Iranians wearing protective masks walk on a street in the capital Tehran, on April 12, 2021, following the tightening of restrictions to curb the surge of COVID-19 cases. (ATTA KENARE / AFP)
ANKARA / TRIPOLI / SINGAPORE / TOKYO / BEIRUT / BAGHDAD / TEHRAN / KUWAIT CITY / SEOUL / JERUSALEM / NEW DELHI / BANGKOK / PHNOM PENH / ULAN BATOR / MANILA / BANGKOK / WELLINGTON - The new coronavirus is killing one person every four minutes in Iran, state TV reported on Thursday, a death rate authorities said was sure to quicken if Iranians continue to fail to adhere to health protocols.
"This week is worse than the previous week. The situation will be much worse next week and we have very difficult days ahead," Health Minister Saeed Namaki was quoted by state media as saying.
Iran signed an agreement with Russia to import 60 million doses of the Sputnik V vaccine, according to Tehran’s ambassador to Moscow Kazem Jalali. The vaccines will be delivered between May and December, state-run IRNA cited Jalali as saying. Iran had previously received 520,000 doses of the Sputnik jab.
The Iranian health ministry on Thursday reported 25,078 new COVID-19 cases over the past 24 hours, taking the country's total infections to 2,168,872.
The pandemic has so far claimed 65,680 lives in Iran, up by 321 in the past 24 hours, said Sima Sadat Lari, spokeswoman for the Iranian Ministry of Health and Medical Education, during her daily briefing.
A total of 1,749,041 people have recovered from the disease or been discharged from hospitals across the country, while 4,601 remain in intensive care units, she noted. The spokeswoman added that 14,059,260 tests have so far been carried out in Iran.
Iran reported 25,582 new COVID-19 infections and 304 more deaths on Wednesday.
Malaysia's health ministry has proposed retaining a ban on interstate travel throughout the Eid festive season, state news agency Bernama reported on Thursday, as the number of COVID-19 infections in the country jumped to a five-week high.
Malaysia’s coronavirus is spreading at its fastest rate since at least March, days after the government warned the country may be on the cusp of a fourth wave at the start of the holy month of Ramadan.
The so-called “Rt” rate - the reproduction number that shows how quickly the virus multiplies - was 1.14 as of April 14, according to Health Director-General Noor Hisham Abdullah on Twitter. Malaysia added 1,889 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, the most since March 5.
Malaysia’s new new COVID-19 cases topped 2,000 for the first time since March 5 on Thursday, and there’s concern that the government’s decision to allow bazaars to stay open through Ramadan may fuel the virus’s spread. Last year, most businesses remained closed during the Muslim fasting month to contain the pandemic.
Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin has urged visitors to bazaars to follow the set protocols, which include separating the entry and exit routes of visitors. The government doesn’t intend to impose a movement control order - Malaysia’s strictest form of lockdown - and will rely on targeted curbs in affected sites, he said in a speech to industry stakeholders on Thursday.
“As more and more Malaysians get vaccinated, I’m convinced that we are finally at the brink of effectively ending this pandemic,” Muhyiddin said.
Malaysia is struggling with low vaccine supplies. The country expects mass inoculation to be in full swing once supplies stabilize starting June, Science Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said in a statement Wednesday. The government this week allowed private hospitals to administer the shots to speed up the vaccination drive.
A total of 425,164 individuals received both doses of their vaccine shots under the first phase of the immunization program as of April 14, data from the health ministry show. About 36 percent of the population, or 8,760,857 people, have registered for the shots.
The spurt in cases, fueled mainly by the falling compliance toward virus protocols, has undermined the government’s forecast of daily COVID-19 cases falling to 500 by mid-May, Health Minister Adham Baba said on Monday.
Kelantan state, which registers the second-highest Rt rate at 1.27, saw most of its districts placed under renewed movement curbs effective Thursday. The health ministry has proposed that the government maintain the interstate travel ban for Eid al-Fitr, a day of celebration that caps the fasting month, Bernama reported.
