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Coronavirus: Free to read

Coronavirus: Week of Jan. 17 to Jan. 23, WHO secures 40m Pfizer shots

Hong Kong locks down Kowloon district; UK variant shows 'evidence' of being deadlier

Vials of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine are seen in an ultralow-temperature freezer at the hospital in Le Mans, France.   © 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 98,119,590, according to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. The worldwide death toll has hit 2,104,927.

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



Saturday, Jan. 23 (Tokyo time)

11:08 a.m. Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Joe Biden plan to meet next month, the prime minister's office said on Friday, following a call between the two leaders in which they agreed to join forces to combat coronavirus in North America.

10:36 a.m. Hong Kong's government locked down an area of the Kowloon peninsula on Saturday, saying people there must stay home until all residents have been tested for the new coronavirus and results largely determined.

The government said in a statement there are 70 buildings in the "restricted area" of Jordan and that it aims to finish the process within about 48 hours.

10:14 a.m. China reported 107 new COVID-19 cases on the mainland on Jan. 22, up from 103 cases a day earlier, the national health authority said on Saturday.

The National Health Commission said in a statement that 90 of the new cases were local infections. The number of new asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed cases, fell to 99 from 119 cases a day earlier.

9:00 a.m. More than 50 million doses of coronavirus vaccines have been administered in over 50 countries and regions, according to an independent tally by Nikkei and the Financial Times. Find out more from the charts here.

8:12 a.m. Between 150 and 200 National Guard personnel deployed to Washington, D.C., to provide security for President Joe Biden's inauguration have tested positive for the coronavirus, a U.S. official said on Friday.

7:05 a.m. An independent panel of vaccine experts has reviewed data from Moderna 's COVID-19 vaccine and will make public its recommendations on the vaccine's use next Tuesday, the World Health Organization said on Friday.

6:00 a.m. The World Health Organization says it has reached a deal with U.S. drugmaker Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech for 40 million doses of their coronavirus vaccine, much of which will go to low-income countries.

Vaccinations under the WHO's COVAX program are expected to begin by the end of February, according to the health body. Rich countries' direct deals with drugmakers have been blamed for delaying the flow of COVID-19 vaccines to poor nations.

New U.S. President Joe Biden has said the U.S. will join the COVAX effort, something his predecessor Donald Trump did not do.

An ambulance drives following in Romford, Britain, on Jan. 2.   © Reuters

2:30 a.m. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announces findings that the so-called U.K. variant of the coronavirus may lead to higher deaths from COVID-19 compared with the main form.

"We have been informed today in addition to spreading more quickly, it also now appears that there is some evidence that the new variant ... may be associated with a higher degree of mortality," Johnson tells a news conference.

Patrick Vallance, the government's chief scientific advisor, stresses that "these data are currently uncertain, and we don't have a very good estimate of the precise nature, or even whether it is an overall increase [in mortality]."

"But it looks like it is," Vallance adds.

1:40 a.m. Former top-ranked tennis champion Andy Murray says he will not take part in next month's Australian Open after recently testing positive for COVID-19, according to media reports.

1:32 a.m. Panasonic has developed portable containers capable of storing Pfizer coronavirus vaccines safely at the prescribed temperature of minus 70 C.

Friday, Jan. 22

11:00 p.m. The so-called U.K. variant of the coronavirus has been detected in a Tokyo child who has no known contact with an overseas traveler, in what appears to be the Japanese capital's first case of community transmission of the new, more infectious form of the virus.

The girl, whom authorities describe as younger than 10 years old, came into contact with a man in his 40s who is also infected with the coronavirus. Neither of the individuals have made any recent international trips or had known contact with travelers.

The girl's case comes to light as Tokyo conducts PCR tests designed to look for new variants. The U.K. variant is said to be up to 70% more infectious than the main form of the virus that causes COVID-19.

9:30 p.m. Singapore has announced that it will start vaccinating seniors next Wednesday, moving into the next phase of its inoculation program after starting with health workers.

The city-state was one of the first in Asia to kick off vaccinations. This makes its progress a focal point as neighbors look to accelerate -- or in some cases simply begin -- their own programs.

According to an announcement, the vaccinations for seniors will start with a pilot program in limited areas, before being expanded nationwide in mid-February.

7:05 p.m. Myanmar has received its first shipment of coronavirus vaccines from India, Reuters reports. The Southeast Asian country, which has recorded over 136,000 cases and 3,000 deaths in the pandemic, took in 1.5 million doses.

Amid China's "vaccine diplomacy," India is reaching out with vaccine donations across Asia. AstraZeneca shots produced by the Serum Institute of India have been delivered to the Maldives, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Nepal.

Masked cyclists ride in Yangon amid the coronavirus outbreak in December. Myanmar has received its first batch of vaccines from India.   © Reuters

6:00 p.m. Poland could take legal action against Pfizer next month if the U.S. drugmaker does not deliver all scheduled doses of its COVID-19 vaccine, a government spokesman says. Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech issued a statement last week announcing cuts to deliveries as they ramp up manufacturing in Europe. On Monday, Poland received 176,000 doses of the vaccine, a drop of around 50% from what had been expected.

5:30 p.m. China reports its first cluster of COVID-19 cases among workers in a meat processing plant, a poultry slaughterhouse in Harbin, raising fears among local consumers who have until now mainly worried about the safety of imported foods.

