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Coronavirus: Free to read

Coronavirus: Week of Apr. 11 to Apr. 17, South Korea to increase production of Sputnik V

India tops 200,000 for 2nd day in row; China GDP grows record 18.3% in Q1

Moscow is ramping up production of the Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine for supplies abroad.   © Reuters

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 139,939,103, according to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. The worldwide death toll has hit 2,999,020.

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

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UPDATES CLOSED

Saturday, April 17 (Tokyo time)

11:00 a.m. China reports 15 new cases for Friday, up from 11 cases a day earlier. One of the new cases was a local infection reported in southwestern Yunnan province, which discovered a new cluster in late March in a city on the border with Myanmar. The number of new asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed cases, fell to 19 from 31 cases a day earlier.

Friday, April 16

10:26 p.m. As India battles a massive second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, its government says the monthly production capacity of indigenously developed Covaxin vaccine is to be ramped up to nearly 100 million doses by September, from 10 million doses at present.

"The current production capacity … will be doubled by May-June 2021 and then increased nearly 6-7 fold by July-August 2021," the Ministry of Science and Technology says in a statement. 

1:33 p.m. India reports 217,353 cases in the last 24 hours, the highest-ever daily spike and the second straight day with over 200,000 cases. Fatalities jumped to 1,185, raising the total to 174,308. Cases are rising exponentially as a vicious second wave of the pandemic finds fertile grounds at a giant religious gathering of hundreds of thousands in the north and at mass election rallies in other regions.

11:41 a.m. South Korea's Huons Global will lead a consortium to produce 100 million doses of Russia's Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine per month as Moscow ramps up production for supplies abroad. The announcement comes after South Korean biotech firm GL Rapha signed a deal with Russia's sovereign wealth fund late last year to make more than 150 million doses of Sputnik V per year. Huons said the consortium will begin producing sample batches in August and respond flexibly to supply demands from the Russian Direct Investment Fund.

11:06 a.m. Soaring exports helped China's gross domestic product grow a record 18.3% in the first quarter of 2021, rebounding from the 6.8% contraction in the same period last year at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, government data shows. China's GDP growth for January-March followed a 6.5% gain in the final quarter of 2020.

10:13 a.m. China reports 11 new mainland COVID-19 cases on Thursday, up from 10 on Wednesday. The National Health Commission said one of the new cases was a local infection in the southwestern Yunnan Province, where a new cluster was discovered in late March at a city on the border with Myanmar.

10:00 a.m. A fundraising event organized by the Gavi vaccine alliance and the United States secures more than $300 million worth of fresh funds and COVID-19 doses for the COVAX vaccine-sharing facility, USAID Acting Administrator Gloria Steele said on Thursday. "Investment in COVAX is a prerequisite for recovery. ... Ending the acute phase of the pandemic is currently the best economic decision for any country," Jose Manuel Barroso, chairman of the Gavi vaccine alliance, said after the three-hour event.

Nikkei has learned that Japan, the U.S. and European nations will take part in an online summit in June to discuss expanding free vaccines for developing countries.

AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine doses for Somalia, donated under the COVAX program against COVID-19, are offloaded at the airport in Mogadishu on March 15.   © Reuters

5:20 a.m. The Dow Jones Industrial Average surpasses 34,000 for the first time, buoyed by strong economic data. The S&P 500 gains 1% and the tech-heavy Nasdaq advances 1.3%.

4:20 a.m. People will "likely" require a third dose of a COVID-19 vaccination within 12 months of being fully vaccinated, Pfizer's CEO Albert Bourla tells CNBC.

"It is extremely important to suppress the pool of people that can be susceptible to the virus," Bourla says during an event with CVS Health, adding the vaccines will be an important tool in the fight against highly contagious variants.

4:00 a.m. About 5,800 people who have been vaccinated against coronavirus have become infected anyway, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tells CNN.

Some became seriously ill and 74 people died, the CDC says. It said 396 -- 7% -- of those who got infected after they were vaccinated required hospitalization.

"So far, about 5,800 breakthrough cases have been reported to CDC. To date, no unexpected patterns have been identified in case demographics or vaccine characteristics," CNN quotes the CDC as saying via email.

Thursday, April 15

5:30 p.m. The Indian capital of Delhi imposes new coronavirus restrictions including a weekend curfew and the shutting of malls, gyms, spas and auditoriums to "break the chain of transmission" of the COVID-19 virus. The city, which has been under a nighttime curfew for over a week, reported more than 17,000 cases in the last 24 hours, the highest daily count since the onset of the pandemic last year.

