An alley is blocked with trash cans and a Vietnamese flag in Vung Tau, Vietnam, Sept. 13, 2021. (HAU DINH / AP)
SYDNEY / SUVA / NEW DELHI / JERUSALEM / KUALA LUMPUR / YANGON / WELLINGTON / ISLAMABAD / SEOUL / BANGKOK / ANKARA / MOSCOW / ULAN BATOR / JAKARTA / MANILA – Authorities in Vietnam's biggest city are urging the government to recognize positive rapid tests for COVID-19 to present a clearer picture of its outbreak, state media reported on Monday, a move that could increase the city's case total by 40 percent.
Ho Chi Minh City, home to about 9 million people, has borne the brunt of Vietnam's coronavirus crisis, accounting for 80 percent of its more than 18,500 COVID-19 deaths and half of its 756,000 cases.
Positive rapid tests of 150,000 people in the city since Aug 20 have not been included in the overall tally, Tuoi Tre newspaper reported, citing the deputy head of the city's health department, Nguyen Huu Hung.
Like many countries, Vietnam only counts positive swab-based Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests.
The southern economic hub has recorded 372,180 infections overall. If 150,000 more cases were confirmed to be positive, it would reduce the city's death rate from just over 3.8 percent to 2.75 percent.
Tuoi Tre cited an unnamed official at the city's health department as saying the 150,000 individuals were being treated, but had not undertaken swab tests due to insufficient resources.
Ho Chi Minh City is set to ease coronavirus curbs and allow the resumption of some businesses from Friday to try to revive economic activity after long periods of restrictions.
In another development, the Russian Direct Investment Fund and Vietnamese T&T group have reached an agreement on Sputnik-V vaccine supplies to Hanoi, the RIA news agency reported on Monday, citing Vietnamese ambassador to Moscow Dang Minh Khoi.
The Southeast Asian country has already produced a first test batch of Russia's flagship vaccine against COVID-19. Vietnam previously said it would receive 20 million doses from Russia this year.
Authorities of the Australian state of New South Wales (NSW) unveiled further details of a roadmap out of COVID-19 restrictions as the state has seen a stabilization of its local transmissions.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian told Monday's press conference that the state is expected to reach 70 percent double dose on Oct. 11 and 80 percent about a fortnight after.
From Monday, after NSW hits the 80-percent double doses vaccination target for people aged 16 and over, eased restrictions will allow those who are fully vaccinated to have up to 10 people visit their home, participate in community sport, and access hospitality venues. All premises will operate at one person per 4 square meters indoors, and one person per 2 square meters outdoors, according to the roadmap unveiled by the state.
The roadmap also made some adjustments to previous policies based on updated health advice. Regional travel will not be allowed until the full vaccination rate reached 80 percent, and a booking cap has been introduced for hospitality venues of 20 people per booking.
Australia’s New South Wales state, the epicenter of the country’s worst coronavirus outbreak, reported on Monday its lowest rise in COVID-19 cases in more than a month as it begins to ease some tough restrictions amid higher vaccinations.
A total of 787 new locally acquired COVID-19 cases were reported, the majority in state capital Sydney, down from 961 a day earlier, according to a statement from the state health department. The state recorded 12 new deaths, taking the total number of fatalities from the latest outbreak to 309.
Fiji Ministry of Health and Medical Services said Sunday that the country has recorded 161 new cases of COVID-19 and six more deaths.
Permanent Secretary for Health James Fong said 84 new recoveries have been reported since last update, and there are now 13,067 active cases in the island nation.
He said a total of 50,701 cases have been recorded in Fiji since the first case was reported in March 2020, with 36,608 recoveries.
A shortage of health-care workers and logistical flaws are hampering Indonesia’s efforts to inoculate its people against COVID-19, leaving the world’s largest archipelago trailing its neighbors despite being among the first in Southeast Asia to start the program.
Only 17.9 percent of Indonesia’s 270 million people are fully vaccinated, behind almost every major economy in the region, according to Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker.
