Published: 10:05, March 12, 2021 | Updated: 22:53, June 4, 2023
Report: Israel hopes to mutually recognize vaccines with China
By Agencies

A military health worker shows a Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine vial during the vaccination of military personnel at the army headquarters in Manila on March 2, 2021. (PHOTO / AFP)

AMMAN / BEIRUT / JERUSELAM - Israel hopes to become the first country to mutually recognize the inoculation of COVID-19 vaccines with China, according to the website operated by Chinese daily Global Times.

Israel will be glad to become the first country in the world to reciprocally recognize the inoculation of COVID-19 vaccines with China, Irit Ben Abba Vitale, Israel's new ambassador to China, was quoted as saying recently by the Chinese newspaper.

Pfizer Inc. chose Israel for a nationwide COVID-19 vaccination study, supplying enough shots to quickly inoculate the entire eligible population, after dozens of phone calls from its prime minister, sometimes in the middle of the night.

The country’s relatively small size and electronic health records that cover more than 99 percent of residents were two important reasons for siting the study in Israel, Pfizer Chief Executive Officer Albert Bourla said in an interview late Thursday with Israel’s Channel 12 news. But what tipped the scales in Israel’s favor was Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s persistence, which Bourla termed an “obsession.”

“He called me 30 times,” Bourla said. “He would ask me about the variants, what data we have. And I would say, ‘Prime Minister, it’s three o’clock.’ And he said, ‘No, no, don’t worry, tell me.’ Or he would call me to ask about the children, ‘I need to vaccinate the schools.’ Or to ask about pregnant women. So he convinced me, frankly, that he would be on top of it.”

The Philippines

The Philippines received on Friday a total of US$900 million in loan commitments from the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) for the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines and to help its pandemic-hit economy recover, the lenders said on Friday.

Despite recording one of the highest number of coronavirus cases in the region, the Philippines is playing catchup with some of its neighbours in vaccine procurement and was one of the last Southeast Asian nation to receive its first doses.

“Procuring and administering vaccines provides the country an added layer of defence against COVID-19 on top of public health measures,” Ndiamé Diop, World Bank country director for Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand, said in a statement.

The World Bank extended US$500 million financing for the purchase and distribution of vaccines and to strengthen the country’s health systems. In May, it extended a US$500 million loan to provide relief to Filipinos who had lost jobs during lockdowns.

Separately, the ADB allotted US$400 million for the Philippines, the first recipient of its vaccine access support programme.

The Philippines' Department of Health (DOH) reported on Friday 4,578 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, the highest daily number in nearly six months, pushing the Southeast Asian country's total tally to 611,618.


Vietnam recorded 17 new COVID-19 infections on Friday, including 13 imported and four locally transmitted cases, according to the country's Ministry of Health.

The new infections brought the total confirmed cases in the country to 2,550 as of 6:00 p.m. local time Friday, said the ministry.

The imported cases included two foreign experts and 11 Vietnamese citizens who recently entered the country from abroad and were quarantined upon arrival. The four community cases were all reported in northern Hai Duong province, the country's largest COVID-19 hotspot at the moment.

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka on Friday detected the first case of the South African variant of the COVID-19 after an individual who returned from Tanzania tested positive for the virus, local media reported here Friday.

Director of the Department of Immunology and Molecular Medicine of Sri Jayewardenepura University, Dr. Chandima Jeewandara told local journalists that the individual had been in a quarantine center upon his arrival.

Sri Lanka's health authorities on Friday said that over 750,000 local citizens in the island country's main Western Province had received the AstraZeneca vaccinations against the COVID-19 virus as a mass scale inoculation program was underway since early February.

Sri Lanka's Health Ministry said that to date, 759,548 local citizens including front line workers who were the first to receive the jab were inoculated in the province which included capital Colombo.


Malaysia reported 1,575 new COVID-19 infections, the health ministry said on Friday, bringing the national total to 320,939.

Health Ministry Director-General Noor Hisham Abdullah said in a press statement that seven of the new cases are imported and 1,568 are local transmissions.

Another three deaths have been reported, pushing the death toll to 1,203.


Afghanistan on Friday reported 17 newly-confirmed COVID-19 cases after the health authorities conducted 1,830 tests within a day, bringing the number of total cases to 55,957, the country's Ministry of Public Health said.

Meanwhile, three people recovered during the past 24 hours, taking the overall number of recoveries to 49,468, while three deaths were reported, raising the death toll to 2,457, according to a ministry's statement.


