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Coronavirus: Free to read

Coronavirus: Week of Jan. 10 to Jan. 16, Global death toll tops 2m

Nepal OKs AstraZeneca's Covishield; Indonesian cases top 12,000 for first time

Crosses are seen on graves at the Christian burial area provided by the government for victims of the coronavirus pandemic in Jakarta on June 27.   © Reuters

Nikkei Asia is tracking the spread of the new coronavirus that originated in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.

Follow the latest updates.

Global cases have reached 93,580,828, according to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. The worldwide death toll has hit 2,003,625.

To see how the disease has spread, view our virus tracker charts:



Saturday, Jan. 16 (Tokyo time)

8:32 a.m. The U.S. no longer has a reserve stockpile of COVID-19 vaccines, the health secretary says.

"We now have enough confidence that our ongoing production will be ... available to provide the second dose for people," Alex Azar tells NBC News. "So we're not sitting on a reserve anymore. We've made that available to the states to order."

5:30 a.m. COVID-19 has killed more than 2 million people worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University, crossing another grim milestone nearly a year on from when China imposed a lockdown on Wuhan, an early epicenter of the virus' outbreak.

The U.S. leads in deaths at 390,000, followed by Brazil at 207,000 and India at 151,000.

More than 93.5 million have been sickened with the virus so far in the pandemic, with 51.5 million having recovered.

5:15 a.m. Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro tells the nation a plane would be sent to India to pick up COVID-19 vaccines in two or three days at most.

Bolsonaro is quoted by Reuters as saying there was little he could do about the pandemic in his country and he "should be at the beach."

3:00 a.m. Two-thirds of leaders at 133 major Japanese companies expect revenue to fall during the country's widening coronavirus state of emergency as economic activity slows in the biggest cities, a Nikkei survey shows.

A small year-on-year decline in sales during the emergency period is anticipated by 45% of respondents, after Japan's recent declaration covering Tokyo and other regions. Another 21% predict a larger drop in revenue.

While vowing to increase the use of telecommuting, business leaders called on Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga's government to do more to fight the spread of the virus.

Takeshi Niinami, CEO of beverage group Suntory Holdings, urged the government "to put forward a timetable for vaccinations soon" and make free coronavirus tests available to detect infected people who show no symptoms.

1:20 a.m. As coronavirus cases increase in China, worries mount that there will be a resurgence of the pandemic in the country as the peak Lunar New Year travel season approaches.

A nurse prepares a dose of Sinovac's CoronaVac COVID-19 vaccine at the Sancaktepe Sehit Dr. Ilhan Varank Training and Research Hospital in Istanbul on Thursday.   © Reuters

Friday, Jan. 15

8:53 p.m. Turkey has vaccinated more than 500,000 people in the first two days of administering COVID-19 shots developed by China's Sinovac Biotech, among the speediest rollouts globally. Ankara launched the nationwide program on Thursday, vaccinating health workers first, and inoculated more than 285,000 people on the first day.

8:29 p.m. Nepal grants approval for AstraZeneca's Covishield vaccine against the coronavirus, the government says, following a meeting between Indian Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar and Nepali Foreign Minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali. The Himalayan nation has reported 266,816 cases and 1,948 deaths from COVID-19, according to official data.

8:01 p.m. People traveling from non-EU countries to France will no longer be allowed to enter by presenting a negative result from a quick COVID-19 test, the French government says. The new rules, which come into force from Monday, say people will no longer be able to use antigen, or lateral flow, tests that can deliver results within minutes. Travelers therefore will have to seek PCR tests. Cross-channel truck drivers will be exempt.

7:10 p.m. Oil prices fall as concerns about Chinese cities in lockdown due to coronavirus outbreaks tempered a rally driven by strong import data from the world's biggest crude importer and U.S. plans for a large stimulus package.

6:10 p.m. Thailand's central bank says it may cut its growth forecast for this year in response to a recent coronavirus outbreak, although the impact on economic activity has been less than in the first wave of infections.

5:34 p.m. Indonesia's daily coronavirus cases pass the 12,000 mark for the first time, with 12,818 new infections in the past 24 hours, plus 238 deaths. The country's totals have now reached 882,417 cases, with 25,484 deaths.

5:00 p.m. A World Health Organization-led team investigating the origins of COVID-19 is to begin virtual meetings with their Chinese hosts from a hotel in China's Wuhan, where the pandemic first emerged, according to Reuters. Its arrival at the city on Thursday was disrupted by the absence of two members who failed coronavirus antibody tests in Singapore. On Friday, China said that it has arranged for the entry of one British expert from the probe team after retesting negative for the disease.

The reception staff at an exhibition center in Tokyo protect themselves from the coronavirus on January 13, 2021.   © Reuters

3:01 p.m. Tokyo's new cases climb back over the 2,000 mark for the first time since Jan. 9 as COVID-19 continues to rage despite a newly declared state of emergency. The daily tally came to 2,001, up from 1,502 a day earlier.

2:14 p.m. India reports 15,590 cases in the past 24 hours, down from 16,946 the previous day, bringing the country total to 10.53 million. Deaths increased by 191 to 151,918.

1:50 p.m. Thailand reports no new deaths and 34 new cases, all among arriving international travelers or those in quarantine. The country has recorded 69 coronavirus-related deaths.

11:00 a.m. The Hiroshima prefectural government will offer PCR testing to any resident of the central part of the city of Hiroshima, a rare move in Japan, where prefectural governments, in general, are not inclined to test those who are not showing symptoms. Tests will be free, and around 800,000 residents will be eligible, according to the prefecture. Hiroshima is not covered under Japan's current state of emergency, though it is in the next tier in terms of the degree of urgency.

