Israel’s COVID-19 cases exceed 1.3m

A medic from Israel's Magen David Adom emergency service administers a Pfizer coronavirus vaccine at a school in Holon, Israel on Sept 3, 2021. (TSAFRIR ABAYOV / AP)

SEOUL / MOSCOW / KUALA LUMPUR / SYDNEY / NEW DELHI / JAKARTA / TEHRAN / ULAN BATOR / YANGON / KATHMANDU / WELLINGTON / ISLAMABAD / SINGAPORE / SEOUL / MANILA / ANKARA – Israel's Ministry of Health on Thursday reported 2,369 new coronavirus cases, bringing the country's total infections to 1,300,126.

The death toll from the virus rose by 12 to 7,867, while the number of patients in serious condition decreased from 487 to 475.

The total recoveries rose to 1,259,215 after 5,220 newly recovered cases were added, while active cases decreased to 33,044.

The number of people who have received the first doses of COVID-19 vaccines in Israel surpassed 6.16 million, or 65.6 percent of its total population, while over 5.6 million have taken two doses and over 3.6 million have got three jabs

The number of people who have received the first doses of COVID-19 vaccines in Israel surpassed 6.16 million, or 65.6 percent of its total population, while over 5.6 million have taken two doses and over 3.6 million have got three jabs, according to the ministry.

Meanwhile, Israel has begun conducting saliva tests to detect COVID-19, the state's Ministry of Health, Bar Ilan University and the Ministry of Defense said in a joint statement on Thursday.

The sampling is carried out in a testing compound in the coastal city of Tel Aviv, as part of a two-week pilot program to validate the saliva tests.

As part of the pilot, hundreds of people of different ages will be tested with both saliva and standard PCR swab tests to compare results, as well as the comfort and safety of the saliva sampling.

The saliva test used in the pilot was developed by BIU, and successfully tested in a laboratory, with performance and sensitivity similar to those of the standard swab PCR test, it added.

The waiting time for saliva test results is about 45 minutes, instead of several hours in the common swab test.

The program is included in a joint effort to identify and develop new technologies as part of the national actions to tackle the virus.

This effort is led by the Health Ministry's Healthcare Israel unit, whose role is to deliver life-saving healthcare innovations, and the Administration for the Development of Weapons and Technological Infrastructure at the Defense Ministry.


COVID-19 restrictions will be eased further in Sydney from Monday, authorities said, as Australia’s largest city looks set to exit a nearly four-month lockdown after hitting its 70 percent full vaccination target.

Fully vaccinated people in New South Wales (NSW) state will be able to leave their homes for any reason including visiting pubs, retail stores, cinemas and gyms, which will reopen under strict social distancing rules.

The number of vaccinated visitors allowed to gather in a home will double to 10, while the limit on vaccinated people at weddings and funerals will be raised to 100. Nightclubs can partially reopen to vaccinated people once inoculations reach 80 percent, earlier than previously planned, and masks will not be mandatory in offices.

The state will use a vaccination-passport system to ensure those who have not been fully inoculated remain under strict stay-home orders until Dec 1.

“Vaccination is the key to our freedom and the sacrifices and the effort of people right across NSW have ensured that we can open up as quickly and safely as possible,” state Premier Dominic Perrottet told reporters in Sydney on Thursday.

Sydney and Melbourne, Australia’s largest cities, and the capital Canberra have been in lockdown for several weeks to quell a Delta outbreak which has pushed Australia’s A$2 trillion ($1.5 trillion) economy on the brink of a second recession in as many years.

Authorities in those cities have ditched attempts to eliminate the virus and are now aiming to gradually lift restrictions as vaccination rates in the adult population push through 70 percent, 80 percent and 90 percent.

Australia had stayed largely virus-free for most of this year until a third wave of infections fuelled by the fast-moving Delta spread across its southeast.

People arrive for the National Rugby League (NRL) grand final between the South Sydney Rabbitohs and Penrith Panthers at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane on Oct 3, 2021. (PATRICK HAMILTON / AFP)

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The World Health Organization says it is sending COVID-19 aid for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

In its latest weekly report for South and East Asia, which covers the period to the end of September, the WHO said it had begun shipments through Dalian port in China, which is near the border with the DPRK.

The WHO did not elaborate on whether the aid had actually reached the DPRK, and a spokesperson for the agency did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The DPRK imposed tough restrictions when the coronavirus pandemic began last year, sealing its borders and other measures in what it saw as a matter of national survival.