Bilateral travel corridors for vaccinated passengers from countries with low to moderate infection rates may happen in the second half of this year, Singapore Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung says in a radio interview with Money FM 89.3.

Ong suggests that Singapore could open to travelers from places with moderate COVID-19 infection rates but that have ongoing vaccination programs and combine those efforts with testing regimes to establish safe corridors.

Singapore's Ministry of Health (MOH) reported 10 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Friday, bringing the country's total tally to 60,080.

Among the new infections, nine are imported cases, and one is in the community.


Pakistan's COVID-19 tally rose to 600,198 after 2,701 new cases of the disease were reported in the country over the last 24 hours, the National Command and Operation Center (NCOC) said on Friday.

The south Sindh province was the worst-hit where 260,661 people tested positive for the disease followed by east Punjab province where 182,576 people were affected, the NCOC said, adding that northwest Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province registered 75,052 cases of COVID-19 whereas 19,171 cases were found in southwest Balochistan province.


Japan will use specialised syringes capable of extracting six doses of coronavirus vaccine from each Pfizer vial from the week of April 12 to inoculate medical workers, Taro Kono, the minister overseeing the vaccination effort, said on Friday.

Most of Japan’s stock of syringes consists of regular versions that can draw just five doses from each vial, sparking fears that millions of doses could be wasted.

Tokyo on Friday reported 304 new daily COVID-19 cases, bringing the capital's tally since the outbreak of the pandemic here to 114,840.

The Tokyo Metropolitan government and health officials' latest figure compares to 335 new cases confirmed by the metropolitan government and health officials the previous day.

The local government and health officials said Friday that the seven-day average of daily cases stood at 273.6, the same as the previous week.


Thailand joined Italy, Denmark and several other European nations in temporarily suspending the use of AstraZeneca Plc’s COVID-19 vaccine pending an investigation into whether it may trigger the development of blood clots.

The decision comes even as European regulators renewed their support of the immunization developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford, saying there was no indication the shot caused the clots that occur in thousands of people every year.

It’s the latest setback for the vaccine, adding to confusion around its initial study results, questions about its effectiveness for people over age 65 and delayed deliveries in Europe that fueled a dispute with the UK, where the company is based.

AstraZeneca did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Friday.

Thailand on Friday confirmed 81 new cases of coronavirus infection, taking the total tally to 26,679, according to the Center for the COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA).

New Zealand

All remaining restrictions in New Zealand’s largest city Auckland have been lifted after no locally transmitted cases of coronavirus were reported for two weeks, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Friday.

Ardern imposed a seven-day lockdown on the city of 1.7 million after a cluster of cases were detected domestically. The lockdown was eased earlier this month but some restrictions were retained, including limits on large public gatherings under an alert level 2 setting.

Ardern said the city will now join the rest of the country in alert level 1, which has no restrictions on gatherings or activity.

“I know everyone in Auckland will be looking forward to a weekend with fewer restrictions,” Ardern said at a news conference.

 New Zealand reported one case of COVID-19 in managed isolation. There are no new cases in the community.

The imported case has remained in an Auckland managed isolation facility, according to the Ministry of Health on Friday.


Australia won’t pause the rollout of AstraZeneca Plc’s COVID-19 vaccine, even as some European countries temporarily suspend use of the shots while possible blood clots are investigated.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Friday that health authorities had not raised any concerns about the vaccine and would continue to monitor developments overseas. Officials spoke with the European Medicines Agency overnight, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported.

Australia began its rollout of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine about three weeks ago, and the AstraZeneca vaccine was approved for use last month. The nation is set to start domestic production of the shot from late March.

Morrison’s government has downplayed the impact of Italy blocking shipment of some 250,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, though has raised the issue with the European Commission.


Malaysia made use of its emergency powers on Thursday, bypassing parliament to impose new laws on fake news two years after the act was scrapped by the previous government.

An ordinance that took affect Friday punishes creating or spreading information “wholly or partly false” relating to COVID-19 or the emergency proclamation with jail time and large fines, according to a federal gazette published Thursday.

Malaysia’s parliament remains suspended through the emergency period, which is set to end on Aug 1. The government has resisted calls to allow the legislative body to reconvene, citing the pandemic, even as the country reopened most of the economy and lifted a ban on travel between districts.

The Centre for Independent Journalism, a non-government organization based in Kuala Lumpur, criticized the law as an attempt to stifle criticism of the current government.


Iran's health ministry on Friday reported 53 deaths from COVID-19 during the past 24 hours, continuing the downward trend in the daily death toll over the past months.

