Nikkei Asia is tracking the spread of the coronavirus that was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.
Cumulative global cases have reached 388,202,063, according to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. The worldwide death toll has hit 5,713,601.
For more information about the spread of COVID-19 and vaccination progress around the world, please see our interactive charts and maps.
Saturday, Feb. 5 (Tokyo time)
2:00 p.m. The coronavirus pandemic has reached a grim new milestone in the United States with the nation's cumulative death toll from COVID-19 surpassing 900,000, even as the daily number of lives lost has begun to level off, according to data collected by Reuters. The latest tally marks an increase of more than 100,000 U.S. COVID-19 fatalities since Dec. 12, coinciding with a surge of infections and hospitalizations driven by the highly contagious omicron variant.
10:30 a.m. Singapore reports a record 13,046 local coronavirus infections, triple the previous day's tally. The country has recorded 85,357 cases of the virus over the last 28 days, but 99.7% of them had no or mild symptoms. Singapore has fully vaccinated 89% of the total population against COVID-19, while 59% have received boosters shots. Authorities have previously warned that daily cases could rise to as many 15,000 due to the highly transmissible omicron variant.
10:00 a.m. South Korea reports a record daily increase of 36,362 new COVID-19 cases, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency says. The daily infections exceeded 30,000 for the first time, as the country faces a wave of omicron variant infections.
1:13 a.m. Japan will receive additional supplies of Merck's molnupiravir COVID-19 pill earlier than scheduled. Of a batch originally set to arrive in late February, 90,000 courses are now expected to arrive by Thursday, adding to the 250,000 the country has already received.
Friday, Feb. 4
7:47 p.m. Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam says close contacts of confirmed COVID-19 cases may return to home quarantine as the government's quarantine facility at Penny's Bay gradually will be turned into a community isolation facility, though no specific date was given. The city has recorded more than 200 untraceable cases since last week amid its "worst wave" of COVID-19.
Hong Kong will roll out rapid antigen testing for all residents as the government is buying "tens of millions" of test kits, Lam says, adding that the antigen version will not replace the PCR test that is widely used in compulsory testing. For the city's vaccine passport scheme set to launch Feb. 24, Lam says three doses will be required, though it is not decided whether transportation will be included in the applicable premises.
6:00 p.m. India's capital city eases COVID curbs, allowing schools and colleges to reopen physically from Monday amid a drop in daily cases. While schools will function in hybrid mode, both online and offline, colleges and universities are focusing completely on physical operations, Delhi's deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia says. All gyms, spas and swimming pools have also been permitted to reopen, and city offices can operate physically with 100% capacity. On Thursday, the city logged 2,668 infections -- down from 3,028 on Wednesday and significantly lower than its biggest daily spike of 28,867 recorded on Jan. 13.
5:00 p.m. Tokyo reports 19,798 new cases, down from 20,679 a day earlier but marking the highest single-day tally for a Friday. Meanwhile, a Japanese government panel plans to recommend that children aged 2 or older wear face masks at nursery schools as a part of measures to prevent them and staff getting infected with the coronavirus.
3:30 p.m. The number of seriously ill COVID patients in Japan climbed by 131 to 1,042, topping the 1,000 mark for the first time in over four months. Japan's daily cases exceeded 100,000 for the first time on Thursday as the omicron variant continues to drive up infections despite curbs imposed in most of the country's prefectures.
2:00 p.m. Australia could use its defense forces to help manage an outbreak among older people that has stretched health care staffing and forced many elder care facilities into lockdowns, Prime Minister Scott Morrison says, despite national infection numbers continuing to decrease. Morrison says he has asked the ministers of defense and health to see how defense forces could support such facilities, where many staff have had to isolate because of infections.
1:20 p.m. India's COVID death toll tops 500,000 -- the fourth-highest tally in the world. The country recorded 400,000 fatalities by July last year after the delta outbreak, according to official data. Some experts believe the figures are much higher, due to possibly inaccurate surveys and unaccounted dead in remote regions.
