Indian opposition seeks higher compensation for virus deaths

Relatives and friends put on personal protective equipment (PPE) suits before the burial of their loved one who died from the COVID-19 coronavirus, at a graveyard in New Delhi on April 30, 2021. (TAUSEEF MUSTAFA / AFP)

YANGON / JAKARTA / SINGAPORE / SYDNEY / NEW DELHI / SUVA – India's main opposition Congress party on Friday demanded a hefty rise in compensation for the families of those who died of COVID-19, after the World Health Organization estimated the country's toll was nearly 10 times the reported figure.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government has rejected the WHO estimate released on Thursday that 4.7 million people died in India as a result of the pandemic until last year, when hospitals ran out of oxygen and beds due to a record wave driven by the Delta variant.

India has reported only 524,002 COVID-19 deaths – the most after the United States and Brazil – with more than 43 million infections. Actual infections are believed to be in the hundreds of millions in the country of 1.35 billion people.

"Science doesn't LIE. Modi does," Congress's second-in-command, Rahul Gandhi, said on Twitter, citing the WHO report. "Respect families who have lost loved ones."

He asked the government to compensate the families of each person dying of COVID with 400,000 rupees ($5,213). The government currently gives 50,000 once deaths are confirmed to be from COVID-19.

The WHO said it had not yet fully examined new data provided this week by India, which issued its own mortality figures for all causes of death in 2020 on Tuesday. The UN body said it may add a disclaimer to its report highlighting ongoing conversations with India.

Students wait for their turn to receive their first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in Sydney on Aug 9, 2021. (DEAN LEWINS / POOL / AFP)


A new global trial of COVID-19 vaccines is set to begin in the Australian state of Victoria, which will administer lower dose booster vaccines in an effort to top up immunity, lessen side effects, and stretch supplies.

The large-scale trial, announced to the public by the Murdoch Children's Research Institute (MCRI) on Friday, would see 800 participants in Victoria receive a low dose of COVID-19 booster vaccine.

A representative from the MCRI told Xinhua on Friday that the program would use half doses of the Pfizer vaccine, 15 micrograms as opposed to 30 micrograms, and the Moderna vaccine would be administered at 20 micrograms, rather than 50.

Following receiving the shot, participants would be required to take four separate blood tests to monitor antibody levels, fill out an online diary card for seven days, and receive follow-up calls to assess the side effects they experienced.

The study seeks to assess the impacts and use the results to guide future global vaccination strategies.

Trial lead, Professor Kim Mulholland from the MCRI, said the testing would be crucial as the world begins to deal with waning immunity at the current stage of the pandemic.

Traditional dancers in grass skirts welcome holidaymakers in Nadi on Dec 1, 2021, as Fiji opens its borders to international travelers for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic swept the globe and devastated its tourism-reliant economy. (LEON LORD / AFP)

Fiji and Samoa

The two South Pacific island nations of Fiji and Samoa have reported high vaccination rates in their fight against COVID-19.

Fiji's Ministry of Health confirmed that 90.6 percent of all Fijians over the age of 12 have received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to the Fijivillag news website on Friday.

As of Thursday, a total of 125,039 people in Fiji have received their booster doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Fiji, a country with a population of around 900,000, has reported a total of 862 COVID-19 related deaths, and it also recorded 912 COVID-19 positive patients who died from other serious medical conditions unrelated to COVID-19.

Meanwhile, in Samoa, the ministry of health has confirmed that 92.7 percent of those aged 18 years and above have received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

The island nation exceeded a 100-percent vaccination rate of the first dose for the eligible population.

Currently, the total number of booster doses administered in Samoa stands at 72,480.

Samoa has so far recorded a total of 20 COVID-19-related deaths.

Muslim women offer Eid al-Fitr prayers to mark the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan at Sunda Kelapa port in Jakarta, Indonesia, on May 2, 2022. (TATAN SYUFLANA / AP)


The number of COVID-19 cases in Indonesia, a country with the world's largest Muslim population, remained stable during the Eid al-Fitr holiday.

Since April 28, Indonesia has recorded less than 500 daily cases nationwide despite an increase in public mobility.

On Thursday, health authorities in the archipelago confirmed 250 new cases.

To date, the total number of COVID-19 infections in the country stood at 6.04 million with 156,340 deaths due to the viral disease.

Amid declining COVID-19 cases, the government has allowed the people to perform prayers at worship places without crowd limit.

On Monday morning, tens of thousands of Muslims were seen standing outside the newly constructed Jakarta International Stadium for Eid prayers.

Some 85 million people reportedly traveled to their hometown in this year's Eid exodus. Exodus travellers have been advised by authorities to stay cautious and follow health protocols during the holiday period.

Authorities continued to accelerate the national vaccination program with more than 199.34 million people having received their first doses of vaccines, while over 165.60 million the second doses. At least 40.94 million people have received booster shots. A booster shot has been included in the government's vaccine mandates for exodus travelers.

Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speaks during a press conference at the prime minister's official residence, April 8, 2022. (RODRIGO REYES MARIN / POOL PHOTO VIA AP)


Japan will remain vigilant as it transitions out of the COVID-19 pandemic and related curbs, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said on Thursday, adding that some of the virus countermeasures will be reviewed in June.

"Complacency cannot be tolerated yet," said Kishida, speaking via a translator, during a visit to London.

"Around June we will review in a phased manner the COVID-19 countermeasures, including border measures to restore our normal lifestyle."

A woman receives a shot of China's Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine in Yangon, Myanmar, Aug 29, 2021. (PHOTO / XINHUA)


Myanmar has begun administering locally filled-and-packed doses of China's Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccines, locally known as the Myancopharm vaccines, according to the Ministry of Health on Thursday.

"The inoculation of Myancopharm COVID-19 vaccines has begun not only in Nay Pyi Taw and Yangon but also in other regions and states," Than Naing Soe, a director from the Ministry of Health, told Xinhua on Thursday.

Union Minister for Health Thet Khaing Win observed the administering of Myancopharm COVID-19 vaccines in Nay Pyi Taw on Wednesday.

Myanmar's Ministry of Industry, in collaboration with China National Biotec Group (CNBG), affiliated with Sinopharm, domestically packed and produced the Myancopharm COVID-19 vaccines.

According to the ministry's figures, more than 23.47 million people in the Southeast Asian country have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as of April 30.

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 4,733 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, bringing the total tally to 1,208,917.

Of the new cases, 361 cases were detected through PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests and 4,372 through ART (antigen rapid test) tests, according to statistics released by the Ministry of Health.

Four deaths were reported from COVID-19 on Thursday, bringing the total death toll to 1,344, the ministry said.