Staff personnel wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) talk to arriving international flight passengers about their hotel transfer for the compulsory 14-day Alternative State Quarantine (ASQ), a requirement that was imposed to prevent the spread of COVID-19, at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok, Thailand, on Nov 16, 2020. (MLADEN ANTONOV / AFP)
KABUL / SUVA / KATHMANDU / NEW DELHI / DUBAI / COLOMBO / KUALA LUMPUR / BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN / DHAKA / JAKARTA / HANOI / SINGAPORE / YANGON / JERUSALEM / MELBOURNE / SEOUL / BANGKOK / MANILA - Thailand plans to relax quarantine rules for foreign visitors from next month as part of a series of steps considered to revive the tourism industry, the Bangkok Post reported.
The Center for COVID-19 Situation Administration is set to consider on Monday a proposal that will allow foreign visitors to leave their hotel rooms after three days of a mandatory two-week quarantine, the newspaper reported. The so-called area hotel quarantine will still require tourists to confine themselves to the properties, it said.
The quarantine relaxation, discussed at a meeting chaired by Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn on Saturday, will initially be considered for top five tourist destinations such as Phuket and Krabi, the Post reported. The COVID panel will also discuss a proposal to waive the quarantine requirement for vaccinated visitors, it said.
Thailand on Sunday confirmed 65 new cases, 60 of which were domestically transmitted while the others were imported, according to a report of the Center for the COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA).
In total, Thailand has confirmed 26,370 cases of infection. The death toll remained at 85.
Afghanistan's Public Health Ministry reported seven new COVID-19 cases on Saturday, raising the total number of infections to 55,847, including 4,029 active cases.
The pandemic has so far claimed 2,449 lives in Afghanistan since February last year.
According to the ministry, more than 307,000 COVID-19 tests for the virus have been carried out in Afghanistan as of Saturday.
Australia reported no new local COVID-19 cases on Sunday, making it the 37th day of no infections this year.
There have been no related deaths in 2021.
Health Minister Greg Hunt, among the first receive the University of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine on Sunday after an earlier shipment, said the rollout is on track.
Inoculation with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine started in February, but most Australians will be vaccinated with the University of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.
The weekly number of administered doses is expected to reach 1 million by the end of March when CSL Ltd begins to locally produce 50 million of the AstraZeneca doses.
The government is spending more than AUD6 billion (US$4.6 billion) to support the vaccine rollout with contracts for over 150 million doses of various COVID-19 vaccines.
A health worker prepares a simulated vaccine at the Sydney Local Health District Vaccination Hub in Camperdown during a simulation of the COVID-19 vaccine process in Sydney, Australia, on Feb 19, 2021. (KATE GERAGHTY / POOL / AFP)
Bangladesh reported 540 new COVID-19 cases and 10 more deaths on Saturday, taking the tally to 549,724 and the death toll to 8,451, the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) said.
The total number of recoveries rose by 822 to 501,966, said the DGHS.
Brunei announced on Saturday a further easing of social distancing measures and the resumption of major social activities, including mass gathering, starting from March 8.
The Ministry of Health said that the COVID-19 pandemic in Brunei is currently under control as the last case of local infection was reported over 300 days ago.
Under the relaxed rules, social activities will be allowed in places such as mosques, schools, museums, sports facilities, restaurants, cinemas, stalls and markets. The number of people in gatherings will be increased from 350 people to 1,000.
Brunei reported one new imported case of COVID-19 on Saturday, bringing the overall tally to 189.
According to the Ministry of Health, the case involved a 43-year-old man who arrived in the country from Jakarta, Indonesia, on Feb 21. The contact tracing for this case is still being conducted.
So far, Brunei has reported three deaths and 182 recoveries.
The South Pacific island nation of Fiji will receive 108,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines under the COVAX Facility.