1:10 p.m. Southwest Airlines will resume alcohol sales on flights this month after nearly two years, the U.S. carrier says. The pause was extended last year due to rising in-flight disruptions by passengers. U.S. airlines during the COVID-19 pandemic had mostly suspended in-flight services on domestic flights to avoid having passengers remove their masks while eating or drinking.
11:30 a.m. South Korea has extended social distancing rules by two weeks as omicron cases soar, including a 9 p.m. curfew for restaurants and a six-person limit on private gatherings. The restrictions were due to end on Sunday but Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum says the extension is necessary to slow the spread of omicron amid fears that the Lunar New Year holiday, which ended on Wednesday, may have fueled infections. New daily cases have tripled over the past two weeks, but deaths and serious infections have remained relatively low.
10:30 a.m. China reports 29 cases for Thursday, down from 39 a day earlier. Of the new infections, 12 were locally transmitted and the rest were found among people arriving from overseas, according to a statement by the National Health Commission.
8:00 a.m. Novavax says its protein-based vaccine has received provisional approval from New Zealand's regulator for use in adults. This follows clearance for Novavax's shot in Britain on Thursday and comes days after the drugmaker filed for U.S. authorization following multiple delays. Results of two late-stage trials in the U.S., U.K. and Mexico had shown an overall efficacy of about 90% for the protein-based vaccine. Protein-based vaccines have been used for many years to prevent illnesses, including Hepatitis B.
Thursday, Feb. 3
11:50 p.m. Britain approves Novavax's two-dose COVID-19 vaccine for use in adults, bringing a fifth coronavirus shot to the country amid the rapid spread of the omicron variant. The protein-based vaccine, Nuvaxovid, uses a different technology from currently approved inoculations. Protein-based vaccines have been used for many years to prevent illnesses, including hepatitis B.
11:05 p.m. South Africa's Afrigen Biologics has used the publicly available sequence of Moderna's COVID-19 mRNA vaccine to make its own version of the shot, which could be tested in people by the end of this year, Afrigen's top executive says. The vaccine candidate would be the first based on a widely used vaccine without the assistance and approval of the developer. It also would be the first mRNA vaccine designed, developed and produced at lab scale in Africa.
7:35 p.m. Indonesia reports 27,197 new infections, a surge from 17,895 cases on Wednesday and the highest daily count since August. The country also reports 38 new deaths, up from 25 yesterday, bringing its totals to over 4.4 million cases with 144,411 deaths. Jakarta and the neighboring West Java and Banten provinces reported most of the cases in the past 24 hours.
7:21 p.m. Japan's daily COVID-19 cases have exceeded 100,000 for the first time on Thursday as the country struggles to contain a sixth wave of infections, driven by the omicron variant.
5:10 p.m. Tokyo daily cases top the 20,000 mark two days in a row as the omicron variant continues to spread nationwide. The daily tally of 20,679 was slightly lower than the record high of 21,576 logged a day ago, but still high enough to push the metropolitan government to consider extending the current quasi-state of emergency, which is scheduled to end Feb. 13.
4:30 p.m. Sweden will lift pandemic restrictions next week despite record levels of infection, as it banks on surging immunity from booster shots and past infections, as well as manageable hospitalization levels, to keep COVID-19 at bay. Sweden extended its current pandemic measures, which include bars and restaurants having to close early and a cap of 500 people inside larger indoor venues, by another two weeks in late January, but flagged they might be removed after that.
2:00 p.m. A total of 55 new COVID-19 infections were found among Olympic Games-related personnel on Wednesday, says the chair of the Beijing 2022 medical expert panel, the highest daily tally so far. Twenty-nine cases were discovered among new airport arrivals, while 26 were from those in the "closed loop" bubble that separates all event personnel from the public. Since Jan. 23, there have been 287 positive tests among Games-related personnel from a total of 610,000 tests.
