Published: 10:38, July 14, 2021 | Updated: 23:08, July 14, 2021
Tokyo sees most daily virus cases in 6 months as Olympics loom
By Agencies

People wearing face masks to help protect against the spread of the coronavirus walk along a street during a state of emergency in Tokyo, Japan, July 12, 2021. (KOJI SASAHARA / AP)

ANKARA / SINGAPORE / MANILA / JAKARTA / TOKYO / HANOI / ISTANBUL / PHNOM PENH / CANBERRA / KUALA LUMPUR - Tokyo reported the highest number of new COVID-19 cases in almost six months on Wednesday, with the Olympics due to open in the capital in just nine days.

The city government said there were 1,149 new cases, the highest daily tally since Jan 22, adding to evidence that a new fifth wave of infections is under way, driven by more infectious virus variants and a low vaccination rate.

While Japan has weathered the pandemic better than many countries, the nation's deaths crossed the grim milestone of 15,000 on Wednesday, according to the Jiji news agency. Total cases stood at about 820,000, based on official data.


Guests began leaving a Genting Cruise Lines "cruise to nowhere" on Wednesday night after nearly 3,000 passengers and crew were confined to their staterooms through most of the day following the detection of a COVID-19 case onboard.

A 40-year-old passenger tested positive onboard and the result was confirmed after the person was taken to hospital once the ship docked early on Wednesday, the Singapore Tourism Board said, following the detection of the suspected case.

"The passenger was identified as a close contact of a confirmed case on land, and was immediately isolated as part of onboard health protocols," the board said in a statement.

Passengers said they found out about the suspected case in an announcement at around 1 am and had been asked to stay in their rooms since.

Dream Cruises' World Dream had 1,646 passengers and 1,249 crew members on board and all of them were required to remain in their staterooms with contactless meals sent to them, Dream Cruises, a part of Genting Cruise Lines, said.Dream Cruises' World Dream cruise ship is pictured docked at the Marina Bay Cruise Centre in Singapore on July 14, 2021, after it returned to the city state following a passenger's positive test for COVID-19. (ROSLAN RAHMAN / AFP)

The guest suspected of having COVID-19 had tested negative in a mandatory, pre-departure antigen rapid test before the ship set sail for a three-night cruise on Sunday.

The passenger's three travelling companions tested negative and were isolated while further contact tracing was being done, the tourism board said.

Only essential service crew with personal protective equipment were being allowed limited movement within the ship, Dream Cruises said.

Meanwhile, Singapore reported its highest number of local coronavirus cases in 10 months on Wednesday, after the discovery of a cluster among hostesses and customers of KTV karaoke lounges.

Of the 56 new community infections, 41 were linked to the KTV outbreak, the health ministry said.


Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison blamed the expert panel on immunization for the country's slow coronavirus vaccine rollout on Wednesday, as the state of New South Wales (NSW) announced it will extend the lockdown on the Greater Sydney until at least July 30.

Morrison said that "very cautious" decisions by the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) had "considerably" slowed the rollout.

In June ATAGI said in a statement that it recommended the Pfizer vaccine (Comirnaty) as the preferred vaccine for those aged 16 to under 60 years, who later updated the recommendation to those aged 16 to under 50 years.

Morrison told Nine Entertainment radio on Wednesday that ATAGI had "been very cautious and that had a massive impact on the rollout of the vaccine program."

"It slowed it considerably and it put us behind, and we wish that wasn't the result but it was," he said.

Responding to Morrison's comments, ATAGI co-chair Allen Cheng said the panel was "an independent expert committee”.

"Based on evolving evidence, we've had to change that advice as new information became available," he told Guardian Australia, which reported on Wednesday that some experts pointed to the government's failure to diversify its vaccine portfolio as a cause of the failed rollout.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Australia had reported 31,431 confirmed cases, according to the latest figures from the Department of Health.  

South Korea

South Korea tightened social distancing rules across most of the country on Wednesday to tackle its worst-ever outbreak of coronavirus a day after new cases soared to a new daily peak of 1,615.

The latest daily tally easily surpassed the previous record of 1,378 set last Friday, adding to growing worries centred on the rapid spread of the more contagious Delta variant and a slowing vaccination campaign.

Clusters of infections have sprung up quickly around the capital Seoul and neighbouring areas fuelled by the Delta variant, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said.


