A woman wearing a face mask amid the COVID-19 pandemic walks by closed shops in the Iranian capital Tehran, on Nov 30, 2020. (ATTA KENARE / AFP)
SEOUL / RAMALLAH / BAGHDAD / TEHRAN - The tally of COVID-19 cases in Iran is to exceed 1 million after consecutive daily increases of over 13,000 new infections. Meanwhile, Turkey and Morocco keep witnessing fast spread of the virus.
Iran's Health Ministry reported 13,621 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, raising the total nationwide number to 989,572.
The pandemic has so far claimed 48,990 lives in Iran, the worst-hit in the Middle East, up by 362 in the past 24 hours, said Sima Sadat Lari, spokeswoman for the Iranian Ministry of Health and Medical Education.
A total of 688,054 people have recovered from the disease and been discharged from hospitals, while 5,828 remain in intensive care units, she added.
The last remaining foreign staff of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) have left the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), the aid organization said on Thursday.
The DPRK has reported zero confirmed cases of the coronavirus as the government imposed stringent measures.
International ICRC staff left Pyongyang on Wednesday and the organisation’s ongoing work there will be managed by its delegation in Beijing, Graziella Leite Piccoli, the ICRC’s deputy head of delegation for East Asia, said in a statement.
Japan’s Osaka Prefecture will issue a red alert for the first time as soon as Thursday, signaling that the region is in a state of emergency, due to the rising number of serious patients, broadcaster TBS reported without attribution.
Based on Osaka’s three-tier alert system a red alert indicates the medical system is under incredible strain. It calls for people not to travel and facilities that could be the source of cluster outbreaks to close. Tokyo found 533 new virus cases, 54 of which are serious.
Japan authorities have been urging preparations for a “worst-case scenario” as serious Covid-19 cases have risen to a record across the country. Tokyo raised its COVID -19 alert to the highest of four levels last month, as daily infections in the Japanese capital increased by more than 500.
The confirmed COVID-19 cases in Japan increased by 2,501 to reach 155,952 as of Thursday night, according to the latest figures from the health ministry and local authorities.
The death toll in Japan from the pneumonia-causing coronavirus currently stands at 2,263, with 25 new fatalities reported Thursday. The death toll includes 13 from the Diamond Princess cruise ship.
Commuters wearing face masks walk at Shinagawa Station in Tokyo on Nov 19, 2020. (PHOTO / AFP)
Indonesia recorded its biggest daily rise in coronavirus infections on Thursday with 8,369 new cases, according to its COVID-19 task force, which attributed the jump to a lag in some areas reporting cases.
The sharp spike – more than 2,000 cases higher than the previous record on Sunday – brings Indonesia’s infections total to 557,877, among the highest in Asia. It has so far recorded 17,355 deaths related to COVID-19.
Experts say the Southeast Asian nation’s low testing has masked a higher number of infections.
Cases have steadily risen since March but the volume of new daily infections has increased in recent weeks, with record daily infections in four of the past nine days.
Vietnam reported three new cases of COVID-19 infection on Thursday, bringing its total confirmed cases to 1,361 with 35 deaths from the disease so far, according to its Ministry of Health.
The new cases, who include a Nepalese and two Vietnamese citizens, recently entered the country from abroad and were quarantined upon arrival, said the ministry.
Nearly half a million students nervously began a hyper-competitive university entrance exam on Thursday, with COVID-19 students taking the exam in hospital and others separated by transparent barriers.
The country is battling a third wave of coronavirus infections, forcing authorities to take strict steps to ensure all students could safely take the test, deemed a life-defining event for high school seniors to win a degree that could help land a better job in Asia’s fourth-largest economy.
Police and school officials guarded some 31,000 test venues across the country, which in normal years are usually filled with praying parents and cheering squads distributing hot drinks and snacks.
“It’s my second test, and I just wanted to get it done despite the risks of contracting the coronavirus. That’s all I was thinking about coming here,” Jeon Young-jin, 19, told Reuters in front of a test venue in Seoul.
Some 35 people who have tested positive for COVID-19 sat for the test at designated hospitals, while special venues were provided to help another 404 who are in self isolation.
Proctors for the confirmed and suspected cases were required to wear protective equipment and collect exam papers in plastic bags and wipe them before handing over to the staff outside.
The government has tightened social distancing curbs, and declared a two-week special anti-virus period ahead of the exam.
The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) reported 540 new cases on Friday, including 516 domestic infections and 24 imported.
The country’s total tally rose to 35,703, with 529 deaths.
The number of Pakistan's COVID-19 positive cases has surged to 406,810 with 3,499 people being tested positive of the viral disease over the last 24 hours, the country's health ministry said on Thursday.
A total of 8,205 people died and 346,951 recovered from the disease in the country which is battling a serious second wave, the ministry said on its website.
Pakistan's southern Sindh province is currently the worst hit with 177,625 cases, followed by most populous province Punjab with 121,083 positive cases, the official figures revealed.
