People wearing protective masks to help curb the spread of the coronavirus walk along a pedestrian crossing, Jan 18, 2022, in Tokyo. (EUGENE HOSHIKO /AP)
SYDNEY / JERUSALEM / DHAKA / JAKARTA / SINGAPORE / ANKARA / HANOI / NEW DELHI / VIENTIANE / WELLINGTON / MANILA / ISLAMABAD / TOKYO / SUVA - Japan confirmed 71,620 new COVID-19 cases across the country on Wednesday, logging a new record amid the rapid spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19.
The Tokyo metropolitan government confirmed 14,086 new infection cases, exceeding the record of Tuesday. The number rose by over 6,700 to nearly twice the previous week.
The latest average of daily cases in weekly period stood at 10,633.4 per day, more than doubling that of the previous week, according to the metropolitan government.
The capital's government reported five new deaths related to the COVID-19.
In Tokyo, the rate of hospital beds in use for severely ill COVID-19 patients stood at 42.8 percent, approaching the condition for an emergency state of 50 percent.
Western Osaka prefecture reported 9,813 new infections on Wednesday, logging a new record.
Earlier this week, the government declared the COVID-19 quasi-state of emergency for 18 regions, expanding anti-virus measures to 34 prefectures of the nation's 47 prefectures, including Tokyo and Osaka.
The anti-virus measures in Hiroshima, Yamaguchi and Okinawa will also be extended to Feb. 20, where the curbs were previously set to expire on Jan 30.
While some prefectural governments are seeking a declaration of COVID-19 state of emergency, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said Tuesday the government will swiftly review such requests, but added, "Since the declaration entails strong restrictions on private rights, we need to carefully consider it."
Staff check a client at a drive-through COVID-19 testing clinic at Bondi Beach in Sydney, Australia on Jan 8, 2022. (MARK BAKER / AP)
Australia on Tuesday recorded one of its highest number of deaths in a day from COVID-19 as an outbreak of the highly-infections Omicron variant tore through the country which marked two years since its first infection of the coronavirus.
Though Australia's states and territories are refraining from a return to the lockdowns which have defined the country's pandemic response, the most populous state, New South Wales, extended a mask mandate by a month, an example of the continuous disruption brought by the virus.
The same state, which came out of more than three months of hard lockdown in October, had vowed never to return to social distancing measures since its population had met a target of more than 90 percent vaccinated. Omicron has since seen the country's COVID-19 death and infection rates double in weeks.
The country recorded 75 deaths the previous day, short of its highest daily total of 80 the week before but among its worst of the pandemic. Most of the deaths were in NSW and neighbouring Victoria, home to the cities of Sydney and Melbourne and two-thirds of the Australian population.
Still, the authorities said the Omicron flare-up appeared to have peaked. Daily case numbers were up on the previous day, but hospitalizations appear to have steadied as more Australians receive their booster, they said.
The state of South Australia recorded five deaths but its lowest number of daily infections since the start of the year and "we're absolutely delighted with that figure", premier Steven Marshall told reporters.
Commuters (left) gesture to a magistrate after being stopped and fined by policemen while outdoors without a facemask, along a street in a mobile court in Dhaka on Jan 13, 2022. (MUNIR UZ ZAMAN / AFP)
Bangladesh confirmed 16,033 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, nearing the country's all-time record last year, according to figures published by the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS).
The latest spike surpassed the 14,828 cases recorded on Monday, and put the all-time daily record of 16,230 recorded on July 28 last year within a short range.
The current positivity rate rose to 32.4 percent in the past 24 hours until 8:00 am local time Tuesday, according to the latest data, taking the total caseload to 1,715,997.
The DGHS reported 18 new deaths on Tuesday, bringing the death toll to 28,256.
India's COVID-19 tally rose to 40,085,116 on Wednesday, as 285,914 new cases were registered during the past 24 hours across the South Asian country, according to the federal health ministry's latest data.
Meanwhile, 665 deaths due to the pandemic reported since Tuesday morning took the total death toll to 491,127.
There are currently 2,223,018 active COVID-19 cases in the country after a fall of 13,824 active cases during the past 24 hours.
Indonesia on Tuesday confirmed 4,878 new COVID-19 cases, the highest single-day rise since Sept. 12, 2021, amid the spread of the Omicron variant in the archipelago.
