Iranian women wearing face masks cross a street in downtown Tehran on July 20, 2021, as authorities tighten restrictions amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (ATTA KENARE / AFP)
SYDNEY / NAMYANGJU / TOKYO / SYDNEY / HANOI / WELLINGTON / SEOUL / ANKARA / JERUSALEM / BANGKOK / SINGAPORE / KUALA LUMPUR / SUVA / BISHKEK / DUBAI / TEHRAN / DHAKA - Iran's total COVID-19 infections have exceeded 4 million after a new record of nearly 40,000 daily cases on Wednesday.
The Iranian Health Ministry reported 39,357 new cases, raising the country's total tally to 4,019,084.
The pandemic has so far claimed 92,194 lives in Iran, up by 409 in the past 24 hours, the Iranian Ministry of Health and Medical Education said in a briefing published on the ministry's official website.
As the country's daily caseload continues to hit new records and authorities struggle to speed up vaccination, Iran is considering imposing a strict two-week nationwide lockdown to deal with the resurgence of COVID-19.
Analysts said the reasons for the sheer increase in infection rates since the end of June are the higher contagiousness of the Delta variant spreading in Iran, and a decline in people's awareness of observing health recommendations.
Indonesia is shifting away from its goal of reaching herd immunity for COVID-19 as the rise of the more infectious delta variant pushes the threshold beyond reach.
Currently available vaccines are less effective at stopping transmission of the delta variant, making it possible for the virus to continue circulating even if everyone in the country gets immunized, according to data under review by the government.
Indonesia, which has become the epicenter of the global pandemic, plans to redouble its efforts to control COVID-19 on the ground rather than relying on vaccinations alone to bring it to heel, said Jodi Mahardi, spokesman to the minister overseeing the pandemic response.
Indonesia reached a grim milestone as more than 100,000 people died from the coronavirus, becoming the second country in Asia to breach that threshold.
After weeks of topping the world’s tally of daily deaths, Southeast Asia’s largest economy added 1,747 fatalities on Wednesday, according to data from the health ministry, bringing its total number to 100,636.
The number of COVID-19 cases in Indonesia rose by 35,867 within one day to 3,532,567.
Japan's health minister on Wednesday signalled the government may consider rolling back a controversial new policy asking COVID-19 patients with less serious symptoms isolate at home rather than going to the hospital.
The comment, which came amid rising criticism over the policy, underscores Tokyo's struggle in dealing with a spike in Delta variants that is overshadowing the Olympic Games.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced on Monday only COVID-19 patients who are seriously ill and those at risk of becoming so will be hospitalised, while others isolate at home, a shift in policy some fear may lead to an increase in deaths.
Separately, the Japanese government will give priority to providing British drugmaker AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine to six areas under the latest COVID-19 state of emergency, Japan's minister in charge of the country's vaccine rollout has said, according to local media reports on Wednesday.
The state of emergency is set to come into effect through Aug 31 in Tokyo and Saitama, Chiba, Kanagawa, Osaka and Okinawa prefectures.
The Japanese capital reported a single-day record of 4,166 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday amid the continuous surge of infection cases in the country, with an all-time high of 14,207 cases nationwide until 6:25 pm local time, local media reported Wednesday.
Residents queue up for their dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Homebush vaccination centre in Sydney on Aug 2, 2021. (PHOTO / AFP)
An Australian man in his 20s died at home of COVID-19 in Sydney, authorities said on Wednesday, one of the country's youngest coronavirus deaths.
The man, who was unvaccinated, was 13 days into home isolation after testing positive when his health deteriorated rapidly, authorities said, adding that he lived with one person who had been hospitalised with the virus.
The death highlighted the risk from the virus and the importance of getting vaccinated, said health leaders, who have set a target of having half of Sydney's population inoculated before lifting the city's lockdown by a target date of Aug. 28.
"It demonstrates again how this disease is lethal, how it affects people of all ages," said Gladys Berejiklian, premier of New South Wales state, of which Sydney is the capital.
The man's identity and how he caught the virus were not disclosed. He lived in southwest Sydney, the epicentre of an outbreak related to the Delta virus strain that has ravaged the country's most populous city for weeks.
Bangladesh reported 13,817 new COVID-19 cases and 241 new deaths on Wednesday, making the tally at 13,09,910 and death toll at 21,638, the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) said.
A man rides a scooter on a quiet street in Vung Tau, Vietnam, Sunday, July 18, 2021. (HAU DINH / AP)
Vietnam will reduce the required centralized quarantine time for those entering the country who are fully vaccinated to seven days from 14 days, news website VnExpress reported, citing information from the health ministry.
