A health worker (right) walks past people queueing up for coronavirus swab tests outside a gymnasium in Manila on Jan 7, 2022. (STR / AFP)
JERUSALEM / KATHMANDU / BANGKOK / HANOI / DHAKA / SINGAPORE / ANKARA / SYDNEY / TOKYO / KUALA LUMPUR / SUVA / NEW DELHI / MANILA / ULAN BATOR – The Philippines crossed another grim milestone as the COVID-19 case count topped 3 million on Tuesday.
The number of COVID-19 cases in the Southeast Asian country surged to 3,026,473 after the Department of Health (DOH) reported 28,007 new daily infections.
The DOH also reported 219 coronavirus-related deaths, raising the country's death toll to 52,511. The number of active cases ballooned to 181,016 as the positivity rate rose to 44.5 percent.
The Philippines' COVID-19 infections peaked on Monday, with 33,169 new cases. Officials blamed the spike on high mobility and poor compliance with safety health protocols during the holiday season.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque reported during a meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte aired on Monday night that the COVID-19 situation in the country is now at "critical risk."
The country has experienced a "690 percent increase in the seven-day moving average of reported daily cases, and 3,663 percent two-week growth rate" as new infections reach new highs over the past days, Duque said.
He added that the country's average daily attack rate or the number of those infected per 100,000 people has climbed to 10.47, and the positivity rate to 40.4 percent. The newest genome sequencing showed over 60 percent of samples are Omicron variant cases, said Duque.
Despite the growth in the daily number of active cases, severe and critical cases are comparatively lower than observed during the September 2021 third wave. The DOH data showed that 97 percent of the cases are mild and asymptomatic.
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 infections hovered near record levels on Tuesday as a surge of infections caused by the Omicron variant put a strain on hospitals already stretched by staff isolating after being exposed to the virus.
Australia has reported about 1.1 million cases since the pandemic began, with more than half of those in the last two weeks, including nearly 86,000 cases on Tuesday, with two states due to report later.
"There is significant pressure in our health system," the premier of Victoria state, Daniel Andrews, told a media briefing, adding about 4,000 hospital and 400 ambulance staff in the state were isolating due to virus protocols.
Ambulance services in Victoria were forced to declare a code red – when there are more call requests than ambulances available – for several hours on Monday night, ambulance union official Olga Bartasek told broadcaster ABC.
There are more people in hospital in Victoria and New South Wales, home to more than half Australia's 25 million people and the worst-affected states by the virus, than at any time during the pandemic.
In all, about 4,000 people are in hospital with COVID-19 as of Tuesday, nearly double from a week ago. More than 92 percent of the population over the age of 16 have had a double dose of vaccine and a booster program is picking up pace.
The number of patients in intensive care and the number of deaths are creeping up, with 25 new fatalities registered on Tuesday, with data from some states still not in.
Amid a fresh surge in COVID-19 cases, Bangladesh's Cabinet Division Monday issued a circular with the 11-point directives to be effective from Jan 13.
In line with the directives, people must wear masks at all gatherings, shopping malls and restaurants. Otherwise, they will face legal actions, said the circular.
Buses and trains should be operated at half capacity. All sorts of open-air gatherings, including social, political and cultural functions were banned amid fears of the spread of the Omicron, a highly contagious COVID-19 variant.
According to the directives, people will have to show their vaccine certificates to eat at restaurants and stay in residential hotels.
Bangladesh Monday reported 2,231 new COVID-19 cases, the daily highest number since Sept 10 last year.
Fiji has recorded five new COVID-19 deaths, bringing the total number of deaths in the country to 17 since the confirmation of the third wave of COVID-19.
Fiji's Permanent Secretary for Health James Fong said on Tuesday three of five new deaths were fully vaccinated, one man was not jabbed, and another one had received only one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Some 461 new COVID-19 cases have been recorded by the Health Ministry since Saturday, while 368 of these new cases were recorded on Sunday and 93 in the last 24 hours ending at 8:00 a.m. local time on Monday.
India's COVID-19 tally rose to 35,875,790 on Tuesday, as 168,063 new cases were registered during the past 24 hours, showed the federal health ministry's latest data.
It is the third consecutive day when more than 150,000 new cases were registered over 24 hours in the country, which is also the first day when the newly registered cases were lower than the previous day over the past couple of weeks.
Besides, 277 deaths from the pandemic since Monday morning took the total death toll to 484,213.
Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid attends a meeting with his Russian counterpart in Moscow on Sept 9, 2021. (ALEXANDER NEMENOV / POOL / AFP)
Israel's Foreign Minister Yair Lapid announced on Sunday night that he has been tested positive for COVID-19.
The minister is feeling well and staying in quarantine at his home after he was diagnosed with the virus earlier on Sunday, Israel's state-owned Kan TV news reported.
Lapid confirmed in a post on Twitter that he was a "verified case."
"I feel great because I'm vaccinated," he wrote, and urged Israelis that "go get vaccinated, put on a mask, we'll go through it together."
Lapid, who is also Israel's alternate prime minister, is the second Israeli minister to be infected with the coronavirus.
Israel reported a new daily record of 21,514 COVID-19 cases on Monday, bringing the caseload in the country to 1,519,268, said the Ministry of Health.