Malaysia reported the highest daily increase in COVID-19 cases with 11,618 newly reported infections, bringing the national caseload to 867,567, the health ministry said on Wednesday.

Health Ministry Director-General Noor Hisham Abdullah said in a press statement that 26 of the new cases were imported and 11,592 were spread through local transmission.

Another 118 deaths were also reported, pushing the toll to 6,503.

ALSO READ: S. Korea vaccine rollout grinds to a halt as 'new cases hit record'


The total number of active COVID-19 cases in Israel increased by 341 to 5,172, the Ministry of Health said Wednesday.

This is the highest number of active cases recorded in Israel since April 4, when there were 5,217 cases.

Meanwhile, the total number of coronavirus cases reported rose to 847,969, of which 836,357 have recovered from the disease.

The death toll stood at 6,440 while the number of patients in serious condition rose to 53.

On Tuesday evening, the country’s Coronavirus Cabinet decided to shorten the duration of COVID-19 quarantine to seven days.

Those who have been close to a verified patient, or have returned from the countries classified as the highest COVID-19 risk destinations and for which Israel has issued a severe travel warning are required to serve a quarantine.

In another development, Israeli medical researchers have found differences between women and men in the levels of COVID-19 antibodies in the blood, Tel Aviv University (TAU) reported on Tuesday.

In a study, published in the preprint server Medrxiv, researchers from TAU and Shamir Medical Center in central Israel have found that in recovered women, the level of antibodies rises from the age of 51, and is higher compared to recovered men of similar ages.

This phenomenon may be related to change in levels of the estrogen hormone that affects the immune system, the researchers explained.

In recovered men, a rise in antibody levels is seen at an earlier age, starting around 35. This may be related to changes in levels of the male sex hormone testosterone, and the effect on the immune system, the researchers said.

It was also found that the level of antibodies in the blood of vaccinated persons was four times higher than that found in convalescents.

READ MORE: No more Gangnam Style: S. Korea virus rules ban fast music in gyms


The total number of doses of COVID-19 vaccine administered across Turkey surpassed 60 million on Wednesday, according to the health ministry.

More than 18 million citizens have gotten two doses while over 38.2 million have received their first dose in the country of 83 million, said the ministry.

It added that the number of citizens who received their third jabs hit 3.2 million.

Turkey on Tuesday registered 6,285 new COVID-19 cases, raising its tally of infections to 5,493,244.

The death toll from the virus in Turkey rose by 46 to 50,324, while 5,162 more people recovered in the last 24 hours, said the Turkish Health Ministry.

A health worker administers the Sinovac Biotech Ltd COVID-19 vaccine on a passenger at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Cengkareng, Indonesia, on July 9, 2021. (PHOTO / AFP)


Indonesia surpassed India’s daily COVID-19 case numbers, marking a new Asian virus epicenter as the spread of the highly-contagious delta variant drives up infections in Southeast Asia’s largest economy.

The country has seen its daily case count cross 40,000 for two straight days - including a record high of 47,899 on Tuesday - up from less than 10,000 a month ago. Officials are concerned that the more transmissible new variant is now spreading outside of the country’s main island, Java, and could exhaust hospital workers and supplies of oxygen and medication.

Indonesia’s current numbers are still far from India’s peak of 400,000 daily cases in May, and its total outbreak of 2.6 million is barely a tenth of the Asian giant’s 30.9 million. India, with a population roughly five times the size of Indonesia’s 270 million people, saw daily infections drop below 33,000 on Tuesday as its devastating outbreak wanes.

On Wednesday, Indonesia recorded its biggest daily increase in coronavirus infections with 54,517 cases on Wednesday, taking the total tally to just over 2.67 million cases, according to data from the country’s COVID-19 taskforce.

The data also showed 991 newly reported deaths, bringing the toll to 69,210. 

The Delta variant first identified in India has been found in 11 areas outside of the densely populated Java island, health minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin said.


Iran on Wednesday reported 23,371 new COVID-19 cases, raising the country's total tally to 3,440,400.

The death toll rose by 184 to 86,391, the Ministry of Health and Medical Education said.

A total of 3,069,943 people have recovered from the disease while 3,963 patients remained in intensive care units, according to the ministry.

By Wednesday, 5,331,780 people have received their first dose of coronavirus vaccines while 2,191,936 have gotten both doses.


Brunei reported five new confirmed COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, bringing the national tally to 282.

According to Brunei's Ministry of Health, all new cases are being treated and monitored at the National Isolation Center with 18 other active patients, who are all in a stable condition.

