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Thursday, May 07, 2020, 23:29
Thailand to expand coronavirus testing as new cases dwindle
By Agencies
Thursday, May 07, 2020, 23:29 By Agencies

A woman, wearing a face mask as a preventive measure against the spread of the novel coronavirus, walks with a wheelchair along an alley in a low-income neighborhood in Bangkok on May 7, 2020. (PHOTO / AFP)

SANAA / SYDNEY / MUSCAT / JERUSALEM / DAMASCUS / DUBAI / BAGHDAD / ANKARA / DHAKA / MALE / BANGKOK / WELLINGTON — Thailand plans to expand coronavirus testing for critical groups as the number of new cases is dwindling into single digits and some business are reopening, a senior official said on Thursday.

The government aims to reach a total of 400,000 tests from the current level of around 230,000, said Taweesin Wisanuyothin, a spokesman for the government’s Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration.

“This is about 6,000 tests for every million individual ... and considered a moderate amount globally,” Taweesin said.

Thailand has a population of about 66.5 million and has recorded 2,992 infections since January, with a total of 55 deaths.

The criteria for testing will be expanded to include flu-like symptoms without a fever or the loss of the sense of smell, which will account for 85,000 new tests, he said.

There will also be additional testing for high-risk professions such as medical personnel, screening authorities, migrant workers, public transportation drivers and delivery workers - but not widespread random testing in the population.

Healthcare workers wearing Personal Protective Equipment walk out of a hospital during a government-imposed nationwide lockdown as a preventive measure against the coronavirus, in Mumbai on May 4, 2020. (INDRANIL MUKHERJEE / AFP)

India

Mumbai has become the first Indian city to surpass the 10,000 cases mark of COVID-19 with the detection of 769 fresh cases Wednesday , said an update by the city civic authority late Wednesday.

The total number of positive cases in India's financial capital stood at 10,527 with 412 deaths so far, including 25 deaths on Wednesday, the update by BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) said.

Out of the total cases reported so far, the city's mortality rate is 3.9 percent, which is higher than India's average rate of 3.43 percent but lower than the world rate of 6.92 percent.

Mumbai's recovery rate of patients from COVID-19 is also lower at 21 percent compared to the national average of 28 percent.

Considering the rise in the number of cases, BMC is planning to set up more Corona Care Centres (CCCs) in the next two weeks days that will enhance the capacity to 34,000 beds from the current 14,000 beds.

The critical bed capacity in various civic run hospitals have also been enhanced to 4,750 beds from 3,000 beds, the update said.

India's total number of coronavirus cases crossed the 50,000 mark on Thursday.

A total of 52,952 COVID-19 cases and 1,783 deaths were reported by the federal health ministry at 08:00 am (local time), an increase of 3,561 cases and 89 deaths in the past 24 hours.

On Wednesday evening, the number of COVID-19 cases in the country was 49,391 and the death toll was 1,694.

According to the ministry officials, 15,267 people have been discharged from hospitals after showing improvement.

India's federal government has banned the export of alcohol-based hand sanitizers in wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, officials said Thursday.

An official notification to this regard was issued on Wednesday by the country's Directorate General of Foreign Trade.

A worker disinfects a neighbourhood in the Yemeni capital of Snaaa during the emergency lockdown in certain areas due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, on May 6, 2020. (PHOTO / AFP)

Yemen

The health authorities in Yemen's Houthi-held capital Sanaa said on Wednesday that they would build a 3,000-bed field hospital in Sanaa given the potential spread of COVID-19, the Houthi-run al-Masirah television reported.

Earlier in the day, the Houthi-controlled security authorities imposed partial lockdown on several markets and neighborhoods in Sanaa, a day after the Houthi-controlled health authorities confirmed the first COVID-19 case in the rebel-held northern provinces, a Somali national found dead in a hotel in Sanaa.

Meanwhile in the south, the internationally recognized Yemeni government confirmed four new cases of COVID-19, bringing the official number of recorded cases in the country to 25, including five deaths.

