A man receives the Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine at Bur Telege, a popular spot for tourists overlooking Laut Tawar lake in Takengon, Aceh province, Indonesia, on Sept 19, 2021. (CHAIDEER MAHYUDDIN / AFP)
SYDNEY / STUNG TRENG / NEW DELHI / TEHRAN / JERUSALEM / KUALA LUMPUR / YANGON / WELLINGTON / SINGAPORE / ANKARA / HANOI / ISLAMABAD / VIENTIANE / TASHKENT / JAKARTA / BANGKOK / SUVA – Indonesia on Monday reported 1,932 new daily coronavirus infections, the lowest since August 2020, data from country's COVID-19 task force showed, and the government further eased restrictions in Java and on its resort island Bali.
Indonesia, once Asia's coronavirus epicentre, has reported nearly 4.2 million infections overall and over 140,000 deaths, but new cases have dropped 98 percent from their peak in July, senior cabinet minister Luhut Pandjaitan said.
Its average positivity rate – the percentage of tests that are positive – was just below 4 percent this month, under the World Health Organization's 5 percent threshold for determining whether an outbreak is under control.
Luhut warned, however, that were still risks of new infection waves and said quarantine protocols would be strengthened at entry points.
"One of the risks is from abroad since the number of cases COVID-19 cases in our neighboring countries are still high," Luhut told a virtual media briefing. "We don't want to lower our guards against the new variants."
Measures that were relaxed on Monday include allowing cinemas to reopen at 50 percent capacity and children under 12 to visit malls in Java's major cities.
Luhut said last week the government may allow foreign tourists to visit Bali from October as number of cases dropped.
A woman passes a swan while exercising in Melbourne on Sept 16, 2021, as the state government announced a loosening of COVID-19 restrictions. (WILLIAM WEST / AFP)
Reported cases in Australia's New South Wales dropped to 935 Monday, the first daily tally below 1,000 since Aug 27.
About 82 percent of eligible people in the state have had the first vaccine, and almost 53 percent of the population is now fully vaccinated.
The rural town of Cowra will be locked down from 5 pm today after a confirmed local area.
While Victoria state on Monday reported its biggest daily rise in COVID-19 cases this year, while some curbs were eased in Sydney despite persistent infections.
Hard lockdowns in Victoria will end once 70 percent of its adult population gets fully vaccinated, expected around Oct 26, and authorities aim to hit 80 percent before the Nov 2 Melbourne Cup, Australia's most famous horse race.
A total of 567 new locally acquired infections were detected in Victoria, the majority in state capital Melbourne, up from 507 on Sunday, and one new death was recorded. Daily cases have topped 500 for the past five days.
Nearly half of Australia's 25 million people is in lockdown after the Delta variant spread rapidly in Sydney and Melbourne, forcing Victoria and New South Wales to abandon a COVID-zero target and shift to rapid vaccinations to ease curbs.
Australia has largely lived in COVID-zero for much of the pandemic, recording 1,163 deaths and some 86,000 cases. About 55,000 cases have been registered since mid-June when the first Delta infection was detected in Sydney.
As the vaccine rollout gathers speed, some restrictions on gatherings were relaxed on Monday in 12 of the worst-hit suburbs in Sydney's west. Time limits for outdoor exercise were lifted, while the fully vaccinated can gather outside in groups of five.
Cambodia has administered at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccines to 12.05 million people, or 75.3 percent of the kingdom's 16-million population, officials and experts said on Monday.
Of them, 10.3 million, or 64.4 percent, have been fully vaccinated with both required shots, and 830,814, or 5.2 percent, have received a booster dose, the health ministry's secretary of state and spokeswoman, Or Vandine, said in a report.
Cambodia on Monday reported 622 new COVID-19 cases and 14 deaths, taking the caseload to 104,716 and the toll to 2,123, the health ministry said
Researchers are collecting samples from bats in northern Cambodia in a bid to understand the coronavirus pandemic, returning to a region where a very similar virus was found in the animals a decade ago.
