India’s Delhi imposes weekend curfew as COVID-19 cases surge

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 / SYDNEY / JAKARTA / DAMASCUS / SUVA / WELLINGTON / KUALA LUMPUR / KUWAIT CITY / BANGKOK / TOKYO / ISLAMABAD / MANILA – Authorities in Delhi on Tuesday ordered people to stay home over coming weekends having seen COVID-19 cases quadruple in a week, with its chief minister saying he had caught the virus just a day after he addressed an election rally without a mask.

Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, the most senior elected official of the Indian capital's administration, was one of the 37,379 new COVID-19 cases reported in India in the past 24 hours. Deaths in the past day totaled 124.

The daily case load was the highest since early September and experts suspect the highly transmissible Omicron variant has begun to overtake the Delta variant as the latest wave of coronavirus infection builds in places like Delhi, though authorities say hospitalisations have not spiked yet.

Delhi is reporting more than 4,000 new cases a day, and Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said though most patients were showing mild or no symptoms and recovering fast, people will have to stay indoors on Saturday and Sundays to rein in the virus.

On weekdays, most offices will have ensure that half their employees work from home, he told a media briefing, adding that when possible infected people should stay home so that hospitals are able to handle the most serious cases.

Kejriwal, who addressed an election rally in the state of Uttarakhand, said on Twitter he had isolated at home with mild symptoms and urged anyone he had been in contact with during recent days to do likewise and get tested for COVID-19.

Federal government guidance has been for local authorities to impose movement curbs if more than 5 percent of COVID-19 tests were positive. Delhi crossed that point on Monday, with 6 percent of people testing positive.

India's overall positive case rate has nearly tripled since early November to 3.24 percent on Tuesday, and some cities have already closed schools and colleges.

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's COVID-19 cases touched a fresh pandemic high on Tuesday amid an Omicron surge in its two most populous states as hospitalizations in New South Wales, home to Sydney, surpassed the record numbers hit during the Delta outbreak.

NSW and Victoria, home to more than half of Australia's 25 million people, saw another spike in infections, with 37,151 new cases reported between them, just shy of the national one-day high of 37,212 hit a day earlier.

Tasmania reported 702 new cases. Other states and territories are due to report their numbers later in the day.

People admitted in NSW hospitals rose to 1,344, a new pandemic peak, topping the 1,266 reached last September during the Delta wave. Numbers have more than doubled in a week, straining the health system.

The record spike in infections and hospitalizations have come as 2 million more Australians became eligible for their COVID-19 booster shots from Tuesday after authorities shortened the wait time between second and third shots to four months.

Just over 2.5 million Australians have so far received their booster shot, which health officials are betting may prevent more hospitalisations and deaths.

Australia on Tuesday crossed half a million coronavirus cases since the pandemic began, with about 94 prtvrny detected since last July when its east was rocked by a Delta outbreak. Still, the country's near 538,000 cases and 2,270 deaths are lower than numbers seen in many comparable countries.


Fiji's Health Ministry confirmed on Tuesday transmission of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 in the country's community.

Fiji's Permanent Secretary for Health Ministry James Fong said that the results of positive samples sent to the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity in Melbourne for genomic sequencing have confirmed that Fiji has community transmission of both Omicron and Delta variants.

Fong was quoted by a statement from the health ministry as saying that this explains the high number of cases recorded recently given the high transmissibility of the variant.

The ministry reported 580 new cases and two COVID-19 deaths in its most recent update.

ALSO READ: New COVID-19 cases in India rise sharply for fifth day

Travelers queue with their luggage at the check-in counter ahead of their departing flights at Israel's Ben Gurion Airport in Lod, east of Tel Aviv, on Dec 21, 2021. (GIL COHEN-MAGEN / AFP)


Israel said on Monday it will admit foreigners with presumed COVID-19 immunity from countries deemed medium-risk next week, partially reversing a ban imposed in late November in response to the fast-spreading Omicron variant.

The change suggests Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's government sees waning value in sweeping travel curbs – which wrecked winter tourism – as domestic coronavirus cases surge.

The Health Ministry said that, as of Jan 9, foreign travellers from 199 "orange" countries will be admitted if they can prove they are vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19.

Orange-listed countries include Australia, Italy and Ireland. The ministry recommended that South Africa, Nigeria, Spain, Portugal, France and Canada, among 16 countries listed as "red" or high COVID-19 risk, be changed to "orange".

The announcement came even as Bennett predicted that new cases could increase tenfold within days. The rapid pace of infection has led to many Israelis waiting hours in lines for COVID-19 tests, although Omicron has not brought corresponding rises in mortality.

Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz said Israel would adjust its criteria for compulsory testing and focus primarily on people at high risk. Subsequently, more Israelis "will be required to exercise personal responsibility and perform tests at home", he said in televised remarks on Monday.

The government's strategy is focused on vaccinations, with a fourth dose – or second booster – offered to vulnerable cohorts. read more Within a day of making it available, 100,000 people received or made an appointment to get the second booster.

The United States, Britain, United Arab Emirates, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Mexico, Switzerland and Turkey remain on Israel's red list, the health ministry said. Visitors from those countries require advance special permission from an Israeli committee to enter.


