People walk in a street food market in Bangkok on June 9, 2020. (PHOTO / AFP)
JERUSALEM / RAMALLAH / ANKARA / ISLAMABAD / TOKYO / SINGAPORE — Singapore will allow small gatherings and the reopening of restaurants and shops from June 19, its health ministry said on Monday, in a major easing of the city-state’s coronavirus restrictions.
Social gatherings of up to five people will be permitted from Friday, when the majority of activities resume after more than two months of restrictions, dubbed “circuit breaker” measures. Social distancing requirements will remain in place.
Tiny Singapore has one of the highest infection tallies in Asia, with more than 40,000 cases, because of mass outbreaks in dormitories for its migrant workers. Singapore reopened schools and some businesses earlier this month.
The government said on Monday incidence of cases in migrant worker dormitories had declined and there were no new large clusters emerging.
Malls, gyms, parks and beaches are on the list to reopen, but religious congregations, bars, theatres and large-scale events will not yet be allowed to resume activities.
The government also said working from home must remain the default for all businesses where feasible.
Singapore's Ministry of Health (MOH) reported 407 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, bringing the total confirmed cases in the country to 40,604.
Of the new cases, 99 percent are linked to known clusters, while the rest are pending contact tracing.
Some 781 more cases of COVID-19 infection have been discharged from hospitals or community isolation facilities. In all, 29,589 cases have fully recovered from the infection and have been discharged from hospitals or community care facilities, the ministry said.
There are currently 238 confirmed cases who are still in hospital. Of these, most are stable or improving, and two are in critical condition in the intensive care unit.
Thailand on Monday lifted a nationwide curfew after more than two months and allowed restaurants to resume selling alcohol as the coronavirus crisis eased, with 21 days since a recorded case of local transmission.
The nation of about 70 million people was the first country outside China to report a case of coronavirus, on Jan 13, and has been a relative success story in containing it, with just 3,135 confirmed cases and 58 fatalities. Some 2,987 patients have recovered.
Officials have credited Thais’ early adoption of wearing masks - ubiquitous in public since January - as well as its border closure, shuttering of many business and the curfew for the retreat of the new virus that has infected 7.9 million worldwide and killed more than 430,000.
Other establishments allowed to reopen on Monday were schools with less than 120 students, exhibition halls, music concerts, film productions, playgrounds, amusement parks and sports competitions without spectators.
Pubs, bars and karaoke outlets will remain closed, but restaurants that reopened two weeks ago with social distancing will now be able to serve alcohol.
People wearing face masks walk at night in Tokyo's Shibuya area on June 11, 2020. (PHOTO / AFP)
Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said on Monday it was not true the government had decided to ease an entry ban, which was implemented to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, for people from certain countries.
The Yomiuri daily reported last week that Japan may restart business trips to and from Australia, New Zealand, Vietnam and Thailand in the next few months.
The government is examining ways to ease entry bans, taking into consideration various factors comprehensively, and would ease restrictions in stages if it decided to do so, Motegi told parliament.
Motegi has agreed with his counterparts from Vietnam, Australia and New Zealand to discuses the possibility of re-allowing travel to those who need it, he said.
The Tokyo metropolitan government on Sunday confirmed 47 new cases of COVID-19 infections, only a few days after Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike lifted "Tokyo alert" over the pandemic to allow all business to reopen.
Iranians, mostly wearing face masks, are pictured at a metro station in the capital Tehran on June 10, 2020. (PHOTO / AFP)
The number of daily deaths from the new coronavirus pandemic topped 100 in Iran for the first time in two months on Sunday, health ministry data showed.
Iran recorded 107 deaths in the past 24 hours, taking the total to 8,837. The total number of cases in the country has reached 187,427.
“Today it was very painful for us to announce a triple digit statistic... this virus is unpredictable and shifting,” Health Ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari said on state TV.
Iran will reimpose restrictions to stem the surge in coronavirus cases if health regulations are not observed, President Hassan Rouhani said on Saturday.
After gradually relaxing its lockdown since mid-April, Iran has seen a sharp rise of new daily infections in recent weeks.