A woman enters a COVID-19 testing site in Beijing on Monday following an outbreak.   © Reuters

3:30 p.m. Nissan Motor will pause production at one of its British lines on Friday due to supply chain disruption caused by the pandemic. The Japanese automaker expects to resume production on Monday. The line produces Qashqai and Leaf cars in Sunderland.

3:09 p.m. Tokyo reports 1,175 new infections, down from 1,471 a day earlier, as Japan's capital continues to battle a coronavirus surge under a state of emergency.

2:10 p.m. India has so far vaccinated over a million people against COVID-19 since launching the drive on Jan. 16, according to the latest data from the Health Ministry. The country reports 14,545 cases in the last 24 hours, down from 15,223 the previous day, pushing the national total to over 10.62 million. Fatalities rose by 163 to 153,032.

12:00 p.m. Japan's Cabinet approves proposed bills to penalize people who do not comply with antivirus measures as the country struggles to contain a coronavirus surge. Among other measures, the legislation would introduce imprisonment for those who refuse hospitalization, a move opposition parties say is excessive. The ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its junior coalition partner Komeito aim to have the pair of bills pass the Diet, or parliament, early next month.

11:40 a.m. There is no truth to a report about the possible cancellation of the Tokyo Olympics, Japan's Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Manabu Sakai, a government spokesman, tells reporters. The Times reported on Friday that Japan's government had privately concluded that the already-delayed Olympics would be cancelled this year because of the pandemic.

11:20 a.m. Beijing launches mass COVID-19 testing in parts of the city and Shanghai is testing all hospital staffers as China battles its worst outbreak since March 2020. China reports a slight decline in new daily cases on Friday -- 103, from 144 a day earlier. Of these new cases, 94 were local transmissions: Heilongjiang Province in the northeast reported 47, Jilin Province 19, Shanghai six and Beijing three.

10:30 a.m. Suicides increased in Japan during 2020 after a decade of declines, with the number of women killing themselves surging amid the emotional and financial stresses caused by the pandemic even as fewer men took their own lives. Preliminary police data published on Friday showed suicides totaled 20,919 last year, 750 (3.7%) more than in 2019.

By sex, 13,943 men and 6,976 women took their lives -- a 1% decline from the previous year for men but a 14.5% increase for women, who tend to work in service and retail sectors that suffered more job losses during the pandemic.

A COVID-19 testing site in Seoul on Jan. 12. (Yonhap via REUTERS)   © Reuters

10:05 a.m. South Korea reports 346 new cases, down from 399 a day ago, the lowest number in two months. Total infections reach 74,262, with 1,328 dead.

8:45 a.m. Japan's core consumer prices fell 1.0% in December from a year earlier, the fastest drop in a decade, in a sign that deflationary pressures are intensifying as the coronavirus pandemic drags on. It was the biggest annual fall since September 2010, when Japan was grappling with grinding deflation and a spike in the yen that dealt a severe blow to the export-reliant economy.

8:10 a.m. French President Emmanuel Macron told his European Union counterparts France would make PCR tests compulsory for all travelers into the country from Sunday, including from fellow EU members, his office says. But cross-border workers and land transportation will be exempt from that obligation. The test will have to be carried out no later than 72 hours before departure.

7:00 a.m. U.S. President Joe Biden has issued an executive order that would require international air travelers to quarantine upon arrival in the country as a precaution against the spread of the coronavirus.

Biden also releases his national strategy to combat the pandemic, saying "above all our plan is to restore public trust." The strategy includes steps such assigning a Federal Emergency Management Agency representative to each state to quicken the roll out of vaccines, as well as building vaccination centers at stadiums across the country.

Jeffrey Zients, the White House coordinator for its COVID-19 response, says the situation the administration has inherited "is so much worse than we could have imagined."

For more on what is changing under the Biden administration, read Nikkei Asia's new free blog.

Passengers arrive on a flight from London at JFK International Airport in New York City on Dec. 21.   © Reuters

4:45 a.m. Rio de Janeiro will not host Brazil's iconic Carnival celebrations in the middle of this year, Mayor Eduardo Paes says.

Paes says in Twitter post he "cannot imagine having the conditions necessary to make Carnival a reality in July."

3:22 a.m. Dr. Anthony Fauci informs the World Health Organization that the U.S. will remain a member of WHO and fulfill its financial obligations to the group as President Joe Biden reverses predecessor Donald Trump's move to leave the U.N. agency, NPR reports.

Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus welcomes Fauci, chief medical adviser to the new U.S. president, to his new spot on WHO's executive board. "Thank you my brother Tony for leading the delegation," Tedros says on Twitter.

The U.S. relationship with WHO is "one that we value deeply and will look to strengthen going forward," says Fauci, head of infectious diseases at the National Institutes of Health.

12:11 a.m. India's production base for the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine has suffered a fire that killed five people, according to media reports.

The fire broke out at the Serum Institute of India in the city of Pune at around 5:30 p.m. CEO Adar Poonawalla says a "few floors" were destroyed.

Poonawalla says the tragedy will not stop production of the Covishield vaccine, which has been approved for emergency use in India and is being distributed free of charge to other Asian nations.

Thursday, Jan. 21

11:30 p.m. Russia says it can supply Hungary with the Sputnik V vaccine next month, after Budapest gives initial approval to the shot. Moscow's inoculation also is registered for domestic use on Thursday by the United Arab Emirates. Budapest's approval is separate from the European Union and could cause tensions with Brussels as the vaccine has not been approved by the European Medicines Agency. Russia on Wednesday filed for registration of its vaccine in the bloc.

