This photo taken on June 29, 2021 shows a Thai Lion Air hostess amongst passengers on a domestic flight from Bangkok to Phuket, before take-off at Don Muang Airport in Bangkok, days before the “Phuket Sandbox” tourism scheme that allows visits by people vaccinated against the COVID-19 coronavirus is set to launch. (PHOTO / AFP)
JAKARTA / BANGKOK / YANGON / DHAKA / HANOI / SINGAPORE / TEHRAN / KUWAIT CITY / JERUSALEM / SEOUL / NEW DELHI / KUALA LUMPUR / WELLINGTON / VIENTIANE / BISHKEK / ULAN BATOR / ISLAMABAD / PHNOM PENH - Thailand's Phuket on Wednesday reported its first two COVID-19 cases of Delta variant, just one day before the resort island's planned reopening to vaccinated foreign visitors without quarantine from Thursday.
In total, five new infections were confirmed on Wednesday in Phuket, with five others reported Tuesday, according to Kusak Kukiatkul, chief of the Phuket Provincial Public Health Office.
Of the two patients infected with the Delta variant of COVID-19, one came from the capital Bangkok earlier this month and the other was from a neighboring province, the official said.
Over 30 people were considered being at high risk of infection due to close contact with the patients and are currently quarantined, he said.
From Thursday, Phuket will welcome back international tourists without quarantine, provided that they have been fully vaccinated against the virus and tested negative. They can travel to the rest parts of Thailand after staying on the island for 14 nights under the Phuket Sandbox program.
Thai government spokesperson Anucha Burapachaisri said Wednesday that Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha is scheduled to take a field visit to Phuket and chair a meeting with provincial administrations and local private sector on the launching preparation of the program.
Thailand reported on Wednesday 53 new deaths from the coronavirus, bringing the total number of fatalities to 2,023 since the pandemic started last year.
The country's COVID-19 task force also reported 4,786 new coronavirus cases, taking the total number of infections to 259,301.
Iranian Health Ministry has authorized the emergency use of the second domestic COVID-19 vaccine, the Pasteur Vaccine, semi-official Tasnim News Agency reported Wednesday quoting Health Minister Saeed Namaki.
Iran on Wednesday reported 11,748 new COVID-19 cases, raising the country's total infections to 3,204,557.
The pandemic has so far claimed 84,264 lives in Iran, up by 137 in the past 24 hours, the Iranian Ministry of Health and Medical Education said.
A total of 2,876,828 people have recovered from the disease or been discharged from hospitals across the country, while 3,183 remain in intensive care units, according to the ministry.
Commercial international flights to and from India shall remain suspended until July 31, aviation officials said Wednesday.
According to a circular issued by the country's civil aviation watchdog - Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on Wednesday, the restriction shall not be applicable for international all-cargo operations and flights specifically approved by DGCA.
International scheduled flights may be allowed on selected routes by the competent authority on case to case basis, it said.
Commercial flights were suspended when the country imposed a complete nationwide lockdown late in March last year to contain the spread of the COVID-19.
Domestic flights resumed operations in India on May 25 last year after nearly two months of suspension. International flights continue to remain suspended.
However, Indian authorities have been operating special international flights since May last year and under bilateral "air bubble" arrangements with selected countries since July last year.
India reported on Wednesday 45,951 new COVID-19 infections over the past 24 hours, data from the health ministry showed.
India's coronavirus-related deaths rose by 817 overnight.
Australian officials extended lockdown and social distancing measures to more of the country on Wednesday, with four major cities already under a hard lockdown in a race to contain an outbreak of the highly contagious Delta coronavirus variant.
Around one in two Australians are under stay-at-home orders, with millions of others subjected to movement curbs and mandatory mask-wearing amid COVID-19 flare-ups in several locations.
With more than five million residents of greater Sydney under a two-week lockdown until July 9, New South Wales state reported 22 new locally transmitted COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, all linked to prior infections.
That was up slightly from the previous two days, but still below the peak of the current outbreak of 30 new cases reported on Sunday.
With a total of around 170 new locally transmitted cases since the first infection was detected two weeks ago in a limousine driver who transported overseas airline crew, NSW is the worst-affected state or territory in the current outbreak.
Residents of Sydney, Perth, Brisbane and Darwin were joined in lockdown on Wednesday by those of the outback town of Alice Springs, the gateway to UNESCO World Heritage-listed Uluru. Officials issued stay-at-home orders for the town after a potentially infected traveller used the airport.
South Australia, meanwhile, reported its first locally transmitted cases for 2021, but stopped short of imposing a full lockdown, saying they believed the threat was contained.
The Bangladeshi government has extended the ongoing closure of educational institutions for another month in light of the current COVID-19 situation in the country which goes into nationwide lockdown from July 1.
The country's Ministry of Education announced the decision on Tuesday, saying that "all secondary and higher secondary level educational institutions, including Islamic schools, would remain closed till July 31."
Previously the closure was extended in phases till June 30.