The World Health Organization has said Yemen's fragile health system is facing catastrophic shortages after five years of civil war as anti-coronavirus supplies in the country are grossly insufficient.  

Australia

More than 6,000 Australians have recovered from the coronavirus, said Health Minister Greg Hunt Thursday morning.

Hunt told reporters that the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Australia grew by 18 to 6,891 over a 24-hour period, and 6,023 patients have officially recovered while 97 have died.

"That's an immensely important statistic. Sadly, we have lost 97 beautiful lives along the way, many of them elderly. So that's why we'll continue to fight," Hunt said.

Of the 771 active cases, 24 were being treated in intensive care units (ICUs) as of Thursday morning, with 17 on ventilators.

Hunt praised the work of Australia's health care workers and said the government was making an additional 40 million protective facemasks available from the national medical stockpile.

A vast majority of the masks, 35 million, will go to hospital staff with 1.5 million for aged care workers and 3.5 million for primary health care workers.

The National Cabinet, which is comprised of Prime Minister Scott Morrison and state and territory leaders, will meet on Friday to discuss easing Australia's coronavirus restrictions.

Australia’s two most populous states on Thursday refused to allow a one-day reprieve from strict limits on personal movement for Mother’s Day this weekend, even as the country’s rate of new coronavirus cases remains low.

The premiers of New South Wales (NSW) and Victoria said the states’ roughly 10 million residents, 40 percent of the country’s population, would have to stick to existing restrictions on movement on Mother’s Day, which is celebrated nationally on Sunday.

ALSO READ: Virus hits India police enforcing world's largest lockdown

Japan

Japan has approved Gilead Sciences Inc’s remdesivir as a treatment for COVID-19, the health ministry said on Thursday, making it the country’s first officially authorized drug for the coronavirus disease.

Japan reached the decision just three days after the US drugmaker filed for fast-track approval for the treatment.

Japan’s state of emergency over the novel coronavirus could be lifted early in some areas of the country that have seen declines in new infections, Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said on Thursday.

Nishimura told a news conference it was possible the emergency would be removed for some areas around May 14. Earlier this week, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe extended the nationwide state of emergency until May 31.

The confirmed COVID-19 cases in Japan increased by 102 to reach 15,474, according to the latest figures from the health ministry and local authorities on Wednesday.

South Korea

South Korea reported four more cases of the COVID-19 compared to 24 hours ago as of midnight Thursday, raising the total number of infections to 10,810.

The daily caseload hovered below 20 for 20 straight days, staying below five for three days in a row.

Of the newly confirmed cases, three were imported from overseas, lifting the combined figure to 1,107. The domestic infection recorded one, after logging zero for the past three days.

One more death was confirmed, raising the death toll to 256. The total fatality rate stood at 2.37 percent.

Oman

The Omani health ministry announced on Wednesday 168 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number in the country to 2,903.

According to a statement issued by the ministry, all the new cases, including 41 Omanis, are related to community contact.

The statement also reported 30 new recovered cases, bringing the recoveries in the country to 888, with a death toll of 13.

The ministry called on people to observe the procedures for quarantine, avoid public places or places of worship, and ensure public hygiene.

Israel

The Israeli health ministry reported 21 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, the lowest daily increase since March 15 when 20 new patients were added.

The total number of COVID-19 cases has reached 16,310, of which 5,434 are active ones, according to the ministry.

Meanwhile, the death cases rose to 239 after a 70-year-old patient passed away, while the number of patients in serious condition decreased from 91 to 89 out of the 244 in hospital.

In addition, the number of recoveries in Israel increased to 10,637, with 172 new ones.

Palestine

The Hamas-run health ministry announced that three new cases of COVID-19 were recorded in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday night.

In a press statement emailed to Xinhua, the ministry said the three new cases were recorded during their quarantine at one of the medical centers run by the ministry in southern Gaza.

