A man wearing a face mask looks at a screen displaying precautions against the coronavirus in Seoul, South Korea, May 24, 2021. (LEE JIN-MAN / AP)
SYDNEY / DHAKA / NEW DELHI / JAKARTA / TEHRAN / BAGHDAD / TOKYO / KUWAIT CITY / BEIRUT / ULAN BATOR / WELLINGTON / ISLAMABAD / DOHA / RIYADH / SINGAPORE / SEOUL / MANILA / DUBAI / BENGALURU / SUVA / MALE / KABUL / ISTANBUL / PHNOM PENH / MUSCAT – South Korea reported a total of four "breakthrough" COVID-19 cases, which refer to fully vaccinated people who were infected, the health authorities said Tuesday.
The number of such cases stood at four as of May 21. It represents 0.0003 percent of 1,482,842 people fully inoculated at the time.
South Korea reported 516 more cases of COVID-19 as of midnight Monday compared to 24 hours ago, raising the total number of infections to 136,983.
The daily caseload was down from 538 in the prior day, staying below 600 for three days. The daily average caseload for the past week was 595.The daily number of infections hovered in triple figures since Nov 8 last year due to small cluster infections in Seoul and its surrounding Gyeonggi province as well as imported cases.
Thirty-five cases were imported from overseas, lifting the combined figure to 8,943.
Four more deaths were confirmed, leaving the death toll at 1,938. The total fatality rate stood at 1.41 percent.
Afghanistan Tuesday reported 840 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases after health authorities conducted 8,338 tests within a day, bringing the total caseload to 67,743, the Ministry of Public Health said.
Nineteen more deaths were logged, lifting the toll to 2,855, while another 223 people have recovered during the past 24 hours, taking the total recoveries to 56,518.
Australia's second largest city Melbourne reinstated COVID-19 restrictions on Tuesday as authorities scrambled to find the missing link in a fresh outbreak that has grown to five cases.
Home gatherings will be limited to five guests, only 30 people allowed at public meetings, and face masks will be mandatory indoors from 6 pm local time (0800 GMT) on Tuesday until June 4.
"This is a responsible step that we need to take to get on top of this outbreak," James Merlino, Victoria state's acting premier, told reporters in Melbourne.
The latest Melbourne outbreak ends Victoria state's run of zero cases for nearly three months.
Victoria was the hardest-hit state during a second wave late last year, accounting for about 70 percent of total cases and 90 percent of deaths in Australia. The state, the country's second most populous, only controlled the outbreak after one of the world's longest and strictest lockdowns.
One new locally acquired case has been reported in Melbourne, Merlino said on Tuesday, a day after four infections were reported in the city.
A woman emerges from a COVID-19 vaccination centre in Melbourne on May 24, 2021 as the city records four new locally acquired cases of Covid-19 in the community after 85 day free of the virus. (WILLIAM WEST / AFP)
ALSO READ: Malaysia sees highest daily virus toll, new cases near record-high
Bahrain's health ministry on Monday reported 28 deaths from COVID-19, the highest daily toll in the small island nation which has seen a surge in coronavirus cases to record levels.
Last week, the Gulf Arab state restricted access to most public venues to immunized people after the spike in infections, which authorities mostly blamed on large gatherings during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan and Eid holiday.
Bahrain, a country of 1.7 million people, late on Monday reported 2,800 new COVID-19 infections to take its tally to more than 220,800 cases. It has reported a total of over 840 deaths.
It registered 3,177 new infections the previous day.
Bangladesh began administering the China-donated COVID-19 vaccines to its medical students on Tuesday.
About 1,000 medical students from the country's four top leading medical colleges, namely Dhaka Medical College and Hospital, Shaheed Suhrawardy Medical College, Sir Salimullah Medical College and Mugda Medical College, took their first shot of the COVID-19 vaccine thanks to a second batch of China-donated COVID-19 vaccines.
The final-year students from the medical colleges based in the national capital Dhaka received the Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine following a ceremony held at Dhaka Medical College and Hospital on Tuesday morning attended by Health Minister Zahid Maleque and other officials.
Bangladesh's drug regulator in late April authorized the Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use in the Asian country.
Cambodia reported on Tuesday the country registered 568 new COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours, bringing the tally to 26,329, the Ministry of Health (MoH) said in a statement.
The new cases included 540 local ones linked to the third wave of COVID-19 community transmissions starting from Feb 20 and 28 imported cases, the ministry said.
Four more fatalities were also reported, taking the death toll to 183, the ministry said, adding that 663 more patients have recovered, bringing the total number of recoveries to 19,022.
MoH's secretary of state and spokeswoman Or Vandine said that so far, some 2.28 million out of the 10-million-target population have been vaccinated.
Fiji reported 21 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday night, bringing the tally to 259 in the Pacific island nation.
