People wearing face masks as a measure to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus walk on a pedestrian bridge in downtown Bangkok on July 8, 2020. (MLADEN ANTONOV / AFP)
SYDNEY / CAIRO / DUBAI / TOKYO / BANGKOK / MANILA / JAKARTA - Thailand expects to delay plans for so-called travel bubbles given a resurgence in coronavirus infections in countries that had managed to contain the initial outbreak, a senior official told Reuters on Wednesday.
Thailand partially lifted a three-month ban on foreign visitors this month and had been planning to further boost tourism, a key contributor to its economy, by creating travel bubbles later in the year with countries like Australia and New Zealand that had managed to contain the virus.
But fresh outbreaks are creating uncertainty, Tourism Authority of Thailand Governor Yuthasak Supasorn said. "The travel bubble that was going to begin in the fourth quarter could be delayed," he added.
The government had previously said the travel bubble could begin in September. "We adjusted our forecast for foreign arrivals this year to 8.2 million from 10-12 million," Yuthasak said.
Australia's coronavirus emergency cabinet will consider limiting the number of its citizens and residents returning home from overseas, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Wednesday.
The prime minister added there were no plans to reimpose restrictions across the country, after Victoria, the country's second-most populous state, enforced stay-at-home rules in metropolitan Melbourne and one regional area due to a spike in infections.
Australia could take an economic hit of as much as A$1 billion (US$700 million) each week because of coronavirus restrictions reimposed by Victoria state, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said on Wednesday.
Renewed lockdown measures in Victoria's capital city of Melbourne will kick in from midnight for at least six weeks, closing down cafes, bars, restaurants, hairdressers and gyms, and confining around 4.9 million people to their homes except for essential business.
Victoria also closed its busy border with New South Wales at midnight on Tuesday, cutting off movement between the country's two most populous and economically significant states.
For the first time since 1919 during the great influenza pandemic – NSW closed its border with Victoria, throwing the lives of thousands in the border city of Albury-Wodonga into chaos. The border divides the city, with Albury located in NSW and Wodonga in Victoria.
Long queues of cars banked up on either side of one of Australia’s busiest internal border crossings on Tuesday after its closing as police checkpoints caused delays of more than an hour for drivers attempting to cross between the two states.
Police and military using drones are now patrolling the border, with heavy fines and even potential jail time for those trying to cross without permission.
Those allowed to cross include essential workers and those with passes issued by the NSW government to allow those living in either part of the city to go to work or school, to shop, or seek medical treatment.
The decision to close the border came as a surprise to many living in the city, with workers waiting for hours on either side of the border on Wednesday to go to work.
Victoria on Wednesday reported 134 new COVID-19 cases overnight, with 75 new cases in nine low-cost housing towers which were closed on July 4. The towers house 3,000 people.
It was the third day in a row that Victoria had recorded more than 100 cases, and 134 was the state’s second-highest single-day total after a record 191 on July 7.
The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Bangladesh reached 172,134 on Wednesday, as nearly 3,500 new patients were confirmed in the last 24 hours.
Senior Health Ministry official Nasima Sultana told a briefing Wednesday afternoon that "3,489 new COVID-19 positive patients and 46 deaths were reported in the last 24 hours across Bangladesh."
"The number of confirmed infections in the country totaled 172,134 while fatalities stood at 2,197," she said.
Police in the southern New South Wales (NSW) border city of Albury check cars crossing the state border from Victoria on July 8, 2020 after authorities closed the border due to an outbreak of COVID-19 coronavirus in Victoria. (WILLIAM WEST / AFP)
Mumbai will no longer require a doctor’s prescription from people seeking a test for coronavirus, as India’s largest city and the epicenter of its outbreak seeks to catch more cases early.
The move came as cases continue to surge across India as the health ministry reported 482 new deaths and 22,752 positive cases on Wednesday morning. The COVID-19 toll and tally stand at 20,642 and 742,417 respectively.
"As on 8:00 am (local time) Wednesday, 20,642 deaths related to novel coronavirus have been recorded in the country," said information released by the ministry.
Indonesia reported its biggest single-day increase in new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, with 1,853 infections, taking the case total to 68,079.
There were 50 new coronavirus-related deaths, bringing the total number of fatalities in the country to 3,359, health ministry official Achmad Yurianto said.
