Pedestrians wearing face masks cross a street in the Shibuya shopping and entertainment district in Tokyo on April 18, 2021, under the most recent quasi-emergency measures amid a spike in COVID-19 cases in the country. (PHOTO / AFP)
NEW DHLHI / SEOUL / DUBAI - Tokyo will seek the Japanese government to declare a state of emergency, as authorities step up restrictions to contain a surge in coronavirus infections ahead of an Olympics just three months away.
Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike told reporters virus cases were spreading in the capital and a swift action was needed as the medical system has come under strain in some areas.
“Looking at the situation, I think we need to take action as soon as possible,” she said. The city is expected to make the final decision after a virus panel meeting on Thursday.
COVID-19 cases in the city have in recent days surged to levels not seen since late January, when the capital was under its second state of emergency.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s government stepped up restrictions this month in Tokyo, Osaka and other regions to slow the spread, imposing measures that call on bars and restaurants to close by 8 pm, and those that fail to comply face fines.
Tokyo may be looking to ratchet up restrictions even more by asking restaurants to close if a state of emergency is declared, TV network TBS reported, without saying where it obtained the information. This would be the strictest measure under an emergency so far in Japan, but such a move could raise the risk of a double dip recession and deal a heavy blow to thousands of eateries struggling to survive.
Civil liberties enshrined in the Japanese Constitution prevent imposing a lockdown backed by police action, as has been seen in other nations.
Israel and Britain are exploring the possibility of opening a “green travel corridor” between them, Israel’s Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday, citing the success of the two countries’ vaccination drives.
The issue was discussed at a meeting between Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi and British Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove in Jerusalem, an Israeli statement said.
"We will promote, together with the UK, mutual recognition of vaccines in order to allow tourists and business people from both countries to safely return to their routines," the statement quoted Ashkenazi as saying.
Israel and Britain had made "great progress" in their vaccination campaigns, opening the "possibility of creating a green travel corridor", the ministry said.
It gave no timeline for implementing such a measure, which apparently would apply only to vaccinated travelers.
Israel has registered eight cases of a coronavirus variant first identified in India and believes that the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is at least partially effective against it, an Israeli health official said on Tuesday.
Israel and Britain are exploring the possibility of opening a "green travel corridor" between them, Israel's Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday, citing the success of the two countries' vaccination drives.
Israel's Ministry of Health reported 187 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, raising the total number in the country to 837,199.
The death toll from the virus rose by six to 6,340, while the number of patients in serious conditions decreased from 196 to 190, out of 312 hospitalized patients.
The total recoveries in Israel rose to 828,667 after 228 newly recovered cases were added, while the number of active cases decreased to 2,192.
The number of people vaccinated against COVID-19 in Israel has surpassed 5.35 million, or 57.4 percent of its total population, since the vaccination campaign began on Dec 20, 2020.
Johnson & Johnson is seeking to conduct a local clinical trial in India for its single-dose COVID-19 vaccine, which was paused in the United States last week on reports of rare blood clots.
The company said on Tuesday it had submitted an application to India's drug regulator -the Drugs Controller General of India - requesting approval for the "bridging" safety and immunogenicity study for its vaccine.
The global rollout of the single-dose vaccine, which is seen as a vital weapon in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, received a jolt when U.S. federal health agencies last Tuesday recommended pausing its use. read more
J&J's India application, which the company said was to comply with local regulations, comes as the country grapples with a second wave in COVID-19 cases that has severely strained its health system and caused shortages of oxygen and medicines.
India reported 1,761 deaths from COVID-19 overnight, its highest daily toll, with large parts of the country now under lockdown, as the country battles a second wave that has left people fighting for hospital beds, oxygen and medicines.
The world's second most populous country is grappling with its biggest public health emergency after it lowered its guard when coronavirus infections fell to a multi-month low in February, health experts and officials say.
A total of 259,170 new COVID-19 cases were reported in India in the past 24 hours, taking the total tally to 15,321,089, according to the data released by the health ministry on Tuesday.
Two top officials of the Election Commission of India (ECI) -- chief election commissioner Sushil Chandra and election commissioner Rajiv Kumar -- have tested positive for COVID-19, officials said Tuesday.
All persons aged 18 years and above will be eligible to get COVID-19 vaccination with effect from May 1, India's federal government said on Monday.