The number of Palestinians infected with COVID-19 in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem has reached 546, according to the health ministry.

The number of cases infected by the virus in the Gaza Strip has reached 20, the statement noted.

Meanwhile, Mail al-Kaila, Palestinian health minister in the West Bank, reported in a press statement 54 new recovered cases, raising the number of recoveries in the Palestinian territories to 222.

Syria

A new COVID-19 infection was recorded in Syria on Wednesday, bringing the total number in the country to 45, the health ministry said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Syria has so far recorded 27 recoveries and three deaths from COVID-19, according to the ministry statement.

Qatar

Qatar's Health Ministry on Wednesday announced 830 new infections with the novel coronavirus, bringing the total number of the confirmed cases in the Gulf state to 17,972.

"A total of 146 people have recovered, bringing the total number of the recoveries to 2,070, while the fatalities remain at 12," the official Qatar News Agency reported, quoting a ministry statement.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia has formed a police unit to monitor violations of rules banning gatherings of more than five people imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus, the state news agency SPA said on Thursday.

The kingdom had previously said such gatherings were prohibited and said on Thursday that those breaching the rules would be punished by law. It also encouraged people to report in breach of the restrictions.

The United Arab Emirates

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Wednesday announced 546 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total confirmed cases in the country to 15,738.

UAE's Ministry of Health and Prevention said in a statement the new cases include many nationalities. All are in a stable condition and receiving medical treatment.

The ministry said that 206 more patients have made full recovery from the virus, taking the tally of the UAE's recoveries to 3,359.

It also confirmed 11 more deaths, pushing the country's death toll to 157.

Iraq

The Iraqi Health Ministry on Wednesday confirmed 49 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of infections to 2,480 in the country.

The 49 new cases were recorded after 4,242 test kits were used across the country during the past 24 hours, the ministry said in a statement.

The new cases included 31 in the capital Baghdad, 11 in Basra, three each in Erbil and Karbala and one in Muthanna, the ministry said in a statement.

So far, Iraq has reported 2,480 COVID-19 cases, out of whom 102 have died while 1,602 others recovered, the ministry said in a statement.

Turkey

Turkey's total confirmed cases of COVID-19 climbed to 131,744, with 2,253 new patients reported in the last 24 hours, the Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on Wednesday.

The death toll of the novel coronavirus in Turkey reached 3,584 after 64 more lost their lives over the past 24 hours, Koca tweeted.

Turkey conducted 30,303 tests in the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of tests carried out to 1,234,724, the minister noted.

A total of 78,202 patients have recovered, and 1,278 patients are still being treated in intensive care units, the minister said.

Bangladesh

The Bangladeshi government has gone for a cautious easing of its lockdown measures despite experts' warnings amid no signs of abatement in COVID-19 infections.

Defending the government's  recent move, Bangladesh Commerce Secretary Md Jafar Uddin told Xinhua Wednesday that economic disruptions caused by the COVID-19 have already taken a toll on livelihoods of millions of people in the country's informal sectors.

The decision of reopening shops and markets from May 10, before the ongoing lockdown due to end on May 16, came as the government seeks to balance between controlling the infectious disease and reviving the country's hard-hit economy.

The virus has spread to 63 out of the 64 districts in Bangladesh. The number of confirmed infections totalled 11,719 while fatalities stood at 186.

Maldives

The number of COVID-19 cases in Maldives crossed 600 on Wednesday with over 40 new confirmed cases, local media reported.

Forty-four new COVID-19 cases were reported in the Maldives on Wednesday, raising the country's total to 618, out of which 212 are Maldives citizens, with the remaining 406 are foreign citizens mainly from Bangladesh and India.

World Health Organization (WHO) representative to the Maldives Dr. Arvind Mathur told local media that conveying accurate information was vital to tackling the pandemic and that the Maldives' state and private media have excelled in this regard.

Dr. Mathur also congratulated the Maldives government for its pre-emptive measures including setting up thermal cameras in airports and increasing capacity of medical facilities.