Pakistani Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar said on Sunday that the current trajectory of the spread of COVID-19 in the country hinted that the cases of the virus could double by the end of June and reach 1 million to 1.2 million by the end of July.
Addressing a press conference, Umar, who also chairs the National Command and Operations Centre (NCOC) to deal with the COVID-19 in Pakistan, said that "we are in mid-June and our positive cases are reaching near to 150,000. With a heavy heart, I have to say that Pakistan's confirmed COVID-19 case tally could even reach 1 million to 1.2 million by the end of next month."
Umar added that the projections are neither predictions nor a certainty and that the spread of the virus can be stopped if the government and people work together against it.
Palestine on Sunday declared that three new cases of COVID-19 were found in the southern West Bank district of Hebron, raising the total number to 676.
Palestinian Health Minister Mai al-Kaila said in a press statement that the three cases are of a woman and two men from Hebron city and the town of Halhul, south of Hebron.
The total number of cases in Hebron district has climbed to 102, of which 76 have fully recovered.
Meanwhile, al-Kaila warned that there may be dozens of uncovered cases of the virus that could lead to a new wave of the disease in the country, urging the public to commit to the public health protocols, including wearing masks and avoiding crowds.
Saudi Arabia announced 4,233 new cases and 40 more deaths, increasing the total number of confirmed cases to 127,541 and the death toll to 972.
The kingdom also registered 2,172 more recovered patients, taking the total recoveries to 84,720.
Saudi Arabia announced on the day a project to vaccinate children at their homes, which comes after a decrease in the vaccination rate among children was reported during the coronavirus pandemic.
Qatar's health ministry on Sunday announced 1,186 new infections of COVID-19, increasing the total number of confirmed cases in the Gulf state to 79,602, official Qatar News Agency reported.
Meanwhile, 1,646 people recovered, bringing the number of recoveries to 56,898, while three more died, raising the death toll to 73, according to a ministry statement.
The ministry attributed the increase in coronavirus infections to gatherings and visits as well as ignoring the preventive measures such as staying at home and social distancing.
A total of 290,714 in Qatar have taken lab tests for COVID-19 so far.
The United Arab Emirates
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Sunday announced 304 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total confirmed cases in the country to 42,294.
UAE's Ministry of Health and Prevention said in a statement the new cases of many nationalities are all in a stable condition and receiving medical treatment.
The ministry added that 701 more patients recovered from the virus, taking the tally of the UAE's recoveries to 27,462.
It also confirmed one more death, pushing the country's death toll to 289.
Oman's Ministry of Health announced 1,404 new cases of infections, bringing the total number of COVID-19 cases in the country to 23,481, including 104 deaths and 8,454 recoveries.
The country ordered the formation of a committee to handle the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The total number of COVID-19 infections in Iraq climbed on Sunday to 20,209, after the health ministry reported 1,259 new cases during the past 24 hours.
Meanwhile, 58 more died from the coronavirus during the day, with 29 in Baghdad's hospitals, bringing the death toll to 607, while a total of 8,121 patients have recovered, according to the statement.
A 26-year-old coronavirus patient died on Sunday evening at a hospital, Sheba Medical Center in central Israel said.
He is the youngest out of 301 patients who have died from the virus in Israel since the pandemic outbreak.
The Hebrew-language news website Ynet reported that the patient Oshri Asulin, from the central city of Kfar Saba, died of late complications after already recovering from COVID-19.
Earlier on Sunday, Israel's Ministry of Health reported 83 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total to 19,055.
The number of patients in serious condition has dropped from 35 to 32, out of 132 patients currently hospitalized.
The number of recoveries reached 15,375, with 18 new recoveries, while the number of active cases increased to 3,379.
Turkey's confirmed COVID-19 cases increased by 1,562 to reach 178,239 on Sunday, Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said.
The country reported 15 more deaths in the past 24 hours, taking the death toll to 4,805, Koca tweeted.
As this marked the highest number of daily new cases of the past month, the minister warned citizens to stick to anti-coronavirus measures.
"Our number of recovered patients fell below the number of new cases. The need for intensive care and respiratory equipment is increasing," Koca added, warning against "optimism" for the outbreak.
