DPRK hails progress in drought fight amid COVID-19 wave

This picture taken on May 17, 2022 and released from the DPRK's official Korean Central News Agency on May 18 shows a doctor promoting pandemic control measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Pyongyang. (STR / KCNA VIA KNS / AFP)

SEOUL / DHAKA / SINGAPORE / HANOI / TOKYO / KUALA LUMPUR / WELLINGTON / CANBERRA / NEW DELHI / ISLAMABAD – The Democratic People's Republic of Korea has made progress in its fight against drought, and rice planting is under way nationwide as the country ramps up efforts to tame its coronavirus wave, state media said on Wednesday

The anti-drought efforts have made progress after the central and local government organizations mobilized "all capacities and means" to improve irrigation and helped with rice planting, the official KCNA news agency said.

"All farmlands that could suffer drought were located without exception, and farmers were informed of reasonable watering methods according to soil humidity and lighting conditions in order to prevent crop damage," KCNA said.

Agriculture authorities have come up with "meticulous farming strategies", including maximizing the efficiency of rice planting machines and securing high-quality fertilisers, it added.

KCNA said 93,180 more people showed fever symptoms as of Tuesday evening, bringing the total to 3,738,810. It did not report any new deaths, and the toll was 70 a day before.

State media has said the COVID-19 wave has shown signs of abating, after the daily numbers of people with fever topped 390,000 about two weeks ago.

Staff check a client at a drive-through COVID-19 testing clinic at Bondi Beach in Sydney, Australia on Jan 8, 2022. (MARK BAKER / AP)


The number of people who were hospitalized in Australia rebounded in 2020-21 amid easing COVID-19 restrictions, data has revealed.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) on Wednesday published hospitalization data for the financial year 2020-21.

It revealed that following a dip of 2.8 percent in 2019-20, the number of hospital admissions in Australia increased by 6.3 percent to 11.8 million.

Of those, 7.4 million were discharged on the same day they were admitted and 4.4 million spent at least one night in hospital – increases of 8.1 and 3.3 percent, respectively.

AIHW spokesperson Adrian Webster said the increase could largely be attributed to coronavirus restrictions easing across most of Australia in the second half of 2020 and early 2021.

"The significant increase in hospitalizations at the national level can be largely attributed to the easing of restrictions following the first waves of the pandemic in most states and territories, particularly restrictions on elective surgery," he said in a statement.

"The increase also reflects efforts to clear the backlog of surgeries that had been created the previous year."

In the state of Victoria, where a strict COVID lockdown was instituted in 2020 between July and October, hospitalizations increased by only 1.3 percent.

Commuters (left) gesture to a magistrate after being stopped and fined by policemen while outdoors without a facemask, along a street in a mobile court in Dhaka on Jan 13, 2022. (MUNIR UZ ZAMAN / AFP)


Bangladesh will conduct a week-long special campaign from June 4 to expedite the inoculation with COVID-19 booster doses.

People aged 18 and above, who have received their second dose of COVID-19 vaccines at least four months earlier, will be allowed to receive a booster jab during this special campaign.

The Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) under the Ministry of Health issued a release on Tuesday in this regard. According to the release, people can receive the booster dose at the nearest vaccination center from 9:00 am local time every day till June 10.

It said the existing vaccination drive will continue simultaneously.

Bangladesh began its COVID-19 vaccination drive in January last year to contain the pandemic. The Bangladeshi government halted administering first doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine after India banned vaccine exports, and resumed in June last year vaccine rollout in parts of the South Asian country with the China-donated Sinopharm vaccines.


India's COVID-19 tally rose to 43,160,832 on Wednesday, as 2,745 new cases were registered during the past 24 hours across the country, showed the federal health ministry's latest data.

Besides, six deaths from the pandemic were reported across the country since Tuesday morning, taking the total death toll to 524,636.

There are still 18,386 active COVID-19 cases in the country with an increase of 503 active cases during the past 24 hours.

Passengers wait in line before moving onto their temporary housing for quarantine as they come out of an arrival gate for international flights at the Narita International Airport in Narita, east of Tokyo, on Dec 2, 2021. (HIRO KOMAE / FILE / AP)


Japan plans to let more regional airports to accept entrants from abroad, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Tuesday, amid the Asian country's gradual relaxation of strict border measures implemented in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We will enable regional airports such as Sendai (in northeastern Japan) to resume accepting international flights, in consultation with local governments," Kishida said at his office.