Iran’s coronavirus death toll exceeded 12,000 on Wednesday, the health ministry said, with 153 deaths in the past 24 hours, amid a sharp rise in the number of daily infections and deaths in the past week as lockdown measures have eased.
The total number of infections has reached 248,379, with 209,463 people having recovered, ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari said in a statement on state TV.
Iran recorded 200 deaths from COVID-19 within a 24-hour period on Tuesday, the highest official figure recorded by the ministry.
President Hassan Rouhani on Saturday launched new measures to try to curb the spread. Iranians who do not wear masks will be denied state services and workplaces that fail to comply with health protocols will be shut for a week, he said.
The resurgence of COVID-19 pandemic continued in Iraq, as Iraqi Health Ministry confirmed 2,426 new cases, bringing the total infections nationwide to 64,701.
The ministry also reported 118 more deaths, raising the death toll from the virus to 2,685 in the country.
Asaad Abdul-Aziz, head of the government-owned oxygen filling factory, said that the factory has increased the production of oxygen cylinders from 500 per day to 1,500, and the liquid gas from 3,000 kg per day to 8,000 kg, to meet the rising demand.
Israeli Defense Minister and alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz entered self-quarantine on Wednesday after possibly coming into contact with a person infected with COVID-19.
A statement released by his office on Gantz's behalf said that the suspected encounter took place on Sunday.
According to the statement, Gantz entered isolation after consultations with doctors and in order to "avoid the risk of infection."
He feels well and will remain quarantined until further instructions and the arrival of the results of a coronavirus test.
Tokyo confirmed 75 cases of coronavirus Wednesday, broadcaster TBS reported, the first time in a week cases were below 100.
Japanese Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura reiterated on Wednesday there is no need to declare a new state of emergency for the coronavirus despite rising infections, as serious cases remained low and there was no strain on the medical system.
But, he noted an increase in the number of untraceable cases and cases among older people, saying: "It is necessary to respond with a sense of crisis."
Tokyo’s Toshima ward, whose nightlife district has seen a spike in coronavirus infections, will provide financial aid to establishments that shut if clusters are discovered there, public broadcaster NHK reported.
The ward is urging about 100 workers at 8 bars to take PCR tests to prevent further spread of the virus. The metropolitan government is considering providing the financial aid.
The Japanese government, which is compiling a policy document on economic and fiscal management, won’t directly refer to its target of achieving a primary surplus in fiscal 2025 as measures against coronavirus have increased the deficit, Jiji reports.
Kuwait on Wednesday reported 762 new COVID-19 cases and two more deaths, raising the tally of infections to 52,007 and the death toll to 379, the Health Ministry said in a statement.
Currently, 9,520 patients are receiving treatment, including 161 in ICU, the statement added.
The ministry also announced the recovery of 593 more patients, raising the total recoveries in the country to 42,108.
Kyrgyzstan on Wednesday reported 345 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total cases in the country to 8,486, a public health official said.
Out of the 3,286 lab tests conducted in the country over the last 24 hours, 345 presented positive results for COVID-19, said Ainura Akmatova, head of the public health care department of the country's Health Ministry, adding all the new cases are contacts of confirmed patients.
Among the newly infected, 62 are medical workers, bringing the caseload of contracted medics to 1,287, including 522 recoveries, she said.
A man shops at the arrivals' terminal at Beirut international airport as it re-opens on July 1, 2020 in the Lebanese capital. (ANWAR AMRO / AFP)
Lebanon's COVID-19 infections increased on Tuesday by 22 cases to 1,907 in total, while the death toll remained at 36.
Mongolia reported two new COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours, taking its national count to 227, the country's National Center for Communicable Diseases (NCCD) said Wednesday.
"A total of 370 tests for COVID-19 were conducted at three laboratories across the country yesterday and two of them were positive," NCCD head Dulmaa Nyamkhuu told a daily press conference.
The new patients are Mongolian nationals who have recently returned home from Russia via Altanbulag border point, said Nyamkhuu.
New Zealand officials are reviewing security at mandatory quarantine hotels after a man who tested positive for Covid-19 escaped and spent an hour wandering city streets.
