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Whole of Iran on coronavirus red alert due to rise in deaths

In this file photo taken on September 5, 2020 Iranian school children sit together in a classroom on the first day of school, at Nojavanan school in the capital Tehran. (ATTA KENARE / AFP)

JERUSALEM / AMMAN / RAMALLAH / ANKARA / BEIRUT / MELBOURNE – A senior Iranian health official has declared a coronavirus red alert covering the entire country as daily deaths and cases increase at an alarming rate, Iranian state TV reported on Friday.

Iran, one of the Middle Eastern countries hardest hit by the pandemic, has been divided up into white, orange/yellow and red regions based on the number of infections and deaths.

The death toll rose by 144 to 23,952 on Friday, while the total number of identified cases spiked by 3,049 to 416,198, health ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari said on television.

The Philippines

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has extended a state of calamity for a year amid the spike of COVID-19 cases and deaths in the country, the government said on Friday.

Duterte declared a state of national calamity for six months in mid-March as the country strengthened its response to the pandemic.

Pakistan 

Pakistan reported 752 Covid-19 cases in the past 24 hours, the most in five weeks.The country, which has the third-most cases in Asia, had seen new cases drop gradually over the past three months. Pakistan opened schools and marriage halls this month after it recently reopened most industries, including tourism.

Vietnam 

Vietnam reported two new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, bringing its total confirmed cases to 1,068 with 35 deaths from the disease so far, according to the Ministry of Health.

The two cases, who are both 36 years old, have recently entered Vietnam from abroad and were quarantined upon arrival, said the ministry.

Thailand

Thailand reported its first death from coronavirus infection since June 2, two weeks after the nation ended a streak of 100 days without local transmission.

The victim was a 54-year-old translator who was airlifted to Bangkok from Saudi Arabia early this month after contracting Covid-19, health ministry officials said at a briefing in Bangkok. The man suffered from pneumonia and other comorbidities, they said.

With the latest fatality, Thailand’s total death toll from the pandemic rose to 59. Earlier on Friday, the country reported seven imported Covid-19 cases, taking the total to 3,497.

Thailand is among a handful of nations in the region which have managed to contain the pandemic. Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha imposed a national lockdown in March but the Southeast Asian nation has since relaxed some restrictions to allow businesses to re-open.

The tourism-reliant country is preparing to welcome back foreign tourist by issuing long-stay visas, easing a more than five-month-old ban, as it intensifies efforts to revive an economy battered by the pandemic.

Japan

Japan’s lower house of parliament announced on Friday afternoon that a member from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has tested positive for COVID-19, becoming the first lawmaker in the country infected with the coronavirus.

Shuichi Takatori, who had been a special aide of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, developed a fever of more than 37 degrees on Friday morning, which has since subsided, and the results of an antigen test came back positive, said his office.

Bangladesh 

Bangladesh reported 1,541 new COVID-19 cases and 22 new deaths on Friday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 345,805 and total deaths to 4,881, the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) said.

The official data showed that 12,730 samples were tested in the last 24 hours across Bangladesh.

In this photo taken on Aug 16, 2020 tourists wearing face mask disembark from a plane on arrival at the airport in Koh Samui island in the Gulf of Thailand. (PHOTO / AFP)

Kuwait

Kuwait on Friday reported 704 new COVID-19 cases and five more deaths, raising the tally of infections to 98,528 and the death toll to 580, the Health Ministry said in a statement.

Currently, 9,172 patients are receiving treatment, including 101 in ICU, according to the statement.

The ministry also announced the recovery of 865 more patients, raising the total recoveries in the country to 88,776.

On Sept. 14, Kuwait’s government decided to postpone the transition to the fifth phase of the return to normalcy plan until further notice.

Israel 

Israel entered a second nationwide lockdown on Friday at the onset of the Jewish high-holiday season, forcing residents to stay mostly at home amid a resurgence in new coronavirus cases.

The country’s initial lockdown was imposed in late March and eased in May as new cases tapered off, reaching lows in the single digits.

But in the past week, new cases have reached daily highs of over 5,000, and Israeli leaders now acknowledge they lifted measures too soon. The move to reimpose sweeping restrictions has drawn anger from residents struggling amid an economic downturn.

“I strongly oppose lockdown. I feel like this is a mistake by the government I voted for, and I think that our freedoms and economy are destroyed by this decision,” Jerusalem resident David Khosid said. Israel’s unemployment rate is over 20 percent.

The new lockdown, which is due to begin at 2 pm (1100 GMT) and will last three weeks, coincides with the start of the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashana, traditionally a time for large family gatherings and group prayer.

Under the new rules, Israelis must stay within 500 metres of home, with exceptions for activities such as commuting to workplaces that will operate on a limited basis.

Social distancing and limits on the number of worshippers will go into effect at synagogues, usually packed for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement that begins at sunset on Sept 27.

Since the outbreak began, 1,169 people have died in Israel, a country of 9 million.

