Virus: Japan to double limit on foreign arrivals from June

Passengers wait in line before moving onto their temporary housing for quarantine as they come out of an arrival gate for international flights at the Narita International Airport in Narita, east of Tokyo, on Dec 2, 2021. (HIRO KOMAE / FILE / AP)

SEOUL / YANGON / SINGAPORE / KUALA LUMPUR / WELLINGTON / TOKYO / NEW DELHI / BANGKOK / SYDNEY – Japan will next month double its limit on foreign arrivals to 20,000 a day, the top government spokesperson said on Friday.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told a regular news conference that travelers from most countries, about 80 percent of the total foreign entrants to Japan, would not be required to provide proof of negative COVID-19 tests, nor would they have to quarantine on arrival.

This included people from all other members of the G7 group of developed economies.

Japan is accepting business travelers, foreign students and academics but not tourists, except a limited number in a trial of package tours.

Matsuno said experience with the trials would be used in later decisions to further reopen.

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)


Influenza and COVID-19 are spreading rapidly among students and school staff in the Australian state of Victoria, causing the return of remote learning and exam extension.

From Friday, St Francis Xavier College's Berwick campus in Melbourne's southeast is forced to implement remote learning until at least next Tuesday. The school said the decision is due to the combined impact of COVID-19 and seasonal staff illness which has impacted their ability to supervise students on site.

Victoria's Deputy Premier James Merlino also confirmed with local media on Thursday that a private school in regional Shepparton has reverted to some remote learning, as the school needs to deal with staffing pressures.

The deadline for the national assessment program NAPLAN has also been extended in the state, as many students have not been able to complete exams within the initial testing windows.

The Royal Children's Hospital said on Thursday that influenza has returned to the state and is already making children seriously unwell in the community. People are encouraged to get a flu shot soon.

The hospital said last week that its emergency department was experiencing "extremely high demand and extended wait periods."

Meanwhile, the number of COVID-19 cases continues to surge in the state. On Friday, Victoria reported 12,556 new COVID-19 cases and 23 deaths. There were 514 people with the virus in hospitals with 35 in the intensive care unit.  

In this photo provided by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea government, a worker in protective gear stands on an empty sidewalk in Pyongyang, the DPRK, on May 17, 2022. (KOREAN CENTRAL NEWS AGENCY / KOREA NEWS SERVICE VIA AP)

Democratic People's Republic of Korea

The Democratic People's Republic of Korea said on Friday it was achieving "good results" in the fight against the country's first confirmed COVID-19 outbreak, as the number of people with fever symptoms surpassed 2 million.

The nation reported 263,370 more people with fever symptoms, and two more deaths, taking the total fever caseload to 2.24 million as of Thursday evening, including 65 deaths, according to state media KCNA.

Despite the caseload, the country said farming continues, factories are working, and it was planning a state funeral for a former general.

"Even under the maximum emergency epidemic prevention situation, normal production is kept at key industrial sectors and large-scale construction projects are propelled without let-up," KCNA said.

"Good results are reported steadily in the ongoing anti-epidemic war," it added.

The DPRK said on Wednesday the country's virus outbreak was taking a "favourable turn".

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 has supplied COVID-19 vaccines to Cambodia and Thailand under an initiative of the Quad group of countries, New Delhi said on Thursday, though not the Johnson & Johnson shot as originally planned.

The leaders of the Quad countries – India, the United States, Japan and Australia – could discuss the vaccine supply plan when they meet in Japan on Tuesday, Indian foreign ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi told a news conference.

"We have sent, under the Quad umbrella, vaccines to Cambodia and Thailand," Bagchi said.

"Yes, the original plan was to use a different modality, but the final objective is to ensure that vaccines are shared under the Quad umbrella to those countries who need them."

Bagchi did not give numbers, but Indian foreign ministry data shows that India last month sent 200,000 doses of Covovax, a version of the Novavax vaccine made by the Serum Institute of India (SII), to Thailand under the Quad programme.

India separately shipped 325,000 doses of Covishield, a version of the AstraZeneca shot made by the SII, to Cambodia, the data shows.

A woman receives a shot of China's Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine in Yangon, Myanmar, Aug 29, 2021. (PHOTO / XINHUA)


Myanmar health authorities received more COVID-19 vaccine syringes donated by China at the Yangon international airport on Thursday, said the state-run television channel MRTV.

On Wednesday, a new batch of COVID-19 vaccines and syringes donated by the Chinese government also arrived in Yangon.

More vaccines and syringes will arrive at Myanmar on May 28 and 29, said the Ministry of Health.

On Thursday, Myanmar reported four new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, bringing the tally to 613,186 , showed the ministry's data.

No new deaths from the pandemic were confirmed in the Southeast Asian country on Thursday, leaving the death toll unchanged at 19,434, it said.

New Zealand

New Zealand recorded 7,800 new community cases of COVID-19 and 17 more deaths, the Ministry of Health said on Friday.

Among the new community infections, 2,755 were reported in the largest city Auckland, the ministry said.

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 4,578 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, bringing the total tally to 1,258,691.

Among the new cases, 4,471 were local transmissions and 107 were imported cases.

Of the local cases, 469 cases were detected through PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests and 4,002 through ART (antigen rapid test) tests, according to statistics released by the Ministry of Health.

Two deaths were reported from COVID-19 on Thursday, bringing the total death toll to 1,371, according to the ministry. 

People enjoy a drink at a bar along the popular tourist and nightlife strip Khao San Road in Bangkok on Dec 10, 2021. (JACK TAYLOR / AFP)


Thailand will allow night clubs and karaoke bars to resume regular hours starting in June, a senior official said on Friday, dropping most of its remaining pandemic restrictions as daily infections decline.

The government hopes the latest easing of restrictions will help revive the Southeast Asian country's battered tourism sector, a key growth engine that accounted for about 12 percent of the economy before the pandemic. Thailand is targeting 5 to 15 million arrivals this year.

"Entertainment venues, pubs, and massage parlours and others may open until midnight after June," said Taweesin Visanuyothin, a spokesman for the government's COVID-19 taskforce, told a news conference.

"These businesses should take a universal prevention approach … staff must have received booster doses and take antigen tests every seven days," Taweesin added.

Starting June 1, Thailand will also drop a requirement for unvaccinated travellers to quarantine. They will either have to take an test on arrival or show a negative COVID-19 test before departure, he said.

From January to mid-May, Thailand received 1.01 million arrivals. There were 427,000 tourists for all of last year.