Migrant workers, who have had restrictions imposed on their movements and activities as a measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus, pray in the Sri Veeramakaliamman temple in the district of Little India in Singapore on Sept 15, 2021, after the introduction of a program to let them visit various predetermined areas in the community. (ROSLAN RAHMAN / AFP)
YANGON / KUALA LUMPUR – Singapore again reported a sharp increase of coronavirus infections in foreign-worker dormitories as it seeks to tamp down rising case numbers island-wide that have pushed deaths from the pandemic to a record level.
The city-state’s Ministry of Health said that eight people had died on Friday from COVID-19, matching Wednesday’s toll — the highest daily fatality rate since the pandemic began.
The city-state’s Ministry of Health said that eight people had died on Friday from COVID-19, matching Wednesday’s toll — the highest daily fatality rate since the pandemic began
The mounting death count and worsening caseload are likely to test the government’s resolve to reopen Singapore. Ministry figures show that new infections among foreign workers almost doubled to 818 on Friday from a day earlier, with eight clusters reported at dormitories housing workers from overseas.
New infections rose to more than 2,900, a record, and officials issued urgent appeals for vulnerable residents to stay at home. The Environment Ministry on Friday called on people older than 60 and those who live with them to avoid dining at the country’s popular food courts. Curbs reintroduced this week already limit the number of people at restaurants to two per table.
ALSO READ: Singapore tightens virus curbs after seeing record infections
The worsening situation in the dormitories is likely to raise questions about a pilot program that started last month which allowed foreign workers to leave their residences, but only to visit specific locations and limited to six hours a day. Most workers have largely been confined to their quarters since the dormitories were identified as the epicenter of an outbreak last year.
The quarantining of more worker and strict border restrictions preventing from entering the country will worsen an acute labor shortage in sectors including construction, which largely depends on manpower from abroad.
While cabinet ministers have committed to “living with the virus” in Singapore, where four of every five residents are fully vaccinated, the worsening situation may challenge this assertion. The health ministry published a map Friday detailing areas frequently visited by infected patients in the last three days to guide people’s social activities and allay their concerns.
Singapore’s healthcare situation remains stable, with more than 98 percent of the 31,057 people diagnosed with COVID-19 in the past 28 days having mild or no symptoms.
Thirty-four patients are in critical condition in the intensive care unit, and 222 need oxygen supplementation, according to government data. Most of them are over the age of 60.
Australia’s Victoria state hit a record 1,488 new COVID-19 cases, topping 1,438 from just two days ago. Two people died.
“It’s another challenging day, the highest daily number of COVID cases we have seen, and the largest number of active cases we have seen at any one time in Victoria,” the state’s COVID-19 Response Commander Jeroen Weimar said at a news conference.
Victoria state ordered on Friday about a million employees across industries to receive at least one dose of a COVID vaccine by Oct 15 to keep working.
Victoria state ordered on Friday about a million employees across industries to receive at least one dose of a COVID vaccine by Oct 15 to keep working
The state, where about a quarter of Australia's population of 25 million live, has been in a hard lockdown since Aug 5.
New South Wales continued to see its case load decline, with 813 infections, down from 864 on Friday. There were 10 deaths.
ALSO READ: Australia to ease international border curbs from November
Nearly 88 percent of the state's eligible population have been partially vaccinated and 65 percent fully.
Sydney, the NSW state capital, has been under lockdown since June 26, with some restrictions scheduled to be lifted on Oct 11 and more later in the month.
NSW is expected to be the first state to fully open up once the 80 percent vaccination is reached, but authorities have warned case numbers are expected to soar and hospitals will come under strain as Australia learns to live with COVID-19.
The country reported a total of 2,355 new cases of the Delta coronavirus variant on Saturday, as the push to vaccinate the country's population continues in order to end lockdowns and allow for the reopening of international borders.
An 18-month ban on international travel is set to be gradually lifted from next month for some states when 80 percent of people aged 16 and over are fully vaccinated. read more
Fifty-five percent of Australians were fully inoculated as of Oct 1, but nearly 80 percent have received at least one shot.
"I'm worried about how we are going to cope with it culturally," Kirsty Keating, an Australia citizen originally from Scotland who lives in Sydney, told Reuters about the country's reopening.
