A woman leaves after being tested at a COVID-19 coronavirus testing station at Bondi Beach in Sydney on April 1, 2020. (PETER PARKS / AFP)
MELBOURNE / AMMAN / SEOUL / TOKYO / WELLINGTON / NEW DELHI / Kabul / HANOI / SUVA— South Korea said on Saturday it will extend its intensive social distancing campaign scheduled to end on Monday by two weeks in a bid to curb the rate of coronavirus infections to around 50 a day.
The country has largely managed to bring under control the epidemic with around 100 or fewer new daily cases. But smaller outbreaks in churches, hospitals and nursing homes, as well as infections among travelers, continue to emerge.
This week, the government has been gauging whether it should extend a 15-day intensive social distancing policy it implemented on March 21, under which high-risk facilities were urged to close and religious, sports and entertainment gatherings were banned.
It is “too early to be at ease,” Health Minister Park Neung-hoo said, citing a recent spike in imported cases and small cluster infections which also prompted the government to cancel the re-opening of schools next week.
The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) reported 94 new cases on Saturday, taking the national tally to 10,156. The death toll rose by nine to 183, while more than 300 recovered from the virus for a total of 6,325.
Australia on Saturday reported more signs that the spread of the novel coronavirus has been stabilising, as New South Wales (NSW) health authorities defended the disembarking in mid-March of a virus-hit cruise ship.
According to the federal health ministry data, there were 230 new cases of the coronavirus in the 24-hour period to early Saturday in Australia, bringing the total to 5,454 cases.
This suggests the daily increase rate has continued to stay at around 5 percent in recent days, significantly lower than the 30 percent jumps seen two weeks ago.
Twenty-eight deaths so far have been related to COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.
About 50 Qantas and Jetstar airline staff, including pilots and cabin crew, have tested positive for COVID-19, according to local media on Saturday.
The latest cases include eight pilots and 19 crew, the company's medical officer Russell Brown was quoted as saying.
Australia has been strengthened its efforts in the global race to halt the coronavirus pandemic, cases now past 1 million worldwide and fatalities at more than 53,000 fatalities.
The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Australia’s top biosecurity research agency, said on Saturday it has received A$220 million (US$132 million) from the government to update its facilities.
On Thursday, Australia’s national science agency, which is operated by CSIRO, said it had commenced pre-clinical testing of two potential vaccines at its high-containment biosecurity facility near Melbourne.
A Seoul city official wearing protective clothing waits to guide visitors for the COVID-19 coronavirus test at a walk-thru testing station set up at Jamsil Sports Complex in Seoul on April 3, 2020. (PHOTO / AFP)
Tokyo confirmed 118 new cases of COVID-19 as of 4:00 pm local time Saturday, a metropolitan government official said, the first time the daily increase has topped 100.
This pushes the total number of COVID-19 cases to 891 in the Japanese capital, the highest among the 47 prefectures of the country.
Tokyo has been struggling to contain a recent surge in the number of infections, asking residents to stay at home over the weekend to prevent further spread of the virus.
Across Japan, the number of infections has climbed to 3,278 as of Saturday afternoon.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has taken a cautious approach to declaring a state of emergency.
Abe has said that COVID-19 infections across Japan are not at a point necessitating a declaration of a state of emergency, although has stated the nation is "on the brink."
Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said on Friday that if the country declares a state of emergency, Tokyo residents will be asked to refrain from leaving their homes but essential services will remain in operation.
According to Koike, even during a state of emergency, stores selling essential items such as food and medical supplies, and services necessary to keep society and the economy running such as banks will remain in operation in the capital.
The New Zealand government on Saturday afternoon reported 82 new COVID-19 cases, making the total infections to 950 in the country.
Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield from New Zealand Ministry of Health gave the update on daily COVID-19 press conference.
According Bloomfield, New Zealand reported 52 new confirmed and 30 new probably cases of COVID-19 on Saturday, bringing the total to 950. Ten people are currently in hospital, including one person in intensive care unit, and 127 people have recovered.
Meanwhile, 33,116 COVID-19 tests have been conducted in New Zealand labs. The country has now a daily capacity of 6,000 tests.
While most of the COVID-19 cases confirmed in New Zealand are related to overseas travels, several clusters of community transmission in the country have been confirmed and are still under investigation.
New Zealand declared a national emergency and imposed a national lockdown starting from March 25. People are urged to stay home to contain community transmission of COVID-19.
Iran’s death toll from the coronavirus outbreak climbed to 3,452 on Saturday, with 158 more fatalities recorded over the past 24 hours, Health Ministry Spokesman Kianoush Jahanpur said.
The total number of cases diagnosed with the disease reached 55,743, of whom 4,103 are in critical condition, he said on state TV. Iran is the country worst affected by the pandemic in the Middle East.
