A COVID-19 information sign stands at a near-empty Wat Pho in Bangkok. (TAYLOR WEIDMAN / BLOOMBERG)
SYDNEY / MANILA / JERUSALEM / BEIRUT- Thailand’s cabinet on Tuesday approved visas of up to 270 days for long-stay tourists as the government prepares to reopen to foreign visitors from as early as next month to help support a key sector battered by the coronavirus pandemic.
Visitors will be able to extend a 90-day visas that cost 2,000 baht (US$64.14) two more times, deputy government spokeswoman Traisulee Traisoranakul told a cabinet briefing.
The government aims to allow foreign visitors from low-risk or no-risk countries to visit the country from next month, Yuthasak Supasorn, governor of the official Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), told Reuters.
“I want to see this happen quickly. I will try to do it in October or the fourth quarter at the latest,” he said.
Several hundred visitors who agreed to a 14-day quarantine will be allowed per month and “we also want them to fly direct to reduce risks”.
The plan is to start with provinces that provide alternative state quarantine, Yuthasak said.
By sealing off the country to all but returning Thai nationals and approved foreigners, and requiring all arrivals to quarantine, Thailand has kept coronavirus cases to just 3,480, the vast majority of which have recovered. The country has reported 58 deaths.
But Thailand has previously shelved plans to reopen to foreign tourists due to concerns about new outbreaks, including an East Asia travel bubble and a proposal to designate resorts such as Phuket for holidays that include mandatory quarantine and movement restrictions.
Meanwhile, authorities of Thailand's northern province of Chiang Mai on Monday raided a labour camp suspected of housing illegal migrants who sneaked into the Thai side to seek for work.
Immigration officers and health authorities swooped into a foreign labor camp in Chiang Mai's Mae Hia sub-district on a search for illegal migrants who may have brought new COVID-19 infections onto the Thai soil.
The raid came after the Ministry of Interior earlier ordered all provinces along the Thai border to practice caution over possible infections trickling into Thailand.
Immigration officers checked the suspected illegal migrants' papers while health authorities conducted swab tests.
A woman wearing a face mask walks her dog on a beach in Melbourne on Sept 11, 2020, as the city continues to enforce lockdown measures to battle a second wave of the COVID-19. (PHOTO / AFP)
Australia’s second-most populous state Victoria, the country’s COVID-19 epicentre, on Tuesday reported zero deaths from the virus in the past 24 hours, a milestone not recorded for two months.
Victoria state said 42 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, a small increase from the figure posted one day earlier and well below the peak of more than 700 infections detected in August.
Victoria last recorded no COVID-19 deaths on July 13.
The result will buoy optimism that a stringent lockdown of nearly 5 million people for nearly seven weeks has curtailed the spread of COVID-19.
Melbourne, Australia’s second most populated city, is on an extended hard lockdown until Sept. 28. But with the steady fall in cases, some restrictions were relaxed from Monday, allowing people to leave their homes for longer periods for exercise and authorities shortened a night curfew.
Victoria, home to one-quarter of Australia’s 26 million population, now accounts for about 75 percent of the country’s more than 26,700 coronavirus cases and 90 percent of its 816 deaths.
Queensland state reported one new case on Tuesday, a returned traveller from overseas and in quarantine.
New South Wales state, Australia’s most populous, will report its case numbers later in the day. The virus has been effectively eliminated in all other states and territories.
South Korea will secure early supply of the novel coronavirus vaccines for 30 million people, or 60 percent of its population, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun told a cabinet meeting on Tuesday.
While authorities would like to inoculate the country’s entire population of 52 million, uncertainty around the vaccine’s safety, efficacy and development was limiting South Korea’s investment, Chung said.
Chung said the government will negotiate with the relevant international organisations and vaccine makers to secure the early supply of the COVID-19 vaccines and would buy more as the development proceeds.
