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S’pore will trial business traveler pass as virus curbs ease

A couple wearing face mask walk along the Marina Bay in Singapore on Aug 27, 2020. (PHOTO / AFP)

TOKYO / SYDNEY / NEW DELHI / DUBAI – Singapore will pilot a new travel pass for senior executives in the city-state who need to travel regularly for business, authorities said Wednesday, as they further eased some coronavirus-related restrictions.

The number of passes will be limited initially, and travellers must stick to their declared itinerary, the government said. Upon return, pass holders must self-isolate while awaiting results of a swab test, instead of undergoing the mandatory 14-day quarantine at home or at a hotel.

The country has recorded over 57,000 coronavirus cases overall, mostly among workers living in dormitories. The vast majority of those infected have since recovered.

Singapore, a regional travel hub, is home to the Asian headquarters of many global companies whose executives have long relied on the city-state’s connectivity. It has reciprocal business travel arrangements with a handful of countries, including China, Japan and neighbouring Malaysia.

Australia

Australia’s coronavirus hot spot of Victoria is considering easing more curbs from Sept 26 than previously flagged, the state’s premier said on Wednesday, as the two-week average of new infections in the city of Melbourne fell below 30.

Melbourne, Australia’s second most populous city, has been the epicentre of the country’s second wave of COVID-19. The city has been under a hard lockdown, including a nightly curfew, since Aug. 2.

The state reported 15 new cases and five deaths on Wednesday.

The 14-day average in Melbourne dropped below the 30-50 band which the state set as a precondition for allowing around 100,000 people to return to work in construction, manufacturing, warehouses and child care from Sept 28.

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Afghanistan

The Afghan Ministry of Public Health on Wednesday confirmed 49 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total number of patients in the country to 39,145, including 5,089 active cases.

A total of 231 tests were conducted within the past 24 hours, and 49 were positive in seven provinces out of 34 Afghan provinces, the ministry said in a statement.

One patient died within the period, taking the death toll to 1,446 since February, the statement added.

Thirty-four new recoveries were recorded since early Tuesday.

India

India’s coronavirus infections surged again on Wednesday, a day after falling to their lowest figure in almost a month.

In the last 24 hours, there were 83,347 new cases, with 1,085 deaths, federal health data showed.

India, with a population of about 1.4 billion, has been consistently reporting the world’s highest daily tallies of infections, as it grapples with overstretched health services in the effort to control the pandemic.

Its 5.6 million coronavirus cases rank second only to the United States, and more than 90,000 people have died.

Tuesday’s figure of 75,083 was the lowest since Sept. 1, and Wednesday’s total is below the record 97,894 hit on Sept. 17.

But experts say it is still too early to tell if the first wave of the pandemic in the country has peaked.

Iraq

Iraqi doctor Tariq Al-Sheibani remembers little else beyond cowering on the ground as a dozen relatives of a patient, who had just died of COVID-19, beat him unconscious.

About two hours later the 47-year-old director of Al-Amal Hospital in the southern city of Najaf woke up in a different clinic with bruises all over his body.

“All the doctors are scared,” said Sheibani, speaking at his home in Kufa a few weeks after the Aug. 28 attack. “Every time a patient dies, we all hold our breath.”

He is one of many doctors struggling to do their job as COVID-19 cases rise sharply in Iraq.

They are working within a health service that has been left to decay through years of civil conflict and underfunding, and now face the added threat of physical attack by grieving and desperate families.

Reuters spoke to seven doctors, including the head of Iraq’s Medical Association, who described a growing pattern of assaults on medical staff. Dozens have taken place since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Meanwhile, the United Nations has warned that the pandemic could spiral out of control in Iraq.

Authorities have lifted many lockdown measures, allowing restaurants and places of worship to reopen, but they have shut borders to pilgrims ahead of a large Shi’ite Muslim pilgrimage that normally draws millions to the south of the country.

Iraq has recorded several thousand new coronavirus infections every day, and the total now exceeds 300,000.

More than 8,000 people have died, a number that some doctors fear will rise sharply, putting frontline healthcare workers under huge pressure and in some cases in physical danger.

The health ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the COVID situation in Iraq and medics’ complaints about the threat of violence.

Israel

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pushed Wednesday for a tighter new nationwide lockdown amidst a new record number of daily coronavirus cases.

