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Wednesday, July 15, 2020, 22:25
Maldives govt promises safety for tourists as airport reopens
By Agencies
Wednesday, July 15, 2020, 22:25 By Agencies

Passengers disembark from a Qatar Airways aircraft upon their arrival at the Velana International Airport in Male on July 15, 2020. (Ahmed SHURAU / AFP)

RAMALLAH / ALGIERS / JERUSALEM / DUBAI / MUSCAT / TOKYO / SYDNEY / NEW DELHI / SEOUL / MANILA / ULAN BATOR / JAKARTA - Economic Development Minister Fayyaz Ismail of the Maldives has assured Wednesday that it is safe for tourists to visit the country as its airport is reopened to international tourists after four months.

At a special ceremony held on Wednesday at the Velana International Airport, a A350 flight operated by the Qatar Airways landed at 8:26 am and received a water salute.

The flight carried 127 passengers which included 103 tourists, all from European countries.

Talking to journalists after the welcoming ceremony, Fayyaaz, also the acting head of the Tourism Ministry said that the Maldives had put up a strong fight against the COVID-19 and now the country had good testing facilities and backup facilities, local media reported.

Inviting all tourists to visit and rediscover the sunny side of life, he said that the Maldives had the best system to ensure the safety of the tourists.

The country has so far reported 2,801 infections and 14 deaths.

A person walks past a KFC outlet in Melbourne's central business district on July 15, 2020. Australians under lockdown for the second time are struggling with fresh virus restrictions, with police saying on July 15 they had dished out hundreds of fines including to people playing Pokemon Go and eating KFC. (WILLIAM WEST / AFP)


Australia’s most populous states will impose harsher restrictions on movement if a COVID-19 outbreak is not quickly bought under control, state premiers said on Wednesday.

Australia has been heralded as a global leader in containing COVID-19, its total death toll lower than what Florida reported on Tuesday alone. Even so, it has seen a surge in new cases, culminating with 10 days of triple-digit gains as of Wednesday.

Victoria state reported another 238 cases in the past 24 hours, even after reimposing a lockdown last week on about five million people in Melbourne, Australia’s second-biggest city.

More than 500 people have been fined for not abiding by the lockdown, including two men caught driving around to play the Pokemon GO video game, Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Rick Nugent said.

Nationally, Australia has now recorded about 10,500 cases, while the death toll rose to 111 on Wednesday after a woman in her 90s died from the virus.

In New South Wales, which has seen several dozen COVID-19 cases in the past week, Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the state will likely need new restrictions. She ruled out a blanket lockdown, however, citing the economic damage.

Australia’s remote Northern Territory said it would keep its borders closed to New South Wales and Victoria.

The possibility of new restrictions is a blow to Australia’s hopes of a speedy economic recovery as curbs implemented to slow the spread of COVID-19 push the country to its first recession in nearly three decades.

Visitors disinfect their hands as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus as they enter Toshimaen amusement park in Tokyo on July 13, 2020. (KAZUHIRO NOGI / AFP)


Health experts put Tokyo on the highest alert for coronavirus infections on Wednesday, alarmed by a recent spike in cases to record levels, while the governor of the Japanese capital said the situation was “rather severe”.

The resurgence of the virus in Tokyo could add to the growing pressure on policymakers to shore up the world’s No 3 economy, which analysts say is set to shrink at its fastest pace in decades this fiscal year due to the pandemic.

“It is a fact that the number of patients is going up quite a bit and exceeding peaks,” said Norio Ohmagari, director of the National Center for Global Health and Medicine Hospital, noting that the infection rate in Tokyo was at stage “red” - the highest of four levels in the metropolis’ system. 

Infections among young people and asymptomatic cases are rising, Ohmagari said at a meeting with Tokyo officials.

Fearing a second wave of infections spreading from the capital, local municipalities and opposition lawmakers also urged the central government to suspend a major “Go To” travel aid campaign that aims to boost domestic tourism.

Leaders of some rural towns say that driven by the campaign, travel in and out of high-risk regions like Tokyo may lead to widespread community transmissions.

In Tokyo, daily virus cases exceeded 200 in four of the past seven days, touching an all-time high of 243 last Friday as testing among nightclub workers in its red-light districts showed rising infections among people in their 20s and 30s.

Health experts noted Tokyo hospitals were getting crowded as the number of patients doubled from the previous week.

Tokyo’s latest cluster has been traced to a theatre with at least 37 cases in Shinjuku, a busy entertainment area and home to one of Asia’s biggest red-light districts which has been the centre of a recent spike in infections.

READ MORE: Kyodo: US base on Japan's Okinawa confirms 36 more virus cases

New Zealand

New Zealand must prepare for new coronavirus outbreaks as the pandemic spreads globally but will not drop its elimination strategy if community transmission was discovered, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Wednesday.

Ardern said the epidemic was now “exploding” outside New Zealand and countries that had been models in the fight against COVID-19 had now experienced further community outbreaks.

