A dog sits as residents walk at a village under lockdown to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in Manila, Philippines, March 15, 2021. (AARON FAVILA / AP)
SYDNEY / JERUSALEM / AMMAN / KABUL / HANOI / ULAN BATOR / KUALA LUMPUR / TEHRAN - The Philippines will limit foreign arrivals in its main Manila airport to 1,500 passengers a day for a month starting March 18, the Civil Aeronautics Board said, as coronavirus infections surged anew.
Philippine Airlines, in a Facebook post, said it may cancel some international flights. Some passengers will also have to postpone travel to Manila to comply with immigration directives, the carrier also said.
The Philippines reported daily cases above 4,000 for the fifth day on Tuesday, at 4,437, bringing the cumulative tally to 631,320.
The death toll climbed to 12,848 after 11 more deaths were logged, the Department of Health (DOH) said. It added that 166 more patients have recovered, raising the total number of recoveries to 560,736.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque has warned that the number of COVID-19 cases that the country experiences now is nearing the peak the country saw in July-August 2020 and may surpass that level if the transmission is not slowed down.
Australia has no plans to halt the use of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said on Tuesday, as several European countries paused administering the vaccine after reports of possible serious side-effects.
Frydenberg said the European medicines regulator and the World Health Organization (WHO) had confirmed that the AstraZeneca PLC vaccine was effective and safe to use.
“So we will continue to proceed with the vaccine rollout of AstraZeneca,” Frydenberg told Sky News.
Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Cyprus joined several other European nations in temporarily suspending vaccinations with AstraZeneca shots after isolated reports of bleeding, blood clots and low platelet count.
WHO said there have been no documented deaths linked to COVID-19 vaccines and that people should not panic.
The majority of Australia’s 25 million people will be inoculated with the AstraZeneca vaccine and authorities have secured nearly 54 million doses, with 50 million to be produced locally from the end of March.
Australian began its nationwide immunization drive last month, much later than many other countries, and began first vaccinations using the AstraZeneca vaccine last week.
Israel has spent 2.6 billion shekels (US$790 million) on coronavirus vaccine deals with pharmaceutical companies, and plans to spend a further 2.5 billion shekels on more doses, officials said.
The amounts were detailed as officials from the finance and health ministries appeared before parliament’s finance committee.
In another development, Israel will allow flights to the country from all locations, following a decision by the cabinet to enable Israelis to arrive ahead of the national elections scheduled for March 23.
However, the cabinet decided to keep a quota of no more than 3,000 arrivals per day. Passengers will be required to carry out coronavirus tests at the airport.
Israel has imposed a ban on incoming and outgoing flights on Jan. 24, 2021. It later eased the restrictions, allowing some flights from London, Frankfurt, Paris, Kyiv, and New York.
The reopening of the skies comes about a week before Israel's unprecedented fourth elections within two years, following three rounds of inconclusive elections. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is on a tight race with several rivals, seeking to be re-elected despite a criminal trial over corruption charges.
Israel's Ministry of Health reported 2,241 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, raising the tally of confirmed cases in the country to 820,789.
The COVID-19 death toll in Israel reached 6,029 with the addition of 21 new fatalities, while the number of patients in serious condition decreased from 640 to 603, out of 958 hospitalized patients.
Jordan used tear gas on Monday to suppress protests against a curfew imposed to stem a severe outbreak of COVID-19, witnesses and residents said.
Police took action after hundreds of protesters in several cities including Amman demonstrated for a second day and defied a night curfew which was extended last week, they said.
Many of the protesters called on the government to resign and demanded an end to emergency laws in place since the outset of the pandemic, which civic groups say violate civil and political rights.
Others were angry after nine people, mostly COVID-19 patients, died on Saturday when medics in a government hospital allegedly ignored depleted oxygen supplies on respirators for at least two hours.
Authorities deployed several thousand anti-riot police to disperse protesters as dozens of activists were rounded up in several cities and towns, witnesses said.
Jordan on Monday reported a record 9,417 new COVID-19 cases on a daily basis, increasing the nationwide caseload to 486,470, the government announced.