9:56 a.m. South Korea reports 513 new cases, down from 524 a day ago. Total infections reach 71,241 with 1,217 deaths. The government is expected to begin loosening social distancing rules next week, allowing indoor operations at cafes and fitness centers.

9:45 a.m. China reports 144 new cases for Thursday, up from 138 cases a day earlier. Of the new cases, 135 were local infections, 90 of which were in Hebei Province, surrounding Beijing. Another 43 were in northeastern Heilongjiang Province. Millions of people in the two provinces are under lockdown.

9:35 a.m. President-elect Joe Biden proposes a $1.9 trillion stimulus package designed to jump-start the economy and speed up the U.S. response to the pandemic. "A crisis of deep human suffering is in plain sight and there's no time to waste," Biden said. "We have to act and we have to act now."

5:30 a.m. As countries race to protect their populations against COVID-19, Israel leads in terms of the share of its population that has received a vaccine, according to the Oxford University-run website Our World in Data.

Israel has 24.53 vaccinations per 100 people as of Thursday, by far the most in the website's tracker. The United Arab Emirates -- the first country to approve a Chinese-developed COVID-19 vaccine -- comes in second, followed by Bahrain, the U.K. and the U.S.

Israel has used a combination of national health insurance and digital technology to urge its population of 9 million to vaccinate. The UAE and Bahrain depend heavily on migrant workers, a factor that appears crucial to the urgency of their vaccination efforts.

In East Asia and Southeast Asia, China and Singapore are standouts. China has 0.69 vaccinations per 100 people as of Wednesday, while Singapore has 0.11 as of Tuesday. Many large Asian countries, such as Indonesia, have only just begun to vaccinate against COVID-19, or, like Japan, have yet to start.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu receives the second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine on Jan. 9.   © Reuters

3:30 a.m. Twitter temporarily restricts access to the official account promoting the so-called Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine developed in Russia. Users see a message that access was being blocked owing to "some unusual activity." The restriction appears to have since been lifted.

2:40 a.m. Members of Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party urge the government to extend a full ban on foreign nonresidents entering the country.

The calls for a longer ban come after Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said Wednesday that Japan would halt business travel with 11 countries and regions including China and South Korea, which were exempt from earlier entry restrictions.

But some LDP lawmakers say the new restriction, which ends Feb. 7, may not last long enough and want it extended until after the Lunar New Year in mid-February. "Business travelers who are also interested in sightseeing could come in," the LDP's Masahisa Sato says at a meeting Thursday.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan receives a dose of Sinovac Biotech's CoronaVac vaccine at a state hospital in Ankara on Jan. 14. (Photo courtesy of the Turkish Presidency)

1:30 a.m. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan receives the first dose of Sinovac Biotech's CoronaVac vaccine at a state hospital in Ankara, saying he will have the second shot in 28 days.

Turkey has begun widespread inoculations with China's Sinovac vaccine. But after its order for the vaccine faced delay after delay, some started to question if the country was being punished for dragging its feet in ratifying an extradition treaty it had signed with Beijing that could affect its Uighur diaspora.

Thursday, Jan. 14 (Tokyo time)

11:50 p.m. Toyota Motor and Honda Motor have halted operations at plants in Malaysia this week, owing to the strict lockdown imposed by the government to combat a surge in coronavirus infections. Toyota has shut two assembly plants. Honda suspended production at two factories. One plant makes two-wheelers while the other produces four-wheel vehicles. The Japanese automaker plans to freeze operations until Jan. 26, when the lockdown is due to be lifted.

11:30 p.m. Hungary has agreed to buy Sinopharm's coronavirus vaccine, Reuters reports, adding that the country would be the first European Union member to accept a Chinese vaccine if approved by local authorities.

11:06 p.m. Osaka Prefecture overtakes Tokyo in terms of COVID-19 deaths, making it the worst-ravaged region in Japan.

Osaka reports 11 new deaths from the disease, totaling 714 since the start of the pandemic. Tokyo's death toll follows close behind at 707. These numbers are low compared with hard-hit Western nations -- New York state has 40,000 COVID-19 deaths -- but show the rising strain on Japan's third-largest city.

A key difference in the Tokyo and Osaka outbreaks lies in demographics. People 60 and older account for around 30% of new cases in Osaka in the third wave of infections, which began last fall, government data shows. This age group makes up less than 20% of new cases in Tokyo.

7:14 p.m. Taro Kono, Japan's administrative and regulatory reform minister, tells the Reuters Next conference that the country could consider fresh economic stimulus, including a possible fourth extra budget, as the government expands a state of emergency amid a record surge in coronavirus infections.

Kono adds that the Tokyo Olympics may not go ahead this summer as planned. "We need to do the best we can to prepare for the Games at this moment, but it could go either way," he says in an interview with Reuters.

6:07 p.m. Indonesia's daily coronavirus cases hit a record, with 11,557 new infections in the past 24 hours and 295 additional deaths. The country has reported a total of 869,600 cases, including 25,246 deaths. The government has proposed a budget of 20.9 trillion rupiah ($1.49 billion) to buy Sinovac's COVID-19 vaccine, the health minister says.

A member of a WHO team looking into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic boards a bus to the airport in Wuhan, China, on Jan 14. Two members remain in Singapore pending COVID screenings.    © Reuters

5:30 p.m. Two scientists on a mission to China to look into the origins of the new coronavirus are still in Singapore completing their own screenings for COVID-19, the World Health Organization says, as 13 other experts arrived in Wuhan.