India's COVID-19 tally rose to 33,678,786 on Monday, as 26,041 new cases were registered during the past 24 hours across the country, showed the federal health ministry's latest data.
Besides, 276 deaths were recorded since Sunday morning, taking the death toll to 447,194.
Indonesia said it’s taking steps to reduce the possibility of any new variants entering the country, including restricting arrivals from places with high infections, such as Turkey and the US Flight arrivals will be better managed to avoid crowding at airports.
The government is preparing to reopen Bali’s Nusa Dua, Sanur and Gianyar beaches during a trial phase in a decision to be made this week, Tourism Minister Sandiaga Uno said earlier.
Fully vaccinated foreign tourists who test negative for coronavirus will first be quarantined at facilities to be set up in Sanur, Ubud and Nusa Dua. The government said a new COVID-19 variant is inevitable and it’s anticipating the next wave of outbreak in November and December.
The number of COVID-19 cases in Indonesia rose by 1,390 within one day to 4,209,403, with the death toll up by 118 to 141,585, the country's Health Ministry said on Monday.
To date, at least 49.19 million people in Indonesia have received two shots of vaccines, while 87.74 million have taken the first doses, the ministry said.
Israel reported 3,208 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, bringing the country's tally to 1,267,188, the Ministry of Health said.
The death toll rose by 35 to 7,684 while the number of patients in serious condition decreased from 711 to 671.
The total recoveries rose to 1,201,780 after 8,555 newly recovered cases were added.
The number of people who have received the first doses of COVID-19 vaccines in Israel surpassed 6.09 million, or 64.8 percent of its total population, while over 5.6 million have taken two doses and over 3.2 million have got three jabs, according to the ministry.
A woman waits for the train on a station platform in Tokyo on Sept 26, 2021. (CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP)
The Japanese government said on Monday that it would ease quarantine rules for travelers who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 starting from Oct 1, shortening the required period for self-isolating at home from 14 days to 10 days.
Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said at a press conference that people who have been fully vaccinated would be allowed to go outside after a 10-day quarantine period as long as their COVID-19 tests were negative.
For people traveling from any of 45 countries and regions including Britain, India, and the Philippines, the existing rules of Japan would require them to spend three of the 14 days in a government-designated facility due to a heightened risk of introducing COVID-19 variants. However, fully vaccinated people would no longer be required to do so under the new rules.
Kato said the relaxed quarantine rules are the first in a series of steps in a review of Japan's border measures, adding that the country in the future would consider allowing entry depending on the COVID-19 situation abroad while taking steps including restrictions on movement and testing.
Meanwhile, Japan plans to lift its COVID-19 state of emergency, which covers 19 prefectures, in all of the regions at the end of September, broadcaster NHK reported on Monday.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said he discussed easing measures with relevant ministers on Monday, and would seek the views of a government panel of advisers on Tuesday.
"We will make a final decision on the matter based on the advice and discussions we have with the government expert panel tomorrow," he told reporters on Monday evening.
If approved, Japan would be free of such emergency restrictions for the first time in nearly six months.
Even when the state of emergency ends, authorities are considering keeping some curbs in place, fearing a spike in infections if the country opens up completely, according to local media.
Tokyo is considering limiting the opening hours of restaurants, for example, and only allowing alcohol to be served at pre-approved eateries, broadcaster NHK reported on Monday.
Daily coronavirus cases have been steadily coming down in Japan since its peak in mid-August when it saw more than 25,000 cases, according to data compiled by public broadcaster NHK. The cases dropped to 2,134 Sunday.
Jordan said on Monday that Crown Prince Al Hussein bin Abdullah had contracted the coronavirus.
"His Highness Prince Hussein, who had received the vaccine against the coronavirus, showed mild symptoms and is in very good health," the Royal Court said in a statement.
King Abdullah and Queen Rania will be subject to a precautionary home quarantine for a period of five days. The results of their COVID-19 tests came back negative.
Kyrgyzstan registered 58 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, taking the tally to 178,317, said the country's Republican Headquarters for Combating COVID-19.
The total number of recoveries increased to 172,912 after 64 new ones were reported in the past day, it said.
