This photo captures a view of Yaowarath road, known as the main thoroughfare in the Chinatown area of Bangkok, Thailand, on Aug 28, 2021. (PHOTO / BLOOMBERG)
DHAKA / PHNOM PENH / TEHRAN / BAGHDAD / YANGON / COLOMBO / ISLAMABAD / NEW DELHI / HANOI / SYDNEY / MANILA / ULAN BATOR / JAKARTA / TOKYO / ISTANBUL / COLOMBO / KUALA LUMPUR - Thailand is set to reopen more of its popular tourist destinations starting next month, betting that a higher local inoculation rate can help draw more foreign visitors and revive an economy battered by the pandemic.
The reopening of capital city Bangkok and Chiang Mai as well as beach resorts Pattaya, Cha-Am and Hua Hin from Oct 1 will be modeled after an initiative to bring back vaccinated tourists to Phuket, tourism ministry officials said. More destinations, including Chiang Rai, Koh Chang and Koh Kood, may fully reopen for visitors from mid-October, with travel bubbles planned with neighboring countries next year, they said.
One of the key criteria for Thai tourist spots to waive the quarantine requirement for fully-inoculated tourists is 70 percent local vaccination rate. The resort island of Phuket became the first Thai province to meet that target and reopened in July, with the program extending to nearby islands and beach communities last month.
Thailand has fully inoculated about 14 percent of its population, while 35 percent have received their first shots. Most of the tourist destinations chosen for the reopening already have higher vaccination rates than the national average and are expected to further bolster the level with increasing vaccine availability, health ministry officials said.
Thailand reported 13,988 new confirmed COVID-19 cases on Monday, the lowest daily increase since July 22, and reported 187 deaths, the lowest since Aug 16.
The Southeast Asian nation also reported 17,284 recoveries, bringing down the number of active cases to 148,622 — down from a peak of more than 210,000 in August.
ALSO READ: Malaysia's COVID-19 deaths rise above 18,000
Armenia has authorized Russia's single-dose Sputnik Light vaccine for use against COVID-19, the Russian Direct Investment Fund, which markets the shot abroad, said on Monday.
Armenia approved Russia's two-dose Sputnik V vaccine in February.
Sydney, the epicenter of Australia's biggest coronavirus outbreak, is expected to see daily infections peak next week, authorities said on Monday, as they look to speed up immunizations before easing lockdown rules.
New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the government's modelling revealed the state would require its highest number of intensive care beds in early October, with "additional pressure on the system" in the next few weeks.
Daily cases in Sydney's worst-affected suburbs are expected to rise to as high as 2,000 until the middle of this month, the modelling showed.
A total of 1,071 COVID-19 cases are currently in New South Wales hospitals, with 177 people in intensive care (ICU), 67 of whom require ventilation. Officials have said they had quadrupled ICU beds to about 2,000 in the state early last year to handle the pandemic.
The state reported 1,281 new cases on Monday, most of them in Sydney, down from 1,485 a day earlier. Five additional deaths were recorded. Victoria state, which includes Melbourne, reported 246 new cases on Monday, its biggest daily rise of the year.
Just over 38 percent of Australia's adult population has been fully vaccinated, with the country expected to reach 70 percent by early November based on current rates.
The federal government has doubled the available Pfizer doses for September after last week entering into vaccine swap deals with Britain and Singapore for a total of around 4.5 million doses, with nearly half a million arriving overnight.
"There will be another set of flights in a couple of days, but we'll pretty much be getting a million of the four million every week over the next four weeks," Lieutenant General John Frewen, head of the vaccination taskforce, told broadcaster ABC.
Frewen said one million doses of Moderna will also reach Australia in "a week or so", becoming the third vaccine to join the rollout along with Pfizer and AstraZeneca shots.This picture taken on Aug 27, 2021 shows a girl wearing a face mask walking through the empty streets of the central business district in Sydney, Australia, amid a lockdown. (SAEED KHAN / AFP)
Bangladesh reported 2,430 new COVID-19 cases and 70 more deaths on Sunday, making the tally at 1,514,456 and the death toll at 26,563, the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) said.
According to the official data, the COVID-19 fatality rate in Bangladesh is now 1.75 percent and the current recovery rate is 95.81 percent.
The total number of Delta variant cases in Cambodia has risen to 2,647 after 251 new infections were confirmed, the Ministry of Health (MoH) said in a statement on Sunday.
Most of the cases were detected in capital Phnom Penh while the rest were found in 22 provinces, the statement said, adding that to date, only Kep and Kratie provinces have been spared from the highly contagious strain.
