Migrant labourers and their families from Uttar Pradesh hold kitchen utensils while protesting against the government for the lack of food in a slum area on the outskirts of Amritsar on June 1, 2020. (NARINDER NANU / AFP)
SYDNEY / NEW DELHI / COLOMBO / MANILA / RAMALLAH / MUSCAT / ANKARA / ADEN — India’s cases of coronavirus crossed 190,000, the health ministry said on Monday, overtaking France to become seventh highest in the world, as the government eases back on most curbs after a two-month-long lockdown that left millions without work.
With a record 8,392 new cases over the previous day, India is now behind the United States, Brazil, Russia, Britain, Spain and Italy, according to a Reuters tally.
Criticism has grown in recent days that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s sudden lockdown of 1.3 billion Indians in March has failed to halt the spread of the disease while destroying the livelihoods of millions of people who depend on daily wages.
Community transmission is well underway among the population, a team of independent experts said, adding this would only get worse as public transport opens.
On Monday, thousands of people were packing into 200 new trains that resumed services across the country, most of them migrant workers and their families leaving metropolises such as Delhi and Mumbai for their homes in the interior.
The number of deaths from COVID-19 stood at 5,394, still small compared to other countries with similar case loads, which the government says was partly because the lockdown had helped avoid an exponential rise in cases, giving hospitals space to treat patients.
Armenia's Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan announced via Facebook on Monday that he and his family had tested positive for COVID-19.
Pashinyan said he did not have any symptoms and would continue to work from the prime minister's residence.
"I will work from here as much as needed, but of course, under conditions of isolation," he said.
The prime minister again urged citizens to always wear face masks and regularly disinfect hands.
The number of COVID-19 cases in the country reached 9,282 on Sunday, with 3,396 recoveries and 131 deaths, according to the Armenian government.
Iran could face a second, stronger wave of novel coronavirus infections if people ignore guidance and social distancing rules, health minister Saeed Namaki said on Monday.
The Islamic Republic, one of the worst-hit countries in the region, started easing its lockdown in April after a drop in deaths.
But May saw an uptick in the rate of reported infections compared with mid to late April - an acceleration the government put down to increased testing.
Iran's confirmed novel coronavirus cases rose to 154,445 on Monday after an overnight registration of 2,979 new infections, according to official IRNA news agency.
During his daily briefing, Kianush Jahanpur, head of Public Relations and Information Center of the health ministry, said, "Out of the new cases in the past 24 hours, 652 were hospitalized."
The pandemic has so far claimed the lives of 7,878 Iranians, up by 81 in the past 24 hours.
Kuwait on Monday reported 719 new cases of COVID-19 and eight more deaths, raising the tally of infections to 27,762 and the death toll to 220, the health ministry said in a statement.
Currently, 14,643 patients are receiving treatment, including 204 in ICU, according to the statement.
The ministry also announced the recovery of 1,513 more patients, raising the total recoveries in the country to 12,899.
On May 31, Kuwait ended the total curfew and imposed a three-week partial curfew for a gradual return to normal life in the country.
Malaysia has gone into 10 days without any new COVID-19 deaths, the Health Ministry said on Monday, leaving the total deaths so far at 115.
Health Ministry Director-General Noor Hisham Abdullah said Malaysia reported 38 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, bringing the total number of cases in the country to 7,857.
The Thai government's Center for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) on Monday suggested that a long holiday in July is being considered to make up for the cancellation of Songkran festivities that was supposed to be in April.
However, the CCSA said a July holiday is only possible if the Thai people are able to help bring the new COVID-19 cases to only one digit, or better at zero.
The government delayed the Songkran holiday, the Thai new year festival holiday, from April 13-15 until "further notice" for fear that large gatherings and the homecoming of revelers could exacerbate the COVID-19 outbreak.
Thailand on Monday recorded one new COVID-19 case and no new fatalities with the tally and toll stand at 3,082 and 57.
With the confirmation of 226 new cases on Monday, Nepal has seen the highest single day spike of COVID-19 cases, and the total tally has surged to 1,798.
According to the Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP), 213 males and 13 females tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday.
In view of the rising COVID-19 cases, the ministry is preparing to upgrade criteria meeting quarantine facilities into isolation wards.
People walk on Takeshita street in Tokyo's fashion district Harajuku on May 31, 2020. (PHOTO / AFP)
Japan is considering re-opening its borders to travelers from selected countries which have low levels of coronavirus infections, as it begins to ease restrictions put in place earlier this year to control the outbreak.