The COVID-19 cases in Indonesia rose by 6,177 within one day to 1,589,359, with the death toll adding by 167 to 43,073, the Health Ministry said on Thursday.
According to the ministry, 6,362 more people were discharged from hospitals, bringing the total number of recovered patients to 1,438,254.
The virus has spread to all the country's 34 provinces.
Specifically, within the past 24 hours, Jakarta recorded 1,330 new cases, West Java 1,216, Central Java 841, East Java 294 and Riau 269.
Afghanistan's Public Health Ministry reported 78 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, bringing its total tally to 57,612.
The COVID-19 pandemic has so far claimed 2,535 lives in Afghanistan since February last year, including two deaths recorded in the past 24 hours, the ministry said in a statement. A total of 61 patients have recovered over the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of recoveries from the coronavirus epidemic to 52,083 in the Asian country.
Bangladesh's COVID-19 death toll reached a grim milestone Thursday as 94 more people have died from the pandemic, bringing the total fatality to 10,081. The country's Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) also reported 4,192 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, raising the case tally to 707,362.
The official data showed that 19,959 samples were tested in the last 24 hours across Bangladesh. The total number of recovered patients rose to 597,214 including 5,915 new recoveries, said the DGHS. According to the data, the COVID-19 fatality rate in Bangladesh is 1.43 percent and the recovery rate is 84.43 percent.
Kazakhstan is accelerating its vaccine roll-out by setting up drop-in vaccination points for anyone aged over 18 at shopping malls and bazaars visited daily by tens of thousands of people.
The Central Asian country, which has seen just over 4,000 deaths due to COVID-19, is fighting a fresh peak in infection rates. Pyotr, a 65-year-old retiree who lives near a mall, decided to get a shot spontaneously and simply joined the queue. "I was going to get a coffee after my morning run and it turns out one can get the vaccine here," he said. "That's convenient."
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said on Thursday the government would do "everything possible" to prevent the spread of coronavirus ahead of the Olympics, after a ruling party official said cancelling the event remained an option.
"There's no change to the government's stance, to do everything possible to prevent the spread of infections as we head towards the Olympics," Suga said, sidestepping a reporter's question as to whether cancellation was possible, as party heavyweight Toshihiro Nikai had said earlier.
Coronavirus cases in Tokyo rose to the highest in more than two months as the city struggles to contain the latest surge, with just 99 days to go before the city is set to host the Olympic Games.
Tokyo posted 729 cases on Thursday, a 34 percent increase from the same day last week, and the most in a single day since Feb 4, when the city was under a state of emergency. Governor Yuriko Koike said that if measures imposed on Monday failed to stop the spread, she would have to consider requesting another emergency declaration.
Earlier, a senior official in Japan’s ruling party indicated that canceling the Olympics was an option, according to a media report. Toshihiro Nikai, the secretary general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, said that if it was determined to be impossible to hold the Games, they would have to be canceled, according to local newswire Jiji.
On Thursday, Taro Kono, Japan’s vaccine czar and administrative reform minister, signaled the possibility of holding the Olympics without spectators, according to Kyodo.
The Japanese government will consider designating Tokyo’s neighboring prefectures Saitama and Kanagawa as areas needing stricter coronavirus measures if their governors seek application of a quasi-state of emergency, public broadcaster NHK reported, without attribution. The government is also considering adding Aichi prefecture, in central Japan, to the status, the report said.
The western prefecture is also struggling to contend with the spread of the highly transmissible virus variants, along with Tokyo, infectious diseases experts said.
Such is the severity of Japan's rebounding COVID-19 infections that the head of the government's COVID-19 panel warned that Japan has entered a "fourth wave" of infections.
Muslims practice social distancing, as a preventive measure to combat the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, while reciting the first terawih evening prayer at the Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin mosque in Malaysia during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan in Putrajaya on April 12, 2021. (MOHD RASFAN / AFP)
India’s capital New Delhi will go into weekend lockdowns to contain a steep increase in COVID-19 infections, the city’s Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said on Thursday.
