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Published: 10:39, August 20, 2021 | Updated: 23:06, August 20, 2021
Japan's virus cases hit a record as hospitals are overwhelmed
By Agencies
Published:10:39, August 20, 2021 Updated:23:06, August 20, 2021 By Agencies

People wearing face masks to protect against the spread of the coronavirus walk at an underground shopping center in Yokohama near Tokyo, Japan, Aug 18, 2021. (KOJI SASAHARA / AP)

WELLINGTON / SYDNEY / NEW DELHI / JERUSALEM / VIENTIANE / BEIRUT / KUALA LUMPUR / ULAN BATOR / ISLAMABAD / SINGAPORE / SEOUL / BANGKOK / ANKARA / HANOI / COLOMBO / BISHKEK / JAKARTA - Japan is facing its worst COVID-19 outbreak since the beginning of the pandemic, as cases spiral out of control and strain the limits of the nation’s healthcare system.

The country recorded 25,146 new infections Thursday, the highest ever and more than 10 times the daily count from a month ago. There were 33 deaths, including the internationally known Japanese actor Sonny Chiba, Nikkei reported Thursday night.

The virus began to surge in mid-July, driven by the more infectious Delta variant, just before Tokyo hosted the 2020 Olympics. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said earlier this month he didn’t think the Olympics triggered the increase in cases. 

There were 5,534 infections recorded Thursday in Tokyo, the second highest level since the pandemic began. The city is set to host the Paralympics starting Aug 24. Spectators won’t be allowed in most events.

The government is working to squelch the outbreak through social distancing and mitigation measures, in addition to encouraging vaccinations. It extended the state of emergency for Tokyo through Sept 12 and expanded it to include the neighboring prefectures of Ibaraki and Tochigi, as well as the old capital city Kyoto, Suga announced Tuesday. 

ALSO READ: Poll: Most Japan firms want Suga out of power despite Olympic hit

The actions haven’t yet achieved their intended effects, said Shigeru Omi, Japan’s top COVID-19 adviser, according to a Jiji report on Wednesday. Hospitals are facing a shortage of beds, and growing numbers of people are being forced to recover at home. Japan must take the cases of those waiting to be admitted into the hosptial into consideration, he said.

The results of some people being unable to get proper care are dire. The newborn child of a COVID-infected pregnant woman died after she couldn’t get into a hospital and had to give birth at home, NHK reported Thursday.

Australia

The COVID-19 lockdown of Sydney was extended on Friday and a nightly curfew imposed on the city’s worst-affected suburbs in a last-ditch attempt to slow the spread of the highly infectious Delta variant that is spreading across New South Wales state.

Australia's third wave of COVID-19 infections centred on Sydney has forced more than half the country's near 26 million people into lockdown and pushed the world's 13th-largest economy to the brink of its second recession here in as many years.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said new restrictions, including a requirement to wear a mask when outside and limits on exercise, were needed as the state reported its third consecutive day of more than 600 new COVID-19 cases.

“I asked health and police to work together, to give me a final list of what we can throw at this, to leave no shadow of a doubt as to how serious we are about getting the rate of growth down, the case numbers down,” Berejiklian told a media conference.

In the 12 council areas at the epicentre of Sydney’s outbreak, a curfew would be in place from 9 pm to 5 am from Monday, she said.

Anyone caught entering those areas would be fined and required to self-isolate for 14 days, New South Wales state Police Commissioner Mick Fuller said.

Berejiklian reported 644 new infections on Friday, most of them in Sydney, down from a record 681 a day earlier.

Daily cases have topped 400 for the past seven days despite eight weeks of lockdown in Australia’s biggest city.

Four new deaths were confirmed, taking the total number of deaths in the latest outbreak to 65 since June 16.

Since the start of its third outbreak, Australia has recorded just shy of 12,000 infections. High vaccination levels among Australia most vulnerable means the mortality rate is 0.54 percent, official data shows, below previous outbreaks.

ALSO READ: Iran's COVID-19 death toll surpasses 100,000

India

India's COVID-19 tally rose to 32,358,829 on Friday as 36,571 new cases were registered during the past 24 hours across the country, according to the federal health ministry's latest data.