As schools, cinemas, sports clubs and department stores reopened in the nation’s capital Tokyo on Monday, media have reported that the government is also planning to allow travelers from Thailand, Vietnam, Australia and New Zealand into the country in the coming months.
Around 17,000 coronavirus cases have been confirmed in Japan as of early Monday, with roughly 900 deaths.
The government is considering allowing business travelers from the four countries to enter if they test negative for COVID-19 in two separate tests conducted upon departure from their home country and arrival in Japan, the Asahi Shimbun reported, citing unnamed sources.
Once permitted into the country, visitors’ movements would be restricted to areas including place of stay, company offices and factories, the newspaper said, adding that use of public transportation would be banned.
Japan’s government will submit to parliament early next week a second extra budget to fund a new US$1.1 trillion stimulus package to cushion the economic blow from the coronavirus pandemic, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Monday.
With ruling and opposition parties on board for big spending to combat the virus fallout, parliament is likely to approve the budget as early as next week.
The move would give Abe ammunition to inject another heavy dose of stimulus to an economy on the brink of deep recession as the pandemic hit global and domestic demand.
A family uses hand sanitizer as they enter Toronga Zoo as it re-opens for business in Sydney on June 1, 2020. (PHOTO / AFP)
Several Australian states eased social distancing restrictions further on Monday, allowing restaurants to host more people and public attractions to reopen, as Canberra moves to revive the country’s ailing economy.
Australia has recorded about 7,200 coronavirus cases and 103 deaths, and with new infections now largely under control, it has embarked on a three-step plan to remove the bulk of curbs by July.
In Australia’s most populous state, New South Wales (NSW), cafes and restaurants were allowed to cater for 50 seated patrons, while 20 guests will be allowed to attend a funeral. Both were previously limited to 10 people.
Public attractions, such as Sydney’s Taronga Zoo, art galleries, museums and libraries were also allowed to reopen.
In Victoria state, which has taken the most cautious approach to reopening, restaurants and cafes could reopen on Monday. However, patrons are restricted to a maximum of 20 people.
Australia hopes removing restrictions will boost economic growth, though Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Monday said additional, targeted stimulus would be needed.
Sri Lanka plans to reopen its tourism sector on Aug 1 by allowing only small groups of visitors to begin with, a tourism official said on Sunday.
Kimali Fernando, chairperson of the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau, a government body, denied a report in the local Sunday Times that said the sector would re-open in mid-June.
A limited number of small groups from around the world would be allowed to visit from August and stay in approved five-star hotels that have put strict safety measures in place, Fernando told Reuters.
He confirmed that tourists will be required to carry a COVID-19-free certificate issued either by their governments or a reputed agency, as reported by the Sunday Times which quoted Sri Lanka’s Tourism Ministry Secretary S. Hettiaarachchi. Tourists would also need to wait on arrival at the airport for coronavirus testing.
Fernando also confirmed that individual travelers will still not be allowed to enter the country.
Sri Lanka reported another 20 cases of the virus on Saturday, taking the total number of cases so far to 1,613, including 10 deaths.
Palestine on Sunday declared that two new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in the West Bank, bringing the total number to 627.
Palestinian Health Ministry said in a statement that the two cases are a man and a woman from the northern West Bank district of Qalqilya, which brings the total number of cases in the district to 13 in less than one week.
The rate of recovery from the deadly virus has exceeded 83 percent, while 22,990 Palestinians are currently placed under home quarantine, according to the ministry.
Israel began serological testing for coronavirus, health ministry officials said, amid concerns a new wave of the outbreak may be starting. The first tests were conducted on foreign workers, and will soon expand to the general population, the officials said. The tests determine how much of the population has already been infected.
The country reported 53 new cases, bringing the total to 17,071, including 285 fatalities. New infections rose following the recent easing of lockdown restrictions.
The Omani Ministry of Health announced on Sunday 1,014 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of cases in the country to 11,437.
According to a statement issued by the ministry, all new cases, including 371 Omanis, are related to community contact.
The statement also said 286 patients of COVID-19 had recovered, bringing the total recoveries to 2,682. Seven new deaths were reported, bringing the death toll to 49.
The ministry called on people to observe the procedures for quarantine, avoid public places or places of worship, and ensure public hygiene.
In this Oct 1, 2019 photo, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan attends the Eurasian Economic Council in Yerevan, Armenia. (PHOTO / AP)
Turkey re-opens restaurants, cafes and parks on Monday and lifts inter-city travel curbs as the country eases restrictions taken to fight the coronavirus outbreak.
Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan's government has been gradually easing the restrictions for the past few weeks, as authorities say the outbreak is now under control.