According to Fiji Broadcasting Corporation (FBC) on Sunday, Erja Askola, deputy head of the European Union (EU) Delegation for the Pacific, said that Fiji is the first Pacific island country to receive vaccines through COVAX.
On Saturday night, Fiji received 12,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine via COVAX. It was the first batch of vaccines from COVAX and the first shot of the vaccine is expected to be done within a week.
According to Fijian Health Minister Ifereimi Waqainabete, the country is hoping to start vaccinating 6,000 frontline health workers and members of the disciplined forces helping in the manning of quarantine facilities within this week.
Fiji, an island nation with a population of around 900,000, has recorded 63 COVID-19 cases, with seven active cases, 54 recoveries and two deaths since its first case was reported on March 19, 2020.
India's COVID-19 tally rose to 11,210,799 on Sunday as 18,711 new cases were registered in the past 24 hours, according to the latest data from the federal health ministry.
The death toll rose by 100 to 157,756, according to the official data.
There were 184,523 active cases while the total recoveries stood at 10,868,520.
The Indian government on Saturday asked states reporting a surge in COVID-19 cases to return to test, track, treat strategy, the health ministry said.
The ministry pointed out that nine districts in Delhi, 15 in Haryana, 10 in Andhra Pradesh, 10 in Odisha, nine in Himachal Pradesh, seven in Uttarakhand, two in Goa and one in Chandigarh continued to be of concern as these districts were seeing a decrease in the number of tests being conducted, a low share of RT-PCR tests, as well as an increase in weekly positivity and low number of contact tracing of the COVID positive cases.
The states were also asked to accelerate vaccination for priority population groups in districts reporting higher cases.
Also on Saturday, the government deployed high-level teams to Maharashtra and Punjab to assist in COVID-19 control and containment amid a spike in cases in the states, officials said, as the local government in Punjab imposed a nighttime curfew in four districts.
Apart from Maharashtra and Punjab, health ministry said, Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have also reported high number of COVID-19 daily new cases.
In another development, the Dalai Lama, 85, got his first shot of the AstraZeneca vaccine in Dharamshala, India, and encouraged others to “have courage” also to take it “to prevent some serious problem.”
The number of COVID-19 cases in Indonesia rose by 5,767 within one day to 1,373,836, while the death toll climbed by 128 to 37,154, the health ministry said on Saturday.
According to the ministry, 6,823 more people have recovered and were discharged from hospitals, bringing the total number of recoveries to 1,189,510.
Iran's health ministry reported 8,212 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday, raising the total number of infections to 1,681,682.
The death toll went up by 82 to 60,594, said Sima Sadat Lari, spokeswoman for the Ministry of Health and Medical Education.
A total of 1,435,357 people have recovered from the disease while 3,784 remained in intensive care units, she added.
The Iraqi Ministry of Health reported 4,068 new coronavirus cases, bringing the tally to 723,189.
The ministry also reported 11 additional deaths, raising the death toll to 13,548.
The total recoveries climbed by 3,883 to 657,032.
Earlier, the health authorities approved a package of health restrictions, including the re-imposition of a partial and full curfew, but the restrictions exempted pilgrims of religious shrines from curfews provided that preventive measures are adhered to.
A sign reminding audience to wear protective face masks is seen at a soccer stadium in Tel Aviv, Israel, March 5, 2021. (ODED BALILTY / AP)
Israel's COVID-19 tally reached 800,721 on Sunday morning after 994 new cases were registered since Saturday evening, the Ministry of Health said.
The death toll stood at 5,861 while the total recoveries rose to 754,210.
There were currently 40,650 active cases, of which 1,155 are being treated in hospitals, including 724 in serious conditions.
Nearly 4.93 million, or 53 percent of the total population, has been vaccinated, according to the ministry.
The Israeli cabinet on Saturday approved the third phase of the easing of lockdown restrictions that were imposed in the country on Dec 27, 2020, the Prime Minister's Office and the Health and Transport Ministries said in a joint statement.