Some 1,330 patients recovered in the last 24 hours, raising the total recoveries to 151,417 in Turkey since the outbreak, Koca said, adding that 717 patients are being treated at the intensive care units.
Indonesia plans to reopen its tourism sector, which has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, under a new normal scenario.
Tight health protocols will be imposed to protect tourists and prevent virus cases from tourist destinations, the Tourism and Creative Economy Ministry's spokesman, Ari Juliano, said.
Meanwhile, Odo RM Manuhutu, deputy for the Tourism Coordination and Creative Economy at the Coordinating Ministry for Maritime Affairs and Investment, said travelers from China and three other countries would be first allowed to travel to and from Indonesia.
Brunei is not ready to open borders with neighboring countries any time soon and there is no negotiations with other countries on this matter, Minister at the Prime Minister's Office and Second Minister of Finance and Economy Mohd Amin Liew said.
According to the local Borneo Bulletin on Sunday, Liew made the comments regarding a recent report saying that the "green lane" or "green bubble" on the possibility of opening borders with the neighboring countries.
The minister added that there may be a misconception or misunderstanding on the matter.
The recovery rate of COVID-19 patients in India increased to 51.07 percent on Monday, the country's federal health ministry said.
"Till now, 169,797 patients have been cured and 153,106 patients are under active medical supervision," the ministry said.
During the last 24 hours, 11,502 fresh positive cases and 325 deaths were reported in the country. The nationwide toll has risen to 9,520.
Maharashtra is the worst-hit Indian state by COVID-19 with 53,017 active cases with 3,950 deaths, including 28,959 active cases and 2,190 deaths from Mumbai.
The state accounts for close to 35 percent of all COVID-19 cases in India, which is now ranked fourth among all countries and regions for the number of confirmed cases.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to hold discussions with chief ministers of all states via video conference on June 16 and 17 to plan a strategy to come out of the COVID-19 lockdown.
The peak of COVID-19 cases will arrive in India by mid-November and the country will face shortage of hospital beds and ventilators, according to a new study.
Conducted by researchers from an Operations Research Group constituted by the Indian Council of Medical Research said the lockdown imposed by the government on March 25 delayed the peak of the pandemic by an estimated 34 to 76 days.
South Korea reported 37 more cases of the COVID-19 compared to 24 hours ago as of 0:00 a.m. Monday local time, raising the total number of infections to 12,121.
The daily caseload moved between 30 and 60 for the past 15 days. Of the new cases, 13 were imported, lifting the combined figure to 1,346.
Small cluster infections were still found linked to religious gatherings, a health product retailer, distribution centers, call centers and indoor sports facilities in the metropolitan area.
No more death was confirmed, leaving the death toll at 277. The total fatality rate stood at 2.29 percent.
A total of 12 more patients were discharged from quarantine after making full recovery, pulling up the combined number to 10,730. The total recovery rate was 88.5 percent.
Australia's two most populous states have outlined a further easing of COVID-19 restrictions, including on gyms, cinemas and music festivals, despite new cases still being recorded.
Officials in the state of New South Wales (NSW) and Victoria said on Sunday that the COVID-19 shutdown would be progressively wrapped up over the coming months, giving local economies a chance to recover.
From July 1, all businesses in the state of NSW, including cinemas, theaters, amusement parks, show grounds, among others, will be allowed to reopen with social distancing measures in place.
The only exception will be night clubs which have been the source of cluster outbreaks elsewhere in the world, however officials suggested that they too will potentially reopen in August given low infection rates.
As of Monday, Australia had 7,320 confirmed cases of COVID-19, 6,838 of which had recovered and 102 had died.
Mongolia conducted 258 tests for COVID-19 in the last 24 hours and the results were all negative, the country's National Center for Communicable Disease (NCCD) said Monday.
Meanwhile, 10 more patients have recovered from COVID-19, taking the total to 108, the NCCD's head Dulmaa Nyamkhuu said at a daily press conference.
As of Monday morning, Mongolia confirmed 197 COVID-19 cases, including five foreigners. All the cases were imported.
Kyrgyzstan on Monday reported 87 new COVID-19 cases, raising its total to 2,372 with 1,813 recoveries, according to the country's health ministry.