10:32 p.m. Japan reports a daily increase of 5,670 COVID-19 cases as of 7:30 p.m., up from the previous day's 5,532.

7:46 p.m. Mongolian Prime Minister Khurelsukh Ukhnaa submits his resignation to parliament after protests in the capital, Ulaanbaatar, over the government's handling of the pandemic, state news agency Montsame reports. The protests erupted Wednesday in response to allegations that Mongolia mishandled the relocation of a COVID-19 patient and her newborn baby, Montsame said.

Protesters gather at Sukhbaatar Square in Ulaanbaatar on Jan. 20, criticizing Mongolia's handling of the coronavirus.

7:45 p.m. Former Thai opposition leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit becomes the newest target of the kingdom's draconian lese-majeste law after disputing the government's vaccine strategy of relying solely on domestic production by a biopharmaceutical company ultimately owned by King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

6:36 p.m. Indonesia reports its deadliest day of the pandemic, with 346 fatalities from the coronavirus in the past 24 hours and 11,703 new infections. The country has amassed 951,651 COVID-19 cases, including 27,203 deaths.

5:40 p.m. COVID-19 testing of thousands of people in the Swiss resort of St. Moritz, where luxury hotels were placed under quarantine, find 53 coronavirus infections including 31 cases of a fast-spreading variant, local officials say. About 3,200 people were tested this week, and the 31 infections caused by viral variants were discovered among hotel employees, not guests at the two hotels placed under quarantine, Badrutt's Palace and the Grand Hotel des Bains Kempinski.

3:30 p.m. Shanghai reports three new locally transmitted COVID-19 infections, as concern grows about another debilitating wave of cases in the country. The city launches mass testing of all hospital workers earlier in the day, after two workers at different facilities return "suspicious" test results.

3:03 p.m. Tokyo reports 1,471 new infections, up from 1,274 a day earlier.

India's Bharat Biotech has applied for emergency use authorization for its COVID-19 vaccine in the Philippines.   © Reuters

1:54 p.m. India's Bharat Biotech has applied for emergency use authorization of its COVID-19 vaccine in the Philippines, says Eric Domingo, head of the Philippine Food and Drug Administration.

1:47 p.m. India reports 15,223 cases in the past 24 hours, up from 13,823 the previous day, bringing the country's total to 10.61 million. Fatalities jumped by 151 to 152,869.

1:10 p.m. Indonesia plans to start vaccinating the general public in late April or May, Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin says. "[Vaccinations] will happen for 1.4 million health [workers] between January to February. After that, 17 million public workers will be vaccinated, then we will provide vaccines for 25 million seniors," he tells a forum, according to Reuters.

11:50 a.m. The Bank of Japan slightly lowers its estimate for the nation's growth for fiscal 2020 as the resurgent coronavirus pandemic and the declaration of a state of emergency cloud the outlook for economic recovery.

11:00 a.m. South Korea reports 401 new cases, down from 404 a day ago. Total infections reach 73,918 with 1,316 deaths.

Police block off a street in a residential neighbourhood following new cases of COVID-19 in Beijing on Jan. 20.   © Reuters

10:30 a.m. Australia's jobless rate falls to 6.6% from a July peak of 7.5% thanks to strong consumer spending, government data shows. However, the rate remains well above its pre-pandemic level of 5.2%.

9:50 a.m. China reports 144 cases for Wednesday, up from 103 a day earlier, despite measures to contain the latest outbreak in the northeastern part of the country, with Heilongjiang Province recording its biggest daily rise in new patients to date. Of the new cases, 126 were local infections. The number of new asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed cases, rose to 113 from 58 a day earlier.

8:11 a.m. U.S. President Joe Biden signs an executive order in one of his first official acts in office to mandate mask-wearing.

The "100-day masking challenge" requires masks and social distancing in all federal buildings, on all federal land and by federal employees and contractors, and on airlines, trains and transit systems traveling between states.

"It's requiring, as I said all along, where I have authority, mandating masks be worn, social distancing be kept on federal property," Mr. Biden explains to reporters in the Oval Office.

A guest wearing a U.S. flag mask arrives during the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington.   © Reuters

6:00 a.m. The World Health Organization plans to approve several COVID-19 vaccines from Western and Chinese manufacturers in coming weeks and months, a document published on Wednesday shows, as it aims for rapid rollouts in poorer countries. COVAX -- a global scheme co-led by the WHO -- wants to deliver at least 2 billion doses across the world this year, with at least 1.3 billion going to poorer countries. But it has struggled to secure enough shots due to a shortage of funds.

5:50 a.m. New U.S. President Joe Biden vows in his inaugural address to "press forward with speed and urgency, for we have much to do in this winter of peril and possibility." But Republicans in the U.S. Congress express wariness of any rush to new economic relief. "We just passed a program with over $900 billion in it," Sen. Mitt Romney is quoted as telling reporters. "I'm not looking for a new program in the immediate future."

3:10 a.m. Brazil's Instituto Butantan expects to receive from China supplies to manufacturer 11 million more doses of Sinovac's COVID-19 vaccine CoronaVac, the institute's director Dimas Covas says, according to media reports. The shipment is expected to arrive on Feb. 10.

