A man receives a shot of the AstraZeneca vaccine during a mass coronavirus vaccination in Jakarta, Indonesia on June 9, 2021. (TATAN SYUFLANA / AP)
ANKARA / SEOUL / BAGHDAD / KABUL / COLOMBO / KUALA LUMPUR / JAKARTA / DHAKA / NEW DELHI / MUSCAT / HANOI / ISLAMABAD - Indonesia's President Joko Widodo ordered the acceleration of vaccine rollouts as the country faces a new surge in COVID-19 infections.
The nation’s vaccination rate must increase to 700,000 doses a day this month, going up to 1 million daily by July, Jokowi, as the president is known, said on Twitter on Wednesday.
The health ministry has also allowed capital Jakarta to start giving shots to people aged 18 years and older in a bid to speed up its inoculation program, Siti Nadia Tarmizi, spokeswoman for the government’s COVID-19 task force, said by text message.
Indonesia reported 7,725 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, its highest daily increase since Feb 26. The government expects the spike could continue until July after the Eid al-Fitr holidays saw millions of Indonesians going out and traveling.
Indonesia inoculated over 538,000 people on Wednesday and has administered more than 40 million shots so far, with the doses given to priority groups, including health workers, civil servants, the elderly and those with disabilities. Southeast Asia’s largest economy seeks to inoculate more than 180 million people by March next year to reach herd immunity.
The government has struggled to ramp up vaccination among the elderly, with the health ministry even offering shots to the young if they help bring in those ages 60 years and older to get inoculated. It has reached less than 17 percent of the targeted number of elderly people since opening the program to the age group in February.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said he wants to finish inoculating everyone in the country who’s willing to get a COVID-19 vaccine by October or November, citing progress made in the vaccination drive so far.
Suga revealed his target for the first time during a parliamentary debate in Tokyo on Wednesday. He said recent numbers show the nation has been vaccinating at around his goal of 1 million doses per day, following a recent increase in pace.
The government’s vaccine czar, Taro Kono, had previously said the country was looking to finish the vaccine rollout by February 2022.
Japan administered about 639,000 doses of vaccines from Pfizer Inc. or Moderna Inc. nationwide on Tuesday, according to data released Wednesday. Suga said the number had exceeded his target of one million on Tuesday, likely referring to the fact that more than a million doses were newly added to tallies that day, although some of these were administered on earlier days.
Japan has given nearly 20 million first and second doses of the vaccines to date. After a slow start, the pace of inoculations has quickened since May, with about 11 PERCENT of the population receiving at least one dose.
Tokyo and other major urban areas are still under a state of emergency to control the spread of the virus. The declaration is set to run to June 20, though it could be further extended. Daily new cases in the capital have gradually declined since the emergency was lengthened last month, and the decline in cases has been steeper in former hotspots such as Osaka.
Malaysia is expecting deliveries of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines manufactured in Thailand to be delayed, officials said this week, the latest countries to report a holdup with orders from the Thai plant.
The delay comes amid concerns over AstraZeneca's distribution plans in Southeast Asia, which depends on 200 million doses made by Siam Bioscience, a company owned by Thailand's king that is making vaccines for the first time.
Any questions about Siam Bioscience meeting production targets are sensitive because King Maha Vajiralongkorn is its sole owner. Insulting Thailand's monarchy is a crime punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
Malaysia, which is due to receive 610,000 doses from Thailand this month and 1.6 million more later this year, is also expecting delays, Science Minister Khairy Jamaluddin told reporters on Wednesday.
Malaysia’s king started a series of meetings with leaders of political parties on Wednesday, amid public discontent over the government’s handling of a coronavirus crisis that has forced the nation into a third lockdown.
Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s administration imposed strict COVID-19 measures from June 1-14 to address a surge in infections and deaths, on top of an ongoing national emergency to curb the spread of the disease.
But those have led to public frustration over a perceived slow rollout of vaccinations, haphazard policymaking and uneven enforcement of coronavirus curbs that critics say royalty and elites have been allowed to skirt.
Malaysia reported another 6,239 new COVID-19 infections, bringing the national total to 633,891, the Health Ministry said on Wednesday.
Another 75 more deaths were reported, bringing the death toll to 3,611.
Singapore has reported its 34th death due to COVID-19, taking its toll from the pandemic beyond the 33 casualties recorded during the 2003 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak.
While the current pandemic death toll has exceeded Singapore's death toll from the SARS outbreak, the city-state still has one of the world's lowest COVID-19 fatality rates.