India's COVID-19 tally has surpassed the 33-million mark, rising to 33,027,621 on Monday as 38,948 new cases were reported during the past 24 hours, according to latest data by the federal health ministry.
The death toll rose by 219 to 440,752, the data showed.
Most of newly reported cases and deaths were from the southern state of Kerala.
There were 404,874 active COVID-19 cases in the country, down 5,174 from the day before.
India aims to ramp up its medical oxygen production capacity to 15,000 tonnes per day before a potential third wave of coronavirus infections that is expected to hit the country as soon as mid-September, an industry executive said.
Moloy Banerjee, head of Linde South Asia, said that while the government is targeting 15,000 tonnes of medical oxygen per day, Linde and other manufacturers were hoping to hit production of at least 13,500 tonnes per day ahead of the third wave.
The number of COVID-19 cases in Indonesia rose by 4,413 within one day to 4,133,433, the country's Health Ministry said on Monday.
Tthe death toll increased by 612 to 136,473, the ministry said.
Another 13,049 patients were discharged from hospitals, bringing the total number of recoveries to 3,850,689.
To date, at least 38.47 million people in the country have received two shots of vaccines, while 67.15 million have taken the first shots, the ministry said.
The Iranian health ministry reported on Sunday 25,870 new COVID-19 cases, taking the country's total infections to 5,129,407.
The pandemic has claimed 110,674 lives in the country so far after 610 new deaths were registered in the past 24 hours, according to a briefing published by Iran's Ministry of Health and Medical Education on its official website.
A total of 4,362,814 people have recovered from the disease or been discharged from hospitals across the country, while 7,689 remain in intensive care units, the ministry said.
By Sunday, 19,467,858 people have received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccines in the country, while 9,684,669 have taken two doses.
A medic administers a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre in a shopping mall in Iraq's capital Baghdad on Aug 25, 2021. (AHMAD AL-RUBAYE / AFP)
Iraqi authorities on Sunday decided to limit the entry of foreign pilgrims in the major Shiite ritual of Arbaeen for fear of the spread of COVID-19.
Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi headed a meeting of the Higher Committee for Health and National Safety and decided to allow 30,000 pilgrims from neighboring Iran and 10,000 from other countries to observe the Arbaeen ritual which will start on Sept. 27, said a statement by the prime minister's media office.
The decision also stipulated that foreign pilgrims bring negative results of PCR tests conducted within 72 hours before they arrive at Iraqi airports, the statement said.
Meanwhile, a statement by the Ministry of Health said that it recorded 4,897 COVID-19 new cases on Sunday, raising the nationwide caseload to 1,917,292.
It also confirmed 58 more deaths, bringing the death toll from the virus to 21,100, while the total recoveries in Iraq climbed by 7,706 to 1,771,707.
Israel will allow small foreign tour groups from selective countries to visit from Sept 19 under a pilot program to kick-start tourism, the government said on Sunday.
Tour groups of between 5 and 30 people from countries on Israel's green, yellow and orange lists will be allowed to enter the country provided all group members have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, the tourism ministry said.
Individual tourists, who have not been allowed to visit Israel since the outset of the coronavirus pandemic there in March 2020 unless they are visiting family members, will still not be allowed to enter outside of a tour group.
Under the new plan, there will be no restrictions on the number of tour groups that Israel will let in, the ministry said, but groups from countries on Israel's red list - which currently comprises Bulgaria, Brazil, Mexico and Turkey - will not be eligible.
Foreign tourists must show proof they have received a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine within the last six months or a booster shot in order to qualify for entry.
The tourists will also have to present a negative PCR test, taken up to 72 hours before arrival, and will undergo a serological test once they land at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport.
Tokyo confirmed 968 COVID-19 infections on Monday, falling below 1,000 for the first time since July 19.
The daily tally was significantly lower than the 1,853 cases confirmed Sunday, and also marked the 15th consecutive day of decline.
The seven-day rolling average in Tokyo was 2,414 per day, dropping 34.9 percent from the previous week.
The number of patients with severe cases stood at 267, increasing by three from Sunday, according to the metropolitan government.
Daiichi Sankyo Co’s home-grown COVID-19 vaccine, a cutting-edge mRNA shot that’s on the cusp of its final clinical trials, could be used mainly as a booster starting next year for people who have already been immunized, the Japanese drugmaker said.
While inoculations from companies including Pfizer Inc-BioNTech SE, Moderna Inc and AstraZeneca Plc are being rolled out across the globe, many others are still in development. Manufacturers including Daiichi are targeting local markets that don’t have an ample vaccine supply or are anticipating future needs, including booster shots.