Turkish health minister on Sunday confirmed 839 new COVID-19 cases, noting that the increase is within predictable margins.
The total number of COVID-19 cases in Turkey climbed to 163,942, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca tweeted.
In the past 24 hours, 25 people died, taking the death toll to 4,540, the minister stated.
Turkey conducted 35,600 tests for coronavirus in the last 24 hours, bringing the overall number of tests carried out so far to 2,039,194, he said.
Iran and Turkmenistan have agreed to reopen borders on June 10 as the restrictions pertaining to the novel coronavirus are eased in both countries recently, Iranian ambassador to Ashgabat announced on Sunday.
The rail and road borders between the two countries will reopen under strict monitoring of health protocols, Gholamabbas Arbab Khales told official IRNA news agency.
Israel's Ministry of Health reported 59 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, bringing the total to 17,071.
According to the ministry, the number of death cases has increased from 284 to 285, while the number of recoveries reached 14,792 and the number of active cases rose to 1,994.
The number of patients in serious condition dropped from 36 to 33, out of 114 patients currently hospitalized.
Also on Sunday, Israeli Health Minister Yuli Edelstein announced a significant expansion of coronavirus tests following the rise in morbidity in recent days.
Yemen's Health Ministry on Sunday confirmed 13 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total tally of infections to 323 in the country's provinces controlled by the government.
According to a brief statement released by the country's supreme national emergency committee, "during the past 24 hours, the health departments officially registered 13 new COVID-19 cases in a number of provinces controlled by the government."
Meanwhile, the death toll from the deadly respiratory disease climbed to 80 after three new deaths were recorded in the areas controlled by the Yemeni government.
Lebanon's number of COVID-19 infections increased on Sunday by 29 cases to 1,220 while death toll went up by one case to 27, the National News Agency reported.
Director General of Beirut airport Fadi Al Hassan announced on Sunday that the airport will reopen in June.
"We are currently preparing for the opening of the airport by adopting barriers to respect social distancing rules," he said.
Lebanon postponed on Sunday the deadline for submitting offers for the country's second licensing round for offshore oil and gas exploration in five blocks amid the COVID-19 outbreak, the National News Agency reported.
The new date will be specified later this year, according to the report.
Qatar's health ministry on Sunday announced 1,648 new infections of the novel coronavirus, increasing the total number of confirmed cases in the Gulf state to 56,910.
"Some 4,451 people recovered, bringing the total number of recoveries to 30,290, while two died, raising the fatalities to 38," the official Qatar News Agency reported, quoting a ministry statement.
A total of 222,069 persons have undergone lab tests for COVID-19 so far.
Iraqi Health Ministry on Sunday confirmed 10 more deaths from COVID-19 and 260 new cases, as the total number of infections climbed to 6,439.
Ten of the infected people died during the day, five of them in Baghdad's hospitals and two in Maysan and one in each Kirkuk, Diyala and Sulaimaniyah, bringing the death toll in the country to 205, while 3,156 have recovered so far, according to the statement.
The latest cases were recorded after 5,381 test kits were used across the country during the past 24 hours, and a total of 227,756 tests have been carried out since the outbreak of the disease, according to the statement.
Singapore confirmed 408 new coronavirus cases on Monday, its health ministry said, bringing the city-state’s tally to 35,292.
The South Korean government unveiled a 76 trillion won (US$62 billion) “New Deal” spending plan to reshape the economy in the aftermath of the pandemic after cutting its growth forecast for the year.
The plan, first outlined in April by President Moon Jae-in, aims to refocus the economy through 2025 by supporting job growth and new industries. It will partly be funded by a third extra budget now being drafted, according to a statement on the policy outlook for the second half.
The extra spending will help an economy forecast to grow by just 0.1 percent this year, the slowest expansion since the 1998 Asian financial crisis.
South Korea reported 27 more cases of COVID-19 compared to 24 hours ago as of 0:00 am Sunday local time, raising the total number of infections to 11,468.
The daily caseload fell below 30 in five days. The confirmed cases rose fast in recent days due to a cluster infection at a logistics center of local e-commerce operator Coupang in Bucheon, west of the capital Seoul.
Of the new cases, 12 were imported, lifting the combined figure to 1,259.
One more death was confirmed, leaving the death toll at 270. The total fatality rate stood at 2.35 percent.
Afghanistan on Monday reported 545 new COVID-19 cases within the past 24 hours, bringing the total tally to 15,750 cases, the country's Ministry of Public Health confirmed.