This would be the phase 3 of India's COVID-19 vaccination drive. Phase-I was launched on Jan. 16 prioritizing Health Care Workers (HCWs) and Front-Line Workers (FLWs), while Phase-II was initiated from March 1 focusing on all people above 45 years of age.
The decision was taken at a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Modi said that the federal government had been working hard to ensure that maximum numbers of Indians are able to get the vaccine in the shortest possible of time.
Cambodia on Tuesday recorded 431 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 and four more fatalities in the last 24 hours, the country's Ministry of Health (MoH) said in a statement.
The new infections included two imported cases and 429 local cases, with 271 of them reported in capital Phnom Penh, 133 in Preah Sihanouk province, 10 in Kandal province, four each in Kampong Cham and Takeo provinces, two in Prey Veng province and one each in Kampong Chhnang, Kampong Thom, Tboung Khmum, Svay Rieng and Kampot provinces, the statement said.
The COVID-19 cases in Indonesia rose by 5,549 within one day to 1,614,849, with the death toll adding by 210 to 43,777, the Health Ministry said on Tuesday.
According to the ministry, 6,728 more people were discharged from hospitals, bringing the total number of recovered patients to 1,468,142.
The Iranian Health Ministry reported 24,346 new COVID-19 cases, taking the country's total infections to 2,261,435.
The pandemic has so far claimed 67,130 lives in Iran, up by 398 in the past 24 hours, said Sima Sadat Lari, spokeswoman for the Iranian Ministry of Health and Medical Education, during her daily briefing.
A total of 1,797,319 people have recovered from the disease or been discharged from hospitals across the country, while 4,843 remain in intensive care units, she noted.
The Iraqi Ministry of Health reported on Monday 7,775 new coronavirus cases, raising the total nationwide infections to 984,950.
The new cases included 2,712 in the capital Baghdad, 877 in Basra, 694 in Diyala, 606 in Duhok, and 415 in Sulaimaniyah, the ministry said in a statement.
It also reported 45 new deaths, raising the death toll from the infectious virus to 15,026, while the total recoveries in Iraq climbed by 7,507 to 864,039.
A total of 8,847,336 tests have been carried out across the country since the outbreak of the disease in February 2020, with 41,850 done during the day.
The ministry said 16,207 people were vaccinated during the past 24 hours across the country, bringing the total number of doses received to 241,639.
Iraq has taken a series of measures to curb the recent rise in infections after the Health Ministry announced on Feb. 15 the detection of a new strain characterized by faster transmission and a higher level of severity.
The Iraqi National Board for Selection of Drugs has approved the emergency use of the Sinopharm vaccines, in addition to AstraZeneca, Pfizer-BioNTech, and Sputnik V vaccines.
Since the early stage of the pandemic in 2020, the Chinese government has sent medical aid to Iraq and donated two shipments of Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccines to the country to help combat the pandemic.
Kuwait will extend the partial curfew until the end of Ramadan in efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19, the Kuwaiti government announced Monday.
According to a decision announced by the Kuwaiti government, the curfew hours will remain unchanged, from 7 p.m. and 5 a.m. local time, until the end of the Muslim holy month.
Kuwaiti Minister of Health Bassel Al-Sabah said at the meeting that there is an increase in deaths and infections with more people in intensive care units (ICUs).
The decision may be reassessed with the regular review of the COVID-19 pandemic situation, Foreign Minister and Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs Sheikh Ahmad Nasser Al-Mohammad Al-Sabah said after the meeting.
The government also urged residents and citizens to assume social responsibility and take the COVID-19 vaccine, saying it is the only way to reduce deaths and infections as well as pressure on ICUs.
Members from the Disaster Response Force (DRF) of Telangana State, wearing protective gear spray disinfectant on a street against the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus in Hyderabad on April 19, 2021. (NOAH SEELAM / AFP)
Laos has detected two more COVID-19 cases, with its total number of infections rising to 60.
Director General of the National Center for Laboratory and Epidemiology under the Lao Ministry of Health, Phonepadith Xangsayarath, told a press conference here on Tuesday that the two new cases include a 25-year-old woman living in capital Vientiane, who had a close contact with illegal immigrants from Thailand on April 8.