2:10 a.m. The Netherlands' latest move to combat the spread of the coronavirus -- a proposed nationwide curfew -- is being described as the European nation's first such measure since World War II. The curfew, which needs the approval of the Dutch parliament, would restrict non-essential outings between 8:30 p.m. and 4:30 a.m. local time, with fines for violators, Prime Minister Mark Rutte tells a news conference.

12:25 a.m. Chile has approved Chinese developer's Sinovac's COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use, Reuters reports.

Wednesday, Jan. 20

10:07 p.m. Japan reports 5,532 new COVID-19 cases as of 8 p.m., a slight increase from the previous day's tally.

Meanwhile, Japan's Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare says it reached a COVID-19 vaccine supply agreement with U.S. drugmaker Pfizer, which co-developed a widely used shot with Germany's BioNTech.

Japan will receive 144 million doses -- enough for 72 million people -- from Pfizer this year. Vaccinations in Japan could begin in mid-February if the inoculation receives approval, starting with health care workers. This follows a preliminary deal under which Japan was to receive enough doses for 60 million people by the end of June.

Health Minister Norihisa Tamura says the government will seek to secure as much vaccine as possible by June.

Negotiating the Pfizer vaccine deal was the focus of an unusually forward role by Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga's office, with Suga worried that the ministry would take too long.

8:10 p.m. The Turkish Health Ministry's online vaccination tracker shows the country has surpassed 1 million doses administered, putting it among the world's fastest inoculation programs. Turkey is using the CoronaVac vaccine from China's Sinovac Biotech.

The country holds 3 million of the 50 million doses it is due to receive by the end of February. A member of Turkey's COVID-19 advisory board said the plan is to vaccinate 1.5 million people and keep the remaining shots for second doses, while awaiting new batches from China.

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca on Tuesday met with China's new ambassador to Ankara, Liu Shaobin, and tweeted, "I would like to thank [China] for their support and friendly role in our vaccination program. We will keep working together for the common benefit of humanity."

7:25 p.m. Encouraging new lab results show the Pfizer vaccine likely works on the more infectious coronavirus variant first found in the U.K., Reuters reports, backing up promising findings from last week.

5:12 p.m. India begins export of COVID-19 vaccines to "neighboring and key partner countries" by dispatching the first consignments to Bhutan and the Maldives. It will also soon send supply to four more countries -- Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar and the Seychelles -- the foreign ministry said, adding it is waiting for regulatory clearance confirmation from Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Mauritius. "India is deeply honored to be a long-trusted partner in meeting the healthcare needs of the global community," Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted ahead of the vaccine dispatches.

People rest at a vaccination facility in Shanghai after receiving inoculations on Jan. 19.   © Reuters

5:09 p.m. Chinese coronavirus vaccine developers Sinovac, Sinopharm and Cansino Bio have applied to join COVAX, a global framework backed by the World Health Organization, foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying says. The WHO describes the program as "the only global initiative that is working with governments and manufacturers to ensure COVID-19 vaccines are available worldwide to both higher-income and lower-income countries."

5:03 p.m. Russia's Industry Minister Denis Manturov says that foreign manufacturers, with which Russia has signed deals to produce its Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine, are capable of producing around 350 million doses per year.

4:57 p.m. As the U.K.'s COVID-19 death toll approaches 100,000, Home Secretary Priti Patel says that while the numbers are tragic, it is not the time to look back at the government's possible mismanagement of the crisis. The country's official death toll stands at 91,470 -- Europe's highest total and the world's fifth worst after the U.S., Brazil, India and Mexico.

4:50 p.m. China's National Health Commission says that as of Wednesday a total of 15 million people have been inoculated with COVID-19 vaccines. The number is short of the 50 million target by the Lunar New Year holiday starting Feb.11 when throngs of people are expected to travel.

4:35 p.m. China's National Health Commission says people who intend to return to their hometowns for Lunar New Year will be required to submit a negative coronavirus test result seven days prior to their travel date as part of tightened COVID-19 prevention measures.

3:06 p.m. Tokyo reports 1,274 new infections, up from 1,240 a day earlier, with the number of patients in serious condition rising by 5 to a record high of 160.

2:08 p.m. India reports 13,823 cases in the last 24 hours -- up from 10,064 the previous day -- bringing the country total to nearly 10.6 million. Deaths rose by 162 to 152,718.

1:37 p.m. Japan's Skymark Airlines said it will temporarily stop accepting reservations on about 70 percent of its routes from Feb. 15 to 28, as it is considering suspending or reducing flights during those dates due to the coronavirus pandemic.

1:05 p.m. South Korea may secure additional coronavirus vaccines for 20 million people from U.S. drugmaker Novavax, President Moon Jae-in said, according to a statement from the presidential office on Wednesday. Novavax entered into a development and supply agreement for its vaccine with South Korea's SK bioscience Co last year, according to a statement in August.

12:17 p.m. Taiwan has canceled or postponed more large-scale events after a rare outbreak of domestically transmitted COVID-19 cases connected to a hospital, where the military has been sent to help with disinfection.

Taiwan, which has kept the pandemic well under control thanks to early and effective prevention methods, has been rattled by new domestic transmissions, first in December and now in a hospital in the northern city of Taoyuan.

11:10 a.m. The Chinese capital Beijing says it will investigate all individuals who entered the city from abroad since Dec. 10 and shut down a subway station after reporting the biggest daily jump in new COVID-19 cases in more than three weeks. The measures come amid what has become China's most severe infection outbreak since March 2020 ahead of the key Lunar New Year holiday season when hundreds of millions travel, raising fears of another major wave that could bring the country back to a debilitating standstill.

