Published: 10:36, July 19, 2021 | Updated: 23:49, July 19, 2021
Malaysia eases curbs after ramping up vaccination drive
By Agencies

A nurse administers a Pfizer vaccine to an elderly woman in her house in rural Sabab Bernam, central Selangor state, Malaysia, July 13, 2021. (VINCENT THIAN / AP)

TEHRAN / KUALA LUMPUR / JAKARTA / HANOI / JERUSALEM / YANGON / DHAKA / KUWAIT CITY / ANKARA / PHNOM PENH / SYDNEY / SINGAPORE / NEW DELHI / WELLINGTON / ULAN BATOR / SEOUL / ISLAMABAD / VIENTIANE / ISTANBUL / MANILA / DUBAI - Malaysia eased virus protocols following the speeding up of the nation’s vaccine rollout, Deputy Prime Minister Ismail Yaakob Sabri announced on Monday.

Office attendance in the public sector will be raised to 40 percent to boost productivity, and accounting services will be allowed to operate with 60 percent capacity, he said. Business hours for daily and wet markets will be extended from 6 am to 4 pm. Ports, airports and logistics sectors can operate 24 hours, according to the statement.

Malaysia aims to fully vaccinate all its adult population by October, the country’s prime minister said on Sunday.

Malaysia recorded a fresh high of 153 single-day death toll from COVID-19 on Sunday, bringing the total deaths to 7,019, according to the Health Ministry.

Iran

Iranian authorities said government offices, banks and businesses will be closed in the capital Tehran and its surrounding province, as well as the neighboring province of Alborz, the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

The latest lockdown will last one week from Monday, IRNA said, citing a government directive. Iran reported 25,441 new covid-19 cases on Monday, approaching April’s record of 25,582.

Thailand

Thailand’s COVID-19 task force on Monday called on people to follow stricter containment measures, warning that without cooperation record daily infection rates could roughly treble to reach 30,000 under a worst-case scenario.

The Southeast Asian country reported on Monday 11,784 new cases, the fourth consecutive day of record infections, and 81 new deaths, bringing total fatalities to 3,422 and cases to 415,170, with most infections from an outbreak started in April.

Thailand could see daily infections of more than 30,000 if the public did not comply, Taweesin Wisanuyothin, a spokesman for the country’s COVID-19 task force, told a briefing.

“I do not want that projection to happen,” he said. “We have seen over 10,000 cases for many days and we want this to come down. But no one can do this alone and everyone has to help,” he said.

The government on Sunday announced tighter lockdown measures in the capital and 12 high-risk provinces, classified as “dark red zone”, from this week, suspending most domestic fights and expanding curfew areas.

Domestic flights to and from Bangkok and those provinces will be suspended from Wednesday, with some exceptions, including for medical or emergency situations.

Australia

Australian authorities on Monday said Victoria state will extend a COVID-19 lockdown beyond Tuesday despite a slight drop in new infections as the country's two biggest cities fight to stop the spread of the highly infectious Delta variant.

Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews said lockdown rules would not be lifted as cases were still being detected in the community, promising more details would be provided on Tuesday.

Nearly half of Australia's 25 million population has been confined to their homes with Sydney, the country's largest city, in a five-week lockdown, and all of Victoria state under stay at home rules, after the fast-moving Delta strain triggered the country's worst outbreak for this year.

New South Wales (NSW) state, of which Sydney is the capital, reported 98 new locally-acquired cases, down from 105 a day earlier. At least 20 of the new cases were infectious while in the community, roughly in line with the last few days.

NSW has twice extended lockdown measures in Sydney since it was first imposed on June 26, with the tough restrictions now scheduled to end on July 30.

Bangladesh

More than 1.1 million cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Bangladesh as of Sunday.

The country's Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) reported 11,578 new COVID-19 cases and 225 more deaths on Sunday, making the tally at 11,03,989 and death toll at 17,894.

Cambodia

Cambodia on Monday donated medical supplies and equipment as well as financial aid to neighboring Vietnam to help the country fight COVID-19, a health official said.

Health Ministry secretary of state Yok Sambath, who brought the donations to Vietnam via a special flight, said the donations included 1 million face masks, 100,000 N95 masks, 100 automatic oxygen concentrators, and US$350,000.

"The donations are to assist Vietnam to prevent the spread of COVID-19, especially a severe community outbreak in Ho Chi Minh City," she told reporters at the Phnom Penh international airport before departure.

"The donations are a humanitarian gesture and represent our spirit of friendship and solidarity in the fight against COVID-19," she added.

An official in personal protective equipment (PPE) manages the crowd as people queue to receive China's Sinopharm coronavirus vaccine in Phnom Penh on May 31, 2021, as part of the government's campaign to halt the rising number of cases of the virus. (TANG CHHIN SOTHY / AFP)

Cambodia on Monday confirmed 790 new COVID-19 cases, raising the national total caseload to 67,971 so far, the Ministry of Health said in a statement.

The new infections included 581 local cases and 209 imported cases, the ministry said.

Twenty-two more fatalities had been recorded, bringing the overall death toll to 1,128, according to the ministry.