Shopping malls, gyms, dine-out service at restaurants and some weekly markets will be shut during the weekend and only essential services would remain operational, Kejriwal said.
Two men wearing oxygen masks have to share a bed in a government hospital in India's capital New Delhi as new infections grew from10,000 daily earlier this year to 200,000 on Thursday, according to official data, the highest anywhere in the world.
Billionaire Mukesh Ambani is diverting oxygen produced at his refineries to help India battle a savage coronavirus outbreak that’s paralyzed the commercial capital as daily new infections spike by a record.
Also on Thursday, many Indians scrambled to secure beds in hospitals for relatives stricken with coronavirus as infections surged to a daily record, overwhelming medical facilities and drying up oxygen supplies.
A massive second wave of infections is centred on the rich state of Maharashtra, which makes up a quarter of the tally, and is spreading wider as doctors and experts blame everything from official complacency to aggressive variants.
The government has blamed a widespread failure to adhere to norms on physical distancing and the use of masks.
“The situation is horrible,” said Avinash Gawande, an official of a government hospital in the industrial city of Nagpur that was battling a flood of patients, as were hospitals in neighbouring Gujarat state and Delhi in the north.
“We are a 900-bed hospital, but there are about 60 patients waiting and we don’t have space for them.”
India has added 200,739 infections over the last 24 hours, health ministry data showed, for a seventh daily record surge in the last eight days, while 1,038 deaths took its toll to 173,123.
Cambodia decided to place its Phnom Penh capital city and neighboring Ta Khmau city under a 14-day lockdown in a bid to contain the spread of COVID-19, Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen said in a decision on Wednesday night.
The lockdown would take effect from 00:01 am on April 15 to 28, Hun Sen said.
He said that during the lockdown, all individuals are prohibited from leaving home if unnecessary, with an exception for those traveling to work or to do businesses and having a certifying letter from their companies or local authorities.
People still can go out to buy food or other necessities, but only two persons in a house will be allowed with not more than three times a week, he said, adding that they must go to the nearest market in their locations and bring along with their identification cards and follow health safety measures, especially wearing face masks and maintaining social distancing.
The Southeast Asian nation has seen a rising number of new COVID-19 cases every day since the third community transmission was declared on Feb 20.
The kingdom on Wednesday logged 178 new cases, mostly in Phnom Penh, bringing the total number of infections in the country to 4,874 so far with 36 deaths, the Ministry of Health said adding that there are currently 2,544 active cases in the country.
Thailand on Thursday recorded 1,543 new COVID-19 infections, hitting a record high for the second consecutive day and bringing the nationwide tally to 37,453.
Of the new cases, 1,540 were local infections and three others were imported cases, according to the Center for the COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA).
The cases linked to the latest outbreak have spread to 75 out of 77 provinces, largely due to the fast-spreading COVID-19 variant first detected in Britain, the CCSA said.
The government is likely to impose tougher restrictions in Bangkok and other high risk regions to stop the rising cases of coronavirus after Songkran holiday, local media said.
No additional death was reported Thursday, leaving the total death toll at 97.
Turkey recorded 62,797 new coronavirus cases and 279 deaths in the last 24 hours, health ministry data showed on Wednesday, registering the highest daily death toll and rise in cases since the beginning of the pandemic.
With Wednesday’s numbers, the total number of cases recorded in Turkey have surpassed 4 million. The total death roll rose to 34,737, according to the data.
The total recoveries climbed to 3,480,146 after 55,413 more cases recovered in the last 24 hours, according to the ministry.
President Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday announced several new restrictions and a “partial closure” for the first two weeks of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan to curb the surge in cases.
The rate of pneumonia in COVID-19 patients stands at 3.3 percent and the number of seriously ill patients is 3,018 in the country, said the ministry.
The country started mass vaccination for COVID-19 on Jan 14 after the authorities approved the emergency use of the Chinese CoronaVac vaccine. More than 11,613,000 people were vaccinated so far.