As part of the decision, a ban on the entry of Israelis to the country will be lifted but no more than 3,000 people will be allowed entry each day. Also, a mandatory quarantine in designated hotels will be replaced with home quarantine.
Meanwhile, the number of people allowed in gatherings in open spaces will be raised from 20 to 50, and in indoors, a maximum of 20 people will be allowed instead of 10.
Pupils in grades 7-10 will return to classes on Sunday in cities and towns with a low morbidity rate and high rate of vaccinations, while restaurants will be allowed to reopen and indoor seating will only be allowed for vaccination certificate holders only.
Culture and sports events will also be allowed to resume, with restrictions of 500 people at most in closed spaces and 750 in open areas.
ALSO READ: 52.7% Israelis vaccinated against COVID-19
Japan may approve another COVID-19 vaccine in May or June after allowing the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in February, Japanese Health Minister Norihisa Tamura said on Fuji TV on Sunday.
“AstraZeneca and Moderna’s vaccines have filed for approval, and these may be approved as early as May, or June,” he said. “Of course, it is under careful screening at the moment, and we must see their safety and effectiveness,” the minister said.
Jordan on Saturday reported 3,481 new COVID-19 cases and 38 more deaths, bringing the tally to 421,415 with 4,900 deaths, the government announced.
According to a joint statement issued by the Prime Ministry and the Ministry of Health, the daily toll was the highest in two months.
There were currently 53,750 active COVID-19 cases in Jordan, according to the statement.
Kuwait reported 1,318 new COVID-19 infections on Saturday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 199,428.
The health ministry also reported seven more deaths, taking the death toll to 1,120.
The tally of recoveries nationwide rose by 992 to 185,231.
Lebanon registered on Saturday 3,158 new COVID-19 cases, raising the total number of infections in the country to 393,211.
The death toll went up by 42 to 5,013.
The health ministry said that 76,130 people have been vaccinated so far.
Malaysia reported 1,680 new COVID-19 infections and seven more deaths, bringing the tally to 311,777 and the toll to 1,166, the health ministry said on Saturday,.
The total recoveries increased by 2,548 to 289,452 or 92.8 percent of all cases, while there were still 21,159 active cases, including 172 in intensive care units and 84 requiring assisted breathing.
The number of COVID-19 infections in Myanmar rose to 142,023 on Saturday, according to a release from the Health and Sports Ministry.
The country registered six new cases and no additional deaths in the past 24 hours, according to the release.
A total of 131,658 patients have been discharged from hospitals after recovery so far.
Nepal is set receive a delivery of COVID-19 vaccine via the COVAX Facility on Sunday, said Jageshwor Gautam, spokesperson at the health ministry.
The Himalayan country is expected to receive 13 million doses of vaccine to meet the needs of 20 percent of Nepal's 30-million population, officials said.
An airline crew member tested positive for COVID-19 on Sunday, said New Zealand’s Ministry of Health in a statement.
The case is deemed as a border-related case identified as part of routine surveillance testing, the ministry said.
According to the ministry, the crew member returned to New Zealand from Japan on Feb 28 and tested negative for COVID-19. A swab sample taken during a routine testing on Saturday returned a positive result on Sunday.
Based on an initial assessment, the case poses a low risk to the public, according to the ministry. Results from genome sequencing are expected on Tuesday and will help rule out any local transmission, said the ministry.
The report of the new case came on the same day Auckland, New Zealand’s biggest city, emerged from a strict weeklong lockdown imposed after a community cluster of the more contagious UK coronavirus variant.
There were no new local COVID-19 cases recorded on Sunday, health officials said, marking a full week of no community transmissions across the country.
There are still limits on public gathering in the city of nearly two million, however, and masks are obligatory on public transport.
The government said it might ease restrictions in Auckland further on Friday, to bring them to the same level as in the rest of New Zealand.
