Published: 10:50, March 14, 2021 | Updated: 22:42, June 4, 2023
Fresh virus wave looms as India's tally, toll jump the most this year
By Agencies

A health worker in protective gear collects a nasal swab sample from a man to test for COVID-19 at a hospital in Amritsar, India, on March 13, 2021. (NARINDER NANU / AFP)

AMMAN / JERUSALEM / KUWAIT CITY / ULAN BATOR / SINGAPORE / DOHA / YANGON / KUALA LUMPUR / TASHKENT / NEW DELHI / KABUL / CANBERRA / MANILA / WELLINGTON / BANGKOK - The number of new COVID-19 cases and deaths per day in India have risen sharply over the past few days, with the daily tally and toll reaching the highest figure ever recorded this year on Sunday, posing the challenge of a new pandemic wave in the country.

India's tally rose to 11,359,048 as 25,320 new cases were registered during the past 24 hours, according to the latest data from the federal health ministry.

The death toll went up by 161 to 158,607, according to the data. 

A total of 10,989,897 people have recovered while the number of active cases stood at 210,544. In the past 24 hours, the country witnessed a rise of 8,522 active cases, 8,047 of which were posted in Maharashtra.

The southwestern state of Maharashtra, which has been the worst-affected state over the past year, has emerged as a new hot spot. The state reported the highest number of infections with 2.3 million cases.

Nagpur district in Maharashtra will going into a lockdown on Monday for the first time since nationwide curbs were lifted in June. 

Amid fears of another COVID-19 wave looming, hordes of people were seen taking a holy dip in the river Ganga in the northern town of Haridwar on the occasion of a festival days ago, without any COVID-19 norms.

Millions of people, both men and women, are expected to visit the town for another holy dip next month.

This photo taken on Feb 22, 2021 shows Qantas planes lined up at Melbourne's international airport, Australia. (SAEED KHAN / AFP)

Singapore-Australia travel bubble

Singapore and Australia are discussing an air travel bubble that would allow travel between the two countries without the need for quarantine, looking to reopen borders that have been mostly shut for nearly a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Both countries have largely brought the virus under control, helped by international border closures, lockdowns and strict social-distancing rules.

Singapore is also discussing with Australia the mutual recognition of vaccination certificates and resumption of travel with priority for students and business travellers, Singapore’s foreign ministry said in a statement

Singapore is also discussing with Australia the mutual recognition of vaccination certificates and resumption of travel with priority for students and business travellers, Singapore’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

“We are working with Singapore at the moment, potentially for a bubble in July,” Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, who is also transport minister, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. He said Australia would open more bubbles as countries roll out their vaccination programs.

Earlier, Melbourne-based newspaper The Age reported, citing Australian Trade Minister Dan Tehan, that Australia and Singapore have held talks about allowing travel between them by nationals of the two countries who have had COVID-19 vaccinations.

Tehan said he has held talks with Singapore Trade Minister Chan Chun Sing about the plan. Australian government sources said they hope the plan will be in place by July or August, The Age reported.

In addition to covering travel by nationals of the two countries, it could allow people from third countries to enter Australia via Singapore after a two-week quarantine there. New Zealand could also be involved in what would become a three-way travel bubble, The Age reported.

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in a TV interview he hoped Singapore would start re-opening its borders by the end of the year as more countries ramp up vaccination drives against COVID-19 infections.

ALSO READ: Australia records first local COVID-19 case in two weeks


Two new COVID-19 cases were registered over the past 24 hours in Afghanistan, bringing the number of total cases in the country to 55,959, the Public Health Ministry said in a statement on Saturday.

The death toll remained at 2,457, according to the statement.

Meanwhile, the total number of recoveries went up by three to 49,471.


New South Wales health authorities reported Sunday that a security guard in a Sydney quarantine hotel tested positive for COVID-19, despite having already received the first jab of the COVID-19 vaccine, ending the 55-day streak of zero locally acquired cases in the Australian state.