The team of 15 all had tested negative for the disease before leaving their home countries. They were tested again in Singapore, and again tested negative, but two members were found to have antibodies, the Geneva-based agency said in a tweet.

4:30 p.m. Universal Studios Japan says it will postpone the opening of its Super Nintendo World area from the previously scheduled date of Feb. 4 until after the state of emergency in Osaka Prefecture is lifted. On Wednesday Japan widened the emergency beyond Tokyo to seven more prefectures, including Osaka, amid a steady rise in coronavirus infections. The emergency is set to run until Feb. 7.

Universal Studios Japan is delaying the scheduled Feb. 4 opening of its Super Nintendo World attraction in Osaka until after the latest state of emergency is lifted. (Photo by Koji Zenke)

3:30 p.m. Tokyo reports 1,502 new infections, up from 1,433 a day earlier. The Japanese capital is struggling to contain the recent outbreak, even after the metropolitan government asked restaurants and bars to close by 8 p.m. and asked residents to refrain from nonessential meetings and travel under a new state of emergency.

2:03 p.m. India reports 16,946 cases in the last 24 hours, up from 15,968 the previous day, pushing the country total to over 10.5 million. Deaths rose by 198 to 151,727.

1:00 p.m. The Philippines approves the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for emergency use. The vaccine, which has tested at 95% efficacy, is the first vaccine the Philippines has approved.

12:54 p.m. The World Health Organization's team that is to investigate the origin of COVID-19 arrived in Wuhan this morning, state media CGTN reports. The team, made up of multinational experts, will undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine before beginning work.

12:00 p.m. Office vacancy rates in central Tokyo rose to 4.49% in December, up 0.16 points from a month earlier as the pandemic roiled the business landscape and prompted employees to work from home, according to office brokerage Miki Shoji. The rate has increased for 10 consecutive months to reach its highest level in five years and three months, since September 2015. Central Tokyo covers Chiyoda, Chuo, Minato, Shinjuku and Shibuya wards.

11:00 a.m. More than 10 million Americans have received their first dose of a vaccine. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has given new guidance to states on who should be first in line for the shots. A strict "healthcare workers first" rule had slowed the rollout. Now states are being urged to also vaccinate anyone over 65, too, as they have used only one-third of nearly 30 million Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech doses that have been released to them.

10:03 a.m. South Korea reports 524 new cases, down from 554 a day ago. Total infections reach 70,728, with 1,195 deaths.

9:48 a.m. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has defended his government's purchase of vaccines developed by China's Sinovac Biotech amid concerns over their efficacy. Duterte said vaccines developed by Chinese are just "as good as those developed by Americans and Europeans. ... The Chinese are bright and they would not venture [into something] that is not safe, sure and secure ... that is the guarantee." Manila has secured 25 million doses of Sinovac's CoronaVac. The first batch of 50,000 shots will be delivered next month, government officials say.

Police officers in PPE stop a car coming from Hebei Province at a checkpoint on the outskirts of Beijing on January 12, 2021.   © Reuters

9:40 a.m. China reports its biggest daily jump in new cases in more than 10 months as infections in northeastern Heilongjiang Province nearly triple, underscoring the growing threat ahead of a major national holiday. A total of 138 new cases were reported for Wednesday, up from 115 a day earlier and marking the highest jump since March 5. Of the total, 81 were in Hebei Province, which surrounds Beijing, and 43 in Northern Heilongjiang Province. China also reported one new death, marking the first since mid-May.

9:10 a.m. Recovered patients are highly likely to be immune from the COVID-19 virus for at least five months, but there is evidence that those with antibodies may still carry and spread the virus, a U.K. study of healthcare workers finds. Preliminary findings by scientists at Public Health England show that reinfections in people who have COVID-19 antibodies from a past infection are rare -- with only 44 cases found among 6,614 previously infected people in the study.

5:19 a.m. Johnson & Johnson is on track to roll out its single-shot coronavirus vaccine in March, and plans to have clear data on how effective it is by the end of this month or early February, the U.S. healthcare company's chief scientific officer tells Reuters.

5:15 a.m. The African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team has secured a provisional 270 million COVID-19 vaccine doses for African countries, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa says. The vaccines will come from Pfizer, AstraZeneca (through Serum Institute of India) and Johnson & Johnson, according to a statement from Ramaphosa, who is the African Union chair.

2:50 a.m. Scientists at Ohio State University say they have identified a new variant of the coronavirus in a patient from Ohio, and found "a significant evolution" in another U.S. strain.

The new variant has a mutation that is identical to that in the so-called U.K. strain, but likely originated in the U.S., Ohio State News reports, citing the scientists.

The other strain whose evolution was studied has three mutations not previously seen together in the virus that causes COVID-19, according the report.

"At this point, we have no data to believe that these mutations will have any impact on the effectiveness of vaccines now in use," study co-author Peter Mohler is quoted as saying.

2:10 a.m. The Turkish Health Ministry's medicines regulator says it has granted emergency use authorization to Sinovac Biotech's CoronaVac vaccine. In an effort to promote the vaccine, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca gets a jab on live television, along with members of the government's COVID-19 science board.

Officials unload boxes containing vials of the Covashield vaccine outside a vaccination storage center in Ahmedabad, India, in Jan. 12. The AstraZeneca-developed vaccine is being manufactured in India.   © Reuters

Mass inoculations will begin Thursday, starting with the elderly and health care workers, officials say.

