Malaysians wait outside a community hall for coronavirus testing at a designated site in Shah Alam, outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, May 27, 2021. (VINCENT THIAN / AP)
TOKYO / ANKARA / KABUL / BANGKOK / NEW DELHI / JERUSALEM / HANOI / TASHKENT – Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin on Friday announced a nationwide "total lockdown" starting in June as coronavirus infections in the country surged to record levels.
Muhyiddin said the stricter lockdown from June 1 to 14 was for all social and economic sectors, and that only essential services would remain in operation.
"With the latest rise in daily cases showing a drastically upward trend, hospital capacity across the country to treat COVID-19 patients are becoming limited," Muhyiddin said in a statement.
Malaysia on Friday reported 8,290 new COVID-19 infections in the highest daily spike for the fourth day in a row, bringing the national total to 549,514, the health ministry said.
Another 61 deaths were also reported, pushing the toll to 2,552.
Given the full closure of the economy, the finance ministry will announce a relief package for individuals and economic sectors soon, Muhyiddin said.
If Malaysia can reduce the number of cases in the first two weeks of the lockdown, the government will allow some sectors to reopen slowly over the course of next four weeks – after which all economic sectors would be allowed to operate, he said.
Vietnam's health ministry is in talks to secure COVID-19 vaccines from Moderna through its distribution partner in Asia, Zuellig Pharma, as the country battles a new outbreak that is spreading more quickly.
Vietnam has placed orders for more vaccines from several suppliers and received around 2.9 million doses from its purchases and via the international COVAX scheme.
Health Minister Nguyen Thanh Long asked Zuellig Pharma to supply Moderna vaccines to Vietnam as soon as possible so the country can cope with the pandemic effectively, Vietnam's health ministry said in a statement on Friday.
Vietnam reported 214 new COVID-19 cases from 6:00 am to 6:00 pm local time Friday, of which 213 were locally transmitted cases and one was imported, raising the total caseload to 6,570, according to the Ministry of Health.
The ministry also announced that a 22-year-old patient with underlying conditions has died, marking the country's 47th death from COVID-19 and the 12th fatality in the ongoing wave.
At least 1.04 million people in Vietnam have had one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, but only 28,529 have been fully vaccinated, according to official data.
The Israeli government on Friday extended a ban prohibiting Israeli citizens and permanent residents from traveling to seven countries over COVID-19 concerns.
The ban on travel to Ukraine, Ethiopia, Brazil, India, South Africa, Mexico and Turkey will continue to be effective at least until June 13, according to a joint statement issued by the Prime Minister's Office, the Ministry of Health, and the Ministry of Transport.
Israeli citizens and permanent residents who want to travel to one of these countries must apply to an exceptions committee.
Meanwhile, all passengers arriving in Israel from these countries must go into quarantine, including those vaccinated and recovered from the virus.
It was decided that the travel ban will also apply to Argentina and Russia next week.
So far, a total of 839,429 coronavirus cases have been registered in Israel, with 6,406 deaths.
Uzbekistan will get US$100 million from the Asian Development Bank and another 100 million dollars from the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a resolution signed by Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev on Thursday.
The funds will be used to counter coronavirus infections and reinforce the infrastructure of the country's health system, according to the document.
The Uzbek government will purchase 1,000 new ambulances and special equipment, reconstruct and equip 475 health institutions, and also expand the scale of testing for coronavirus, it said.
So far, Uzbekistan has registered a total of 99,580 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 687 related deaths.
The death toll from the COVID-19 pandemic in Indonesia has surpassed 50,000, according to official data.
The health ministry said on Friday that the total caseload in the Southeast Asian country rose by 5,862 in the past 24 hours to reach 1,803,361, while the death toll increased by 193 to 50,100.
According to the ministry, 5,370 more patients were discharged from hospitals, bringing the total number of recoveries to 1,654,557.
Fiji reported on Friday night 46 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19, the highest daily tally the country has seen.
According to the health ministry, 43 of the cases were found to be linked to the existing clusters.
More areas will be cordoned off as part of an investigation into the infection cases, the ministry said, adding that they will conduct more screenings and testings in the Suva-Nausori corridor.
Fiji has so far reported a total of 360 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 161 recoveries, 195 active cases and four deaths.
A total of 977 new COVID-19 cases were registered in Afghanistan over the past 24 hours, taking the tally to 70,107, according to a statement issued by the Public Health Ministry Friday.
This is the highest number of COVID-19 cases registered within 24 hours in the country since the outbreak began in February 2020.
Another 18 deaths were also logged, pushing the toll to 2,899, while the number of recoveries increased by 157 to 57,119.
Singapore plans to roll out vaccines to students in a “great acceleration” of vaccinations, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said in an interview on CNN.
“We’re going to offer vaccination to our school students, the teenagers,” Balakrishnan said, “following which it’ll be open season for everyone in Singapore.” The city-state earlier flagged that almost all of its eligible population could be given at least a first dose of a vaccine by end-August.