12:01 p.m. Shares in Sony Group tumble, at one point dropping 8.6%, as investors express concerns over the conglomerate's gaming business. On Wednesday, the company upgraded its outlook for annual operating profit but also slashed its shipment forecast for the PlayStation 5 gaming console due to the global chip shortage, which has impacted the gaming industry since the COVID-19 outbreak.
11:30 a.m. South Korea reports 22,907 new coronavirus cases for Wednesday, up from 20,269 a day earlier, breaking its record for single-day cases two days in a row. The omicron variant continues to surge, with holiday travel and gatherings facilitating its spread. Deaths rise by 25, bringing the country's cumulative total to 6,812.
10:50 a.m. China reports 39 coronavirus cases for Wednesday, down from 63 a day earlier. Of the new cases, 21 were locally transmitted and the remaining were found among people arriving from overseas. No new fatalities were reported, leaving the death toll unchanged at 4,636.
9:30 a.m. New Zealand announces a phased reopening of its borders, which have been largely closed for two years. Under the plan, vaccinated New Zealanders in Australia can travel home from Feb. 27 without having to isolate at state quarantine facilities, and those elsewhere will be able to do so two weeks later. However, tourists from visa-free countries such as Australia will not be allowed to enter until July, and travelers from the rest of the world will be kept out until October. All travelers will still have to self-isolate for 10 days.
7:43 a.m. Major airlines, business and travel groups urge the White House to end COVID-19 pre-departure testing requirements for vaccinated international passengers traveling to the U.S., Reuters reports. "Surveys of air passengers indicate that pre-departure testing is a leading factor in the decision not to travel internationally. People simply are unwilling to take the chance that they will be unable to return to the U.S.," they wrote in a letter.
5:00 a.m. Global coronavirus cases are on the decline, numbers tracked by Johns Hopkins University show, signaling that the surge driven by the omicron variant has passed its peak.
The seven-day average for global new infections totaled 32.54 million as of Tuesday, down 5% from a recent peak reached on Jan. 24. Cases in the U.S. reached 430,000 on Monday, nearly half of the peak in mid-January.
But the number of deaths remains high in the U.S., reaching roughly 2,500 on Monday, up 30% from the infection peak in January.
Wednesday, Feb. 2
11:49 p.m. Truck drivers who have blockaded downtown Ottawa for six days say they will not leave the Canadian capital until the government scraps COVID-19 vaccine mandates.
Despite rising complaints from residents about noise, pollution and aggressive behavior from some truckers, Ottawa police have declined to end the protest, citing the risk of aggravating tensions. The protest began as a move to force the Liberal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to drop a vaccine mandate for cross-border truckers. It has since turned into a more populist anti-Trudeau movement.
8:21 p.m. Tokyo confirms a record 21,576 people have caught COVID, exceeding the 20,000 mark for the first time as the highly transmissible omicron variant continues to wreak havoc across Japan. The tally eclipsed the previous record of 17,631 logged Friday.
Tokyo and 33 areas are among the country's 47 prefectures that have been placed under a quasi-state of emergency, allowing local authorities to ask dining establishments to shorten their business hours and limit or stop the serving of alcohol. Wakayama Prefecture in western Japan is set to become the 35th prefecture to come under the measure after making a request to the central government on Wednesday.
2:38 p.m. South Korea reports 20,270 new cases, eclipsing 20,000 for the first time. The virus's rapid spread raises the country's total infection count to 884,310, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency.
1:07 p.m. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said he is "not considering at this moment" a state of emergency to deal with the spread of infections. "We have to think about it after carefully checking the effects of the [current] quasi-state of emergency," Kishida told the lower house budget committee. Tokyo's hospital bed utilization rate for accepting new corona patients was 50.7% on Jan. 1. The threshold for Tokyo to request that the government declare a state of emergency is 50%.