In Turkey, the second hardest-hit country in the region, 2,786 new cases and 69 more deaths from COVID-19 were confirmed on Friday, as the tally of confirmed cases rose to 20,921 and the death toll to 425. A total of 484 Turkish patients have recovered from the viral respiratory disease so far.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced a 15-day curfew for the citizens under the age of 20 in a bid to curb the fast spread of the coronavirus. Vehicles will also be banned from entering and leaving 30 major provinces and the Black Sea province of Zonguldak, where pulmonary diseases are widespread.
Erdogan and President of the European Council Charles Michel on Friday discussed over the phone the cooperation in the fight against the coronavirus outbreak.
In Israel, the number of COVID-19 cases surged to 7,428, up by 571 from Thursday, while the death toll rose to 39 after three more fatalities were recorded. A total of 403 Israeli patients have recovered from the disease, up by 65 from Thursday.
The United Arab Emirates
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced 240 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total confirmed cases to 1,264.
UAE's Ministry of Health and Prevention said one more death from the disease was confirmed, raising the death toll to nine, while 12 more patients recovered from the virus, raising the tally of the recoveries to 108.
Saudi authorities announced a lockdown and a partial curfew in seven neighborhoods of the Red Sea city of Jeddah, starting on Saturday, as part of measures to contain the new coronavirus outbreak, the interior ministry said in a statement.
The ministry said residents in those neighborhoods could only go out for grocery shopping and medical care, between 6 am and 3 pm. Entering and exiting the neighborhoods will be restricted, it added.
Saudi Arabia confirmed 154 new COVID-19 cases, raising the total tally to 2,039. The death toll rose to 25 after four more fatalities were recorded, while the total number of recoveries increased to 351 after 23 more were added.
Qatar reported 126 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total number to 1,075. A total of 21 people recovered from the disease, raising the number of recoveries to 93.
Kuwait recorded on Saturday its first death from the coronavirus outbreak, state news agency KUNA reported, citing a health ministry spokesman.
The total number of people diagnosed with the disease increased by 62 in the past 24 hours to 479 cases, he said, according to KUNA.
Iraq reported 48 new COVID-19 cases, raising the total number of confirmed cases to 820, including 54 deaths and 226 recoveries.
Palestinian Health Ministry's official announced on Saturday that the total number of cases infected with COVID-19 in the Palestinian territories rose to 205.
Kamal al-Shakhra, director of First-aid and Healthcare in the Palestinian Ministry of Health, told a news briefing in the West Bank city of Ramallah that 11 new infected cases were recorded in the West Bank on Saturday.
Oman announced 21 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 252, with one death.
Lebanon's total number of COVID-19 infections increased by 14 cases to 508, including 17 fatalities after one more death was recorded on Friday.
The World Bank said it has approved a loan of US$40 million to strengthen the Lebanese Ministry of Public Health's capacity to cope with the coronavirus pandemic.
Jordan confined its 10 million inhabitants to their homes in a sweeping one-day curfew on Friday that brought public life to a complete stop in a stepped-up bid to stem the spread of the coronavirus, witnesses and officials said.
The government said the 24-hour curfew that began Thursday at midnight, with a shutdown that encompassed shops, bakeries and even pharmacies and left open only hospitals and emergency services, was needed if Jordan was to avert a major outbreak.
The pandemic if it spreads will be difficult to control and we have to prepare for a period that is not short
Omar Razzaz, Prime Minister, Jordan
We sought through a complete curfew today to gauge our ability and to prepare ourselves for the worse, God forbid
“We sought through a complete curfew today to gauge our ability and to prepare ourselves for the worse, God forbid,” Prime Minister Omar Razzaz told state television.
“The pandemic if it spreads will be difficult to control and we have to prepare for a period that is not short,” Razzaz added, saying it would take Jordan a while to recover from the damaging impact of the crisis on its debt-laden economy.
The kingdom has seen a spike of coronavirus cases since announcing the first early last month, and now has a total of 310 with five deaths.
The government said it would relax the curfew on Saturday to allow movement by foot for people to buy goods from local groceries and bakeries during daytime. The ban on vehicles and the night curfew will remain in place until further notice.
The number of COVID-19 cases have more than doubled in South Asia in the last week. Health experts warn an epidemic in the region, home to a fifth of the world’s population, could overwhelm its already weak public health systems.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday appealed to nearly 1.3 billion countrymen to show a joint resolve in fight against the novel coronavirus by switching off all lights at home and hold a candle, lamp, torch or flash mobile phone lights, at 2100 hours for nine minutes on Sunday.
"This would show a joint spirit of all the countrymen to jointly fight against COVID-19," said Modi.
India's federal health ministry said Saturday morning that the death toll due to COVID-19 in India rose to 68 and the total number of confirmed cases in the country reached 2,902.
According to the data updated by the Health Ministry of Pakistan late Friday night, the total number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 has risen to 2,547 in the country, with 37 deaths reported.
Earlier on Friday, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan decided to bolster the construction sector by announcing a package, including cash support, waivers, subsidies and high rebates in the terms of sales tax, capital gain tax and withholding tax, to mitigate the COVID-19 impact on the country's economy.