Lebanon registered on Monday 995 new COVID-19 cases, raising the total number of infections to 511,398, the health ministry said, adding that death toll from the virus increased by 34 to 6,959.
Mass vaccination is being conducted in Lebanon. Caretaker Health Minister Hamad Hassan launched on Monday the vaccination campaign for the public sector employees including general security members.
Travel between different states will only be allowed for work, medical reasons, education, emergencies, death of immediate family members, and married couples living apart, according to a statement from the Malaysian police late Monday.
Travelling between states for social purposes, such as attending weddings and feasts, is not permitted. This ruling will remain in effect until after Eid celebrations.
The COVID-19 cases in Mongolia rose by 1,311 in the last 24 hours to 24,195, with the death toll rising by two to 57, the country's National Center for Communicable Diseases (NCCD) said Tuesday.
The latest confirmed cases were locally transmitted, and most of them were detected in the country's capital Ulan Bator, which is hardest hit by the COVID-19, the NCCD said in a statement.
Meanwhile, 459 more people were discharged from hospitals, bringing the total number of recoveries in the country to 12,860, it said.
New Zealand authorities reported on Tuesday that a worker in Auckland airport has tested positive for COVID-19, but doubted whether the new case would warrant ordering a pause in quarantine-free travel with Australia.
Australia and New Zealand opened a travel bubble on Monday, after both countries had closed borders in March 2020 to non-citizens and permanent residents to contain the pandemic.
"When we opened, on both sides, we of course knew we would continue to have cases connected to our border," New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said. "We accept that's going to be part of our journey together, I think Australia accepts that."
New Zealand's health authorities were liaising with their Australian counterparts, Ardern said, with no initial indication that the so-called 'travel bubble' would be halted.
The infected worker, who was fully vaccinated for the virus, had been cleaning airplanes coming from countries with known virus outbreaks, Ardern told reporters in Auckland.
Pakistan banned travel from India for two weeks on Monday after a surge in COVID-19 cases was witnessed in the neighboring country, the National Command and Operation Center (NCOC) of Pakistan said.
The center decided to place India in its C category, following which all passengers coming from India via land or air routes will not be allowed to enter the country.
India's COVID-19 tally reached 15,061,919 on Monday, revealed the latest data by the federal health ministry.
There was an increase of 273,810 COVID-19 cases during the past 24 hours. This is the third consecutive day when the country witnessed a single day spike of over 250,000 new cases.
Papua New Guinea (PNG) has recorded a total of 9,952 COVID-19 cases and 91 deaths, according to the latest figure released by the government on Tuesday.
The Pacific island country reported one death and 153 new confirmed cases from 24 districts in 12 provinces on Monday.
PNG received the first batch of the AstraZeneca vaccine from the World Health Organization-led COVAX Facility on April 13.
The shipment of 132,000 doses was the first batch of the allocated 588,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines to PNG. Subsequent doses would be shipped to the country in the coming months.
The Qatari Health Ministry on Monday announced 896 new COVID-19 infections, raising the total number of confirmed cases in the Gulf state to 197,476, adding 728 more recovered from the virus, bringing the overall recoveries to 174,698, while the fatalities increased by four to 386,
A total of 1,844,598 persons in Qatar have taken lab tests for COVID-19 so far, while the total number of vaccine doses administered is 1,271,478.
Singapore is working with a local medical-technology firm on potential mass usage of COVID-19 breathalysers for safe travel arrangements and screenings at large-scale events, the Straits Times reported Tuesday.
Silver Factory Technology is working with the National Centre for Infectious Diseases, Changi Airport Group and security firm Certis to develop the tool. Testing has started, the paper said, citing the company.
Breathalyser tests are less invasive, cheaper, and can deliver results in two minutes or less, Changi Airport’s senior vice president Albert Lim was cited as saying.
South Korea’s Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong told lawmakers that Seoul and Washington are in discussions about a “vaccine swap,” without elaborating.
South Korea reported 549 more cases of COVID-19 as of midnight Monday compared to 24 hours ago, raising the total number of infections to 115,195.
The daily caseload stayed below 600 for two days in a row.
The daily number of infections hovered in triple figures since Nov. 8 last year due to cluster infections in Seoul and its surrounding Gyeonggi province as well as imported cases.
