A member of the Philippine National Police checks the identification of bus passengers crossing the border from Rizal province into Quezon city, Metro Manila, the Philippines, on Aug 6, 2021. (PHOTO/BLOOMBERG)
SYDNEY / PHNOM PENH / NEW DELHI / JERUSALEM / ULAN BATOR / ISLAMABAD / SINGAPORE / SEOUL / MANILA / ANKARA -Philippine authorities have deferred easing restrictions on public movement in the capital region, keeping the current curbs potentially through Sept 15, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said Tuesday.
Metro Manila, an area that accounts for about a third of the Philippine economy, will remain under the second-toughest restrictions on movement - called “modified enhanced community quarantine” - Roque said in a statement. Restaurants are limited to takeaway and delivery business, and beauty salons and spas are shut, he said.
The current condition will be kept until Sept 15, or sooner, if a pilot program that features targeted lockdowns in specific hotspots gets underway before then, according to the statement.
The announcement is a retreat from a planned loosening of restrictions and a shift to targeted lockdowns in the capital region, which was supposed to start on Sept 8.
Daily cases in the Philippines have been increasing to near records, with total infections breaching more than 2.1 million as of Tuesday.
Strict lockdowns have destroyed jobs and damped consumption. The government last month cut the economic growth outlook for this year after tighter restrictions, including in the capital region, were imposed due to the delta variant.
The Philippines reported 18,012 new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) infections on Tuesday, bringing the Southeast Asian country's confirmed cases to 2,121,308, the country's Department of Health (DOH) said.
The DOH also reported 161 coronavirus-related deaths, raising the country's death toll to 34,498. Twelve laboratories failed to submit data.
World Health Organization country representative to the Philippines Rabindra Abeyasinghe called on the government to increase the COVID-19 testing to detect clusters and other transmission sources.
He added that testing only the close contacts of infected persons "does not give the full benefit of the investment in testing."
Hundreds of medical facilities in Afghanistan are at risk of imminent closure because the Western donors who finance them are barred from dealing with the new Taliban government, a World Health Organization official said on Monday.
Around 90 percent of 2,300 health facilities across the country might have to close as soon as this week, the UN health agency's regional emergency director, Rick Brennan, said.
The agency was also liaising with Qatar for medical deliveries to come by plane. The next deliveries would include COVID-19 tests and supplies to treat chronic diseases, he said.
People queue at a COVID-19 vaccination centre in Melbourne on Sept 1, 2021. (WILLIAM WEST / AFP)
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has defended his decision to travel to Sydney despite current COVID-19 outbreaks and lockdowns in major cities.
It was revealed on Tuesday that Morrison flew from Canberra to Sydney on Friday on a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) jet to spend time with his family in his home city before returning to Canberra.
Under current COVID-19 restrictions, anyone who travels from Sydney to Canberra must quarantine for 14 days.
However, Morrison was granted an exemption on the condition that he restricts his movement while in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) and undergoes frequent coronavirus tests.
The exemption prompted criticism of the prime minister, with senior Opposition Labor Party member Bill Shorten accusing Morrison of "appalling judgement" at a time when more than half of the population is in lockdown and barred from travelling interstate.
In response, Morrison said there had been a "lot of misinformation" about the trip.
"I can understand people's frustration," he told Sky News Australia.
"I live in Sydney. I often have to be here for work. There was no requirement to get an exemption to go to Sydney.
"The exemption I require is to come back here to the ACT and, as prime minister, of course I need to come back to the ACT."
COVID-19 daily infections in Sydney fell for a third straight day on Tuesday but still lingered near record levels as the outbreak spurred a spike in vaccination rates in the hard-hit western suburbs of Australia’s largest city.
Officials have promised residents in Sydney, the epicenter of Australia’s worst coronavirus flare-up, more freedom once vaccinations reach first 70 percent, then 80 percent, as a lockdown now into its eleventh week fails to quash the Delta variant.
Australia’s New South Wales state on Tuesday reported 1,220 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19, down from 1,281 a day earlier, as officials look to step up the pace of vaccinations in a bid to ease lockdown restrictions.
Eight new deaths have been recorded in the state, taking the total number of deaths in the latest outbreak to 139.
More than 25 percent of Brunei's total population has received two doses of COVID-19 vaccines under the national vaccination program, the Brunei government announced on Tuesday.
According to the Ministry of Health, as of Sept 6, 234,945 individuals have been administered with at least one dose, accounting for 51.8 percent of the country's total population, and 118,483 people have received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccines, accounting for 26.1 percent of the total population.
Brunei reported 103 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, bringing the national tally to 3,567.
Cambodia's COVID-19 case total has risen to 95,828 on Monday after 528 fresh infections were confirmed across the kingdom, the Ministry of Health (MoH) said in a statement.
