A medical worker shows a vial of China's Sinovac COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine at the Ministry of Information in Phnom Penh on April 1, 2021. (TANG CHHIN SOTHY / AFP)
KABUL / SYDNEY / TOKYO / COLOMBO / DUBAI / MANILA / HANOI - Indonesia is in talks with China on getting as many as 100 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to plug a gap in deliveries after delays in the arrivals of AstraZeneca shots, Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin said on Wednesday.
He told a parliamentary hearing that Indonesia would receive 20 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine via a bilateral deal in 2021, instead of 50 million doses initially agreed.
The remaining 30 million doses were due to be shipped by the second quarter of 2022, he said.
Budi said the government had “embarked on a discussion with the Chinese government to ask for an additional 90-100 million (doses)”.
“We’re also asking for vaccines from the US when they’re done with their own vaccinations and sell their vaccines overseas.”
Besides AstraZeneca, Indonesia relies heavily on vaccines produced by China’s Sinovac Biotech for coronavirus inoculations which began in January. It aims to reach 181.5 million people within a year in a bid to reach herd immunity.
A total of 76 new COVID-19 positive cases have been registered in Afghanistan over the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of patients affected with the disease to 57,019 in the country, the Public Health Ministry said in a statement on Thursday.
The statement also said that five patients died over the period, bringing the number of COVID-19 related deaths to 2,521 since the outbreak of the virus in February last year in the country.
Pfizer coronavirus vaccine is preferred over AstraZeneca for adults under 50, said Australian chief medical officer Paul Kelly on Thursday evening.
At a press conference in Canberra, Kelly said that the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunization (ATAGI) recommended "the use of the Pfizer vaccine is preferred over the AstraZeneca vaccine in adults aged less than 50 years who have not already received a first dose of AstraZeneca vaccine."
"This is based both on the increased risk of complications from COVID-19 with increasing age, and thus increased benefit of the vaccination, and the potentially lower, but not zero risk, of this rare event (blood clots) with increasing age," he said.
Australia on Thursday ordered an urgent inquiry into findings from Europe's drug regulator of a possible link between AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine and blood clotting.
The European Medicines Agency on Wednesday said it found rare cases of blood clots among some adult vaccine recipients, although it said the vaccine's advantages still outweighed the risks.
"The government has asked (the immunisation advisory group) and (medicines regulator) to immediately consider and advise on the latest vaccination findings out of Europe and the UK," a health ministry spokeswoman said in an emailed statement.
Australian regulators have already been working with their international counterparts to consider the latest findings, the spokeswoman said.
In Bangladesh, 81 percent of samples sent for genome sequencing last month turned out positive for the variant of the COVID-19 initially discovered in South Africa, revealed a recent study by the Dhaka-based International Centre for Diarrheal Disease and Research, Bangladesh (icddr,b).
The center, in a website post said it initiated a SARS-CoV-2 variant surveillance in December 2020 in collaboration with the Bangladeshi government's Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR) and Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS).
Bangladesh reported 74 deaths from COVID-19 on Thursday, the highest daily figure since the pandemic began in the country.
The latest data from the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) showed that Bangladesh's coronavirus death toll has risen to 9,521.
The official data also showed that the national tally for COVID-19 infections has increased to 666,132 with 6,854 new cases Thursday.
Brunei reported one new confirmed case of COVID-19 on Thursday, bringing its total tally to 216.
According to Brunei's Ministry of Health, Case 216 is a 41-year-old man who arrived in the country from Indonesia's capital Jakarta via Singapore on March 26.
Investigation and contact tracing have confirmed no close contact for this case, who was quarantined upon arrival. This new case is being treated and monitored at the National Isolation Center with 10 other active cases, who are all in a stable condition.
Cambodia on Thursday confirmed 113 new local COVID-19 cases, bringing the total number of infections in the kingdom to 3,028, said a Ministry of Health (MoH) statement.
Of the new cases, 103 were found in capital Phnom Penh, the statement said.
The MoH also logged two new deaths from the virus at a COVID-19-designated hospital in Phnom Penh on Wednesday. The deceased patients included a 68-year-old man and a 49-year-old man.
The Southeast Asian nation has been enduring the third community COVID-19 outbreak since Feb. 20, with at least 2,496 people infected and 24 dead so far, the MoH said, adding that there are 1,085 active cases in the kingdom.
Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen on Tuesday advised the MoH to prepare for giving treatment to COVID-19 patients with mild symptoms at their homes, predicting that hospitals will be overcrowded if new cases continue to soar.
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday morning received his second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, his office said. Modi took the second jab at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi. The Indian prime minister received his first dose of vaccine on March 1.
India’s battle to curtail a renewed wave of COVID-19 is beset by vaccine shortages in several states and cities -- including Mumbai. Its worst-hit state, Maharashtra, only has three days’ worth of vaccines in stock.