Meanwhile, the COVID-19 death toll of the country increased by four to 8,269, while the number of patients in serious condition rose from 205 to 222, said the ministry.
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)
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Tuesday said that the nation's inoculation drive will soon be expanded to include children aged under 12 years old as the country is facing the rampant spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.
Booster shots will also be offered to senior citizens at Self-Defense Forces-run mass vaccination centers that will be reopened, the prime minister said, in a bid to expedite the pace of the third shots being given to the elderly.
For other members of society, booster shots will be made available in March, earlier than initially planned, Kishida added.
Meanwhile, Japan will maintain its tight entry restrictions to prevent the spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus until the end of February, the prime minister said, though some exceptions for humanitarian reasons may be considered.
Japan adopted some of the strictest border controls in the world when the Omicron variant emerged late last year, banning all new entry by non-Japanese people, including students and foreign family members of Japanese or permanent residents, except in exceptional circumstances.
"Thanks to the toughest border rules in the G7 nations, we've been able to keep the spread of Omicron to a minimal level, giving us time to prepare to deal with domestic infection," Kishida told reporters.
"We'll maintain the current framework of measures until the end of February … while taking necessary measures from the perspective of humanitarian and national interests."
The rules mandate up to six days in strict hotel quarantine for most of those who are allowed in – mostly Japanese and resident foreigners – followed by home quarantine.
Malaysia reported another 2,641 COVID-19 infections as of midnight Monday, bringing the national total to 2,788,860, according to the Health Ministry.
Of the total, 338 new cases were imported, with 2,303 being local transmissions, data released on the ministry's website showed.
In addition, 18 more deaths have been reported, bringing the death toll to 31,696.
Mongolia registered 1,208 new COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours, the highest number since Nov 5, 2021, bringing the national tally to 397,664, the country's health ministry said Tuesday.
Among the latest confirmed cases, 36 were imported from abroad, the ministry said, adding the country's COVID-19 death toll remains at 2,001.
The Asian country confirmed its first imported and local cases of the Omicron variant last week.
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)
Nepal banned large public gatherings and closed schools across the Himalayan nation for nearly three weeks after a spike in coronavirus cases, officials said on Monday.
Nepal reported 1,357 new cases on Monday, the biggest single-day jump since September last year, taking its total to 833,946 since the pandemic began. Its death toll from the coronavirus is 11,606.
Home Ministry spokesman Pradip Kumar Koirala said public gatherings like political rallies and religious functions involving more than 25 people had been prohibited.
“Entry to hotels, restaurants, cinema halls and public offices as well as parks from Jan. 21 will be given to those providing proof of being vaccinated against the coronavirus,” Koirala told Reuters.
Earlier the government ordered schools to close for almost three weeks until Jan 29.
Education Ministry spokesman Deepak Sharma said a campaign to vaccinate children aged 12 to 17 at their schools would go ahead.
"Schools must notify students about the time and date when they need to go to schools and receive the shots,” Sharma said.
Authorities hope the closure of schools will help break chains of infection amid fears about the rapid spread of the Omicron variant of the virus.
Singapore reported 750 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Monday, bringing the total tally to 286,397.
Of the new cases, 263 were local cases and 487 were imported cases, according to statistics released by the Ministry of Health (MOH).
There were 389 new cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 confirmed on Monday, of which 126 were locally transmitted and 263 were imported, the ministry said.
Workers wear face masks and practice social distancing while they wait to be tested for the coronavirus in Bangkok on Jan 6, 2022. (VICHAN POTI / AP)
Thailand registered 7,926 COVID-19 cases and another 13 fatalities on Monday, according to the country's Center for COVID-19 Situation Administration.
Official data showed Omicron cases are now accounting for more than a third of the new infections and have been detected in 71 out of 77 provinces in Thailand. Of the new infections, Chon Buri, Samut Prakan, Bangkok and Phuket are leading with each over 500 new cases reported.
Ten out of 13 fatalities were among unvaccinated or insufficiently vaccinated patients. The government continues to roll out an active campaign to encourage people to get vaccinated. Booster shots and vaccination for young children are among the government's current priorities.
Officials said there have been many new clusters related to New Year parties and celebrations as the country witnessed increasing cases in tourism pilot provinces. The authorities cited that key factors for transmissions were eating and drinking with many people in poorly-ventilated venues.
Turkey on Monday reported 65,236 new COVID-19 cases, raising its total tally of infections to 10,043,688, said the health ministry.
The death toll from the virus in Turkey rose by 141 to 83,843, while 38,242 more people recovered in the last 24 hours, said the ministry.
Students of the 12th grade attend a class at Tran Nhan Tong high school in Hanoi, Vietnam, Dec 6, 2021. (HAU DINH / AP)
Vietnam reported 14,818 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, including 14,783 locally transmitted and 35 imported, according to its Ministry of Health.
The Vietnamese capital Hanoi had the highest number of infections on Monday with 2,830 cases, followed by central Khanh Hoa province with 795 cases and southern Binh Phuoc province with 640 cases.
The infections brought the country's total tally to 1,914,393 with 34,531 deaths.