Coronavirus latest: South Korea reports 700 new cases

Nikkei Asia is tracking the spread of the coronavirus that was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.

Cumulative global cases have reached 132,929,832, according to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. The worldwide death toll has hit 2,885,401.

For more information about the spread of COVID-19 and the progress of vaccination around the world, please see our interactive charts and maps.

— Global coronavirus tracker charts

— Status of vaccinations around the world

— World map of spreading mutated strains

— Distribution, duration, safety: challenges emerge in vaccine race


Thursday, April 8 (Tokyo time)

9:35 a.m. South Korea reports 700 new cases for Wednesday, the highest daily figure since early January.

9:15 a.m. Australia has no current plan to alter the rollout of AstraZeneca’s vaccine, Prime Minister Scott Morrison says. The comment came after Europe’s drug regulator found possible links between rare blood clots and the vaccine. “There is nothing to suggest at this stage that there would be any change, but we will update further if there is any change to that,” Morrison tells reporters.

4:39 a.m. Italy will from now on recommend the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine only for people over aged 60, the country’s top health adviser said after the European regulator found possible links between the vaccine and rare cases of blood clots, reports Reuters.

3:29 a.m. The U.S. Olympic Paralympic Committee will help athletes find a COVID-19 vaccine but will not require them to get a shot to compete at the Tokyo Summer Games, says CEO Sarah Hirshland.

2:03 a.m. The highly contagious variant of COVID-19 first discovered in the U.K. has become the most common strain of the virus in the U.S. as cases continue to climb, says Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The strain, known as B.1.1.7, was identified in Britain last fall and has since been detected in 52 jurisdictions in the U.S.

1:15 a.m. Carnival may shift home ports of its cruise ships to other parts of the world if a ban on sailing from the U.S. is not lifted, says CEO Arnold Donald. Cruise ships in the U.S. remain under a “no-sail order,” and Carnival has said recent guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on resuming voyages, including ensuring all passengers are vaccinated, are “largely unworkable.”

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has canceled his weekly national televised address due to an increase in active cases of COVID-19 among his staff, including some of his security detail.

  © Reuters

Wednesday, April 7

7:00 p.m. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte cancels his weekly national televised address due to an increase in active cases of COVID-19 among his staff, including some of his security detail, government officials say. The Philippines is battling one of the worst outbreaks in Asia, with hospitals in the capital overwhelmed with record daily infections and authorities facing delays in delivery of COVID-19 vaccines.

6:00 p.m. Thailand has detected 24 cases of the coronavirus variant B.1.1.7 first detected in Britain, a virologist says, its first reported domestic transmission of the highly contagious variant. “This variant is very viral and can spread 1.7 times faster than the usual strain,” Yong Poovorawan, a senior virologist from Chulalongkorn University, told a Health Ministry briefing.

4:10 p.m. Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike says the metropolitan government will prepare a request that the central government designate the capital an area requiring stronger measures against the pandemic, based on a revised law that took effect in February. The designation would allow the government to fine businesses that do not heed operating-hour restrictions. Tokyo reported 555 new infections on Wednesday, up from 399 a day earlier.

4:00 p.m. Osaka Gov. Hirofumi Yoshimura says he will not allow Olympic torchbearers to run on any of the prefecture’s public roads next week, when the relay is scheduled to cut through the prefecture. Yoshimura blamed a surge in coronavirus infections in effectively canceling Osaka’s legs of the relay. Earlier in the day, Osaka declared a state of medical emergency due to a strained health services sector that is dealing with a nearly 70% hospital bed occupancy rate for those in serious condition.

Junko Ito on the second day of the Olympic torch relay, in Fukushima Prefecture, on March 26. Osaka has canceled its legs of the relay.

  © Reuters

3:45 p.m. Britain begins rolling out Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine in Wales and expects to be using it in the rest of the United Kingdom in the coming days in a boost to the country’s health system, which has been making do with less-than-robust vaccine supplies. Moderna’s will become the third vaccine to be used in Britain, after the Oxford-AstraZeneca and Pfizer jabs. It comes as AstraZeneca supplies start to taper due to manufacturing issues, including at a site in India.