It had tested at least 40,700 people for the coronavirus with no positive results as of Sept 23, the WHO reported.


Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi Thursday inaugurated 35 pressure swing adsorption (PSA) oxygen plants across the country to boost medical oxygen supply to hospitals.

Modi carried out the inaugurations virtually from Rishikesh in the northern state of Uttarakhand, a statement issued by the federal health ministry said.

The second wave of COVID-19 pandemic in India saw hospitals overcrowded and battling with a shortage of oxygen supplies. To meet the domestic oxygen demands, India had to import oxygen supplies from other countries.

India's COVID-19 tally rose to 33,894,312 on Thursday, with 22,431 new confirmed cases registered in the past 24 hours across the South Asian country, showed the federal health ministry's latest data.

An additional 318 deaths from the pandemic since Wednesday morning took the total death toll to 449,856, according to the ministry.


Indonesia has approved a COVID-19 vaccine produced by a unit of China’s Chongqing Zhifei Biological Products for emergency use, its food and drug agency (BPOM) said on Thursday, the fourth Chinese vaccine cleared for use in the country.

BPOM chief Penny Lukito said the protein-recombinant vaccine, given three times in a three-month span, has an efficacy rate of about 81 percent, with 77.47 percent efficacy against the Delta variant, lower than other variants, she said.


Iran's Health Ministry on Wednesday reported 10,497 new COVID-19 cases, taking the country's total infections to 5,662,458.

The pandemic has so far claimed 121,779 lives in the country, after 216 new deaths were registered in the past 24 hours, said the update by Iran's Ministry of Health and Medical Education.


Malaysia has struck a deal with US drugmaker Merck & Co to buy 150,000 courses of its experimental antiviral pill, the health ministry said on Thursday, joining other Asian countries in a rush to secure supplies.

Molnupiravir, which would be the first oral antiviral medication for COVID-19 if it gets regulatory approval, could halve the chances of dying or being hospitalised for those most at risk of contracting severe COVID-19, clinical data has shown.

The data sparked large demand for the drug in Asia, with South Korea, Singapore and Australia announcing similar deals to buy the Merck pill this week. Taiwan and Thailand are also in talks to buy it.

Malaysia's Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said the government signed a letter of undertaking for the purchase on Thursday.

Malaysia reported another 9,380 new COVID-19 infections, as of midnight Wednesday, bringing the national total to 2,303,837, according to the health ministry.

Some 13 of the new cases are imported and 9,367 are local transmissions, data released on the ministry's website showed.

Another 105 more deaths have been reported, bringing the death toll to 26,981.

This handout photo obtained May 26, 2021 courtesy of Merck & Co,Inc shows capsules of the investigational antiviral pill Molnupiravir. (HANDOUT / MERCK & CO INC / AFP)


Mongolia's COVID-19 infections grew by 2,237 to 319,247 in the past 24 hours, the health ministry said Thursday.

The latest confirmed cases were all local infections, and nearly half of them were detected in the capital city of Ulan Bator, the country's hardest-hit area during the pandemic.

Meanwhile, 15 more COVID-19 patients aged over 20 died in the past day, pushing the death toll to 1,318, said the ministry.


The death toll of COVID-19 reached 18,034 in Myanmar on Thursday after 36 more deaths were reported, according to a release from the Ministry of Health.

A total of 1,394 new COVID-19 cases were reported in the past 24 hours, bringing the tally to 474,419 cases in the country on Thursday, the release said.

According to the ministry's figures, a total of 427,941 patients have been discharged from hospitals and over 4.45 million samples have been tested for COVID-19 so far.


The Chinese government has agreed to grant 1 million doses of Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine to Nepal, a senior Nepali official said Wednesday.

As part of its consistent support to Nepal, the Chinese government will provide 1 million Sinovac vaccines as grant. Similarly, 300,000 vaccines will be dispatched for the Nepali Army under grant assistance, Nepal's State Minister for Health and Population Umesh Shrestha tweeted.

It will be the first time for Nepal to get the Sinovac vaccines, Samir Kumar Adhikari, joint spokesperson for Nepal's Ministry of Health and Population, told Xinhua.

The South Asian country has so far been administering vaccines developed by China's Sinopharm as well as those developed by other foreign companies.

In early June, Nepal's Department of Drug Administration approved the vaccine developed by China's Sinovac Biotech for emergency use in the country.

The China-aided 1.6 million Vero Cell vaccines will arrive in Kathmandu on Oct 20, 22 and 23, Shrestha said on Twitter following a meeting with Chinese Ambassador to Nepal Hou Yanqi.