New Zealand reported two cases of COVID-19 in managed isolation and no new cases in the community on Thursday.
The two newly imported cases came from India and Ethiopia. They have 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 five, said a ministry statement.
The number of previously reported cases that have now recovered is two. The total number of active cases in New Zealand is 101, and the total number of confirmed cases is 2,235, it said.
Singapore’s latest community case of COVID-19 infection widened a new cluster in the city state to four patients, according to the Ministry of Health (MOH).
The lone reported community case that added to this cluster is a 44 year-old male Papua New Guinea citizen, with a short-term visit pass, who arrived from Australia on March 25 for a work project, the ministry said in a statement on Wednesday. The linked spread of COVID-19 is the first after the ministry’s announcement on March 25 that there were no open clusters of infections.
On Wednesday, Singapore reported 27 new cases of COVID-19, bringing its total tally to 60,719.
The ministry said that 26 of the new cases were imported and one was a community case.
18 more patients were discharged from hospitals or community isolation facilities on Wednesday, bringing the total number of recoveries from the virus to 60,392 in the country, according to the ministry.
There are currently 61 active cases being treated in hospitals in Singapore. Of them, two are in critical condition and held in the intensive care unit.
Furthermore, 236 infected people are being isolated and cared for at community facilities. They are those who have mild symptoms or are clinically well but still test positive for COVID-19.
There have so far been 30 deaths from COVID-19 in Singapore.
Australian authorities should add more clinics to speed up the country’s struggling COVID-19 vaccine rollout, its main medical association said on Thursday, dismissing a government plan to create mass inoculation hubs as unworkable in the near term.
Australian Medical Association (AMA) President Omar Khorshid said establishing mass centres would pose “huge logistical challenges”, including the difficulty of finding enough medical staff to manage the facilities.
“You need to find a workforce from somewhere, and we are not aware of large numbers of registered nurses and doctors who are available to manage these centres,” Khorshid told ABC Radio.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Wednesday he would discuss with state and territory leaders setting up mass centres to vaccinate people above the age of 50 from as early as June.
Morrison has been under pressure to put the country’s vaccination programme back on track after problems with the rollout, caused in part by patchy international vaccine supplies and changing medical advice, led to significant delays.
Australia earlier this week abandoned a target to provide at least one vaccine dose to the near 26 million population by year-end after restricting the rollout of its favoured AstraZeneca vaccine to people under 50 over blood clotting concerns.
Lebanon registered on Wednesday 2,460 new COVID-19 infections, raising the total number of infections to 502,299, the Health Ministry reported.
Meanwhile, the death toll from the virus went up by 40 to 6,778.
Lebanon's Health Ministry reported that the positivity rate of COVID-19 PCR tests stands at 14.8 percent.
It added that 218,744 people in Lebanon were administered their first dose of the vaccine while 114,930 people only were given their second dose.
Lebanon has been fighting against the pandemic since Feb 21, 2020.
The Iraqi Ministry of Health reported on Wednesday 7,972 new coronavirus cases, raising the total nationwide infections to 949,050.
The new cases included 2,550 in the Iraqi capital Baghdad, 1,050 in Basra, 571 in Wasit, 541 in Duhok, and 514 in Diyala, while the remaining were detected in other provinces, the ministry said in a statement.
It also reported 40 new deaths, raising the death toll from the infectious virus to 14,836, while the total recoveries in Iraq climbed by 5,196 to 831,519.
It said that 16,805 people were vaccinated during the past 24 hours across the country, bringing the total number of doses received to 183,918.
Iraq has taken a series of measures to curb the recent rise in infections after the health ministry announced on Feb 15 the detection of a new strain characterized by faster transmission and a higher level of severity.
The Iraqi National Board for Selection of Drugs has approved the emergency use of the Sinopharm vaccines, in addition to AstraZeneca, Pfizer-BioNTech, and Sputnik V vaccines.
Israel's Ministry of Health reported 170 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, raising the total infections in the country to 836,504.
