Indonesia to give booster shots to public from Jan 12

People wear face masks the help protect against the coronavirus along a skywalk in Jakarta, Indonesia on Dec 30, 2021. (ACHMAD IBRAHIM / AP)

JERUSALEM / DHAKA / HANOI / JAKARTA / YANGON / BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN / SINGAPORE / ANKARA / SEOUL / SYDNEY / TOKYO / KARACHI, Pakistan / MANILA / ULAN BATOR – Indonesia will begin giving COVID-19 booster shots to the general public from Jan 12, health minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin said on Monday, as the Omicron variant spreads in the country.

Health workers were given booster doses in July and the plan now is to cover all adults who took their second shots over six months ago. Some 21 million will be covered under the booster program this month, Budi said.

"It has been decided by Mr. President that (the program) will begin on January 12," he said.

Indonesia has fully vaccinated 42 percent of its 270 million population, using shots produced by China's Sinovac Biotech, Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna.

Budi told a news conference that the country will need about 230 million doses for boosters and has secured nearly half of them.

The Omicron variant has infected over 150 people in Indonesia since its detection last month, the majority of whom were international travellers.

Budi said six of the cases stemmed from local transmission in the capital Jakarta, Surabaya, Medan, and Bali island.

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 government said the milder impact of the Omicron strain of COVID-19 meant the country could push ahead with plans to reopen the economy even as new infections hit a record of more than 37,000 and the number of people hospitalized rose.

Record daily case numbers were reported on Monday in the states of Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania, as well as the Australian Capital Territory.

In New South Wales, there were 20,794 cases, higher than Sunday's figure but below the daily record of 22,577 set on Saturday, with testing numbers lower over the New Year's holiday weekend.

The national daily total hit a record of more than 37,150 cases, exceeding Saturday's 35,327 cases, with Western Australia and the Northern Territory still to report.

"We have to stop thinking about case numbers and think about serious illness, living with the virus, managing our own health and ensuring that we're monitoring those symptoms and we keep our economy going," Prime Minister Scott Morrison told Channel Seven.

Hospitalizations rose to 1,204 in New South Wales, up more than 10 percent from Sunday and more than three times the level on Christmas Day.


Bangladesh's COVID-19 positivity rate, or the percentage of people who test positive for the virus, increased to 2.91 percent on Sunday, the highest in nearly three months, according to the country's Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS).

The country reported 557 new COVID-19 cases and one death on Sunday, taking the total tally to 15,86,466 and the death toll to 28,077.

Bangladesh reported its first three cases of COVID-19 on March 8, 2020. The first death was reported in the country 10 days later.


Brunei reported eight new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, bringing the total tally to 15,499.

According to Brunei's Ministry of Health, the newly recorded cases included six local infections and two imported cases.

People line up to register their names to receive COVID-19 vaccine in Hyderabad, India, Dec 27, 2021. (MAHESH KUMAR A. / AP)


India started vaccinating children aged 15 to 18 against the coronavirus on Monday as it quickly expands its inoculation effort to cover the world's largest adolescent population amid fears the Omicron variant will drive a new surge of infections.

Authorities on Monday reported 33,750 new COVID-19 cases and 123 deaths. The total number of cases of the fast-spreading Omicron variant detected in India was 1,700, the health ministry said.

Private and public schools will double up as vaccination centres for children and school authorities have been ordered to report their daily vaccination data to state authorities.

Authorities in Gujarat, which is Prime Minister Narendra Modi's home state, are hoping to give a first dose to 3.6 million children this week.

Thousands of children, many accompanied by parents, queued up outside schools, medical centres and special health camps from early on Monday to secure their first dose of a vaccine.

The government is only giving children Bharat Biotech's Covaxin vaccine as that is the only vaccine with emergency use listing for the 15-18 age group, the health ministry said last week.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett speaks during a news conference at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on Jan 2, 2022. (EMIL SALMAN / POOL PHOTO VIA AP)


Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said on Sunday that Israel would offer a fourth dose of COVID-19 vaccine to people over 60 and to medical staff as it faces a surge in Omicron variant infections.

Israel last week approved a fourth dose of the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, a second booster, for people who are immune-compromised and the elderly living in care homes.

"We now have a new layer of defense," Bennett said in a televised news conference, adding that Israel's top government medical official, whose approval is needed to expand the booster campaign, had signed off on the latest move.

"Israel will once again be pioneering the global vaccination effort," Bennett said.

Earlier, the Health Ministry's Director-General Nachman Ash said Israel could reach herd immunity as Omicron infections mounted and Merck & Co's molnupiravir anti-viral pill was approved for use in COVID-19 patients over 18.

Daily cases in Israel are expected to reach record highs in the coming three weeks. Bennett said that up to 50,000 people might soon be infected each day, while eligibility for testing could be tightened to help relieve long lines at testing stations.

Meanwhile, Israel will admit foreigners with presumed COVID-19 immunity from medium-risk countries as of Jan 9, the ministry said on Monday, moving to reverse a ban on entry by foreigners imposed in late November in response to Omicron variant surge.

Those slated to be allowed in would travel from countries Israel has designated "orange", would have to prove in advance they are either vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19 and would be subject to PCR testing before and after their arrival.


The fast spreading Omicron variant lurked behind rising coronavirus infections in Tokyo, where new cases rose to 103 on Monday, up from 84 the previous day and the highest since Oct 8.

Governor Yuriko Koike said Tokyo had 25 cases of Omicron, of which 11 were possibly transmitted within the community, Kyodo News reported.

Japan is bracing for rising infection numbers due to people travelling for the New Year's holidays.