Israel’s coronavirus cabinet was set to meet later on Wednesday to discuss tightening a three-week nationwide lockdown imposed on Friday.

Netanyahu said he will ask the ministers to approve an “extensive general closure.” He said that many industries should be closed down as part of the expected new measures.

“Israel is in an emergency,” he said.

The health ministry reported on Wednesday 6,667 new cases, the highest daily rise since the outbreak of the pandemic in Israel in late February.

Israel, with a population of about nine million people, reached a total number of 200,041 infections and 1,316 fatalities.  

Japan

Japan is considering allowing more foreigners into the country for longer stays starting as early as next month, while keeping the COVID-19 entry curbs in place for tourists, the Asahi newspaper reported on Wednesday.

In an effort to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, Japan has adopted some of the strictest travel restrictions in the world, with even permanent residents unable to re-enter the country without prior permission.

The government eased some of those restrictions on students and business people from seven countries in late July.

Under the latest proposed easing, Japan would allow those staying for longer than three months, such as students and medical workers, to enter from any country, the Asahi said, citing multiple government sources.

People wearing face masks as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus visit Togoshi Ginza shopping street in Tokyo on Aug 1, 2020. (PHILIP FONG / AFP)

Kuwait

Kuwait on Wednesday reported 616 new COVID-19 cases and two more deaths, raising the tally of infections to 101,299 and the death toll to 590, the Health Ministry said in a statement.

Currently, 8,368 patients are receiving treatment, including 101 in ICU, according to the statement.

The ministry also announced the recovery of 729 more patients, raising the total recoveries in the country to 92,341.

On Sept 14, the Kuwaiti government decided to postpone the fifth phase of a plan to return to normal until further notice.

During the fifth phase, theaters and cinemas would be allowed to reopen and all social events permitted to be held.

Lebanon

Lebanon’s total COVID-19 cases crossed the 30,000 mark on Tuesday to hit 30,838, after 851 new cases were recorded, while the death toll went up by eight to 315, the Lebanese Health Ministry said.

The rapid resurgence of infections over the past days prompted Caretaker Health Minister Hamad Hassan to suggest shutting down the whole country for two weeks to curb the pandemic’s spread.

ALSO READ: Iran virus cases near record high, Khamenei warns on pilgrimage

Myanmar

Myanmar reported 216 new infection cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday morning, said in a daily release from the Health and Sports Ministry.

With the newly confirmed cases, the number of laboratory confirmed cases rose to 6,959.

The death toll of COVID-19 also increased to 116 after a 43-year-old patient died, according to the release.

New Zealand

New Zealand reported three new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, and for the first time, six historical cases.

The six historical cases are made up of one confirmed case dating back to February and five probable historical cases connected to the case also dating back to February, according to the Ministry of Health.

None of the new community cases are connected to the Auckland August community cluster, said a ministry statement.

New Zealand relaxed COVID-19 restrictions and entered Alert Level 1 at midnight Monday, except for Auckland, the largest city.

Oman

Oman announced 660 new COVID-19 infections, raising the total confirmed cases to 94,711. The total number of recoveries soared by 414 to 86,591, while the death toll went up by 12 to 865.

Palestine

Palestine on Tuesday recorded 557 new coronavirus cases and five more deaths, bringing the total infections in the Palestinian territories to 46,614 and the total fatalities to 314.

Palestinian Health Minister Mai al-Kaila warned that the Palestinian territories would witness a new wave of coronavirus infections if local residents refuse to abide by the health measures.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia announced 552 new infections and 30 more deaths, raising the tally of confirmed cases to 330,798 and the death toll to 4,542. The total recoveries in the kingdom rose by 1,185 to 312,684, while there are 13,572 active cases, including 1,121 in critical condition.

South Korea

South Korea added 110 more coronavirus cases in 24 hours, after seeing infections dip below 100 for three straight days. The total number of confirmed cases rose to 23,216, while the death toll remained at 388.

South Korea’s parliament approved a 7.8 trillion won (US$6.7 billion) extra budget, the fourth spending increase this year after a new wave of the coronavirus and floods battered the economy.

The latest stimulus is intended to support restaurants, wedding halls, karaokes and other businesses that suffered from tightened social distancing measures since August. 

The Philippines

The Philippines is reopening Boracay island, one of its main tourist attractions, to more visitors starting Oct. 1 as it banks on locals to revive its pandemic-hit tourism sector.

