months and distributed through UNICEF and the WHO’s Americas regional office. But U.S. vaccine manufacturers also warned that the Biden administration’s move could hurt the global supply of shots in the near to moderate term. The primary obstacle to vaccine production, they’ve argued, remains production bottlenecks and shortages of the specialized supplies needed to make the shots — a challenge that could become more acute if other countries hoard them in anticipation of trying to make their own doses at home. The Pfizer vaccine, for instance, has more than 200 components, many of which are in demand around the world. Some in the Biden White House, in addition to noting that the president pledged to do this during the campaign, also believe that it creates a low stakes political victory. They said the decision, which has been applauded by some on the left, is good Democratic politics and that few will be outraged on the behalf of the drug companies, even though those firms have been praised as heroes of the pandemic. White House aides maintain that Biden’s action is limited to COVID-19 vaccines because of the scale of the pandemic, but some progressives who have pushed to have the government regulate the price of prescription drugs saw an opening. “Here’s why Pharma’s really really whining about the COVID vaccine patents: the government might finally have the spine to lower drug prices here at home,” tweeted Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren on Friday. “And it should.” “President Biden can lower drug prices by producing drugs like insulin, naloxone, and EpiPens at low costs,” she said. “And he doesn’t need Congress to do it — he can use existing compulsory licensing and march-in authorities to bypass patents for public health needs.” The debate over the inoculations comes as the administration set a new goal to deliver at least one shot to 70% of adult Americans by July Fourth as Biden tackles the vexing problem of winning over the skeptics and those unmotivated to get vaccinated. Demand for vaccines has dropped off markedly nationwide, with some states leaving more than half their allotment of doses unordered. Already more than 56% of American adults have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and nearly 105 million are fully vaccinated. The U.S. is currently administering first doses at a rate of about 965,000 per day — half the rate of three weeks ago, but almost twice as fast as needed to meet Biden’s target. Zeke Miller And Jonathan Lemire, The Associated Press
COTABATO, Philippines — Dozens of Muslim militants occupied a public market overnight in the southern Philippines before fleeing after a tense standoff with government forces, officials said Saturday. The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters did not take any hostage or put up resistance when army troops and police took positions at dawn Saturday near the public market in the farming town of Datu Paglas, said military spokesman Lt. Col. John Paul Baldomar. “They went into the market and stole food but got stuck inside when they saw that our forces have taken positions to ensure other buildings could not be threatened,” he told reporters. There were no immediate reports of injuries or deaths. The rebel group broke off from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the largest Muslim rebel group in the south, after it entered into peace talks and later signed a Muslim autonomy deal with the government in 2014. The breakaway guerrillas have continued sporadic attacks and bombings, with some aligning themselves with the Islamic State group. Baldomar said government forces locked down the town centre, where the public market is located, and closed a highway at the height of the hourslong rebel occupation of the market. After the gunmen fled in batches following talks with local officials, soldiers found at least four homemade bombs placed by the rebels along the highway. Troops were pursuing the gunmen, he said. Datu Paglas Vice Mayor Mohammad Paglas, however, gave a different account and told reporters that the mostly young Muslim rebels arrived on board five trucks in the town centre Friday to rest and mark the holy fasting month of Ramadan. He added some of the gunmen have relatives in the town in predominantly Muslim Maguindanao province. “A big number of gunmen arrived and told us they just wanted to take a rest since it’s Ramadan. We allowed them," Paglas said. When troops and police, some on board armoured personnel carriers, arrived, the rebels were forced to retreat into the public market for cover but allowed people to leave the building, he said. Paglas said there was an exchange of fire before the rebels fled, as requested by local officials. Baldomar said some of the gunmen opened fire on civilian motorists, who were trapped along the highway. The motorists later managed to flee with the help of the military, he said. Government forces have been on alert in the south, homeland of minority Muslims in the largely Roman Catholic nation, after hundreds of mostly local militants with some foreign supporters linked to the Islamic State group laid siege on southern Marawi city in 2017. They took over buildings, including banks, school campuses and a hospital, before troops quelled the insurrection after five months with the help of surveillance aircraft deployed by the U.S. and Australia. The audacious attack at the time reinforced fears that the IS was gaining a foothold in the Southeast Asia despite battle setbacks in Iraq and Syria. The Associated Press