5:10 p.m. Osaka, in western Japan, reports 1,208 new infections, up from 1,130 a day earlier and marking a new daily high for the third day in a row. New daily cases in Osaka have been higher than in Tokyo for the past 17 days.

4:03 p.m. Thailand reports 1,543 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, the sharpest increase since the start of the pandemic and the fourth record rise this week. When asked whether lockdowns would be imposed, a senior health official said measures were being formulated based on case numbers in each area and would be proposed to the coronavirus taskforce for approval on Friday.

Local residents queue for a COVID-19 nasal swab test in Bangkok, Thailand.   © Reuters

3:00 p.m. Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike asks non-Tokyo residents to avoid the capital unless they are doing essential work in a bid to halt surging infections. Koike also asked people to halt or postpone travel during the Golden Week holidays in late April to early May, while urging businesses in shopping areas to refrain from holding sales during the holidays. The capital has reported 729 cases on the day, up from 591 on Wednesday.

1:56 p.m. Toshihiro Nikai, secretary-general of Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party, says canceling the Olympics could be an option if the coronavirus spreads further, although a senior government official later told Nikkei that "it is impossible to cancel the Olympics."

1:14 p.m. India hits a single-day high of 200,739 cases in the last 24 hours, bringing the country total to 14.1 million while deaths jumped by 1,038 to 173,123 -- the second straight day with over 1,000 fatalities. The country case total lags behind only the U.S., which has 31.4 million infections.

A coronavirus patient waits to be moved into a hospital amid an outbreak of COVID-19 infections in Ahmedabad, India on April 14.   © Reuters

10:38 a.m. South Korea reports 698 cases, down from 731 the previous day, bringing the country total to 112,117 with 1,788 deaths. The Bank of Korea kept its key rate unchanged at 0.5% as the central bank expected uncertainties to remain high due to the pandemic.

10:00 a.m. Cambodia has decided to lock down the country's capital Phnom Penh for the first time since the coronavirus outbreak began. The decision was made after infections were confirmed across the capital earlier this week, which followed the first community outbreaks at a garment factory and a market. While infections had been among the lowest in the world, Cambodia now reports a total of over 4,800 infections with 35 deaths.

A man wearing a protective face mask stands next to an empty shelf as he rushes to buy groceries at a market amid rumors of a citywide lockdown during the latest coronavirus outbreak.   © Reuters

9:29 a.m. Mainland China reports 10 cases for Wednesday, down from 12 a day earlier. All new cases were imported infections from overseas.

7:46 a.m. Johnson & Johnson's vaccine remains in limbo as a U.S. health panel called for more data before making a decision on how and whether to resume use of the one-dose shot, putting off a vote for at least a week. The panel is reviewing six reported cases of rare brain blood clots in women who received the J&J vaccine.

4:14 a.m. Turkey reports 62,797 cases and 279 deaths for Wednesday, both single-day highs.

Wednesday, April 14

10:43 p.m. Denmark will halt use of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, the country's heath authority confirms.

"The Danish Health Authority has decided to continue the vaccination against COVID-19 without the vaccine from AstraZeneca," it said in a statement.

Osaka reports 1,130 new infections, a record number of new daily cases for the second day in a row.    © Kyodo

5:10 p.m. Osaka reports 1,130 new infections, up from 1,099 a day earlier and posting a record number of new daily cases for the second day in a row. The western Japan prefecture has recently seen a surge in COVID-19 cases -- about double the numbers for Tokyo. Hyogo, neighboring prefecture, also registered a record high of 507 new cases.

3:10 p.m. Tokyo reports 591 new cases, up from 510 a day earlier, bringing the seven-day average of new infections in the capital to 497, 19.2% higher than a week ago.

2:30 p.m. India's infections hit a new daily high as crowds of pilgrims gather for a religious festival despite oxygen shortages and strict curbs in other areas. The country reported 184,372 cases in the last 24 hours, bringing the county total to 13.9 million while deaths rose by 1,027 to 172,085.

A health care worker takes a nasal swab sample as hundreds of people tested positive for COVID-19 in Bangkok on April 8.   © Reuters

2:00 p.m. Thailand reports 1,335 cases -- the biggest single-day rise since the start of the pandemic and the third record spike this week -- as the country struggles with a new wave of infections. The new cases bring the country total to 35,910 with deaths remaining at 97.

