People queue outside the City Hospital to get the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to protect against Covid-19, in Ankara on April 2, 2021. (ADEM ALTAN / AFP)
SYDNEY / NEW DELHI / TOKYO / SEOUL / WELLINGTON / MANILA / BANGKOK / BISHKEK / SUVA - Turkey’s daily coronavirus infection numbers have soared above 50,000 and President Tayyip Erdogan is likely to order a tightening of restrictions this week ahead of the vital tourism season, a senior government official said.
Turkey ranks fourth globally in new case numbers, which peaked near 56,000 last week - a five-fold jump from early March, when Erdogan loosened social curbs in what he called a period of “controlled normalisation”.
Ankara has blamed lax public adherence to rules and virus variants for the surge, and on March 29 it announced weekend lockdowns and closed restaurant dining for Ramadan, the Islamic fasting month that starts on Tuesday.
But the official told Reuters the short-lived normalisation period did not go well and measures were set to be tightened even more after a cabinet meeting scheduled for Tuesday.
“There does not appear to be a solution other than taking much harsher measures,” the person said. Erdogan’s cabinet will act on proposals made by a government science board that meets on Monday evening, the official added, requesting anonymity.
Iran reported a record-breaking 23,311 new coronavirus cases overnight and a further 274 deaths, the highest since Dec. 10, another sharp rise after the Persian new year public holiday, the country’s health ministry said. Iran has so far recorded over 2 million cases and some 64,764 deaths since the onset of the pandemic.
The COVID-19 cases in Indonesia rose by 4,829 within one day to 1,571,824, with the death toll adding by 126 to 42,656, the Health Ministry said on Monday.
According to the ministry, 5,289 more people were discharged from hospitals, bringing the total number of recovered patients to 1,419,796.
Myanmar reported nine COVID-19 cases on Monday, bringing the tally in the country to 142,596, according to a release from the Ministry of Health and Sports. No new death was reported during the day, leaving the death toll at 3,206 in the country, the release said.
According to the ministry's figures, a total of 131,869 patients have been discharged from the hospitals and over 2.55 million samples have been tested for COVID-19 so far. A total of 1,050 samples were tested for COVID-19 on Monday, down from around 10,000 samples tested daily since early February.
Malaysia reported 1,317 new COVID-19 infections, the Health Ministry said on Monday, bringing the national total to 362,173.
Health Ministry Director-General Noor Hisham Abdullah said in a press statement that 12 of the new cases are imported and 1,305 are local transmissions.
Four more deaths were reported, bringing the death toll to 1,333.
Another 1,052 patients have been released after recovery, bringing the total number of cured and discharged to 345,005 or 95.3 percent of all cases.
Of the remaining 15,835 active cases, 188 are being held in intensive care and 84 of those are in need of assisted breathing.
Afghanistan on Monday reported 122 new COVID-19 cases after health authorities conducted 2,282 tests within a day, bringing the tally to 57,364, the country's Ministry of Public Health said.
Meanwhile, 16 people recovered during the past 24 hours, taking the overall number of recoveries to 52,005, while no deaths were reported, and the death toll stands at 2,529, the ministry said in a statement.
Laboratories across Afghanistan have completed more than 371,000 tests since February last year.
Vietnam recorded 12 new cases of COVID-19 infection on Monday, raising the total confirmed cases in the country to 2,705, according to the country's Ministry of Health.
The new cases included five foreign experts and seven Vietnamese citizens who recently entered the country from abroad and were quarantined upon arrival, said the ministry.
As many as 2,445 patients have been given the all-clear, up 16 from Sunday, the ministry said, adding that over 36,900 people are being quarantined and monitored.
Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen on Monday commended the World Health Organization (WHO) for playing a leading role in dealing with the current global pandemic and highly valued the organization's assistance to the kingdom.
Cambodia has vaccinated 1 million out of its 16 million population against the COVID-19 so far, Health Ministry's secretary of state and spokeswoman Or Vandine said here on Monday.
Panh Savannarith, a 36-year-old Phnom Penh resident, was the 1,000,000th person to be vaccinated, she said, adding that Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen provided the grant of 5 million riels (1,250 U.S. dollars) to Sovannrith for being the 1,000,000th vaccine recipient.
Speaking to reporters after delivering the cash grant to Savannarith, Vandine urged people to go for vaccination when their turns come in order to protect themselves from severe illness and hospitalization.
"Vaccine serves as a booster that strengthens our immune response. The vaccine, along with other health guidelines, will save our lives from this highly contagious disease," she said.
Meanwhile, the spokeswoman called on people to stay home during the upcoming Khmer New Year on April 14-16 in order to help curb the virus spread.
Amid a surge in COVID-19 infections, the Bangladeshi government has issued a fresh set of directives for a nationwide "full lockdown" beginning April 14.
Bangladesh's Cabinet Division on Monday issued a circular with the directives to be effective from 6:00 a.m. local time April 14 to the midnight of April 21.
In line with the directives, all government, semi-government, autonomous and private offices will be closed. But the ban will not be applicable to airports, land ports and maritime ports and their offices.