With the increase, the country's tally of infections rose to 4,294,183, the country's Health Ministry said.
In the past 24 hours, the death toll from COVID-19 in Indonesia rose by 20 to 144,247.
A man gets a PCR coronavirus test at a private nursing home in Netanya, Israel on Jan 5, 2022. (ARIEL SCHALIT / AP)
Israel's Ministry of Health on Tuesday reported 83,653 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total number of infections in the country to 2,488,924.
This is the highest daily figure since the coronavirus outbreak in Israel in February 2020, the ministry added.
About 8.6 percent of the new patients, or 7,235, have been infected with the virus at least the second time, and 3,491 of them were vaccinated with one shot or more.
Meanwhile, the death toll from the virus rose to 8,488, with 14 new fatalities added, while the number of patients in serious condition rose from 816 to 856, the highest figure since February 2021.
The number of active cases reached a new high of 549,199, while the positive rate of all daily COVID-19 tests in Israel stood at 21.83 percent.
The eighth batch of China-donated COVID-19 vaccines has arrived in the capital city and has been handed over to Lao authorities.
Chinese ambassador to Laos Jiang Zaidong, when handing over the 1.5 million doses of vaccines Tuesday to Lao Prime Minister Phankham Viphavanh, said the anti-epidemic work in Laos has made positive progress, as the country has exceeded the target of vaccinating 50 percent of its population and COVID-19 infections have reduced significantly.
Phankham said since the outbreak of the COVID-19 in Laos, China has provided 8.9 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccines to Laos, which fully reflects the deep friendship and valuable support.
People return to shopping at Newmarket in Auckland, New Zealand as some COVID-19 restrictions were eased, Nov 10, 2021. (ALEX BURTON / NEW ZEALAND HERALD VIA AP)
The New Zealand government on Wednesday announced a three-phase plan that aims to slow down and curb the spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 in the country.
"Through the course of managing Omicron, we will be taking a phased approach. As case numbers grow, both testing and isolation approaches will change in response," Associate Minister of Health Ayesha Verrall told a press conference.
"We are setting out the changes ahead of large case numbers to give people a clearer idea of what to expect and what they need to do at each phase," Verrall said, adding that vaccination remains the most effective weapon against the virus, and the Omicron variant is markedly less severe than prior variants.
According to the plan, the Phase One response to Omicron involves taking a Stamp It Out approach. Cases will need to isolate for 14 days and contacts for 10 days.
The Phase Two response is to slow the spread and protect the vulnerable communities. The system will be adjusted to focus much more on identifying those who are at greater risk of severe illness from Omicron, which will be a smaller percentage of cases.
At Phase Two, the isolation period for cases is reduced to 10 days and contacts to seven days in line with the best practice overseas, Verrall said.
"A rapid escalation in case numbers and the resulting pressure on our resources will also require us to shift from identifying all infected individuals to being more targeted to those most at risk and those needed to keep the country going," she said.
At Phase Three, when cases are in the thousands, contact tracing will be made further changes to include household and household-like contacts only. This will mean the highest risk contacts will need to isolate, Verrall said.
A Pakistani lab technician takes a sample with a swab to test for the coronavirus at the PIMS Hospital, in Islamabad, Pakistan on Jan 3, 2022. (RAHMAT GUL / AP)
Pakistan has added 5,196 new COVID-19 cases over the past 24 hours, the National Command and Operation Center (NCOC) said on Wednesday.
The country's number of overall confirmed cases has risen to 1,386,348, according to the NCOC, the department leading Pakistan's campaign against the pandemic.
Another 15 people lost their lives over the past 24 hours in Pakistan, taking the death toll to 29,137, said the NCOC, adding that 1,293 are in critical condition.
The Philippines' Department of Health (DOH) reported 15,789 new COVID-19 infections on Wednesday, raising the number of confirmed cases in the Southeast Asian country to 3,475,293.
The DOH said the number of active cases dropped to 230,410, as the country's positivity rate dipped further to 35.8 percent from 37.2 percent the previous day.
The agency added that 66 more people died from COVID-19 complications, pushing the country's death toll to 53,664.