The new infections were detected after medical personnel tested 2,278 samples in the last 24 hours, said Nurbolot Usenbaev, the country's deputy health minister, adding that 23 of them contracted the virus from unknown sources.
Meanwhile, 22 of the new infections are medical workers, bringing the total number of infected medical workers to 460, including 354 recoveries, said the official.
Usenbaev noted that the epidemiological situation in the country remains tense and there is a possibility of an aggravation.
Currently, 531 people are in hospitals and four are in intensive care units.
The number of people crossing New Zealand's border in April 2020 fell to levels last seen in the late 1960s, the country's statistic department Stats NZ said on Monday.
There were a combined 38,200 arrivals and departures in April 2020, compared with nearly 1.2 million in April 2019, Stats NZ said.
New Zealand's border was closed to almost all visitor arrivals just before midnight on 19 March. This was part of the New Zealand government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, daily arrival and departure numbers have dropped substantially, it said.
Tajikistan announced on Monday the first easing of restrictions introduced due to the coronavirus pandemic, as it allowed malls, bazaars, restaurants, hotels and other service providers to reopen after a two-month shutdown.
State borders will remain closed, the government said in a statement, and so will mosques and mass transit facilities such as railways. The Central Asian nation bordering China has confirmed 5,035 COVID-19 cases with 50 deaths.
Indonesia reported on Monday 1,017 new coronavirus infections and 64 more deaths, the highest COVID-19 death toll in a single day in the Southeast Asian nation to date.
Health ministry official Achmad Yurianto said the total number of cases in Indonesia had now reached 39,294, while fatalities had increased to 2,198.
The total number of people who have recovered from the coronavirus is 15,123.
Afghanistan on Monday reported 761 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases, taking the country's total to 25,527, the country's Ministry of Public Health confirmed.
"Within the past 24 hours, 1,551 tests were conducted, and 761 were positive COVID-19 cases," the ministry said in a statement.
Up to 478 deaths have been recorded since the outbreak of the pandemic in the country in February, an increase of seven within the past 24 hours. Out of the total infected people, 5,090 have recovered.
The Afghan health authorities have conducted 57,532 tests as of Monday morning across the country, according to the statement.
Malaysia reported 41 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, pushing the total cases to 8,494, the Health Ministry said.
Health Ministry Director-General Noor Hisham Abdullah said at a press briefing that three of the new cases are imported. Of the local transmissions, 32 are foreign nationals, including a cluster of foreign detainees from an immigration facility as well as clusters of foreign workers. Of the six local transmission involving Malaysian citizens, one new cluster was found in a senior citizen care center.
There are 973 people who remain active cases in the country, of which four are being held in intensive care and none of the rest are in need of assisted breathing.
No new death has been reported, leaving the total deaths at 121.
Another 54 cases had been released, bringing the total number of cured and discharged to 7,400 or 87.1 percent of all cases.
Meanwhile, Defense Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob, who coordinated the implementation of restrictive measures, said in a separate press conference that preschools and kindergartens will be allowed to operate from July 1 onwards.
Malaysia's Education Ministry announced earlier that middle schools will be reopen on June 24 for senior grade students.
The number of COVID-19 cases in the Philippines rose to 26,420 after the Department of Health (DOH) reported 490 more infections on Monday.
The DOH said in its bulletin that the number of recoveries further climbed to 6,252 after 298 more patients have survived the disease.
The death toll increased to 1,098 after 10 more patients have succumbed to the viral disease, the DOH added.
According to the DOH, 152 of the daily reported cases were in Metro Manila, 84 cases in the Central Visayas region in the central Philippines and 254 cases were reported in other parts of the country.
Bangladesh confirmed 38 more fatalities from the COVID-19 on Monday, bringing the country's death toll to over 1,200.
Nasima Sultana, a senior Health Ministry official, said in a briefing in Dhaka that "3,099 new COVID-19 positive cases and 38 deaths including 32 men and 6 women were reported in the last 24 hours across Bangladesh."
The number of confirmed infections in the country totaled 90,619 while fatalities stood at 1,209.
HONG KONG NEWS