Besides, as many as 540 deaths were reported due to the pandemic since Monday morning, taking the total death toll to 433,589.

Also on Friday, India's drug regulator approved Zydus Cadila's three-dose COVID-19 DNA vaccine for emergency use in adults and children above 12 years of age.

In another development, Johnson & Johnson has sought approval from Indian drug regulators to conduct a study of its COVID-19 vaccine among 12- to 17-year-olds, the company said on Friday.

Conducting vaccine clinical trials among adolescents is imperative to achieve herd immunity against the coronavirus, J&J said in an emailed statement.

Indonesia

The number of COVID-19 cases in Indonesia rose by 20,004 within one day to 3,950,304, the country's health ministry said on Friday.

The death toll increased by 1,348 to 123,981, the ministry said.

Another 26,122 patients were discharged from hospitals, bringing the total number of recoveries to 3,499,037.

To date, at least 30.75 million people in the country have received two shots of COVID-19 vaccines while 56.50 million have taken their first dose, the ministry said.

Israel

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett received a third shot of Pfizer/BioNtech’s COVID-19 vaccine on Friday, after Israel extended its booster campaign for people over 40 to try to curb the Delta coronavirus variant.

New cases in Israel have surged since Delta’s emergence and Bennett, 49, has sought to avoid an economically painful national lockdown by ramping up third doses.

People over 60 began receiving third doses in July, before the minimum age of eligibility was dropped to 50. Health Ministry officials cited waning immunity and Delta’s high infectiousness.

The Health Ministry said on Friday boosters would now be administered to people over 40 whose second shot was at least five months ago. It recommended teachers, health workers, carers of the elderly, and pregnant women of all ages have the shot.

Over 1 million of Israel’s 9.3 million population has received a third shot, which an Israeli healthcare provider said on Wednesday was 86 percent effective in preventing infection.

Israeli health officials have said they are seeing initial signs that the booster campaign may be slowing the rate at which cases are climbing.

Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan's vaccination campaign against COVID-19 remains ongoing since nationwide inoculations began at the end of March.

A total of 622,845 doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in the country so far.

Kyrgyzstan registered 242 new COVID-19 cases and five more deaths in the past 24 hours, bringing the tally to 173,428 and the toll to 2,473.

There were 526 new recoveries registered in the same period, taking the total number of recoveries to 165,368, said Akbarali Makhmadiev, chief physician of the Kyrgyz Research Institute of Balneology and Rehabilitation

Currently, 1,577 COVID-19 patients are being treated in hospital while another 2,594 infected people are receiving treatment at home.

Laos

Laos reported a new high of 440 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, surpassing the previous record of 381 cases on Wednesday, according to Lao Ministry of Health.

Deputy Director General of the Department of Communicable Diseases Control under the Lao Ministry of Health, Sisavath Soutthaniraxay, told a press conference in Lao capital Vientiane that 440 COVID-19 cases and two new deaths have been recorded over the past 24 hours, bringing the national tally to 11,753 cases and 11 deaths.

He said that the new infections including 365 imported cases and 75 local transmissions.

The country's 10th death was a 55-year-old man, living in Savannakhet province who suffered from hypertension. He passed away in hospital after his condition worsened.

Meanwhile, the country's 11th death was a 26-year-old woman living in Khammuane province, who arrived in Laos from Thailand on Aug 3.

Lebanon

Lebanon registered on Thursday 1,993 new COVID-19 cases, raising the total infections in the country to 588,578, the Lebanese Health Ministry reported.

Meanwhile, the death toll from the virus in Lebanon went up by six to 7,999, the ministry said.

Malaysia

Malaysia saw a new record high of daily COVID-19 infections for the third consecutive day with 23,564 fresh cases reported on Friday, bringing the national tally to 1,513,024, the health ministry said.

The death toll rose by 233 to 13,713.

Some 21,448 patients were discharged after recovery, bringing the total number of recoveries to 1,241,894, or 82.1 percent of all cases.

Of the remaining 257,417 active cases, 1,062 were in intensive care units, including 518 in need of assisted breathing.