Two more fatalities were registered during the same period, taking the death toll to 2,602.
To date, 803,862 people in Kyrgyzstan have received vaccines, and 598,406 have taken both doses.
Malaysia reported another 13,104 new COVID-19 infections as of midnight Sunday, bringing the national total to 2,198,235, according to the health ministry.
Eight of the new cases are imported and 13,096 are local transmissions, data released on the ministry's website showed.
Another 278 more deaths have been reported, bringing the death toll to 25,437.
Mongolia reported 19 more COVID-19 related deaths in the last 24 hours, the highest number of fatalities recorded in one day since the pandemic hit the country, bringing the death toll to 1,152, said the Health Ministry on Monday.
The Asian country also registered 1,991 new infections across the country in the past day, taking the national caseload to 296,366, said the ministry, adding that three of the latest confirmed cases were imported from abroad.
So far, more than 65 percent of the country's population have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 since a nationwide vaccination campaign was launched in late February.
Visitors take pictures of an installation titled Crystal Universe by teamLab, which is being exhibited at the ArtScience Museum, in Singapore on Sept 21, 2021. (ROSLAN RAHMAN / AFP)
Another 4 million doses of China's Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccines purchased by Myanmar arrived at Yangon International Airport on Sunday, according to a release from the Chinese Embassy in Myanmar.
A total of 16.6 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been supplied by China to Myanmar so far, of which 3.9 million doses were donated by China, the release said.
Over 3.72 million people have been fully vaccinated nationwide, while over 3.47 million people have received the first jabs of COVID-19 vaccines as of Saturday, the country's Ministry of Health said in a statement on Sunday.
Myanmar reported 1,534 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, bringing the tally to 458,154 cases in the country on Sunday, the ministry said.
The death toll has increased to 17,527 as of Sunday after 62 more deaths were reported.
The goal of safely re-opening New Zealand's borders and developing new ways for people to travel will start with a self-isolation pilot project, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said on Monday.
"As part of the reconnecting New Zealanders to the world plan announced in August, the self-isolation pilot will look at self-isolation for vaccinated travelers who have not been to very high-risk countries," Hipkins told a post-cabinet meeting press conference.
The project is to explore a new pathway of entry into New Zealand and allows the government to test operational readiness, identify areas where further work is required to scale up the approach, and provide valuable insights into the options for the future, Hipkins said.
Meanwhile, New Zealand will allow recognized seasonal employer (RSE) workers from Vanuatu, Samoa and Tonga to arrive into the country without COVID-19 quarantine upon their arrivals in October.
Starting from Oct 4 for Vanuatu workers and Oct 12 for Samoan and Tongan workers, the move is considered a part of New Zealand's program of reconnecting with the world.
New Zealand reported 12 new Delta variant cases of COVID-19 on Monday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the country's community outbreak to 1,160.
New Zealanders are continuing to step up, come forward and get vaccinated, with 5 million doses of Pfizer having now been administered in New Zealand, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said on Monday.
As of midnight Sunday, 5,020,900 doses of the Pfizer vaccine had been administered in New Zealand, with 3,231,444 first doses and 1,789,456 second doses, Hipkins said in a statement.
"The number of vaccines being given surged to more than 90,000 a day in late August and we are now steadily delivering around 50,000 doses every day," Hipkins said.
The 1 millionth dose milestone was reached three months ago, and the 3 millionth dose was administered a month ago. In the past month, a further 2 million doses were given out, he said, adding the National Immunization Booking System has nearly 1.3 million future bookings at nearly 680 active vaccination sites around New Zealand.
Authorities in Pakistan arrested more than 40 people for issuing fake vaccination certificates.
The arrests took place over the past month and a half, said Sanaullah Abbasi, director general at Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency.
Pakistan reported 1,757 new COVID-19 cases over the past 24 hours, the National Command and Operation Center (NCOC) said on Monday.
The overall tally of the infected people climbed to 1,240,425 in the country, the department leading Pakistan's campaign against the pandemic said.
A total of 27,597 people died from the virus in Pakistan, with 31 new deaths, the NCOC said.