With the detection of the new cases, a total of 141 imported cases have been confirmed since the last local infection case on May 6, 2020.


Thailand is weighing a temporary suspension of exports of locally made AstraZeneca Plc vaccines to bolster domestic supplies amid a surge in coronavirus infections driven by the more contagious delta variant.

The country’s key vaccination panel will hold discussions with all the stakeholders before deciding on either a temporary halt to shipments, or regulating exports, Nakorn Premsri, director of Thailand’s National Vaccine Institute, told a news briefing on Wednesday. Talks are focused on addressing the Thai vaccine supply amid the outbreak, he said.

AstraZeneca planned to produce 180 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine this year through its partner Siam Bioscience Ltd with a target to export two-thirds of the output to countries in Southeast Asia. While Thailand was expected to receive a third of the production at any given period of time under an earlier agreement, that may need to change given the current outbreak situation, Nakorn said.

The move by Thai health officials is expected to affect shipments of AstraZeneca shots to countries such as Malaysia and the Philippines, where the deliveries were earlier delayed. Vaccines from AstraZeneca, along with Sinovac Biotech Ltd., are the backbone of Thailand’s inoculation program, which has been 50% behind its target since the mass rollout began last month due to limited supplies.

The Philippines

The Philippines will ban travelers coming from Indonesia to prevent the spread of the highly contagious Delta COVID-19 variant, the presidential spokesperson said on Wednesday.

The ban will apply to everyone coming from Indonesia or those with recent travel history to the country and will be imposed from July 16 to 31, Harry Roque said in a statement.

The Philippines has also extended the travel ban for all inbound travelers from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) until July 31, Roque said.

The Philippines has detected the Delta variant in the samples taken from 19 returning Filipinos. No community transmission has been reported so far.

The Philippines has extended five times the travel restrictions to these countries severely hit by the Delta variant to prevent the spread of the more contagious variant in the country.

The Philippines has reported a total of 1,481,660 confirmed cases as of Tuesday, including 26,092 deaths.


Vietnam on Wednesday said Pfizer would provide an additional 20 million doses of its COVID-19 mRNA shot, as the country tries to shore up supplies at a time of record number of new infections.

The additional Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines would be used for 12-18 year olds, its health ministry said in a statement. 

Vietnam is also working with Pfizer on possible vaccine technology transfer or placing a Pfizer vaccine plant in the country, it said.

Vietnam saw a record 2,934 new cases on Wednesday, most of those in Ho Chi Minh City, the epicenter, which has been under stricter movement curbs since last week. Authorities reopened some of its markets on Wednesday after complaints about shortages of fruit, vegetables and meat.

The country also reported five more deaths, taking the toll to 135. In total, Vietnam has recorded 37,434 confirmed cases.

Ho Chi Minh City ordered Samsung Electronics HCMC CE Complex and other companies with factories in the Saigon Hi-Tech Park to suspend operations and set up on-site sleeping accommodations for workers amid the virus outbreak. Pouyuen Vietnam, a Ho Chi Minh City-based unit of Pou Chen Corp., is to suspend its production for 10 days beginning July 14.

Fewer than 300,000 people in Vietnam are fully vaccinated. Romanian President Klaus Iohannis on Wednesday pledged to donate 100,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to Vietnam, its state media reported.


Cambodia will temporarily shut its border with Vietnam for one month starting from July 18 to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the Foreign Ministry's standing secretary of state Ouch Borith said.

During that period, Vietnamese skilled workers, technicians and employees will not be allowed to enter Cambodia and those in Cambodia will not be allowed to return to Vietnam, he said.

The measure does not apply to patients seeking medical treatment in Vietnam, diplomats, officials on a mission at the invitation of the two countries' authorities, and students who have completed the course or cases with special permission from the government, he added.

Cambodia reported 915 new COVID-19 infections, including 257 imported cases, on Wednesday, pushing the national total caseload to 63,615, the health ministry said, adding that 33more fatalities were recorded, taking the toll to 986. 

Sri Lanka

The US is sending more than 1.5 million doses of Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine to Sri Lanka on Wednesday, the latest shipment as President Joe Biden begins sharing the American stockpile of shots.

The doses will arrive in Sri Lanka on Friday and are being sent through COVAX, the global vaccine procurement initiative intended to secure inoculations for low- and middle-income nations, according to a White House statement.