India

India reported on Monday 38,164 new COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours, data from health ministry showed, with deaths rising by 499, lowest in over three months.

Indonesia

Indonesia has received another batch of Sinopharm's COVID-19 vaccine which arrived at Soekarno Hatta Airport in the province of Banten, an official said on Monday.

The COVID-19 vaccine produced by Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinopharm will be used for the gotong-royong (mutual cooperation) vaccination program, an initiative of some Indonesian companies to help the government vaccinate the former's employees for free, Verdi Budidarmo, president director of the country's vaccine producer Kimia Farma, told a virtual press conference.

The vaccine is part of an agreement of Kimia Farma to procure a total of 15 million Sinopharm vaccines.

Indonesia has topped Brazil in reporting the highest number of daily deaths attributed to COVID-19, even as new cases start to ease in the Southeast Asian country.

There were 1,093 fatalities in Indonesia in the 24 hours through midday Sunday, the government announced via Twitter. The figure a day earlier was 1,092, while on Saturday Brazil reported 868 deaths. Indonesia said Sunday that new infections were 44,721, the least in nearly a week yet still the highest in Asia.

ALSO READ: Thailand bans gatherings as virus cases, deaths hit record

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett holds up a face mask as he delivers a statement on the coronavirus situation, in Jerusalem, Wednesday, July 14, 2021. (MAYA ALLERUZZO / AP)

Israel

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said on Sunday that "verified coronavirus patients who knowingly violate quarantine" will be criminally indicted and "dealt with to the fullest extent of the law."

Bennett made the instructions during a cabinet meeting, according to a statement released by the prime minister's office.

The Attorney General Office and the Public Security Ministry are considering utilizing an app to track people on quarantine, Bennett said.

The prime minister said his government aims to impose aggressive and efficient enforcement against violators, because "whoever violates the directives is endangering his health and the other citizens of Israel."

The Ministry of Health reported 567 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, bringing the tally in the country to 851,508.

The death toll from the virus in Israel rose by two to 6,448, while the number of patients in serious condition rose from 58 to 61, said the ministry.

Kuwait

Kuwait started on Sunday vaccinating teenagers aged 12-15 against COVID-19 in preparation for the new school year that starts in September.

Buthaina Al-Mudhaf, assistant undersecretary for public health affairs of the Kuwaiti Health Ministry, said in a statement that the ministry has started vaccinating teenagers aged between 12 and 15 in health centers in six governorates across the country.

"There was a great vaccination turnout of teenagers today," she added.

Registration for vaccination is still open, she said, calling on people to help their children make registration and receive the vaccine on the specified date.

Laos

Lao government on Monday decided to extend the ongoing lockdown for another 15 days to help curb COVID-19 infections.

Deputy Head of the Prime Minister's Office, Thipphakone Chanthavongsa, told a press conference here on Monday that the situation in neighboring countries remained risky and a large number of migrant workers return home to Laos every day, therefore, the lockdown order will be extended to control the spread of COVID-19.

Thipphakone said that the lockdown order will be extended until August 3.

The notice outlines a gradual loosening of lockdown measures with certain strict measures to remain in place.

Mongolia

Mongolia reported 1,171 new locally transmitted COVID-19 infections in the past 24 hours, bringing the national count to 148,424, the country's health ministry said Monday.

The country also added six more deaths in the past day, raising the nationwide death toll to 767, the ministry said.

Myanmar

The number of COVID-19 cases in Myanmar has increased to 229,521 on Sunday after 5,285 new cases were reported in the past 24 hours, according to a release from the Ministry of Health and Sports.

Another 231 deaths were reported, bringing the death toll to 5,000 in the country as of Sunday, the release said.

New Zealand

New Zealand reported three new cases of COVID-19 in recent returnees in managed isolation facilities and no cases in the community on Monday.

One previously reported case has now recovered. The number of active cases in New Zealand is 47, and the total number of confirmed cases is 2,461, according to the Ministry of Health.

Pakistan

Pakistan confirmed 2,452 new COVID-19 cases over the past 24 hours, the National Command and Operation Center (NCOC) said on Monday.

The NCOC, a department leading Pakistan's campaign against the pandemic, said that the country's number of overall cases rose to 991,727 amidst the fear of a fourth wave.

According to a statement by the NCOC, the country's southern Sindh province has been the worst hit, with a total of 356,929 cases, followed by eastern Punjab province where the disease was detected in 350,618 people.

A total of 22,811 people died of the disease, including 30 patients who died over the last 24 hours, the NCOC said, adding that 2,532 are in critical condition.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi citizens will need two COVID-19 vaccine doses before they can travel outside the kingdom from Aug 9, state news agency SPA reported on Monday, citing the ministry of interior.

The decision was made based on new waves of infection globally, new mutations, and the "low efficacy of one vaccination dose against these mutations," the statement said.

People queue as they wait to use a check-in service, which aids the process of contact tracing for COVID-19 cases, to enter a shopping centre in Chinatown district in Singapore on July 7, 2021. (ROSLAN RAHMAN / AFP)

Singapore

Singapore reported the highest number of new coronavirus cases in about 11 months as infections emerge from an outbreak stemming from karaoke lounges as well as clusters at a wholesale fish market and local food centers.