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said at a press conference on Sunday that the 47-year-old security guard worked in two quarantine hotels in Sydney and was tested positive on late Saturday evening. The source of his infection is still under investigation, and genome sequencing and urgent contact tracing is underway. The man's family members all returned negative COVID-19 test results.

The security guard received the first jab of the Pfizer vaccine on March 2, and is due to have the second jab in this week, according to the health department.

Elsewhere, the state of Queensland recorded another local case on Sunday after a doctor in a local hospital tested positive for COVID-19. Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the new case was likely unconnected to the Princess Alexandra Hospital where the infected doctor works at.

In another development, Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Sunday announced 1.1 billion Australian dollars (US$853.5 million) in funding to extend the COVID-19 health response until at least the end of 2021.

The move takes the total government spending on the health response to the pandemic to more than 23 billion AUD, including about 6 billion AUD on the vaccine rollout.


Bangladesh reported 1,014 new COVID-19 cases and 12 more  deaths on Saturday, bringing the tally to 556,236 and the death toll to 8,527, the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) said.

The total number of recoveries went up by 1,138 to 510,310, according to the DGHS.


The number of COVID-19 cases in Indonesia rose by 4,607 within one day to 1,414,741, while the death toll went up by 100 to 38,329, the health ministry said on Saturday.

The total recoveries increased by 6,016 to 1,237,470, according to the ministry.


Iran on Saturday reported 7,802 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the cumulative tally to 1,739,360, Health Ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari said at her daily briefing.

The death toll went up by 73 to 61,142, according to the spokeswoman.

The total number of recoveries stood at 1,485,179, while 485 COVID-19 patients were in hospitals, the spokeswoman said.


The Iraqi Ministry of Health reported on Saturday 4,054 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total number of infections to 754,318.

The ministry also reported 23 additional deaths, raising the death toll to 13,719, while the total recoveries rose by 4,086 to 681,828.

A member of the parliamentary health committee, Abbas al-Husseini, said in a press release that "Iraq is in danger" due to the spread of the coronavirus, and hospitals have begun to be filled with infected children and the elderly.

However, "health workers have so far managed to keep the country out of danger," al-Husseini said.

"The curfew measures have significantly reduced infections, especially with nearly two thirds of citizens adhering to the restrictions. Previously, we expected that infections would exceed 15,000 per day, but so far we are still registering about 5,000 infections per day," al-Husseini said.


Israel's Ministry of Health reported 1,482 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday, raising the tally to 817,680.

The death toll reached 5,988 after eight more fatalities were added.

The number of patients in serious condition increased from 621 to 626, out of 1,007 patients in hospitals.

The total number of recoveries went up by 203 to 776,099, while the number of active cases stood at 35,593.

So far, more than 5.12 million, or 55 percent of its total population, have been vaccinated.

READ MORE: Report: Israel hopes to mutually recognize vaccines with China

A bottle of hand sanitizer (bottom) is placed on the side of a street in the Ueno shopping district of Tokyo, Japan, to encourage shoppers to disinfect their hands. On March 14, 2021. (KAZUHIRO NOGI / AFP)


Fewer hospitalizations in the Tokyo region have allowed the Japanese government to plan to lift the virus emergency in the capital area by the planned date of March 21, rather than extending it, the Sankei newspaper reported. 

The decision would come even as infection rates have stopped falling after a period of rapid improvement. Sankei cited a cabinet minister as saying the emergency may have lost its effectiveness in improving the situation.

Officials are expected to make a decision as soon as Thursday, the paper reported.

Meanwhile, Tokyo Olympics organizers will consider allowing as much as 50 percent of spectator capacity at game venues this summer, Sankei reported. The limit for large sites would initially be set at 20,000, but could be raised to as much as half capacity if the COVID-19 situation improves, according to the report.


Jordan on Saturday said it has received 144,000 doses of the AstraZeneca-SK Bioscience COVID-19 vaccine from COVAX, an international vaccine campaign co-led by the World Health Organization and its partners.

The arrival of the shipment is timely to support national efforts to accelerate the COVID-19 national vaccination campaign, the Health Ministry said in a statement.

