Published: 09:29, August 31, 2020 | Updated: 18:44, June 5, 2023
India is becoming the world's new virus epicenter
By Agencies

A worker sanitises a public transportation bus after the government eased a nationwide lockdown imposed as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus, in Chennai on Aug 31, 2020. (ARUN SANKAR / AFP)

WELLINGTON / MUSCAT / SYDNEY / DUBAI / SEOUL / YANGON / TOKYO- India is fast becoming the world’s new virus epicenter, setting a record for the biggest single-day rise in cases as experts predict that it’ll soon pass Brazil -- and ultimately the US -- as the worst outbreak globally.

As many as 78,512 new cases were added Monday taking the total tally to over 3.6 million. On Sunday, India reported the highest ever one-day surge among all major countries. With 971 reported deaths, the Asian country pushed past Mexico for the third-highest number of deaths worldwide. At the current trajectory, India’s outbreak will eclipse Brazil’s in about a week, and the US in about two months.

And unlike the US and Brazil, India’s case growth is still accelerating seven months after the reporting of its first coronavirus case on Jan 30. The pathogen has only just penetrated the vast rural hinterland where the bulk of its 1.3 billion population lives, after racing through its dense mega-cities.

As the world’s second most-populous country, and one with a relatively poor public health system, it’s inevitable that India’s outbreak becomes the world’s biggest, said Naman Shah, an adjunct faculty member at the country’s National Institute of Epidemiology.

“It would not be surprising, regardless of what India does,” said Shah, a member of the Indian government’s COVID-19 task force.

From the Philippines to Peru, the novel coronavirus poses a unique problem to poor countries: The densely packed slums where millions of their citizens live present ideal conditions for the virus to spread, while their economic precariousness means that the shutdowns necessary to contain the pathogen are intolerable.


Australia reported a record daily rise in COVID-19 deaths on Monday, although the number of new infections in the country’s virus epicentre fell to a near two-month low.

Victoria state said its COVID-19 death toll rose by 41, including 22 fatalities which came from aged care facilities in the weeks leading up to Aug 27. Australia’s previous one-day high for COVID-19 deaths was recorded on Aug 25 when 25 people died.

Victoria state said it has detected 73 new COVID-19 infections in the past 24 hours, the lowest since July 3, with the capital Melbourne four weeks into a six-week lowdown.

Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said another week of data is needed to formulate a “detailed roadmap” to ease the current restrictions as Australia’s second-most populous state moves to quash the spread of the coronavirus.

Australia has now recorded nearly 26,000 COVID-19 infections and 652 fatalities from the virus - far fewer than other developed countries.

People wearing face masks exercise around the Albert Park Lake in Melbourne on August 26, 2020, (PHOTO / AFP)


Cambodia confirmed one new imported case of COVID-19 on Monday, raising the total number of infections in the kingdom to 274, the Health Ministry said in a statement.

The latest case was detected on a 30-year-old French man, who arrived in the country on Aug. 30 from France.


A more infectious mutation of the new coronavirus has been found in Indonesia, the Jakarta-based Eijkman Institute for Molecular Biology said on Sunday, as the Southeast Asian country’s caseload surges.

The “infectious but milder” D614G mutation of the virus has been found in genome sequencing data from samples collected by the institute, deputy director Herawati Sudoyo told Reuters, adding that more study is required to determine whether that was behind the recent rise in cases.

Indonesia reported 2,743 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total number of the cases in the country to 174,796, with the death toll adding by 74 to 7,417, the country's health ministry said on Monday.

According to the ministry, 1,774 more people were discharged from hospitals, bringing the total number of recovered patients to 125,959.

The Indonesian Medical Association (IDI) said on Monday that at least 100 Indonesian doctors have died of the COVID-19 as the number of cases and fatalities across the archipelago continues to rise.

The association has released a written statement among others reporting names of medical professionals who have died of the coronavirus between March and August 2020.

"100 doctors have died when handling the COVID-19. The death toll of other medical workers has also climbed," the association's chairman Daeng Faqih said in a statement.


Iran reported 1,754 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, the lowest number of daily infections in more than three months. Daily deaths also dropped for the seventh day in a row.

 The country has been observing public holidays since Saturday, with the government encouraging people to mark religious ceremonies at their homes and adhere to strict social distancing in public places.

Iran's tally stands at 373,570 on Sunday, including 21,462 deaths and 321,421 recoveries.


The Iraqi Health Ministry reported 3,731 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, raising the total nationwide number to 231,177, including 6,959 deaths and 172,880 recoveries.

Iraq has been taking a series of measures to contain the pandemic since February when the first COVID-19 case emerged in the country. It reported the highest 4,576 daily new COVID-19 cases on Aug. 18 after the canceling of the weekly three-day full curfew to replace them with partial curfew every week.


