A young girl gives a thumbs up as she receives a shot of Sinovac’s COVID-19 vaccine at a Samrong Krom health center outside Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Sept 17, 2021. (HENG SINITH / AP)
JERUSALEM / SYDNEY / DHAKA / TEHRAN / KUALA LUMPUR / SINGAPORE / SEOUL / ANKARA / ISLAMABAD / ULAN BATOR / MANILA / COLOMBO / SUVA / KATHMANDU / PHNOM PENH – Cambodia started vaccinating children aged 6 to 12 against COVID-19 on Friday, joining a small number of countries to inoculate minors of elementary school age, as it seeks to expand its immunization program and revive its economy.
Of Cambodia’s more than 16 million people, 10 million have been vaccinated against COVID-19 so far, one of the highest rates in Southeast Asia.
“We vaccinate people not only to save lives but to save the economy and society. Reopening of the economy and society is necessary,” Prime Minister Hun Sen said at the launch of the program.
“We are willing to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on vaccines to vaccinate people in order to attract billions of dollars for the economy in return.”
Cambodia has been using vaccines made by China’s Sinovac and Sinopharm and the British-developed AstraZeneca vaccine on adults and has also been vaccinated children over 12. The health ministry said the Sinovac vaccine would be given to children aged 6 to 12.
Cambodia has recorded more than 102,000 coronavirus cases and more than 2,000 deaths since the pandemic began, the vast majority this year.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Friday pledged more freedom for vaccinated citizens, even as the country’s second largest state reported its second highest daily rise in new COVID-19 infections this year.
Morrison said federal and state leaders would discuss vaccine passports and expanding home quarantine when they meet for a national cabinet later on Friday.
“You will see vaccinated people being able to move and do more things,” Morrison told radio station 3AW.
“They’re less likely to get the virus, transmit the virus, get a serious illness and end up in hospital,” he said. “And so, that won’t put the pressure on the public hospital system.”
Health officials have warned that the current Delta outbreak is likely to strain the healthcare system when states go ahead with plans to lift lockdowns in Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra and some regional areas.
Victoria on Friday reported 510 new cases, the majority in state capital Melbourne, and one new death. The state reported 514 new cases on Thursday, the highest in the current outbreak.
Morrison has advocated a reopening of the country in line with increasing vaccination rates. He confirmed on Friday that 70.6 percent of the population over the age of 16 has received a first dose.
Under the federal government’s national reopening plan, states and territories have been urged to gradually ease tough restrictions, including border controls, once 70-80 percent of the country’s adult population is fully vaccinated. Not all state and territory leaders agree with the reopening plans.
The positivity rate for new COVID-19 cases in Bangladesh reported by the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) fell to 5.98 percent on Thursday, the lowest level in more than six months.
The country reported 1,862 new COVID-19 cases and 51 new deaths on Thursday, taking the total tally to 1,538,203 and the death toll to 27,109.
On March 11, the DGHS data showed the single-day infection rate was 5.82 percent.
Fiji’s Ministry of Health and Medical Services reported three COVID-19 deaths and 132 new cases on Friday.
Another 233 new recoveries were also reported, taking the number of active cases to 12,834 active cases.
So far, Fiji has recorded 49,719 cases, 566 deaths and 35,919 recoveries.
Iran’s health ministry on Thursday reported 18,021 new COVID-19 cases, taking the country’s total infections to 5,378,408.
The pandemic has so far claimed 116,072 lives in the country, after 453 additional deaths were registered in the past 24 hours, said the update by Iran’s Ministry of Health and Medical Education.
India’s COVID-19 tally rose to 33,381,728 on Friday as 34,403 new cases were registered during the past 24 hours across the country, according to the latest data from the federal health ministry.
The death toll went up by 320 to to 444,248.
The number of active cases stood at 339,056 while a total of 32,598,424 people have recovered so far.
India won’t resume vaccine exports until its domestic requirements are met, a senior government official said Friday, belying WHO expectations that the world’s largest inoculation manufacturing nation would resume supplies soon to COVAX, the equitable vaccine initiative.
India had been shipping doses to poorer nations as part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s much-touted vaccine diplomacy push until earlier this year. But in April, the government moved to prioritize its own population and halted exports as the Delta virus variant hit.
Foreign tourists from certain countries may be able to enter the popular resort island of Bali and other parts of Indonesia next month, senior minister Luhut Pandjaitan said on Friday.
A decision will be made “cautiously”, he said, first considering countries such as South Korea, Japan, Singapore and New Zealand, where the coronavirus situation is less severe, and depending on their ability to contain outbreaks in the coming weeks.