With 82 deaths being added, the death toll reached 5,428, according to a joint statement.
Workers spray disinfectant, as a preventive measure against the spread of COVID-19 along the alleys of Chatuchak market in Bangkok. (PHOTO / BLOOMBERG)
Thailand shut down a large market complex in Bangkok after it emerged as a new cluster of COVID-19 cases, prompting authorities to ramp up testing and order vaccination for those at high risk of infection.
The Bang Khae Market compound, which houses six markets selling everything from fresh vegetables to raw meats and cooked food, will remain closed for three days after Tuesday’s cleaning and disinfection, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration said. The Thai capital reported 100 new infections on Tuesday, majority of which came from active case finding efforts to curb the spread, officials said.
The spike in cases come as the Southeast Asian nation accelerates a national inoculation program before further easing quarantine rules for foreign visitors. Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha was among the first to get the AstraZeneca Plc vaccine on Tuesday after a local panel of health experts said the shot posed no risk of clotting, a key reason cited by some European countries to suspend its use.
Although the number of infections reported from the Bangkok cluster is still low, an outbreak at a seafood market in a neighboring province in December led to the country’s biggest wave of infections. Authorities are seeking to contain the outbreak ahead of a peak travel period during the Thai New Year next month.
The Bangkok mayor’s office will begin vaccinating people at high risk of infections in the Bang Khae area from Wednesday, spokesman Pongsakorn Kwanmuang said Tuesday. The office plans to make available 6,000 doses of vaccine for the area, and aims to test as much as 10,000 people in the next 10 days.
Thailand reported 149 new cases on Tuesday, taking the nation’s total case count to 27,154. The country has administered more than 46,000 doses of Sinovac Biotech Ltd. vaccine since the start of an inoculation program on Feb 28.
South Korea reported 363 more cases of COVID-19 as of midnight Monday compared to 24 hours ago, raising the total number of infections to 96,380.
The daily caseload was down from 382 in the previous day, staying below 400 for two straight days.
The daily number of infections hovered above 100 since Nov. 8 owing to small cluster infections in Seoul and its surrounding Gyeonggi province as well as imported cases.
Of the new cases, 75 were Seoul residents and 146 were people residing in Gyeonggi province.
In South Gyeongsang province, 64 new cases were reported because of cluster infections linked to bathhouse and entertainment facilities.
Eighteen cases were imported, lifting the combined figure to 7,336.
Lao authorities are advising foreign airlines to provide passengers flying to Laos with "out-smart" bracelets that monitor their temperature, as part of continuing efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The National Taskforce Committee for COVID-19 Prevention and Control on Monday instructed the Lao Ministry of Public Works and Transport to notify foreign airlines of this requirement.
According to local daily Vientiane Times on Tuesday, foreign airlines are required to inform passengers before they board a flight that they may be refused permission to enter Laos if they do not wear an "out-smart" bracelet.
The committee is also requiring all foreign citizens entering Laos to purchase COVID-19 insurance through the Lao Ministry of Health.
COVID-19 insurance is now mandatory in addition to other travel documents and requests for permission to enter the country, which must be submitted to the ministry.
Indonesian president Joko Widodo on Tuesday visited the holiday island of Bali to inspect the implementation of mass vaccination for workers in the tourism sector in the region.
The president was scheduled to visit Denpasar, the capital city of Bali province and Gianyar district.
The administration of Bali is still closing the door to international tourists over concerns of virus spreading, hitting hard the tourism sector in the province.
Indonesia has temporarily postponed the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines developed by Oxford University in collaboration with a British multinational pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca following reports of blood clots in several European countries, an official said on Tuesday.
A spokesperson for the COVID-19 vaccination of the Health Ministry, Siti Nadia Tarmidzi, said that Indonesia was still waiting for results of the World Health Organization's research on side effects of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Indonesia’s COVID-19 tally rose by 5,414 within one day to 1,430,458, while the death toll went up by 180 to 38,753, the Health Ministry said on Tuesday.
According to the ministry, another 7,716 people were discharged from hospitals, bringing the total number of recoveries to 1,257,663.