11:44 a.m. Tonga has detected two cases in wharf workers in the tsunami-hit island nation, though the patients work at a different wharf than the one used by foreign naval ships delivering aid, an official said, as the previously virus-free country prepares to go into lockdown.
10:48 a.m. Tonga, which was rocked by a massive volcanic eruption in January, records two coronavirus cases for the first time since October, according to New Zealand and Australian media. The island country has put strict restrictions on entry and has been carefully accepting aid from foreign countries. The New Zealand Herald reports the two were believed to have been working at port facilities.
10:13 a.m. China reports 63 confirmed coronavirus cases for Feb. 1, down slightly from 66 a day earlier. Of the new infections, 36 were domestically transmitted, according to the National Health Commission, higher than the 27 a day earlier. The remaining 27 cases were found among people arriving from overseas. The eastern province of Zhejiang reports 15 local confirmed cases, while the northern city of Tianjin detects 12. Beijing reports two local confirmed infections.
4:42 a.m. Pfizer is submitting data to U.S. federal regulators, seeking emergency use authorization of its COVID-19 vaccine for children younger than 5, Bloomberg reports.
The submission "asks regulators to clear the shot as a two-dose vaccine, though it's expected that ultimately a three-shot regimen may become standard," the Bloomberg report says, citing unidentified people familiar with the data. The vaccine is already approved for emergency use in children 5 and older. It has full approval for adults.
3:55 a.m. The Canadian province of Quebec is scrapping a plan to make adults who refuse COVID-19 vaccines pay a special health contribution, Premier Francois Legault says, calling the idea too divisive.
Legault unveiled the proposal last month, saying those who choose to avoid inoculations should help cover the extra costs imposed on the health system by the coronavirus. Experts say the idea goes against the spirit of Canada's universal public health system.
12:02 a.m. Many countries have not reached their peak in cases of the highly infectious omicron variant of the coronavirus, and restrictions imposed to curb its spread should be eased slowly, the World Health Organization's technical lead on COVID-19 says.
"Many countries have low levels of vaccination coverage with very vulnerable individuals within their populations," Maria Van Kerkhove tells an online briefing. "And so now is not the time to lift everything all at once."
Tuesday, Feb. 1
11:48 p.m. Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa, who was reelected for a second term on Sunday, tests positive for COVID-19 and will stay in isolation for seven days, his office says.
6:30 p.m. The Japanese government has bypassed COVID restrictions to allow 300 foreign students into the country. They are mainly government-sponsored students who have less than one year to graduate or complete their studies and who will not be able to graduate if they are not allowed to enter Japan.
5:30 p.m. Russia reports a record daily number of COVID-19 cases as the omicron variant spreads across the country. New daily cases jumped to 125,836, up from 124,070 a day earlier. The government coronavirus task force also reported 663 deaths in the last 24 hours.
1:00 p.m. China reports 66 new cases for Monday, up from 58 a day earlier. Of the new cases, 27 were local transmissions, with 39 coming from overseas. Of the local infections, 13 were in the province of Zhejiang, seven in northern Tianjin and two in Beijing. The number of new asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed cases, stood at 32, down from 52 a day earlier.
12:30 p.m. The Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics Organizing Committee says a total of 24 new COVID-19 cases were detected among games-related personnel on Monday. Eighteen of the cases were found among arrivals at the airport, while six others were among those already in the "closed loop" bubble that separates all event personnel from the public. Five of those people were athletes or team officials.
11:00 a.m. Thailand has restarted its quarantine-free entry program for vaccinated travelers after a five-week suspension, as the tourism-dependent kingdom hopes to boost its ailing economy. Southeast Asia's calibrated tourism reopening had been disrupted by omicron outbreaks, but countries are now reopening after the COVID variant has been found to cause less severe disease.