3:30 p.m. Taiwan worked with other democracies to help its diplomatic ally Paraguay get COVID-19 vaccines after China put pressure on the South American country to ditch Taipei in exchange for shots, and India stepped in to help, Taiwan’s foreign minister says. Taiwan has formal ties with only 15 countries, and Beijing, which asserts that the island does not have the right to diplomatic recognition, has stepped up efforts to coax them away.

3:30 p.m. South Korea’s Ministry of Food and Drug Safety grants final approval for the use of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine, after a panel of experts ruled the single-dose treatment was safe and effective. J&J is the third COVID-19 vaccine maker to be authorized in the country, after AstraZeneca and Pfizer, both of which require two doses.

2:25 p.m. Osaka declares a state of medical emergency, citing a strain on health services as the hospital bed occupancy rate for those in serious condition nears 70%. The prefecture is set to report more than 800 cases — a new single-day record. The declaration is largely symbolic, aimed at raising public awareness. Osaka reported 719 cases on Tuesday, more than Tokyo’s 399.

1:14 p.m. India records a record high of 115,736 cases in the last 24 hours — the second time this month it has seen over 100,000 cases in a single day — bringing the country total to 12.8 million. Fatalities jumped by 630 to 166,177.

10:20 a.m. China reports 12 cases for Tuesday, down from 24 a day earlier. Two of the cases were local infections. Both were in the city of Ruili in southwestern Yunnan Province bordering Myanmar, where a new cluster emerged last week.

Health care workers prepare doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for senior citizens in Seoul on April 1.

  © Reuters

10:04 a.m. South Korea’s daily cases hit a three-month high of 668, up from 478 a day earlier, bringing the country total to 106,898 with 1,756 deaths.

9:30 a.m. Australia has asked the European Union to allow exports of the entire 3.8 million vaccine doses the country pre-ordered, Prime Minister Scott Morrison says, after the European Union denied blocking supplies. Australia has blamed the delay of 3.1 million AstraZeneca doses that were scheduled to be delivered by the end of March for causing its vaccination program to fall behind schedule.

5:00 a.m. U.S. President Joe Biden has moved up the COVID-19 vaccine eligibility target for all American adults to April 19 but warns that with new variants spreading “we’re still in a life-and-death race.” Biden directed states to widen vaccine eligibility to people 18 or older two weeks earlier than the May 1 deadline he had previously announced.

2:30 a.m. The World Health Organization expects there will be no reason to change its assessment that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine outweigh risks, its regulatory director says. The WHO, alongside European and other regulators, is closely studying the latest data in light of reports of blood clots among some of those who have received injections of the vaccine, said Rogerio Gaspar, WHO director of regulation and prequalification.

The WHO’s regulatory director expects there will be no reason for the global health body to change its assessment that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine outweigh risks, though it is closely studying reports of blood clots.

  © Reuters

Tuesday, April 6

9:00 p.m. India’s capital New Delhi imposes a nighttime curfew until April 30 as much of the country struggles to contain a second surge in infections. The next four weeks will be “very, very critical,” senior government health official Vinod Kumar Paul said, warning that the virus is now spreading much faster than it did in 2020.

6:00 p.m. The Philippines records 382 COVID-19 deaths, the largest single-day increase in casualties, after previously unreported fatalities were updated to the tally. Total confirmed cases have increased to 812,760, after 9,373 infections were reported on Tuesday. Deaths have reached 13,817. “There were 341 deaths prior to April 2021 that went unreported,” the health ministry said.

3:30 p.m. Air New Zealand and Qantas Airways say they will ramp up flights between Australia and New Zealand to at least 70% of pre-pandemic levels once a two-way quarantine-free travel bubble opens on April 19. The busier schedule on the popular routes will help the airlines, now almost wholly reliant on their domestic markets, reduce their cash burn.