A second shipment of vaccines from the COVAX is expected to arrive in Jordan in April, according to the ministry.

Also on Saturday, Jordan reported 61 COVID-19 deaths and 4,144 newly confirmed cases, taking the death toll to 5,285 and the infection tally to 469,000. 

In another develpment, Jordan’s health minister was dismissed on Saturday after seven people died following an oxygen outage in a hospital treating coronavirus patients, and police were deployed to hold back hundreds of angry relatives, state media and witnesses said.

The oxygen failure on Saturday hit intensive care, maternity and coronavirus wards in the new Salt government hospital west of the capital Amman.


The Kuwaiti health ministry reported on Saturday 1,211 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 208,460.

The ministry also announced nine more deaths, taking the death toll to 1,165, while the tally of recoveries rose by 1,365 to 192,782. 

A total of 14,513 coronavirus patients were still receiving treatment.


Lebanon registered on Saturday 3,523 new COVID-19 cases, raising the total number of infections to 415,362, the Health Ministry reported.

Meanwhile, the number of deaths went up by 56 to 5,334.


Malaysia reported 1,470 new COVID-19 infections on Saturday, bringing the infection tally to 322,409, the health ministry said.

Health Ministry Director-General Noor Hisham Abdullah said in a press statement that 12 of the new cases were imported while the rest were locally transmitted.

Meanwhile, three were deaths were reported, pushing the death toll to 1,206.

Some 1,830 patients have recovered, bringing the total recoveries to 304,492, or 94.4 percent of all cases.

Of the remaining 16,711 active cases, 162 were in intensive care units, including 70 in need of assisted breathing.  


Mongolia registered 128 more COVID-19 cases over the past 24 hours, bringing the cumulative caseload to 3,961, the country's National Center for Communicable Diseases (NCCD) said Sunday.

Of the newly confirmed cases, 127 were locally transmitted while the other was imported, according to local authorities.

The death toll remained at eight.

Mongolia's State Emergency Commission on Saturday decided to restrict mass gatherings and public events in the country's capital Ulan Bator for two weeks starting from next Monday due to a resurgence in COVID-19 cases.

The restriction will cover all types of mass events and gatherings such as competitions, concerts, exhibitions and weddings as well as operations of religion and some service organizations such as karaoke bars, night clubs, and gaming centers, the commission said in a statement.

In recent days, about 100 COVID-19 cases have been reported daily in the capital, which is home to over half of the country's population of 3.3 million.


The number of COVID-19 cases in Myanmar rose to 142,136 on Saturday after 14 new cases were logged in the past 24 hours, according to a release from the Health and Sports Ministry.

The death toll stood at 3,201 while the total recoveries reached 131,736.

New Zealand

New Zealand's Ministry of Health on Sunday reported one new COVID-19 case, bringing the tally to 2,067.

The fresh case involved a recent returnee who tested positive for COVID-19 while in managed isolation, the ministry said in a statement.

The number of active cases stood at 87, said the ministry.


More than 11,000 people who arrived in Oman have undergone quarantine as part of precautionary measures against COVID-19, the official Oman News Agency (ONA) reported on Saturday.

As many as 90 percent of those are expatriates, ONA reported. 

According to the health ministry, Oman has reported 145,257 confirmed cases, along with 135,227 recoveries and 1,600 deaths.  


Palestine on Saturday announced a decision to extend the full lockdown in the West Bank for five more days, starting on March 15, amid a spike in daily COVID-19 cases and deaths.

"The government decided to ban transportation and movement of vehicles and individuals, except medical teams, between all the West Bank districts, towns and refugee camps, starting on Monday for five days," reads an official statement.

According to the statement, all schools and kindergartens will remain closed during the five-day lockdown. Lessons for high-school students will be held online.

Weddings, rallies, festivals, mass parties, and mourning will also be prohibited, according to the statement.

Palestine on Saturday recorded 1,784 new COVID-19 cases, 27 more deaths, and 1,484 recoveries in the last 24 hours in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, according to the Health Ministry.