New Zealand

The New Zealand government and businesses are working together to pilot the use of rapid antigen testing of COVID-19 in workplaces in order to incorporate it into the country's COVID-19 response.

The rapid antigen testing will start within the next few days at Auckland City and North Shore hospitals, and be used as a point-of-arrival test in the self-isolation pilots in Auckland and Christchurch from Oct. 30 to Dec. 8, Associate Minister of Health Ayesha Verrall said on Thursday.

New Zealand reported 29 new Delta variant cases of COVID-19 in the community on Thursday, bringing the total number of confirmed infections in the country's community outbreak to 1,448.

Twenty-four of the new infections were recorded in the largest city Auckland, and five cases in nearby Waikato, Director of Public Health Caroline McElnay told a press conference.


Pakistan on Wednesday confirmed 1,453 new COVID-19 cases and 46 more deaths, the National Command and Operation Center (NCOC) said on Thursday.

The NCOC, a department leading Pakistan's campaign against the pandemic, said the country has conducted 19,736,872 tests so far and confirmed overall 1,255,321 cases, including 1,182,894 those who have recovered.

The number of active cases has dropped to 44,395 who are under treatment across the country, while 2,934 are in critical condition.

According to the NCOC, the pandemic killed 46 people on Wednesday, increasing the death toll to 28,032.


Singapore will begin returning primary school children to in-person classes starting Oct 11, in line with an approach to support students’ socio-economic well-being. The move comes as COVID-19 infections in the city-state continue to hit new highs despite curbs that were reinstated to curb the spread. 

The move by the government comes at the tail-end of two weeks of online school classes, put in place together with reimposed restrictions that cut group gathering sizes and made work from home the default. Meanwhile, coronavirus cases have continued to climb, though officials have said that it will take time for the curbs to take effect and reduce pressure on its healthcare system.

Pharmaceutical company Merck announced on Wednesday a supply and purchase agreement with Singapore that will ensure it access to its experimental oral COVID-19 antiviral drug, the latest Asian country aiming to get supplies.

The drug Molnupiravir is designed to introduce errors into the genetic code of the coronavirus and would be the first oral antiviral medication for COVID-19. Merck is seeking approval from the US Food and Drug Administration for the pill.

Singapore’s health ministry confirmed the deal though it declined to comment on the number of doses it purchased, citing commercial sensitivities.

The ministry said molnupiravir would be available for use after Merck, also known as MSD Pharma in Singapore, submitted data to the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) and gets authorisation for use in Singapore.

The Philippines

The Philippines' Department of Health (DOH) on Thursday reported 10,019 new COVID-19 infections, pushing the number of confirmed cases in the Southeast Asian country to 2,632,881.

The DOH also reported that 109 more people died from COVID-19 complications, bringing the country's death toll to 39,937.

The DOH said it will report more deaths on Friday after reporting zero deaths for two days due to "technical issues" of its digital platform for COVID-19 data.

A woman and a child ride a bicycle past street market stalls in Seoul on Oct 1, 2021. (ANTHONY WALLACE / AFP)


The Republic of Korea (ROK) reported 2,427 more cases of COVID-19 as of midnight Wednesday compared to 24 hours ago, raising the total number of infections to 325,804.

The daily caseload was up from 2,028 in the prior day, hovering above 1,000 for 93 straight days since July 7. The daily average tally for the past week was 2,074.

Eight more deaths were confirmed, leaving the death toll at 2,544. The total fatality rate stood at 0.78 percent.

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More than 50 percent of Turkey's active COVID-19 cases are people under the age of 30, Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on Wednesday.

"The reason why our young people are infected more is the priority in our vaccination program for those aged 18 and over," he said in a written statement.

Although the young people were found in a higher rate among active cases, this situation was not reflected in hospitalization and intensive care admissions, he noted. "However, our young people play a role in transmitting the disease to families and adults," Koca said, adding that most of the deaths due to the infection is people aged 70 and over.

Turkey logged 30,438 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, the highest number of daily infections since April 30, health ministry data showed.

Turkey recorded 236 deaths from the virus in the same period.

Turkey's daily cases have risen over the past month at a rate higher than most comparable countries, according to global data, while the country's vaccination rate based on population is higher than most peers.


Uzbekistan has started producing the Russian-developed Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine domestically in a joint project with Russia, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev’s office said on Thursday.

The Central Asian nation also manufactures the Chinese-developed ZF-UZ-VAC2001 vaccine on its territory.