At a press briefing on Wednesday, Special Advisor to the Prime Minister on Health Faisal Sultan said that the government has approved to allocate a budget of 150 million U.S. dollars for the purchase of vaccine and frontline health workers and people over 65 years of age will be the first to get the vaccine administered.
Meanwhile, Federal Parliamentary Secretary in the Health Ministry Nausheen Hamid said that the government will provide free of cost vaccine to its citizens and the vaccination will start in the second quarter of 2021.
The Pakistani government has also decided to observe "COVID-19 standard operating procedures (SOPs) compliance week" from Saturday for creating awareness in public about the significance of the SOPs in guarding against the disease.
Thailand will intensify patrolling at its borders after about a dozen people, who illegally entered the country from neighboring Myanmar, tested positive for coronavirus.
“We’re not only cracking down on border areas but we’re doing increased searches throughout the nation,” Opas Karnkawipong, acting director general of disease control at the health ministry, said at a briefing Thursday. “Our immigration and communicable diseases laws all carry severe punishments and the authorities will punish all who break our laws to the highest degree.”
Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca outlined a road map for vaccination as the country struggles with an increasing number of coronavirus cases and deaths. The first batch of vaccines is expected to arrive after Dec. 11 and people including medical staff and those over 65 years old with chronic diseases will be vaccinated in the first phase, according to minister’s remarks in state Anadolu news agency.
Although Koca didn’t mention a specific vaccine name, Turkey has previously said it agreed with China to purchase 50 million doses over the next three months. The country is also in discussions for 1 million doses of the vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE.
Turkey recorded 31,923 COVID-19 new cases, including 6,690 symptomatic patients, as the total number of symptomatic COVID-19 patients in the country hit 513,656, its health ministry announced.
The death toll from the virus rose by 193 to 14,129, while the recoveries climbed to 414,141 after 4,821 more patients recovered in the last 24 hours.
Australia’s New South Wales state has recorded its first new case of the coronavirus in 25 days after a woman working at a quarantine hotel in Sydney tested positive.
Authorities are investigating whether she became infected in the community or through work at the facility, the state health department said in a statement Thursday. The woman’s five family members were tested overnight and all returned a negative result for the virus.
Australia has largely controlled the spread of community transmission, but health experts say there is no room for complacency due to an ongoing risk of the virus entering the community from returned overseas travelers -- despite a mandatory system of hotel quarantine. More than 30,000 Australians, many living in Europe and the US where the virus is rampant, are waiting to return home.
“This is a good warning for all of us that we have to maintain our vigilance,” NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters. “When you are welcoming 3,000 Australians back every single week, and when we know the rate of infection is increasing in all parts of the world, we have to remain ever vigilant.”
Bungled security at quarantine hotels in Victoria, which reportedly included guards sleeping with guests, saw the virus escape into the community -- leading to a three-month lockdown in Melbourne. Meanwhile, in neighboring South Australia, authorities are investigating how two security guards, a cleaner and two returned travelers contracted the virus while in hotel quarantine -- seeding a cluster of infections in the state capital Adelaide.
Myanmar has imposed a strict stay-at-home order for two weeks in Mandalay district, home to the nation’s second-largest city, to contain a surge in COVID-19 cases after the Nov 8 general election, according to a statement by Mandalay Region Government.
Nearly 2 million people from seven townships must stay at home Dec. 5-18, except for work and health reasons, according to the order.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced on Wednesday night that he decided to extend the state of emergency for another month to combat the spread of coronavirus in the Palestinian territories.
The official Palestinian news agency WAFA said that the decision was announced in a presidential decree, and will come into effect on Thursday.
It added that the authorities will continue to take all necessary measures to confront the risks from the coronavirus, protect public health, and achieve security and stability.
In an official speech aired on Palestine TV, the president announced that the government had reached agreements with some countries and concerned authorities to provide Palestine with the coronavirus vaccines.
A student checks the time before the start of a college entrance exam amid the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic at an exam hall in Seoul on Dec 3, 2020. (PHOTO / AFP)
The Iraqi Health Ministry reported on Wednesday 1,961 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total nationwide infections to 556,728.
It also reported 34 new deaths and 1,743 more recovered cases in the country, raising the death toll from the infectious virus to 12,340 and the total recoveries to 486,313.
A total of 3,543,722 tests have been carried out across the country since the outbreak of the disease in February, with 30,802 done during the day, according to the statement.
Meanwhile, Iraqi President Barham Salih received in his office Health Minister Hassan al-Tamimi, and the two reviewed the development of the health situation in the country and the health-protective measures taken to contain the coronavirus pandemic, according to a statement by the Presidency's media office.
Salih stressed the need for "continuing communication with countries and companies that announced the production of vaccines to ensure access to the vaccines for the benefit of all citizens," the statement said.