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — A blast likely caused by powerful fireworks late Friday night smashed the front window of a cafe in Amsterdam that is known as a gathering place for fans of soccer club Ajaxe. The incident came a day after a similar blast damaged a bar in Rotterdam frequented by fans of rival club Feyenoord. Nobody was hurt in either of the blasts, which happened before the final meeting of the season between Ajax and Feyenoord on Sunday afternoon. No fans will be allowed at the match because of coronavirus lockdown measures. Police in Amsterdam said they are investigating the incident at the Vak West cafe. Police arrested a 21-year-old man from Amsterdam on Friday who is suspected of involvement in a series of similar blasts in Rotterdam including at two bars known as meeting places for Feyenoord fans. Police said in a tweet that they are still investigating the motive. Ajax won the Dutch Eredivisie league last week for the 35th time. The Associated Press
BAGHDAD — In mid-April, A drone strike early on Saturday targeted a military base in Iraq that hosts U.S. troops, causing only minor damage and no casualties, Iraq's military and the U.S.-led coalition said. The pore-dawn attack damaged a hangar, tweeted coalition spokesman Col. Wayne Marotto. He said the attack was under investigation. An Iraqi military statement also said no losses were reported. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack. The U.S. has blamed Iran-backed militia groups for previous attacks, most of them rocket attacks that have targeted the American presence in Baghdad and military bases across Iraq. Drone strikes are less common. In mid-April, an explosive-laden drone targeted the military section of the international airport in Irbil, in Iraq's northern Kurdish-run region, causing no casualties or damages. The base also hosts U.S. troops. The attacks have been frequent since a U.S.-directed drone strike killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani near the Baghdad airport last year. Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis was also killed in the attack. The strike drew the ire of mostly Shiite Iraqi lawmakers and prompted parliament to pass a non-binding resolution to pressure the Iraqi government to oust foreign troops from the country. The Biden administration has resumed strategic talks with Baghdad, initiated under President Donald Trump, in which the future of U.S. troop presence in Iraq is a central point of discussion. The Associated Press
Lightning lit up the sky in Salisbury, Maryland, as a strong thunderstorm moved through the state on May 7, the National Weather Service (NWS) saidVideo shared by Dalencia Jenkins shows multiple lightning flashes in the sky above the town.The NWS said the storm was likely to bring lightning, pea sized hail, rain and wind gusts in excess of 30 mph. Credit: Dalencia Jenkins via Storyful
JERUSALEM — A night of heavy clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound and elsewhere in Jerusalem left more than 200 Palestinians wounded, medics said Saturday, as the city braced for even more violence after weeks of unrest. Nightly protests broke out at the start of the holy month of Ramadan over police restrictions at a popular gathering place and have reignited in recent days over threatened eviction of dozens of Palestinians from their homes in east Jerusalem, which is claimed by both sides in the decades-old conflict. It was unclear what set off the violence at Al-Aqsa, which erupted when Israeli police in riot gear deployed in large numbers as thousands of Muslim worshippers were holding evening prayers at the sprawling hilltop esplanade. Throughout the night large groups of protesters could be seen hurling rocks as Israeli police fired rubber bullets and stun grenades. At one point, the police entered one of the buildings in the complex, which includes the Al-Aqsa mosque and the iconic golden Dome of the Rock. The Palestinian Red Crescent emergency service said 88 of the wounded were hospitalized. The Palestinian Health Ministry said 83 people were wounded by rubber-coated bullets, including three who were shot in the eye, two with serious head injuries and two with broken jaws. The Israeli police said protesters hurled stones, fireworks and other objects at them, wounding 17 officers, half of whom were hospitalized. “We will respond with a heavy hand to all violent disturbances, riots and attacks on our forces,” it said in a statement late Friday. The Al-Aqsa mosque compound is the third holiest site in Islam. It is also the holiest site for Jews, who refer to it as the Temple Mount because it was the location of the biblical temples. It has long been a flashpoint in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and was the epicenter of the 2000 Palestinian intifada, or uprising. Some 70,000 worshippers had attended the final midday