The government released a new framework on how it intended to fight the virus in the event of new cases, with elimination still the central strategy.

In this June 8, 2020 file photo, New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks during a press conference about the COVID-19 coronavirus at Parliament in Wellington. (MARTY MELVILLE / AFP)

The South Pacific nation last reported a case of community transmission two-and-a-half months ago. It has recorded 22 deaths from nearly 1,200 confirmed cases as of Wednesday.

New Zealand had vowed to eliminate, not merely contain, the virus, which meant stopping transmission for two weeks after the last known case was cleared.

Officials in Australia’s most populous state of New South Wales said elimination is no longer possible there due to fresh outbreaks following the easing of lockdown restrictions.


Kyrgyzstan reported 439 new confirmed COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, bringing the nationwide tally to 11,977.

Among the new cases, 105 are medical workers, raising the tally of contracted medical workers to 1,980, including 576 recoveries, said Ainura Akmatova, head of the public health care department of the country's Health Ministry.

Akmatova said that 91 COVID-19 patients were discharged from hospitals on Wednesday. In total, 5,314 patients have fully recovered from the infection, including 1,654 who received treatment at home.


Afghanistan on Wednesday reported 254 new COVID-19 cases within the past 24 hours, bringing the total tally to 34,994 cases, the country's Ministry of Public Health confirmed.

"Within the past 24 hours, 682 suspected cases were tested, out of which 254 cases were tested coronavirus positive in 14 provinces of the country's 34 provinces," the ministry said in a statement.

A total of 32 COVID-19 patients succumbed to the virus, taking the number of people who lost their lives to 1,094 since the outbreak of the pandemic in February.


Bangladesh reported over 3,500 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, bringing the total in the country to over 193,000.

Senior Health Ministry official Nasima Sultana said in a briefing on Wednesday afternoon that "3,533 new COVID-19 positive cases and 33 deaths were reported in the last 24 hours across Bangladesh."

"The number of confirmed infections in the country totaled 193,590 while fatalities stood at 2,457," she said, adding the COVID-19 fatality rate in Bangladesh is now 1.27 percent.


Malaysia reported five new COVID-19 infections, bringing the national total to 8,734, the Health Ministry said on Wednesday.

Health Ministry Director-General Noor Hisham Abdullah said in a press statement that among the new cases, one is imported and the remaining four are local transmissions.

Another two cases have been released, bringing the total cured and discharged to 8,526 or 97.6 percent of all cases.


Indonesia reported 87 new coronavirus deaths on Wednesday, its biggest daily jump, bringing the total number of fatalities to 3,797, its health ministry said.

Indonesia also reported 1,522 new coronavirus infections, taking the overall tally to 80,094 cases, ministry official Achmad Yurianto told a televised news briefing.


India's health ministry Wednesday morning reported 582 new deaths and 29,429 more COVID-19 cases during the past 24 hours across the country, taking the number of deaths to 24,309 and total cases to 936,181.

It is the highest single-day spike in the number of fresh cases in the country so far.

According to ministry officials, 592,032 people have been discharged from hospitals after showing improvement, and the number of active cases stood at 319,840.

Presently the country has entered Unlock 2.0 phase, though restrictions remain in full force inside the COVID-19 Containment Zones. Commercial international flights to and from India are suspended until July 31.


Israel's Ministry of Health reported 1,728 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, bringing the total cases to 42,360.

This is the second highest daily rise since the pandemic outbreak in the country in late February, which came 24 hours after the previous record of 1,962 daily cases was registered. 

The death toll increased from 365 to 371, while the number of patients in serious condition remained unchanged at 183, out of 529 patients currently hospitalized.

The number of recoveries rose to 19,665, with 270 new recoveries, while the number of active cases reached 22,324.

Earlier on Tuesday, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened a meeting on the necessary steps to curb the increase in morbidity and strengthen the economic and health resilience. 

The meeting was attended by senior ministers, doctors and economists, as well as the head of National Security Council, according to a statement issued by the Prime Minister's Office.

The formulation of a long-term strategy was also discussed. But no decision was made on tightening the measures to contain the resurgence of the pandemic in Israel. 


Iran's confirmed COVID-19 cases rose to 264,561 on Wednesday after an overnight registration of 2,388 new infections, official IRNA news agency reported.

Sima Sadat Lari, spokeswoman for Iran's Ministry of Health and Medical Education, said at her daily briefing that out of the new cases in the past 24 hours, 1,775 have been hospitalized.

The pandemic has so far claimed the lives of 13,410 Iranians, up by 199 in the past 24 hours, she added.


In Iraq, which has witnessed a rapid resurgence of the pandemic over the past month, the health ministry announced 2,022 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total infections in the country to 81,757.

The ministry reported 95 more deaths, raising the death toll to 3,345. On the same day, 3,784 more people recovered, the highest single-day record so far, taking the total recoveries in Iraq to 50,782.

ALSO READ: Japan urges urbanites to tour country, sparking virus fear


Kuwait on Wednesday reported 703 new COVID-19 cases and three more deaths, raising the tally of infections to 56,877 and the death toll to 399, the Health Ministry said in a statement.