Singapore authorities had said at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic that the experience dealing with SARS meant they were more prepared for the COVID-19 outbreak.
So far, Singapore has reported 62,219 COVID-19 infections since January last year, while it recorded 238 SARS cases between March and May 2003.
The 34th COVID-19 death in Singapore was an 86-year-old woman who had not been vaccinated against COVID-19 and had a history of comorbidities including diabetes and hypertension, Singapore's health ministry said.
Singapore has also found the Delta variant of the coronavirus to be the most prevalent among local cases of variants of concern (VOCs), according to the ministry data, highlighting its level of infectiousness.
There were 449 local cases with VOCs as of May 31, of which 428 were the Delta variant first detected in India and nine of the Beta variant first identified in South Africa, the health ministry said in emailed statement on Wednesday.
Singapore authorities first reported the presence locally of the Delta variant in early May.
A joint study by researchers from Pune's National Institute of Virology, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and Bharat Biotech has found that the country's indigenous COVID-19 vaccine, Covaxin, offers protection against the Beta (B.1.351) and the Delta (B.1.617.2) variants, local media reports said Wednesday.
The study evaluated the neutralisation potential of sera collected from 20 COVID-19 recovered cases and 17 people vaccinated with two doses of Covaxin against Beta and Delta variants and compared it with the prototype D614G variant.
"There was a reduction in the neutralisation titre values in people administered Covaxin against Beta and Delta variants, but this reduction was lower than in those who were naturally infected," Dr Pragya Yadav, scientist 'E' and group leader, maximum containment facility, ICMR-NIV was quoted in local media as having said.
The study is a pre-print and not yet peer-reviewed.
India's COVID-19 tally surpassed the 29 million mark reaching 29,089,069 on Wednesday after 92,596 new cases were registered during the past 24 hours, said the country's health ministry.
It was the second consecutive day that less than 100,000 new cases were registered.
Besides, 2,219 deaths were registered since Tuesday morning, taking the total tally to 353,528.
There are still 1,231,415 active cases in the country, a decrease of 72,287 in 24 hours. The number of daily active cases has been on the decline over the past few days, after a continuous surge since mid-April.
South Korea will allow group trips overseas as soon as July for people who are vaccinated, according to Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum. Travel will be to places that have COVID-19 under control and returning tourists who test negative at the airport won’t have to quarantine. The country is reportedly considering travel bubbles with locations including Singapore, New Zealand, Guam and Saipan.
Three sets of new equipment for COVID-19 tests have been installed in the Fiji Center for Communicable Disease Control to speed up the coronavirus testing in the Pacific island country, allowing an additional 1,000 tests to be conducted on a daily basis.
The equipment can in the longer term also be used to support tests for a range of other diseases, such as influenza, tuberculosis and HIV infection, according to Fijian Health Minister Ifereimi Waqainabete.
The testing equipment was procured by the World Health Organization and funded by the European Union.
Waqainabete said the testing systems came at a right time boosting the Fiji's testing capacity amid the current COVID wave, and helping make timely decisions in public health response.
Fiji reported 94 new confirmed cases in the past 24 hours, marking a new record of its daily cases. It has 604 active cases currently, and has so far reported 234 recoveries and four deaths from the pandemic.
Maldivian President Ibrahim Solih announced on Tuesday that his country's ongoing restrictions to contain the COVID-19 pandemic will be extended by one week.
Solih said that the anti-epidemic measures, such as a curfew between 4 p.m. and 8 a.m. local time and a ban on traveling outdoors without a police permit, will be extended by another week to reduce the country's infection rate.
Solih said that the situation would be reviewed again at the end of this period.
Infections and deaths from the COVID-19 pandemic reached a peak in the Maldives in mid-May, leading to the government to enforce stricter restrictions on May 26, initially for a two-week period. The restrictions have been successful in bringing down the daily case count from a high of over 2,000 in May to below 500 in the last week.
The Maldives began its vaccination program on Feb. 1 and has so far provided at least one dose to 312,133 people and two doses to 173,291 people. The country has so far recorded 68,502 cases of COVID-19 and 187 deaths from the virus.
The total number of people vaccinated against the COVID-19 in Turkey exceeded 18 million on Tuesday, said the Turkish Health Ministry.
Out of Turkey's nearly 84 million population, a total of 18,114,000 people have so far been vaccinated since the mass vaccination campaign started on Jan. 14 after the Turkish authorities approved the emergency use of the Chinese Sinovac vaccine.
