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Friday, April 24, 2020, 22:54
Japan hopes longer holiday marks end of virus lockdown
By Agencies
Friday, April 24, 2020, 22:54 By Agencies

People walk along an empty street in Kyoto on April 23, 2020. (PHOTO /AFP)

TOKYO / ANKARA / CAIRO / DUBAI / MANILA / SYDNEY -  Japan is stepping up efforts to try to contain coronavirus infections by telling people to stay at home during a forthcoming week-long holiday, with the goal of ending the country’s quasi-lockdown when the period ends in early May.

With the nation now in its third week of a state of emergency, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike on Thursday proposed further steps to keep citizens from venturing out and infecting each other. Large companies should add vacation days to the annual Golden Week holiday to turn it into a 12-day break that would start as soon as Saturday, she said. Calling it the “Stay at Home Weeks,” the mayor asked families to stay in the capital and in their homes.

“The holiday period is the moment of truth,” Koike told reporters on Friday. Golden Week is usually one of the busiest travel periods in Japan, with salaried employees combining official holiday and personal time off to return to their hometowns or take trips abroad. Officials have expressed concern that the virus will spread further if people travel, which is what they suspect happened during a sunny and warm three-day weekend in March.

Coronavirus cases in Japan increased by 436 to 12,429, with 134 new daily infections recorded in Tokyo, according to the latest figures from the health ministry and local authorities Thursday evening.

The nationwide death toll from the virus has now increased to 337, including those from a cruise ship that was quarantined in Yokohama near Tokyo.

About 40 more crew on an Italian cruise ship docked in Nagasaki, southwestern Japan, have tested positive for the new coronavirus, public broadcaster NHK reported on Friday, bringing the total to 91.

The Costa Atlantica was taken into a shipyard in Nagasaki in late February after the COVID-19 pandemic scuttled its original plans. Nagasaki officials have said they hoped to complete testing of all 623 crew soon.

People walk past a mask and eyes stapled to a tree in Melbourne on April 20, 2020, as the southern Australian state of Victoria recorded just one new case of coranavirus overnight. Vicotria has recorded 1,329 confirmed cases with 15 deaths. (WILLIAM WEST / AFP)


Austrian Education Minister Heinz Fassmann on Friday presented a roadmap for reopening schools in the country: first to go back to school will be pupils in their final year, followed by younger students and then the older ones, with classes divided into two groups to reduce population density.

From May 4, schools will open to graduating classes, including those of vocational middle schools (BMS). From May 15, all pupils in the six to 14 age group will return to school, followed by the remaining pupils from June 3, Fassmann said at a press conference here on Friday.

Australia has moved to the third phase, or the "community phase" of the fight against COVID-19, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Friday.

He told reporters that Australia remains on track for the National Cabinet, which is comprised of the prime minister and state and territory leaders, to begin consider easing some restrictions in mid-May.

"We now have to be wary against community transmission, and so we are dealing with that third wave of the virus," he said.

"We will also be then working towards decisions that we have to make over the next few weeks, getting the key data metrics in place as to how we'll make decisions on further easing of restrictions."

Morrison also promised the country will make accessing health data from non-related officials illegal after the Australian authorities reported another day of low single-digit percentage increases of the illness, which has infected about 6,700 people and resulted in 78 deaths in the country.


The Afghan Ministry of Public Health on Friday reported 95 more COVID-19 cases within the past 24 hours, bringing the national tally to 1,330 cases.

The numbers of locally transmitted confirmed and suspected COVID-19 cases have been continuously increasing during past weeks and more people have been infected inside Afghanistan than those from other affected countries, the statement noted.

At least 43 patients have died and 188 others have recovered and discharged from hospitals since the outbreak in mid February in Afghanistan, according to official records.


Two more patients have recovered from COVID-19 in Fiji, bringing the total number of recoveries to 10 out of 18 patients in the country, Fijian Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama said in a televised speech on Friday.

Based on the current situation in Fiji, the prime minister said that the Fijian government has decided to ease some of the restrictive measures.


India's Health Ministry said Friday evening that five new deaths due to COVID-19 besides fresh 375 positive cases were reported since morning across the country, taking the number of deaths to 723 and total cases to 23,452.

"As on 5:00 p.m. (local time), today 723 deaths related to novel coronavirus have been recorded in the country," read an information released by the ministry.

On Friday morning the number of COVID-19 cases in the country was 23,077 and the death toll was 718.