According to the health ministry, nine of the new cases are contacts of previously confirmed cases that were identified through ongoing contact tracing and screening investigations, among which, three were from the Queen Elizabeth Barracks in the capital city of Suva.
Fiji Military Forces Commander Viliame Naupoto has confirmed the cases, saying that the Queen Elizabeth Barracks is under a total lockdown and they need at least 48 hours to decontaminate the whole area before re-opening the army base.
Ten other cases were from one household in Suva linked to a downtown supermarket cluster, while the remaining two involve a member of the Fiji Navy from Suva and a work contact of the case from the Samabula cluster.
Fiji now has 147 recoveries, 108 active cases and four deaths since the island nation recorded its first COVID-19 case in March last year.
India on Tuesday posted 196,427 new coronavirus cases over the last 24 hours, its lowest daily rise in infections since April 14, while deaths from COVID-19 rose by 3,511.
The country’s overall case load now stands at 26.95 million, while total fatalities are at 307,231, according to health ministry data.
Authorities have sealed off a hamlet in southern India after hundreds of people ignored a coronavirus lockdown and crowded the funeral of a horse considered divine in local tradition, a government official said on Tuesday.
The containment measures were introduced after around 400 people in a hamlet near the town of Gokak in Karnataka state gathered at a local Hindu monastery for the horse's funeral on Sunday, Gokak administration official Prakash Holeppagol said.
Russia on Tuesday shipped a generic version of the remdesivir antiviral drug called Remdeform to India as part of its humanitarian aid contributions to the South Asian country, video footage showed and a source told Reuters.
Russian ambassador to India Nikolai Kudashev said 225,000 packs of drugs were delivered, TASS reported. He did not mention the drug's name, but a source familiar with the shipment's details said all 225,000 packs included remdesivir.
A health worker prepares a jab of the Covaxin vaccine against COVID-19 at a primary health centre in Hyderabad, India, on May 25, 2021. (NOAH SEELAM / AFP)
Meanwhile, Pfizer is in talks with the Indian government over supplies of its COVID-19 vaccine, the US drugmaker said on Tuesday, as New Delhi scrambles to bridge shortfalls, having pledged to fast-track approvals for overseas vaccines.
In another development, the use of antibiotics – especially some that the World Health Organization recommends holding back for the most difficult-to-treat cases – may be “adding fuel to the fire of the already alarming antimicrobial resistance levels,” Kamini Walia, a microbiologist with the Indian Council of Medical Research, and colleagues said Monday in a study. “Fear of missing a secondary infection and lack of specific therapy for COVID-19 leads to over-prescription of antibiotics.”
The research, published in the journal Infection and Drug Resistance, analyzed data from 17,534 COVID-19 patients admitted to one of 10 hospitals in the council’s surveillance network from June 1 to Aug 30, 2020. Among these, 640 patients, or 3.6 percent, had a secondary infection, though the incidence was as high as 28 percent in some hospitals.
Almost 60 percent of patients who developed secondary infections died, compared with about 11 percent of those who didn’t, according to the study.
The Indonesian government has extended the micro-scale COVID-19 restrictions from May 31 to June 14, and expand the measure to four more provinces, an official said on Monday.
"The restrictions are also applied to Gorontalo, Maluku, North Maluku and West Sulawesi provinces," said Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs Airlangga Hartarto.
Hartarto pointed out that the new daily cases of COVID-19 infections this week increased to 5,000 per day, compared to those of last week of 3,800.
Another batch of the COVID-19 vaccine in bulk produced by Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinovac arrived at Indonesia's Soekarno Hatta Airport Tuesday morning, a senior Indonesian official said.
"Today we witnessed the arrival of 8 million bulk doses of the COVID-19 Sinovac vaccine," said Hartarto, adding it means that Indonesia has so far received a total of 83.9 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine, both in bulk and ready-to-use.
Besides Sinovac vaccines, Indonesia also received vaccines produced by British company AstraZeneca and vaccines produced by the Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinopharm, according to the official.
The number of COVID-19 cases in Indonesia rose by 5,060 within one day to 1,786,187, while the death toll increased by 172 to 49,627, the health ministry said on Tuesday.
Iran reported on Monday 11,005 new COVID-19 cases, taking the country's total infections to 2,843,523.
The pandemic has so far claimed 78,848 lives in Iran, up by 251 in the past 24 hours, the Iranian Ministry of Health and Medical Education said in a written briefing published on its official website.
Iraq's ministry of health on Monday reported 4,102 new COVID-19 cases during the past 24 hours, raising the nationwide caseload to 1,172,042.
The ministry also confirmed 24 new deaths, bringing the death toll from the virus to 16,214, while the total recoveries in Iraq climbed by 4,769 to 1,086,612.