Israel's total COVID-19 infections reached 114,020. The daily new cases in the country dropped to single digits on May 17. With the improvement of the pandemic, Israel gradually eased restrictions. In July and August, the number of new cases in a single day soared, reaching the highest 2,308 cases On July 28.


Japan’s plan to more than triple its coronavirus testing is unlikely to improve its fight against the outbreak without an overhaul in the test approval process, which has kept daily coronavirus-testing well below capacity, experts say.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who announced his resignation on Friday due to health reasons, said on the same day the government would increase testing capacity to 200,000 a day.

But a highly bureaucratic approval process means Japan has one of the lowest testing regimes among major economies, carrying out about 14 tests per 1,000 people, compared with 36 in South Korea and 246 in the United States.

Patients wanting to be tested must go through telephone consultations, demonstrate they have symptoms or show they have been in touch with an infected person. Health ministry authorities must then approve the test and have in some cases refused to authorize them.

The policy focus should be on speeding up the turnaround time of testing, tracing contacts and empowering medical professionals, said Fumie Sakamoto, the infection control manager at St. Luke’s International Hospital in Tokyo.

“Tests should be performed based on medical judgment and not on patients’ requests,” Sakamoto said.

Japan on Monday reported 429 new daily coronavirus cases, bringing the nation's cumulative total to 68,516 infections not including those related to a cruise ship quarantined in Yokohama near Tokyo earlier in the year.


In Kuwait, the tally of infections hit 84,636 on Sunday with 412 new cases, including 530 deaths and 76,650 recoveries. For three months, the rate of COVID-19 diagnosis in Kuwait has been relatively stable while the virus infection shows a downward trend.

On Aug. 18, Kuwait moved into the fourth phase of its five-phase plan to return to normal life.

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In Lebanon, which experienced the similar situation, the coronavirus cases rose by 595 to 16,870 on Sunday, while the death toll went up by five to 160.


Frontline workers including airport staff have been among those infected with COVID-19 as the virus cases in the country rose to 7,667, local media reported Monday.

An Epidemiologist at the country's Health Protection Agency (HPA), Dr. Ibrahim Afzal, said that a large number of frontline workers, including airport staff, school teachers, health workers, and police and military personnel, have been among those infected in a second wave of COVID-19.


The total number of COVID-19 cases in Myanmar has surged to 882, with 95 more confirmed cases reported on Monday night, according to a release from the Ministry of Health and Sports.

On Monday alone, Myanmar reported 107 COVID-19 confirmed cases, with 12 cases reported in the morning, registering the highest surge in a single day during the five-month long COVID-19 outbreak.

Myanmar detected new local transmission again on Aug. 16 since its local case was lastly reported on July. 16.

Since Aug. 16, Rakhine state has been seeing increasing number of local cases and all townships of the state are now under the stay-at-home order, as part of the measures to effectively curb the spread of the disease.

A total of 157,843 samples were tested for COVID-19 and 7,624 patients are currently under investigation, the ministry's figures showed.

According to the ministry's figures, 354 patients have recovered from the disease.

Myanmar reported its first two positive cases of COVID-19 on March 23 with six deaths reported so far.

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The Nepali government on Sunday confirmed record high deaths from COVID-19 and the record daily spike in cases in a single day.

"A total of 14 persons died in the last 24 hours taking the total number of deaths from the pandemic to 221," said Jageshwor Gautam, spokesperson of the Ministry of Health and Population at a press conference on Sunday.

Nepal on Sunday also reported infections of 1,221 persons in the last 24 hours, which is a record high single day spike.

New Zealand

New Zealand’s largest city has exited lockdown after the government said a COVID-19 outbreak there has been brought under control and it remains on track to again eliminate the virus from the community.

Auckland schools and customer-facing businesses re-opened on Monday and a ban on traveling out of the city was lifted, almost three weeks after the outbreak prompted the reintroduction of restrictions. Social distancing requirements remain in place for the whole country under level 2 restrictions and everyone from the age of 12 is now required to wear a mask on public transport.

New Zealand reported nine new cases of COVID-19 on Monday as the largest city Auckland relaxed restrictions but required mask wearing on public transport.

Among the nine new cases, four are in managed isolation facilities and five are in the community, according to the Ministry of Health.


The Omani Health Ministry on Monday announced 178 new COVID-19 infections, raising the total number of confirmed cases to 85,722, the official Oman News Agency (ONA) reported.

Meanwhile, 351 people recovered during the past 24 hours, taking the overall number of recoveries to 80,810, while the death toll swelled by eight to 685, according to a ministry statement quoted by ONA.