So far a total of 61,069 have died from COVID-19 in Iran since the outbreak of the disease in the country on Feb. 19, 2020.

Meanwhile, the pandemic has infected 1,731,558 people in Iran, up by 8,088 in the past 24 hours, said Sima Sadat Lari, spokeswoman for Iranian Ministry of Health and Medical Education, during her daily briefing.

Iran on Thursday received a shipment of the COVID-19 vaccine it jointly developed with Cuba for the Phase 3 clinical trials. Meanwhile, the prime ministers of Israel, Hungary and Czech Republic discussed vaccine cooperation.

The shipment included 100,000 doses of the Soberana 02 COVID-19 vaccine, co-developed by Cuba's Finlay Institute and Iran's Pasteur Institute.

"Phase 1 and 2 clinical trials (of the vaccine) were carried out successfully in Havana under the supervision of the Pasteur Institute of Iran and, given the positive results... the Phase 3 will be carried out simultaneously in Cuba and Iran," Iran's Food and Drug Administration said in a statement.

Iran reported 8,308 new COVID-19 infections and 88 new deaths related to the coronavirus on Thursday, raising the tally of confirmed cases in the country to 1,723,470 and the death toll to 61,016.


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met in Jerusalem with his Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orban and Czech counterpart Andrej Babis on Thursday to discuss advancing cooperation in the research, development and production of vaccines.

They discussed the reciprocal acknowledgment of green passports and a possible integration of the Czech Republic and Hungary into an international initiative to build a vaccine production facility in Israel.

Israel's Ministry of Health reported 2,698 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, raising the tally of confirmed cases to 813,806.

The death toll from COVID-19 in Israel reached 5,963 after 20 new fatalities were added, while the total recoveries climbed by 4,689 to 773,034.

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Turkey reported 14,046 new COVID-19 cases, including 821 with symptoms, and 63 more deaths, taking its tally of infections to 2,835,989 and its death toll to 29,290.

The tally of recoveries increased to 2,659,093, according to Turkish Health Ministry, which said a total of 7.83 million people have been vaccinated so far, including 272 million who have got two shots of the Chinese Sinovac vaccine.

In Iraq, the health ministry confirmed 5,170 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total nationwide infections to 745,642.

It also reported 26 new deaths, raising the death toll from the infectious virus to 13,671, while the total recoveries in Iraq climbed by 3,057 to 674,345.


 In Iraq, the health ministry confirmed 5,170 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total nationwide infections to 745,642.

It also reported 26 new deaths, raising the death toll from the infectious virus to 13,671, while the total recoveries in Iraq climbed by 3,057 to 674,345.

The Iraqi Higher Committee for Health and National Safety decided to require school students to continue their online learning to curb the spread of coronavirus in the country.


Mongolia has received humanitarian aid and medical supplies from north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, local media reported on Friday, citing the Mongolian Red Cross Society.

"The situation of the pandemic in Mongolia is still grim. The Chinese government and people have expressed their sympathies and support to Mongolia," Zhang Muxing, minister counselor of the Chinese Embassy in Mongolia, said in an online handover ceremony.


Jordan on Thursday reported 8,300 new COVID-19 cases, raising the caseload in the kingdom to 457,151, according to a joint statement by the Prime Minister's Office and the Ministry of Health.

Among the new cases were 4,289 in the capital Amman, and the death toll from the virus increased by 63 to 5,169, said the statement.

There are 69,033 active COVID-19 cases in Jordan, it added.

A total of 446 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized on Thursday, taking the number of patients receiving care for COVID-19 in hospital to 2,431, while 3,644 more recovered from the virus, bringing the total number of recoveries to 382,949.


Lebanon registered on Thursday 3,518 new COVID-19 cases, raising the total number of infections to 408,909, the Health Ministry said.

Meanwhile, the death toll from the virus went up by 50 to 5,230.

Earlier in the day, Charaf Abou Charaf, head of Lebanese Order of Physicians, said the coronavirus pandemic in Lebanon is still very bad.

He urged the private sector to take part in the vaccination campaign which has been very slow as the Health Ministry has failed to secure sufficient vaccines for the nation. 


Kuwait reported on Thursday 1,505 new COVID-19 infections, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 205,893.

The Kuwaiti Health Ministry also announced four more deaths, taking the death toll to 1,148. The tally of recoveries nationwide rose by 1,080 to 190,235, while 14,510 coronavirus-related patients are receiving treatment.

Kuwait has imposed a partial curfew, starting on March 7 from 5 pm local time (1400 GMT) to 5 a.m. until April 8, as part of its efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19.