Vaccinations in Singapore are currently open to those aged 40 and above, as well as for priority workforces such as first responders, hospital staff and airport workers.
Singapore's Ministry of Health (MOH) reported 24 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, bringing the total tally to 61,940.
Of the new cases, nine are imported cases, and 15 are locally-transmitted cases. Of the 15, 12 are linked to previous cases, all of whom have already been placed on quarantine. The remaining three are currently unlinked.
Singapore’s laboratories are operating at over 80 percent of capacity to meet demand for polymerase chain reaction tests following a surge in cases, the Straits Times reports, citing the Ministry of Health.
Singapore citizens, permanent residents and long-term pass holders who have traveled to the Australian state of Victoria within 21 days will be subject to an on-arrival COVID-19 test, a seven-day stay-home notice, and another test before the end of the stay-home period.
In another development, Singapore announced S$800 million (US$605 million) in additional support for businesses and individuals affected by restrictions imposed this month as it confronts a recent uptick in COVID-19 cases.
Thailand’s food and drug regulator on Friday approved for emergency use the coroanvirus vaccine developed by China’s Sinopharm, senior health official Paisan Dankhum said at a news conference, making it the fifth COVID-19 vaccine Thailand has approved.
A royal academy chaired by Princess Chulabhorn, the youngest sibling of Thailand's king, said it would import 1 million doses of Sinopharm's COVID-19 vaccine next month, after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized its use.
"We want to help plug in the gaps for business, schools, so they can move forward," Nithi Mahanonda, secretary-general of the Chulabhorn Royal Academy said at a news briefing.
Thailand on Friday reported 3,759 new COVID-19 cases and 34 more fatalities, bringing the tally to 144,976 cases with 954 deaths.
According to Veerakit Harnpariphan, deputy director general of the Department of Corrections under the Thai Ministry of Justice, a total of 22,101 inmates have tested positive for COVID-19 in 15 prisons located in the capital Bangkok and other areas.
Health workers attend to COVID-19 patients at a facility at the Commonwealth Games village temporarily converted into a care facility in New Delhi, India on May 1, 2021 (PHOTO / AFP)
Coronavirus infections in the South Asia region surpassed 30 million on Friday, according to a Reuters tally of official data, led by India which is struggling with a second COVID-19 wave and a vaccine shortage across the region.
India, the second most-populous country in the world, this month recorded its highest COVID-19 death toll since the pandemic began last year, accounting for just over a third of the overall total.
The South Asia region – India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Bhutan, Nepal, Maldives and Sri Lanka – accounts for 18 percent of global cases and almost 10 percent of deaths. But there is growing suspicion that official tallies of infections and deaths are not reflecting the true extent of the problem.
India's COVID-19 tally reached 27,555,457 on Friday, with 186,364 new cases added during the past 24 hours, said the federal health ministry. This is said to be the lowest tally in over one and a half months.
Meanwhile, as many as 3,660 deaths since Thursday morning took the death toll to 318,895.
There are still 2,343,152 active cases in the country, a decrease of 76,755 cases in the past 24 hours.
Delhi's Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Friday said the Indian capital city has brought its COVID-19 situation under control and that it will start lifting the local lockdown gradually from next week.
He said the COVID-19 positivity rate in Delhi has come down to 1.5 percent, and hospital beds, including ICU beds and oxygen beds are also available in the city now.
India is in talks with Pfizer to import its vaccine with a possible July start date, said V.K. Paul, who heads the panel on the country’s vaccine rollout. A key sticking point has been vaccine makers’ demand for indemnity protection against liabilities.
In another development, commercial international flights to and from India shall remain suspended until June 30 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, officials said Friday.
According to a circular issued by the country's civil aviation watchdog, Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), on Friday, the restriction shall not be applicable for international all-cargo operations and flights specifically approved by DGCA.
The Nepali government has decided to allow once-a-week flights to China, Qatar and Turkey as all international flights except two flights per week with India have remained suspended in the country's efforts to curb a deadly new wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, a Nepali cabinet minister said Friday.
"Regular flights once a week were opened for these destinations to ease travel for Nepalis and foreign nationals amid continued suspension of international flights," Bhanu Bhakta Dhakal, minister for culture, tourism and civil aviation, told Xinhua.
"The Tourism Ministry would decide the date of regular flights," he said.
Nepali officials said another objective of the move is to get supply of medical goods in an easier way to help the medical system control the pandemic in the country.
The Nepali authorities suspended almost all international flights in early May and later extended the suspension till the end of this month so as to curb COVID-19, as variants of the virus had left more sick and dead.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga extended a state of emergency that includes Tokyo and other major cities, in a last-ditch effort to rein in infections ahead of the capital hosting the Olympics in less than two months.
Suga said Friday the emergency that was due to end on May 31 would be extended to June 20, a little more than a month before the Tokyo Olympics start.
