NZ locks down Auckland after 3 new local COVID-19 cases

Thousands of people attend a concert by the band Six60 in Wellington, New Zealand, on Feb 13, 2021. (NICK PERRY / AP)

DUBAI / NEW DELHI / BEIRUT / KUALA LUMPUR / WELLINGTON / MELBOURNE / YANGON / SINGAPORE / HANOI / MALE / ISLAMABAD / JAKARTA / MANILA / ULAN BATOR / BANGKOK / TOKYO / JERUSALEM – New Zealand Prime Minsiter Jacinda Ardern on Sunday announced a three-day lockdown in the country’s biggest city Auckland, after three new local COVID-19 cases were reported, the first local infections since late January.

Restrictions were raised to level 3 for three days from Monday through Wednesday. That meant public venues would be shut, gatherings outside homes would be prohibited except for weddings and funerals, limited to 10 people.

Children were also asked to stay home from school.

The three cases reported earlier on Sunday were a couple and their daughter in Auckland, the first local cases since Jan 24.

The country on Sunday also reported one new infection in a managed isolation facility.

Health authorities are still working to find out whether the cases involve one of the new highly infectious variants and how the family contracted the virus, Ardern said.

New Zealand – which had gone more than two months without infection before the January outbreak – is set to start inoculating its 5 million people against the new coronavirus on Feb 20, after receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine earlier than anticipated.

READ MORE: Melbourne in new five-day snap COVID-19 lockdown


Japan’s health ministry said on Sunday it has officially approved Pfizer Inc’s COVID-19 vaccine, the first such approval in the country as it steps up efforts to tame a third wave of infections in the run-up to the Summer Olympic Games.

The move had been widely expected after a government panel recommended approval on Friday, at which point Health Minister Norihisa Tamura said Japan would give its final approval as soon as possible.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has said vaccinations will begin from the middle of next week, starting with some 10,000 health workers. The government hopes to secure enough supplies for the whole populace – some 126 million people – by mid-year.

Japan has so far recorded about 410,000 coronavirus cases nationally and 6,772 deaths. The Olympic Games are due to start July 23.


Thailand on Sunday confirmed 166 new COVID-19 cases, according to the Center for the COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA)’s report.

Of the new cases, 138 were domestic infections while 28 others were imported, according to the report.

To date, Thailand has reported 24,571 confirmed cases, of which 21,935 were locally transmitted.

So far, 22,111 patients had been discharged from hospitals after recovery and 80 fatalities had been reported. 


Mongolia registered 58 new locally transmitted COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 2,351, the National Center for Communicable Diseases (NCCD) said Sunday.

Meanwhile, 29 more COVID-19 patients have recovered and were discharged from hospitals, taking the total recoveries to 1,682.

The death toll remained unchanged at four.

The Philippines

The Department of Health (DOH) of the Philippines reported on Sunday 1,928 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the Southeast Asian country to 549,176.

The death toll climbed to 11,515 after eight more deaths were logged, the DOH said. 

It added that another 10,967 patients have recovered, raising the total number of recoveries to 511,743.


A Pakistani lab will soon receive Russia’s Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine for commercial sale, a company official said on Sunday, making Pakistan one of the first countries to market shots privately as it scrambles to secure supplies.

“We are told the first shipment is expected within the next week,” Chughtai Lab director Omar Chughtai told Reuters, adding it would be receiving several thousand doses.

Chughtai Lab aims to import the others as well, but Sputnik V was the first to become available, Chughtai said.

Health Minister Faisal Sultan told Reuters in a message he was “not directly aware” of the deal.

Pakistan’s decision to allow private sales of vaccine without a price cap in a lower-income country of 220 million people faces criticism.

Former health minister Zafar Mirza, while praising government efforts to procure and distribute free vaccine, said that avoiding a price cap for private sales “will deepen inequality in society at a time when there is a need to have widespread coverage”.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia has extended by 20 days restrictions on entertainment activities, gatherings, and dine-in restaurant services to curb the spread of coronavirus, state news agency SPA reported on Sunday, citing an interior ministry statement.

The announcement extends a set of measures brought in ten days ago. The restrictions, which come into effect from 10pm local time on Sunday evening, could be extended again, according to the ministry statement. 

Saudi Arabia reported 337 new virus cases on Saturday, as well as four deaths.


Australia’s second-most populous state, Victoria, reported two new cases of locally transmitted COVID-19 infection on Sunday, day two of a snap lockdown as authorities scrambled to curb the spread of the highly infectious UK variant of the disease.

The two cases, including a 3-year-old child, were the first two who were not household contacts of a cluster of infected workers at a quarantine hotel at Melbourne airport which had triggered the five-day lockdown, health authorities said. The hotel cluster has now affected 16 people.

Currently, there are 21 active cases in the state.