Turkey, with a population of 82 million, has so far received 3 million doses of CoronaVac out of a contracted 50 million doses.

1:10 a.m. Brazil will send a plane to India on Wednesday local time to bring back 2 million doses of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine procured by the government, the Brazilian health minister says.

The order for the vaccine, codeveloped by Oxford University, has been manufactured by the Serum Institute of India. Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello says "the takeoff date" to return to Brazil is Saturday.

The vaccine must still be approved for distribution in Brazil by health regulator Anvisa.

Wednesday, Jan. 13

10:37 p.m. Japan reports a one-day increase of 5,812 COVID-19 cases as of 7:10 p.m., bringing cumulative infections over 300,000.

9:47 p.m. The Philippines says it has detected the so-called U.K. variant of the coronavirus, known as B.1.1.7. SARS-CoV-2, in the country.

The carrier is a Filipino male who arrived in the country from United Arab Emirates on Jan. 7, the Department of Health says.

The man was quarantined in a hotel room upon arrival. "The positive test result was released the following day and the patient was referred to a quarantine facility in Quezon City while his samples were sent to [the Philippine Genome Center] for whole genome sequencing," says the Department of Health.

Airport personnel monitor a thermal scanner as passengers arrive at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Pasay, Philippines.   © Reuters

9:30 p.m. A Vietnamese biologist participating in the imminent World Health Organization mission to China tells Reuters he expects no restrictions on the team's investigation of COVID-19's origins.

"My understanding is in fact there is no limit in accessing information we might need for the team," Hung Nguyen tells the news agency ahead of a morning flight from Singapore to Wuhan. "We will see. We are not in China yet."

8:50 p.m. Singapore opens its first two coronavirus vaccination centers, including one inside a temporarily suspended terminal at Changi Airport, as officials look to accelerate inoculations. The Health Ministry says 6,200 people, mainly health workers, have received shots so far -- a number that will "substantially rise" as more such centers open.

6:46 p.m. Thailand is still on track to receive and administer a coronavirus vaccine by China's Sinovac Biotech starting next month, despite data from a Brazil trial that showed 50.4% efficiency, health officials say.

"There is no impact on our plan right now," Supakit Sirilak, Director-General of Medical Science Department, tells a briefing when asked about Brazil's data. "We are asking for information directly from Sinovac, so we are waiting for their response to get all the facts."

6:42 p.m. The Japanese government will restrict the entry of all nonresident foreign nationals, halting business travel agreements reached with 11 countries and regions, including China and South Korea, in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

The suspension will start as early as Thursday as Japan's state of emergency expands beyond Greater Tokyo. It is expected to last until Feb. 7.

6:39 p.m. A unit of Sinovac Biotech could double annual production capacity of its CoronaVac COVID-19 vaccine to 1 billion doses by February, the group's chairman says.

6:22 p.m. Indonesia reports new record highs for both its daily coronavirus infections and fatalities, with 11,278 new cases and 306 new deaths in the past 24 hours. The country's cases now total 858,043, with 24,951 deaths.

6:13 p.m. Malaysia, which is negotiating supplies of a COVID-19 vaccine with China's Sinovac Biotech, will only go ahead with procurement if it satisfies the safety and efficacy standards of local regulators, a minister said on Wednesday.

Malaysia will first review Sinovac's clinical data before deciding, Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said on Twitter, after Brazilian clinical trials found the efficacy of Sinovac's vaccine to be well below the rate announced previously.

Taiwan, which has been successful in curbing the spread of coronavirus, has found the first case of the highly transmissible South African variant of COVID-19 in an Eswatini national being treated in hospital.   © Reuters

5:27 p.m. Taiwan health authorities said on Wednesday they had found the first case of the highly transmissible South African variant of COVID-19 in an Eswatini national being treated in hospital.

The variant was confirmed on Tuesday in a laboratory test, the Central Epidemic Command Center said.

The man in his 30s had arrived in Taiwan to work on Dec. 24 and began developing symptoms while in quarantine and was initially confirmed to have COVID-19 on Jan. 3, according to details previously released by the government.

The small southern African country of Eswatini, formerly known as Swaziland, is Taiwan's only diplomatic ally on the continent.

Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini died in a South African hospital last month after testing positive for COVID-19.

3:53 p.m. Australian scientists have raised questions over the efficacy of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in establishing herd immunity, calling for a pause on its widespread rollout, as the country recorded one new coronavirus case on Wednesday.

3:24 p.m. Japan's total of confirmed coronavirus cases topped 300,000 Wednesday, according to official data. The total rose by 100,000 in about the past three weeks, with the milestone coming as Japan plans to expand the state of emergency declared for the Tokyo metropolitan area last week to seven more prefectures.

3:06 p.m. Tokyo reports 1,433 new infections, up from 970 a day earlier. The number of patients in serious condition fell by three to 141.

People walk on an Osaka street on Jan. 13: Japan plans to expand the state of emergency declared for Greater Tokyo last week to seven more prefectures, including Osaka.   © Kyodo

2:30 p.m. East Japan Railway announced Wednesday that last trains of the day will depart earlier than usual in the Tokyo metropolitan area, starting Jan. 20, to stem the spread of the coronavirus. The move will affect 11 lines run by the operator, also known as JR East. Other railway operators in the capital region are expected to follow suit, with the change happening on the same day.

1:41 p.m. India reports 15,968 cases for the past 24 hours, up from 12,584 the previous day, bringing the country total to nearly 10.5 million. Deaths jumped by 202 to 151,529.