According to data from the Health Protection Agency (HPA), the country has tested 9,863 individuals out of whom 8,813 have tested negative with 477 samples pending results.

Two COVID-19 related deaths have been reported while 20 patients have made full recoveries. There are around 1,790 people in quarantine and 555 people in isolation facilities.

READ MORE: Australia, NZ discuss possible trans-Tasman 'travel bubble'

Vietnam

Vietnam reported no new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, the third day in a row, with its total confirmed cases remaining at 271, according to its Ministry of Health.

Vietnam has 232 patients cured in total as of Wednesday evening, while there are 131 suspected cases and nearly 34,100 people being monitored and quarantined, with no deaths from the disease reported so far, according to the ministry.

The Vietnamese Ministry of Finance has slashed administration fees in numerous sectors to help the economy get back on its feet when the COVID-19 pandemic eases.

Banks, credit institutions, construction companies and travel firms will be among key beneficiaries of the move, Vietnam News Agency reported on Thursday.

Indonesia

The Indonesian government reported that 35 new deaths of the COVID-19 were registered on Thursday, raising the total fatalities in the archipelagic country to 930, the highest in Southeast Asia.

At a press conference, the government's spokesperson for the COVID-19-related matters Achmad Yurianto said that there were 338 new confirmed cases, bringing the total number of infections to 12,776.

Meanwhile, 64 more people have been discharged from hospitals, making the total number of recovered patients stand at 2,381.

According to data provided by Yurianto, also a Health Ministry official, the number of suspected COVID-19 cases is 28,508.  

New Zealand

New Zealand said on Thursday that retail, domestic travel and local sport can resume if social restrictions are eased next week, as the country prepares to end months of economic disruptions due to the coronavirus.

New Zealand reported one more COVID-19 case, bringing the total number of cases to 1,489, as some Kiwis and businesses look to further loosening restrictions in Alert Level 2.

No more deaths were reported over the past 24 hours, with the death toll remaining at 21, Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield told a press conference.

The cases discovered this week were linked with previous cases, Bloomfield said, adding it was "exactly where we want to be".

Among all the cases in the country, 1,332 people had recovered from the virus, making up 89 percent, Bloomfield said. 

Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan has eased lockdown restrictions and introduced red, yellow and green levels as of May 8, the Special Republican Commission to Combat Coronavirus said Thursday.

The decision was made based on an assessment of the sanitary and epidemiological situation of COVID-19.

In red zones, existing quarantine restrictions are maintained, which may be revised depending on the development of the situation, but all necessary infrastructure, food and construction markets, banks, pharmacies and delivery services remain operational.

Citizens are allowed to walk near their homes as long as they wear a mask and adhere to social distancing measures. They can also drive twice a day for necessary shopping or work.

The yellow zones, which include the capital city Tashkent, and green zones have more relaxed rules to allow many businesses to run following sanitary rules.

However, regardless of the quarantine levels, a number of restrictions such as a ban on mass cultural and sporting events, and clothing markets remain intact and people must maintain social distancing rules and wear masks, the commission said.

Uzbekistan has registered 2,266 confirmed cases so far and has locked down all major cities to contain the spread of the pandemic.  

Myanmar 

Myanmar authorities brought back 135 Myanmar nationals from Thailand and 38 from Bangladesh to home by a relief flight on Wednesday, state-run media reported Thursday.

In order to retrieve the Myanmar nationals from Thailand and Bangladesh, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs coordinated with the Myanmar embassies in Bangkok and Dhaka as well as their local government ministries under the guidelines of the National Level Central Committee on Prevention, Control and Treatment of COVID-19.

The returnees from the two countries will be put under quarantine at designated facilities or hotels for 21 days in line with the directives issued by the Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population and the Ministry of Health and Sports.

It was learnt that the two ministries and Yangon Region government will collaborate to ensure a positive experience during the quarantine.