The new cases included 340 domestic cases and 188 imported ones, the MoH said.
Thirteen more fatalities were registered, taking the coronavirus death toll to 1,970, it said, adding that another 447 patients recovered, bringing the total number of recoveries to 91,131.
People queue up to get themselves inoculated with a dose of the Covaxin vaccine against COVID-19, at a temporary vaccination centre set up inside a school in Mumbai on Sept 7, 2021. (PUNIT PARANJPE / AFP)
As COVID-19 cases and deaths exploded in India in April and May, New Delhi's premier Sir Ganga Ram Hospital and several others ran so short of oxygen that many patients in the capital suffocated.
When Reuters visited the hospital on Friday, its last coronavirus patient was readying to leave after recovery - a remarkable turnaround health experts attribute to growing levels of immunity from natural infection and vaccinations.
But hospitals have learned from bitter experience during the second COVID wave, when funeral pyres burned non-stop and bodies littered the banks of the holy Ganges river, as India braces for another possible surge in infections around its September-November festival season.
Beds have been added at facilities around the country, and hospitals are working to ensure ample supplies of oxygen.
Ganga Ram is raising its oxygen storage capacity by 50 percent, has laid a one-kilometre-long pipeline carrying the gas directly to COVID ICUs, and is installing equipment to keep the oxygen flow high.
It has also ordered an onsite oxygen-generation plant, which are mostly made in Europe and can take months to arrive given the surge in demand globally.
The crowded private hospital, however, said it had no scope to add more beds. During the peak of India's second wave, Ganga Ram expanded its capacity by nearly 50 percent to about 600 beds, but even so, some 500 patients per day had to be put on a waitlist for admission, according to physician Varun Prakash, who managed its war-room during the crisis.
Nationally, India has added many more hospital beds in the past few months and imported more than 100 oxygen carriers to raise the total to about 1,250. Companies such as Linde are planning to lift the country's overall output of the gas by 50 percent to 15,000 tonnes a day.
India's COVID-19 tally rose to 33,058,843 on Tuesday, and 31,222 new cases were registered during the past 24 hours across the country, showed the federal health ministry's latest data.
Besides, as many as 290 deaths due to the pandemic since Monday morning took the total death toll to 441,042.
Most of the new cases and deaths were reported from the southern state of Kerala.
Indonesia’s daily coronavirus positivity rate dropped below the World Health Organization’s (WHO) benchmark standard of 5 percent this week for the first time, an indicator the country’s devastating second wave could be easing.
The positivity rate, or the proportion of people tested who are positive, peaked at 33.4 percent in July when Indonesia became Asia’s coronavirus epicentre, driven by the highly contagious Delta variant.
On Monday that rate fell to 4.57 percent, the lowest since March 2020, when Indonesia’s first cases were reported, according to independent data initiative, Kawal COVID-19.
A rate above 5 percent indicates coronvirus is out of control, the WHO says.
Kawal co-founder Elina Ciptadi said the trend was a good sign, although she cautioned that official data could not capture a dearth of underreported cases and deaths.
Since its July peak, the average positivity rate has fallen steadily, from 23.8 percent in the first week of August to 11.3 percent in the final week of that month, to 6.2 percent on average so far in September
Coronavirus restrictions were eased further on Monday, with most areas on Java island downgraded, allowing conditional operation of malls, factories and restaurants.
The Israeli Ministry of Health on Monday issued a travel warning for Singapore and Hungary, citing the increasing COVID-19 morbidity in both countries.
The travel warning for the two destinations will take effect on Sept. 14, the ministry said, adding that the warning for Israelis to travel to Cyprus, Austria, Uruguay and Gabon will be lifted also on that day.
Israel's travel ban to previously listed countries including Brazil, Bulgaria, Mexico and Turkey will remain unchanged.
People wearing face masks to help protect against the spread of the coronavirus walk through the train station in Tokyo, Sept 6, 2021. (KOJI SASAHARA / AP)
Takeda Pharmaceutical Co said the Japanese government agreed to buy 150 million doses of Novavax Inc’s COVID-19 vaccine that it will manufacture in the nation subject to licensing and regulatory approval.
The Japanese drugmaker aims to start distribution of the vaccine in early 2022. Separately, the company said it’s working with the health ministry to investigate deaths reported after administration of Moderna Covid-19 vaccines, and that there’s no reason to believe that it poses a health hazard or safety risk.
Japan’s health ministry said that a man in his 40s died after receiving the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine from production lots that are being recalled due to possible contamination, public broadcaster NHK reported.
The cause of death hasn’t been determined and experts will examine whether there’s any link between the administration and the death.
Moderna Inc and its distributor in Japan, Takeda Pharmaceutical Co, said last week the recalled lots may be contaminated with stainless steel particles, but ruled out they were the cause of earlier death of two men. Japan’s health ministry is continuing investigation into the cause.
