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Thursday, November 05, 2020, 22:53
Virus: India top court bans use of UV light, disinfectant tunnels
By Agencies
Thursday, November 05, 2020, 22:53 By Agencies

A commuter stands inside a newly launched disinfectant tunnel which sprays hydrogen peroxide, a chemical compound, at the entrance of a market during a government-imposed nationwide lockdown as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 in Kolkata on April 6, 2020. (PHOTO/ AFP)

SYDNEY / GAZA / JERUSALEM / WELLINGTON / SEOUL / SINGAPORE - India's top court on Thursday ordered the federal government to ban within a month the use of disinfectant tunnels, fumigation, sprays and ultraviolet (UV) light on people as part of its initiatives to contain the spread of COVID-19.

The directive came in the wake of a public interest litigation filed by law student Gursimran Singh Narula who sought a complete ban on the usage, production, advertisement and installation of the sanitization tunnels.

In the guise of preventing COVID-19, many sanitisation and disinfection devices have emerged which wrongfully claim to be effective in preventing the spread of this virus, according to the litigation.

"These include disinfection tunnels involving spraying and fumigation of disinfectants and disinfection tunnels exposing human beings to ultraviolet rays with a belief of disinfecting them," according to the litigation.

Scientists have also cast doubt on the effectiveness of mass disinfecting against the pandemic. 

Meanwhile, an Indian government-backed COVID-19 vaccine could be launched as early as February – months earlier than expected – as last-stage trials begin this month and studies have so far showed it is safe and effective, a senior government scientist told Reuters.

Bharat Biotech, a private company that is developing COVAXIN with the government-run Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), had earlier hoped to launch it only in the second quarter of next year.

India reported a daily jump of 50,210 coronavirus infections, taking its total to 8.36 million, the health ministry said on Thursday. This was the highest daily jump in cases since Oct. 25, according to a Reuters tally. 

Cases in India have been dipping since hitting a peak in September, but experts warn that the Diwali festival season could lead to a spike. Deaths rose by 704, with total mortalities now at 124,315, the ministry said.

Singapore 

Singapore is using a plan involving ratios and testing to open its borders to as many international visitors as possible based on their home country of risk, Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing said.

The government looks at a country’s “observed prevalence rate” of coronavirus infections and is “mathematically, statistically” managing this to make sure that “we have a highest number of visitors, business travelers” possible without breaking the risk budget, Chan said.

Singapore, a small island nation dependent upon international tourism and trade, is working hard to reopen its borders. Details regarding a travel bubble with Hong Kong that wouldn’t require visitors to undergo a 14-day quarantine are expected to be announced shortly. Instead of self-isolating, travelers will need to take a COVID -19 test with a negative result.

Chan said Singapore is working on travel bubbles with other countries, urging them not to “wait for the conditions to be right” before discussions start.

Australia

The Australian government has agreed to purchase two more COVID-19 vaccines in development, beefing up the country's prospective arsenal against the pandemic to 135 million doses as it aims to complete a mass inoculation programme within months.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Thursday the government will buy 40 million vaccine doses from Novavax , and 10 million from Pfizer and BioNTech . 

That adds to the 85 million doses Australia has already committed to buy from AstraZeneca and CSL Ltd should trials prove successful, taking the country's total anticipated outlay to A$3.2 billion (US$2.3 billion). 

"We aren't putting all our eggs in one basket," Morrison told reporters in Sydney. 

Health Minister Greg Hunt said the Novavax and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, which will be manufacturd in the United States and Europe, would complement the AstraZeneca and CSL products, which would be manufactured in Australia.


Indonesia

Indonesia reported 4,065 new coronavirus infections on Thursday, taking the total to 425,796, data from its COVID-19 task force showed. 

It also added 89 new deaths, taking total fatalities to 14,348. Indonesia has the most coronavirus cases and deaths in Southeast Asia.

Iraq

The Iraqi Health Ministry on Wednesday reported 8,479 more recoveries from COVID-19, the highest in a single day since the outbreak of the disease, pushing up the total number of recoveries in the country to 417,235.

Meanwhile, 3,574 new COVID-19 cases were detected during the day, bringing the total nationwide infections to 485,870, according to a ministry statement.

The ministry also reported 60 new deaths, raising the death toll from the infectious virus to 11,128.

Israel

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Wednesday that street stores in Israel will be allowed to reopen from this coming Sunday, marking another step out of a nationwide lockdown.

Netanyahu chaired a meeting of the special cabinet for handling the COVID-19 on Wednesday on the outline of returning to routine and the policy on the restrictions.

According to the decision of the special cabinet, only four customers at any given time will be allowed inside a reopened street store. Netanyahu warned that if there is an increase in morbidity this coming weekend, Israel will "maybe tighten the restrictions."

A month-long nationwide lockdown in Israel has been lifted since Oct. 18 but many restrictions have remained in place.

READ MORE: Japan allows taxi drivers to refuse passengers not wearing masks

Empty venue and stands are seen prior to the Melbourne Cup horse race at Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne, Australia, Nov 3, 2020. (PHOTO / AP)

Japan

The confirmed COVID-19 cases in Japan increased by 1,045 to reach 105,079 as of Thursday night, according to the latest figures from the health ministry and local authorities, with the new daily cases exceeding 1,000 for the first time since Aug 21.

As the government has eased restrictions and promoted domestic travel to help boost the economy hit hard by the pandemic, the number of infections has been trending upward in recent days.

In Tokyo, the epicenter of Japan's outbreak, 269 new cases were reported on Thursday, with the capital's cumulative total reaching 31,893, the highest among the country's 47 prefectures. In Osaka Prefecture, the number of people who tested positive for the coronavirus stood at 125 on Thursday.