The latest closure extension came a day after the Bangladeshi government declared a "total lockdown" from July 1 to 7 except for entities providing essential services to control the spread of the disease more effectively.
The White House said that 2.5 million doses of the Moderna vaccine will begin to ship to Bangladesh on Tuesday.
White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters on Air Force One as President Joe Biden flew to Wisconsin that announcements of other vaccine shipments are forthcoming.
Cambodia on Wednesday reported the highest-ever daily COVID-19 cases and deaths since the pandemic hit the kingdom in January last year, the Ministry of Health (MoH) said in a statement.
The Southeast Asian nation confirmed 1,130 new COVID-19 cases, pushing the national caseload to 50,385, the ministry said, adding that Wednesday's figure topped the previous highest daily record of 938 cases on May 3.
A total of 27 new fatalities were registered, taking the overall death toll to 602 so far, the ministry said, adding that Wednesday's death toll surpassed the highest daily record of 20 deaths on June 19.
Indonesia is finalizing emergency social restrictions aimed at containing a surge in coronavirus cases in the world's fourth most populous country, President Joko Widodo said on Wednesday.
Authorities are mulling whether to keep the tighter restrictions for a week or two weeks, Jokowi said, without saying when he expected to announce the new measure.
Movement curbs were tightened last week in so called "red zone" areas where cases have jumped, but health experts said these have not been sufficient to stop the spread of the virus.
The hospital bed occupancy ratio was 72 percent nationally, Jokowi said, but local authorities say rates were higher in several cities including Jakarta, where medical emergency units have been shifted to tents outside hospitals.
Jokowi on Wednesday also pledged to accelerate the country's vaccination campaign to achieve a target of one million doses per day in July and two million in August.
Indonesia on Wednesday recorded its biggest daily increase in coronavirus cases, with 21,807 infections, according to health ministry data.
The data also showed 467 new deaths, taking the total to 58,491. Indonesia has recorded 2,178,272 cases overall, among the highest number in Asia.
The number of active COVID-19 cases in Israel rose to 1,660, the highest since April 26, said the Israeli Ministry of Health on Tuesday.
It reported 302 new COVID-19 cases, raising the total infections in the country to 841,486. The death toll from the virus stood at 6,429, while the number of patients in serious condition increased from 21 to 22.
Japan is considering an extension of its coronavirus prevention measures in Tokyo and other areas by two weeks to a month, Japanese media said, with less than a month to go until the Tokyo Summer Olympics are set to open.
The Japanese capital and other areas are currently under a 'quasi' state of emergency set to be lifted on July 12, but a recent uptick in coronavirus cases has officials concerned and could affect the number of spectators allowed in to Olympics venues.
According to the Mainichi Shimbun daily, the government is considering extending the measures by two to four weeks, a period that would overlap with the Olympics, already delayed a year, that open on July 23.
A government meeting on coronavirus measures is set to be held later on Wednesday to discuss ways of dealing with signs of an impending surge in coronavirus numbers that has experts worried, along with concern about the spread of more highly transmissible variants.
Kuwait registered on Tuesday 1,718 new COVID-19 cases, raising the total infections in the country to 354,851, the Kuwaiti Health Ministry said.
The ministry also announced 18 more fatalities, taking the death toll in Kuwait to 1,961.
Kyrgyzstan recorded on Wednesday 1,965 new COVID-19 cases, raising the tally of infections to 125,003.
The Republican Headquarters for Combating COVID-19 reported 571 new recoveries over the past day, raising the total recoveries in the country to 110,082.
The headquarters also registered eight new deaths, bringing the death toll to 2,000.
Lao Ministry of Health on Wednesday confirmed the first three cases of Delta variant of COVID-19.
Deputy Director General of the Department of Communicable Diseases Control under the Ministry of Health, Sisavath Soutthaniraxay, told a press conference in Lao capital Vientiane on Wednesday that 20 new cases of COVID-19 have been recorded over the past 24 hours, including 16 imported cases and four local transmissions.
Sisavath said the three cases of Delta variant of COVID-19 were detected in southern Laos' Champasak province, who were migrant laborers returning home from Thailand.
Malaysia will receive 1 million AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines donated by Japan on Thursday, science minister Khairy Jamaluddin told reporters on Wednesday.
Malaysia country will receive another 1 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine donated by the United States on Friday, Khairy said.
Japan has agreed to donate similar amounts of the AstraZeneca vaccine to the Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia also.
Maldives will receive 200,000 doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine by July 20, local media reported Wednesday.
Minister of Health Ahmed Naseem told media on Tuesday that 200,000 doses out of 700,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine ordered from a Singaporean company will arrive in the country between July 12 and July 20.
Naseem said that a non-disclosure agreement had been reached with a Russian company to acquire doses of Sputnik V, while negotiations are ongoing to acquire more vaccine doses from the U.S.