The mandatory quarantine period for inbound travelers to Japan who have visited India, Bangladesh, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan or Sri Lanka within 14 days of arrival will be extended from six to 10 days, the Japanese government said Tuesday.
The move, which will come into effect on Friday, comes as Japan is grappling with a fourth wave of infections amid mounting concerns over the highly-transmissible variant first detected in India, the government said.
"There is a strong feeling of unease among the Japanese people regarding coronavirus variants, so we have decided to further tighten border controls in order to protect their health and lives," Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato told a press briefing.
Travelers who have visited any of the six regions will be subjected to a mandatory 10-day quarantine period spent at a designated facility, during which time they will have to undergo three COVID-19 tests, the government said.
A three-day quarantine period will also be imposed on those who have recently been to Kazakhstan or Tunisia.
Also on Tuesday, the government said it would better incentivize healthcare facilities with increased payouts for those administering COVID-19 vaccines and will look to broaden the scope of professionals permitted to give the jabs beyond doctors and nurses.
The Kuwaiti Health Ministry reported on Monday 1,240 new COVID-19 cases, raising the total infections in the country to 300,455.
The ministry also announced seven more fatalities, taking the death toll in Kuwait to 1,741, while the tally of recoveries rose by 1,081 to 286,199.
Lebanon launched on Monday the vaccination campaign for the public sector and foreign expatriates in the country.
"We should vaccinate people from all age groups especially those who are active in society," caretaker Health Minister Hamad Hassan said during his tour at the Lebanese University, where there are centers adopted by the government for vaccination.
These centers have been using the Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca and Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccines, according to the minister.
Lebanon's COVID-19 infections totaled 538,668 on Monday, up by 150 new cases, while the death toll reached 7,684 after seven deaths were registered.
Children play outside a traditional Malay wooden house in Malacca, Malaysia, on May 20, 2021. (MOHD RASFAN / AFP)
Malaysia has overtaken the global pandemic hotspot of India in confirmed coronavirus infections per capita. The Southeast Asian nation’s new COVID-19 cases reached 216 per million on May 23, higher than 175 in India, according to data compiled from Johns Hopkins University and the United Nations. However, there’s a statistical caveat that India’s numbers may have undercounted cases especially in the villages, and the country’s death rate is higher.
Malaysia on Tuesday reported 7,289 new coronavirus infection, a record number of new daily cases, bringing the overall tally to 525,889.
Another 60 deaths were also reported, pushing the toll to 2,369.
Malaysia’s surge in coronavirus cases is following an exponential trend since the start of April and the nation should prepare for the worst, Health Director-General Noor Hisham Abdullah said on Twitter.
The infections could “trigger a vertical surge,” he said, asking people to comply with the new measures that require most government officials and 40 percent of private sector staff to work from home. “Only together we can break the chain of infection.”
Just under 3 percent of Malaysia’s population is fully vaccinated, though the government aims to achieve herd immunity by year-end. Meantime, the surge has left some hospitals running low on ICU beds.
The Maldives will impose a curfew on all islands under monitoring over COVID-19, local media reported Tuesday.
According to a SunOnline report, citing Director-General of Public Health Maimoona Aboobakuru, all islands under monitoring over COVID-19 will be placed under a curfew from 9:00 pm to 4:00 am. There are currently 72 islands in the Maldives under that monitoring state.
Under the order signed by Aboobakaru on Tuesday, individuals on the involved islands are not allowed to go outdoors or visit other households during the curfew hours. Meanwhile, salons and gyms will be closed in areas under the curfew, and dine-in services at cafes and restaurants will be banned.
The archipelagic country has seen a surge in COVID-19 infections in May. Data from the Health Protection Agency (HPA) showed it has recorded 57,341 confirmed cases of COVID-19.
Mongolia's COVID-19 tally rose to 53,734 after 634 new locally transmitted cases were recorded over the past 24 hours, the country's health ministry said Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Mongolia recorded two more deaths and 608 recoveries in the same period, bringing the respective national tallies to 268 and 47,356, said the ministry in a statement.
New Zealand is pausing travel with the Australian state of Victoria for 72 hours, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said in an emailed statement.
The suspension will be in effect while the source of infection of five cases announced in Melbourne in the last two days is being investigated.
New Zealand reported two new cases of COVID-19 in managed isolation and no new cases in the community on Tuesday.
The two newly imported cases came from Japan and have remained in managed isolation and quarantine facilities in Auckland and Christchurch, respectively, according to the Ministry of Health.
The Omani health ministry on Tuesday reported 817 new COVID-19 infections, raising the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 212,038, the official Oman News Agency (ONA) reported.
Ten more fatalities were also reported, bringing the toll to 2,284, according to a ministry statement carried by ONA.
Another 285 people had recovered during the past 24 hours, taking the overall recoveries to 195,720.