In August, South Korea said it planned to join the COVAX facility, a global COVID-19 vaccine allocation plan co-led by the World Health Organization (WHO) that aims to help buy and fairly distribute the shots.
South Korea will purchase 20 million doses of vaccines from the COVAX scheme, available for 10 million people, and 40 million doses from private drug makers, the health authorities said in a statement.
South Korea’s SK Bioscience in July agreed to manufacture AstraZeneca’s AZN.L experimental vaccine, that has shown promise against the coronavirus, to help the British company build global supplies.
Novavax Inc NVAX.O last month separately said SK Bioscience, a unit of SK Chemicals, would manufacture a component of the US drug developer's experimental coronavirus vaccine in a bid to boost its supply.
The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency reported 106 new coronavirus cases as of Monday midnight, which brought the total number of infections to 22,391, and the total COVID-19 death tally to 367.
The United Arab Emirates
The United Arab Emirates has allowed the use of vaccine for the coronavirus for front-line workers, saying that phase three testing of the vaccine has generated effective results. The Gulf country has witnessed a recent surge in virus cases, registering a little over 1,000 new daily cases on Saturday, the highest on record.
A health worker collects a swab sample from a man to test for the COVID-19 coronavirus at a roadside testing booth in Ahmedabad on Sept 14, 2020. (PHOTO / AFP)
India reported 83,809 new coronavirus infections for its lowest daily jump in a week, the health ministry said on Tuesday.
The world’s second-most populous nation appeared to be on course to cross the milestone of 5 million cases on Wednesday, as its tally of 4.93 million is just 70,000 short.
India, where cases have been rising faster than any other nation, lags only the United States in terms of its number of total infections.
The death toll crossed 80,000 on Tuesday, swelled by 1, 054 in the last 24 hours, the ministry added.
At least two Iranian members of parliament have gone into quarantine after testing positive, the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported.
The decision taken after a cabinet meeting came as the kingdom struggles to prevent the uncontrolled spread of the pandemic, government spokesman Amjad Adailah said.
“We are living through exceptional circumstances,” Adailah said.
Health Minister Saad Jaber said the government was seeking to avoid the kind of tight nationwide lockdown imposed in the spring that brought the virus under control with low daily case numbers among a population of 10 million.
“These measures are harsh as they are, but we hope they will reduce infections and prevent a large outbreak that would lead to a total shutdown that would have catastrophic consequences,” Jaber said in televised remarks.
But restrictions were lifted in June and 2 million students went back to schools and international flights resumed this month, and infections have jumped since Friday to a new peak of more than 200 a day.
The government reported 252 new cases on Sunday in its highest daily tally since the virus surfaced in early March.
The country has now recorded 3,528 cases of infection and just 25 deaths.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte vowed on Monday to prioritise buying COVID-19 vaccine to be made available by Russia or China, while taking a swipe at pharmaceutical firms of western nations asking for advance payment for their offers.
Duterte has expressed optimism that the Southeast Asian country, which has recorded the region’s highest number of coronavirus cases at nearly 266,000, would be “back to normal” by December, pinning his hopes on the availability of vaccines.
“We will give preference to Russia and China provided that their vaccine is as good as any other in the market,” he said in a late-night televised address.
Any vaccine purchase by the Philippines, however, will have to undergo bidding process, he said.
The Philippine government has had talks with a number of potential vaccine suppliers, including Russia, China, US drugmaker Pfizer Inc and Moderna Inc It also planned to hold talks with Australian biotech giant CSL Ltd.
The number of COVID-19 cases in the Philippines surged to 269,407 after the Department of Health (DOH) reported 3,544 new daily cases on Tuesday.
The DOH said the number of recoveries also rose to 207,352 after it reported 395 more patients have survived the disease, and 34 more patients have succumbed to the viral disease, bringing the death toll to 4,663.
The Philippines' capital Metro Manila topped the regions with the highest number of 690 daily confirmed cases reported on Tuesday.