The Maldives Food and Drug Administration has granted emergency approval to seven brands of COVID-19 vaccines including AstraZeneca, Covishield, Sinopharm, Pfizer, Sputnik V, Moderna and Janssen.
President Ibrahim Solih has said that his country will reopen borders to arrivals from South Asian countries, subject to an assessment of the COVID-19 situation in each country on July 15, local media reported Wednesday.
Solih, in a public statement on Tuesday, said that the primary objective of his government is to restart the country's economy amid the extended lockdown restrictions necessitated by the third wave of COVID-19 infections that peaked in May.
Mongolia reported 2,246 new cases of COVID-19 and 15 more deaths from the disease, taking the national counts to 114,656 and 582, respectively, the health ministry said Wednesday.
Myanmar is negotiating to buy seven million doses of Russia's Sputnik COVID-19 vaccine, the head of its government said, as authorities in the Southeast Asian country try to tackle a new wave of coronavirus infections.
In an interview with Russia's RIA news agency, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing said after initially planning to buy two million doses, Myanmar was now looking to buy seven million.
"We have made negotiations to buy more from Russia," Min Aung Hlaing was quoted as saying. He did not say whether it would be the Sputnik V or single-shot Sputnik Light vaccine.
"China has also sent some vaccines and we have used those as well. We will also continue negotiations with China," he said.
Myanmar has recorded 155,697 COVID-91 cases and 3,320 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic, according to health ministry data.
But reported infections have jumped this month, raising concern of a much bigger wave. Many of the new infections have been reported from near the border with India.
New Zealand reported one case of COVID-19 in managed isolation and no cases of COVID-19 in the community on Wednesday.
The newly imported case came from Afghanistan and has remained in a managed isolation and quarantine facility in Auckland, according to the Ministry of Health.
Pakistan recorded 979 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 over the past 24 hours, the National Command and Operation Center (NCOC) said on Wednesday.
The NCOC said the total number of confirmed cases in the country rose to 957,371, including 903,484 recoveries.
According to the NCOC, 27 more deaths from the coronavirus epidemic were recorded in the past 24 hours nationwide, raising the COVID-19 related death toll to 22,281.
Singapore will be tightening border control measures for travelers with travel history to Australia, given the increased cases observed in Australia, according to the Ministry of Health (MOH).
The MOH said that from 23:59 local time of July 2, Singapore citizens, permanent residents and long-term pass holders entering Singapore with travel history to Australia, within the last 21 days before departure for Singapore, will be subject to an on-arrival COVID-19 PCR test, a seven-day SHN at their place of residence, and a COVID-19 PCR test before the end of the SHN period.
Short-term travelers holding an Air Travel Pass, with travel history to Australia within the last 21 days before departure for Singapore, will not be allowed to enter Singapore.
Singapore is changing the way it reports on progress against COVID-19 in the country, focusing on key trends and the number of severe virus cases while dropping detailed information about individual infections, the Ministry of Health said.
The change comes “as we move to a new phase of battling the pandemic, with a strong focus on preventing the virus from spreading, vaccinating our population and starting the process to transit to a new normal,” the Ministry of Health said in a statement late Tuesday.
The move comes as Singapore looks to shift from a COVID-Zero strategy of stamping out the virus entirely to one of phased reopening backed by mass vaccination.
Singapore is stepping up its mass vaccination program while the numbers of infections and unlinked cases are receding. The government is also shortening the minimum interval of first and second jabs to four weeks, from six to eight weeks earlier, the health ministry said Tuesday.
The ministry reported 10 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, bringing the total tally to 62,563.
Five cases are in the community, four are linked to previous cases, and have already been placed on quarantine. One is linked to previous cases and was detected through surveillance.
There are five imported cases, who have already been placed on Stay-Home Notice or isolated upon arrival in Singapore.
South Korea's capital Seoul and its neighbouring regions will delay by a week the relaxation of social distancing rules due to a sudden increase in COVID-19 cases, authorities said.
The government had said it would relax social distancing and allow private gatherings of up to six people in the greater Seoul area, from the current four, starting July 1 as the country's inoculation drive has been picking up speed.
While the number of daily new infections have remained below 700 since early this month, South Korea reported 794 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).
Of the 759 new locally transmitted cases, 631 or 83.1 percent were from the greater Seoul area, Yoon Tae-ho, a senior health ministry official, told a briefing on Wednesday.
Experts said the announced relaxing of restrictions, including longer operation hours for pubs and easing of the private gatherings ban, may have sent the wrong signal to the public and health authorities called on the public for caution.
Vietnam reported 372 new COVID-19 infections on Tuesday, including 361 locally transmitted and 11 imported, bringing the total tally to 16,413, according to its Ministry of Health.
Among the community cases, 155 were reported in the southern Ho Chi Minh City, 27 in the northern Bac Giang province, and 24 in the southern Binh Duong province.
The ministry also said on Tuesday that two more COVID-19 patients with underlying conditions had died, raising the total number of coronavirus-related deaths in the country to 78.
HONG KONG NEWS