Currently, 170 COVID-19 patients are getting treatment in intensive care units of Palestinian hospitals, the ministry said.  


The Qatari health ministry on Saturday reported 483 new COVID-19 infections, raising the total number of confirmed cases in the Gulf state to 169,767, the official Qatar News Agency (QNA) reported.

The total number of recoveries increased by 299 to 157,876, while the death toll remained at 265, according to a ministry statement quoted by QNA.


A 61-year-old Singaporean man died from COVID-19 complications on Friday, lifting the death toll in the city-state to 30.

The man had been working in the United Arab Emirates, and returned to Singapore on Jan 30. He tested positive for COVID-19 infection upon arrival in Singapore, according to a press release issued by the Ministry of Health (MOH) on Saturday.

The patient had a past history of hypertension, hyperlipidaemia and gout.

Meanwhile, MOH also reported eight newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Saturday, bringing the country's tally to 60,088. All the new cases were imported.

As of March 8, the country of 5.7 million people had administered over 611,000 doses of vaccines - a much slower pace compared to larger nations. It has said it plans to vaccinate everyone by year-end.


Thailand confirmed 170 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, mostly via active testing, according to a report of the Center for the COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA).

Of Sunday's new cases, 156 were domestic infections while 14 were imported cases, according to the report.

Ninety of the active-testing cases were from the usually-crowded marketplaces in Bang Khae district of Bangkok, according to the report.

The market has since been closed after dozens of people tested positive for COVID-19 during active testing that started on Saturday.

To date, Thailand has confirmed a total of 26,927 confirmed cases, along with 26,154 recoveries and 86 deaths.

The Philippines

The Philippines' Department of Health (DOH) reported 4,899 new COVID-19 infections on Sunday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the Southeast Asian country to 621,498.

The death toll rose to 12,829 after 63 more deaths were lgoged, the DOH said. 

Th total number of recoveries increased by 13,371 to 560,512, it added.

Contact tracing czar Benjamin Magalong urged local government units to ramp up contact tracing efforts amid an uptick in new cases.  

People sit in a park, mostly ignoring social distancing rules and without wearing face masks, in Ankara, Turkey, March 13, 2021. (BURHAN OZBILICI / AP)


Turkey on Saturday reported 15,012 new COVID-19 infections, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 2,866,012, according to the health ministry.

The death toll went up by 65 to 29,421 while the total recoveries increased by 15,287 to 2,685,560.


The United Arab Emirates allowed private hospitals to resume elective surgeries from Sunday, the Khaleej Times reported, as coronavirus cases in the nation drop.

Procedures that can restart include cosmetic surgeries and physiotherapy, according to the newspaper, which cited a circular from the health ministry. Elective surgeries were suspended earlier as a precautionary measure against the spread of the virus.

The UAE has one of the world’s fastest inoculation campaigns, with more than 60 percent of its population receiving at least one dose of a vaccine. The Gulf nation aims to fully vaccinate half of its 10 million residents by the end of this month, and the resumption in elective surgeries suggests that hospitalization may be on the decline.

In another development, Dubai is conducting a clinical trial to assess the accuracy of a breath test to detect the coronavirus within one minute.

The rapid test, developed by the National University of Singapore’s Breathonix Pte Ltd., is being trialed on 2,500 patients, according to a statement. 

Breathonix had previously conducted a Singapore-based pilot study that involved 180 patients and achieved a sensitivity of 93 percent and specificity of 95 percent with the machine learning algorithm, according to the statement.


Starting from Monday, Uzbekistan will no longer require mandatory COVID-19 testing for travellers at airports, train stations and other border checkpoints, local authorities said Sunday.

Travelers, however, still need to produce test certificates obtained within the last 72 hours for checkpoints, according to the authorities.

Uzbekistan has so far registered 80,481 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 622 related deaths. 


Vietnam recorded three new cases of COVID-19 infection on Saturday, including one imported and two locally transmitted ones, according to the Ministry of Health.

The new cases brought the cumulative tally to 2,553 as of 6 pm local time Saturday, according to the ministry.