The Qatari Health Ministry reported Saturday 460 new COVID-19 infections, raising the total number of confirmed cases in the Gulf state to 166,475.
Another 293 people have recovered, bringing the overall recoveries to 155,700, while the total number of fatalities increased by one to 262.
Saudi Arabia will end most coronavirus-related restrictions on Sunday, including resuming indoor dining, reopening cinemas and resuming entertainment activities and events, the state news agency SPA reported on Saturday.
Some activities will remain banned, including weddings and corporate meetings. Social gatherings will continue to be limited to a maximum of 20 people, SPA reported, citing an interior ministry source.
Singapore's Ministry of Health (MOH) reported 13 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 60,020.
Of the new cases, 12 were imported cases while the remaining one was a domestically transmitted case.
Meanwhile, the number of recoveries increased by nine to 59,879, the ministry said.
There were 22 patients still hospitalized, including one in critical condition.
South Korea reported 416 new COVID-19 as of midnight Saturday compared to 24 hours ago, raising the total number of infections to 92,471.
The daily caseload has stayed above 400 for two straight days.
Meanwhile, two more deaths were confirmed, taking the death toll at 1,634. T
A total of 314,656 people have been vaccinated since a mass inoculation drive was launched on Feb 26.
The United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) has procured and will deliver the first consignment of the AstraZeneca vaccines to Sri Lanka on Sunday.
They are part of an allocation of COVID-19 vaccines from the COVAX facility to the Sri Lankan Ministry of Health, local media Daily FT reported here Saturday.
UNICEF said in a statement that the first 264,000 doses from COVAX will be set aside for the most vulnerable persons above 60 years of age in the most high-risk areas impacted by COVID-19.
The Philippines' Department of Health (DOH) reported on Sunday 3,276 new COVID-19 infections and 51 more deaths, bringing the infection tally to 594,412 and the toll to 12,516.
It is the third consecutive day that the Philippines has reported more than 3,000 new cases.
Mayors in the Philippine capital region Metro Manila have agreed to again shut cinemas and amusement arcades as coronavirus cases surge, ABS-CBN News reported.
Hotels which were converted into quarantine facilities for coronavirus patients are 89 percent full and there’s a need to strictly enforce health protocols before things get out of hand, ABS-CBN News reported, citing Metropolitan Manila Development Authority Chairman Benhur Abalos.
In another development, Moderna announced an agreement to supply the Philippines with 13 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine.
The company said deliveries of the vaccine, not yet approved in the Philippines, would begin in mid-2021.
Officials on Sunday also took delivery of 38,400 more doses of AstraZeneca vaccines, bringing to 525,600 the total number of AstraZeneca vaccines the Philippines has so far received via the COVAX facility.
People walk along a crowded street in Ankara, Turkey, on March 6, 2021, as as cafes and restaurants have re-opened and weekend lockdowns were reduced to only Sunday. (BURHAN OZBILICI / AP)
Turkey on Saturday reported 11,770 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total number of infections to 2,769,230, according to Turkish health ministry.
The death toll rose by 64 to 28,965 while the total recoveries increased by 7291 to 2,616,139.
More than 7,519,000 people have been vaccinated so far.
The South Pacific island nation of Vanuatu reported on Saturday two new COVID-19 cases.
According to Radio New Zealand (RNZ), Vanuatu's Prime Minister Bob Loughman said late Saturday that the two new cases were expatriates who arrived in Vanuatu on a chartered flight last month.
Vietnam reported 13 new cases of COVID-19 infection on Saturday, including one imported case and 12 locally transmitted ones, according to its Ministry of Health.
The new cases took the cumulative tally to 2,507 as of 6 pm local time Saturday, said the ministry.
All the 12 community cases were detected in the northern Hai Duong province, the country's largest hotspot at the moment. They were all contacts of previously confirmed patients.
The latest wave of COVID-19 infections hit Vietnam on Jan 28, with 891 community cases so far confirmed in 13 cities and provinces.
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