People wearing face masks cross a road in the rain near a subway station in Seoul, South Korea on July 13, 2022. (AHN YOUNG-JOON / AP)
HANOI / MANILA / NEW DELHI / SINGAPORE / BAKU / SEOUL / WELLINGTON / SYDNEY – Daily COVID-19 infections in South Korea have jumped above 40,000 for the first time in two months, with the government warning of a potential five-fold surge in the coming months.
"Daily infections could soar to as many as 200,000 between mid-August and late September," Prime Minister Han Duck-soo told a government COVID-19 response meeting, citing the view of the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) and experts.
The figure of 40,266 announced on Wednesday represents an 8 percent jump over the previous day and is the highest level since 43,908 on May 11.
Levels of 200,000 per day were last seen in April.
Han said people in their 50s and those with underlying diseases will become eligible for a second booster shot.
Until now, only people aged 60 or above were eligible. The take-up rate has been low, however, with just 32 percent opting to receive a fourth shot.
The government has no immediate plans to bring back restrictions but does not rule them out if there is a "critical change" in the COVID-19 situation, Han said.
A seven-day quarantine requirement for those with COVID-19 remains in place, he added.
The cruise ship Ruby Princess departs from Port Kembla, some 80 kilometers south of Sydney, on April 23, 2020. (SAEED KHAN / AFP)
A COVID-19 stricken cruise ship docked in Australia's most populous city Sydney on Wednesday morning, adding fear to the state of New South Wales (NSW), which is already battling with a new wave of the infections.
The Coral Princess ship, which departed from the state of Queensland, docked at the overseas passenger terminal at Circular Quay, a central Sydney transport hub. There were more than 2,000 people on board, and more than 100 passengers and staff tested COVID-19 positive. Those on board who tested positive have been isolated on the ship.
Other passengers wishing to disembark were required to have a negative result on a rapid antigen test and will be advised to wear masks while off the ship, according to a Wednesday statement from NSW Health (ministry of health).
"The vast majority of COVID-19 cases on the ship are currently in crew members. All COVID-positive people and their close contacts are isolating and being cared for by the onboard medical team," said an NSW Health spokesperson.
Despite this, a number of passengers have reported their negative rapid tests were not checked upon disembarking on Wednesday morning. The ship is scheduled to stay in Sydney for one day before returning to Queensland's capital, Brisbane.
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)
In another development, health authorities have called on Australia's federal government to extend its free rapid coronavirus test scheme for vulnerable Australians.
The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) and Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) recently criticized the government's announcement that the free rapid antigen test (RAT) program will be terminated at the end of July.
Under the scheme, which began in January, pensioners and welfare recipients can access up to 10 free RATs every three months from pharmacies.
Fei Sim, president of the PSA, said the move would deter people from testing themselves for COVID-19 amid a winter surge in cases.
"If we cease to provide this program vulnerable people who would otherwise have been able to access free rapid antigen tests will no longer be able to do so," she was quoted by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) on Wednesday.
Australia on Wednesday reported more than 40,000 new COVID-19 cases and more than 50 deaths.
There were 4,468 cases being treated in Australian hospitals on Tuesday, up from 4,327 on Monday, including 126 in intensive care units.
Azerbaijan on Tuesday reported 63 new COVID-19 cases, taking its total to 793,827, according to the country's task force under the Cabinet of Ministers on COVID-19 prevention and control.
Data from the task force showed that 41 more patients have recovered in the past 24 hours, taking the total number of recoveries to 783,703.
No related deaths were reported in the past 24 hours.
A girl walks past a poster at a vaccination centre in New Delhi on April 10, 2022, after government announced the paid precaution dose against the coronavirus to be available for everyone above 18 years of age at private vaccination centers. (MONEY SHARMA / AFP)
India reported 16,906 fresh cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, taking the total case tally to 43,669,850, according to a health ministry update.
The country logged 45 more related deaths, and the active caseload currently stands at 132,457, according to the figures from the ministry.
The increase in daily COVID-19 cases is reported amid the detection of super contagious omicron mutant BA.2.75 that has begun to gain ground in India. Health officials are worried that the new mutant might spread rapidly.
New Zealand recorded 11,464 new community cases of COVID-19 and 29 more deaths from the pandemic, the Ministry of Health said on Wednesday.
In addition, 355 COVID-19 cases have recently traveled overseas, it said.
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' Department of Health (DOH) reported 1,363 new COVID-19 infections on Tuesday, bringing the number of confirmed cases in the Southeast Asian country to 3,721,413.
The number of active cases has climbed to 14,464, the highest since April 23. The death toll remained unchanged at 60,640 as no death was reported Tuesday.
"Most areas show a sharp increase in cases, with Metro Manila showing the steepest increase, now exceeding 650 cases per day," Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in an online briefing.
The country averaged over 1,500 cases, or 41 percent higher than the previous week and almost the same level recorded in the last week of February, she added.
Singapore Airlines stewardesses walk past a giant lollipop candy display at Changi International Airport in Singapore on April 1, 2022, as Singapore reopened its land and air borders to travelers fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. (ROSLOAN RAHMAN / AFP)
Singapore reported 5,979 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, bringing the total tally to 1,540,788.
Of the new cases, 5,743 were local transmissions and 236 were imported cases. Among the local cases, 508 cases were detected through PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests and 5,235 through ART (antigen rapid test) tests, according to statistics released by the Ministry of Health.
Five deaths were reported due to COVID-19 infection, pushing the death toll to 1,437, 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 873 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, up 305 from Monday, according to the Ministry of Health.
The infections brought the total tally to 10,756,254. The country also reported one death from the disease in the northern Quang Ninh province, bringing the total fatalities to 43,090.
More than 236.1 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in the country, including nearly 208 million shots on people aged 18 and above, said the ministry.
Vietnam has already recorded COVID-19 infections with Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 sub-variants and is accelerating the inoculation of the fourth COVID-19 vaccine dose among its citizens.