“The most likely scenario is that most people in Japan would’ve gotten one of the already-approved vaccines by next year,” said Shizuko Ueno, the project leader for COVID-19 vaccine development at Daiichi Sankyo. “We expect that it could be used as a third booster shot and are looking into running a trial for that as well.”
Japan, which has vaccinated nearly half of its population, has deals with Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca for enough shots to cover all its residents. The country has also made additional purchases for shots in anticipation of needing a third dose, which may start next year.
Malaysia reported another 17,352 new COVID-19 infections, bringing the national tally to 1,862,187, the Health Ministry said on Monday.
The country also saw 272 newly reported deaths, taking the death toll to 18,491.
Another 20,201 patients were discharged after recovery, bringing the total number of recoveries to 1,591,028, or 85.4 percent of all cases.
The country administered 289,958 vaccine doses on Sunday, and some 62.9 percent of the population have received at least one dose and 48.8 percent are fully vaccinated.
Mongolia reported 3,766 new COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours, the sixth day in a row in which new cases surpassed 3,000, bringing the national tally to 236,079, the health ministry said Monday.
The death toll rose by six to 968, the ministry said.
More than 18,900 COVID-19 patients were in hospitals, according to the ministry.
The Delta wave is expected to peak in late September, the country's health authorities said, urging the public to avoid crowded places as much as possible and always wear face masks indoors in public places.
Nearly 65 percent of Mongolia's population have been fully vaccinated so far.
Myanmar may relax mobility curbs in some townships as new COVID-19 cases decline and vaccination picks up, Khin Khin Gyi of the Ministry of Health told state broadcaster MRTV.
The number of COVID-19 cases in Myanmar rose to 415,416 on Sunday after 2,829 new cases were reported in the past 24 hours, the country's Ministry of Health said.
A total of 96 additional deaths were reported, bringing the death toll to 15,891 in the country as of Sunday, the ministry said.
People walk on the beach in Auckland, New Zealand, Sept 2, 2021. (SYLVIE WHINRAY / NEW ZEALAND HERALD VIA AP)
New Zealand will ease COVID-19 curbs in all regions outside its biggest city of Auckland from midnight on Tuesday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told a news conference.
Schools, offices and businesses can now operate with social distancing rules in place as the regions' alert level shifts to 2 from 3, Ardern added.
New Zealanders will need to wear masks in most public venues at Level 2, and there will be a limit of 50 people for indoor gatherings including hospitality settings. Outdoor gatherings will be limited to 100, and all attendees must be recorded to help with contact tracing if needed.
New Zealand reported 20 new community cases for a third straight day, with local infections from the current outbreak rising to 821. Cabinet will decide today whether to end or extend a Level-3 lockdown outside Auckland, which is the epicenter and will remain at Level 4 for at least another week.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will brief press at 4 pm local time.
Pakistan on Sunday reported 3,613 new COVID-19 cases, the National Command and Operation Center (NCOC) said on Monday.
The NCOC, a department leading Pakistan's campaign against the pandemic, said the country's number of overall confirmed cases has risen to 1,182,918, including 1,064,319 recoveries.
The number of active cases increased to 92,367, including 5,606 patients in critical situation.
Meanwhile, another 57 people have died of the virus, taking the death toll to 26,232.
The Philippines will relax some COVID-19 restrictions in the Manila region from Wednesday and also intends to outline plans to shift to smaller, localized lockdowns to support the economy, the presidential spokesperson said.
The government believed localized COVID-19 restrictions would be more effective in controlling outbreaks without constraining mobility and business activity too much, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said at a briefing.
The second toughest quarantine measures in place in Metro Manila will expire on Tuesday after which the region will be under the more relaxed "general community quarantine" restriction until the end of September, Roque said.
This means dine-in services will be allowed as well as religious gatherings of up to 10 percent of capacity among others.
Roque said localized lockdowns, which President Rodrigo Duterte approved in principle, will be pilot tested in the capital region with guidelines on when and how they will be implemented released on Tuesday.
The Department of Health (DOH) reported 22,415 new cases on Monday, the highest single-day spike, raising the tally to 2,103,331.
Deaths rose by 103 to 34,337, the DOH said.
The Philippines has so far fully vaccinated about 12 percent of its 110 million people against COVID-19, leaving millions still vulnerable.
Passengers prepare to check-in their luggage at the Singapore Airlines counter in the departure hall area of the Changi International Airport in Singapore on Sept 3, 2021. (ROSLAN RAHMAN / AFP)
Singapore, one of the word’s most vaccinated countries, is taking new steps to slow a rampant increase in COVID-19 cases but can’t rule out returning to closing restaurants and restricting public life if serious infections continue to rise.