A face-mask-clad man crosses a deserted street in the Melbourne suburb of St Kilda on Sept 10, 2020. (PHOTO / AFP)

South Korea

The metropolitan government in South Korea’s capital Seoul said on Friday it would seek 4.6 billion won (3.06 million pounds) in damages against a church for causing the spread of the coronavirus by disrupting tracing and testing efforts.

A fresh wave of infections erupted at a church whose members attended a large protest in downtown Seoul in mid-August, becoming the country’s largest cluster in the greater capital area. The outbreak has driven triple-digit increases in daily COVID-19 cases for more than a month.

The Seoul city government said it will file a lawsuit against the Sarang Jeil Church and its leader, Rev. Jun Kwang-hoon, accusing them of disrupting coronavirus tests and providing inaccurate lists of its members which it said aggravated the latest epidemic.

“The city is seeking to hold the church and the pastor responsible for contributing to the nationwide re-spread of COVID-19 by refusing and hindering epidemiological surveys or aiding and abetting such acts, as well as submitting false materials,” it said in a statement.

Calls to the church seeking comment went unanswered. Jun, a harsh critic of the government, was re-imprisoned early this month for attending the Aug. 15 rally in violation of his bail in April, when he participated in an illegal political protest ahead the parliamentary election and was indicted on charges of breaking election laws.

The cluster has inflicted government losses totalling at least 13.1 billion won (US$11.3 million), including 4.6 billion won on Seoul, the city said.

The National Health Insurance Service has also said it will sue the church for indemnity worth 5.5 billion won (US$4.7 million).

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency reported 126 new cases as of midnight Thursday, which brought the total infections to 22,783, with 377 deaths.

The numbers, which peaked at 441, have steadily fallen to the low 100s after the government imposed unprecedented social distancing curbs late last month.

Australia

The Australian government is expected to announce on Friday an increase in the number of citizens able to return home, while one state said it would partially reopen its borders given a general downward coronavirus infection trend.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is seeking to raise the cap on the number of people allowed into Australia each week by 2,000 from next Friday, after a National Cabinet meeting later in the day where states will be asked to boost quarantine capacity.

The country’s weekly limit is currently set at 4,000 people but there are an estimated 25,000 stranded Australians wanting to return home which the government has pledged to facilitate before Christmas.

Australia closed its international borders early in the coronavirus pandemic, and imposed strict lockdowns and social distancing measures, dramatically reducing the spread of coronavirus.

Australia has reported more than 26,800 coronavirus cases and 829 deaths, well below the infection and death rates of other developed countries.

The bulk of its infections have been in the hotspot state of Victoria, were new infections have been falling for weeks.

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Singapore

Singapore and Switzerland are co-chairing the “Friends of the COVAX Facility” to promote vaccine multilateralism for COVID-19, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said in a Facebook post.

“Countries, international organizations and the private sector are joining forces to accelerate vaccine development, maximize manufacturing capacity, and ensure equitable distribution,” Heng wrote. Singapore is an early supporter of the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access Facility, he said.

Singapore biotech company Veredus Laboratories has developed a COVID-19 test kit that saves about 40 minutes, cutting the the total processing time to 90 minutes, the Straits Times reported.

The kit makes it possible to detect the virus directly from the sample, without needing to extract its viral ribonucleic acid. The company has obtained provisional authorization from the Health Sciences Authority to supply hospitals and medical clinics, according to the report.

Singapore’s Ministry of Health reported 18 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, bringing the total confirmed cases in the country to 57,532.

Of the new cases, two are imported cases, one is community case and the rest are linked with the dormitories of foreign workers.

On Thursday, 84 more cases of COVID-19 infection have been discharged from hospitals or community isolation facilities. In all, 57,039 have fully recovered from the infection and have been discharged from hospitals or community care facilities, the ministry said.

There are currently 43 confirmed cases who are still in hospital. Of these, most are stable or improving, and none is in critical condition in the intensive care unit.

Furthermore, 423 are isolated and cared for at community facilities. These are those who have mild symptoms, or are clinically well but still test positive for COVID-19.

Altogether 27 people have passed away from complications due to COVID-19 infection.  

Jordan

Jordan announced on Thursday jail sentences of up to a year for anyone organising weddings, parties, funerals or social gatherings where more than 20 people attend, in the latest measures aimed at heading off a resurgence in coronavirus cases.

Government spokesman Amjad Adailah said the latest orders, which stem from an emergency law enacted by the monarch last April that gives the government sweeping powers to curb civic rights, would be strictly enforced.

“This order is to prevent the violations that have led to the spread of the virus and increase in infections,” Adailah said, adding hefty fines would be imposed on attendees.

Health Minister Saad Jaber blamed the surge in cases in the past few weeks on “irresponsible” behavior at weddings and social gatherings where many mingle without masks and social distancing.

The kingdom reported 279 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, its highest daily toll since the start of the pandemic in March, bringing the country’s total to 4,131 with 26 deaths.

The authorities also suspended schools for two weeks as of Thursday for over 2 million pupils after dozens of cases were discovered among teachers and students since schools reopened at the start of the month after a five-month absence.

Palestine

Palestine on Thursday reported 966 new COVID-19 cases, raising the total number of infections in the Palestinian territories to 43,345.