“It is too early to say whether we have been successful, but the signs that show Victorians are doing the right thing,” Victoria’s health minister, Martin Foley, told reporters.

Neighboring New South Wales, the nation most-populous state, recorded its 28th straight day with no new cases, the longest streak since the pandemic began.

Meanwhile, Australia’s Health Minister Greg Hunt confirmed that Australia is on track to begin its vaccine rollout in late February.

A healthcare worker receives the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine during a nationwide vaccination program at the American University Medical Center in Beirut, Lebanon, Feb 14, 2021. (BILAL HUSSEIN / AP)


Lebanon started its COVID-19 vaccination drive on Sunday by inoculating the head of critical care at its biggest public hospital, followed by 93-year-old celebrated Lebanese actor and comedian Salah Tizani.

The move came after Lebanon received on Saturday the first batch of 28,500 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. 

Lebanon expects to receive more doses of the vaccine in the coming weeks, in addition to the delivery of AstraZeneca’s shots at the beginning of March.

The country on Saturday registered 2,906 fresh infections, raising the tally to 336,992 in the country. The death toll went up by 46 to 3,961.


India’s COVID-19 tally rose to 10,904,940 on Sunday as 12,194 new cases were registered during the past 24 hours, according to the latest data from the federal health ministry.

According to the  data, the death toll reached 155,642 as another 92 were logged since Saturday morning.

There were 137,567 active cases in the country while a total of 10,611,731 people have been discharged from hospitals after recovery. 

The Indian government said on Saturday that nearly 8 million people have been vaccinated against COVID-19 in the past 28 days, since a nationwide inoculation drive was rolled out last month.

A total of 7,967,647 people have been inoculated as of 8:00 am local time Saturday, the federal health ministry said, adding that among those, 5,909,136 are healthcare workers and 2,058,511 are frontline workers.


Authorities in the United Arab Emirates have administered 103,469 doses in the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of inoculations to 5,005,264. This compares with 109,587 doses on Friday and 107,550 on Thursday.

The country reported 2,631 new cases and 15 fatalities in the last 24 hours. Cases in the UAE had quadrupled to almost 4,000 per day by the end of January.

Iranians wearing face masks to curb the spread of COVID-19 walk on a street in the capital Tehran, Dec 30, 2020. (ATTA KENARE / AFP)


Iran’s health minister warned on Saturday of a fourth COVID-19 surge with the possible spread of a mutated virus in the worst-hit country in the Middle East.

President Hassan Rouhani told state television “alarm bells were ringing for a fourth coronavirus wave” as at least nine cities and towns in Iran’s southwest were declared high-risk “red” zones after a rise in cases on Friday.

“More attention must be paid to foreign entries, especially from countries infected with new variants of the virus,” Rouhani was quoted as saying by the official news agency IRNA.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called for a general effort to prevent a new wave of the outbreak before Nowruz, the Iranian new year, given the social and economic importance of the yearly celebrations

The Iranian president called for a general effort to prevent a new wave of the outbreak before Nowruz, the Iranian new year, given the social and economic importance of the yearly celebrations.

“Hard days are beginning for us and you must prepare to fight the most uncontrollable mutated virus which is unfortunately infecting the country,” Health Minister Saeed Namaki told heads of medical colleges in a meeting carried live on state TV.

Namaki said Iran’s three first deaths this week from the virus variant first found in Britain – including that of a 71-year-old woman with no history of travel – suggested that the virus was spreading and soon “may be found in any city, village or family”.

Namaki urged Iranians to avoid gatherings in order “not to turn weddings into funerals” during one of the traditionally most popular wedding months in the country.

Iran’s tally of COVID-19 infections rose to 1,510,873 as 7,120 new cases were detected in the past 24 hours, while the death toll increased by 74 to 58,883.

ALSO READ: South Korea to ease social distancing to help small business


Amid the soaring number of COVID-19 cases in Indonesia, the country’s government has decided to take a new measure on micro lockdown in an effort to control the lingering pandemic.

President Joko Widodo has asked the regional administrations to implement a micro lockdown covering the scope of villages and smallest administrative units.

Airlangga Hartarto, chairman of the Committee for Handling COVID-19 and National Economic Recovery, said the main goal of micro lockdowns is to reduce positive cases and flatten the infection curve.

The move also aims to restore the national economy, Hartaro, who is also the coordinating minister for economic affairs, said.

The rules on the implementation of micro lockdown include efforts to increase the implementation of 3T (Testing, Tracing and Treatment). 

During the micro lockdown period, public facilities and socio-cultural activities are closed, while the capacity and operational hours of public transportation are limited.

Indonesia has so far reported 1,210,703 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 32,936 deaths.


Malaysia on Saturday reported 3,499 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total number of recorded infections to 261,805.