Singapore's Ministry of Health (MOH) reported two new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, bringing the total confirmed cases in the country to 58,230.
All of the new cases are imported.
On Wednesday, five more cases of COVID-19 have been discharged from hospitals or community isolation facilities. In all, 58,144 have fully recovered from the infection and have been discharged from hospitals or community care facilities, the ministry said.
There are currently 28 confirmed cases still in the hospital. Of these, most are stable or improving, and none is in critical condition in the intensive care unit.
Thailand's northern province of Chiang Rai on Wednesday issued an order commanding all travelers returning from a foreign country to get COVID-19 tests quickly.
The order came after four Thais who slipped back into Thai soil tested positive for COVID-19.
The four Thais crossed natural borders into Thailand and flouted quarantine rules.
Israel reported 1,357 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total to 339,318. The number of deaths reached 2,883 with six new fatalities, while the number of patients in serious condition increased from 264 to 284, out of 534 currently hospitalized. The number of recoveries rose to 325,145.
Kuwait reported 268 new COVID-19 cases and one more death, raising the tally of infections to 143,260 and the death toll to 882 in the country.
The Kuwaiti Health Ministry also announced the recovery of 509 more patients, taking the total recoveries to 138,134.
Oman's health ministry said in a statement that the infections climbed by 237 cases to 124,145 while the death toll stood at 1,430. Altogether 115,613 cases have recovered.
The country's Supreme Committee tasked with COVID-19 pandemic has allowed cinemas, parks, beaches and tourist attractions to reopen, the official Oman News Agency reported.
The Qatari health ministry announced 255 new COVID-19 infections, raising the total number of confirmed cases in the Gulf state to 139,256.
Meanwhile, 207 more recovered from the virus, bringing the overall recoveries to 136,513, while the fatalities increased by one to 239.
Commuters wearing face masks walk at Shinagawa Station in Tokyo on Nov 19, 2020. (PHOTO / AFP)
India's COVID-19 tally reached 9,534,964 on Thursday as 35,551 new cases were registered during the past 24 hours, according to the latest data from the federal health ministry.
According to the data, the death toll mounted to 138,648 as 526 patients died since Wednesday morning.
There are still 422,943 active cases in the country, while 8,973,373 people have been discharged from hospitals, added the ministry's latest data.
Meanwhile, the federal government has ramped up COVID-19 testing facilities across the country. Till Wednesday a total of 143,557,647 tests were conducted, out of which 1,111,698 tests were conducted on Wednesday alone, said the figures released by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) on Thursday.
An expert panel has warned India's South Western state of Karnataka of a second wave of COVID-19 in January 2021, suggesting the imposition of a ban on new year celebrations.
New Zealand reported nine new cases of COVID-19 in managed isolation on Thursday. There are no new community cases.
Of the nine new cases, four are active cases while five are termed as "historical cases." People with a historical COVID-19 infection are not infectious, according to the Ministry of Health.
Of the active cases, one case arrived in New Zealand on Nov. 29 from Britain, who tested positive at day 3 routine testing and has been transferred to the Auckland quarantine facility, said a ministry statement.
Mongolia reported seven more COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours, bringing the national tally to 819, the country's National Center for Communicable Diseases (NCCD) said Thursday.
The latest cases were all locally transmitted, said Amarjargal Ambaselmaa, head of the NCCD's Surveillance Department, at a daily press conference.
So far, 387 locally transmitted cases have been reported nationwide, notably in capital Ulan Bator and the provinces of Selenge, Darkhan-Uul, Govisumber, Orkhon, Dornogovi and Arkhangai.
Meanwhile, seven more patients have recovered from the disease, bringing the national total recoveries to 365, Ambaselmaa said.
The Department of Health (DOH) of the Philippines on Thursday reported 1,061 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, bringing the country's total tally to 435,413.
The DOH said that 328 more patients recovered, raising the total number of recoveries to 399,325. The death toll rose to 8,446 after 10 more patients died from the coronavirus epidemic.
The DOH said it had tested 5.49 million people in the Philippines so far for the COVID-19 infection. The Philippines has a population of about 110 million.
Laos has conducted 80,188 COVID-19 tests, with 39 positive cases, according to the Lao Ministry of Health on Thursday.
Deputy Director General of the Department of Communicable Diseases Control under Lao Ministry of Health, Sisavath Soutthaniraxay, told a press conference in Lao capital Vientiane that Laos has been carrying out tests every day for COVID-19 since January, with the total number of tests reaching 80,188.
Among the people tested, 39 were tested positive and 26 of the patients have been discharged from hospitals after treatment.
Another 13 infected cases are treated in designated hospitals, Mittaphab Hospital (Hospital 150) in Lao capital Vientiane.
Authorities and people countrywide must continue implementing preventive measures, said Sisavath.
It was essential that every person and all relevant authorities strictly abided by the new normal guidelines and rules set by the Lao government, he added.
HONG KONG NEWS