Of the new cases, 147 were Seoul residents and 184 were people residing in Gyeonggi province.
Twenty cases were imported from overseas, lifting the combined figure to 8,022.
Thailand is negotiating to buy five to 10 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc and BioNTech, the country's prime minister said on Tuesday.
The doses are expected to be delivered between July and the end of the year, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha told reporters.
Thai health authorities on Tuesday assured the public there were sufficient hospital beds for the rising number of coronavirus patients, amid a new wave of infections this month that has spread fast across the country.
Thailand is on course to begin local production of AstraZeneca Plc vaccines and will be able to produce a first lot of shots in June, according to the government.
AstraZeneca remains the main vaccine brand in Thailand’s inoculation program, Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said. Siam Bioscience, the local producer of the vaccines, will submit documents this week to get its factory accredited by Thailand’s Food and Drug Administration.
Thailand on Tuesday reported 1,443 new COVID -19 infections and four new deaths.
The Philippines has authorized the emergency use of Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot coronavirus vaccine days after the US suspended use due to a rare side effect.
The Philippines’ Food and Drug Administration approved J&J’s application, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez said at a televised briefing with President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday night. It’s eyeing up to 10 million doses from J&J, Galvez said.
India-based Bharat Biotech International Ltd.’s vaccine was also approved for emergency use, CNN Philippines said, citing Philippine FDA head Eric Domingo. Vaccines from Pfizer Inc., AstraZeneca Plc., Sinovac Biotech Ltd. and Russia’s Gamaleya National Center of Epidemiology and Microbiology were earlier given similar approvals.
The Philippines is pushing to speed up inoculations and targeting to vaccinate all adults amid a new surge in coronavirus infections that has dimmed its economic outlook.
The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Philippines surged to 953,106 after the Department of Health (DOH) reported 7,379 new cases on Tuesday.
Turkish citizens aged 55 and over have flocked to hospitals after Health Minister Fahrettin Koca announced that the group is allowed to receive their COVID-19 vaccines, local media reported on Tuesday. Long queues could be seen in front of hospitals on Monday evening, especially in Turkey's biggest cities of Istanbul and Ankara, according to the Sozcu daily.
Turkey on Monday reported 55,149 new COVID-19 cases, including 2,862 symptomatic patients, raising the total number in the country to 4,323,596, according to its health ministry.
The death toll from the virus in Turkey rose by 341 to 36,267, while the total recoveries climbed to 3,736,537 after 48,947 more recovered in the last 24 hours.
The rate of pneumonia in COVID-19 patients stands at 2.9 percent and the number of seriously ill patients is 3,319 in the country, said the ministry.
A total of 318,869 tests for coronavirus were conducted over the past day, taking the overall number in Turkey to 44,087,628.
Brunei reported two new confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, bringing the national tally to 223.
According to Brunei's Ministry of Health, the two new cases are two men, at 48 and 46 years respectively, who both arrived in the country from Manila on April 7.
Investigation and contact tracing have confirmed no close contacts as they were quarantined upon arrival. They have not showed any symptoms of infection.
Afghanistan on Tuesday reported 176 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases after health authorities conducted 2,159 tests within a day, bringing the number of total cases to 58,213, the country's Ministry of Public Health said.
Meanwhile, 28 people recovered during the past 24 hours, taking the overall number of recoveries to 52,272 while seven deaths were also reported, raising the death toll at 2,557, the ministry said in a statement.
The number of COVID-19 cases has risen to 142,661 in Myanmar on Tuesday, according to a release from the Health and Sports Ministry.
Myanmar reported 17 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, the release said.
A total of 942 samples were tested for COVID-19 on Tuesday, down from around 10,000 samples tested daily in early February.
A total of 131,908 recovered patients have been discharged from hospitals while the death toll stood at 3,206 so far.
The Omani Health Ministry on Tuesday announced 1,263 new COVID-19 infections, raising the total number of confirmed cases in the Sultanate to 182,693, the official Oman News Agency reported.
Meanwhile, 986 people recovered during the past 24 hours, taking the overall recoveries to 162,656 while 19 deaths were reported, pushing the tally up to 1,909, according to a ministry statement quoted by ONA.
The ministry urged everyone to adhere to social distancing instructions issued by the supreme committee handling the COVID-19 and the Health Ministry.
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