People wearing protective masks to help curb the spread of the coronavirus walk near a landmark lion statue of a department store that also wears a mask in the Ginza shipping area of Tokyo on July 28, 2022. (SHUJI KAJIYAMA / AP)
TOKYO / SINGAPORE / HANOI / MANILA / SYDNEY / KUALA LUMPUR – Japan logged 249,830 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, posting a record high amid concerns over the overburdened medical system due to the quickly surging number.
It was the second consecutive day that the country reported over 200,000 new cases, with the previous record hitting 233,000 cases on Thursday last week in Japan's seventh wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tokyo reported 38,940 new cases, while Osaka Prefecture logged 24,038 cases.
Hyogo Prefecture, which posted 11,201 cases, and Aichi Prefecture, with 17,778 new cases, were among the 24 areas reporting record infections Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the country's daily death toll amounted to 169.
Japan saw the world's highest number of new COVID-19 cases in the week to July 24 with more than 969,000 infections, according to the World Health Organization.
The Japanese government has recently announced its decision to allow local governments from the country's 47 prefectures to issue declarations to tackle the spread of the highly transmissible BA.5 Omicron subvariant.
The government said it will deploy officials to prefectures to oversee precautionary measures and act as liaison officers.
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)
Australia's COVID-19 winter outbreak fueled by the new Omicron sub-variants BA.4/5 may have peaked early, Health Minister Mark Butler said on Thursday, as hospitals reported a steady fall in admissions over the past week.
Australia is battling one of its worst flare-ups of the coronavirus driven by the fast-moving new Omicron sub-variants, putting severe strain on hospitals and retirement homes. But Health Minister Mark Butler flagged the worst could be over.
"That is what I'm hearing but we're not calling it yet," Butler told Nine News. "We are quietly hoping that we have reached the peak earlier than we expected to."
Health officials predicted the latest wave could peak only later this month, with some states expecting the spike in infection rates and hospital admissions to ease by late August.
"It does seem clear cases are starting to peak and maybe drop off in some states and very pleasingly, hospital numbers have dropped off," Butler said.
Hospital admissions from COVID-19 hovered near the 5,000 level on Thursday but have fallen from the record 5,571 reached a week ago, official data showed.
Butler said influenza infections had passed their peak, relieving pressure on the health system.
Australia has endured a tough winter with COVID-19 and the flu virus circulating. Many frontline workers in hospitals are also sick or in isolation, worsening the healthcare crisis.
Data also showed a lag in people taking booster shots, with only about 71 percent getting their third dose versus 96 percent who have had two doses, raising concerns of a surge in hospital cases.
The government said on Wednesday it would offer from September Moderna's coronavirus vaccine for children aged 6 months to below 5 years who are at higher risk of developing severe illness.
Australia has reported just over 9.5 million cases and 12,072 deaths since the pandemic began, far lower than many countries helped by world-beating vaccination numbers and strict restrictions earlier in the pandemic.
Malaysia reported 5,330 new COVID-19 infections as of midnight Wednesday, bringing the national total to 4,692,800, according to the health ministry.
There are 13 new imported cases, with 5,317 cases being local transmissions, data released by the ministry showed.
Another 10 deaths have been reported, pushing the death toll to 35,995.
New Zealand's health ministry sees strong signs that the country's latest COVID-19 wave has peaked, as new cases continue to trend lower.
The number of people in hospitals with COVID-19 is also down on late July.
"The case rates have continued to trend lower across all regions for the second week running," Andrew Old, head of the New Zealand Public Health Agency, told reporters on Thursday.
In the past seven days there were on average 6,142 new cases daily of COVID-19, down from a seven-day rolling average of 7,776 new cases a week earlier, according to Health Ministry data released on Thursday.
According to data issued on Thursday, 663 people are in hospital with COVID, well below levels seen in late July, when more than 800 people were in hospital with the virus.
New Zealand's latest modelling showed case numbers were at the lower end of what had been expected. The decline "strongly suggests we've reached a peak," Old said.
The Omicron BA.5 sub-variant is driving the current wave in New Zealand, which has 5.1 million people. There have been 44,776 active cases in the past seven days.
A child receives the Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 5-11 as a performer dressed as superhero character Spider-Man looks on at a gym in San Juan City, suburban Manila on Feb 7, 2022. (TED ALJIBE / AFP)
The Philippines reported 3,047 new COVID-19 infections on Wednesday, bringing the number of confirmed cases in the Southeast Asian country to 3,785,869.
The Department of Health (DOH) said the number of active cases dropped to 31,992. The number of active cases has fallen for the second straight day.
The DOH said 13 additional patients died from COVID-19 complications, pushing the country's death toll to 60,762.
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 7,231 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, bringing the total tally to 1,736,226.
Of the new cases, 772 cases were detected through PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests and 6,459 through ART (antigen rapid test) tests, according to statistics released by the Ministry of Health.
Among the PCR cases, 729 were local transmissions and 43 were imported cases. Among the ART cases with mild symptoms and assessed to be of low risk, there were 6,213 local transmissions and 246 imported cases, respectively.
Four deaths were reported from COVID-19 on Wednesday, bringing the total death toll to 1,528, the ministry said.
A man passes walks past a billboard on the coronavirus in Ho Chi Minh City on Dec 4, 2021. (NHAC NGUYEN / AFP)
Vietnam recorded 2,096 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, up 79 from Tuesday, according to the Ministry of Health.
All the new cases were locally transmitted, said the ministry.
The newly reported infections brought the total tally to 10,785,122. The country reported no new deaths from the pandemic on Wednesday, with the total fatalities staying at 43,094.
As of Wednesday, there were 80 severe cases in need of assisted breathing in the southeast Asian country, doubling Tuesday's figure, according to the ministry.