M’sia to procure nearly 13m more vaccines as cases climb

A medical worker wearing a protective suit conducts a test at a free COVID-19 testing site in Shah Alam, on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, on May 27, 2021. (MOHD RASFAN / AFP)

ANKARA / BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN / TOKYO / AMMAN / KUALA LUMPUR / MUSCAT / DUBAI – Malaysia will procure an additional 12.8 million doses of coronavirus vaccine jointly developed by Pfizer and BioNTech in a bid to ramp up its immunisation programme, science minister Khairy Jamaluddin said on Thursday.

The procurement brings the total amount of doses secured from the US and German drugmakers to 44.8 million, enough to cover 70 percent of Malaysia’s population, Khairy said.

Malaysia on Thursday reported 7,857 new COVID-19 infections in the highest daily spike for the third day in a row, bringing the national total to 541,224, the health ministry said.

Health Ministry Director-General Noor Hisham Abdullah said in a press statement that eight of the new cases are imported and 7,849 are local transmissions.


Australia's second most populous state of Victoria will enter a one-week COVID-19 lockdown, forcing its near seven million residents to remain home except for essential business in a bid to contain a fresh virus cluster.

Victoria state Acting Premier James Merlino told reporters in Melbourne that starting from 11:59 pm (1359 GMT) local time Thursday, people will only be allowed to leave their homes for essential work, healthcare, grocery shopping or exercise.

People wearing masks cross an almost empty shopping street in Melbourne on May 26, 2021, as Australia's second biggest city scrambles to contain a growing COVID-19 outbreak. (PHOTO / AFP)


Brunei reported one imported case of COVID-19 on Thursday, bringing the national tally to 241.

According to Brunei's Ministry of Health, the patient is a 43-year-old man who arrived in the country from Manila, the Philippines, on Monday. The infection had undergone a swab test the day he arrived, and the result was positive.


The Thai king’s sister has approved coronavirus vaccine imports by an institution she sponsors, bypassing the government as it deals with surging infections and growing public anger over a slow and chaotic rollout.

The secretary-general of the Chulabhorn Royal Academy wrote on Facebook that the “alternative vaccines” would supplement the government campaign until it could meet the country’s needs.

The government, which has long insisted it must handle all vaccine imports, will next month start its mass immunisation drive, which relies heavily on AstraZeneca vaccines manufactured locally by a company owned by the king.

The announcement in the official Royal Gazette took some in the military-backed government by surprise, and comes as Thailand suffers its most severe COVID-19 outbreak so far and growing unease about the vaccine plan.

The decree was announced late on Tuesday and expanded the Chulabhorn Royal Academy’s ability to respond to coronavirus. It was signed by Princess Chulabhorn, its chairwoman and the youngest sibling of King Maha Vajiralongkorn.


Indonesia has resumed usage of a temporarily suspended batch of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine, the country’s food and drug agency (BPOM) said Thursday.

The agency suspended use of one batch of the vaccine to conduct an investigation after a young man died after being inoculated earlier this month.

“According to test results, it can be concluded that there was no relation between the quality of COVID-19 vaccine batch number CTMAV547 with the post immunization event reported,” said BPOM.


Turkey will start COVID-19 vaccination of its citizens above the age of 50 from June 1, since the country receives new batches of jabs, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said Wednesday.

In a video message, the minister thanked China for its "support and understanding" with regards to delivering CoronaVac vaccines to Turkey.

Turkey started mass COVID-19 vaccination on Jan. 14 after the authorities approved the emergency use of the Chinese CoronaVac vaccine. More than 16,250,000 people have been vaccinated so far.

Turkey on Wednesday confirmed 8,738 new COVID-19 cases, including 681 symptomatic patients, raising the total number of cases in the country to 5,212,123, according to its health ministry.

The death toll from the virus in Turkey rose by 166 to 46,787, while the total recoveries climbed to 5,057,713 after 12,205 more people recovered in the last 24 hours.