Pakistan has reported 2,253 new COVID-19 cases and 92 deaths during the last 24 hours amid strict restrictive measures in southern Sindh province, the National Command and Operation Center (NCOC) said on Tuesday.
The new cases increased the total number of confirmed cases to 905,852, including 823,157 recoveries and 62,295 active cases, the NCOC said in a statement.
With the new tally, the death toll has risen to 20,400, said the NCOC, adding that 4,723 patients are in critical condition in hospitals.
The Qatari health ministry on Monday announced 299 new COVID-19 infections, raising the total number of confirmed cases in the Gulf state to 215,742, the official Qatar News Agency (QNA) reported.
Saudi Arabia extended on Monday the validity of residency permits for expatriates who are outside the kingdom, as well as exit and re-entry visas for visitors, Saudi Press Agency reported on Monday.
The extension will be free of charge till June 2 as a part of ongoing efforts to deal with COVID-19.
The extension will apply to expats and visitors who are in countries with travel ban.
The immigration authority also confirmed that the extension will automatically take place in collaboration with the National Information Center, without the need to report to the directorate of passports offices.
The kingdom's temporary arrival suspension covers countries with coronavirus outbreaks to avoid a surge in infections.
Singapore's Ministry of Health (MOH) reported 36 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, bringing the total tally to 61,860.
Of the new cases, 12 are imported cases, 24 are community cases, and there are no new cases in the dormitories.
Altogether 32 people have passed away from complications due to COVID-19 infection in Singapore.
Thailand's King Maha Vajiralongkorn approved the government’s planned additional borrowing to fund measures to counter the country's worst wave of coronavirus infections.
The government can borrow 500 billion baht (US$16 billion) in the local or overseas markets to finance COVID-19 relief measures for the public and businesses, according to a Royal Gazette announcement published Tuesday. The new debt, raised as loans or through sales of other securities, has to be wrapped up by September 2022, according to the gazette.
The Philippines' Department of Health (DOH) reported on Tuesday 3,972 new COVID-19 infections, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the Southeast Asian country to 1,188,672.
The death toll climbed to 20,019 after 36 more patients died from the viral disease, the DOH said.
A visitor walks past a Dubai billboard at the Arabian Travel market exibition in the Gulf emirate, on May 17, 2021. (GIUSEPPE CACACE / AFP)
The United Arab Emirates, which has one of the fastest inoculation programs in the world, will restrict public events to those who received vaccines against the coronavirus.
Attendance at all events and activities, including sports and cultural and social, will be restricted, according to the National Crisis & Emergency Management Authority. Attendees will also have to present a negative PCR test result taken within a maximum of 48 hours prior to the event.
The UAE will offer China’s Sinopharm vaccine to Chinese nationals visiting the regional tourism and business hub, the first non-residents to be eligible for the country’s vaccination campaign against COVID-19.
Chinese nationals over the age of 16 holding a short-term visa can receive two doses of Sinopharm in Dubai, the state news agency WAM said earlier this week, under an agreement between the UAE and China to launch a regional vaccination site.
The UAE led Phase III clinical trials of the vaccine produced by China’s state-owned drugmaker Sinopharm and has started manufacturing it under a joint venture between Sinopharm and Abu Dhabi-based technology company Group 42.
The Gulf Arab state, a country of some 9 million people, has vaccinated about 73 percent of its eligible population, authorities have said.
It recorded 1,512 new COVID-19 infections on Monday to take its total to 557,610 cases and 1,654 deaths.
READ MORE: Singaporeans told to expect more virus testing, surveillance
Turkey has vaccinated 14.5 percent of its population against COVID-19 with two doses, health ministry data revealed on Tuesday.
Over 12 million Turkish citizens have received both shots, and 16 million people have received their first jabs since the nationwide vaccination program started in mid-January, the data showed.
Turkey has so far reported 5,194,010 and 46,446 deaths, according to the ministry.
Vietnam widened lockdown measures in its industrialized north on Tuesday to combat its biggest COVID-19 outbreak so far, as authorities reported a daily record in new cases that was more than double the previous high.
Vietnam's health ministry confirmed a record 447 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, as the country deals with its biggest outbreak so far. The number announced late on Tuesday revised down an earlier figure of 457 infections.
"The COVID-19 variant found this time has been spreading very rapidly and widely," Health Minister Nguyen Thanh Long said in a statement, without specifying which variant. Vietnam has reported the presence of the highly contagious variant first identified in India.
Hanoi authorities increased restrictions, banning dining-in, parties and closing parks and hair salons beginning noon on Tuesday, according to a post on the government’s website. The order follows a rising number of virus infections in the capital city with a dozen untraceable cases, it said.
Bac Ninh, home to production facilities of Samsung Electronics, started a curfew and other travel restrictions from Tuesday, state media reported.
That followed the temporary closure of four industrial parks, including three with Foxconn facilities, by authorities in neighboring Bac Giang province.