The number of COVID-19 cases in Indonesia rose by 3,835 within one day to 4,185,144, while the death toll went up by 219 to 140,138, the country’s health ministry said on Friday.
To date, at least 44.12 million people in the country have received two shots of vaccines while 77.41 million have taken the first doses, the ministry added.
A man pushes a stroller after buying flowers in preparation for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, in Jerusalem on Sept 6, 2021. (EMMANUEL DUNAND / AFP)
The third vaccine dose against COVID-19 increases the immune protection from infection tenfold, the Israeli Ministry of Health said on Thursday.
The ministry said that a new Israeli study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, examined the effectiveness of the third dose among those over the age of 60, who received the booster shot in August. The tenfold protection is compared to those who received only two doses at least five months ago.
The study was conducted by a team of multidisciplinary researchers from the health ministry, the Weizmann Institute of Science, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the Technion, the Sheba Medical Center and the KI Research Institute, it said.
“The data from Israel indicate high efficacy of Pfizer’s third booster dose in preventing COVID-19 infection and serious illness,” the ministry noted.
Israel’s Ministry of Health on Thursday reported 8,586 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the tally of infections in the country to 1,208,144.
The ministry also reported 21 new deaths from the virus, taking the death toll in the country to 7,465, while the number of patients in serious condition increased from 650 to 654, the ministry said.
The total recoveries from the virus climbed to 1,117,027, after 10,880 newly recovered cases were recorded, while active cases decreased to 83,652, it added.
Malaysia reported 18,815 more COVID-19 infections as of midnight Thursday, bringing the national total to 2,049,750.
Seven of the new cases are imported and 18,808 are local transmissions, data released on the ministry’s website showed.
Another 346 deaths have been reported, bringing the death toll to 22,355.
The total number of cured and discharged rose to 1,800,275.
Mongolia reported 2,796 new COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 269,476, the health ministry said Friday.
There were nine newly reported deaths, taking the death toll to 1,083.
“The prevalence of the highly contagious Delta variant of the virus has continuously increased. Now, the Delta variant has accounted for at least 60 percent of all COVID-19 cases in the country,” Tsolmon Bilegtsaikhan, director of the country’s National Center for Communicable Diseases, told reporters.
According to the ministry, over 65 percent of the country’s total population has received two doses of COVID-19 vaccines.
Some schools in Nepal’s Kathmandu Valley reopened on Friday after being shut down for more than four and a half months amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“A limited number of schools in Kathmandu district have reopened on Friday as per information that I received in the morning,” Govinda Prasad Rijal, chief district officer of Kathmandu, told Xinhua. “I don’t have the exact number of schools reopened in Kathmandu district.”
On Thursday, the district administration office issued a public notice allowing reopening of schools in the district based on decisions of local governments, consultations with parents and by ensuring vaccination of teachers and other employees.
Most schools in the capital city of Kathmandu were not reopened on Friday as the city government has not made a decision.
Nepal reported 1,086 new infections and 10 deaths in the past 24 hours, taking the tally to 783,075 and the death toll to 11,012.
New Zealand suspended quarantine-free travel with Australia for a further 8 weeks on Friday, extending a halt in the so-called travel bubble between both countries, as they deal with fresh outbreaks of the Delta variant of the coronavirus.
Quarantine-free travel was suspended on July 23, just weeks after it was launched, as the infectious Delta variant spread across Sydney and Melbourne. The suspension was due to end on Sept 24.
New Zealand’s virus-free run ended soon after as the Delta variant imported from Australia led to an outbreak in its largest city Auckland, prompting a national lockdown last month. Auckland still remains shut while the rest of the country has reopened.
New Zealand reported just 11 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, as it looks to control the outbreak which has so far led to 1,007 infections.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said that the country is within sight of eliminating Delta.
The country is planning a phased reopening of its borders early next year.
Pakistan reported 2,928 new COVID-19 cases over the past 24 hours, bringing the tally to 1,218,749, the National Command and Operation Center (NCOC) said on Friday.
The NCOC, a department leading Pakistan’s campaign against the pandemic, said that the country’s number of overall confirmed cases rose to 1,218,749.
The southern Sindh province has been the worst hit with a total of 448,658 cases, followed by eastern Punjab province with 419,423 cases, according to a statement by the NCOC.
Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Friday he had received a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot and urged other elderly people to come forward to get a shot amid a new wave of infections across the city-state.
“Cases are increasing rapidly. A booster jab will strengthen your protection against COVID-19,” Lee, 69, said in a post on his Facebook page.
Singapore cases are continuing to climb, nearing levels not seen since the first half of last year, when an outbreak in densely packed migrant worker dorms pushed numbers to more than 1,000 a day.