The report, which comes as the nation battles its worst coronavirus outbreak, does not provide a date when the new policy will go into effect.
Travelers must have received their last coronavirus vaccine shot at least 14 days before arriving, according to the report. They must also have tested negative for the virus within 72 hours of arrival, it said. They will be required to monitor their health for a week after leaving quarantine.
Vietnam recorded 7,623 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, including 7,618 locally transmitted and five imported, according to the country's Ministry of Health.
The new infections brought the total tally to 177,813, with 2,327 deaths, the ministry said.
New Zealand saw another milestone in administering COVID-19 vaccines on Wednesday, with two million COVID-19 vaccines being given to Kiwis.
The pandemic is not coming to an end and it is important to keep the virus, particularly the Delta variant, out of the country, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins told a press conference.
The 2,000,000th dose of the Pfizer vaccine was administered in New Zealand on Tuesday, the minister said.
"Every extra MIQ (managed isolation and quarantine) space we open up increases risk. We already bring in 4,000 people, the population of a small New Zealand town every fortnight. We bring in around three times more people per capita than Australia does," Hipkins said.
Vaccines will open for people aged above 55 years old on Friday, five days ahead of schedule, he said, citing increased capacity in local health authorities.
"People in this age group who haven't already been vaccinated can expect to get invitations or go to book their vaccine from Friday," Hipkins said.
South Korean health workers staffing COVID-19 testing centres in the summer heat can now take a minute to peel off their heavy protective suits and cool down in government-provided 'recovery buses' equipped with air conditioning, cold water and snacks.
South Korea has been battling its largest wave of infections so far, though vaccinations among vulnerable populations and key workers have limited serious cases.
South Korea reported 1,202 new COVID-19 cases for Monday raising the total to 202,203 infections, with 2,104 deaths. The country detected its first two cases of the new Delta Plus COVID-19 variant, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said on Tuesday.
"It feels like I'm in igloo and I can refresh myself here," a medical staffer Jung Tae-du said on Tuesday while resting in a bus at a walk-through coronavirus testing centre in Namyangju, a city just outside the capital Seoul.
The number of new coronavirus cases in Turkey jumped to nearly 25,000 on Tuesday, government data showed, the highest level in almost three months, and the health minister urged Turks to get vaccinated against the virus.
The number of deaths from COVID-19 also rose to 126, the most fatalities since June 1, as the country battles another wave of the virus which has spread since authorities relaxed pandemic-related restrictions.
The number of new cases hit 24,832 on Tuesday, up from 22,898 the day before.
"If we follow the rules of combating the epidemic and get our vaccinations, we will take action to end the epidemic," Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said in a tweet accompanying the daily data.
Two-thirds of Turkish adults have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine, while slighly less than half have received two or more doses.
An Israeli health worker administers a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine at the Clalit Health Service in Jerusalem on Aug 1, 2021, as Israel launches its campaign to give booster shots to people aged over 60. (MENAHEM KAHANA / AFP)
Passengers on an El Al flight from New York to Tel Aviv will be tested for the coronavirus on the plane itself or before boarding on Thursday to speed up procedures upon arrival in Israel, where infections are on the rise.
The Israeli airline announced the plan a day after Israel said travellers from the United States, like those from many other countries, would have to self-isolate for at least a week after landing at Tel Aviv's Ben-Gurion Airport.
Israel hopes the new restriction will slow the spread of COVID-19 and discourage Israelis - foreign tourism to Israel is still largely banned - from flying abroad and risking higher exposure to the Delta variant that is fueling a surge of infections worldwide.
The PCR tests for the El Al passengers will be conducted in coordination with Israel's Health Ministry and the Femi and Xpres Check companies that have testing labs at New York's John F. Kennedy Airport and at Ben-Gurion, the airline said. Representatives of the companies, rather than the carrier's crew, will administer the tests on the flight.
El Al noted the tests, a pilot programme, were not a substitute for those required for passengers from the United States and other countries up to 72 hours before a flight.
Arriving passengers at Ben-Gurion must also take a PCR test at the airport before leaving the terminal. The El Al passengers tested in-flight or before boarding on Thursday would be able to skip that step.
Separately, Israel's anti-coronavirus cabinet decided on Tuesday to reimpose some restrictions to contain the resurgence of COVID-19 cases, while urging the public to get vaccinated.
After a four-hour session, the cabinet said in a statement that, starting on Sunday, mask-wearing will be required for outdoor events that include more than 100 people.
The Green Pass, reimposed last Thursday on gatherings of more than 100 people, would be imposed also on events with less than 100 people. The pass allows only vaccinated persons the entry to gyms, concerts, synagogues, mosques, churches and other places.