The first batch of the single-dose COVID-19 vaccine developed by Chinese company CanSino Biologics arrived in Malaysia on Friday, boosting the country's capability in the fight against the pandemic.

The first batch, comprising some 200,000 finished products, is part of a total of 3.5 million doses that have been ordered by Malaysia, the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry said in a brief statement.

This supply will be able to further intensify the National COVID-19 Immunization Program especially in low access areas and in turn help Malaysia to achieve immunity targets, according to the statement.

Mongolia

Mongolia on Friday confirmed 1,841 new COVID-19 infections over the past 24 hours, pushing the national tally to 190,248, according to the country's health ministry.

The death toll from the viral disease nationwide rose by one to 892, according to the ministry.

This picture shows an empty highway during a nationwide COVID-19 lockdown in Wellington on Aug 18, 2021. (MARTY MELVILLE / AFP)

New Zealand

New Zealand'sPrime Minister Jacinda Ardern extended a nationwide lockdown on Friday as the number of COVID-19 cases in the country jumped and the outbreak widened beyond its largest city, Auckland, to the capital, Wellington.

New Zealanders had been living virus-free and without curbs until Ardern on Tuesday ordered a snap 3-day nationwide lockdownand seven-day shutdown in Auckland after discovering the country's first case since February.

Ardern extended the lockdown until midnight on Aug 24, saying that the outbreak had widened to other cities.

"We just don't quite know the full scale of this Delta outbreak," Ardern said at the news conference.

Health authorities said 11 new cases were recorded on Friday, of which three cases were in Wellington.

The three in Wellington had recently travelled to Auckland and had visited locations that were identified as exposed to the outbreak, the health ministry said in a statement.

"We want the whole country on high alert right now," Ardern said.

New Zealand's health chief, Ashley Bloomfield, warned the lockdown in Auckland, the epicentre of the outbreak, may be extended further.

Pakistan

Pakistan on Thursday reported 3,239 new COVID-19 cases, the National Command and Operation Center (NCOC) said on Friday.

The NCOC said that the country's number of overall confirmed cases had risen to 1,116,886, and the number of patients who have recovered from COVID-19 exceeded 1 million.

According to the NCOC, the pandemic killed 70 people on Thursday, bringing the overall death toll to 24,783.

Individuals line up to receive cash aid from the national government during enhanced community quarantine at a basketball court in Manila on Aug 11, 2021. (JAM STA ROSA / AFP)

Philippines

The Philippines' Department of Health (DOH) reported 17,231 new COVID-19 infections on Friday, the highest ever daily tally since the outbreak began in January last year.

The record caseload brings the total number of confirmed cases in the Southeast Asian country to 1,807,800.

The death toll climbed to 31,198 after 317 more patients died from the viral disease, the DOH added.

Strict coronavirus lockdown rules remain in Metro Manila until Aug 31 to contain the spread of the more virulent Delta variant, even after lifting the two-week hard lockdown that ended Friday.

Singapore

Singapore would pilot a home isolation for fully vaccinated COVID-19 patients with mild or no symptoms soon, the Ministry of Health said in a press release on Thursday.

With much more local and global data showing that fully vaccinated COVID-19 patients have a much lower risk of developing severe disease, "we are piloting a home-centric care model" for the management of COVID-19 patients with mild or no symptoms from Aug. 30, said the ministry in a statement.

These patients will spend the first few days in a medical facility before moving to home isolation. By then, the viral loads of vaccinated patients would have dropped, said MOH.

The patients and their household members must both be fully vaccinated and must not belong to any vulnerable groups, such as the elderly or immunocompromised.

These patients also need to have a suitable home setting, where they can be isolated from the rest of their household, MOH added.

The MOH reported 32 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, bringing the total tally in the country to 66,366.

The new infections included 29 locally transmitted cases. As many as 11 are linked to previous cases and have already been placed on quarantine. Five are linked to previous cases and were detected through surveillance, while 13 are currently unlinked.

There are three imported cases, who have already been placed on Stay-Home Notice (SHN) or isolated upon arrival in Singapore. Among them, one was detected upon arrival in Singapore, while two developed the illness during SHN or isolation.