In the country's northern main island of Hokkaido, the number of new cases was 119, topping 100 for the first time since the outbreak of the coronavirus.

Meanwhile, the death toll in Japan from the pneumonia-causing virus currently stood at 1,819, with seven new fatalities announced Thursday.

Kuwait

Kuwait reported 763 new COVID-19 cases and five more deaths, raising the tally of infections to 128,843 and the death toll to 794 in the country.

The Kuwaiti health ministry also announced the recovery of 662 more patients, taking the total recoveries in the country to 119,742.

Myanmar

Myanmar's Ministry of Health and Sports will cooperate with private hospitals in treatment and testing measures against COVID-19 in the near future, according to a release from the ministry late Wednesday.

Union Minister Dr. Myint Htwe announced the move at a recent ministry's meeting.

"There are over 230 private hospitals across the country. We have categorized them into four groups based on treatment and testing capability and have submitted the list to the ministry," Dr. Htin Paw, president of Myanmar Private Hospitals' Association, told Xinhua.

New Zealand

New Zealand reported two new cases of COVID-19 in managed isolation on Thursday.

The first case arrived on Oct. 31 from Singapore and tested positive around third day of their stay in managed isolation, according to the Ministry of Health.

The second case was detected in managed isolation in Auckland, after being given permission to join a family member recently arrived from overseas. The family member has previously been recorded in the positive case totals. Thursday's case will be recorded as an import-related case, said a ministry statement.]

Oman

The Omani health ministry on Wednesday announced 319 new COVID-19 infections, raising the total number of confirmed cases in the Sultanate to 116,847.

Meanwhile, 363 people recovered during the past 24 hours, taking the overall recoveries to 106,903, while 11 others reportedly died, raising the tally to 1,275.

ALSO READ: Bahrain allows COVID-19 vaccine use for frontline workers

Palestine

Palestinian officials on Wednesday said the spread of COVID-19 poses a critical threat to the besieged Gaza Strip which suffers from a weak health system.

Since March, the densely populated and impoverished coastal enclave, ruled by the Islamic Hamas movement, has recorded 7,231 COVID-19 cases.

Ashraf al-Qedra, spokesperson of the Hamas-run ministry of health, told Xinhua that the increase in COVID-19 infections is placing tremendous pressure on the health system and clinical capacity in governmental hospitals.

Yousef al-Aqqad, Director of the Gaza-European Hospital for treating coronavirus patients, told reporters in Gaza that the hospital is almost full of COVID-19 patients, adding that the number increases every day.

"The hospital's maximum capacity is to treat 500 patients, and we have only 100 beds designated for critical cases," al-Aqqad said.

Palestine recorded on Wednesday three deaths and 734 new COVID-19 cases in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, bringing the total infections to 67,918, including 576 deaths.

A COVID-19 safety instructions outside a pachinko parlor in Sapporo. The number of cases in Hokkaido may surpass 100. (PHOTO / BLOOMBERG)

South Korea

South Korea said on Thursday it had alerted about 1,000 people who attended the memorial of the late Samsung Group patriarch Lee Kun-hee last week to get tested for the coronavirus after one person at the event tested positive.

A local journalist who had covered the memorial developed symptoms two days later and tested positive on Monday, health authorities said. At least six new coronavirus cases, including two colleagues and two family members had been linked to the journalist, the authorities said.

Meanwhile, five more US soldiers and five other individuals in South Korea tested positive for COVID-19, the US Forces Korea (USFK) said Thursday.

The USFK said in a statement that 10 USFK-affiliated individuals were confirmed with COVID-19 after arriving in South Korea between Oct 23 and Nov 3.

South Korea reported 125 more cases of the COVID-19 as of midnight Wednesday compared to 24 hours ago, raising the total number of infections to 27,050.

The daily caseload stayed above 100 for two straight days due to small cluster infections in Seoul and its surrounding Gyeonggi province as well as imported cases.

The Philippines

The Philippines' Department of Health (DOH) on Thursday reported 1,594 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number in the country to 389,725.

The DOH said 468 more patients recovered, raising the total number of recoveries to 349,543. The death toll climbed to 7,409 after 42 more patients died from the virus, the DOH added.

The DOH said it had tested over 4.61 million people in the Philippines so far. The Philippines has a population of about 110 million.

Turkey

Turkey's total COVID-19 cases reached 384,509 with new 2,391 cases reported on Wednesday, and the overall death cases hit 10,558 with 77 new deaths.

Businesses, including restaurants and cafes, across Turkey are closed at 10:00 p.m. local time starting from Wednesday to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The decision was made on Tuesday by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the capital Ankara following a cabinet meeting.

The Turkish leader added that swimming pools, hairdressers, wedding venues, cinemas, concert halls, and similar places would also close their doors at the time.

Uzbekistan 

Uzbekistan has no plans to impose another lockdown despite the growth in COVID-19 cases globally, and intends to take part in the final trials of Chinese and Russian vaccines, a senior health official said. 

Tashkent is in talks with China's Anhui Zhifei Longcom Biopharmaceutical, a unit of Chongqing Zhifei, and Sinopharm about stage III trials, as well as the developers of Russia Sputnik V vaccine, deputy health minister Shakhrukh Sharakhmetov said. 

The country of 34 million has imposed two nationwide lockdowns this year to curb the spread of the coronavirus, but hopes that extensive preparations for a potential second wave will allow it to avoid imposing severe restrictions again. 

Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev has instructed officials to "learn to live and work in pandemic conditions".

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