11:46 a.m. Indonesian President Joko Widodo receives the country's first COVID-19 shot as the government launches an ambitious program to inoculate 181.5 million people in the world's fourth most populous country. Jokowi, as the president is popularly known, was given an injection of the CoronaVac vaccine made by China's Sinovac Biotech.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo receives a shot of COVID-19 vaccine at Merdeka Palace in Jakarta on Wednesday.   © Indonesian Presidential Palace/AP

11:22 a.m. Operation Warp Speed Chief Adviser Dr. Moncef Slaoui has agreed to resign at the request of the incoming Biden team, in a plan that will see him stay in the role for a month to help with the transition, CNBC reports. The chief adviser for the U.S. COVID-19 vaccine program, Slaoui has led the government's vaccine development program, and his role is expected to be diminished after Jan. 20, CNBC reports.

10:06 a.m. New South Wales, Australia's most populous state, records one local coronavirus case as the country's doctors seek to pause the rollout of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, saying it might not be effective in establishing herd immunity.

10:02 a.m. Mainland China reports 115 new cases for Tuesday, up from 55 a day earlier, the country's national health authority says, noting the highest daily increase in more than five months. The National Health Commission says 107 of the new cases are local infections. The number of new asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed cases, fell to 38 from 81 a day earlier.

9:46 a.m. South Korea lost 628,000 jobs in December from a year earlier, the largest loss since 1999, as the unemployment rate surged to an 11-year high due to tighter COVID restrictions that slammed businesses. The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate reached 4.6% in December, the highest since January 2010. For all of 2020, the rate was 4%, the highest since 2001, data from Statistics Korea show. The number of employed people in South Korea was 26.5 million in December. Meanwhile, the country reports 562 new coronavirus cases, up from 536 a day ago. Total infections reach 70,212 with 1,185 deaths.

A man pushes his bicycle in Seoul: South Korea lost 628,000 jobs in December from a year earlier, the largest loss since the Asian financial crisis more than two decades ago.   © Reuters

7:55 a.m. The U.S. government will buy 1.25 million additional doses of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals' COVID-19 antibody cocktail for about $2.63 billion, bringing the total supply of the treatment to more than 1.5 million doses. The cocktail, casirivimab and imdevimab, was authorized in November.

7:11 a.m. The emergence of new and likely more infectious COVID-19 variants has set off alarm bells around the world as the pandemic rages on. Read more here.

4:52 a.m. China and Russia pose a threat to disrupt the U.S. vaccine supply chain, says a top counterintelligence official. In an online Washington Post event, Bill Evanina, director of the U.S. National Counterintelligence and Security Center, says adversaries seek to interfere with the government's Operation Warp Speed program handling vaccine distribution.

4:21 a.m. Osaka, Japan's second-largest metropolitan area, will run out of hospital beds for treating coronavirus patients in a week if the current rate of infections continues, according to the prefectural government's projection. Intensive care units would reach existing capacity on Jan. 20, with space for treating milder cases running out on Jan. 19.

3:16 a.m. The U.S. is preparing to require negative COVID test results from all international air passengers, Reuters reports. The new rules, expected to be signed Tuesday by the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, would take effect in two weeks.

Passengers arrive on a flight from London at JFK International Airport in New York City in December 2020.   © Reuters

2:30 a.m. The Tokyo Summer Olympics should be held behind closed doors, says a commentary piece carried by the Chinese Communist Party-backed Global Times, citing the rising number of coronavirus cases in Japan.

1:45 a.m. A coronavirus vaccine developed by China's Sinovac has shown a "general efficacy" of 50.38% in late-stage trials, the company's Brazilian production partner says, a lower number than the 78% reported last week.

The newer number includes infections that did not require clinical care, according to Ricardo Palacios, an official at the Instituto Butantan

The 78% reported last week has since been characterized by the institute as "clinical efficacy."

1:11 a.m. East Japan Railway, the operator of Tokyo's heavily traveled Marunouchi line, is preparing to move up each day's last train to an earlier time in the Tokyo area, where governors have urged people to stay at home at night.

Starting as soon as next Wednesday, last trains will depart about 15 to 30 minutes earlier than now, depending on the line.

JR East is coordinating with private-sector railway operators in the Tokyo area to ensure their schedule adjustments take effect the same day.

Tuesday, Jan. 12

11:50 p.m. India's Bharat Biotech says it has agreed with a medicine distributor to supply its COVID-19 vaccine to Brazil.

Covaxin is India's first indigenous COVID-19 shot. It was developed by Hyderabad-based drugmaker Bharat Biotech in collaboration with the state-run Indian Council of Medical Research.

10:27 p.m. Japan reports a daily total of 4,530 new COVID-19 cases as of 8:00 p.m.

10:00 p.m. Japan's gross domestic product grew 0.5% in real terms during November, expanding for the sixth consecutive month, an estimate by the Japan Center for Economic Research shows.

The estimate represents a slowdown from October's 2.5% expansion. Domestic private-sector demand fell for the first time in three months, with residential investment shrinking 0.9% and capital spending down 0.4%.

8:00 p.m. A third batch of coronavirus vaccine from Chinese biopharmaceutical company Sinovac has arrived in Jakarta, containing 15 million doses. It adds to the 3 million doses that had arrived earlier as Indonesia prepares to start its vaccine rollout on Wednesday.

7:17 p.m. Malaysia reports 3,309 new coronavirus cases, the biggest daily rise since the start of the pandemic, as the country imposed a nationwide state of emergency.