3:13 p.m. Tokyo reports 399 new cases, up from 249 a day earlier and moving the capital’s seven-day average to 397, 9.8% higher than a week ago.

2:03 p.m. India reports 96,982 cases in the last 24 hours, a notch below the previous day’s record spike of 103,558, bringing the country’s total to over 12.68 million. Deaths rose by 446 to 165,547.

1:10 p.m. Quarantine-free travel between New Zealand and Australia will start on April 19, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says. The conditions for starting to open up quarantine-free travel with Australia have been met, she said. “Our team’s success in managing COVID-19 and keeping it out over the past 12 months now opens up the opportunity to reconnect with loved ones and resume trans-Tasman travel.”

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says her nation and Australia are now able to take the step of quarantine-free travel.

  © Reuters

12:00 p.m. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga receives his second dose of the Pfizer vaccine in preparation for his visit to Washington next week to meet U.S. President Joe Biden. The two governments have agreed to take precautions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus during Suga’s trip, with all members of the delegation and accompanying press being vaccinated beforehand.

11:45 a.m. The International Swimming Federation has cancelled the diving, artistic swimming and marathon swim Olympic qualifiers scheduled for this month and next month in Japan, according to the calendar section of its website. The federation had said on Friday it was reviewing its qualifiers planned for Japan and that it would make an announcement in the current week. It has yet to issue a new statement.

11:30 a.m. South Korea reports 478 new cases, compared with 473 a day ago, bringing the country’s total infections to 105,752, with 1,752 deaths.

10:33 a.m. Asian economists have revised upward their growth forecasts for the economies of Singapore and Indonesia, thanks to quicker rollouts of coronavirus vaccines, a recent survey shows. The Japan Center for Economic Research and Nikkei conducted a quarterly survey from March 5 to 26, collecting a total of 40 answers from economists and analysts in India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.

10:00 a.m. China reports 24 new cases for Monday, down from 32 a day earlier. Of the new cases, 15 were local infections. All of the local infections were reported in Ruili, a city in the southwestern province of Yunnan that borders Myanmar. It has ordered home quarantine and restricted the flow of people after a new cluster emerged. Authorities said separately that 12 of the new COVID-19 cases in Ruili were previously asymptomatic patients.

9:20 a.m. Japan’s household spending dropped for a third straight month in February, government data shows, as emergency curbs to prevent the spread of the coronavirus hurt consumption. Household spending dropped 6.6% in February from a year earlier, after a 6.1% decline in January. The decline was steeper than a median market forecast for a 5.3% fall.

9:00 a.m. North Korea’s sports ministry says it will not participate in the Tokyo Olympics to protect its athletes amid the coronavirus pandemic. The decision was made at a meeting of North Korea’s Olympic committee on March 25, the ministry said on its Joson Sports website.

2:40 a.m. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says it is too soon to say whether international summer holidays can go ahead this year, a remark suggesting a planned reopening of outbound travel could be pushed back beyond May 17. “I wish I could give you more on that,” Johnson said. “I know that people watching will want to know exactly what they can do from May 17, but we’re not there yet.”

Monday, April 5

11:46 p.m. India’s Panacea Biotec agrees to produce 100 million doses of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine annually, according to the Russian marketer of the shots. The Russian Direct Investment Fund did not indicate when production would begin.

Passengers can show the results of their coronavirus tests on the IATA Travel Pass app. (Photo courtesy of the International Air Transport Association)

8:13 p.m. Singapore will accept COVID-19 digital travel passes starting next month, becoming one of the first countries to adopt the initiative. The International Air Transport Association’s mobile travel pass will be accepted in pre-departure screenings for travelers flying into Singapore, with a smartphone app showing digital certificates for coronavirus tests and vaccines.

3:50 p.m. U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson says everyone in the country will be able to take a COVID-19 test twice a week in a new drive to track the pandemic as the country reopens. Johnson, who is expected to confirm plans to relaunch international travel later on Monday, said the testing program would break the chain of transmission and spot asymptomatic cases.