The health ministry also reported five additional deaths, raising total fatalities from the pandemic to 958. 


Israel plans to reopen restaurants around March 9 as part of its gradual return to normality as a COVID-19 vaccination campaign gathers pace, an official said on Sunday.

With more than 41 percent of Israelis having received at least one shot of Pfizer’s vaccine, Israel plans to partially reopen hotels and gyms on Feb 23 to those deemed fully inoculated, or immune after recovering from COVID-19.

Nachman Ash, the national pandemic-response coordinator, said the reopening of hotel dining rooms, restaurants and cafes would follow two weeks later.

“That would be around March 9,” he told Ynet TV. “We want to open gradually, carefully so we don’t have another breakout of another wave, and another lockdown.”

Israel on Saturday reported 3,013 new COVID-19 cases and 36 more deaths, bringing the infection tally to 721,759 with 5,340 fatalities.

The number of people vaccinated against the COVID-19 in Israel has surpassed 3.82 million, or 41.1 percent of the total population, since the vaccination campaign began on Dec 20.

Also on Saturday, the Ministry of Finance announced a new program worth half a billion new shekels (about US$154 million) to support disabled people during the coronavirus crisis.


Iraqi authorities on Saturday approved a series of health restrictions, including the reimposition of artial and full curfew starting this week, as the Ministry of Health reported nearly 2,200 new COVID-19 cases.

The Higher Committee for Health and National Safety, headed by Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, held a meeting earlier in the day and decided to impose a 8 pm-5 am curfew from Mondays to Thursdays and a full curfew from Fridays to Sundays during Feb 18 to March 8, the committee said in a statement.

The committee also decided that all governmental and private schools, institutes, and colleges will switch to online learning starting from Feb 18 until March 4.

The Ministry of Health said in a statement that 2,190 new cases were registered, bringing the infection tally to 641,628.

The death toll rose by seven to 13,164.

People, some wearing masks to help protect against the spread of coronavirus, sit in a public garden hours before a two-day weekend curfew, in Ankara, Turkey, Feb 12, 2021. (BURHAN OZBILICI / AP)


Turkey reported 7,706 fresh COVID-19 cases on Saturday, bringing the total number of infections in the country to 2,579,896. 

The death toll climbed to 27,377 after 93 more deaths were logged.


The number of COVID-19 cases in Kuwait rose to 176,903 as 851 new COVID-19 cases were reported.

The health ministry reported six more deaths, taking the death toll to 998, while the tally of recoveries rose by 717 to 165,254.

Kuwait has banned the entry of non-Kuwaitis to the country for two weeks starting on Feb 7, to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. 

In addition, it has decided to suspend all commercial activities between 8 pm and 5 am local time, excluding pharmacies and grocery shops, starting from Feb 7 for up to at least a month.


Qatar on Saturday posted 453 new COVID-19 infections, raising the number of total confirmed cases in the Gulf state to 156,804.

Another 198 people have recovered, bringing the overall recoveries in Qatar to 148,137, while the number of fatalities increased by one to 255.


Jordan on Saturday reported 1,240 new COVID-19 cases, raising the cumulative caseload to 344,803, according to a joint statement issued by the Prime Ministry and the Ministry of Health.

The death toll rose by 11 to 4,444, and the number of active cases stood at 14,467, according to the statement.


The number of COVID-19 cases in Myanmar increased to 141,585 as of Saturday, after 42 new cases were reported, according to a statement from the Ministry of Health and Sports.

The death toll remained at 3,188, according to the statement.


Singapore’s Ministry of Health (MOH) reported on Saturday nine new COVID-19 cases, all imported, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 59,786.

The death toll remained at 29. 

Another 35 people have recovered, bringing the total number of recoveries to 59,604, the ministry said.


Afghanistan on Sunday reported 22 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases after health authorities conducted 1,012 tests within a day, bringing the number of total cases to 55,514, the Ministry of Public Health said.

The total number of recoveries rose by three to 48,395, while the death toll remained at 2,427, the ministry said.


Maldives has imposed a ban on the movement of vehicles inside the capital region of Greater Male between 6 pm and 6 am (local time) in a bid to reduce the spread of COVID-19, local media reported Saturday.

The Health Protection Agency (HPA) said the new measure was taken to control a recent surge in COVID-19 cases which has seen the number of active cases rise to 2,302.

Maldives has recorded 17,507 cases so far, of which 15,142 patients have fully recovered and 56 have died.

So far, 27,367 people have been inoculated against COVID-19, mainly in the densely populated Greater Male Area. 


Vietnam recorded 53 new cases of COVID-19 infection on Saturday, including four imported cases and 49 locally transmitted ones, according to its Ministry of Health.

The new infections brought the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 2,195 with 35 deaths as of 6 pm local time Saturday, said the ministry.