The city reported 910 new cases on Thursday.
Singapore has made home recovery the default for certain patients this week and plans to include more age groups, the government said on Friday, in a further sign the country was looking to transition to living with the virus.
Home recovery has started for suitable patients aged below 50 from Sept 15. The government plans to widen the group from Saturday to include fully-vaccinated people aged 69 and below who can self-isolate.
In another development, Singapore announced Friday new standards for migrant worker dormitories, with the aim of reducing the risk of transmission of infectious diseases and improving living conditions after the facilities suffered a major COVID-19 outbreak last year.
Visitors wearing face masks to help curb the spread of the coronavirus arrive at the International Quarantine Expo in Goyang, South Korea, Sept 14, 2021. (LEE JIN-MAN / AP)
South Korea on Friday approved drugmaker Celltrion Inc’s antibody COVID-19 treatment for infected adults in high-risk groups or those with severe symptoms.
Phase III clinical trials showed that the treatment significantly reduced deterioration of COVID-19 symptoms to severe levels and shortened recovery, the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety said in a statement on Friday.
The treatment lowered the rate of high-risk patients developing severe symptoms by 72 percent and shortened recovery by 4.12 days, the ministry said.
Celltrion said in a separate regulatory filing it plans to apply for emergency use approval and permission for the treatment from each country through continuous discussions with each regulatory agency.
South Korea reported 2,008 new cases of COVID-19 as of midnight Thursday compared to 24 hours ago, raising the total number of infections to 281,938.
Three more deaths were confirmed, taking the death toll to 2,389. The total fatality rate stood at 0.85 percent.
Sri Lanka’s Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella said Friday a nationwide quarantine curfew which had come into effect from late August was extended till Oct 1 to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Following a meeting by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Rambukwella said that the president decided to extend the quarantine curfew till 4:00 am local time on Oct 1.
Rambukwella, however, said government essential services impacting the economy will be allowed to function during the curfew.
Bangkok Governor Asawin Kwanmuang said on Friday that the province will waive quarantine for vaccinated international travelers after at least 70 percent of residents received two vaccine doses.
He estimated that Bangkok could reach that target by Oct 15, but said the decision to reopen also hinges on having measures in place to prevent another wave of infections.
Thailand’s new daily COVID-19 infections rose for a third straight day to 14,555, the highest tally since Sept 11, according to government data on Friday.
The cumulative case-count climbed to 1.45 million. The Southeast Asian nation reported 171 COVID-19 deaths in the past 24 hours, taking total death toll to 15,124.
People wearing face masks and shields to protect themselves against the COVID-19 coronavirus cross a street in Manila on Sept 7, 2021. (TED ALJIBE / AFP)
The Philippines’ Department of Health (DOH) reported 20,336 new COVID-19 infections on Friday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the Southeast Asian country to 2,324,475.
The DOH also reported 310 coronavirus-related deaths, raising the country’s death toll to 36,328. The number of active cases stand at 188,108.
World Health Organization (WHO) Representative in the Philippines Rabindra Abeyasinghe said the active cases now was twice the number of active cases reported in April when the country battled a surge of infections.
Abeyasinghe said that the country’s healthcare system is still coping despite the spike in active cases.
The Philippine capital region will be under the second-strictest movement restrictions until end-September as coronavirus cases remain elevated, the DOH said.
Metro Manila, which accounts for a third of economic output, will be under Alert Level 4, where businesses like restaurants and beauty salons can operate at limited capacity, and where only vaccinated people can dine in. Curbs will be reviewed weekly, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said at a virtual forum Friday.
Turkey on Thursday confirmed 28,118 new COVID-19 cases, raising its tally of infections to 6,767,008, according to its health ministry.
The death toll from the virus in Turkey rose by 262 to 60,903, while 32,249 more people recovered in the last 24 hours.
A total of 343,142 tests were conducted over the past day, it said.
Vietnam, under pressure from global brands that rely on factories in the Southeast Asian country, is ordering Ho Chi Minh City to allow some plants to resume operations, Tien Phong newspaper reported.
Vietnam’s Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam gave the order for the city to ease virus curbs in areas with low virus rates to enable factories that serve as key suppliers to global brands to reopen, Dam was cited as saying according to newspaper Tien Phong. City officials should not pursue a COVID-zero strategy, he said.
Vietnam reported 11,521 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, including 11,506 locally transmitted and 15 imported, according to the Ministry of Health.
The new infections brought the country’s tally to 667,650, along with 16,637 deaths, the ministry said.
As many as 433,465 COVID-19 patients have so far recovered, and over 33 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered nationwide, according to the ministry.