Commuters walk in a subway station during morning rush hour in Beijing on Jan. 20. The Chinese capital says it will investigate all individuals who entered the city from abroad since Dec. 10 and shut down a subway station after reporting the biggest daily jump in new COVID-19 cases in more than three weeks.   © Reuters

10:58 a.m. The U.S. President-elect Joe Biden on Tuesday led a national memorial observance on the eve of his inauguration to honor the 400,000 Americans who have perished from COVID-19 during the 11 months since the novel coronavirus claimed its first U.S. life.

9:41 a.m. Mainland China reports 103 new COVID-19 cases for Tuesday, down from 118 a day earlier. The National Health Commission says 88 of the new cases were locally transmitted. The number of new asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed cases, fell to 58 from 91 a day earlier.

9:56 a.m. South Korea reports 404 new cases, up from 385 a day ago. Total infections reach 73,518 with 1,300 deaths.

9:14 a.m. Walt Disney says it eliminated performance-based bonuses last year for top executives, including Executive Chairman Bob Iger, as the conglomerate looks to soften COVID-19 fallout. The pandemic dealt a major blow to the company's theme parks and movie studios, though people sheltered at home signed up in droves for the new Disney+ streaming service.

7:58 a.m. Brazil is battling Chinese bureaucracy to free up exports of active ingredients for vaccines developed by AstraZeneca and Sinovac Biotech, Reuters reports. Despite the wrangling, more Brazilian states administered their first shots on Tuesday after having received some 6 million doses from China's Sinovac. However, red tape in China is holding back supplies needed to finish and distribute millions more doses, Reuters' sources say.

7:41 a.m. Brazil's military flew medical personnel and 1,000 doses of a Chinese vaccine deep into the Amazon rainforest on Tuesday to start inoculating indigenous people against the coronavirus, Reuters reports.

7:01 a.m. With fewer than 1,550 cases and only 35 deaths, Vietnam has been spared a year of lockdowns, horrific body counts, besieged hospitals and corrosive national bickering. Find out more in this week's The Big Story.

6:30 a.m. As the first anniversary of the Wuhan lockdown approaches, questions persist over what China knew about COVID-19 -- and when China knew it. Read it here.

5:30 a.m. The COVID-19 death toll in the U.S. surpasses 400,000, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University's Coronavirus Resource Center.

While hospitalization rates and new cases are showing signs of easing, the U.S. leads the world by far in deaths from the disease, with around 190,000 more than the country with the next largest tally, Brazil.

Healthcare personnel surround a patient who died in a COVID-19 hospital unit in Houston on Dec. 12, 2020.   © Reuters

5:10 a.m. Brazilian pharmaceutical company Uniao Quimica plans to produce Russia's Sputnik V vaccine for export to other South American countries, Reuters reports.

The company's international business director, Rogerio Rosso, tells Reuters: "We do not need to have the vaccine registered in Brazil to export it to other countries that have approved it."

2:50 a.m. Australia's city dwellers are fleeing to suburbs and rural towns that offer easier access to nature, a trend accelerated by the pandemic-induced shift to teleworking.

A four-bedroom house new on the market in Killcare, a roughly 90-minute drive from Sydney, is garnering strong interest despite an asking price of 1.7 million Australian dollars ($1.31 million). Its charms include a view of the beach from higher ground.

"Now that we know we can work from home, we're looking for a house with a good view within walking distance of a beach," says a 50-something officer at an information technology company who toured the property with her husband.

Local home prices have climbed 35% on an influx of buyers, chiefly those leaving Sydney for "value and lifestyle," says Cathy Baker, principal of real estate company Belle Property Killcare.

2:00 a.m. India will provide domestically made coronavirus vaccine free of charge to six Asian nations starting Wednesday, the government says.

Bhutan, Maldives, Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar and Seychelles will receive exports of the vaccine, which India has already begun to distribute to its own population in the world's biggest coronavirus vaccination program.

Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Mauritius are also poised to receive shipments once all regulatory conditions have been met.

India has approved two coronavirus vaccines so far: Covishield, which was developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University and is manufactured by the Serum Institute of India; and Covaxin, developed by India's Bharat Biotech in conjunction with a government-backed institute.

12:00 a.m. The chief executive of the London 2012 Olympics believes this year's Tokyo Games are "unlikely" to take place, he tells the BBC.

"I think they'll leave it to absolutely the last minute in case the situation improves dramatically, in case the vaccinations roll out faster than we all hoped," Keith Mills says on Radio 5. "It's a tough call."

"If I was sitting in the shoes of the organizing committee in Tokyo, I would be making plans for a cancellation and I'm sure they have plans for a cancellation," Mills says.

The problem is not only the host city's now rampant coronavirus spread, according to the entrepreneur.

"It's not just the infections in Tokyo, it's the infections in all the competing nations," Mills says.

Tuesday, Jan. 19

11:30 p.m. Hong Kong's public transportation operator MTR says it expects to report a net loss of around 4.8 billion Hong Kong dollars ($619 million) for 2020, which would mark the company's first year in the red since it went public in 2000.

MTR blames the "significant adverse impact" of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the deterioration of the local economy for the record loss.

Hong Kong is mired in the so-called fourth wave of the coronavirus. The territory's economy, which was already suffering from anti-government protests that began in the summer 2019, has shrunk for five consecutive quarters through the July-to-September period, sinking the value of MTR-owned properties.