The new lockdown imposed with stricter rules demands the closure of markets and shopping malls, but allows restaurants and hotels to remain open from morning to evening but only for takeaway or online services.
No one will be allowed to go outside expect for trips for the absolute necessity such as medicine and daily essentials, medical treatment, and burial or funeral.
Bangladesh on Monday reported 83 more deaths from COVID-19, the highest daily figure, bringing the death toll to 9,822.
The country's Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) also reported 7,201 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Monday, raising its total tally to 691,957.
India granted emergency use approval to Russia’s highly effective Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine, making it the third such shot approved by the nation as it races to contain an escalating health crisis amid a record daily surge in infections.
Hundreds of thousands of Hindu devotees flocked on Monday to take a holy bath in India’s Ganges river, even as the nation racked up the world’s highest tally of new daily coronavirus infections.
With 168,912 new cases, India accounts for one in six of all new infections globally, although the figure is still well below the US peak of nearly 300,000 new cases on Jan 8.
In the northern city of Haridwar, nearly a million devotees thronged the banks of the Ganges, a river many Hindus consider holy, to participate in the months-long ‘Kumbh Mela’ or pitcher festival.
“The crowd here is surging...the police are continuously appealing to people to maintain social distancing,” police official Sanjay Gunjyal told Reuters at the site.
By mid-morning a million people had taken a dip in the river, believed to wash away one’s sins.
As India’s second wave of infections builds, with fewer than 4 percent estimated to have been vaccinated among a population of 1.4 billion, experts say the situation could have a long way to go before it starts getting better.“After cases declined in January-February, we were very comfortable,” said a panel of high court judges in the western state of Gujarat, calling on authorities to take urgent steps to rein in the outbreak.
“Almost everyone forgot that there was ever corona,” added the panel, headed by Chief Justice Vikram Nath.
A full opening of the economy from last year’s crippling lockdown, coupled with the mass religious festivals and political rallies in states heading to elections have fuelled the crisis.
Yet authorities appeared unwilling or unable to stop events that could lead to a calamitous spread of the disease.
India’s tally is on course to double in two months, according to estimates based on data from the Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering.
Monday’s new infections carried India past Brazil for a tally of 13.53 million, according to Johns Hopkins University, ranking it the second-most infected country after the United States, with 31.2 million.
Devotees take holy dips in the river Ganges during Shahi snan or a Royal bath at Kumbh mela, in Haridwar in the Indian state of Uttarakhand on April 12, 2021. As states across India are declaring some version of a lockdown to battle rising COVID-19 cases as part of a nationwide second-wave, thousands of pilgrims are gathering on the banks of the river Ganga for the Hindu festival Kumbh Mela. (KARMA SONAM / AP)
Thailand on Monday confirmed 985 new COVID-19 cases, a new daily record since the pandemic began, bringing the total caseload to 33,610, according to the Center for the COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA).
Of Monday's new confirmed cases, 980 were domestic infections, with 634 being confirmed at hospitals and 346 others being detected via active testing at communities and workplaces, while five others were imported cases.
No additional death was reported Monday, leaving the total death toll at 97, according to the CCSA.
Authorities have imposed travel curbs and tightened quarantine rules for people traveling between provinces seen at higher risk of COVID-19 ahead of the annual Songkran festival, known for big street water fights that authorities have now banned for a second year due to the pandemic
Bangkok, which has already closed hundreds of nightlife venues for two weeks, saw 137 new cases, Opas Karnkawinpong, director-general of the Department of Disease Control at Thailand’s Health Ministry, told a briefing.
Thailand has so far confirmed 33,610 cases, 30,407 of which were domestic cases while 3,203 others were imported cases. Some 28,248 patients have fully recovered and been released from hospitals while 5,265 others are currently hospitalized.
Five South Korean companies have launched clinical trials for their coronavirus vaccines, aiming to enter the third phase of trials in the second half of this year, the health ministry said on Monday.
The five are SK Bioscience Co, EuBiologics Co, Cellid Co, Genexine Inc and GeneOne Life Science.
The government plans to provide 68.7 billion won (US$61.1 million) to support the companies’ vaccine development, the ministry said in a statement.
The ministry also said that SK Bioscience will be able to begin manufacturing COVID-19 vaccines developed by Novavax Inc as early as June, which it said would ease any potential supply shortages in the face of global production delays.
The US drugmaker signed a licence agreement with SK Bioscience to produce 40 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine for South Korea.
Japan’s vaccination drive finally kicks into gear Monday around four months after the start of inoculations in the US and the UK, a slow rollout that has generated further criticism of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s handling of the pandemic.
The doses for people 65 and over are the first vaccinations for members of the public in Japan after priority was given to inoculating front-line medical staff first.
Japan has so far weathered the coronavirus pandemic relatively well, with infection numbers and deaths just a fraction of many Western countries. But the slow vaccination plan means struggling businesses and fearful shoppers will have to hold out for longer as the recovery of the economy is delayed by as much as two years compared with global peers.
