In our news wrap Thursday, the COVID emergency is growing ever more desperate in India as new infections top 400,000 for a second time, with nearly 4,000 deaths in 24 hours. French President Emmanuel Macron voiced support for releasing COVID vaccine patents in a bid to increase access for poorer nations. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned that global vaccinations must move faster.
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The push to waive patents on COVID-19 vaccines to make them more available globally is accelerating after the United States endorsed the idea.
French President Macron voiced support at a vaccine center today, in a bid to increase production for poorer nations.
Emmanuel Macron (through translator):
I completely favor this opening up of the intellectual property. Today, the strangle points that complicate access to the vaccines will, at some point, be the price and access to intellectual property. Today, it is technological transfer and the capacity to produce.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke out against a patent waiver today. Ultimately, the World Trade Organization, with 164 members, will decide. But opposition from just one could derail the effort. We will return to this later in the program.
In India, the COVID emergency is growing ever more desperate. New infections have topped 400,000 for a second time, with nearly 4,000 deaths in 24 hours. Hospitals in New Delhi and elsewhere are in crisis, and the government today sharply increased medical oxygen shipments under court order.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned today that global vaccinations must move faster. He said in an interview that — quote — "If we don't do more, if the entire world doesn't do more, the world won't be vaccinated until 2024."
Blinken spoke in Ukraine, where he also reassured President Volodymyr Zelensky of U.S. support and said Russia's recent massing of troops was reckless.
We are aware that Russia has withdrawn some forces from the border of Ukraine, but we also see that significant forces remain there, significant equipment remains there. We are monitoring the situation very, very closely.
Blinken also urged Ukraine to step up efforts against internal political corruption.
A police raid in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, left 25 people dead today, including one officer. Heavily armed suspects leapt from roof to roof to escape the firefight. Authorities said the operation targeted a gang of drug traffickers. At least 10 suspects were arrested.
Back in this country, President Biden pitched his infrastructure plan, worth $2.3 trillion, in Republican Louisiana. He spoke in Lake Charles in front of a bridge that he said was 20 years past its intended lifespan. The Republican mayor joined him to appeal for federal aid. The president also stopped in New Orleans.
Florida is the latest Republican-run state to impose new voting rules, including limits on mail-in ballots and drop boxes. Governor Ron DeSantis staged a bill signing today on the "FOX & Friends" TV program.
He argued that the changes will stop fraud and suggested that he would have gone even further.
Gov. Ron DeSantis:
I'm not a fan of drop boxes at all, to be honest with you. But the legislature wanted to keep them. But they need to be monitored. You can't just leave these boxes out where there is no supervision, where there are in all hours of the night.
So the drop boxes will be available only when they are monitored and during regular voting hours.
Opponents said that the measure makes it harder for the elderly and minorities to vote, and they quickly filed suit to block it.
A national moratorium on evicting renters during the pandemic will stay in effect for now. A federal judge in Washington, D.C., had initially ruled that the Centers for Disease Control had no authority to impose the ban. But, late Wednesday, she put the ruling on hold to consider the Justice Department's appeal.
New jobless claims have dropped to a pandemic low. They fell by nearly 100,000 last week, down to 498,000. The Labor Department also reports that productivity rebounded in the first quarter, rising at an annual rate of 5.4 percent.
And on Wall Street, banks and tech stocks led a broad rally. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 318 points to a record close, 34548. The Nasdaq rose 50 points, the S&P 500 was up 34.