Friday prayers of Ramadan at Al-Aqsa, the Islamic endowment that oversees the site said. Thousands protested afterwards, waving the green flags of the Islamic militant group Hamas and chanting pro-Hamas slogans. At the beginning of Ramadan in mid-April, Israel blocked off a popular gathering spot where Palestinians traditionally socialize at the end of their daylong fast. The move set off two weeks of clashes before Israel lifted the restrictions. But in recent days, protests have grown over Israel's threatened eviction in Sheikh Jarrah in east Jerusalem of dozens of Palestinians embroiled in a long legal battle with Israeli settlers trying to acquire property in the neighbourhood. The United States said it was “deeply concerned” about both the violence and the threatened evictions, and was in contact with leaders on both sides to try and de-escalate tensions. “It is critical to avoid steps that exacerbate tensions or take us farther away from peace,” the U.S. State Department said in a statement. “This includes evictions in East Jerusalem, settlement activity, home demolitions, and acts of terrorism.” The European Union also urged calm. It said the potential evictions were of “serious concern," adding that such actions are "illegal under international humanitarian law and only serve to fuel tensions on the ground. Neighbouring Jordan, which made peace with Israel in 1994 and is the custodian of Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem, has also condemned Israel's actions, as has the Gulf kingdom of Bahrain, which normalized relations with Israel last year in a U.S.-brokered deal. Israelis and Palestinians are bracing for more unrest in the coming days. Saturday night is “Laylat al-Qadr” or the “Night of Destiny,” the most sacred in the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Worshippers will gather for intense nighttime prayers at Al-Aqsa. Sunday night is the start of Jerusalem Day, a national holiday in which Israel celebrates its annexation of east Jerusalem and religious nationalists hold parades and other celebrations in the city. On Monday, an Israeli court is expected to issue a verdict on the evictions. Israel captured east Jerusalem, along with the West Bank and Gaza — territories the Palestinians want for their future state — in the 1967 Mideast war. Israel annexed east Jerusalem in a move not recognized internationally and views the entire city as its capital. The Palestinians view east Jerusalem — which includes major holy sites for Jews, Christians and Muslims — as their capital, and its fate is one of the most sensitive issues in the conflict. In a call to Palestine TV late Friday, President Mahmoud Abbas praised the “courageous stand” of the protesters and said Israel bore full responsibility for the violence. Israel's Foreign Ministry had earlier accused the Palestinians of seizing on the threatened evictions, which it described as a “real-estate dispute between private parties,” in order to incite violence. Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip and opposes Israel's existence, has called for a new intifada. Protest groups affiliated with Hamas said they would resume demonstrations and the launching of incendiary balloons along the heavily-guarded Gaza frontier. Hamas has largely curtailed such actions over the past two years as part of an informal cease-fire that now appears to be fraying. In an interview with a Hamas-run TV station, the group's top leader Ismail Haniyeh addressed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by name, warning him not to “play with fire.” “Neither you, nor your army and police, can win this battle,” he said. “What’s happening in Jerusalem is an intifada that must not stop.” ___ Akram reported from Gaza City, Gaza Strip. Joseph Krauss And Fares Akram, The Associated Press
ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s ailing opposition leader, who has been charged with corruption, was turned back on Saturday at the international airport in Lahore and prevented from leaving the country, his party spokesperson said. Shahbaz Sharif, head of the opposition bloc in the lower house of parliament and the Pakistan Muslim League party, was not allowed to board a Qatar Airways flight to London, said Maryam Aurangzeb, the party spokeswoman. She said immigration officials at the airport said Sharif’s name was still “on the black list" so he could not leave. On Friday, the Lahore High Court ruled that Sharif could leave Pakistan and stay abroad for treatment till early July. The court had acted on a petition from Sharif, who pleaded that as a cancer survivor he now needed treatment outside of Pakistan. The court order drew criticism from Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government, which said it would explore legal options to stop Sharif from leaving. Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said the government had not received any application from Sharif or his party asking that he be taken off the black list. Sharif faces corruption charges in three separate court cases. He leads his brother’s Pakistan’s Muslim League party after Nawaz Sharif, a three-time prime minister, was disqualified from office. The ex-premier and elder Sharif, convicted of corruption, lives in exile in London. He was released from prison in 2019 on bail to seek medical treatment abroad but never returned home. Shahbaz Sharif was released on bail last month on a court order, about seven months after he was arrested by an anti-graft body over alleged involvement in money laundering. The Associated Press