10:13 p.m. Japan reports a one-day tally of 5,320 new COVID-19 cases as of 8:15 p.m.

The country's coronavirus death toll rises by 104 people, the first daily increase over 100. Osaka continues to lead Tokyo in COVID-19 deaths, at 765 to 744.

A Russian consumer healthcare watchdog claims that a second vaccine developed in the country is 100% effective against COVID-19.   © Reuters

7:55 p.m. Russia's consumer health watchdog Rospotrebnadzor says Tuesday the country's second vaccine against COVID-19 is 100% effective based on the results of clinical trials, the TASS news agency reports.

Russia began mass trials of EpiVacCorona, which is being developed by Siberia's Vector Institute, in November.

7:29 p.m. Japan's southernmost prefecture, Okinawa, declares a state of emergency on Tuesday over the COVID-19 pandemic. Gov. Denny Tamaki says Okinawa's emergency measures include asking restaurants and bars to close by 8 p.m. and residents to refrain from non-urgent outings after 8 p.m. The emergency is expected to last until Feb. 7.

6:05 p.m. Indonesia reports a record daily increase of 308 coronavirus deaths on Tuesday, taking total deaths in the country to 26,590, data from the health ministry show. The nation also records 10,365 new COVID-19 cases, taking the total tally to 927,380.

6:01 p.m. Hong Kong says its unemployment rate soared to a 16-year high of 6.6% in the final quarter of 2020, as the city reeled from a fourth wave of Covid-19 infections. The jobless rate is expected to continue to climb this year, after the local government ended a job protection scheme that helps businesses pay up to half of employees' salaries.

5:46 p.m. The Taiwan Lantern Festival, held to mark the end of Lunar New Year festivities, will be canceled this year because of COVID-19, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications says. The first day of Lunar New Year falls on Feb. 12 and the Taiwan Lantern Festival was meant to take place Feb. 26 to March 7 this year.

5:00 p.m. Taiwan has confirmed four local cases in a cluster. These cases were traced to a doctor who treated a COVID-19 patient in a local medical center in the city of Taoyuan. Taiwan has tightened its disease prevention measures and the health ministry has now asked the government to suspend big activities and events for the upcoming Lunar New Year holiday. The health ministry will start to evacuate the Taoyuan hospital, the source of the cluster.

4:30 p.m. Japan's Shizuoka Prefecture has issued its own emergency warning for the spread of COVID-19 after it was found that three residents with no record of traveling to the U.K. had contracted the highly transmissible U.K. COVID variant. Shizuoka calls for residents to refrain from taking trips outside prefectural borders unless urgent and having meals with non-family members. The prefecture in central Japan is not one of the 11 prefectures under a state of emergency the government declared this month.

3:20 p.m. Thailand's cabinet has approved about 210 billion baht ($6.99 billion) in cash handouts to boost consumption and help alleviate the impact of a recent spike in coronavirus cases, a deputy government spokeswoman says. The government will offer 31.1 million people 3,500 baht per month for two months, according to Reuters.

3:05 p.m. Tokyo reports 1,240 new infections, up from 1,204 a day earlier, with the number of patients in serious condition rising by 12 to a record high of 155.

3:00 p.m. Israel leads the world in terms of COVID-19 vaccine doses administered per 100 people, which is now over 29, according to figures from the Our World in Data website. What has been described as a "miracle" by some in the media is in fact the result of a strong public health system, comprehensive data, financial resources and, perhaps, an extra dose of political motivation as the virus continues to spread.

2:10 p.m. India reports 10,064 cases in the last 24 hours, down from 13,788 the previous day and the lowest single-day spike in infections in over seven months, bringing the cumulative total to 10.58 million. Fatalities rose by 137 to 152,556 in what was the lowest daily count in about eight months.

The Philippines says it will buy 20 million doses of Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine, pictured. The country had already arranged deals to buy a total of 72 million doses from AstraZeneca, Novavax and Sinovac.   © Reuters

1:50 p.m. The Philippines will buy 20 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine from Moderna, the country's presidential spokesman says. Moderna's vaccine adds to the Philippines' deals to buy a total of 72 million doses from AstraZeneca, Novavax and Sinovac. The country has also approved Sinovac Biotech's application for late-stage clinical trial for its vaccine CoronaVac.

11:30 a.m. Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam says the government will extend social distancing measures due to expire this week as the city remains on heightened alert after daily infections climbed back into triple digits. On Monday, Hong Kong reported 107 new cases, the highest number in nearly a month.

11:15 a.m. Japan's Taro Kono, who has been appointed to the newly created position of minister for COVID vaccination, says he is in charge of transporting and storing vaccines as well as setting up venues for vaccination. "We will do everything in our power to ensure that as many people as possible receive safe and effective vaccines as soon as possible," he said. While countries such as the U.K. and the U.S. have begun vaccinations, Japan plans to launch its vaccination program by late February. Kono is also minister of regulatory reform.

Yandai Xiejie alley in an old quarter of Beijing on Saturday.   © Reuters

10:30 a.m. China reports more than 100 new COVID-19 cases for a seventh day in the worst domestic outbreak since March. The country posted 118 new cases for Monday, up from 109 a day earlier. Of those, 106 were local infections, with 43 reported in Jilin -- a new daily record for the northeastern province -- and 35 in Hebei Province, which surrounds Beijing.