A laborer wearing a mask sits outside a glass shop in the Dharavi slum during a government-imposed nationwide lockdown as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus in Mumbai on April 16, 2020. (PUNIT PARANJPE / AFP)


Indonesia will temporarily ban domestic and international air and sea travel, with some exceptions, starting this week to prevent a further spread of the coronavirus, the transport ministry said in a statement on Friday.

The announcement came as the holy month of Ramadan began in the world’s largest Muslim majority country, and the government has already banned citizens’ traditional annual exodus from the cities to the provinces during the holiday period.

The ban on sea travel took immediate effect, but the ban on air travel will start on Saturday so that some pre-booked flights can go-ahead. Cargo transport is exempted.

Indonesia reported its biggest daily jump in coronavirus infections after identifying 436 new cases, taking the total to 8,211, data provided by health ministry official Achmad Yurianto showed on Friday.


Iran's Ministry of Health and Medical Education on Friday confirmed 1,168 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total number of infected to 88,194, the state TV reported.

Also, 93 died overnight, increasing the death toll to 5,574, said Kianush Jahanpur, head of Public Relations and Information Center of the ministry, during his daily updates.

The number of recoveries has reached 66,596, he said, adding 3,121 are still in critical condition and under treatment.


The Iraqi Health Ministry on Thursday confirmed 46 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total to 1,677 in the country.

The new cases included 17 in the capital Baghdad, 10 in Babil, nine in Najaf, seven in Basra and one in each of Salahudin, Maysan and Muthanna, the ministry said in a statement.

Meanwhile, 83 patients have so far died from the disease, while 1,171 others recovered, the statement said, adding that no death was registered during the day.


The number of coronavirus patients in Israel has reached 14,882, after 79 new cases were added on Friday, the state's Ministry of Health said.

The death toll increased from 192 to 193, after the well-known rabbi Yeshayahu Haber died at the age of 55 at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem.

READ MORE: Singapore's cases top 10,000 as worker infections rise

People celebrate with Turkish flags on their balconies to mark the National Sovereignty and Children's Day, On April 23, 2020 in Istanbul as the country is under lockdown to stop the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus. (YASIN AKGUL / AFP)


Malaysian health authorities on Friday reported 88 new coronavirus cases and one more death.

That brought the cumulative total to 5,691 cases in Malaysia, with the daily rise remaining in double digits for the eighth straight day.

The country has now reported 96 fatalities due to COVID-19 since the outbreak began.


The number of COVID-19 cases in Maldives crossed 100 on Friday as the country continues to find more cases of community transmission in capital Male, local media reported.

Fourteen Bangladeshi nationals and two Maldivian citizens were tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Ministry of Health on Friday morning.

The country now has 110 confirmed cases of COVID-19, 16 recoveries and no deaths reported.


Mongolia has reported one more COVID-19 case, taking its total to 36, the country's National Center for Communicable Disease (NCCD) said Friday.


Seven more people tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday, bringing the total number of infections to 139 in Myanmar, said a release from the Health and Sports Ministry.

Myanmar has reported five deaths of COVID-19 disease as of Thursday.

New Zealand

New Zealand's finance minister said on Friday there will be a time when more stimulus would be needed to boost the economy that has taken a hit due to the impact of the coronavirus. 

New Zealand reported one more death of COVID-19, bringing the death toll to 17 in the country, the Ministry of Health said on Friday.

Meanwhile, New Zealand reported two new confirmed and three probable cases of COVID-19 over the past 24 hours, with the total number of infections being 1,456 in the country, she said.


The Omani Ministry of Health on Thursday announced 102 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total to 1,716.

The death toll of COVID-19 in the country hit eight, according to the ministry. 

A policemen stands guard at a market while people shop during a government imposed enhanced quarantine as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 novel coronavirus in Manila on April 21, 2020. (MARIA TAN / AFP)


The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases has risen to 11,155 with 237 deaths in Pakistan, according to the data updated by the country's health ministry on Friday morning.

The data revealed that 13 patients died and 642 persons tested positive during the last 24 hours across the country. The eastern Punjab province remains the most affected region of the country with a total of 4,767 positive cases followed by the southern Sindh province which has 3,671 confirmed cases.

As one of the worst-hit prvoince in the country, Sindh banned communal prayers on the eve of the holy month of Ramadan on Friday, heeding the advice of doctors who are urging Pakistan’s central government to tighten its restrictions on mosque congregations.