The steep jump in infections from early February has forced Indian states to reinstate restrictions including movement curbs. Maharashtra has stopped all non-essential services and ordered private companies to work from home, along with closing malls and restaurants through April.
India reported a record-high 126,789 new COVID-19 cases, health ministry data showed on Thursday, with much of the country struggling to contain a second surge in coronavirus infections.
Deaths rose by 685, taking the tally to 166,862, the data showed.
Iraq reported on Wednesday the highest daily confirmed COVID-19 infections since the outbreak of the pandemic in the country.
The Iraqi Ministry of Health reported 8,331 new COVID-19 cases, the record high since February 2020, raising the total infections to 895,622.
It also said 37 new deaths were recorded during the day, raising the death toll from the infectious virus to 14,572, while the total recoveries in Iraq climbed by 5,020 to 794,444.
Altogether 8,525 people were vaccinated during the past 24 hours across the country, bringing the total number of doses received to 118,670.
Spokesman of the ministry Sayf al-Badr said in a press release that the recent increase in coronavirus infections was "expected," stressing the epidemiological situation is still "under control."
An elderly man leaves a COVID-19 vaccination centre in Melbourne on March 31, 2021. (PHOTO / AFP)
Israel's Ministry of Health reported 243 new COVID-19 cases, raising the total infections in the country to 835,163. The death toll from the virus rose by five to 6,262.
The total recoveries in Israel rose to 824,110 with 378 newly recovered cases being added, while the number of active cases decreased to 4,791.
The number of people vaccinated against COVID-19 in Israel reached nearly 5.29 million, or 56.9 percent of its total population, after the vaccination campaign began on Dec. 20, 2020.
Tokyo is planning to seek a return to stricter virus measures as coronavirus cases in the Japanese capital hit a two-month high, less than three weeks after a state of emergency was lifted.
The capital recorded 555 cases on Wednesday, the most since early February, as officials feared a “rebound” in cases had begun to hit earlier than expected, amid an increase in virus variants.
Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said she’d decide on formally requesting the measures after consulting with experts. The extra steps, already imposed on the Osaka area, are broadly similar to the emergency declaration, itself much less strict than lockdowns seen in European capitals.
Bars and restaurants in urban areas would likely to be asked to close early, and may face the threat of fines for non-compliance.
The Kuwaiti Health Ministry reported on Wednesday 1,517 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total infections in the country to 241,469.
The ministry also announced six more fatalities, taking the death toll to 1,379, while the tally of recoveries rose by 1,325 to 226,026.
The Kuwaiti government has decided to further shorten the curfew by one hour to last between 7 p.m. and 5 a.m. local time, and allow walk inside residential areas between 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. from April 8 to April 22.
Lebanon registered 3,120 new COVID-19 cases, raising the total number of infections to 485,918, and the death toll from the virus went up by 33 to 6,512, the health ministry reported.
Two batches of vaccines developed by Chinese pharmaceutical firm Sinopharm arrived on Tuesday to support Lebanon's fight against COVID-19.
Malaysia reported 1,285 new COVID-19 infections, the Health Ministry said on Thursday, bringing the national total to 355,753.
Health Ministry Director-General Noor Hisham Abdullah said in a press statement that 17 of the new cases are imported and with 1,268 being local transmissions.
Four more deaths have been reported, bringing the death toll to 1,308.
Malaysia will review the use of the AstraZeneca’s COVID shots after the European Medicines Agency found a possible link between the vaccine and rare blood clotting issues, Science Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said in a tweet on Thursday.
A total of 529,911 people have been vaccinated in Mongolia against COVID-19, the country's health ministry said Thursday. Mongolia launched a COVID-19 vaccination campaign across the country on Feb. 23, with the aim of vaccinating at least 60 percent of its 3.3 million adult population in the country.
The Mongolian government on Thursday decided to impose a strict 14-day lockdown in the country's capital here starting from Saturday. Ulan Bator, which is home to over half of the country's 3.3 million population, is the region hardest hit by COVID-19.
Mongolia added 554 COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours after 11,116 tests had been conducted across the country, the National Center for Communicable Diseases said Thursday.
One of the latest confirmed cases was imported from abroad, and the remaining 553 were locally transmitted, the center said in a statement.
Mongolia has confirmed a total of 12,780 COVID-19 cases so far, including more than 12,300 locally transmitted ones. Among all patients, 8,140 have recovered from the disease so far.
New Zealand on Thursday temporarily suspended entry for all travellers from India, including its own citizens, for about two weeks following a high number of positive coronavirus cases arriving from the South Asian country.
The move comes after New Zealand recorded 23 new positive coronavirus cases at its border on Thursday, of which 17 were from India.