10:30 a.m. Australian retail sales slid in December, slumping after two months of spectacular gains, with a further slowdown likely this month as a surge in coronavirus cases kept many people at home. Retail sales fell 4.4% in December to AU$31.9 billion ($22.53 billion), after a huge 7.3% jump in November. Sales were still up 4.8% from a year ago and sharply higher for the December quarter as a whole, suggesting household spending made a major contribution to economic growth.
8:45 a.m. Japan's unemployment rate fell to 2.7% in December from the previous month's 2.8%, government data shows. For 2021 as a whole, the jobless rate stood at 2.8%, unchanged from the previous year. The job availability ratio improved in December to 1.16 from 1.15.
5:00 a.m. Novavax says it has filed for emergency use authorization in the U.S. of its COVID-19 vaccine for adults, a long-awaited step for the company following months of struggles with development and manufacturing problems. The filing is based on data provided to the Food and Drug Administration last month and results of two late-stage trials in the United States, Mexico and the U.K. that showed the protein-based vaccine had an overall efficacy of about 90%, the company says.
1:30 a.m. The International Monetary Fund and World Bank say they will postpone plans to hold their 2022 annual meetings in Marrakech, Morocco, until October 2023 because of uncertainty about the COVID-19 pandemic. This year's annual meetings will instead take place in Washington in October. The two global institutions initially planned to hold the 2021 annual meetings in Morocco, but postponed those plans in November 2020 because of the pandemic.
1:22 a.m. Moderna's vaccine has received full approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for those 18 and older, the American company and agency separately announce. The shot, to be marketed as Spikevax, had received an emergency use authorization for that age group in December 2020. It is the second COVID-19 vaccine to receive full FDA approval, after Pfizer's Comirnaty in August 2021.
Monday, Jan. 31
11:58 p.m. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he tested positive for COVID-19 but is feeling fine and will continue to work remotely while following public health guidelines. Trudeau went into isolation last week after one of his children tested positive but at the time a rapid test for him came back negative, he told The Canadian Press.
9:34 p.m. Merck's antiviral pill molnupiravir, once touted as a potential game changer for treating COVID-19, is the last choice among four options for at-risk patients given its relatively low efficacy and potential safety issues, U.S. doctors, health care systems and pharmacies tell Reuters.
Pfizer's rival oral treatment Paxlovid is in high demand, followed by an intravenous antibody therapy from GlaxoSmithKline and Vir Biotechnology. Doctors also are turning to Gilead Sciences' remdesivir, an antiviral that needs to be given as three daily infusions to help high-risk COVID patients avoid hospitalization.
8:24 p.m. Jimin, a singer and dancer with K-pop group BTS, tests positive for coronavirus and undergoes surgery for acute appendicitis, management agency Big Hit Music says.
Jimin, whose full name is Park Ji-min, went to a hospital Sunday after suffering from sudden abdominal pain along with a mild sore throat. He is recuperating from surgery and making a "speedy recovery" from his COVID-19 infection, Big Hit Music says.
5:10 p.m. Indonesia's holiday island of Bali will gradually open for all international travelers starting from Feb. 4, a senior minister says. The quarantine period for fully vaccinated travelers into the Southeast Asian country has been shortened from seven to five days.
3:10 p.m. A Hong Kong minister resigns for attending a birthday party for a delegate to China's legislature, which triggered a storm of controversy over officials flouting COVID-19 precautions. Secretary for Home Affairs Caspar Tsui tendered his resignation and said he had "not set the best example during the recent outbreak."
11:30 a.m. Japan resumes the government-run vaccination site in central Tokyo for the first time in two months in a bid to help stem the surge in infections driven by omicron. The location is capable of administering 720 people per day until February 5, with capacity expected to exceed 2,000 per day. People 18 years old and older with more than a six-month interval since the second shot are eligible. Only Moderna vaccines will be used.
11:00 a.m. Taiwan's donation of 150,000 doses of its domestic Medigen vaccine has arrived in Somalia's breakaway Somaliland region, the Taiwanese foreign ministry says. Taiwan has donated millions of face masks and other goods around the world in a campaign called "Taiwan can help, Taiwan is helping," which aims to portray the island as a responsible member of the global community, despite being locked out of most international bodies because of China's objections.