BENGALURU, India — Two southern states in India became the latest to declare lockdowns, as coronavirus cases surge at breakneck speed across the country and pressure mounts on Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government to implement a nationwide shutdown. At over 300,000, Karnataka's capital of Bengaluru has the highest active caseload of any Indian city. But experts warn the worst is still ahead as India's third-largest city buckles under oxygen shortages, overrun hospitals and crowded crematoriums. In Tamil Nadu state, the lockdown announcement followed a daily record of more than 26,000 cases on Friday. Infections have swelled in India since February in a disastrous turn blamed on more contagious variants as well as government decisions to allow massive crowds to gather for religious festivals and political rallies. On Saturday, India reported 401,078 confirmed cases, including a record high of 4,187 deaths. Overall, India has more than 21.8 million confirmed infections and nearly 240,000 deaths. Experts say even those dramatic tolls are undercounts. One doctor in Bengaluru said he's had to reject patients “left, right and centre” as his hospital struggled to find more oxygen. “The problem is the demand is so high that we need constant oxygen,” said Dr. Sanjay Gururaj, the medical director at Shanti Hospital and Research Center. The hospital is sending a truck twice a day to oxygen plants on the outskirts of the city to bring back 12 jumbo oxygen cylinders. “In normal times, this would have lasted over two weeks — now, it lasts just over a day,” he added. The state’s oxygen shortages prompted the high court on Wednesday to order the federal government to increase the daily liquid medical oxygen supplied to Karnataka. The ruling came after 24 virus patients died in a government hospital on Monday. It's unclear how many of them died due to the lack of oxygen, but an investigation is ongoing. Modi has so far left the responsibility for fighting the virus in this current surge to poorly equipped state governments, and faced accusations of doing too little. His government has countered that it is doing everything it can amid a “once-in-a-century crisis.” Meanwhile, many medical experts, opposition leaders and even Supreme Court judges are calling for national restrictions, arguing that a patchwork of state rules is insufficient to quell the rise in infections. Experts caution that the surge in Bengaluru is fast eclipsing other hard-hit cities like the capital, New Delhi, and Mumbai. Cases have increased 100-fold since February, said Murad Banaji, a mathematician modeling COVID-19 growth in India, citing official data. Test positivity has jumped to over 30%, which indicates the infection is much more widespread than confirmed figures, he added. “Disaster was looming by early March, when cases started to shoot up,” he said. “Bangalore is more than a ticking time bomb right now — it is in the middle of an explosion.” Bengaluru was previously known as Bangalore. Much of the focus in recent weeks has been on northern India, led by New Delhi, where television stations have broadcast images of patients lying on stretchers outside hospitals and of mass funeral pyres that burn throughout the night. The situation unfurling in Karnataka has thrown attention to other southern states also battling a rise in cases. Daily cases have breached the 20,000 mark for the past three days in Andhra Pradesh state, leading to new restrictions there. Kerala, which emerged as a blueprint for tackling the pandemic last year, began a lockdown on Saturday. With daily cases crossing 40,000, the state is aggressively boosting resources, including converting hundreds of industrial oxygen cylinders into medical oxygen, said Dr. Amar Fetle, the state’s officer for COVID-19. “The magnitude of cases from last year to now is vastly different,” he said, adding that increasing numbers have meant more hospitalizations and more strain on health care systems, with hospitals running nearly full. “It’s become a race between occupancy and how fast we can add beds. We’re trying to stay ahead of the virus as best as we can.” It’s clear infections are rapidly rising across the southern region, but there has been “less visible outcry” than in the north because of relatively better health infrastructure and government initiatives that address problems at the community level, said Jacob John, professor of community medicine at Christian Medical College, Vellore. But while the virus has ripped through large cities in waves, smaller towns and villages where health care is less accessible are now exposed. “These places are quickly getting affected, which means we may not have sustained the worst yet in south India,” he said. Krutika Pathi, The Associated Press
Nicola Sturgeon has said a majority for her party would give a mandate for a second independence vote.