6:10 p.m. Indonesia's daily casualties from coronavirus cross the 300 mark for the first time with 302 new deaths in the past 24 hours. The country also reports 10,047 new cases. Indonesia's totals now reach 846,765 cases with 24,645 deaths.

6:30 p.m. China will give Myanmar a batch of coronavirus vaccines for free, the Chinese foreign ministry says, according to Reuters. The announcement came as Wang Yi, the Chinese government's top diplomat, wrapped up a two-day visit to Myanmar.

5:30 p.m. Malaysia's Pharmaniaga says it has signed an agreement with China's Sinovac to purchase 14 million doses of ready-to-fill COVID-19 vaccines and later to make the vaccine, Reuters reports. Group Managing Director Zulkarnain Md Eusope said the company has a monthly fill-and-finish capacity of 2 million doses and that Sinovac's vaccine will be the first to be made in Malaysia.

5:10 p.m. The European drug regulator says it has received an application from AstraZeneca for conditional approval of its COVID-19 vaccine developed together with the University of Oxford. The European Medicines Agency said it would assess the application under an accelerated timeline.

Visitors attend an exhibition on the fight against the COVID-19 outbreak at Wuhan Parlor Convention Center in China. A WHO team of international experts tasked with investigating the origins of the pandemic will fly to Wuhan on Jan. 14.

4:40 p.m. China says the World Health Organization's team of international experts tasked with investigating the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic will fly from Singapore on Jan. 14 to Wuhan, where the new coronavirus first emerged in late 2019.

4:20 p.m. Tokyo reports 970 new infections, down from 1,219 a day earlier. However, the number of patients in serious condition rose by 14 to a record high of 144.

3:56 p.m. Taiwan confirms two locally transmitted cases, the first since Dec. 22. One is a doctor taking care of a severe COVID-19 patient, and the other is the doctor's girlfriend, a nurse.

3:30 p.m. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates agree on the need to distribute coronavirus vaccines to developing countries in order to ensure the safety of this summer's Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, according to Suntory Holdings CEO Takeshi Niinami, who sat in on their phone talk. Gates called on Suga to host successful games, as it would send a strong message to the rest of the world, and Suga replied that Japan is determined to complete the games, Niinami said.

2:59 p.m. The Philippines adds China, Jamaica, Luxembourg, Oman and Pakistan to the list of countries covered by travel restrictions aimed at preventing the spread of the new COVID variant. Foreign nationals coming from these countries are barred from entering the Philippines, starting Jan. 13 to 15, subject to the COVID-19 task force's review. Manila earlier banned arrivals from 28 other countries, including the U.K., the U.S and Japan.

A healthcare worker collects a swab sample from a man at a test center in Kolkata: The Pune-based Serum Institute of India has started shipping its COVID-19 vaccine around the country.   © Reuters

1:53 p.m. India reports 12,584 cases, down from 16,311 the previous day and the lowest single-day increase since June 18, bringing the country total to 10.48 million infections. Deaths rose by 167 to 151,327.

The Pune-based Serum Institute of India has started shipping its COVID-19 vaccine Covishield around the country ahead of India's vaccination rollout on Jan. 16. State-run airline Air India and budget carriers SpiceJet, GoAir and IndiGo are operating nine flights from Pune on Tuesday to carry 5.65 million doses of the vaccine to over a dozen Indian cities, including the capital.

1:50 p.m. Thailand reports 287 new cases, bringing the total number of infections to 10,834. The tally included nine cases imported from abroad. Thailand has recorded 67 coronavirus-related fatalities so far.

12:30 p.m. The Philippines says arrivals of foreign tourists plunged 84% to 1.3 million in 2020 due to pandemic-related restrictions, with revenue from such visitors falling 83% to 81.4 billion pesos ($1.7 billion).

11:30 a.m. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga says he intends to declare a state of emergency for Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo prefectures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus as early as Wednesday. Japan has already declared an emergency for Tokyo and the three surrounding prefectures.

11:00 a.m. New Zealand will ask most international travelers to show negative COVID-19 test results before boarding flights to the country. "Given the high rates of infection in many countries and evidence of the global spread of more transmissible variants, it's clear that most global air routes will be of critical concern for the foreseeable future," COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said. He said the test requirement will soon expand to everywhere but Australia, Antarctica and some Pacific Island nations.

A line at a coronavirus testing facility in Shah Alam, Malaysia, on Jan. 7: Surging cases have prompted a return to tighter health restrictions.   © Reuters

10:50 a.m. Malaysia's King Al-Sultan Abdullah declares a state of emergency across the country to curb the spread of COVID-19, after consenting to a request from Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, who is facing a leadership challenge. An emergency would give the prime minister and his cabinet extraordinary powers, including allowing the government to introduce laws without the approval of parliament.

10:01 a.m. South Korea reports 537 new cases, up from 451 a day ago. Total infections reach 69,651, with 1,165 deaths.

9:30 a.m. China reports 55 new cases for Monday, down from 103 a day earlier. Of 42 local infections, 40 were in Hebei, the province surrounding Beijing and the worst-hit region in the latest spike in new cases.

9:00 a.m. Moderna says immunity from its COVID-19 vaccine should last at least a year. The U.S. drugmaker adds it is confident that the messenger RNA technology it used is well suited to deploy a vaccine against the new coronavirus variant that has emerged in a handful of countries.

7:16 a.m. Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa tests positive but has so far shown no symptoms, his office says. The 72-year-old had been in quarantine after he was in contact on Jan. 4 with a member of his office who has since then tested positive.