The rate of pneumonia in COVID-19 patients stands at 3.1 percent and the number of seriously ill patients is 1,561 in the country, said the ministry.

ALSO READ: New COVID-19 cases, deaths reach new high in Malaysia


Japan is looking to extend a state of emergency in Tokyo and several other areas by three weeks to June 20, national broadcaster NHK reported on Thursday.

The COVID-19 pandemic shows no signs of easing in Japan, less than two months before the capital hosts the Summer Olympics. 


Jordan on Wednesday announced that it plans to gradually ease measures to control the spread of COVID-19 as the pandemic begins to de-accelerate in the kingdom.

In a press briefing, Minister of State for Media Affairs Sakher Dudin said the first phase, which starts on June 1, will see the gradual reopening of schools and training centers.

The second phase is scheduled to begin on July 1 and will see shortened curfew hours and measures to stimulate tourism in parts of the kingdom, Dudin added.

According to the minister, the third phase, which is planned to start from Sep. 1, will allow most aspects of normal life to be resumed with curfews cancelled and in-class education at schools restarted.

Health Minister Firas Hawari said Jordan has signed contracts to secure more than 11.5 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, noting that the ministry aims to inoculate 100,000 people daily.


Vietnam reported 205 new COVID-19 cases from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. local time Thursday, including 203 locally transmitted and two imported, raising the total confirmed cases in the country to 6,316, according to its Ministry of Health.

The health ministry also announced on Thursday that an 81-year-old COVID-19 patient had died, marking the country's 46th death related to the coronavirus and 11th in the ongoing wave.

Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh approved the establishment of a fund to facilitate donations to help Vietnam acquire and produce Covid-19 vaccines. The plan comes as a new outbreak is spreading in the nation’s north, threatening industrial areas.

The health ministry has estimated it will cost the country about US$1.1 billion to acquire 150 millions of doses for 75 million people. More than 1 million people in Vietnam, or 1 percent of the population, have received at least a first vaccine dose.


India on Thursday scrapped local trials for “well-established” foreign coronavirus vaccines to fast-track imports as it battles a devastating second wave of the pandemic that has killed tens of thousands of people.

India recorded its highest COVID-19 death toll since the pandemic began last year in May, accounting for just over a third of the overall total.

India has been inoculating its people with the AstraZeneca vaccine produced locally at the Serum Institute, Covaxin made by local firm Bharat Biotech, and has begun rolling out Russia’s Sputnik V.

But supplies are far short of the millions of doses the world’s second-most populous country needs.

The government said it was in talks with Pfizer for “earliest possible” imports of its shots and that it had also had discussions with Johnson & Johnson and Moderna.

Last month, India pledged to fast-track approvals for foreign vaccines but its insistence on local trials was a key reason for stalled discussions with Pfizer.

India's COVID-19 tally reached 27,369,093 on Thursday, with 211,298 new cases added during the past 24 hours, said the federal health ministry.

Besides, as many as 3,847 deaths since Wednesday morning took the death toll to 315,235.

A health worker takes the body temperature of a passenger to check for COVID-19 symptoms after arriving at a railway platform on a long distance train, in Mumbai on May 27, 2021. (PHOTO / AFP)


The number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in Israel has dropped to 98 on Wednesday, the Ministry of Health said.

This is the first time this number has dropped below 100 since March 12, 2020, just two weeks after the first case of the virus was detected in the country.

It is also a sharp decline since Jan. 17 when a peak of 1,944 hospitalized coronavirus patients was recorded.

The ministry also reported 26 new COVID-19 cases, raising the total number of cases in the country to 839,408.

The death toll from the virus remained unchanged at 6,406, while the number of patients in serious conditions decreased from 55 to 49, the lowest figure since June 29, 2020 when it stood at 44.


The Kuwaiti Health Ministry reported on Wednesday 1,176 new COVID-19 cases, raising the total infections in the country to 303,039.