Two samples from horseshoe bats were collected in 2010 in Stung Treng province near Laos and kept in freezers at the Institut Pasteur du Cambodge (IPC) in Phnom Penh.
Tests done on them last year revealed a close relative to the coronavirus that has killed more than 4.6 million people worldwide.
An eight-member IPC research team has been collecting samples from bats and logging their species, sex, age and other details for a week. Similar research is going on in the Philippines.
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Fiji's Ministry of Health and Medical Services reported 121 new COVID-19 cases and no additional deaths on Monday.
Permanent Secretary for Health Services James Fong said 103 cases are from the Western Division and 18 cases are from the Central Division of Viti Levu.
There were 134 new recoveries reported, taking the number of active cases to 12,948. T
To date, Fiji has reported 50,080 cases, 36,145 recoveries and 575 deaths, Fong said.
Vaccination of eligible teenagers aged 15 to 17 years with the Moderna vaccine started Monday.
India conducted the lowest number of daily COVID-19 tests since mid-August on Sunday, but the health ministry urged local governments not to let their guard down during the September to November festival season.
States and federally controlled territories carried out 1.18 million tests on Sunday, government data showed on Monday, down from 1.56 million on Saturday and against a capacity of more than 2 million.
It comes as most states dropped compulsory testing for fully vaccinated travelers in recent weeks, as they try to boost their economies by making it easier for people to commute.
Meanwhile, new COVID-19 infections have plateaued at around 30,000 a day as vaccinations surged but some health experts say this could also been down to reduced testing.
India's COVID-19 tally rose to 33,478,419 on Monday as 30,256 new cases were registered during the past 24 hours, according to the latest data from the health ministry.
Another 295 deaths were recorded since Saturday morning, taking the death toll to 445,133.
Some 64 percent of India's adult population has received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose and 22 percent two doses.
India will resume exports of COVID-19 vaccines from the next quarter, prioritizing neighboring countries first, the health minister said on Monday.
India, the world's biggest maker of vaccines, stopped exports of COVID shots in April to focus on inoculating its own population as infections exploded.
The country's monthly vaccine output has since more than doubled and is set to quadruple to over 300 million doses next month, minister Mansukh Mandaviya said, adding that only excess supplies would be exported.
Iran's Health Ministry on Monday reported 17,397 new COVID-19 cases, taking the country's total infections to 5,442,232.
The death toll rose by 344 to 117,526, according to the latest data.
A total of 4,792,117 people have recovered from the disease while 6,707 remained in intensive care units, according to the ministry.
By Monday, 30,302,983 Iranians have received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccines while 14,120,965 have taken two doses.
Starting Sunday, Israel has re-allowed foreign tourist groups to enter the country, the Israeli Ministry of Tourism said.
This resumption is limited to tourist groups only from countries without high COVID-19 morbidity, the ministry said, adding that all tourists in the groups must be vaccinated with three doses, or with the second dose given in the last six months.
Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in Israel in late February 2020, the government has suspended the entry of tourists into the country.
In late May 2021, Israel started to permit tourists to enter in groups. Since then, about 2,800 tourists had visited Israel in 150 groups, but this permission was stopped in mid-August due to a sharp rise in morbidity in the country.
A person (right) is inoculated the vaccine against COVID-19 coronavirus at a Pachinko arcade in Osaka on Sept 14, 2021. (STR / JIJI PRESS / AFP)
Japan’s government is considering ending its latest state of emergency at the end of this month, broadcaster TBS reported. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is expected to make the decision when he returns from his trip to the U.S. this week to meet with President Joe Biden this week.
The restrictions, which cover 19 of Japan’s 47 prefectures including Tokyo and Osaka, had been extended through the end of September after the delta variant fueled a surge in infections. Japan’s daily COVID-19 cases fell to 4,692 on Saturday, compared with more than 25,000 in mid-August. More than half of the population is fully vaccinated.