Half of the staff in government offices and workplaces in the public sector will be working from home in order to decrease the number of people in the offices. The cabinet recommended the private sector shifting its entire workforce to a work-at-home format.
Kyrgyzstan added 696 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, raising the total tally to 166,236.
The Republican Headquarters for Combating COVID-19 said that 7,005 coronavirus tests had been carried out over the past day.
The headquarters also reported the recovery of 1,681 more patients and nine new deaths, raising the total recoveries in the country to 150,852 and bringing the nationwide death toll to 2,363.
A Buddhist monk wearing a face mask to help curb the spread of the coronavirus sits on a bench in the Hua Lamphong Railway Station in Bangkok, Thailand on July 20, 2021. (SAKCHAI LALIT / AP)
Thailand today reported 20,200 new COVID-19 infections and 188 deaths, with both at record levels. The country has had 672,385 cases and 5,503 deaths, according to health ministry data Wednesday.
The cabinet yesterday approved a doubling of a budget to fund payouts to workers and businesses to about 60 billion baht (US$1.8 billion), in the wake of an expansion of social-distancing curbs to 29 provinces, from 13 earlier.
Lebanon registered on Tuesday 1,240 new COVID-19 cases, raising the total number of infections to 564,364, the Health Ministry reported.
Meanwhile, the death toll from the virus went up by five to 7,917.
Firass Abiad, director-general of Rafik Hariri University Hospital (RHUH), said on Tuesday that the number of COVID-19 patients at the hospital had recently surged.
"Worryingly, the number of requests for transfer of COVID-19 patients to RHUH is rising sharply. Many hospitals have not, or only partially, reopened their COVID-19 units. It is important to know the current bed capacity and take measures to increase it," he said.
Lebanese authorities said they might impose a new lockdown if cases continue to increase.
Singapore's Ministry of Health (MOH) reported 102 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, bringing the total tally in the country to 65,315.
The new infections included 98 locally transmitted cases, of which 46 were linked to previous cases and have already been placed on quarantine, 21 were linked to previous cases and were detected through surveillance, and 31 were currently unlinked.
There were four more imported cases, who had already been placed on Stay-Home Notice (SHN) or isolated upon arrival in Singapore.
A total of 592 cases are currently warded in the hospital. Most are well and under observation. There are currently 37 cases of serious illness requiring oxygen supplementation, and seven in critical condition in the intensive care unit (ICU).
Maldivian President Ibrahim Solih has told his cabinet ministers to accelerate mass vaccinations in order to control the spread of COVID-19 and revive the economy, state-owned PSM News reported here Wednesday.
Speaking to the cabinet ministers on Tuesday, Solih called for support from all government institutions to fully vaccinate the entire eligible population of the country as soon as possible.
The President's Office issued a directive on Monday requesting all government employees to get fully vaccinated. Government employees must get at least the first dose of the vaccine by Aug 15.
A nurse administers a Pfizer vaccine to an elderly woman in her house in rural Sabab Bernam, central Selangor state, Malaysia, Tuesday, July 13, 2021. Medical teams are going house to house in rural villages to reach out to elderly citizens as the government seeks to ramp up its vaccination program. (VINCENT THIAN / AP)
Malaysia reported 19,819 new COVID-19 cases in the highest daily spike since the outbreak, bringing the national total to 1,183,110, the Health Ministry said Wednesday.
Health Ministry Director-General Noor Hisham Abdullah said in a press statement that 23 of the new cases are imported and 19,796 are local transmissions.
Another 257 deaths were reported, the highest for a single day to date, pushing the death toll to 9,855.
Fijian health officials reported 11 new COVID-19 deaths and 1,187 more cases on Wednesday.
Fiji's Permanent Secretary for Health James Fong said nine of the deaths were from four provinces on Viti Levu and two were from the Western side.
Fong said there have been totally 272 deaths due to COVID-19 in Fiji, with 270 reported during the outbreak that started in April this year.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) Ministry of Health and Prevention has approved the use of China's Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine for children aged between 3 and 17 years old in the UAE.
The decision was "based on the results of clinical studies, the strict assessment to approve the emergency use of the vaccine and the local evaluation that complies with the approved regulations," the UAE's state news agency WAM said Monday.
"The approval for the vaccine comes as part of the UAE's efforts to combat COVID-19, and an affirmation of its proactive approach to ensure the health and safety of community members," the report added.
Sinopharm is being produced locally in the UAE, which has so far administered more than 15.5 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, with more than 64 percent of its population having received over two doses to date.
HONG KONG NEWS