The Philippines' Department of Health (DOH) reported 18,449 new COVID-19 infections on Monday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the Southeast Asian country to 2,509,177.
The DOH also reported that 93 more deaths, pushing the death toll to 37,494.
DOH epidemiology bureau director Alethea De Guzman said the number of COVID-19 cases in Metro Manila and the rest of the country was starting to slow down and the country is now under "moderate risk" classification COVID-19 infections.
"Metro Manila showed a sudden downward trend with reported cases decreasing by 16 percent versus the previous seven days," she said in a televised press conference.
Singapore’s health ministry reported 1,939 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, the highest since the beginning of the pandemic.
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.
Singapore Finance Minister Lawrence Wong said the country is committed to reopening, and that recently reimposed curbs are to ensure the health system can handle an increased number of daily cases.
Wong, who’s also co-chair of the country’s virus task force, said reopening can proceed once the health care system is bolstered. He also said the city-state is in talks with other countries about expanding vaccinated travel lanes, possibly this year, as such easing happens.
Visitors pose for photos on a glass-floored section of the 123-story Lotte World Tower skyscraper in Seoul on Sept 22, 2021. (ANTHONY WALLACE / AFP)
South Korea said on Monday it would begin inoculations next month for children aged 12 to 17 and offer COVID-19 vaccine booster shots to those 75 years and above as the country starts to transition to normalcy by the end of October.
About 2.77 million minors aged between 12 and 17 will receive their first dose of vaccines from Oct 18, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).
While approving vaccinations for 12 to 17 year-olds, who will be given Pfizer shots, the panel and the government had not mandated that all children should take the shot.
Around 136,000 pregnant women will also be recommended to receive the vaccines from Oct 18 due to the higher rate of severe cases. The rate of pregnant women's infections that can develop into severe cases is six times higher than other women of childbearing age.
Meanwhile, the health authorities planned to administer booster shots to medical workers and the virus-vulnerable groups, such as those aged 60 or older and patients with underlying conditions, beginning from Oct 25.
The number of fully vaccinated people in South Korea stood at 23,237,917, or 45.3 percent of the population.
South Korea reported 2,383 new COVID-19 cases after hitting a record of 3,272 on Saturday. Health authorities expect infections to rise sharply from the middle of this week in the aftermath of the Chuseok holiday.
ALSO READ: South Korea readies booster rollout for 'high-risk groups'
Thailand agreed to halve its mandatory quarantine to seven days for fully vaccinated visitors starting next month, and will remove any isolation period for such travelers in 10 key provinces including Bangkok in November to help revive its tourism-dependent economy.
The quarantine time for those not inoculated will be cut to 10 days starting from Oct 1, the COVID-19 task force said.
From Nov 1, mandatory quarantine requirement will be waived in regions including popular tourist areas Chiang Mai, Phangnga, Krabi, Hua Hin, Pattaya, and Cha-am.
The country is keen to welcome back foreign visitors, after nearly 18 months of strict entry policies that contributed to a collapse in tourism, a key sector that drew 40 million visitors in 2019.
The task force also approved the reopening of a variety of businesses and services, including theaters, sports venues and nail salons, as of Oct 1, when a nightly curfew in many parts of the country will be cut by one hour, according to spokesman Taweesilp Visanuyothin. The new curfew hours will be from 10 pm to 4 am.
The easing of measures come as the country tries to increase the rate of vaccinations, after initial supply shortages. Less than a third of the population has been inoculated so far.
The task force also approved a plan to procure a combined 3.35 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, although no delivery timeframe was provided.
Pending Cabinet approval, Thailand will seek to buy 2.79 million doses of the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccines and 165,000 AstraZeneca shots from Spain and 400,000 AstraZeneca doses sourced from Hungary, a spokesperson said.
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Turkey on Sunday reported 25,861 new COVID-19 cases, raising its tally of infections to 7,039,500, according to its Health Ministry.
The death toll from the virus in Turkey rose by 228 to 63,166, while 24,875 more people recovered in the last 24 hours.