The ministry also announced five more fatalities, taking the death toll in Kuwait to 1,751, while the tally of recoveries rose by 932 to 288,289.

A total of 12,999 COVID-19 patients are receiving treatment, including 152 in the intensive care units, it said.

On Wednesday, Abdullah Al-Sanad, spokesman of the ministry, called on people to abide by health precautions and physical distancing and avoid gatherings.


Iraq's Ministry of Health on Wednesday reported 4,718 new COVID-19 cases, raising the nationwide caseload to 1,181,698.

The ministry also confirmed 26 new deaths, bringing the death toll from the virus to 16,267, while the total recoveries in Iraq climbed by 3,249 to 1,094,140.

A total of 10,250,984 tests have been carried out in Iraq since the outbreak of the disease in February 2020, with 44,252 done during the day, the ministry said in a statement.

It also said 24,130 people were vaccinated against COVID-19 during the past 24 hours across the country, bringing the total number of doses administered in Iraq to 561,966.


Iran reported on Thursday 9,994 new COVID-19 cases, taking the country's total infections to 2,875,858.

The pandemic has so far claimed 79,384 lives in Iran, up by 165 in the past 24 hours, the Iranian Ministry of Health and Medical Education reported.


The Omani Health Ministry on Thursday announced 880 new COVID-19 infections, raising the total number of confirmed cases in the sultanate to 213,784, the official Oman News Agency reported.

Sri Lanka

The Sri Lankan government has received another batch of Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccines donated by the Chinese government as the island country looks to vaccinate its citizens against the virus.

The vaccines which arrived at the Bandaranaike International Airport Tuesday night from Beijing were received by Chinese Ambassador to Sri Lanka Qi Zhenhong and handed over to Sri Lanka's Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi.

This shipment of vaccines was the second batch to arrive in Sri Lanka as aid from China. In March, China donated a batch of Sinopharm vaccines to the Sri Lankan government.

Speaking at the handover ceremony, Wanniarachchi thanked China for the valuable donation.

READ MORE: S. Korea reports 4 new virus cases in fully vaccinated people


The number of COVID-19 infections rose to 143,318 in Myanmar with 22 new cases on Wednesday, according to a statement from the Health and Sports Ministry.

The country's COVID-19 death toll stood at 3,216, the statement said.

Some 35 recovered patients have been discharged from hospitals on Wednesday, bringing the number of recoveries to 132,264 so far.


Mongolia on Wednesday received supplies donated by the Chinese government to fight the COVID-19 pandemic at an online handover ceremony.

Officials from the two sides attended the online handover ceremony.

The mutual support and assistance of the two peoples in their joint fight against COVID-19 is a reflection of China-Mongolia friendly relations, said Mongolian Health Minister Sereejav Enkhbold, who attended the ceremony.

The Chinese government's assistance to Mongolia, including vaccines, has played an important role in Mongolia's fight against COVID-19, he noted.

Chinese Ambassador to Mongolia Chai Wenrui said that the two peoples' joint fight against the virus serves as a model for international anti-epidemic cooperation.

A health worker inoculates a resident with a dose of the AstraZeneca/Oxford COVID-19 vaccine inside a Catholic church turned into a vaccination centre in Manila on May 21, 2021. (PHOTO / AFP)

The Philippines

The Philippines will allow the Pfizer and BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use in children aged 12-15, the head of its Food and Drugs Administration said, widening the number of people in the country that will be protected against the virus.

"Within the week, we will be issuing an amendment to the emergency use authorisation of Pfizer and we will be able to use it in children 12-15 year olds," Food and Drug Administration chief Rolando Enrique Domingo said during a televised meeting with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte late on Wednesday.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia will allow entertainment activities to resume for those who are vaccinated against the novel coronavirus, state TV reported on Thursday, as the kingdom relaxes restrictions imposed to check the spread of the disease.

Entertainment venues will be allowed to open at 40 percent capacity, it said.