Indian teens wait to receive their vaccination for COVID-19 at a government school, in New Delhi, India on Jan 3, 2022. (MANISH SWARUP / AP)
JERUSALEM / ISTANBUL / NEW DELHI / COLOMBO / SINGAPORE / JAKARTA / HANOI / JAKARTA / TOKYO / SEOUL / KATHMANDU / CANBERRA / BISHKEK / ISLAMABAD – India's COVID-19 tally rose to 36,070,510 on Wednesday, as 194,720 new cases were registered during the past 24 hours across the country, showed the federal health ministry's latest data.
This is the fourth consecutive day when more than 150,000 new cases were registered in a day in the country, and also the highest single-day spike in over eight months.
Besides, 442 more deaths were recorded since Tuesday morning, taking the death toll to 484,655.
Currently there are 955,319 active cases in the country with an increase of 133,873 during the period. This is the 15th consecutive day when the number of active cases rose in the country.
Health care workers administer COVID-19 tests at a drive-through clinic in Sydney on Dec 31, 2021. (BIANCA DE MARCHI / AAP IMAGE VIA AP)
Australia has recorded its highest number of daily coronavirus deaths in more than 15 months.
There were 42 COVID-19 deaths reported across Australia on Wednesday – 21 each in the country's two biggest states, New South Wales (NSW) and Victoria.
According to Daily Mail Australia, the number marked the most coronavirus deaths reported in a day since Sept. 4, 2020 when Victoria recorded 59 fatalities, and second-most since the start of the pandemic.
Australia on Wednesday reported more than 100,000 locally-acquired COVID-19 infections, according to the health department figures from states and territories.
Department of Health data published on Tuesday night revealed that there were 3,869 cases being treated in hospitals around the country, including 342 in intensive care units.
Nearly 60 percent of Australia's 1,042,293 total confirmed COVID-19 cases were active as of Tuesday.
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People wear face masks the help protect against the coronavirus along a skywalk in Jakarta, Indonesia on Dec 30, 2021. (ACHMAD IBRAHIM / AP)
Indonesia kicked off its COVID-19 booster program for the general public on Wednesday, as the world's fourth-most-populous nation hit an almost three-month high in cases amid the rise of the Omicron variant.
Elderly and immunocompromised residents, who are being prioritized in the program, queued up at local health centres to boost their defences against a virus that has infected more than 4 million Indonesians.
The booster rollout comes amid concern about the spread of the Omicron variant in Indonesia, a densely populated developing nation that was hit with a crippling Delta wave in July.
On Tuesday Indonesia recorded 802 new cases, the highest in almost three months, with senior cabinet minister Luhut Panjaitan saying that numbers could peak in February.
President Joko Widodo announced Tuesday that boosters would be offered free for all those eligible, after initial discussion about charging for boosters sparked controversy.
The booster rollout, for which the Sinovac, AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Zifivax vaccines have been approved, is running in parallel with the main COVID-19 vaccination program.
Indonesia has pledged to vaccinate more than 208 million of its 270 million people, but less than 56 percent of that target population has received two shots of a COVID-19 vaccine so far, according to health ministry data.
Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan
Central Asian neighbours Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan reported jumps in new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday as both countries said the Omicron variant of the virus was now spreading on their territories.
Kyrgyzstan reported its first cases of the variant on Wednesday while Kazakhstan confirmed its first last week.
The Kyrgyz healthcare ministry said on Wednesday it has registered 465 new COVID-19 cases, a five-month high.
Kazakh Healthcare Minister Azhar Giniyat told a government meeting on the same day that the country has registered over 8,000 cases over the last seven days, almost three times more in the previous seven days.
Students rest after being inoculated with Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at a school in Bhaktapur, on the outskirts of Kathmandu, on Jan 10, 2022. (Prakash MATHEMA / AFP)
The authorities in Nepal's most populated Kathmandu Valley decided on Tuesday to ban gatherings of more than 25 people as the South Asian country reported surging cases of COVID-19 in recent days.
Under a directive issued after a meeting of senior officials of the Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Lalitpur districts in the valley, no large political or social gatherings can be organized until further notice.
In addition, public passenger vehicles cannot be overloaded, and the provision of sanitizers and mask-wearing is mandatory on public vehicles.
Govinda Prasad Rijal, chief district officer of the Kathmandu district, told Xinhua that his office could go for stricter measures if COVID-19 cases continue to rise. "We will review the current measures based on risk analysis in the upcoming days," he said.
As many as 1,981 new infections were reported in Nepal in the past 24 hours, a sharp rise from just 213 on Jan. 2, according to the Ministry of Health and Population. The country registered 841 and 1,357 new cases on Sunday and Monday, respectively, and 27 cases of the Omicron variant have been identified since December.
Singapore reported 846 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, bringing the total tally in the country to 287,243.
Of the new cases, 446 were local cases and 400 were imported, according to statistics released by the Ministry of Health.
There were 438 new Omicron cases confirmed on Tuesday, of which 159 were local and 279 were imported, the ministry said.
A man gets a PCR coronavirus test at a private nursing home in Netanya, Israel on Jan 5, 2022. (ARIEL SCHALIT / AP)
Israel on Tuesday cut the isolation time for asymptomatic COVID-19 cases from 10 days to seven, hoping to keep schools and the economy open as Omicron infections sweep the country.