Health Minister Mai al-Kaila said in a statement that two new fatalities were recorded, bringing the death toll to 278, while the number of total recoveries has increased to 30,542.

Palestine now has 12,525 active cases, she added.

However, she warned that the Palestinian territories have been witnessing a significant spike in the COVID-19 infections because of the public noncompliance with the health instructions.

Meanwhile, Government Spokesman Ibrahim Milhem said in a press statement that punishments will be intensified on any violator of the government anti-virus instructions.

The Palestinian government will reimpose full lockdown on the West Bank districts to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, the spokesman revealed.  

Turkey

Turkey’s total confirmed COVID-19 cases increased by 1,648 on Thursday to 298,039, the Health Ministry said.

In addition, 66 people died from coronavirus in the past 24 hours, taking the death toll to 7,315, while 1,143 patients recovered in the last 24 hours, raising the total recoveries to 263,745, according to the data shared by the ministry.

The rate of pneumonia among COVID-19 patients is 7.1 percent and the number of seriously ill patients is 1,372.

Turkish health professionals conducted 109,985 tests in the past 24 hours, bringing the overall number of tests carried out in the country to 8,965,165.

Lebanon

Lebanon’s number of COVID-19 infections increased on Thursday by 685 cases to 26,768 while death toll went up by 4 to 263, the Health Ministry reported.

Head of Lebanese Order of Physicians Charaf Abou Charaf warned on Thursday that the COVID-19 situation in Lebanon may become worse, urging for a better equipment for private and public hospitals for the fight against the virus.

Abou Charaf noted that the best way to fight against COVID-19 is taking proper precautionary measures.

The United Arab Emirates

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Thursday announced 786 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total confirmed cases in the country to 82,568.

At the same time, 661 more patients have recovered from the virus, taking the tally of recoveries in the UAE to 72,117, UAE’s Ministry of Health and Prevention said.

It has reported no deaths from COVID-19 during the past 24 hours. The nationwide death toll stands at 402.

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Iraq

The Iraqi Health Ministry on Thursday reported 4,326 new COVID-19 cases, raising the total nationwide infections to 307,385.

The ministry also confirmed 84 new deaths from the infectious disease, taking the death toll to 8,332. Meanwhile, 3,859 more patients recovered from the disease, bringing the total number of recoveries to 241,100.

A total of 1,998,295 tests have been carried out across the country since the outbreak of the disease in February, with 25,206 done during the day.

Myanmar 

Aung San Suu Kyi is under pressure to delay the November general elections as a resurgence in coronavirus cases has resulted in a strict lockdown across parts of the nation.

Opposition parties led by the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party wrote to the Union Election Commission this week to demand the Nov. 8 poll be postponed.

Myanmar reported 256 new cases of COVID-19 with one more death on Friday morning, according to a release from the Health and Sports Ministry.

The number of infection cases has reached 4,299 while the death toll stood at 61 in the country as of Friday morning.

Myanmar has seen an increase in the number of locally transmitted cases and deaths, especially in Yangon region during the second wave of the outbreak since Aug. 16.

COVID-19 was first detected in the country on March 23 and its first death was reported on March 31.

India

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in India rose to 5,214,677 on Friday morning, India’s health ministry said.

During the past 24 hours, 96,424 new cases and 1,174 deaths were reported from across the country. The death toll is now 84,372.

According to ministry officials, 4,112,551 people have been discharged from hospitals after showing improvement.

“The number of active cases in the country right now is 1,017,754,” the information released by the ministry reads.

Meanwhile, 61,572,343 samples have been tested so far across the country, out of which 1,006,615 tests were conducted on Thursday alone, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) said Friday.

India has become the second worst-hit country by COVID-19 globally. 

New Zealand

New Zealand reported no new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, the first time since early August.

There are 54 people linked to a community cluster starting in August in Auckland, the country’s largest city. They remain in an Auckland quarantine facility, which includes 22 people who have tested positive for COVID-19 and their household contacts, according to the Ministry of Health.

There are four people in hospital with COVID-19, including one in ICU, said a ministry statement.

With no new cases to report and seven additional recovered cases, the total number of active cases in New Zealand is 70. Of those, 33 are imported cases in managed isolation facilities, and 37 are community cases, the statement said.

The country’s total number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 remains at 1,458.

The Maldives

The Health Emergency Operation Center (HEOC) of the Maldives has urged citizens to report gatherings that violate health regulations, as the country’s COVID-19 case count approached 9,500, local media reported here Friday.

HEOC Epidemiologist Dr. Ibrahim Afzal warned that greater action may be taken against individuals who violate health regulations that limit public gatherings to below five people in order to control the spread of COVID-19.

Dr. Afzal said that the virus could not be contained without public compliance with the regulations.

According to the Health Protection Agency (HPA), 67 cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in the Maldives on Thursday, including 44 locals and 23 foreigners. The country’s total case count stands at 9,494, out of which 8,033 have fully recovered and 33 have died.

The Maldives currently has 1,422 active cases of COVID-19 spread across 20 inhabited islands and 29 resorts. Active cases include 21 foreign tourists and 29 resort staff.

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