WASHINGTON, June 10 (AFP) — The United States is set to announce it will buy 500 million Covid-19 vaccine doses to distribute around the world, a strong gesture intended to prove the country's commitment to the global effort to fight the coronavirus.
The Washington Post and New York Times, citing people familiar with the matter, said President Joe Biden was due to formally announce the huge donation of Pfizer-BioNTech doses at a G7 meeting in Britain this week.
The move comes as the United States faces pressure to do more about the global vaccine shortage, with rich countries having bought up the lion's share of early supplies and the pandemic still raging across much of the world.
The United States itself has fully vaccinated more than half its entire population, and the infection rate has plummeted. Some states have even resorted to perks like million-dollar lotteries or free beers to encourage uptake of the country's ample vaccine supply.
Biden hinted at the announcement before boarding Air Force One bound for Britain.
Asked if he had a vaccine strategy for the world, he said: "I have one and I'll be announcing it."
The deal would see the US paying the "not for profit" price for the doses, with the first 200 million to ship this year and the remaining 300 million the next year.
Last week, Biden announced the shipment of a first batch of six million doses to be distributed in Central America and the Caribbean through the global Covax program, while others will be sent directly from Washington to countries such as Mexico.
'Normal life is gradually resuming'
In wealthy countries such as in Europe, vaccine rollouts are allowing the return of activities unthinkable just a few months ago.
In France, that included sipping a drink inside a cafe, allowed on Wednesday for the first time in months.
"It's a pleasure to have a coffee inside. Normal life is gradually resuming," said transport worker Hammou Mraoui, enjoying a coffee in a Parisian bar.
With the easing of the curfew in France, venues are not only opening up inside, they're open later outdoors too — an extra two hours to 11:00 pm.
The new measures also saw gyms open their doors to the relief of fitness buffs like Stephanie Moscoso.
"I put on the alarm clock this morning, it was super early, I saw the sun, I said to myself: this is the beginning of a new life!" said the 35-year-old, who hit her local gym in Paris at 8:00 am.
Belgium also relaxed restrictions, allowing cafes and restaurants to serve indoors, while mask-wearing rules were eased in Brussels.
Europe is continuing to see infection spikes in some places — Portugal, for instance, delayed Lisbon's post-lockdown reopening on Wednesday.
But the bloc's accelerating vaccination campaign has fuelled hopes of a return to normality. Almost half of all adults in the EU have received at least one shot, with almost 26 percent fully vaccinated.
China fills vaccine void
But for billions of the world's poor there is still no sign of a vaccine in sight, with the global death toll at more than 3.7 million and many nations still struggling to contain outbreaks.
While India is showing some signs of turning the tide against its brutal epidemic, that's come at a cost to the neighbors it was previously supplying with vaccines. They're now turning to Russia and Beijing for help with supplies.
Nepal, where barely two percent of the population is fully vaccinated, resumed shots on Tuesday after a million more Sinopharm doses arrived from China, the only country so far to respond to its appeals for help.
Sri Lanka has also been aggressively rolling out China's Sinopharm jab after receiving two million doses in the past week, opening its program to pregnant women on Wednesday.
In a further sign that the fight against the pandemic is far from over, Russia on Wednesday warned of a spike in new cases that would force it to reopen mothballed field hospitals.
And preparations for Europe's top international football competition have been thrown into turmoil for the Spanish and Swedish teams after some of their players tested positive.
Spain has said it would vaccinate its players after the infections.