The department reported 259 deaths on Monday, the highest so far since the disease emerged in the country in January.
Israel's Ministry of Health reported 4,764 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, bringing the total infections in the country to 160,368.
It is the highest daily rise since the outbreak of the pandemic in Israel in late February, as the previous record was 4,429 registered on Sept. 10.
The death toll rose to 1,136, with 17 new fatalities, while the number of patients in serious condition increased from 519 to 524, out of 1,102 patients currently hospitalized.
The number of recoveries reached 118,570, with 3,572 new ones, while active cases stand at 40,647.
Lebanon's number of COVID-19 infections increased on Monday by 547 cases to 24,857 while death toll went up by 5 to 246, the Health Ministry reported.
The Health Ministry has increased its efforts to fight against the virus by opening new departments in several hospitals around the country.
Moreover, caretaker Health Minister Hamad Hassan announced on Monday that the ministry will also create a field hospital in Roumieh prison to control the spread of the virus in the location following the detection of cases.
Millions of students in Pakistan returned to classes on Tuesday after a break of six months, as schools and colleges began to reopen for the first time since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.
Educational institutes were closed in March as the coronavirus began to spread in Pakistan, but, with daily infection numbers falling, the government last week announced a staggered resumption of classes.
Senior schools were the first to restart, with middle school set to go back next week and primary school the week after.
Pakistan has recorded 302,424 cases of the coronavirus and more than 6,300 deaths but daily infections have been slowing from a peak of nearly 7,000, and 118 deaths, in one day in June.
On Monday, authorities reported 404 new cases and six deaths.
Palestine recorded in the last 24 hours 788 new COVID-19 cases and five deaths in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, Palestinian health officials said.
Mai al-Kaila, the Palestinian Health Minister, said in a press statement that the Health Ministry recorded in the last 24 hours five deaths in the West Bank, including 2 in Nablus, one in Hebron, one in Qalqilia, and one in Ramallah.
She added that the ministry recorded 788 new COVID-19 cases in various West Bank districts, in East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, adding that the ministry recorded 1,324 recovered cases.
Al-Kaila also said that the recovery percentage in the Palestinian territories had reached 70.9 percent. In comparison, the percentage of active cases had reached 28.5 percent, and the percentage of death remained at 0.6 percent.
The Iraqi Health Ministry on Monday reported that 4,169 new COVID-19 cases were detected during the day, bringing the total nationwide infections to 294,478.
Meanwhile, a statement by the ministry said that 4,427 recovered from COVID-19 during the day, the highest in a single day since the outbreak of the disease, raising the tally of recoveries to 229,132.
It also reported 72 more deaths, raising the death toll from the infectious virus to 8,086 in the country.
The new cases were recorded after 23,989 testing kits were used across the country during the day, and a total of 1,926,390 tests have been carried out since the outbreak of the disease, according to the statement.
Meanwhile, Ryadh Abdul-Amir, head of the Public Health Department in the Health Ministry, said in a press release that "the coexistence with coronavirus will continue, and we do not know when it will end."
Singapore's Ministry of Health (MOH) reported 48 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, bringing the total confirmed cases in the country to 57,454.
Of the new cases, five are imported cases, and there are no community cases.
On Monday, 38 more patients have been discharged from hospitals or community isolation facilities, taking the total number of recoveries to 56,802, the ministry said.
There are currently 53 active cases who are still in hospital. Of these, most are stable or improving, and none is in critical condition in the intensive care unit.
Furthermore, 572 are isolated and cared for at community facilities. These are those who have mild symptoms, or are clinically well but still test positive for COVID-19.
Altogether 27 people have passed away from complications due to COVID-19 infection.
Sri Lanka reported its 13th death from COVID-19 on Monday after the Health Ministry said that a 60-year-old male had died from the virus at the Chilaw Base Hospital in the north west.
The Government Information Department said in a statement that the latest victim was a sailor who arrived in Sri Lanka from Bahrain on September 2 and had not been identified as a COVID-19 patient at the time of arrival.