Malaysia is set to reopen its cinemas as the government eases restrictions for the creative industry beginning Thursday, according to Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob.
Theater halls, art exhibitions in museums and galleries, and cinemas will be open to the fully vaccinated at limited capacity, said Ismail in a statement. Broadcasting, indoor busking and hotel performances will also be permitted, subject to virus protocols, he said.
The new rules will apply to states that remain under the first phase of the national recovery plan, including capital Kuala Lumpur, according to Ismail. They will come as a relief to more than a million people and 19,000 companies, he added.
The nation added 18,547 cases Tuesday. Still, the virus’ effective reproduction rate, or R-naught, has fallen below 1 nationwide for the first time in months amid an increase in vaccination.
Mongolia's COVID-19 tally rose by 3,963 to 240,042 in the last 24 hours, its highest daily increase of infections, the health ministry said Tuesday.
It also marked the seventh straight day to exceed 3,000 cases daily. Meanwhile, eight more patients, all aged over 40, died in the past day, pushing the national death toll to 976.
The ministry said that more than 8,200 samples were tested across the country in the past day, and the latest confirmed cases were all local infections.
New Zealand is "very close" to procuring more coronavirus vaccines and a deal could be announced this week, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said on Tuesday, as the country looks to get on top of an outbreak of the Delta variant.
The government is in talks with several countries, Hipkins said, but he did not specify when it would make the announcement about a deal.
"We're very, very close ... within the next 24 to 48 hours, things should be locked down, locked and loaded. People will have some good news," Hipkins told radio station Newstalk ZB.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Monday eased nationwide curbs, except in the biggest city, Auckland, after daily cases dipped to 20 on Monday from a peak of 85 on Aug 29.
About 30 percent of the country's 5.1 million people have been fully vaccinated, the slowest pace among the wealthy nations of the OECD grouping.
New Zealand reported a slight rise in new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday ahead of relaxing restrictions in all regions outside Auckland, its largest city.
New Zealand detected 21 new local cases, all in Auckland, up from 20 a day earlier.
Authorities on Monday said schools, offices and businesses can reopen outside Auckland from Wednesday but masks will remain mandatory in most public venues while gathering will be limited to 50 people indoors and 100 in outdoors.
Pakistan on Monday confirmed 3,316 new COVID-19 cases and 98 more deaths, the National Command and Operation Center (NCOC) said on Tuesday.
The NCOC said that the country's number of overall confirmed cases had risen to 1,186,234, including 1,067,589 recoveries.
The number of active cases has slightly dropped to 92,315 who are under treatment across the country, including 5,478 in critical conditions.
According to the NCOC, the pandemic killed 98 people on Monday, increasing the overall death toll to 26,330.
Customers at a cafe in the central business district in Singapore, Sept 6, 2021. (PHOTO / BLOOMBERG)
Singapore's health ministry recorded 328 new domestic coronavirus cases on Tuesday, the highest daily number of new infections in more than a year.
The city-state has been reporting more than 100 domestic cases daily over the past two weeks in a rise that has come as the country removes most restrictions as part of its phased reopening.
Finance minister and co-chair of the country's coronavirus task force, Lawrence Wong, told local media in a briefing on Monday that Singapore may reimpose COVID-19 curbs if the number of severe cases rises sharply.
The number announced on Tuesday was the most since the record 904 seen in early August 2020.
Singapore has fully vaccinated more than 80 percent of its 5.7 million population against the coronavirus as of Monday, one of
the highest rates in the world.
Singapore 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.
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.
South Korea reported 1,597 more cases of COVID-19 as of midnight Monday compared to 24 hours ago, raising the total number of infections to 263,374.
Thirty-four cases were imported from overseas, lifting the combined figure to 13,764.
Three more deaths were confirmed, leaving the death toll at 2,330. The total fatality rate stood at 0.88 percent.
Thailand reported the least number of new COVID-19 cases since July 22, with the total coming to 13,821. The government is considering ending a state of emergency as the outbreak eases and it reopens the economy for tourism.
Turkey on Monday started mandatory PCR test for unvaccinated people in some professions and began to seek negative test results for intercity travelers via public transportation as part of the measures against COVID-19.
People who fail to submit a vaccine card for at least two jabs or a negative PCR test result will not be allowed for intercity transportation.
The Turkish government also imposed obligatory PCR tests on teachers, school staff and university students who are not vaccinated, while schools resumed in-person education on Monday.
Authorities also demand PCR tests for people attending public entertainment events.
Turkey on Monday confirmed 20,962 new COVID-19 cases, raising its tally of infections to 6,519,016, according to its health ministry.
The death toll from the virus in Turkey rose by 271 to 58,377, while 29,327 more people recovered in the last 24 hours.
HONG KONG NEWS