ALSO READ: Indonesia delays distribution of AstraZeneca's vaccine
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga received his first dose of COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday in preparation for a meeting with US President Joe Biden next month, becoming the country’s first government official to be publicly inoculated.
Some 80 to 90 officials will be vaccinated before heading to the United States early next month, where Suga will become the first world leader to meet Biden since he became president.
Tokyo on Tuesday reported 300 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the capital's tally to 115,884.
The daily tally exceeded the figure reported a week earlier for the eighth straight day, the latest figures showed.
The local government and health officials saying the seven-day average of daily cases stood at 289, which is 110.4 percent of the average for the previous week.
As of Monday, Japan's cumulative tally stood at 449,318 with 8,632 deaths.
The minister in charge of vaccination efforts said Monday that certificates to those who have been vaccinated may be issued.
The local government in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh said on Tuesday that a night curfew will be imposed from Wednesday night in Bhopal and Indore cities to contain the COVID-19 surge.
The government has also decided to shut the markets in Jabalpur, Gwalior, Ujjain, Ratlam, Chindwara, Betul, Burhanpur and in Khargone from 10:00 pm local time on Wednesday. However, there will be no curfew-like situation in these cities.
This is the third state in India to impose a night curfew after Maharashtra and Punjab amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
India's COVID-19 tally rose to 11,409,831 on Tuesday, as 24,492 new cases were registered during the past 24 hours, according to the latest data from the federal health ministry.
According to the official data, the death toll mounted to 158,856 as 131 COVID-19 patients died since Monday morning.
There are still 223,432 active cases in the country, while 11,027,543 people have been discharged so far from hospitals after medical treatment.
India’s main opposition Congress party on Tuesday hit out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government for exporting nearly twice the number of coronavirus vaccine doses than immunisations conducted at home, despite a surge in infections.
Health Minister Harsh Vardhan told parliament that vaccines were not being exported at the “expense of the people of India” and that a balance was being struck.
Iran's health ministry on Tuesday began the clinical trial of a new homegrown COVID-19 vaccine called Fakhra, state TV reported.
The new vaccine's trial on animal types has been "extremely effective" and its testing on human being begins on Tuesday, Iranian Minister of Health and Medical Education Saeed Namaki said in a ceremony for the inoculation of the vaccine on a volunteer.
On Monday, Iran kicked off the final stage of the clinical trial of the local COV-Iran Barekat vaccine.
"Phase 1 was successfully completed with 56 volunteers, and today phases 2 and 3 of the clinical trial begin," director of the clinical trial center at Tehran University of Medical Sciences (TUMS) Hamed Hosseini told a public event.
Iran on Tuesday reported 8,380 new cases and 97 additional deaths, bringing the tally and toll to 1,763,313 and 61,427, respectively.
A total of 1,506,360 people have recovered from the disease and been discharged from hospitals, while 3,848 remain in intensive care units, said the spokeswoman for Iran's Ministry of Health and Medical Sciences Sima Sadat Lari.
Authorities have banned travel to and from nine “red” (high risk) cities in the southwest and 31 “orange” (medium high risk) cities and towns across the country during the two-week New Year holiday period starting on Friday.
To discourage gatherings, a night driving curfew will continue to be imposed on private cars in most cities across the country of 83 million, which has had nearly 1.8 million COVID 19 cases and more than 61,400 deaths.
Turkey on Monday reported 15,503 new COVID-19 cases, including 858 symptomatic patients, as the total number of positive cases in the country reached 2,894,893, according to its health ministry.
The death toll from the virus in Turkey rose by 63 to 29,552, while the total recoveries climbed to 2,716,969 after 15,893 more cases recovered in the last 24 hours.
The rate of pneumonia in COVID-19 patients stands at 3.2 percent and the number of seriously ill patients is 1,425 in the country, said the ministry.
A total of 151,113 tests were conducted over the past day, with the overall number of tests in Turkey reaching 35,277,116.
The Iraqi Ministry of Health reported on Monday 4,901 new COVID-19 cases, bringing Iraq's total nationwide infections to 763,085.