Two women walk down a set of stairs in Seoul on Aug 18, 2021. (ANTHONY WALLACE / AFP)

South Korea

South Korea has extended its social distancing curbs for two weeks to ward off a surge in coronavirus cases, while allowing vaccinated people some latitude, its prime minister said on Friday.

The country's fourth COVID-19 wave has shown few signs of abating six weeks after the toughest Level 4 distancing rules, which include a ban on gatherings of more than two people after 6 pm here, were imposed in the greater Seoul area.

South Korea reported 2,052 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, 2,001 of which were locally acquired, Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) data showed.

South Korea on Friday said Russia's COVID-19 vaccine CoviVac has applied for preliminary regulatory approval, the country's drug safety ministry said in a statement.

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka announced a 10-day lockdown starting on Friday night in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus, as surging infections and deaths overwhelm the island's health system.

"Nationwide Lockdown in effect from 10pm today (20/08) to Monday (30/08). All essential services will function as normal," Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella said on Twitter.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa met with members of the presidential task force on coronavirus and was expected to address the nation on Friday evening.

Medical professionals, religious leaders, politicians and businessmen have called for an immediate nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of infections.

Hospitals in the country of 32 million people are overflowing with COVID-19 patients as the highly transmissible Delta variant surges through the population.

Sri Lanka has reported a total of 372,079 infections since the start of the outbreak last year, with 6,604 deaths. 

Around a quarter of Sri Lanka's population has been fully vaccinated.

Thailand

Thailand's passed the 1 million mark in coronavirus cases on Friday, 97 percent of which were recorded in the past five months, as the country struggles to get on top of one of Asia's most severe COVID-19 outbreaks.

Authorities on Friday reported 19,851 cases and 240 fatalities, taking total confirmed infections past 1 million and deaths to 8,826.

Thailand had kept the coronavirus largely under control and enjoyed only partial social restrictions for much of the pandemic until it was hit in April by the virulent Alpha variant, followed later by the Delta variant, at a time when few people were vaccinated.

Health officials have been rushing to shore up vaccine supply having inoculated just 8.3 percent of its population of over 66 million.

Authorities are also mixing AstraZeneca and Sinovac shots to boost immunity and as a workaround for supply issues.

The government's handling of the coronavirus crisis, including its vaccination policy, has fuelled a recent revival of protests against Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who has stood by his administration's strategy.

This picture taken on Aug 19, 2021 shows smoke from a paint factory fire across the sky over Bangkok. (MLADEN ANTONOV / AFP

READ MORE: EU says import of J&J vaccines from S. Africa temporary

Turkey

Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said the Delta variant now accounts for around 90 percent of new cases in Turkey. 

Turkey announced 19,320 new cases on Thursday, reporting 216 fatalities, the highest since May 22. 

In total, Turkey has reported 6,157,772 confirmed cases and 53,891 deaths, according to the health ministry.

The country of 84 million people administered a total of 87.2 million doses with over 55 percent of the adult population having received two shots.

Vietnam

Vietnam will deploy troops in Ho Chi Minh City and prohibit residents from leaving their homes, authorities said on Friday, as the country's biggest city turns to drastic measures to slow a spiralling rate of coronavirus deaths.

"We are asking people to stay where you are, not to go outside. Each home, company, factory should be an anti-virus fort," Pham Duc Hai, deputy head of the city's coronavirus authority, said on Friday.

The government said it was preparing to mobilize police and military to enforce the lockdown and deliver food supplies to citizens.

The government also extended restrictions on Friday in the capital Hanoi by a further 15 days, state media reported.

The details of the order, which takes effect on Monday, have yet to be announced. Hai said the curb on movement should reduce infections and give authorities a chance to focus on treating gravely ill patients.

Half of Ho Chi Minh City residents have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, but at a meeting late Thursday, Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh ordered authorities to conduct mass testing there too.

Vietnam reported 10,657 coronavirus infections on Friday, a record daily increase, taking the tally to 323,268.

Authorities reported 390 additional deaths on the same day, raising its overall coronavirus fatalities to 7,540.


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