People infected with the coronavirus and not suffering symptoms for three days can be out of isolation after seven days, the Health Ministry said in a statement. Those showing symptoms were required to continue to isolate for 10 days.
The decision came after a ministry study of 80 COVID-19 cases caused by the Omicron variant of the virus. Lab tests showed that the likelihood of virus growth after seven days of illness was 6 percent, the Health Ministry said.
"The study conducted by Health Ministry experts shows that the chance that an Omicron patient will be contagious after this period of time is very low. We will not impose isolation beyond what is required, in order to maintain health, keep the economy, education system and culture going and to maintain routine life alongside the coronavirus," Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz said.
Trying to head off nationwide paralysis, the government has been scaling back coronavirus curbs even as Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has warned that as many as 2 million to 4 million Israelis – out a total population of 9.4 million – could be infected during the Omicron wave.
Israel reported a new daily record of 37,887 COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, bringing the caseload in the country to 1,576,780, said the Israeli Ministry of Health.
The new daily figure is much higher than the previous record of 21,514 new cases reported on Monday.
People wearing protective masks to help curb the spread of the coronavirus walk along a shopping street, Dec 29, 2021, in Tokyo. (EUGENE HOSHIKO / AP)
Japan's western prefecture of Osaka expects to record about 1,700 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, roughly tripling from a day earlier in their first rise beyond 1,000 since mid-September, public broadcaster NHK said.
The prefecture had 613 cases on Tuesday, NHK added.
Pakistan on Tuesday reported more than 2,000 new COVID-19 cases after a period of over three months, the National Command and Operation Center (NCOC) said on Wednesday.
The NCOC said the country confirmed 2,074 new COVID-19 cases, increasing the overall cases to 1,309,248 so far, including 1,259,699 recoveries.
Earlier, the country had reported 2,060 cases on Sept 24 last year before the infection rate started dropping consistently due to strict measures, including vaccination.
The active cases have also increased to 20,562 including 628 in critical condition.
According to the NCOC data, the pandemic killed 13 people on Tuesday, bringing the death toll to 28,987.
A medical worker wearing protective gear takes a sample from a woman at a temporary screening clinic for the coronavirus in Gwangju, South Korea, on Jan 3, 2022. (JO NAM-SU / YONHAP VIA AP)
South Korea is turning to additional pharmaceutical tools as it looks to pre-empt a surge of COVID-19 Omicron infections, authorizing the use of Novavax Inc's vaccine on Wednesdayand preparing to distribute the first of Pfizer's antiviral pills.
At least 21,000 of Pfizer's antiviral pills, called Paxlovid, will arrive in South Korea on Thursday, with another 10,000 more expected to arrive by the end of the month, the health ministry said.
The pills, which were authorized for emergency use in December, will begin being used in treatments for more than 1,000 people per day starting on Friday, the ministry added.
South Korea's food and drug safety ministry, meanwhile, announced it had authorized the Novavax vaccine, which joins the ranks of previously authorised vaccines made by AstraZeneca Inc, Moderna Inc, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson's Janssen.
South Korean vaccine developer SK Bioscience Co Ltd said it will produce the Novavax vaccine.
At least 84.2 percent of the country's 52 million population have been fully vaccinated, while 42.5 percent, have received booster shots, according to health officials.
South Korea added 4,388 new COVID-19 cases as of midnight Tuesday, for a total of 674,868 cases and 6,166 deaths since the pandemic began, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) reported.
That number has dipped from all-time highs of nearly 8,000 daily cases in mid-December, when authorities re-imposed strict social distancing measures to try to stem the tide.
Children wait to get a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine against COVID-19 at a children's hospital in Colombo on Sept 24, 2021, as the country began inoculating children over 12. (ISHARA S. KODIKARA / AFP)
Sri Lanka's health officials on Tuesday said that the number of COVID-19 Omicron variant patients had surpassed the 100-mark in the country, cautioning people to strictly follow health guidelines.
Health officials said the Omicron variant began to spread in the community, and the speed might outpace other variants including the Delta variant.
COVID-19 Coordinator Anwar Hamdani was quoted by local Daily Mirror as saying that the daily caseload of COVID-19 patients had gradually decreased within the last two weeks and so had the number of deaths caused by the virus.
"However, an Omicron-fueled wave might emerge if people fail to receive booster doses on time and comply with health practices," he said.
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Turkey has recorded 74,266 new COVID-19 cases in 24 hours, its highest daily figure of the pandemic, health ministry data showed on Tuesday, prompting the health minister to warn of the danger represented by the Omicron variant.
There were 137 deaths related to coronavirus in the same period, the data showed. In late December, daily cases stood at around 20,000.
"As cases due to the Omicron variant become dominant, Omicron will be a source of danger for those in risk groups and it may lead to death among the elderly and the chronically ill," Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on Twitter.
Vietnam reported 16,035 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, including 16,019 locally transmitted and 16 imported, according to its Ministry of Health.
The Vietnamese capital Hanoi remained the locality recording the highest number of daily cases in the country, at 2,884 on Tuesday, followed by the central Khanh Hoa province with 782 cases and southern Ca Mau province with 762 cases.
The new infections brought the total tally to 1,930,428 with 34,787 deaths.