"Within the past 24 hours, 1,168 suspected cases were tested, out of which 545 cases were tested coronavirus positive in 18 provinces," the ministry said in a statement.
Eight COVID-19 patients succumbed to the virus, taking the number of people who lost their lives to 265 since the outbreak of the pandemic in the country in February.
The number of people recovered stands at 1,428 after 100 patients recovered during the period.
The total number of COVID-19 cases in Myanmar has risen to 228, with four more confirmed cases reported on Monday, according to a release from the Ministry of Health and Sports.
Of the newly confirmed cases, all patients are from Yangon region who were under quarantine after their recent arrival from India, the release said.
According to the ministry's release, a total of 138 patients have recovered from the disease and six deaths were reported so far.
Kyrgyzstan on Monday reported 69 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total tally of infections to 1,817.
During his daily online news briefing, the country's Deputy Health Minister Nurbolot Usenbaev said that of the newly infected, 46 people are contacts of confirmed cases, 18 are imported cases and the sources of five cases are unknown.
He added that among the newly infected, 12 are medical workers, bringing the number of contracted medical workers to 362.
There are currently 620 patients in hospitals throughout the country with a confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis, 529 of them are asymptomatic, while five are in the intensive care unit, he said.
Mongolia reported six new cases of COVID-19 over the last 24 hours, bringing the national count to 185, the country's National Center for Communicable Disease (NCCD) said Monday.
"A total of 371 tests for COVID-19 were conducted in the country yesterday and six of them were positive," NCCD head Dulmaa Nyamkhuu told a daily press conference.
The new patients are Mongolian nationals who returned home from Russia on May 15, said Nyamkhuu.
All the COVID-19 cases in Mongolia were imported, mostly from Russia. Among them, a total of 44 patients, including four foreigners, have recovered.
New Zealand reported no new case of COVID-19 on Monday for 10 consecutive days, with the combined total of confirmed and probable cases staying at 1,504, according to the Ministry of Health.
The total number of confirmed cases reported to the World Health Organization remained at 1,154, said a ministry statement.
The number of people who have recovered reached 1,481, with only one case remaining active, it said, and the number of COVID-19 related deaths remained at 22.
The NZ COVID Tracer app has now recorded 476,000 registrations, an increase of 8,000 on Sunday.
Millions of people returned to work in the Philippine capital on Monday as one of the world’s strictest and longest coronavirus lockdowns was eased to help resuscitate an economy that has been battered by the closure.
Public transport such as trains and shuttle buses were allowed to operate in Manila but on a limited scale, forcing commuters to wait in long queues for hours, and leaving hundreds of workers stranded.
With the third highest number of coronavirus cases and second highest official death toll in Southeast Asia, the Philippines also allowed the reopening of more businesses, and people can now leave home without government permits.
In easing the measures, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte sought to walk the fine line between protecting the country’s over 107 million people from COVID-19 while reviving the economic facing its biggest contraction in more than three decades.
The decision to ease measures came after the country saw a spike in the number of coronavirus cases it reports daily, which health officials attribute to increased testing and clearing of a backlog of tests.
The Philippine health ministry on Monday reported three new deaths and 552 more confirmed cases of the coronavirus.
In a bulletin, the ministry said total deaths increased to 960 and confirmed cases reached 18,638, of which 3,979 have recovered.
Bangladesh reported 2,381 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, dipping from Sunday's high of 2,545.
"A total of 2,381 new COVID-19 positive cases and 22 deaths were reported in the last 24 hours across Bangladesh," senior Health Ministry official Nasima Sultana told a media briefing on Monday afternoon in Dhaka.
"The total number of positive cases is now 49,534 and death toll stands currently at 672," she added.
According to the official, 11,439 samples were tested in the last 24 hours across Bangladesh.
COVID-19 cases in Indonesia rose by 467 within one day to 26,940, with the death toll adding by 28 to 1,641, Achmad Yurianto, a Health Ministry official, said at a press conference here on Monday.
According to him, 329 more people had been discharged from hospitals, making the total number of recovered patients stand at 7,637.
The pandemic has spread to all the 34 provinces in the archipelagic country.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo's administration is preparing for the so-called "new normal", under which the public would be allowed to resume their routines.
Laos reported no new case of COVID-19 for 50 consecutive days, with the total number of confirmed cases in Laos unchanged at 19.
Lao Deputy Minister of Health Phouthone Meaungpak told a press conference in Lao capital Vientiane on Monday that the total number of COVID-19 confirmed cases in the country remained at 19, as no new case was confirmed for 50 consecutive days.
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