Myanmar has reported 162 COVID-19 confirmed cases with six deaths as of Thursday morning since the infectious disease was first detected in the country on March 23.

Kyrgyzstan 

Kyrgyzstan reported 24 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, bringing the total number to 895.

Deputy Minister of Health Nurbolot Usenbaev said there have been 232 patients with coronavirus infection in hospitals in the country, among which seven are in serious condition and four in intensive care.

He also said that three medical workers are among the newly infected. In total, 224 coronavirus cases were reported among medical workers, with 161 recoveries.

The Philippines

The Philippines on Thursday reported 339 new COVID-19 cases, raising the total number of the COVID-19 cases in the country to 10,343.

The Department of Health (DOH) said the country now has a total of 1,618 recoveries, with 112 more patients surviving the disease.

According to DOH, 27 new deaths have been tallied, bringing the country's death toll to 685.

The DOH said 205 cases, or 61 percent of the daily cases, came from the Central Visayas region in the central Philippines, 110, or 32 percent, were reported in Metro Manila, while 24 cases, or 7 percent, from other parts of the country. 

Afghanistan 

A total of 171 more COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in Afghanistan over the 24 hours, bringing the number of patients infected with the disease to 3,563 in the country, spokesman for the Public Health Ministry Wahidullah Mayar said Thursday.

Two patients have died due to COVID-19 over the past 24 hours, bringing the number of total deaths to 106 since the outbreak of the virus in Afghanistan in February, the spokesman added.

According to Mayar, eight more patients have been discharged from hospital after recovery, bringing the number of recovered to 468 in the country.  

Laos

Enterprises operating during the COVID-19 pandemic must strictly implement precautionary measures to prevent the spread of the virus, even as the country recorded no new COVID-19 confirmed case for 25 consecutive days.

Lao Deputy Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism, Savankhone Razmountry, told a press conference on Thursday that businesses such as accommodation providers, cafes, barbershops and beauty salons must strictly implement the prevention measures. He has also recommended numerous measures for effective outbreak control.

The guidance includes checking the body temperature of employees before work. All employees must wear face masks and organizations must upgrade staff knowledge about preventing the spread of the virus such as how to practice social distancing of at least one meter between customers. Businesses must set up basins for handwashing or provide alcohol gel for customers and employees.

In addition, customers must wear masks, submit to body temperature checks as well as wash their hands with supplied soap or use alcohol gel.

Accommodation providers and shops must be well ventilated while implementing social distancing of at least one meter. Venues must be cleaned in the morning and in the evening, especially toilets and floors. Alcohol gel should also be provided at counters for customers.

The rules are in effect since Monday until May 17 and authorities will revise the measures if the COVID-19 situation changes.

The total number of the COVID-19 cases in Laos remained at 19, as no new case was confirmed.

Malaysia 

Malaysia reported 39 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, bringing the total number in the country to 6,467, the Health Ministry said.

Health Ministry Director-General Noor Hisham Abdullah said at a press briefing that of the total cases, 1,584 are still receiving treatment, 19 are currently being held in intensive care and 8 of those are in need of assisted breathing.

Another 74 cases had been released, bringing the number of those cured and discharged to 4,776.

No new deaths had been reported, leaving the total fatalities at 107.

Mongolia 

Mongolia has evacuated 8,744 nationals in total from abroad amid the COVID-19 pandemic, local media reported on Thursday, citing the country's State Emergency Commission (SEC).

"Our country has been organizing the evacuation of its citizens from abroad in stages since February due to the COVID-19 outbreak," Deputy Prime Minister Ulziisaikhan Enkhtuvshin said in a statement.

The Asian country has evacuated a total of 2,648 nationals on 11 chartered flights and 6,096 people on buses and trains from more than 30 countries so far, said Enkhtuvshin, who also heads the SEC.

There have been no local transmissions or deaths reported in Mongolia so far.

As of Thursday, Mongolia has confirmed 41 COVID-19 imported cases, including four foreign nationals.

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