The government opened the construction industry under strict medical guidelines so that the daily wagers and laborers can earn their livelihoods. Khan said around 90 million Pakistanis are facing severe financial issues due to the lockdown measures.
Thailand will temporarily ban all passenger flights from landing in the country to curb the outbreak of the new coronavirus, the country’s aviation agency said on Friday.
The ban on incoming flights will come into effect on Saturday morning and run until the end of Monday, the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand said in an order published late on Friday.
Anyone arriving on a flight that took off before the order came into effect will need to be quarantined for 14 days upon arrival in Thailand, the order said.
Authorities in Thailand are searching for 152 Thai nationals who have apparently avoided a government-provided quarantine after returning from overseas.
The Thai government is looking into pushing out Phase-3 of COVID-19 relief package estimated at 200 billion baht (US$6 million) to support individuals, small-and-medium enterprises, grass-root economies and financial institutions, Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said Friday.
The Phase-3 COVID-19 relief package was proposed by the Finance Ministry to ease the fallout from the virus outbreak.
The ministry said the latest package is aimed at supporting the four groups by providing them more liquidity and incentives.
According to the Bank of Thailand earlier this week, the Thai economy is set for the worst contraction this year since the 1990s as tourism, exports and consumer confidence stall, putting pressure on the government to step up spending.
According to Thaveesilp Wisanuyothin, spokesman of the Center for the COVID-19 Situation Administration, the number of Thailand's patients has totaled 2,067, including 89 newly reported cases on Saturday.
The Afghan Ministry of Public Health on Saturday registered one new death from COVID-19, bringing the total number of fatalities to seven since the outbreak of the pandemic in mid February.
The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Afghanistan soared to 299 as 25 more people were tested positive on Friday, Mayar said in the press conference.
Vietnam's Ministry of Health confirmed two new cases of COVID-19 infection on Saturday morning, raising the total confirmed cases in the country to 239.
Vietnam has reported 3,736 suspected cases with nearly 74,000 being monitored and quarantined, and 85 patients have recovered with no deaths recorded in the country as of Saturday morning, according to the health ministry.
Fiji reported on Saturday five more confirmed cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number to 12.
In a televised speech on Saturday afternoon, Fiji's Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama said the latest cases are two from Labasa, a city in Fiji's second largest island of Vanua Levu, one each from capital city of Suva, the third largest city of Nadi and the second largest city of Lautoka.
In Fiji, a nationwide curfew from 8 pm to 5 am every day has also been imposed since March 30. The prime minister warned on Saturday that a 24-hour curfew will be implemented if Fijians do not adhere to the government restrictions.
Laos tested more 53 COVID-19 suspected cases, and all of them are negative, according to Lao health official.
Fifty-three COVID-19 suspected cases were tested negative, with its total number of COVID-19 infected case remained at 10, Lao Deputy Minister of Health Phouthone Meaungpak told a press conference on Saturday.
As of Saturday, there are 573 suspected cases in Laos, with 10 cases were tested positive.
Two people have recovered from COVID-19 in Syria, the health ministry said in a statement on Saturday.
The recovered are part of 16 cases that have so far been tested positive for the novel coronavirus in the country, the statement said.
The death toll from the COVID-19 pandemic in Sri Lanka reached five on Saturday after a 44-year-old man who was under treatment died earlier in the day, the government information department said in a statement.
Sri Lanka's Health Ministry said that to date 159 people had tested positive for the COVID-19 out of which 25 had recovered and been discharged, while 129 people are under observation in the designated hospitals across the country.
Two days after recording of the sixth positive case of COVID-19, the Nepali government on Saturday confirmed three new cases in a single day in the far western region of the country.
"Three new cases of COVID-19 have been found in two males, both India-returnees, and a local female. This is the first time that Nepal has discovered a locally transmitted coronavirus case," the Ministry of Health and Population said on its official Facebook page.
The Nepali government has enforced a nationwide lockdown on travels from air and ground, closed borders and shut down most of industries and businesses except those related to essential goods.
The lockdown will last until April 7, however the government is considering extension of the lockdown for another week, which is yet to be finalized.
The World Bank has approved a fast-track 100 million U.S. dollars financing to help Bangladesh fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, as the total number of confirmed cases in country reached 70 on Saturday.
Bangladesh's COVID-19 death toll rose to eight, with two more fatalities and nine new cases reported on Saturday in the last 24 hours, the biggest daily jump in positive cases over a 24-hour period, according to Meerjady Sabrina Flora, head of the country's Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR) under the Health Ministry.
The Indonesian government said on Saturday that the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country jumped to 2,092, with the death toll climbing to 191.
At a press conference, the government's spokesperson for COVID-19, Achmad Yurianto said as many as 150 patients have recovered from the disease.
Jakarta, home to some 10 million people, suffers the highest number of deaths totaling 89, followed by West Java 28, Central Java 18, Banten 17, East Java 14, and the rest recorded in other areas.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo declared a national public health emergency status over the coronavirus pandemic on Tuesday. Authorities have been conducting rapid tests in areas where cases were detected.
HONG KONG NEWS