The tardy start comes as stricter measures were reinstated today to quell an uptick in virus cases in the capital, fueling discontent with Suga in an election year, as the government, like many around the world, lurches between tightening and loosening guidelines on activity.
It also adds to smoldering doubts over Tokyo’s readiness to host the Olympics in July with no timeline for when most people will be inoculated.
With no domestically developed COVID-19 vaccine of its own, Japan’s late rollout stems from a dependence on imported shots that were initially in limited supply. Another factor was a strict approval process that required local clinical trials for foreign vaccines. So far, Japan has only given the green light to Pfizer-BioNTech’s jabs.
Especially given Japan’s history of public skepticism over vaccine safety, a take-it-slow approach may have also been needed to get the country on board. In Europe, reports that AstraZeneca Plc’s vaccine may cause blood clots in rare instances have made some scared to get shots.
Taro Kono, Japan’s vaccine point man and a possible successor to Suga, told Bloomberg that the rate of COVID-19 inoculations is unlikely to pick up speed until May. And the government has so far declined to set any schedule or long-term targets for getting shots into arms.
Australia has abandoned a goal to vaccinate nearly all of its 26 million population by the end of 2021 following advice that people under the age of 50 take Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine rather than AstraZeneca’s shot.
Australia, which had banked on the AstraZeneca vaccine for the majority of its shots, had no plans to set any new targets for completing its vaccination programme, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a Facebook post on Sunday afternoon.
“While we would like to see these doses completed before the end of the year, it is not possible to set such targets given the many uncertainties involved,” Morrison said.
Authorities in Canberra changed their recommendation on Pfizer shots for under-50s on Thursday, after European regulators reiterated the possibility of links between the AstraZeneca shot and reports of rare cases of blood clots.
The Philippines is expecting 500,000 doses of Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccines this month. An initial 20,000 doses will be shipped in the coming weeks to test if the nation can handle logistics, said vaccine czar Carlito Galvez. The Southeast Asian nation also received 500,000 doses from Sinovac on Sunday, and is expecting another 3 million through May.
A majority of the Philippines’ incoming supply this quarter will come from Russia and China, Galvez said, as the nation seeks to speed up inoculations amid a new surge in infections.
Kyrgyzstan registered 145 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, bringing the national caseload to 90,372, according to the Republican Headquarters for Combating COVID-19.
The headquarters said six more patients died from the disease over the period, taking the national count to 1,528.
Meanwhile, 103 patients in the country have recovered, with the total count reaching 86,028.
Currently, 983 patients with COVID-19 are being treated in hospitals, including 28 in intensive care units.
A total of 3,088 lab tests were conducted in Kyrgyzstan over the past day.
New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday that people working at the borders must be vaccinated by the end of this month or risk being moved out of the role, after a third coronavirus case related to a frontline staff was reported.
New Zealand has virtually eliminated the COVID-19 virus within its borders and there’s been no community transmission for more 40 days.
But it reported a positive COVID-19 in the community last week of a border worker who had missed two vaccine appointments. Two more cases linked to this individual has emerged since.
“By the end of April, those not yet vaccinated will not be permitted to work in high-risk workplaces and will be moved to other roles,” Ardern said at a news conference.
New Zealand has started vaccinating its border and managed isolation facility workers and their family with BioNTech-Pfizer vaccines in its first phase. So far it has vaccinated over 90,000 people.
The country reported seven cases of COVID-19 in managed isolation and no new cases in the community on Monday.
Six of the seven newly imported cases came from India, and one came from the United States. They all remained in managed isolation and quarantine facilities in Auckland, according to the Ministry of Health.
The seven-day rolling average of new cases detected at the border is nine, said a ministry statement.
The number of previously reported cases that have now recovered is 17. The total number of active cases in New Zealand is 100, and the total number of confirmed cases is 2,227, it said.
The country last week temporarily suspended entry for all travellers from India, including its own citizens, following a high number of positive coronavirus cases arriving from the South Asian country.
The Solomon Islands has received a batch of Chinese-made COVID-19 vaccines, the first among Pacific island countries.
The shipment of vaccines developed by Sinopharm was received Sunday night by Chinese Ambassador to the Solomon Islands Li Ming and Solomon Islands Deputy Prime Minister Manasseh Maelanga and Health Minister Culwick Togamana at the airport of Honiara, capital of the south Pacific island nation.
According to the World Health Organization, there have been 19 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Solomon Islands so far.
Wallis and Futuna
The lockdown in Wallis and Futuna in the South Pacific has been extended until Sunday to contain the spread of COVID-19.
According to Radio New Zealand (RNZ) on Monday, Wallis and Futuna went into a lockdown more than a month ago when the French-administered territory reported its first community case of COVID-19.
Wallis and Futuna reported in March this year the first COVID-19 death since it recorded its first confirmed COVID-19 case in October last year.
Currently, the territory has more than 420 COVID-19 cases, five of them have died.
A vaccination drive was launched in late March with the help of a visiting French medical team, giving almost half the population at least one dose so far.
Wallis and Futuna has a population of more than 11,000.
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