Currently, international flights are limited to five airports in Japan – Haneda, Narita, Kansai, Chubu and Fukuoka – as part of COVID-19 restrictions.

Naha and New Chitose airports, popular transportation hubs to tourist spots in Okinawa and Hokkaido respectively, are scheduled to resume accepting international flights by the end of June.

The Japanese government also plans to announce guidelines on COVID-era inbound tourism for the travel industry on June 7, Kishida said, three days before the country resumes accepting tourists from overseas.

As the COVID-19 situation in Japan has been improving in recent weeks, the cap on daily arrivals from overseas is set to be raised Wednesday to 20,000 people from the current 10,000.

Since March, Japan has been gradually easing the COVID-19 rules, raising the daily cap on overseas arrivals to 10,000 people.

The country has given priority to foreign residents, business people, students and returning Japanese citizens among others, while prohibiting the entry of tourists.


Malaysia reported 1,451 new COVID-19 infections, as of midnight Tuesday, bringing the national total to 4,506,510, according to the health ministry.

There are six new imported cases, with 1,445 being local transmissions, data released on the ministry's website showed.

Seven more deaths have been reported, bringing the death toll to 35,676.

There are 23,152 active cases, with 28 being held in intensive care and 15 of those in need of assisted breathing.

The country reported 13,302 vaccine doses administered on Tuesday alone and 85.7 percent of the population have received at least one dose, 82.9 percent are fully vaccinated and 49.3 percent have received boosters.

People return to shopping at Newmarket in Auckland, New Zealand as some COVID-19 restrictions were eased, Nov 10, 2021. (ALEX BURTON / NEW ZEALAND HERALD VIA AP)

New Zealand

New Zealand recorded 8,182 new community cases of COVID-19 and 13 more deaths from the pandemic, the Ministry of Health said on Wednesday.

Among the new community infections, 2,534 were reported in the largest city Auckland, the ministry said.

In addition, 89 new cases of COVID-19 were detected at the New Zealand border.

Currently, 373 COVID-19 patients are being treated in New Zealand hospitals, including eight in intensive care units or high dependency units.

New Zealand has reported 1,165,498 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic hit the country.


Pakistan reported 66 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, the country's ministry of health said on Wednesday.

The tally of infected people increased to 1,530,453 after adding the new cases, according to the data released by the ministry.

A total of 30,379 people died from COVID-19 in Pakistan, with no more death on Tuesday, according to the ministry's statistics.

Republic of Korea

The Republic of Korea reported 15,797 new COVID-19 cases as of midnight Tuesday compared to 24 hours ago, raising the total number of infections to 18,119,415, the health authorities said Wednesday.

The daily caseload was down from 17,191 in the previous day, and lower than 23,945 tallied a week earlier, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).

The health authorities believed that the daily caseload has been on the decline following the Omicron variant-driven resurgence, which may have peaked in the middle of March.

Among the new cases, 44 were imported, lifting the total to 32,865.

A total of 21 more deaths were confirmed, leaving the death toll at 24,197. The total fatality rate was 0.13 percent.

A notice warning people not to gather in groups larger than five persons as part of restrictions to hald the spread of the coronavirus is displayed at Raffles Place financial business district in Singapore on Jan 4, 2022. (ROSLAN RAHMAN / AFP)


Singapore reported 4,985 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, bringing the total tally to 1,303,294.

Of the new cases, 439 cases were detected through PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests and 4,546 through ART (antigen rapid test) tests, according to statistics released by the Ministry of Health.

Among the PCR cases, 429 were local transmissions and 10 were imported cases. Among the ART cases with mild symptoms and assessed to be of low risk, there were 4,345 local transmissions and 201 imported cases, respectively.

Three death was reported from COVID-19 on Tuesday, bringing the total death toll to 1,389, the ministry said.  

Passengers wait for transportation outside the arrival hall of Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi on March 15, 2022, as Vietnam announced the return of a visa exemption policy for 13 countries in an effort to kickstart its tourism sector. (NHAC NGUYEN / AFP)


Vietnam recorded 1,010 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, down by 108 from Monday, according to its Ministry of Health.

All the new infections were domestically transmitted in 40 provinces and cities.

The Vietnamese capital Hanoi was the pandemic hotspot with 251 new cases recorded on Tuesday, followed by the northern Yen Bai province with 78 cases and the northern Vinh Phuc province with 61 cases.

The infections brought the total tally to 10,719,379 with 43,079 deaths.