10:30 a.m. China reports 58 cases for Sunday, down from 81 from a day earlier. Of the new cases, 40 were local infections with the remaining 18 from overseas. There were 24 local transmissions in the city of Hangzhou on the east coast, 11 in northern Tianjin and three in Beijing. The number of new asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed cases, stood at 52, down from 65 a daily earlier.
9:00 a.m. Japan's industrial output fell 1.0% in December from the previous month, government data shows. The result followed a downward revision foreseeing 7.0% growth in November. Based on a poll of manufacturers, the government expects output to advance 5.2% in January and 2.2% in February. Separate data shows retail sales rose 1.4% in December from a year earlier -- smaller than the initial median market forecast of a 2.7% rise.
8:35 a.m. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's COVID-19 test result turns out to be negative. But she will remain in self-isolation until the end of Tuesday as per health guidelines. She took the test on Sunday after being exposed to an infected person on a flight to Auckland from Kerikeri.
6:27 a.m. Qatar has approved the Pfizer vaccine for children ages 5 to 11, at one-third of the dose used for older age groups.
"Although children have been less at risk of severe infection than older people since the start of the pandemic, a greater number of children have been infected and needing medical care" in the omicron wave than in previous waves, the Ministry of Public Health says, urging parents to step up.
3:26 a.m. "General remarks and discussion" about Hong Kong's "zero infection" target are not illegal, the government says, while defending its so-called dynamic approach as "the most effective way to fight against the epidemic and protect public health and safety."
Legislative Council member Junius Ho had recently suggested viewing experts who advocate a Western-style strategy of living with COVID-19 as being in violation of the national security law.
Sunday, Jan. 30
4:55 p.m. Tokyo reports 15,895 daily new cases, down from 17,433 the day before but still topping 10,000 for the sixth day in a row.
1:56 p.m. Thirty-four new cases have been detected among Olympics-related personnel, the Beijing 2022 organizing committee says, including short-track speedskater Natalia Maliszewska of Poland.
9:01 a.m. The U.K.'s National Health Service says it will start rolling out vaccines this week to children ages 5 to 11 who are most at risk of COVID-19. A child living with someone who is immunosuppressed will qualify, as will children with diabetes, immunosuppression and certain other conditions.
1:49 a.m. Turkey logs a record 94,783 cases, its highest daily figure of the pandemic, Health Ministry data shows, but Health Minister Fahrettin Koca says the worst of the pandemic was over. The country has been battling a record level of cases in recent weeks due to the spread on the highly contagious omicron variant. "The rise we see in case numbers should not be seen as disheartening. The virus is not at its old strength. The worrying part of the pandemic is over," Koca says.
12:07 a.m. The daily count of new coronavirus infections in Russia soars above 110,000 as the highly contagious omicron variant races through the country. The state coronavirus task force reports 113,122 new infections over the past 24 hours, an all-time high and a sevenfold increase from early in the month. The task force says 668 people died in the past day, bring Russia's total fatality count for the pandemic to 330,111, by far the deadliest toll in Europe.
Saturday, Jan. 29
11:49 p.m. Canadian singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell will remove her music from Spotify, following the lead of Neil Young in protesting the popular streaming service giving voice to misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines. Mitchell acted in the aftermath of Wednesday's announcement by Spotify and Young that the platform would remove his music following the singer-songwriter's objection to his songs playing on the same service that offers a podcast by prominent vaccine skeptic Joe Rogan.
6:52 p.m. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has entered self-isolation until Tuesday after being deemed a close contact of a person who tested positive for COVID-19, the government says. The exposure took place on Jan. 22 during a flight to Auckland from the town of Kerikeri. Ardern, who is asymptomatic, is feeling well, the government adds.
To catch up on earlier developments, see last week's latest updates.