During the curfew time, all commercial activities are suspended, people are allowed to go to mosques on foot and pharmacies, shops to buy medical supplies, and cooperative societies and markets are permitted to practice their activities only through delivery service.

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The Qatari health ministry on Thursday announced 468 new COVID-19 infections, raising the total number of confirmed cases in the Gulf state to 168,829, the official Qatar News Agency (QNA) reported.

Meanwhile, 323 more patients recovered from the virus, bringing the overall recoveries to 157,242, while the fatalities have remained 264, according to a ministry statement quoted by QNA.


Myanmar reported 41 more COVID-19 cases on Thursday, bringing the tally in the country to 142,114, according to a release from the Ministry of Health and Sports.

One more COVID-19 death was reported on Thursday, bringing the death toll to 3,201 in total, the release said.

According to the ministry's figures, a total of 131,722 patients have been discharged from the hospitals and over 2.5 million samples have been tested for COVID-19 so far.


Singapore's Ministry of Health (MOH) reported eight new confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, bringing the country's total tally to 60,070.

Among the new infections, seven are imported cases, and one is in the community.

On Thursday, 28 more patients were discharged from hospitals or community isolation facilities. In all, 59,939 patients have fully recovered from the coronavirus epidemic, the ministry said.


About 3,000 police will be deployed to enforce a week-long curfew and lockdown in the central Indian city of Nagpur from Monday after a 60 percent jump in coronavirus cases there, officials said.

The commercial and logistics hub in Maharashtra state will be the first Indian city to go back into a wholesale lockdown since authorities lifted nationwide curbs in June last year.

Officers will be watching traffic to stop unnecessary journeys and checking that most offices and shops, apart from groceries and pharmacies, stay closed, Nagpur police commissioner Amitesh Kumar said.

The local government of India's Punjab on Friday decided to expand night curfew to more areas in the northern state in efforts to curb a recent spike in the local COVID-19 infections, officials said.

According to the officials, the night curfew imposed in Mohali and Fatehgarh Sahib districts is effective from Friday night.

India's COVID-19 tally rose to 11,308,846 on Friday as 23,285 new cases were registered during the past 24 hours, said the latest data from the federal health ministry.

The death toll mounted to 158,306 as 117 COVID-19 patients died since Thursday morning.

The number of daily cases has been on the rise over the past few days, as another wave of COVID-19 looms large in India. Till a few weeks ago, the number of daily cases had come down to below-10,000.

There are 197,237 active cases in the country, while 10,953,303 people have been discharged from hospitals after medical treatment.

There was an increase of 8,011 active cases during the previous 24 hours, as the southwestern state of Maharashtra witnessed an increase of 7,067 cases while the northern state of Punjab saw an increase of 667 cases.


Mongolia on Friday confirmed 103 more COVID-19 cases, bringing its national caseload to 3,664, according to the country's National Center for Communicable Diseases (NCCD).

"A total of 19,341 tests for COVID-19 were conducted across Mongolia in the last 24 hours and 103 of them were positive," Jantsansengee Baigalmaa, head of the surveillance department of the NCCD, said at a daily press conference.

Among the latest confirmed cases, 102 were locally transmitted, and the remaining one was imported from abroad, said Baigalmaa.


Laos continues to administer the first batch of China-donated COVID-19 vaccine among specific group of people with higher infection risks, which is expected to be completed by March 20.

Target groups of COVID-19 vaccination include at-risk health workers, those who have close contact with COVID-19 patients at central and provincial hospitals, those working at international border checkpoints across the country and those working at quarantine centers, Lao News Agency on Friday quoted Phonepaseuth Ounaphom, director of the Hygiene and Health Promotion Department under the Lao Ministry of Health, as saying.


Cambodia on Friday confirmed 62 new cases of COVID-19, raising its total tally to 1,225, said a Ministry of Health (MoH) statement.

The new infections included 60 local cases in Phnom Penh Municipality, and the Kandal, Prey Veng, Koh Kong and Kampong Thom provinces, as well as two imported cases, the statement said.

The imported cases were detected in Indonesian men aged in their 20s arriving in the Southeast Asian country from Indonesia on Feb 26, it said, adding that they were found positive with the COVID-19 virus in their second tests on the 13th day of quarantine.


Indonesia's Health Ministry on Friday reported 6,412 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 180 more deaths in the past 24 hours, bringing its total tally to 1,410,134 with 38,229 deaths.

According to the ministry, 6,851 more COVID-19 patients were discharged from hospitals during the cited period, bringing the total number of recoveries to 1,231,454.