"Like most of the people I know overseas have lived with COVID and we haven't and I think it could put a pressure on our health system and make everybody very tense."
Australia slammed the international border shut in March 2020. Since then, only a limited number of people have been granted a permit to leave the country for critical business or humanitarian reasons.
Citizens and permanent residents have been allowed to return from abroad, subject to quota limits and a mandatory 14-day quarantine period in a hotel at their own expense.
"I think it's great coming up to Christmas that people get to reunite with their families," Peter Hendriks, a priest in Sydney, told Reuters about the decision to reopen borders.
A health worker prepares to administer the Sinovac vaccine at a makeshift mass vaccination centre on a football field in Surabaya on Sept 30, 2021. (JUNI KRISWANTO / AFP)
As many as 10,000 people are expected to attend the opening ceremony of Indonesia’s first major sports event since its worst outbreak — a test of its strategy of living with the virus.
The national sporting week called PON will start Saturday at the newly renovated stadium in the eastern city of Jayapura, with the maximum capacity set at 25 percent, according to a domestic affairs ministry decree. Spectators must be tested before attending, wear masks and maintain social distancing.
Normal activities are starting to return in Southeast Asia’s biggest economy as its COVID-19 cases and deaths are brought under control
Normal activities are starting to return in Southeast Asia’s biggest economy as its COVID-19 cases and deaths are brought under control. That’s a stark contrast to weeks ago, when the country was reporting the world’s highest number of coronavirus deaths each day.
Now, the government is seeking to rely on a combination of testing, health protocols and vaccination to find a way to ease mobility curbs without seeing a resurgence in cases.
ALSO READ: Indonesia weighs free boosters as 'inevitable' third wave looms
Large-scale public events like PON will put that plan to the test at a time when vaccination coverage is still low. Less than 20 percent of Indonesians are fully inoculated. In Papua province, where the sporting event is being held, just 11 percent of people have gotten both shots.
The government is boosting efforts to speed up vaccination as it expects an “inevitable” resurgence in cases caused by new variants before the end of the year. For now, the numbers are heartening. The nation added 87 deaths on Friday, down from a record of over 2,000 a day in late July, when the highly infectious delta variant ravaged across the nation of 270 million people and crippled its healthcare system.
Malaysia is in talks to procure an experimental antiviral pill developed by Merck & Co for COVID-19 treatment, the health minister said on Saturday.
Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said in a tweet that he has started negotiations to procure the new drugs, referring to a Reuters story on Friday that the pill developed by Merck could halve the chances of dying or being hospitalised for those most at risk of contracting severe COVID-19.
"As we transition to living with COVID, we will be adding new, innovative treatment options to our arsenal in addition to vaccines," he said.
Merck and partner Ridgeback Biotherapeutics are planning to seek US emergency use authorization for the pill as soon as possible and to make regulatory applications globally.
The pill molnupiravir, designed to introduce errors into the genetic code of the virus, would be the first oral antiviral medication for COVID-19.
Current treatment options include Gilead Sciences Inc's infused antiviral remdesivir and generic steroid dexamethasone, both of which are generally only given once a patient has already been hospitalized.
There was not immediate response to a request to clarify if the ministry's negotiations also included Gilead Sciences or Pfizer which is developing an antiviral pill with Swiss drugmaker Roche Holding AG.
Myanmar's Foreign Affairs Ministry on Friday announced the extension of entry restrictions for travelers until Oct 31.
The suspension will be applied to the entry of all travelers, the issuance of all types of visas and visa exemptions services until the end of this month.
According to a release by the Ministry of Health on Friday, Myanmar reported 1,846 new COVID-19 cases with 54 more deaths in the past 24 hours.
The number of COVID-19 infections has increased to 465,922 while its death toll reached to 17,789 so far.
A total of 419,842 recovered patients have been discharged from hospitals as of Friday, the release said.
Thailand reported 87 COVID-19 deaths in the past 24 hours on Saturday, the lowest single-day tally since July 26 as it continued to see a steady decline in the number of critical patients and active cases. Cumulative fatalities rose 16,937, with almost 90 percent of them in the past three months, official data showed. The country also reported 11,375 confirmed infections and 13,127 recoveries on Saturday.
READ MORE: Thailand easing visa rules in aim to draw 1 million foreigners