7:14 a.m. Two gorillas at the San Diego Zoo have tested positive for COVID-19 after exhibiting symptoms of the disease, California's governor says, in what is believed to be the first known transmission of the virus to apes.

6:26 a.m. The COVID-19 vaccine developed by China's Sinovac Biotech showed a general efficacy of less than 60% in a clinical trial in Brazil, local news outlet UOL reports.

Sao Paulo's Butantan biomedical center, which is partnering with Sinovac to produce the vaccines in Brazil, plans to release general efficacy results on Tuesday.

6:00 a.m. Most patients hospitalized with COVID-19 have at least one symptom six months after falling ill, according to findings from a study in Wuhan, China, where the novel coronavirus first emerged in late 2019. Doctors there tracked 1,733 patients who were diagnosed and hospitalized between January and May 2020. Six months later, 76% had at least one symptom, including fatigue or muscle weakness (seen in 63%), sleep difficulties and anxiety or depression.

Most of those who had been severely ill had ongoing lung problems and chest abnormalities that could indicate organ damage, while 13% of patients whose kidneys functioned normally in the hospital went on to develop kidney problems later, researchers reported on Friday in The Lancet.

5:11 a.m. U.S. House Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman believes she was exposed to the coronavirus when she sheltered with several maskless colleagues during last week's storming of the Capitol.

The New Jersey Democrat, who is a cancer survivor, tested positive for the virus on Monday. Several Republican members did not wear masks while sheltering with other House members from violent protesters.

3:56 a.m. South Africa has secured 20 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines that are expected to be delivered mainly in the first half of the year, says President Cyril Ramaphosa.

2:30 a.m. The World Health Organization says it has been notified by Japan of a new variant of the coronavirus discovered there. Japan's Health Ministry said on Sunday it had detected the variant in four travelers from Brazil's Amazonas state. The variant featured 12 mutations, including one also found in highly infectious variants discovered in England and South Africa.

2:07 a.m. Japan prepares to declare a state of emergency for the greater Osaka area within the week, responding to calls from local authorities as a surge in virus cases squeezes hospital capacity.

A member of the Bangladeshi navy helps a child wear a mask before getting on board a ship to move to Bhasan Char island in Chattogram, Bangladesh.   © Reuters

1:00 a.m. Reuters reports that the Serum Institute of India will sell the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine to Bangladesh at $4 a dose, roughly 47% more than what India will pay for its inoculation campaign.

The pricing for Bangladesh, the world's eighth-most-populous country, provides a first glimpse of what it will cost other low- and middle-income countries that are seeking to secure the vaccine developed by British drugmaker AstraZeneca with Oxford University.

Monday, Jan. 11

6:35 p.m. The Philippines has secures 25 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines developed by China's Sinovac Biotech, with the first 50,000 expected to arrive in February, a government official says.

The deal will be a boost for the country, which has among the highest number of coronavirus cases in Asia but has trailed regional peers in securing vaccines. It hopes to inoculate 70 million people, or two-thirds of its population, this year.

6:07 p.m. The Indian government has been negotiating with the Serum Institute of India to bring down the price of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine, Reuters reports citing people close to the matter. Such a move could delay the rollout of the country's immunization program.

Senior officials have been discussing the terms of the deal with the Serum Institute for weeks, hoping to bring prices to below $3 per shot, one of the sources with direct knowledge told Reuters.

5:56 p.m. Production of Russia's Sputnik V vaccine will total 4 million doses over the next 30 days, says the RIA news agency on Monday citing the director of the Gamaleya Institute which developed the vaccine.

5:56 p.m. Indonesian authorities grant emergency use approval of a COVID-19 vaccine developed by China's Sinovac Biotech, becoming the first country outside China to allow the jab to be used. Interim data from a late-stage human test in Indonesia showed the shot was 65.3% effective, a senior official of the country's food and drugs authority says.

5:30 p.m. Thailand records 249 new cases, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 10,547, the Bangkok Post reports. No new deaths were reported, leaving the accumulated toll at 67.

5:15 p.m. Russia reports 23,315 new cases on Monday, including 4,646 in Moscow, taking the national tally -- the world's fourth highest -- to 3,425,269. Authorities also confirm 436 virus-related deaths in the last 24 hours, pushing the official death toll to 62,273.

5:05 p.m. Thailand's Tourism Minister says he has proposed a plan to allow foreigners to quarantine in some of the country's many golf resorts to boost the ailing tourism sector during the coronavirus pandemic. "We are discussing with the Public Health Ministry and the country's coronavirus taskforce to offer hotel and golf quarantine for tourists with medical certificates," Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn tells reporters.

3:30 p.m. Seychelles has started vaccinating its population against COVID-19 with doses of China's Sinopharm vaccine, Reuters reports citing a statement by President Wavel Ramkalawan. The news agency says the country's initial target is to vaccinate 25,000 people.

According to the Reuters report, India, which views the archipelago as being in the crosshairs of its maritime security axis, has also offered Seychelles 100,000 doses of the Oxford Astra-Zeneca vaccine, which are due to arrive at the end of January.

Masked pedestrians in Tokyo's Ginza shopping district on Sunday.   © Reuters

3:29 p.m. Tokyo reports 1,219 new infections, with the number of patients in serious condition rising to 131 -- a record high in the virus outbreak. The capital has been under a state of emergency, calling for restaurants and bars to close by 8 p.m. to hold off the spread of the virus.