The ministry urged everyone to adhere to social distancing instructions issued by the Supreme Committee and the ministry of health, as well as staying home and avoiding to got out unless necessary.

Some 155 patients are currently receiving intensive care treatment, it added.

Palestinian children wearing face masks stand are pictured in Gaza City on August 28, 2020 during a lockdown in the Palestinian enclave due to increasing cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus infections. (MOHAMMED ABED / AFP)


In Palestine, the total number of infections increased to 29,063 including 166 deaths and 19,479 recoveries.

Local medical experts pointed out that in the past two and a half months, the pandemic situation in Palestine has become increasingly serious. Besides the easing of anti-coronavirus measures, the pandemic situation in neighboring Israel is worsening and spreading to Palestine.

The vast majority of confirmed cases of the virus in Palestine are people who work in Israel or have close contacts in the neighboring country.  


The Qatari Health Ministry on Monday announced 203 new COVID-19 infections, raising the total number of confirmed cases in the Gulf state to 118,778, the official Qatar News Agency (QNA) reported.

Meanwhile, 237 more recovered from the virus, bringing the total recoveries to 115,667, while no new fatalities were reported, keeping the tally at 197, according to a ministry statement quoted by QNA.

The ministry reiterated the need to take preventive measures, including staying home and observing social distancing.

A total of 629,831 persons in Qatar have taken lab tests for COVID-19 so far.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia's tally of coronavirus infections rose to 314,821 on Sunday with an addition of 910 new cases amid a continuing downward trend, including 289,667 recoveries and 3,870 deaths.

Since the first coronavirus case was detected in the kingdom on March 2, the daily increase of new infections saw a continuous jump, reaching its peak with 4,757 daily new cases on June 18. Since July 7, the daily new infections started to drop, falling below 1,000 for the first time since mid-April on Saturday.


Singapore's Ministry of Health (MOH) reported 54 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, bringing the total confirmed cases in the country to 56,771.

Of the new cases, seven are imported cases, eight are community cases and the rest are linked with the dormitories of foreign workers.

South Korea

South Korea added 248 more coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, down from 299 a day earlier and the fewest daily infections in two weeks. South Korea is seeing cases ease after a recent spike raises worries of another wave that could undermine the country’s ability to manage the pandemic.

Private tuition centres shut for the first time and traffic was lighter in the capital on Monday, the first working day of tighter social-distancing rules designed to halt a second wave of coronavirus outbreaks.

The normally full car park stands nearly empty at the Westfield Shopping Mall in the suburb of Albany, in Auckland on August 14, 2020. (DAVID ROWLAND / AFP)


In Syria, 75 new cases were detected on Sunday, raising the overall number of infections in the goverment-controlled areas to 2,703, which included 614 recovered cases and 109 fatalities.

Medical sources have said that the number of infections in government-controlled areas is much higher than the figure published by the health ministry that lacks the capacity of conducting wide scale COVID-19 tests.


Turkey's total diagnosed cases reached 268,546 with 6,326 deaths and 243,839 recoveries. The country's daily new cases hit the highest number on April 11 with 5,138 new ones and reached the lowest 786 on June 2, while the number re-emerged to rise to about an average of 1,500 daily new ones after the work resumption in June.


 In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), 362 new COVID-19 cases were reported on Sunday, bringing the total confirmed cases in the country to 69,690, which included 60,600 recoveries and 382 deaths.

The UAE reported a record 994 daily new cases on May 22 since it reported its first confirmed case on Jan. 29. The number of confirmed daily new cases fell slowly to a four-month low on Aug 3 with 164 cases before rebounding to a six-week high of 491 on Aug 27.

Some schools in the country resumed classes on Sunday. The Ministry of Education said that any school with more than one COVID-19 case will be closed for disinfection for a period of time and all courses will be transferred to distance learning.


Vietnam reported four new cases of COVID-19 infection on Monday, bringing the total confirmed cases in the country to 1,044 along with two more deaths from the disease, according to the Ministry of Health.

All four cases have recently entered Vietnam from abroad and were quarantined upon arrival, said the ministry.

The ministry also announced that two more COVID-19 patients had died, raising the death toll in the country to 34, noting that both patients had underlying medical conditions.

Meanwhile, 12 more COVID-19 patients have been given all-clear, raising the total cured cases in the country to 707 as of Monday while there are nearly 57,100 people being quarantined and monitored in the country, according to the ministry.


The total number of coronavirus cases in Yemen's government-controlled provinces increased to 1,953 with 564 deaths and 1,123 recoveries.

Yemen's COVID-19 mortality rate has been stood at around 28 percent, making it one of the countries with the highest coronavirus mortality rate in the Middle East region.