Kyrgyzstan on Monday reported 58 new COVID-19 cases and two additional fatalities, the Republican Headquarters for Combating COVID-19 said.
Since the outbreak of the pandemic, Kyrgyzstan has recorded a total of 177,780 COVID-19 cases and 2,590 deaths.
The COVID-19 variant that was spreading through the Lao capital Vientiane is the Delta Plus variant, said the health ministry.
Director General of the Department of Communicable Disease Control under the Ministry of Health, Rattanaxay Phetsouvanh, said at a press conference Monday that 52 new imported cases and 162 locally transmitted cases were recorded over the past 24 hours, bringing the tally to 19,399 cases.
He said community cases in Vientiane continued to increase, with the Delta Plus variant confirmed among those who tested positive for the virus.
The city, after seeing soaring COVID-19 cases at garment factories, was placed under full lockdown from Sunday afternoon until Sept 30.
As of Monday, the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Laos has reached 19,399 with 16 deaths
Malaysia reported another 14,954 new COVID-19 infections as of midnight Sunday, bringing the national total to 2,097,830, according to the health ministry.
Some 11 of the new cases are imported and 14,943 are local transmissions, data released on the ministry's website showed.
Another 376 more deaths have been reported, bringing the death toll to 23,443.
Mongolia's COVID-19 tally rose by 2,851 to 277,997 in the past 24 hours, the health ministry said Monday.
The country's COVID-19-related death toll went up to 1,119 after 11 patients died in the past day.
"A rise in the number of patients with COVID-19 has overburdened hospitals. There is a need to limit the number of hospital admissions due to the COVID-19 to provide basic health care services normally," the ministry said in a statement.
Currently around 79,000 COVID-19 patients, including 3,618 children and 1,337 pregnant women, were being treated across the country, according to the ministry.
Shops are closed shops amid lockdown restrictions in Auckland, New Zealand, on Sept 20, 2021. (PHOTO / BLOOMBERG)
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern partially eased a lockdown in Auckland, but urged people in the nation’s largest city to stay at home and avoid social contact as the government struggles to stamp out a Delta coronavirus outbreak.
Auckland will move to Alert Level 3 at midnight Tuesday, allowing some businesses to reopen, Ardern said Monday in Wellington. But it will remain at that level for at least two weeks and the rest of the country will stay at Level 2, requiring social distancing and mask wearing in indoor public spaces.
“We are not stepping out of Level 4 because the job is done, but nor are we moving because we don’t think we can achieve the goal of stamping out COVID-19,” Ardern said. “We are moving because Level 3 still provides a cautious approach where we continue to stamp out COVID-19.”
For Auckland, Level 3 doesn’t mean lockdown is lifted. It allows businesses to resume contactless operations but people are still asked to stay at home and work remotely if possible. Schools, daycare centers, shops and public venues are largely closed, and gatherings are restricted.
In a boost for the hospitality sector, Ardern said the gathering limit for the rest of the country under Level 2 has been raised to 100 from 50.
New Zealand on Monday reported 22 new community cases of the Delta variant, bringing the total number of cases in the country's community outbreak to 1,071.
Auckland, including three cases in Whakatiwai, has 1,051 community cases and the capital Wellington has 17 cases, the health ministry said in a statement.
Pakistan recorded 40 fatalities from COVID-19 and 2,167 new infections over the past 24 hours, the National Command and Operation Center (NCOC) said on Monday.
This is the first time in more than a month that the country has registered less than 50 deaths in a single day.
The NCOC, a department leading Pakistan's campaign against the pandemic, said the country's number of overall confirmed cases stood at 1,226,008.
A total of 27,246 people have died, the NCOC said, adding that 4,840 patients were in critical condition.
This Aug 3, 2021, photo shows a deserted street in the Chinatown area of Singapore. (LAURYN ISHAK / BLOOMBERG)
Singapore’s leaders are closely watching the intensive care unit situation to make sure its hospital system won’t be overwhelmed, as reported COVID-19 cases breached the 1,000 mark for a second consecutive day, cabinet ministers said.