12:40 p.m. New Zealand has started administering COVID-19 vaccinations to athletes ahead of their departure for the Tokyo games, the country's Olympics chief says. "We're really satisfied the government was able to put us in that category of national significance, so that's now underway and athletes have been worked through according to when they might be departing," New Zealand Olympic Committee Chief Executive Kereyn Smith said. More than 200 athletes are expected to represent New Zealand at the July 23-Aug. 8 games.

10:44 a.m. With the Summer Olympics just 100 days away, Japan is rushing to put together effective COVID-19 countermeasures as the world casts a wary eye. Winning the trust of participating nations will be the utmost challenge in Japan's attempt to host a massive sporting event in the middle of a pandemic.

10:19 a.m. New infections in South Korea jump to 731 from 542 a day ago, marking a three-month high. The country's total infections have reached 111,419, with 1,782 deaths. Health Minister Kwon Deok-cheol said cluster infections are spreading through bars, churches and private tutoring institutions. But the country's job market is rebounding, adding 314,000 jobs in March from a year ago, led by strong exports and investment as well as a recovery in private consumption.

People pass a sign reading: "Face masks required," in Goyang, South Korea: New coronavirus cases are rising, spreading through bars, churches and private tutoring schools, officials say.   © AP

10:00 a.m. China reports 12 new cases for Tuesday, up from nine a day earlier. One of the new cases was a local infection reported in southwestern Yunnan Province, where a city on the border with Myanmar reported a cluster of infections in late March. The number of new asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed cases, fell to 12 from 18 a day earlier.

9:10 a.m. Japan's core private-sector machinery orders fell 8.5% in February from the previous month, government data shows. The orders, which exclude those for ships and from electricity utilities due to their volatility, totaled 769.8 billion yen ($7 billion), according to the Cabinet Office. They fell for the second straight month following a 4.5% drop in January.

4:00 a.m. India's state of Maharashtra, an economic powerhouse that is home to Mumbai, will impose restrictions on business and social activity for 15 days until April 30 to combat rising coronavirus infections.

The order from the chief minister affects all factories, except some involved in exports and essential products. Deliveries for online orders will also be restricted to essentials.

Tuesday, April 13

9:20 p.m. U.S. health officials have recommended a temporary halt in coronavirus vaccinations with the single-shot Johnson & Johnson jab, following reports of recipients developing a blood clot disorder.

An advisory committee to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is to hold a meeting on Wednesday to review the six reported cases, and the Food and Drug Administration will conduct its own review of the findings, the agencies say.

A vaccination center in Mumbai posts a notice about vaccines on April 8: India will fast-track emergency approval for COVID-19 vaccines made overseas to battle a surge in infections.   © Reuters

6:30 p.m. Britain has offered all over-50s who have asked a first dose of vaccine and launched the Moderna shot in England, the government says, putting it on track to vaccinate all adults by the end of July. The government has offered at least one shot to priority cohorts 1 to 9, which include all adults over 50, the clinically vulnerable, and health and social care workers, ahead of a target to do so by Thursday.

5:00 p.m. India says it will fast-track emergency approvals for COVID-19 vaccines made overseas that have been granted emergency authorization in other countries, as infections surge. "The first 100 beneficiaries of such foreign vaccines shall be assessed for seven days for safety outcomes before it is rolled out for further immunization program within the country," the health ministry said in a statement.

3:30 p.m. The Tokyo Olympics can host fans safely at up to 50% capacity, Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto says in an interview with Nikkei. Hashimoto brought up the capacity limit, citing efforts by Japan's professional baseball league to find a balance between attendance and safety. Olympic organizers have decided to exclude overseas fans from the games due to COVID-19 concerns.

3:17 p.m. Tokyo reports 510 new infections, up from 306 a day earlier. The seven-day average of new cases in the capital rose 24% from a week ago to 492.

1:19 p.m. India reports 161,736 new cases for the past 24 hours, slightly down from the record 168,912 of the previous day and marking the third straight day with over 150,000 infections, pushing the country's total to 13.69 million. Fatalities rose by 879 to 171,058.

1:05 p.m. Daily infections in Osaka Prefecture are set to top 1,000 for the first time, sources tell Nikkei. Osaka took quasi-emergency measures on April 5, asking restaurants and bars to close by 8 p.m., but the current wave of infections continues to surge. Highly contagious variants of the virus have been gaining ground, and health authorities worry the increasing number of cases is putting further stress on hospitals.

