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French, Austria cafes open; India toll up

India has recorded the highest single-day death toll since the start of the coronavirus pandemic as Egypt extended restrictions while France and Austria allowed cafes, restaurants and beer gardens to resume serving customers on the premise.

India’s Health Ministry reported 4529 deaths on Wednesday as the coronavirus spreads beyond cities into the vast countryside, where health systems are weaker.

The number is considered an undercount by health experts.

The US held the previous record for daily deaths at 4475 on January 12, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

India also reported 267,334 new daily infections, with daily cases dropping below 300,000 for the third consecutive day.

The number of daily administered coronavirus vaccine doses has fallen by about half in the last six weeks because of shortages.

It has decreased from a high of 4 million a day on April 2 to 2 million or fewer this week.

Egypt will extend measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus including early closing hours for shops until the end of May, the cabinet said on Wednesday.

Since May 6, stores, malls and restaurants have had to close by 9pm, straddling the last days of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and Eid celebrations.

Public parks and beaches, which were closed during Eid, will be allowed to reopen with appropriate precautions, the cabinet said in a statement.

The number of new cases has been steadily rising in Egypt in recent weeks and officials have warned of infections spreading further as families were meeting during Ramadan, which ended last week.

The Eid holiday ended on Sunday.

While Egypt imposed stricter measures at the start of the pandemic, closing its airspace and setting nightly curfews to curb the spread of the virus, it has remained largely open since June 2020.

Cafes, restaurants and beer gardens in France and Austria resumed serving customers on the premises on Wednesday, bringing to an end long shutdowns mandated by their governments.

France and Austria were the latest European countries to ease restrictions, with the UK, Portugal, Spain and Italy having already begun relaxing curbs in various ways.

Though their emergence from the pandemic lags behind Asia, the US and even some of their European neighbours, Austria and France have registered a drop in infection rates.

The re-opening of cafes and other venues marked a milestone on the journey to getting back to normal life.

For now in France, customers at cafes can only be served outside.

In Paris, French President Emmanuel Macron joined his prime minister, Jean Castex, for a coffee near the Elysee Palace.

“Here we go! Terraces, museums, cinemas, theatres … Let’s rediscover the things that make up the art of living,” Macron wrote on his Twitter account.

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