The man, who was under compulsory hotel quarantine, left the hotel’s outside smoking area when a fence was being replaced, visiting a grocery store before returning to the hotel, Health Minister Chris Hipkins told reporters. On Wednesday it was reported that the man had tested positive for the virus.
New Zealand citizens who return from abroad face a mandatory 14-day quarantine period in isolation hotels. The man’s escape comes after a woman at another Auckland hotel climbed two fences last week before being apprehended.
New Zealand exports of live lobster are surging as Chinese gourmets return to restaurants.
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the Gulf state of Oman exceeded 50,000 on Wednesday, the health ministry said. The country reported 1,210 new cases of the novel coronavirus and nine deaths in the last 24 hours, taking its total count to 50,207 cases with 233 deaths.
A week ago, the health minister warned there had been a disturbing surge in infections in the last six weeks and urged people to comply with health measures.
Pakistan's Information Minister Shibli Faraz said that people should follow the standard operating procedures and keep taking precautionary measures to avoid the spread of COVID-19 during Eid al-Adha to be observed by the end of this month.
The information minister said that Prime Minister Imran Khan decided to spend the festival at his home with simplicity, urging the public to do the same and avoid meeting people at the festival during the pandemic.
Palestine on Tuesday announced the extension of the lockdown on the West Bank for five more days starting Wednesday, as the number of COVID-19 infections hit 5,092 after 306 new cases were confirmed.
Qatar's Health Ministry announced 600 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total infections in the Gulf state to 100,945.
Meanwhile, 1,005 more patients recovered from the coronavirus, increasing the total recoveries in Qatar to 94,903, while one more patient died, raising the death toll to 134.
Saudi Arabia, the hardest-hit Arab country, reported 3,392 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, still the highest hike in the region, pushing the tally of confirmed infections to 217,108.
The death toll from the infectious respiratory disease in the kingdom rose to 2,017, after 49 new fatalities were confirmed. At the same time, 5,205 more patients recovered from the virus, raising the total recoveries to 154,839.
People arrive at Tokyo Disneyland during the reopening day of the park in Urayasu, near Tokyo on July 1, 2020. (PHILIP FONG / AFP)
South Korea reported 63 more cases of COVID-19 as of midnight Wednesday compared to 24 hours ago, raising the total number of infections to 13,244.
The daily caseload rose above 60 in three days due to the continued small cluster infections and imported cases. Of the new cases, 33 were imported from overseas, lifting the combined figure to 1,714.
It marked the highest in 94 days, keeping a double-digit growth for 13 straight days.
The Philippines’ health ministry on Wednesday reported 2,539 new coronavirus cases, marking the biggest single-day increase in confirmed infections, and five additional deaths.
In a bulletin, the ministry said total deaths have increased to 1,314 while infections have reached 50,359, a fifth of which were confirmed in the past five days.
The government has warned it might tighten anew the world’s longest lockdown to contain the spread of the virus. It eased quarantine restrictions in the capital in June to partially restart the economy.
In Turkey, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca reported 1,053 new COVID-19 cases and 19 more fatalities, taking the tally of confirmed cases to 207,897 and the death toll to 5,260.
A total of 2,297 patients recovered in a single day, raising the total recoveries to 185,292. Turkey is currently treating 1,152 cases in intensive care unit (ICU), along with 400 intubated patients.
The occupancy rate of ICU in Turkey due to the COVID-19 outbreak is between 59 and 61 percent in the past month, Koca tweeted.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced 532 new COVID-19 cases, raising the total number in the country to 52,600, and the death toll rose by two to 326.
The UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention said in a statement that 993 more patients recovered from the virus, taking the tally of recoveries to 41,714.ntly, 9,353 patients in Kuwait are receiving treatment, including 159 in ICU, Kuwaiti Health Ministry said.
Uzbekistan will impose a second wave of lockdown restrictions between July 10 and Aug 1 to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, the Central Asian nation's government said on Wednesday.
The former Soviet republic will limit the movement of vehicles, close non-food shopping malls and markets, parks, cafes and restaurants and entertainment venues, it said in a statement.
The total number of COVID-19 cases in Yemen's government-controlled provinces climbed to 1,297 on Tuesday after 13 new cases were confirmed.
The Yemeni Health Ministry said that the number of recoveries increased to 591 and the deaths from the disease soared to 348.
Karl Wilson contributed to this report
HONG KONG NEWS