12:40 p.m. China's exports grew at a robust pace in March in another boost to the nation's economic recovery as global demand and countries' vaccination drives picked up. Import growth surged to its highest level in four years. Exports in dollar terms soared 30.6% in March from a year earlier, but at a slower pace from the record 154.9% growth in February. Imports increased 38.1% year-on-year last month, the most since February 2017.

11:25 a.m. Torchbearers for the Tokyo Olympics ran through an empty park in Osaka after the relay was re-routed from public roads due to a sharp rise in coronavirus infections. Runners carried the flame for about 200 meters each. The site was closed to the public.

An Olympic torchbearer runs through an empty Osaka park which was closed to the public due to the concerns over COVID-19 on April 13. (Photo by Tomoki Mera)

10:30 a.m. A highly contagious variant of COVID-19 first identified in Britain does not cause more severe disease in hospitalized patients, according to a study published in the medical journal The Lancet Infectious Diseases on Monday. The strain, known as B.1.1.7, was identified in Britain late last year and has become the most common strain in the U.S.

10:20 a.m. Australia has no current plans to add Johnson & Johnson's one-dose coronavirus vaccine to its immunization drive, as it moves away from procuring vaccines under review over blood clots. J&J and AstraZeneca vaccines use an adenovirus, a harmless class of common-cold viruses, to introduce coronavirus proteins into cells and trigger an immune response. Both are under review by Europe's drug regulator after it found rare cases of blood clots among some adult vaccine recipients.

10:14 a.m. South Korea reports 542 cases, down from 587 a day ago, bringing the country total to 110,688 with 1,775 deaths. Health Minister Kwon Deok-cheol said the government will simplify the administrative process to supply more vaccines as early as possible.

9:30 a.m. China reports nine cases for Monday, down from 16 a day earlier. One of the new cases was reported in Yunnan Province, which is dealing with a cluster that emerged in Ruili city on the border with Myanmar. The number of asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed cases, rose to 18 from 12 a day earlier.

The Sputnik V vaccine will be used in India as the nation battles a second wave of infections.   © Reuters

5:00 a.m. India has approved Russia's Sputnik V vaccine, the Russian Direct Investment Fund says. India overtook Brazil to become the nation with the second-highest number of infections after the U.S. as it battles a second wave. India has administered 105 million doses among a population of 1.4 billion.

Monday, April 12

7:52 p.m. People who have been vaccinated in Hong Kong will be able to form "vaccination bubbles" and gather in larger numbers, Chief Executive Carrie Lam says. The city has made progress toward establishing a travel bubble with Singapore, she also says, adding that further details will be announced soon.

6:00 p.m. Five South Korean companies have launched clinical trials for their coronavirus vaccines, aiming to enter the third phase of trials in the second half of this year, the health ministry says. The five are SK Bioscience, EuBiologics, Cellid, Genexine and GeneOne Life Science. The government plans to provide 68.7 billion won ($61.1 million) to support the companies' vaccine development.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in receives a COVID vaccine. The government says it will give financial support to five companies that have launched vaccine trials.   © Reuters

3:30 p.m. Tokyo reports 306 cases, down from 421 a day earlier but up from 363 a week ago. Tokyo, along with Kyoto and Okinawa prefectures, enhanced its responses to the pandemic on Monday, asking restaurants and bars to close by 8 p.m. and limiting attendance at large events to 5,000 under what is regarded as a quasi-state of emergency. The steps will last through May 5 for Kyoto and Okinawa, and May 11 for Tokyo.

2:00 p.m. Thailand reports 985 cases, marking a daily high for the second straight day, as the country deals with a third wave of infections and a highly contagious variant. Thailand has now recorded 33,610 cases while deaths stayed unchanged at 97.

1:42 p.m. India records another daily record with 168,912 cases in the last 24 hours, pushing the country total to over 13.5 million and overtaking Brazil to become the world's second-most affected nation. Fatalities jumped by 904 to 170,179. The nation's capital of Delhi is seeing a fourth wave of infections with officials urging residents to stay home. By mid-March, cases in the city had dropped to less than 200 per day, but the latest single-day count shows 10,732 infections, the capital's biggest daily spike.

Passengers wait at a railway station in Mumbai on April 11.   © Reuters

11:55 a.m. China's top disease control official said the country is considering mixing vaccines as a way of boosting efficacy, according to Reuters. Data shows Chinese vaccines lag behind others including Pfizer and Moderna in terms of efficacy. Giving people doses of different vaccines is one way to improve vaccines that "don't have very high rates of protection," said Gao Fu, director of the Chinese Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, without specifying whether he was referring to foreign or domestic vaccines. "Inoculation using vaccines of different technical lines is being considered," Gao told a conference in the Chinese city of Chengdu on Saturday.