Samoa extended its nationwide lockdown on Wednesday for another 24 hours as a precautionary measure with the 26 positive COVID-19 cases in managed isolation.
According to the newspaper Samoa Observer, Samoan Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mata'afa announced the government decision after a cabinet meeting, saying that the 24-hour nationwide lockdown in the island nation will expire at 6 pm local time on Friday.
Of the 26 people who tested positive for COVID-19 in Samoa, only five of them are nurses and the rest are passengers from last week's charter flight from Brisbane, Australia, she said, adding that the test results to determine the variant of the positive COVID-19 cases in Samoa will be made known in the next few days.
On Jan 22, Fiame announced a 48-hour national lockdown. Samoa extended the lockdown on Monday by 72 hours after five new COVID-19 positive cases were reported in the country.
Currently, Samoa continues its Alert Level 3 in response to COVID-19 since Jan 22.
The prime minister indicated on Wednesday that work is in progress to review the country's four-level COVID-19 Alert Level system.
Samoa reported its first confirmed case of COVID-19 in February last year.
Singapore reported 5,996 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, bringing the total tally to 322,770.
Of the new cases, 2,062 cases were detected through PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests and 3,934 through ART (antigen rapid test) tests, according to statistics released by the Ministry of Health.
People wearing face masks pass by a banner reminding precautions against the coronavirus at a park in Seoul, South Korea on Jan 24, 2022. (AHN YOUNG-JOON / AP)
South Korea's daily new coronavirus cases exceeded 13,000 for the first time on Wednesday, driven by the spread of the Omicron variant, as the government launched a new pilot testing scheme to meet skyrocketing demand.
The record 13,012 cases for the previous 24-hour period came just a day after the tally first topped 8,000 despite the extension of tough social distancing rules.
The highly contagious but less-lethal Omicron became the dominant variant in South Korea last week, and the daily numbers could more than double or surge to even higher levels in the coming weeks, health officials warned.
"Going forward, our top priority is to reduce critically ill patients and deaths," Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum told an inter-ministry meeting on Wednesday.
The government introduced a new testing policy in four designated cities on a pilot basis, under which only priority groups take a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test while others can get a rapid antigen test at a local clinic for faster initial diagnosis.
The program will be scaled up starting Saturday to enable 256 state-run testing stations nationwide to distribute the rapid antigen self-test kits, Kim said. Another 430 local clinics will be added next week.
As part of efforts to free up resources for serious patients, the government has also cut mandatory isolation for people who have been vaccinated but tested positive to seven days from 10, and expanded self-treatment at home for asymptomatic and mild cases.
Son Young-rae, a health ministry official, said more than 80 percent of intensive care unit beds are available nationwide, compared with some 20 percent in early December when record-breaking infections threatened to saturate the country's medical system.
A man wearing a mask to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 walks along an alley in a commercial area in Istanbul, Turkey on Jan 18, 2022. (FRANCISCO SECO / AP)
Turkey on Tuesday reported 76,341 new COVID-19 cases, raising the tally of infections to 11,090,493.
The death toll from the virus in Turkey rose by 174 to 86,299, while 82,203 more people recovered in the last 24 hours, according to the Turkish Health Ministry.
The Vietnamese capital city Hanoi, the country's current COVID-19 hotspot, has confirmed the first case of Omicron variant infection in the community, according to the municipal health department on Wednesday.
The patient had come in contact with 13 imported cases of the Omicron variant in the city, Vietnam News Agency cited Vu Cao Cuong, deputy head of the municipal health department, as saying on Wednesday.
There was a risk of community transmission of Omicron in Hanoi, Cuong warned, adding that in the coming weeks, the city could see a slight drop in daily cases as people traveling back home for the Lunar New Year festival, but it would return to 3,000 cases per day as in the past few weeks or even higher if people do not adhere to prevention measures.
As of Tuesday, the capital city had logged a total of 114,795 cases, ranking third among Vietnamese localities with the highest number of COVID-19 infections, according to data from the country's Ministry of Health.
To curb the spread of the pandemic, Hanoi will raise awareness among citizens, as well as reduce large gatherings. The capital will not organize its usual Lunar New Year's Eve firework display over COVID-19 concerns, according to a recent announcement.
By Tuesday, Vietnam had confirmed 2,171,527 cases over four waves of COVID-19 infections.