The nine prefectures are Tokyo, Osaka, Hokkaido, Aichi, Kyoto, Hyogo, Okayama, Hiroshima and Fukuoka.
The next three weeks will be key to speeding up vaccinations and stopping the coronavirus infection's spread, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said.
“The nationwide infection numbers have been falling since the middle of the month,” Suga told his coronavirus task force. “But the situation is still unpredictable,” he added, noting case numbers remained high in Tokyo and Osaka.
The latest state of emergency, put in place in late April, helped reduce the daily number of recorded infections in the capital from 1,027 on April 29 to 614 on Friday. The restrictions have meant that bars and restaurants were made to close at 8 pm and banned from selling alcohol, while some large stores were closed.
The Iraqi parliamentary health committee on Thursday proposed gradually easing the COVID-19 restrictions and lifting the current partial curfew in stages.
Jawad al-Musawi, a member of the parliamentary health committee, told the official Iraqi News Agency (INA) that "the committee proposed to the Higher Committee for Health and National Safety to follow up the daily numbers of COVID-19 infections within 10 days before deciding to lift the partial curfew in two stages according to the epidemiological situation."
Under the recommendation, the first stage is to reduce the hours of the partial curfew, while the second stage will see the full lifting of the curfew if the daily COVID-19 infections drop to between 1,000 and 2,000 within 10 days.
The Iraqi Ministry of Health reported 4,611 new COVID-19 cases Thursday, raising the nationwide caseload to 1,186,309.
The ministry also confirmed 22 new deaths, bringing the death toll from the virus to 16,289, while the total recoveries in Iraq climbed by 4,059 to 1,098,199.
It also said 22,972 people were vaccinated against COVID-19 during the past 24 hours across the country, bringing the total number of doses administered in Iraq to 573,659.
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Turkey on Thursday confirmed 8,426 new COVID-19 cases, including 673 symptomatic patients, as the total number of positive cases in the country reached 5,220,549.
The death toll from the virus in Turkey rose by 183 to 46,970, while the total recoveries climbed to 5,070,815 after 13,102 more cases recovered in the last 24 hours, according to the Turkish Health Ministry.
The rate of pneumonia in Turkey's COVID-19 patients stood at 3.1 percent and the number of seriously ill patients in the country was 1,504, said the ministry.
The total number of people infected with COVID-19 in Sri Lanka reached 174,059 Thursday with 1,782 new cases reported, official statistics from the Health Ministry showed.
Out of the total number infected, 143,789 people had been discharged , bringing down the active patient count to 28,488. Altogether 1,298 deaths have been reported from the virus in the country.
Sri Lanka has been facing a resurgence in COVID-19 as health experts have warned that a new variant of the coronavirus has been fast spreading all the districts.
Myanmar reported 96 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, bringing the tally to 143,414 on Thursday, according to a release from the Health and Sports Ministry.
The death toll stood at 3,216 while the number of recoveries rose to 132,269 so far, the release said.
A total of 1,788 samples were tested for COVID-19 on Thursday, down from around 10,000 samples tested daily in early February.
The virus was first detected in Myanmar on March 23 last year.
READ MORE: New COVID-19 cases, deaths reach new high in Malaysia
Authorities in Vietnam’s commercial hub Ho Chi Minh City told restaurants and sidewalk eateries to temporarily halt dine-in services and limited religious ceremonies and public gatherings to 10 or fewer people, while the transport ministry increased restrictions on international flights to the city from May 27 to June 4. Vietnam halted most international commercial flights in early December.
Ho Chi Minh City is dealing with four virus clusters, one tied to a church with 36 infections and another with nine cases associated with a Panama-registered vessel that arrived on May 26 from India, city authorities said in a statement.
Australia's Victoria state reported fewer new local COVID-19 cases on Friday, the first day of a one-week hard lockdown imposed to contain a highly-infectious outbreak which authorities said could become uncontrollable.
Four new locally acquired cases were reported in the last 24 hours, down from 12 a day earlier, taking the total infections in the latest cluster to 30 but officials urged people to remain cautious and follow lockdown rules.
"We are very, very early in this … community transmission is still expected to occur," Victoria state Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton told reporters in the state capital Melbourne.
Victoria, Australia's second most populous state, entered into a lockdown on Thursday night, due to run until June 3, forcing its near seven million residents to remain home except for essential business.
People are allowed to leave their homes only for five reasons – essential work, healthcare, grocery shopping, exercise or to get a coronavirus vaccination. Masks must be worn at all times when they leave homes.
The latest outbreak was caused by a traveller, who left hotel quarantine in South Australia state after testing negative, but later tested positive in Melbourne.
More than 15,000 primary and second contacts have been identified, a rise of 5,000 in 24 hours, while authorities listed more than a hundred virus-exposed locations.
Medical officials have said the latest COVID-19 variant, first detected in India, was likely to be more virulent than the original strains, taking one day to infect another person compared with earlier strains which can take about five or six.