“We have to slow down the transmission rate,” Finance Minister and co-chair of the government’s virus taskforce Lawrence Wong said Monday. “We will attempt to do so without going back to another heightened alert. These are last-resort measures and we will try our best to refrain from using them, but we should not rule them out entirely.”
The country will increase the frequency of mandatory testing for higher-risk environments, such as personal care services and gyms, and will extend this requirement to those more frequently in contact with others, such as mall workers and supermarket staff, the Ministry of Health said in a statement. The government will no longer allow social gatherings at workplaces from Sept 8.
The move comes three days after Wong said the country is moving into a phase of “living with COVID” and there is no need to impose more restrictions, while also not immediately easing them, given the recent rise in cases.
The number of new infections in the community rose to more than 1,200 cases in the week ended Sept 5, up from around 600 in the week before, the ministry said.
Still, Wong said the government may need to tighten restrictions if the number of cases in intensive care units rise. The ninistry urged citizens to limit their social circle to a small group of regular contacts and curb social gathering to just one a day.
Meanwhile, Singapore tweaked its border rules, shortening the acceptable time window required for pre-departure COVID-19 tests for travelers from most countries to curb the risk of virus importation.
Effective at 11.59 pm on Sept 9, individuals arriving from high-risk areas will need to show a negative pre-departure COVID-19 polymerase chain reaction test result taken within 48 hours before departing for the city-state, the Health Ministry said in a statement Sunday. Previous requirements were for the test to be taken within 72 hours prior to travel.
The new rule will apply to the three highest-risk country categories for inbound travelers, the ministry said. Last month, Singapore grouped countries and regions into four categories based on risk of COVID-19 transmission, with Category I being the safest. Differentiated border measures apply to each classification.
Sri Lanka's COVID-19 death toll surpassed the 10,000 mark on Monday, reaching 10,140 after 189 more deaths were reported, official figures from the health ministry showed.
According to the health ministry, the total number of COVID-19 patients stood at 462,767 while the number of active cases rose to 68,070.
Four million doses of Sinopharm vaccines from China arrived in Sri Lanka on Sunday, as the country is in the midst of a large scale vaccination program against the COVID-19 virus.
The country's Health Ministry said the vaccines arrived at the Bandaranaike International Airport from China's capital Beijing and were handed over to Sri Lankan health authorities.
Namal Rajapaksa, minister of youth and sports, said the vaccines will be used to administer the second doses in several districts and made available to inoculate people of the 20-30-year age groups in the Western Province as well as in the Galle district in southern Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka has detected 462,023 COVID-19 cases since March last year and reported 10,140 deaths.
READ MORE: Russia's coronavirus cases surpass 7m mark
Turkey's new regulations requiring a negative COVID-19 test result or proof of vaccination for domestic travel and entry to crowded events and activities went into effect on Monday.
According to a circular issued by the Interior Ministry, people who are not vaccinated with two vaccine doses must provide a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test result in traveling by plane, bus, train, or other public transportation.
The new arrangements are also mandatory for those who want to attend activities, such as concerts, theater, and cinema. Unvaccinated citizens will be asked to show negative PCR test results issued within 48 hours at most.
"Space for the unvaccinated is narrowing. We're going to have to get our shots eventually," said Yucel Yilmaz, a citizen in the northwestern province of Kirklareli.
According to the Health Ministry, 46 percent of the population has received two vaccine doses as part of the ongoing inoculation campaign in the country of 83 million.
Vietnam's capital on Monday extended COVID-19 restrictions for a further two weeks, as authorities launched a plan to test up to 1.5 million people for the coronavirus in higher-risk areas of the capital to contain a climb in infections.
Hanoi, which has ordered people to stay at home and has halted all non-essential activities since July, has now divided the city into "red", "orange" and "green" zones based on infection risk.
"Accordingly, people in red areas must shelter in place and one person of every household there will be tested three times per week," a statement from city authorities said, adding that in other zones people would be tested every five to seven days.
Barricades on Monday separated red zones from other areas, photographs posted on social media and media outlets showed.
Hanoi authorities expect up to 1.5 million test samples to be collected in the next week. The government is eager to keep the outbreak from reaching the intensity seen in Ho Chi Minh City.
In the southern business hub, people have been encouraged to test themselves using antigen COVID-19 kits after health services were overwhelmed.
Vietnam reported 12,481 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, bringing the tally to 536,788 with 13,385 deaths, according to the Ministry of Health.
The country has one of the lowest coronavirus vaccination rates in the region, with only 3.3 percent of its 98 million people fully vaccinated, and 15.4 percent with one shot.
HONG KONG NEWS