3:00 p.m. Indonesia has extended its ban on foreign arrivals for another 14 days in a bid to control the transmission of the coronavirus, its chief economic minister says. The government has said the reason for the stricter measures against international visitors, which were imposed on Jan. 1, was to try to keep out the new COVID-19 variant first detected in Britain.

2:19 p.m. A World Health Organization team of experts tasked with investigating the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic will arrive in China on Jan. 14, China's national health authority says. The team was initially aiming to enter China in early January for the investigation but its arrival was delayed due to lack of authorization from Beijing for its entry.

2:09 p.m. India reports 16,311 cases in the last 24 hours, down from 18,645 the previous day, bringing its total to 10.47 million, while fatalities jumped by 161 to 151,160. This is the first time since late May that the country reported fewer than 200 deaths in a day. The drop comes as India is set to start its COVID-19 vaccination drive on Jan. 16 after having approved two vaccines -- one developed by Oxford-AstraZeneca and the other by domestic company Bharat Biotech -- for emergency use on Jan. 3.

1:40 p.m. Malaysia has signed a deal to buy an additional 12.2 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by the U.S. and German drugmakers Pfizer and BioNTech, the health ministry says. The deal brings the total amount of the Pfizer vaccine procured by Malaysia to 25 million doses, enough to cover 39% of its population.

People line up to receive the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at South Bronx Educational Campus in New York City on Sunday.   © Reuters

11:30 a.m. Global infections have topped 90 million, according to Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. leads by a large margin, with more than 22.4 million, followed by India with more than 10.4 million and Brazil with over 8.1 million.

10:06 a.m. South Korea reports 451 new cases, down from 664 a day ago, marking the lowest number in a month. Total infections reach 69,114, with 1,140 deaths.

9:10 a.m. China saw its biggest daily increase in COVID-19 cases in more than five months as new infections in Hebei Province surrounding Beijing continued to rise. Hebei accounted for 82 of the 85 new local infections reported on Sunday, with Liaoning Province also reporting two new cases and Beijing reporting one new case. The country also saw 18 new imported infections from overseas. The total number of new cases stood at 103, the highest since 127 cases were reported on July 30.

5:20 a.m. Malaysia's economic affairs minister, Mustapa Mohamed, has tested positive for the coronavirus. He was hospitalized and is reportedly in stable condition.

4:01 a.m. Pope Francis' personal physician has died from complications of COVID-19. Fabrizio Soccorsi, 78, was being treated for cancer and was chosen as the pope's doctor in 2015. His death was reported by official Vatican media over the weekend.

2:50 a.m. A Russian who returned from Britain has tested positive for the more infectious variant of COVID-19, the first such case in Russia, reports Reuters, citing the RIA news agency.

Police officers and staff members in protective suits inspect vehicles at a checkpoint on the borders of Gaocheng district on a provincial highway, following the COVID-19 outbreak in Hebei province, China on Jan. 5.   © Reuters

1:51 a.m. Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune flew back to Germany on Sunday for treatment in a hospital for complications in his foot resulting from a coronavirus infection, according to the presidential office.

Sunday, Jan. 10

9:33 p.m. A new variant of COVID-19 has been detected in Japan, the Health Ministry says. It was found in four people who arrived from Brazil. While there are similarities to strains first reported in the U.K. and South Africa, this particular type does not appear to have been spotted before.

6:40 a.m. Pope Francis plans to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as early as the coming week. With Vatican City launching its vaccination program soon, the pontiff said in a TV interview "that ethically everyone should take the vaccine."

12:45 a.m. Britain's Queen Elizabeth II and her husband, Prince Philip, received COVID-19 vaccinations, according to Buckingham Palace. Both are in their 90s, putting them in the priority category in the U.K.'s vaccine rollout.

Saturday, Jan. 9

9:15 p.m. India will start coronavirus vaccinations on Jan. 16, with 30 million health care and front-line workers to be given priority. The government's vaccination program aims to cover 300 million people free of charge in the first six to eight months of the year.

3:00 p.m. China will provide COVID-19 vaccines free of charge once they become available to the general public, National Health Commission official Zheng Zhongwei says. He stresses that while manufacturing and transport of vaccines have costs, the government can provide vaccines for free to individuals.

1:52 p.m. Russia's Gamaleya Research Institute has applied to the Philippine health regulator for emergency use authorization of its COVID-19 vaccine but needs to file further documentation, the regulator says. Gamaleya's emergency use application is the third the Philippine Food and Drug Administration has received after Pfizer and AstraZeneca both made similar applications.

12:50 p.m. China reports 33 cases for Friday, down from 53 a day earlier. Of the 17 locally transmitted infections, 14 were in Hebei Province, which surrounds Beijing and which is in "wartime mode" as it battles rising infections. Meanwhile, Hebei's capital of Shijiazhuang announces the suspension of subway service. Earlier this week, authorities banned people from leaving the city to help curb spread of the disease.

9:30 a.m. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has sent a letter to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi asking to expedite a shipment of 2 million doses of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine produced by the Serum Institute of India, the presidential press office says.

6:04 a.m. The White House coronavirus task force is watching a possible new variant of the coronavirus that is thought to have emerged in the U.S. and may be contributing to the disease's unabated spread, NBC reports, citing a government document.

The variant is different from a U.K.-originated type already spreading in the U.S. and may be 50% more transmissible than other variations, according to the report.

The report comes a day after the U.S. logged its deadliest day in the pandemic, with more than 4,000 COVID-19 deaths for the first time, authorities say. The toll amounts to one person dying every 21 seconds.


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

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