In Okinawa, where tourists flock to popular beach resorts, new daily coronavirus infections rose to 130 on Monday, the highest since Sept 25, Kyodo said. As of Monday, Okinawa had registered a total 88 cases of the Omicron variant, it said.

Omicron is also spreading in other prefectures. Kanagawa, a prefecture neighboring Tokyo, confirmed one case on Monday, according to Kyodo. Hiroshima in western Japan confirmed 12 new cases, bring its total cases to 14, the Chugoku Shimbun newspaper reported.


Mongolia reported 138 new COVID-19 infections, including 11 imported cases in the past 24 hours, bringing the national total to 391,116, the country's health ministry said on Monday.

Most of the latest confirmed cases were detected in the national capital Ulan Bator, the hardest hit by COVID-19 and home to over half of the country's population of 3.4 million.

Meanwhile, no more COVID-19 related deaths were recorded in the past day, and the country's COVID-19 death toll remains at 1,987, the ministry said.


Myanmar reported 79 new COVID-19 infections and two more deaths in the past 24 hours, the ministry of health said on Sunday.

The country's daily positivity rate, or the percentage of people who test positive for the virus, was 1.14 percent, said the ministry in a release.

The number of COVID-19 cases has increased to 531,025, while the death toll has reached 19,274, the ministry said.

A Pakistani lab technician takes a sample with a swab to test for the coronavirus at the PIMS Hospital, in Islamabad, Pakistan on Jan 3, 2022. (RAHMAT GUL / AP)


Pakistan reported on Monday more than 700 COVID-19 cases in a single day, its highest tally in two months, as authorities warned of a fifth wave of infections and made preparations to try to contain the fast-spreading Omicron variant.

At least 708 cases in the past 24 hours pushed the positivity ratio to 1.55 percent, the highest since Oct 24, according to data from the National Command Operation Centre (NCOC), which is overseeing the pandemic response.

“There is clear evidence now of a beginning of another COVID wave which has been expected for the last few weeks,” Asad Umar, the minister in charge of supervising anti-COVID-19 operations, said on Twitter.

Genome sequencing had detected a growing number of cases of the Omicron variant, particularly in the largest city of Karachi, he said.


The Philippines' Department of Health (DOH) reported 4,084 new COVID-19 infections on Monday, pushing the number of confirmed cases in the Southeast Asian country to 2,855,819.

Sixteen more people died from COVID-19 complications, bringing the country's death toll to 51,586. The deaths include those who died in the previous months.

The number of active cases or patients still battling the disease in the country jumped to 24,992, while 21 laboratories failed to submit data.

Saudi Arabia

Daily coronavirus cases in Saudi Arabia have climbed above 1,000 for the first time since August.

Authorities in the Gulf Arab state did not break down the cases by COVID-19 variant. The country confirmed its first known case of the Omicron variant in early December.

Saudi Arabia, the largest Gulf state with a population of around 30 million, on Sunday registered 1,024 new coronavirus infections and one death. Daily cases had fallen below 100 in September.

Travelers have their documents processed at the Woodlands temporary bus interchange before boarding a bus that will transport them to Malaysia from Singapore, Nov 29, 2021. (TOH EE MING / AP)


Singapore reported 429 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, bringing the total tally of the disease in the country to 280,290.

Of the new cases, 128 were in the community, four were in migrant worker dormitories and 297 were imported cases, according to statistics released by the Ministry of Health.

There were 155 new Omicron cases confirmed on Sunday, of which 36 were local and 119 were imported, the ministry said.

Medical workers wearing protective gear prepare to take samples at a temporary screening clinic for the coronavirus in Seoul, South Korea, Dec 29, 2021. (LEE JIN-MAN / AP)

South Korea

Two people who posthumously tested positive for the highly contagious Omicron variant of the coronavirus appear to be the first such reported deaths in the country, Yonhap news agency reported on Monday.

Officials are still investigating the exact cause of death for the two patients, who were both in their 90s, Yonhap reported, citing health authorities in the city of Gwangju.

Meanwhile, South Korea has registered a total of 171,673 breakthrough COVID-19 infections, which refer to the vaccinated people who were infected with the virus, the health authorities said Monday.

The number of those who tested positive for COVID-19 after receiving two vaccine doses stood at 171,673 as of Dec 26 in the country, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).

It accounted for 0.414 percent of the fully vaccinated people whose number reached 41,484,528 on Dec. 26.


Turkey on Sunday reported 33,520 new COVID-19 cases, raising its tally of infections to 9,552,801, the Health Ministry said.

The death toll from the virus in Turkey rose by 129 to 82,635, while 22,161 more people recovered in the last 24 hours.

United Arab Emirates

Ddaily infections in the United Arab Emirates, a tourism and commercial hub now marking its peak tourism season and hosting a world fair, have crossed the 2,500-level.

The UAE announced 2,600 new coronavirus cases and three deaths.

Authorities in the Gulf Arab state did not break down the cases by COVID-19 variant. The country confirmed its first known case of the Omicron variant in early December.

Daily infections in the UAE rose above 2,000 on Dec 29, after having fallen below 100 in October.

The UAE said on Saturday it would ban non-vaccinated citizens from traveling abroad from Jan 10 and that fully vaccinated citizens would also require a booster shot to be eligible to travel.

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 16,948 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, including 16,914 locally transmitted and 34 imported, according to its ministry of health.

The Vietnamese capital Hanoi reported 2,045 cases, the highest in the country, followed by northern Hai Phong city with 1,804 cases and southern Vinh Long province with 1,280 cases.

The infections brought the country's total tally to 1,763,040 with 32,831 deaths, said the ministry.