South Korea

South Korea decided to provide all households with relief grants to help bolster consumer spending that was hit hardest by the COVID-19 outbreak, the Ministry of Economy and Finance said Friday.

South Korea reported six more cases of the COVID-19 compared to 24 hours ago as of 10:00 am Friday local time, raising the total number of infections to 10,708.

The daily caseload hovered around 10 for the sixth straight day. Of the new cases, two were imported from overseas, lifting the combined number to 1,023.

No death was confirmed for the first time in 39 days since March 16. The death toll was 240, and the total fatality rate came in at 2.24 percent.


Singapore registered 897 new coronavirus infections on Friday, taking its total number of cases to 12,075.

The health ministry said the vast majority of the new cases were migrant workers residing in dormitories, many of which are under government-ordered quarantine due to mass outbreaks.

Sri Lanka

The number of COVID-19 cases rose to 337 in Sri Lanka on Thursday after seven new patients were detected, the Government Information Department said in a statement.

Out of the total cases, 107 patients have been discharged from hospital upon recovery while 223 are under observation in the designated hospitals, and seven deaths have been recorded, statistics from the Health Ministry showed.

Sri Lanka's capital Colombo has detected the highest number of patients and remains under an indefinite curfew along with three other districts. All four districts have been declared as high risk zones after a rising number of patients were detected in recent days.

Firefighters wearing protective clothing ride atop tanker trucks before spraying disinfectant as a preventive measure against the spread of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus in Yangon on April 23, 2020. (SAI AUNG MAIN / AFP)

ALSO READ: South Asia in quandary over lockdown exit as infections soar


It is unlikely the lockdown restrictions in Thailand will be relaxed on May 1 despite the low numbers of new infections, a spokesman of the government's Center for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) said on Friday.

The CCSA on Friday reported 15 new COVID-19 cases, but no new death. The number of fatalities remained at 50, while 2,490 patients have recovered and returned to their homes and 314 are undergoing treatment in hospitals.

The Total tally of COVID-19 cases reached 2,854.

The Philippines

The Philippine government on Friday announced that a lockdown in Metro Manila and provinces on the main island of Luzon with high number of coronavirus infections will remain in place for another two weeks or until May 15.

Meanwhile, the Philippines and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) signed on Thursday a loan agreement that would enable the government to access up to US$1.5 billion in budgetary support from the multilateral institution to augment funds for its stepped-up efforts against COVID-19.

The Philippines’ Health Ministry on Friday reported that confirmed cases of the new coronavirus have risen to more than 7,000.

In a bulletin, the ministry recorded 211 new infections, 15 additional deaths and 40 more recoveries. It brought the total cases to 7,192, deaths to 477 and recoveries to 762.


Turkey on Thursday crossed a major threshold as its total COVID-19 cases soared to 101,790, becoming the seventh country with the highest number of coronavirus infections. 

A total of 3,116 new COVID-19 cases were confirmed, while the death toll climbed to 2,491 after 115 fatalities were added, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca tweeted.

Despite the fast growth of infections, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan showed confidence in the country's health system, saying that, unlike Western nations, Turkey's hospitals still have the capacity to deal with the crisis due to a good health infrastructure with new investments.

In this context, the first phase of a new special hospital used for treating coronavirus patients was inaugurated on Monday in Turkey's biggest city of Istanbul, which has accounted for almost 60 percent of all cases nationwide.

Turkey will also produce 5,000 ventilators by the end of May, while two other pandemic hospitals are currently under construction in Istanbul.


The United Arab Emirates has shortened a nationwide coronavirus curfew by two hours to now run daily from 10 pm to 6 am for the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, state news agency WAM said on Thursday.

The curfew to help stem the spread of the coronavirus had run from 8 pm to 6 am daily. 

Dubai, the most populous city in the UAE, on Thursday allowed cafes and restaurants to resume business, and shopping malls to be opened partially from 12 pm until 10 pm, but with a maximum capacity of 30 percent, Dubai’s media office announced in a statement.

The statement added that it would also allow resuming public transportation services including subways starting April 26.


Lebanon's COVID-19 infections increased on Friday by eight cases to 696 while the death toll remained unchanged at 22, the National News Agency reported.

The Higher Defense Council advised on Friday the government to extend lockdown in Lebanon until May 10 in a bid to enable the country to better contain the virus.

The lockdown is expected to be implemented in parallel with the easing of some mitigation measures in certain sectors such as food industries, paper and electrical equipment factories.

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