“We are temporarily suspending entry into New Zealand for travellers from India,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in a news conference in Auckland.
The suspension will start from 1600 local time on April 11 and will be in place until April 28. During this time the government will look at risk management measures to resume travel.
Elderly people receive the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine at a vaccination centre as part of vaccinations for senior citizens over 75 years old, in Seoul on April 1, 2021. (POOL / AFP)
The Omani health ministry on Wednesday announced 1,203 new COVID-19 infections, raising the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 166,685.
Meanwhile, 746 people recovered during the past 24 hours, taking the overall recoveries to 149,049 while seven deaths were reported, pushing the death toll up to 1,735, according to a ministry statement.
The Gulf state's coronavirus committee said on Monday that only citizens and residents will be allowed to enter its territory starting from Thursday.
The Qatari health ministry announced 940 new COVID-19 infections, raising the total number of confirmed cases in the Gulf state to 186,201.
Meanwhile, 527 more people recovered from the virus, bringing the overall recoveries to 167,480, while the fatalities increased by eight to 320, according to a ministry statement.
South Korea reported 700 new coronavirus cases, its highest daily figure since early January, and the Prime Minister reiterated warnings on Thursday that new social distancing rules would likely be needed.
Wednesday’s tally compares with an average of 477 cases last week, according to data from the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency and will fuel fears that the country may be facing a fourth wave of infections.
Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun told a government meeting a new wave of infections could disrupt South Korea’s vaccination programme which has been suffering delays as the international vaccine-sharing scheme COVAX struggles to provide promised doses on time.
South Korea also said on Wednesday it will temporarily suspend providing AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine to people below 60 as it undergoes reviews in Europe.
It also approved a Johnson & Johnson shot in a bid to speed up its inoculation rollout.
Sri Lanka's Foreign Ministry has lifted the COVID-19 restriction for dual citizens and spouses of Sri Lankans holding foreign passports to obtain its approval before entering the Asian country by air, local media reported Wednesday.
A government statement was quoted as saying that according to the revised procedure, Sri Lankan citizens, dual citizens who travel with Sri Lankan passports, spouses and unmarried children of Sri Lankans who are foreigners, and Sri Lankan seafarers arriving by air will be permitted to enter Sri Lanka without the prior approval of the Foreign Ministry and the Civil Aviation Authority of Sri Lanka (CAASL).
Thailand is considering closing entertainment venues in Bangkok and 40 provinces, its COVID-19 taskforce said on Thursday, as authorities rushed to tackle a new wave of coronavirus cases and the arrival of a highly contagious variant.
The taskforce urged the public and private sector to let employees work from home and to avoid non-essential travel, while 405 new infections were reported on Thursday in a new outbreak connected to Bangkok’s infamous nightlife.
The spike in infections comes at a tricky time for Thailand, ahead of next week’s annual Songkran festival, known for big social gatherings and notoriously crowded water fights that authorities have banned.
Adding to concerns, Thailand on Wednesday for the first time confirmed the presence locally of the highly transmissible coronavirus variant B.1.1.7 first identified in Britain.
A resident walks along an almost empty street in Manila on March 29, 2021, on day one of government's imposing stricker lockdown, as hospitals in the capital struggle to cope with a surge in coronavirus infections. (JAM STA ROSA / AFP)
Philippine health authorities suspended on Thursday the use of Astrazeneca's COVID-19 vaccine for people below 60 years of age to investigate reports of blood clots coming from overseas.
The temporary suspension came after the European Medicines Agency recommended to include blood clots as a rare side effect of the vaccine, Food and Drug Administration chief Rolando Enrique Domingo said in a statement, adding that there were no reports of such adverse side effects in the country.
The Philippines has so far received 525,600 doses of AstraZeneca's vaccines, about a fifth of the country's total inventory, through the COVAX facility.
Turkey recorded 54,740 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, health ministry data showed on Wednesday, the highest daily level since the start of the pandemic.
Last week President Tayyip Erdogan announced a tightening of coronavirus restrictions, including the return of full nationwide weekend lockdowns during the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan, which starts on April 13.
The latest daily death toll was 276, the highest number in a day since the start of the outbreak, bringing the cumulative toll to 32,943.
Turkey has carried out nearly 17.97 million vaccine inoculations, with some 10.55 million people receiving a first dose, since Jan. 14 when it began the nationwide rollout of COVID-19 shots, health ministry data showed.
Turkey administers China's Sinovac Biotech Ltd and Pfizer and BioNTech's vaccine shots.
Vietnam recorded nine new confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, bringing its total tally to 2,668, according to the country's Ministry of Health.
The new cases were reported in two foreign experts and seven Vietnamese citizens who recently entered the country from abroad and were quarantined upon arrival, said the ministry.
HONG KONG NEWS