There were 88 locally-transmitted cases, the Ministry of Health said on Sunday. Twenty-five came from the entertainment clubs cluster, while 42 were linked to the Jurong Fishery Port. There were 10 unlinked infections. Along with another four among travelers entering the city-state who have been isolated, the total for the day was 92.

The jump in cases is dealing a blow to the city-state’s efforts to reopen, with the government re-enforcing stricter measures for dining-in just days after relaxing them. Authorities have temporarily closed hundreds of nightlife venues to curb the spread of the virus and quarantined thousands of people.

“We are likely to see rising cases in the coming days as we step up efforts to detect them to contain their spread in the community,” the Health Ministry said in a statement . “The number of unlinked cases in the community has also increased.”

The government will continue to test fishmongers across the country as infections at the fishery port spread to wet markets and food centers.

The ministry on Sunday also "strongly" advised unvaccinated individuals, especially the elderly, to stay home as much as possible over the next few weeks, citing heightened concerns about the risk of community spread of COVID-19.

The seven-day average for linked community cases - local infections that are linked to one of the 29 “active” clusters of outbreak - has increased to 42 from about 1 case a week ago. The unlinked cases - those that can’t be traced to a cluster it’s tracking - increased to 4.4 from about 1. The biggest cluster is the one from the lounges with a total of 173 cases.

South Korea

South Korea’s military has recorded in biggest cluster of COVID-19 infections to date, with more than 80 percent of personnel aboard a destroyer on anti-piracy patrol in the Gulf of Aden testing positive.

While the 247 cases are not directly linked to new domestic infections, with the destroyer having left South Korea to start its mission in February, the surge comes as the country battles its worst-ever outbreak of COVID-19 cases at home, with another 1,252 new infections reported for Sunday.

The country’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said on Monday that just 50 of the ship’s complement of 301 personnel have tested negative in an outbreak first reported on July 15. 

Authorities have begun an operation to airlift them home, while a replacement team will steer the vessel back home. Sunday’s number meant new cases in South Korea, which has so far fared better than many industrialised nations in case numbers and deaths, have topped 1,100 a day for nearly two weeks in an outbreak stoked by a surge in highly transmissible Delta variant cases.

Citing military sources, Yonhap news agency reported none of the affected personnel aboard the destroyer were classified as severe cases, though one person has developed conditions that require close observation.

The defense ministry had said none aboard the destroyer had been vaccinated as the unit had left the country in February, before a vaccination campaign began for military personnel.

South Korea reported 1,252 more cases of COVID-19 as of midnight Sunday compared to 24 hours ago, raising the total number of infections to 179,203.

The daily caseload was down from 1,454 in the previous day, but it hovered above 1,000 for the 13th consecutive day. The daily average caseload for the past week was 1,437.

The Philippines

The Philippines' Department of Health (DOH) reported on Monday 5,651 new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) infections, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the Southeast Asian country to 1,513,396.

The death toll climbed to 26,786 after 72 more patients died from the viral disease, the DOH said.

Turkey

Turkey has so far administered over 63.4 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines in its ongoing vaccination campaign, the Health Ministry revealed on Monday.

Almost 39 million citizens have got their first dose, while 21 million have taken two doses in the country with a population of 83 million, said the ministry.

The number of citizens who have received their third jab neared 4 million, it added.

Turkey on Sunday registered 7,680 new COVID-19 cases, raising its tally of infections to 5,529,719.

The death toll from the virus in Turkey rose by 66 to 50,554 in the last 24 hours, said the Turkish Health Ministry.

ALSO READ: Indonesia passes Brazil with most new virus cases in world

A man rides a scooter on a quiet street in Vung Tau, Vietnam, Sunday, July 18, 2021. Vietnam has put its entire southern region in a two-week lockdown starting midnight Sunday, as confirmed daily COVID-19 cases exceeded 3,000 for the third day in a row. (HAU DINH / AP)

Vietnam

Vietnam’s capital of Hanoi ordered residents to stay at home from Monday and venture out only when “truly necessary” as unlinked coronavirus cases emerge.

People should leave their homes only for work, to purchase food and medicines, or for urgent medical assistance, according to a statement on the government’s website.

Businesses providing “non-essential services” will be suspended, according to the statement. Local authorities are ordered to ensure virus prevention measures at industrial parks while ensuring production can go ahead without disruptions.

Public transportation will be reduced by 50 percent, except for those carrying workers, goods and people to quarantine, while private vehicles will be limited. Authorities are also banning gatherings of more than five people outside schools, hospitals and public areas.

Restaurants in Hanoi have already suspended dining-in, while services at hair salons have been halted based on earlier restrictions that began July 13. The city reported 37 new local virus cases Sunday, the health ministry’s Suc Khoe Doi Song publication reported.

Nationwide, Vietnam reported another record high of 5,926 new COVID-19 infections on Sunday, surpassing the previous record of 3,718 cases registered on Saturday, according to the country's Ministry of Health.

The new infections included 5,887 locally transmitted and 39 imported, bringing the total tally to 53,830, with 254 deaths, the ministry said.