"He was admitted to the Chilaw Base Hospital on September 9, during his quarantine period. The nearest cause of death was stated as a heart attack," the statement said.
Till Monday evening, Health Ministry statistics showed that 3,247 positive COVID-19 patients had been identified in Sri Lanka since the first local patient was identified in March. Out of the total, 3,005 patients had recovered and been discharged to date, bringing down the total active patients to 242.
Myanmar reported 104 more COVID-19 cases on Tuesday morning, according to a release from the Ministry of Health and Sports.
The newly confirmed cases brought the number of infection cases of COVID-19 in the country to 3,299 in total.
So far, Myanmar has reported 32 deaths of COVID-19 in the country, according to the ministry's figures.
A total of 790 patients have recovered from the disease so far, the figures said.
New Zealand confirmed three new imported cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, all detected in recent returnees in managed isolation facilities.
The three cases are a man in his 30s and two children who arrived together from Dubai on September 9. They have been in managed isolation at the Ibis Hotel in Rotorua and tested positive for COVID-19 during routine testing around day 3 of their stay, according to the Ministry of Health.
There are no new community cases to report.
There are 56 people linked to the community cluster who remain in the Auckland quarantine facility, which includes 26 people who have tested positive for COVID-19 and their household contacts, said a ministry statement.
There are currently four people in hospital with COVID-19, with two in ICU, it said.
Indonesia has decided to use hotels as isolation rooms for COVID-19 patients, in addition to the existing hospitals for the purpose, Indonesian Health Minister Terawan Agus Putranto said here Monday.
"This is a cooperation with hotel networking groups including Accor, Novotel and Ibis. If needed, there may be 15-30 hotels more," the minister told a press conference following a limited cabinet meeting at the presidential office.
According to Putranto, the government continues to add more isolation rooms for COVID-19 patients, especially those with light symptoms or without symptoms.
For patients with light symptoms in the country's capital of Jakarta, the government has also prepared two towers of an emergency hospital which was used to be an athlete dormitory before.
"Tower 6 with 1,746 beds has been occupied by 888 patients. Tower 7 with 2,472 beds is occupied by 749 patients," the minister noted, adding that Towers 4 with 2,472 beds and Tower 5 with 2,472 beds are designated for patients without symptoms.
He further said about 10 to 15 two star hotels and three star hotels in Jakarta would also be used for self-isolations of patients without symptoms. Those hotels with 1,500 rooms can accommodate 3,000 patients.
The COVID-19 cases in Indonesia rose by 3,507 within one day to 225,030, with the death toll adding by 124 to 8,965, the health ministry said on Tuesday.
According to the ministry, 2,660 more people were discharged from hospitals, bringing the total number of recovered patients to 161,065.
Malaysia reported 23 new COVID-19 infections, the health ministry said on Tuesday, bringing the national total to 9,969.
Health Ministry Director-General Noor Hisham Abdullah said in a press briefing that 10 of the new cases are imported and 13 are local transmissions.
One new case cluster has been detected, traced to a woman who was brought for treatment at a hospital in the northern Borneo state of Sabah, with nine testing positive so far.
Another six patients have been released after recovery, bringing the total cured and discharged to 9,209, or 92.4 percent of all cases.
Of the remaining 632 active cases, 14 are being held in intensive care units and four of those are in need of assisted breathing.
No new deaths have been reported, leaving the total deaths at 128.
The Omani health ministry on Tuesday announced 438 new COVID-19 infections, raising the total number of confirmed cases in the Sultanate to 90,660, the official Oman News Agency (ONA) reported.
Meanwhile, 185 people recovered during the past 24 hours, taking the overall number of recoveries to 84,113, while seven new deaths were reported, raising the tally to 797, according to a ministry statement quoted by ONA.
The ministry urged everyone to adhere to social distancing instructions, as well as staying home and avoiding to got out unless necessary.
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