The death toll from the virus rose by three to 6,312, while the number of patients in serious conditions decreased from 231 to 219, out of 351 hospitalized patients.
The total recoveries in Israel rose to 827,184 after 416 newly recovered cases were added, while the number of active cases decreased to 3,008, the lowest since June 10, 2020.
The number of people vaccinated against COVID-19 in Israel reached nearly 5.34 million, or 57.2 percent of its total population, since the vaccination campaign began on Dec 20, 2020.
The Kuwaiti Health Ministry reported on Wednesday 1,402 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total infections in the country to 251,675.
The ministry also announced four more fatalities, taking the death toll to 1,423, while the tally of recoveries rose by 1,296 to 235,053. A total of 15,199 coronavirus patients are receiving treatment, including 237 in the intensive care units.
At a government meeting on Monday, Kuwaiti Minister of Health Bassel Al-Sabah said that the number of coronavirus infections and fatalities in Kuwait are still high.
He warned that the situation is delicate and urged all the public to register to get the vaccine to rein in the coronavirus.
The Kuwaiti government decided on Monday to ban holding iftar (fast-breaking) banquets at mosques or at any other public or private place during the holy month of Ramadan.
The government also called on citizens and residents to adhere to social distancing rules and other coronavirus precautionary measures, particularly avoiding crowds, to stop the spread of coronavirus and maintain the safety of all.
South Korea reported 698 more cases of COVID-19 as of midnight Wednesday compared to 24 hours ago, raising the total number of infections to 112,117.
The daily caseload was down from 731 in the previous day, but it stayed around 700, raising worry about the fourth wave of the pandemic.
The daily number of infections hovered in triple figures since Nov 8 last year due to small cluster infections in Seoul and its surrounding Gyeonggi province as well as imported cases.
Of the new cases, 216 were Seoul residents and 222 were people residing in Gyeonggi province.
Twenty-eight cases were imported from overseas, lifting the combined figure to 7,910.
Six more deaths were confirmed, leaving the death toll at 1,788. The total fatality rate stood at 1.59 percent.
A total of 530 more patients were discharged from quarantine after making full recovery, pulling up the combined number to 102,513. The total recovery rate was 91.43 percent.
The Philippines' Department of Health (DOH) reported on Thursday 11,429 new COVID-19 infections, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the Southeast Asian country to 904,285.
The death toll climbed to 15,594 after 148 more patients died from the viral disease, the DOH said.
The Philippines continues to battle a surge in COVID-19 cases amid stringent lockdown measures to curb community transmission.
The infection rate started to increase in late February, forcing the government to reintroduce curfew hours to limit the movement of people in Metro Manila and its four adjacent provinces.
The DOH said virus clusters are traced in the workplaces, non-essential gatherings, households, and transport systems.
According to Philippine vaccine czar Carlito Galvez in a mobile-phone reply to questions, the Philippines said Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine suspension won’t affect ongoing supply negotiations.
The Philippine government has signed an agreement for the supply of 10 million Sputnik V vaccine doses from Russia’s Gamaleya National Center of Epidemiology and Microbiology, Galvez said.
Mongolia recorded 742 more local COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours, bringing its national tally to 18,565, the country's National Center for Communicable Diseases (NCCD) said Thursday.
Of the latest confirmed cases, 654 were detected in the country's capital Ulan Bator, which is the hardest hit by COVID-19, the NCCD said in a statement.
Meanwhile, three more deaths and 385 more recoveries were reported, taking the respective total to 37 and 10,638, said the center.
The number of coronavirus infections in Mongolia has risen sharply since the beginning of April, with around or more than 500 cases reported every day.
A full nationwide lockdown, aimed at curbing the steep surge in local COVID-19 cases, took effect on Saturday and will last until April 25.
Vietnam recorded 25 new cases of COVID-19 infection on Thursday, raising the total confirmed cases in the country to 2,758, according to the country's Ministry of Health.
The new cases included a foreign expert and 24 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, the ministry said, adding that over 38,700 people are being quarantined and monitored.
HONG KONG NEWS