Currently, 9,581 patients are receiving treatment, including 146 in ICU, the statement added.


Lebanon's number of COVID-19 infections increased on Tuesday by 32 cases to 2,451, while death toll went up by one to 37.


Mongolia reported 18 new COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours, taking its total to 261, the country's National Center for Communicable Diseases (NCCD) said Wednesday.

"A total of 408 tests for COVID-19 were conducted at three laboratories across the country yesterday and 18 of them were positive," the NCCD's head Dulmaa Nyamkhuu told a daily press conference.


Oman's Ministry of Health announced on Tuesday 1,389 new COVID-19 cases, as the tally of infections is poised to surpass 60,000.

The new cases, including 339 non-Omanis, took the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 59,568. The death toll in Oman climbed to 273 after 14 new deaths were confirmed.


Palestine on Tuesday recorded five new COVID-19 deaths in the Palestinian territories, including a 12-day-old toddler, the Palestinian Ministry of Health said.

The ministry said in a press statement that, in addition to the toddler, a 54-year-old Palestinian from East Jerusalem, two men aged 75 and 90, respectively, and a woman aged 75 from the southern West Bank district of Hebron died from the coronavirus on Tuesday.

The death toll from COVID-19 reached 47 since the outbreak of the epidemic in the Palestinian territories on March 5, said the statement.

It reported 293 new COVID-19 infections and 59 new recoveries in both the West Bank and East Jerusalem within the last 24 hours.

There are 6,372 cases are still receiving medical care, while 1,317 patients have recovered, the statement said.


In Qatar, the health ministry announced 517 new COVID-19 infections, increasing the total number of confirmed cases in the Gulf state to 104,533.

The total fatalities from the disease rose to 150 after one more death was reported, while the total recoveries soared to 101,160 after 533 more patients recovered.

READ MORE: Singapore and Malaysia to reopen business travel next month


Singapore expects an increase in COVID-19 cases in the next few days as it nears an end of tests for migrant workers residing in dormitories, the population that consists a majority of the country’s infections.

The city state sees a rise in infections as tests in the coming days will include some workers who come from dormitories with higher prevalence of COVID-19 infection, according to a statement from the ministry of health late Tuesday.

Notices about precautions against new coronavirus are seen as mourners sign guestbooks at a memorial altar for late Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon at Seoul City Hall Plaza in Seoul, South Korea, July 12, 2020. The sign on notices reads: "Wearing A Mask." (AHN YOUNG-JOON / AP)

South Korea

South Korea reported 39 more cases of COVID-19 as of 0:00 am Wednesday local time compared to 24 hours ago, raising the total number of infections to 13,551.

The daily caseload stayed below 40 for two straight days due to the continued small cluster infections and imported cases.

Of the new cases, 28 were imported from overseas, lifting the combined figure to 1,919. It continued to increase in double digits for 20 straight days.

No more death was confirmed, leaving the death toll at 289. The total fatality rate stood at 2.13 percent.

A total of 66 more patients were discharged from quarantine after making full recovery, pulling up the combined number to 12,348. The total recovery rate was 91.1 percent.


New COVID-19 cases were reported in both the rebel-held and government-controlled areas in Syria on Tuesday, activists and state media reported.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said three new cases have been recorded in the rebel-held areas in Idlib province and northern Aleppo province in northern Syria over the past 24 hours.

The UK-based watchdog group placed the overall number of infections in rebel-held areas at eight.

Meanwhile, the state news agency SANA said 22 new cases were reported on Tuesday as well as two new deaths.

It placed the overall number of infections in government-controlled areas at 439, including 138 recoveries and 21 deaths.

The new toll in opposition and government-controlled areas doesn't include six cases that have been recently recorded in the Kurdish-controlled areas in northeastern Syria.

The Syrian government has taken several measures to prevent the spread of the virus such as a curfew and shutdown of businesses.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia, the worst-hit Arab country, reported 2,692 new COVID-19 cases, raising the tally of infections in the kingdom to 237,803.

The coronavirus death toll climbed to 2,283 after 40 more fatalities were added, while the tally of recoveries rose to 177,560 with 7,718 new recoveries recorded in the last 24 hours, the Saudi health ministry said.

The Philippines

The Philippine Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark Villar on Wednesday said he had tested positive for COVID-19, becoming the country's third infected cabinet member.


Turkey on Tuesday reported 992 new COVID-19 cases, as the country's daily infections have been below 1,000 for consecutive 33 days.

Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said that the tally of COVID-19 cases in Turkey climbed to 214,993, while the death toll increased to 5,402 after 20 more fatalities were added.


The United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Tuesday announced 375 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total confirmed cases in the country to 55,573.

UAE's Ministry of Health and Prevention said in a statement that 512 more patients recovered from the virus, taking the tally of recoveries in the UAE to 46,025.

It also confirmed one more death, bringing the country's death toll to 335.

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