The number of new COVID-19 infections in Japan rose above 1,000 on Tuesday for the first time in three months, the Jiji news agency reported.

Japan had seen fewer cases in recent months, but experts had warned of a potential sixth wave of infections during the winter.

People queue up to receive a dose of a coronavirus vaccine during the first day of the al-Adha feast, at a vaccination centre in Kuwait City, on July 20, 2021. (YASSER AL-ZAYYAT / AFP)


Kuwait will impose new restrictions to contain the spread of COVID-19, Kuwait's Center for Government Communication said on Monday.

From Jan 9 to Feb 28, Kuwait will suspend all social events in closed areas, according to a decision of the government, the center said.

The decision will be re-examined in light of the epidemiological situation, it added.

Meanwhile, starting from Jan 4, all incoming travelers are required to provide a PCR certificate with a negative result, taken at a maximum of 72 hours before their flight's departure time.

Kuwait reported 982 new COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours, raising its tally of infections to 419,314. The death toll from the virus remained at 2,468, while the tally of recoveries rose by 171 to 412,073.

ALSO READ: Indonesia to give booster shots to public from Jan 12


Malaysia reported another 2,690 COVID-19 infections as of midnight Monday, bringing the national total to 2,767,044, according to the health ministry.

Some 300 of the new cases are imported, with 2,390 being local transmissions, data released on the ministry's website showed.

Another 28 deaths have been reported, bringing the death toll to 31,560.

People return to shopping at Newmarket in Auckland, New Zealand as some COVID-19 restrictions were eased, Nov 10, 2021. (ALEX BURTON / NEW ZEALAND HERALD VIA AP)

New Zealand

New Zealand reported 31 new cases of COVID-19 in the community on Tuesday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the country's current community outbreak to 10,985.

Among the new infections, 14 were recorded in the largest city of Auckland, one in nearby Waikato, 12 in Bay of Plenty and four in the Lakes region, according to the Ministry of Health.

The ministry reported a third border-related case with the Omicron variant of COVID-19, who is a household contact of the Air New Zealand crew member testing positive last week with the Omicron variant.

The household contact has been in isolation during the symptomatic period. This case is fully vaccinated.

A total of 53 cases are being treated in hospitals, including six in intensive care units or high dependency units, a ministry statement said.


Pakistan on Monday reported 630 new COVID-19 cases amid warnings of another wave of the pandemic in the country, the National Command and Operation Center (NCOC) said Tuesday.

The NCOC, a department leading the country's campaign against the pandemic, said that the country had confirmed overall 1,297,865 cases so far, including 1,257,355 recoveries.

According to the NCOC data, the pandemic killed two people on Monday, taking the overall death toll to 28,945.


The Philippines' Department of Health (DOH) reported 5,434 new COVID-19 infections on Tuesday, pushing the number of confirmed cases in the Southeast Asian country to 2,861,119.

The DOH also reported that 18 more people died from COVID-19 complications, bringing the country's death toll to 51,604.

The Philippines is grappling with a sharp increase in infections believed to be driven by the fast-spreading Omicron variant, with the positivity rate standing at 26.2 percent.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire projected that cases will peak at the end of this month.

Chinese COVID-19 vaccines are unloaded from a plane at the international airport in Damascus, Syria, April 24, 2021. (PHOTO / XINHUA)


The Syrian Health Ministry on Monday received a batch of 1 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine from China, the latest in a string of aid shipments that China has provided to help Syria in the face of the pandemic.

Syrian Health Minister Hasan al-Ghabash and Chinese Ambassador to Syria Feng Biao attended the delivery ceremony at the Health Ministry in the capital Damascus, during which al-Ghabash hailed the Chinese stance in supporting Syria during such difficult times.

"This Chinese aid largely contributes in supporting the health sector in Syria in the face of this global pandemic, and is also conducive in boosting the immune system of the Syrian people and supporting the measures of the Syrian health sector in the vaccination processes," Hasan al-Ghabash said at the ceremony.

A health worker administers a dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in Bangkok, Thailand, Nov 17, 2021. (SAKCHAI LALIT / AP)


Thailand's health ministry on Tuesday called on people to come forward to get booster vaccinations after reporting cases of the highly contagious Omicron coronavirus variant had more than doubled over the holiday period.

The Southeast Asian country has recorded 2,062 cases of the Omicron variant so far, health official Supakit Sirilak told a news conference, up from 740 cases before the holidays.

Health authorities have warned of the risk of a surge of infections after the holidays when people travelled home and gathered at restaurants for celebrations.

Out of the Omicron infections, 1,105 were among foreign arrivals with the remainder in those who had come into contact with arrivals, he said.

Up to now, Thailand has vaccinated 64.1 percent of an estimated 72 million people in the country with two doses, government data shows, while officials said only 9.8 percent had received a third booster shot.

"Please come get your booster vaccines at hospitals near your homes," Opas said, noting anyone who had received their second dose before November would be eligible.

"A fourth dose will be given to medical personnel, frontline workers and risk groups three months after their third shots," he said.


Turkey recorded 44,869 new COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours, the highest daily figure since late April, health ministry data showed on Monday.

It also recorded 160 deaths due to COVID-19 in the same period.

Cases in Turkey have more than doubled in just over a week as the Omicron variant became dominant in the country.