Turkey on Tuesday reported 6,609 new COVID-19 cases, including 557 symptomatic patients, raising the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 5,300,236.
The death toll from the virus in Turkey rose by 86 to 48,341, while the total recoveries climbed to 5,173,186 after 5,836 more people recovered in the last 24 hours.
A total of 225,527 tests were conducted over the past day, with the overall number of tests in Turkey reaching 55,899,143.
Turkey reported its first COVID-19 case on March 11, 2020.
Australia’s second largest city Melbourne will exit a COVID-19 hard lockdown as planned on Thursday night, Victoria state authorities said, although some restrictions on travel and gatherings would likely remain for another week.
After two weeks in a strict lockdown that forced people to remain home except for essential business, Melbourne's five million residents will get more freedom to step outside from 11:59 pm local time (1359 GMT) on Thursday.
However, people must stay within 25 km of their homes, officials said, in an effort to stop transmission during an upcoming long weekend. There will also be a total ban on house gatherings and masks will be mandatory indoors.
Australia has effectively reined in COVID-19, recording just over 30,200 cases and 910 deaths, due to speedy tracing systems, snap lockdowns and strict social distancing rules.
South Korea reported 602 more confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of midnight Tuesday compared to 24 hours ago, raising the total number of infections to 145,692.
The daily caseload was up from 454 in the prior day, rising above 600 in four days. The daily average caseload for the past week was 602.
The daily number of infections hovered in triple figures since Nov. 8 last year due to small cluster infections in the capital Seoul and its surrounding Gyeonggi province as well as imported cases.
Of the new cases, 181 were Seoul residents and 155 were people residing in Gyeonggi province.
Twenty-one cases were imported from overseas, lifting the combined figure to 9,220.
The Iraqi government decided on Tuesday to take a series of measures to accelerate the vaccination campaign to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The decision was made at a cabinet meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, which discussed the recommendations of the Iraqi Health Ministry on containing the pandemic in Iraq, al-Kadhimi's media office said in a statement.
The vaccination, which is expected to cover all workers of shops, restaurants, malls, laboratories and other public facilities, is a prerequisite for renewing or granting health licenses, the statement said, adding that violators will be fined and required to close those facilities after Sept 1.
Myanmar reported 123 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, bringing the total cases in the country to 144,579, according to a release from the Ministry of Health and Sports.
One more death was reported on Tuesday, bringing the death toll to 3,228 in the country, the release said.
According to the ministry's figures, a total of 132,615 patients have been discharged from the hospitals and over 2.63 million samples have been tested for COVID-19 so far, including 2,022 samples tested on Tuesday.
Bangladesh reported 2,537 new COVID-19 cases and 36 more deaths on Wednesday, bringing the tally to 817,819 and the death toll to 12,949, the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) said.
The official data showed that 20,584 samples were tested in the last 24 hours across Bangladesh.
Mongolia reported 1,312 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, bringing its national tally to 69,022, the country's health ministry said Wednesday.
The ministry said that 444 more recoveries were logged, taking the nationwide count to 55,157.
The Asian country has recorded 338 COVID-19-related deaths since it confirmed its first case in March 2020.
Afghanistan's Public Health Ministry reported 1,843 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, taking the number of patients infected with the disease to 85,893 in the country.
The pandemic has so far claimed 3,356 lives in Afghanistan, including 51 deaths in the past 24 hours, the ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.
Over 2 million people have been vaccinated against COVID-19 in Sri Lanka since a massive vaccination program was rolled out for front-line workers and the general public in the island country in late January, the Health Ministry said here Wednesday.
According to official figures, 2,023,256 people have been vaccinated to date with Sinopharm, Sputnik V, and AstraZeneca vaccines.
The island country is administering the Sinopharm vaccines after a new batch arrived in the country earlier this week.
The Omani health ministry on Wednesday announced 1,931 new COVID-19 infections, raising the total confirmed number in the sultanate to 228,579, the official Oman News Agency (ONA) reported.
A total of 14 fatalities were reported, pushing up the death toll to 2,448, according to a ministry statement carried by ONA.
Vietnam reported 407 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, including 381 locally transmitted and 26 imported, bringing the total tally to 9,565, according to the Ministry of Health.
Among the community cases, 370 were reported in quarantine facilities or lockdown areas. In terms of localities, 296 were detected in the northern epidemic hotspot Bac Giang province, 40 in the southern Ho Chi Minh City, and 35 in the northern Bac Ninh province, among others.
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