The next one to two weeks “will be critical,” Finance Minister Lawrence Wong said in a Facebook post late Sunday. Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said in a separate post that while ICU capacity is “still holding up,” accident and emergency departments and general wards in hospitals are coming “under pressure.” Both sit on the task force that handles the virus situation.
Singapore’s plan to shift away from a Covid-zero elimination strategy, toward living with endemic COVID-19, relies on limiting serious cases through mass vaccination. The current increase could test that strategy. The number of serious cases in ICU or in need of oxygen supplementation more than doubled to 139 as of Sunday, from 61 a week ago.
Singapore’s public acute hospitals had more than 9,600 beds for in-patient care as of 2020. Among hospitals tracked by the health ministry, the beds occupancy rate ranged between 76 percent and 88 percent as of Sept 11.
Singapore’s health ministry reported 1,012 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, the highest since April last year.
A recent rise in cases after the relaxation of some COVID-19 measures has prompted Singapore to pause further reopening. More than 80 percent of its population has been vaccinated against COVID-19.
Doctors in Thailand have been given the go-ahead to start giving COVID-19 booster shots under the skin, rather than injecting them into muscles, officials said on Monday, in an effort to strengthen immunity and stretch vaccine supplies.
Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said the method, which doctors began exploring last month, could be used at the discretion of medical professionals, providing it was supported by evidence.
Chalermpong Sukonthaphon, director of the Vachira Hospital in Phuket, said his hospital had been given the green light to use the technique from Friday, as trials had showed it triggered a similar immune response to the regular method.
"One vaccine dose can be used for five intradermal injections," Chalermpong told Reuters.
So far, only 21 percent of the estimated 72 million people living in the country have been fully vaccinated.
The Philippines' Department of Health (DOH) reported 18,937 new COVID-19 infections on Monday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the Southeast Asian country to 2,385,616.
The DOH also reported 146 coronavirus-related deaths, raising the country's death toll to 36,934.
The Delta variant is now "the most common lineage" among the more than 12,500 sequenced samples in the country, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in an online briefing.
She said the number of cases in Metro Manila "continues to increase but at a slower rate," warning that the number of cases has not reached its peak.
She said that 97 areas in the country are classified under alert level 4, meaning that the hospital utilization rate is more than 70 percent.
Meanwhile, more than 100 schools in lower-risk parts of the Philippines will test limited in-person classes, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said. Students will be able to attend half-day classes every other week with their parents’ consent.
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Turkey on Sunday confirmed 26,398 new COVID-19 cases, raising its tally of infections to 6,847,259, according to its Health Ministry.
The death toll from the virus in Turkey rose by 213 to 61,574, while 27,160 more people recovered in the last 24 hours.
Uzbekistan has lifted some COVID-19 restrictions, allowing mass events both outdoors and indoors in light of decreasing daily COVID-19 cases, the Uzbek health ministry said Monday.
The Uzbek special commission to fight against the coronavirus has decided at a regular meeting to "create amenities for the population for cultural and spiritual leisure, as well as recreation by reducing quarantine requirements."
People can hold family events and weddings with no more than 100 people and in strict compliance with sanitary and hygienic requirements, according to the decision.
Employees of the service sector, including cultural and entertainment facilities, restaurants and wedding halls must have a certificate of vaccination, according to the decision.
Uzbekistan has so far registered 168,938 COVID-19 cases and 1,192 related deaths
Vietnam's capital Hanoi will further ease its coronavirus restrictions from this week, the government said, with new cases on the decline and the majority of its adult population partially vaccinated.
Most construction projects can resume from Wednesday, authorities said late on Sunday, adding further easing would follow, with average new daily cases down to just 20.
So far 94 percent of Hanoi's adult population of 5.75 million has received one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine, with the aim of completing second doses by the end of November, said deputy chairman of Hanoi's ruling People's Committee, Duong Duc Tuan.