10:00 a.m. Outgoing U.S. President Donald Trump sets up a clash with his successor by rescinding entry bans imposed because of the coronavirus on most non-U. S. citizens arriving from Brazil and much of Europe effective Jan. 26. Incoming President Joe Biden plans to quickly extend the current travel restrictions barring travel by most people who have recently been in much of Europe and Brazil. Biden takes office on Wednesday.

9:48 a.m. South Korea reports 386 new cases, down from 389 a day ago. Total infections reach 73,115 with 1,283 deaths.

6:00 a.m. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo asks Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla if the state could directly buy vaccine doses. The U.S. drugmaker, however, told Reuters that it would first need approval by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

5:39 a.m. Pakistan approves China's Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use, two days after authorizing AstraZeneca's vaccine developed with Oxford University. Pakistan is in the process of speaking with a number of vaccine manufacturers, according to Health Minister Faisal Sultan, but has not yet placed an order for any vaccine.

Experts from China and the World Health Organization joint team visit a hospital in Wuhan in February 2020.   © Reuters

4:22 a.m. An independent panel reviewing the global handling of the pandemic says that Chinese officials could have done more last January to curb the initial outbreak and criticizes the World Health Organization for not declaring an international emergency sooner. The expert panel, led by former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark and former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, calls for a "global reset" and reforms at the WHO.

2:14 a.m. Disneyland Paris pushes back reopening plans by nearly two months to April 2 in light of the pandemic's resurgence in Europe. The amusement park had planned to resume operations on Feb. 13.

Monday, Jan. 18

11:35 p.m. The World Health Organization expects to have access to Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine "very soon," according to a senior WHO official. The inclusion of the drugmaker's vaccine in the agency's program to share doses with poorer countries is in advanced negotiations, Bruce Aylward, a senior adviser, tells WHO's executive board.

9:21 p.m. China's Sinovac Biotech says a clinical trial in Brazil shows its COVID-19 vaccine to be nearly 20 percentage points more effective in a small subgroup of patients receiving two doses longer apart. The protection rate for 1,394 participants who got doses of either CoronaVac or a placebo three weeks apart was nearly 70%, according to a Sinovac spokesman. Brazilian researchers said last week that the vaccine's overall efficacy was 50.4% based on results from more than 9,000 volunteers, most of whom received doses two weeks apart, as outlined in the trial protocol.

A nurse prepares a dose of Sinovac's coronavirus vaccine in Sao Paulo, Brazil on Jan. 17.   © Reuters

9:19 p.m. Japan has likely recorded community transmission of a COVID-19 variant spreading in the U.K., the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare says, as it confirms for the first time multiple cases from people with no recent travel history abroad. The ministry found the strain in four people, both male and female. Three had no history of travel to the U.K. or contact with travelers from overseas.

8:03 p.m. Two private hospitals in Thailand have ordered millions of doses of coronavirus vaccines ahead of regulatory approval, Reuters reports. "We ordered 1 million doses of the Sinovac vaccine with an option to buy 9 million more," says Boon Vanasin, chairman of Thonburi Healthcare Group.

7:16 p.m. Uzbekistan plans to purchase 100,000 doses of Pfizer and BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine and set up domestic production of Russia's Sputnik V vaccine, says its health ministry, which also added in a statement that the Central Asian nation of 34 million people is working on the Pfizer-BioNTech deal together with vaccine alliance Gavi.

6:47 p.m. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga says that a new ministerial position has been created to ensure the smooth rollout of Japan's vaccination program, and Taro Kono, currently administrative and regulatory reform minister, will take on the additional role of overseeing vaccine distribution.

6:00 p.m. Singapore will resume hosting the Shangri-La Dialogue Asian security summit this year after it was canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic, organizers and the city-state's government say. This year's event is scheduled to be held June 4 to 6. A spokeswoman for organizer International Institute for Strategic Studies declined to comment on the expected format or number of attendees, according to Reuters.

Singapore will host the Shangri-La Dialogue Asian security summit in June after it was cancelled last year due to the pandemic.   © Reuters

5:30 p.m. Malaysia will introduce 15 billion ringgit ($3.7 billion) worth of additional stimulus to support its pandemic-hit economy and fight COVID-19, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin says.

4:00 p.m. Tokyo reports 1,204 cases -- down from 1,592 a day earlier -- as the capital tries to stem surging infections under a state of emergency, which will stay in effect until Feb. 7, at the earliest.

3:30 p.m. Swiss authorities put two hotels under quarantine and close ski schools in the posh resort of St. Moritz to try to curb an outbreak of a highly infectious coronavirus variant. The eastern canton of Grisons ordered everyone to wear masks in the town of 5,200 that prides itself as a birthplace of modern winter sports. "About a dozen cases are currently known in two hotels," the canton said in a statement. Mass testing of residents will take place on Tuesday.

3:00 p.m. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga pledges to bring the pandemic under control in Japan "as soon as possible" and continue preparations to host the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics this summer.

2:11 p.m. India reports 13,788 cases for the past 24 hours, down from 15,144 the previous day, bringing the country total to 10.57 million. Deaths increased by 145 to 152,419.

1:30 p.m. China reports more than 100 new cases for the sixth consecutive day, with rising infections in the northeast. Authorities report 109 new cases for Sunday, unchanged from a day earlier, with 93 local cases, 54 of which were in Hebei Province, which surrounds Beijing, and another 30 in Jilin Province. Authorities are implementing aggressive measures, including a lockdown of more than 29 million people.