The new cases included 2,150 in the Iraqi capital Baghdad, 626 in Basra, 479 in Najaf, 231 in Maysan, and 205 in Qadisiyah, while the other cases were detected in other provinces, the ministry said in a statement.
It also reported 37 new deaths, raising the death toll from the infectious virus to 13,788, while the total recoveries in Iraq climbed by 4,850 to 690,620.
A total of 7,419,942 tests have been carried out across the country since the outbreak of the disease in February 2020, with 33,485 done during the day.
The Kuwaiti Health Ministry reported on Monday 1,332 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 210,855.
The ministry also announced seven more deaths, taking the death toll to 1,179, while the tally of recoveries rose by 1,335 to 195,507. A total of 14,169 coronavirus patients are receiving treatment, including 219 in ICU.
Kuwait has imposed a partial curfew that runs from 5 p.m. to 5 a.m. local time between March 7 and April 8, as part of its efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19.
READ MORE: Australia records first local COVID-19 case in two weeks
Myanmar reported 15 more COVID-19 cases on Monday, bringing the tally in the country to 142,162, according to a release from the Ministry of Health and Sports.
One more COVID-19 death was reported on Monday, bringing the death toll to 3,203 in total, the release said.
Singapore's Ministry of Health (MOH) reported 12 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, bringing the total confirmed cases in the country to 60,117.
All Of the new cases are imported.
Afghanistan reported 21 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, raising the tally to 56,016, the Ministry of Public Health said.
There were over 4,000 active cases in the country, according to the ministry.
Meanwhile, 18 more people have recovered during the past 24 hours, taking the overall number of recoveries to 49,499, while the death toll remained at 2,460, according to the ministry.
More than 54,000 people, including more than 10,000 members of the country's security forces, have been vaccinated since the COVID-19 vaccination campaign began in the country last month.
Vietnam recorded three new cases of COVID-19 infection on Tuesday, all locally transmitted, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 2,560, according to the Ministry of Health.
The new infections, reported in the northern Hai Duong province, were all contacts of previously confirmed patients.
Meanwhile, nearly 15,900 people in 12 localities have been vaccinated against COVID-19 as of Monday, one week after the country launched its mass inoculation campaign.
Mongolia registered 127 new locally transmitted COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours, bringing the tally to 4,210, the National Center for Communicable Diseases (NCCD) said Tuesday.
Of the latest cases, 126 were detected in the country's capital while the other was reported in the central-western province of Arkhangai, the NCCD said in a statement.
Meanwhile, 52 more patients have recovered from the disease, taking the recoveries tally to 3,083, the center added.
The Asian country has recorded eight COVID-19-related deaths so far.
To date, a total of 126,449 people have been vaccinated, according to the health ministry.
Brunei reported three newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, bringing the tally to 202.
According to the Ministry of Health, all the new cases were involved people who came from the Philippines on March 3.
Meanwhile, the total number of recoveries went up by one to 186, while the death toll remained at three.
Malaysia’s health ministry reported Tuesday 1,063 new COVID-19 infections, bringing the national total to 326,034.
Health Ministry Director-General Noor Hisham Abdullah said in a press statement that four of the new cases were imported while the rest 1,059 were locally transmitted.
The death toll rose by five to 1,218.
Of the remaining 15,204 active cases, 152 people were in intensive care units, including 68 in need of assisted breathing.
The Omani health ministry on Tuesday reported 587 new COVID-19 infections, raising the total number of confirmed cases in the sultanate to 148,010, the official Oman News Agency reported.
Meanwhile, 258 more people have recovered during the past 24 hours, taking the overall recoveries to 137,028, while five additional deaths were reported, pushing the toll up to 1,614, according to a ministry statement quoted by ONA.
Papua New Guinea
Direct flights from Australia to the Ok Tedi copper and gold mine in Papua New Guinea have been suspended indefinitely as a wave of coronavirus infections rocks the Pacific region’s most populous nation.
Ok Tedi Mining Ltd., which initially suspended charter flights for its fly in-fly out expatriate workers for two weeks, has announced the tougher action after talking with health authorities in Australia’s Queensland state. Six workers from the mine have been treated in Queensland’s Cairns Hospital after contracting COVID-19.
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