3:15 p.m. Tokyo reports 249 cases, down from 355 a day earlier. The seven-day-average of new cases in the capital, however, edged up 9.6% from a week ago to 391.

2:00 p.m. India’s factory activity grew at its weakest pace in seven months in March as renewed lockdowns to curtail a resurgence in COVID-19 cases dampened domestic demand and output, a private survey shows.

Total COVID-19 cases in India stand at 12.59 million after the country logs its largest daily jump on April 5.

  © Reuters

1:00 p.m. In a grim milestone, India reports 103,558 cases for the past 24 hours, its highest-ever jump, data from the health ministry shows. Total cases in India now stand at 12.59 million. Deaths jumped by 478, to 165,101.

11:50 a.m. Johnson & Johnson has filed its application for emergency use authorization of its single-shot vaccine in the Philippines, the country’s Food and Drug Administration chief says. J&J’s documents, submitted on Wednesday, are being evaluated, FDA Director General Rolando Enrique Domingo tells reporters. J&J is the seventh COVID-19 vaccine maker to seek approval in the Philippines.

11:00 a.m. South Korea reports 473 new cases, down from 543 a day ago and the first time in six days for the country to report fewer than 500 new cases. Total infections reach 105,752, with 1,748 deaths.

9:30 a.m. China reports 32 new cases for Sunday, up from 21 a day earlier and marking the highest daily total in more than two months. Of the new cases, 15 were local infections, all of which were reported in Yunnan Province where a new cluster was discovered near the border with Myanmar. The number of new asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed cases, stood at 18, matching the total from a day earlier.

8:50 a.m. El Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele says China will donate 150,000 Sinovac doses to the country, on top of the 2 million Sinovac jabs his government already purchased.” I received a letter from President Xi Jinping, where he informs me that he will donate 150,000 vaccines against COVID-19 to our country,” Bukele wrote on Twitter. El Salvador began its immunization campaign with the AstraZeneca vaccine in February. In 2018, El Salvador severed ties with Taiwan in a switch to Beijing.

4:10 a.m. The U.S. has administered more than 165 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines nationwide as of Sunday morning and distributed nearly 208 million, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. The number of doses administrated increased by over 3 million from Saturday.

The agency says 106.2 million people have received at least one dose, while 61.4 million are fully vaccinated. The CDC tally includes two-dose inoculations from Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech as well as Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot vaccine.

Sunday, April 4

9:11 p.m. India’s richest state, Maharashtra, imposes stringent COVID-19 restrictions starting Monday after a rapid rise in infections, a state minister says. The state will shut malls, cinema halls, bars and restaurants from Monday evening and impose a complete lockdown on weekends, Nawab Malik tells reporters after a cabinet meeting.

People walk or stand at a crowded beach amidst the spread of COVID-19 in Mumbai on April 4. Maharashtra, which includes Mumbai, is set to impose strict coronavirus measures. 

  © Reuters

2:06 p.m. Leicester City center back Caglar Soyuncu missed the team’s 2-0 Premier League loss to Manchester City on Saturday because he tested positive for COVID-19 while playing for Turkey in the country’s 2022 World Cup qualifiers, manager Brendan Rodgers said. Soyuncu, who played in Turkey’s 3-3 draw with Latvia on Tuesday, is isolating in Turkey. The 24-year-old has made 16 league appearances for Leicester this season.

Saturday, April 3

10:26 p.m. Taiwan will receive its first batch of vaccines under the WHO-led COVAX program on Sunday, the island’s health minister says. Nearly 200,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine will be delivered.

7:30 p.m. Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte extends a strict lockdown in the capital region and adjacent provinces by at least one week to try to contain a renewed surge in coronavirus infections, his spokesman said on Saturday. The Philippines, which has the second-highest COVID-19 cases and deaths in Southeast Asia, reported 12,576 new coronavirus infections on Saturday, putting further strain on the health care system.

3:20 p.m. Australia will continue its inoculation program with AstraZeneca, health officials said on Saturday, after a blood clotting case raised concern about the safety of the vaccine.

To catch up on earlier developments, see the last edition of latest updates.