A resident scans a QR code held by a volunteer at the gate of a residential compound in Xinle, following a COVID outbreak in Shijiazhuang, Hebei Province, China.   © Reuters

11:00 a.m. China's gross domestic product in 2020 grew on the tailwind of investment and consumption, backed by a relatively rapid recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic that also fueled exports. Full-year growth came in at 2.3% year on year, the National Bureau of Statistics says, higher than the median 2.1% projected by 35 economists polled by Nikkei.

9:56 a.m. South Korea reports 389 new cases, down from 520 a day ago. Total infections reach 72,729 with 1,264 deaths. Easier social distancing rules begin today, letting cafes and fitness centers run their indoor businesses for limited numbers of customers.

7:30 a.m. England will launch the next phase of its vaccination program on Monday, offering shots to people aged 70 and above and those who are considered clinically extremely vulnerable to the virus. The program has focused on people 80 and older as well as frontline health and care staff.

2:53 a.m. Brazilian health regulator Anvisa approves vaccines from China's Sinovac Biotech and Britain's AstraZeneca for emergency use. Brazil has lost more than 200,000 to COVID-19 -- the worst death toll outside the U.S.

Sunday, Jan. 17

A nurse receives a dose of Sinovac's COVID-19 vaccine after Brazil health regulator Anvisa approved it for emergency use at Hospital das Clinicas in Sao Paulo on Jan. 17.   © Reuters

9:36 p.m. Oman will close its land borders for one week from Monday to curb the spread of the coronavirus, especially a more contagious variant, state news agency ONA said. The measure will come into effect from 6 p.m. (1400 GMT) on Monday and can be extended for longer than the initial one-week closure.

6:46 p.m. India's COVID-19 vaccination drive hit a bump on the first day due to glitches in an app called Co-Win that is being used to coordinate the campaign, according to several officials involved in the immunization program. Co-Win, developed by the government, is supposed to help by alerting health care workers who are first in line to get shots, and by allowing officials to monitor and manage the entire drive. But many health workers, who were to receive the vaccines, did not get the message on Saturday, said a senior official with the health department of the western state of Maharashtra.

3:29 p.m. Tokyo reports 1,592 new coronavirus cases, its government says. Japan expanded a state of emergency in the capital area to seven more prefectures on Wednesday to stem a surge in COVID-19 infections.

1:56 p.m. Thailand reports 374 new coronavirus cases, taking its total infections to 12,054. No deaths were reported, while 10 of the new cases were imported from abroad, Thailand's COVID-19 task force says at a briefing. Thailand has recorded 70 coronavirus-related deaths since a year ago.

10:05 a.m. Mexico reports 20,523 new confirmed coronavirus cases and 1,219 more fatalities on Saturday, according to the Health Ministry, bringing its total to 1,630,258 infections and 140,241 deaths.

10:04 a.m. Brazilian health regulator Anvisa said on Saturday it sent back documents submitted by pharmaceutical company Uniao Quimica seeking approval for emergency use of the Russian Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine because they did not meet the minimum required criteria. In a statement on the Health Ministry website, Anvisa said the company's request failed to provide adequate assurances on its Phase III clinical trials and issues related to the manufacture of the vaccine.

Saturday, Jan. 16

10:30 p.m. Azerbaijan will begin vaccinating citizens on Monday, using a batch of 4 million doses from China's Sinovac Biotech, the Health Ministry says.

First in line to receive the shot will be medical workers followed by people over 65, starting Feb. 1, presidential aide Shahmar Movsumov says. The doses will be transported first to Turkey, where they will be checked and packaged, before arriving in batches to Azerbaijan.

Elsewhere, Turkey has sent 20,000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine to the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus on Thursday, with President Ersin Tatar receiving the first dose on Friday.

8:04 p.m. The Oxford-Astrazeneca vaccine is granted approval for emergency use in Pakistan, the country's health minister says, the first vaccine against the disease to be given the green light in the South Asian country.

7:46 p.m. Malaysia records 4,029 new coronavirus cases, the biggest daily increase in the country since the start of the pandemic, bringing the total infections to 155,095. The Health Ministry also reports eight new deaths, taking the total to 594.

5:32 p.m. Indonesia reports a record daily increase in COVID-19 cases with 14,224 new infections, its coronavirus task force says, bringing the total to 896,642. It also reports 283 deaths, bringing the total to 25,767. Indonesia has reported the highest total infections and deaths in Southeast Asia.

2:51 p.m. China's recent COVID-19 outbreaks in the northeast have come from travelers entering the country or contaminated frozen food imports, the National Health Commission (NHC) says. NHC Minister Ma Xiaowei made the comments at a government meeting, where he also said the virus was spreading to rural areas and that the handling of the recent situation had exposed how prevention and control measures had been relaxed.

2:14 p.m. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi launches the world's largest COVID-19 vaccination drive, which is expected to inoculate around 300 million of the country's 1.3 billion people over the next few months.

10:41 a.m. U.S. Forces in Korea (USFK) imposes a shelter-in-place order on two of its largest bases -- U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan and Camp Humphreys -- until Tuesday after a cluster of coronavirus infections. It is not immediately clear how many cases have been reported at the two bases, but the USFK says six people tested positive on Friday. The command has been relatively successful in keeping infections down to a handful.


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

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