Millions mark Easter under virus curbs as Pope urges jabs for poorSunday, April 04, 2021
ROME, Italy (AFP) — Millions of Christians around the world celebrated a second Easter under coronavirus restrictions on Sunday with Pope Francis calling for vaccines to be shared among the poorest nations as COVID-19 surges.
Despite vaccine rollouts gathering pace in many richer countries, dramatic spikes in cases have seen deeply unpopular restrictions enforced from Canada to Europe and South America.
Vaccination was "an essential tool" in the fight against the virus, the pope said in his Easter Sunday address, with Italy under a strict lockdown over the weekend.
"I urge the entire international community... to commit to overcoming delays in the distribution of vaccines and to facilitate their distribution, especially in the poorest countries," he said to a congregation of only around 100 people inside the vast St Peter's Basilica.
Stricter curbs have come into effect in Belgium as well as in France, where authorities are scrambling to deal with a serious spike in cases that has overwhelmed hospitals in Paris.
In the Covid-19 intensive care unit of the Antony Private Hospital south of Paris, no bed stays free for long.
Nurse Louisa Pinto gestured to a vacated room where a cleaner was already at work, scrubbing down the mattress for the next arrival.
"The bed won't even have time to cool down," she said.
Across the Atlantic, Canada crossed the threshold of one million coronavirus cases, forcing several provinces to tighten restrictions for the Easter weekend.
And celebrations have been dampened in South America too, where Brazil is in the grip of a devastating outbreak likely fuelled by a more contagious variant.
The worrying situation led Peru to go into an Easter lockdown, Bolivia to seal the frontier with Brazil, and Chile to close all borders.
But in Jerusalem, curbs have been partially lifted due to Israel's successful vaccination campaign, allowing Easter celebrations to go ahead.
Easter mass was held at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, built at the site in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem where Christians believe Jesus was crucified and buried.
Tourists are however still generally barred, and the tens of thousands of pilgrims who usually flock to holy sites could not enter this year.
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