The UAE

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced 852 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total confirmed cases to 86,447. Meanwhile, 939 more patients recovered from the virus, taking the tally of recoveries in the UAE to 76,025.

The nationwide death toll in the UAE remained unchanged at 405.

Turkey

Turkey reported 1,692 new COVID-19 infections and 65 more deaths, raising the tally of coronavirus cases to 306,302 and the death toll to 7,639. The total number of recoveries reached 269,696.

Indonesia

Indonesian President Joko Widodo has called on all nations to unite and always promote a win-win approach in building mutually beneficial relations on efforts to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“At a time when we ought to unite and work together to tackle the pandemic… what we see, instead, is one of deep divisions … and growing rivalries,” the Indonesian president said at the virtual General Debate of the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday morning local time.

According to the president, all nations understand that the negative impacts of the pandemic are tremendous both on health and the social economy.

Iran 

Iran reported 3,605 new COVID-19 patients overnight, raising the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 432,798 on Wednesday, according to Sima Sadat Lari, spokeswoman for Iran’s Ministry of Health and Medical Education.

The pandemic has so far claimed 24,840 lives in Iran, up by 184 in the past 24 hours, Lari said during her daily briefing.

Besides, 365,846 people have recovered and been discharged from hospitals while 3,948 remain in intensive care units.

As of Wednesday, 3,828,330 COVID-19 lab tests have been carried out in Iran, the spokeswoman noted.

She said 24 Iranian provinces, out of 31, are in high-risk condition.

Malaysia 

Malaysia reported 147 new COVID-19 infections, the Health Ministry said on Wednesday, bringing the national total to 10,505.

Health Ministry Director-General Noor Hisham Abdullah said in a press statement that four of the new cases are imported and 143 are local transmissions, with the majority reported from the country’s North Borneo state of Sabah.

Three new deaths have been reported, with the total death toll now at 133.

Health authorities also detected one new case cluster, traced to an individual who had been screened at a clinic in Sabah, with three testing positive so far.

Another 39 patients have been released after recovery, bringing the total cured and discharged to 9,602, or 91.4 percent of all cases.

Of the remaining 770 active cases, eight are being held in intensive care and two of those are in need of assisted breathing.  

Bangladesh

Bangladesh reported 1,666 new COVID-19 cases and 37 new deaths on Wednesday, bringing the total cases to 352,287 and the death toll to 5,044, the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) said.

The official data showed that 14,150 samples were tested in the last 24 hours across Bangladesh.

The total number of recovered patients in the country stood at 262,953 including 2,163 new recoveries on Wednesday, said the DGHS.

According to the official data, the COVID-19 fatality rate in Bangladesh is now 1.43 percent and the current recovery rate is 74.64 percent.

Bangladesh recorded the highest daily new cases of 4,019 on July 2 and the highest number of deaths of 64 on June 30.

Qatar

The Qatari health ministry on Tuesday announced 258 new COVID-19 infections, raising the total number of confirmed cases in the Gulf state to 124,175, the official Qatar News Agency (QNA) reported.

Meanwhile, 240 more recovered from the virus, bringing the overall recoveries to 121,006, while one death was reported, raising the fatalities to 212, according to a ministry statement quoted by QNA.

The ministry reiterated the need to take preventive measures, including staying home and observing social distancing.

A total of 739,091 persons in Qatar have taken lab tests for COVID-19 so far. 

Oman

The Omani health ministry on Wednesday announced 628 new COVID-19 infections, raising the total number of confirmed cases in the sultanate to 95,339, the official Oman News Agency (ONA) reported.

Meanwhile, 287 people recovered during the past 24 hours, taking the overall number of recoveries to 86,482, while ten reportedly died from the virus, raising the death toll to 875, according to a ministry statement quoted by ONA.

The ministry urged everyone to adhere to social distancing instructions, as well as staying home and avoiding to go out unless necessary.

Vietnam 

Vietnam reported one new case of COVID-19 on Wednesday, bringing its total confirmed cases to 1,069 with 35 deaths from the disease so far, according to the Ministry of Health.

The new case is a 18-year-old female who has recently returned from abroad and was quarantined upon arrival, said the ministry.

As many as 991 patients in the country have recovered as of Wednesday, while nearly 20,900 people are being quarantined and monitored in the country, the ministry said.

Vietnam has gone through 21 straight days without any COVID-19 cases in the community, according to the ministry.

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