10:40 a.m. South Korea reports 587 cases, down from 614 a day ago, bringing the country total to 110,146 with 1,770 deaths. President Moon Jae-in will host an emergency meeting with health-related ministers at 2 p.m. to discuss how to control rising cases and stabilize vaccine supplies. It is the first time in four months that Moon will convene such a meeting.

9:50 a.m. China reports 16 cases for Sunday, up from 10 a day earlier. Of the new cases, 14 were imported infections from overseas while two were from the southwest province of Yunan. The number of new asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed cases, fell to 12 from 22 a day earlier.

9:30 a.m. Japan starts vaccinating elderly people, the second group to be inoculated following health care workers, as concern over a fourth wave of infections grows. The government plans to secure enough Pfizer shots for roughly 36 million people aged 65 or older and deliver them to municipalities by late June.

New coronavirus measures in Tokyo, Kyoto and Okinawa include asking some restaurants and bars to close by 8 p.m. and limiting attendance at large events to 5,000.   © Reuters

8:30 a.m. The governors of Tokyo, Kyoto and Okinawa enhance their response to the pandemic amid surging infections less than a month after Japan lifted a second state of emergency. The measures include asking restaurants and bars in densely populated areas to close by 8 p.m. and limiting attendance at large events to 5,000 -- similar to those under the state of emergency -- and will last through May 5 for Kyoto and Okinawa, and May 11 for Tokyo.

8:27 a.m. Australia has abandoned a goal to vaccinate nearly all its population by the end of 2021 following advice that people under the age of 50 receive Pfizer's vaccine rather than AstraZeneca's. Australia, which had banked on AstraZeneca for the majority of its shots, had no plans for completing its vaccination program, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a Facebook post on Sunday.

3:50 a.m. China's failure to provide access to global health experts made the pandemic worse than it had to be, U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said on Sunday, and it was important to "get to the bottom" of the origin of the coronavirus. China did not give access to international experts or share information in real time to provide true transparency, Blinken said in an interview with American broadcaster NBC. As a result, the virus "got out of hand faster and with, I think, much more egregious results than it might otherwise," Blinken said.

Sunday, April 11

10:34 p.m. The director of the Chinese Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Saturday that currently available vaccines "don't have very high rates of protection" and that China is formally considering mixing vaccines. Data shows Chinese vaccines lag behind others including Pfizer and Moderna in terms of efficacy, but require less stringent temperature controls during storage.

6:36 p.m. Thailand reports 967 cases, its biggest daily jump, but no new deaths as the country deals with a third wave of infections and a highly contagious variant.

4:27 p.m. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has approved placing the capital region and four adjacent provinces under a less restrictive community quarantine status from April 12, according to his spokesman. Metro Manila and the provinces of Bulacan, Rizal, Laguna and Cavite, which have been in a strict lockdown, will be under Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine status until April 30, spokesman Harry Roque says.

3:59 p.m. Cases in India surge to a record of 152,879 as the country battles a second wave of infections by pushing for faster vaccinations, with some states considering tougher restrictions to slow the virus spread.

2:13 p.m. South Korea says it will move ahead with a second-quarter vaccination drive starting Monday after deciding to continue AstraZeneca's vaccine for all eligible people at least 30 years of age.

Saturday, April 10

7:07 p.m. Thailand plans to install 10,000 field-hospital beds in Bangkok, a health official says, as the country strains to cope with a third wave of COVID-19 infections.

At least a dozen hospitals in the capital say they had stopped testing for the coronavirus as of Friday due to a lack of kits or capacity. Hospitals are reluctant to test because they must admit people if they test positive, authorities say.

Meanwhile, the country reports 789 new cases and one death, taking the total number of infections to 31,658, with 97 deaths.

2:20 p.m. India reports a record 145,384 new COVID-19 cases and the highest number of deaths in more than five months, as it grapples with an overwhelming second-wave of infections that has forced the state of Maharashtra, where Mumbai is located, to impose a weekend lockdown. Deaths rose by 794 to 168,436, health ministry data shows. India's overall case load has swelled to 13.21 million, the third-highest globally, behind the United States and Brazil.

10:22 a.m. Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech ask U.S. regulators to allow the emergency use of their vaccine among 12- to 15-year-olds. The vaccine is currently authorized for emergency use in the United States for people aged 16 and up.

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

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