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Coronavirus: Free to read

Coronavirus: Week of Jan. 31 to Feb. 6, South Korea eases curfew on businesses outside Seoul

Top White House official cites push to have more Americans wear masks

Commuters cross a street in Seoul on Feb. 3. South Korea has eased curfews on businesses outside the capital, amid a public backlash over tight curbs to contain COVID-19.   © Reuters

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

Global cases have reached 104,832,983, according to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

The worldwide death toll has hit 2,281,608.

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

-- Global coronavirus tracker charts

-- Status of vaccinations around the world

-- World map of spreading mutated strains

-- Coronavirus mutations can be classified into 12 types

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



Saturday, Feb. 6 (Tokyo time)

10:53 a.m. South Korea eases curfews on businesses outside the capital Seoul, amid a public backlash over tight curbs to contain COVID-19. Businesses outside the capital will now be able to stay open until 10 p.m., according to Reuters.

4:25 a.m. One of the global leaders in vaccination effortsIsrael, is seeing remarkable success in halting the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

For individuals 60 or older, who were among the first vaccinated in the country, hospitalizations have dropped 26% and confirmed cases have fallen 45%, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has told cabinet officials Thursday.

"This is a direct result of the vaccinations," he said.

The figures show that the shots are as effective as expected based on clinical trials.

Since December, Israel has administered at least the first shot to 3.3 million of the country's roughly 9 million people. Over 20% of the population has received both doses.

Friday, Feb. 5

11:36 p.m. A mass vaccination site opens at Yankee Stadium in New York City. Thousands of people line up in the rain and cold to receive shots at the home of the famed baseball team. The stadium is located in the Bronx -- the city's northernmost and often overlooked borough -- and people must show proof they are local residents to receive inoculations.

Officials say 15,000 people can receive inoculations in one week at the site. 

Director Spike Lee gestures as people line up outside Yankee stadium for vaccines amid the coronavirus pandemic in the Bronx borough of New York City.   © Reuters

9:05 p.m. "We're gonna do whatever we can to make masks more available to people," White House chief of staff Ron Klain tells ABC News, saying the supply will be increased and efforts made to get people to wear them.

7:55 p.m. Earnings of McDonald's Japan are expanding, with its operating profit for the fiscal year ended December reaching 30 billion yen ($285 million), up 10% from the previous year. Despite the pandemic headwind, the company expanded its businesses by catering to growing takeout demand.

7:42 p.m. The U.S. Senate early on Friday passes a budget plan that would allow for passage of President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package in the coming weeks without Republican support.

7:31 p.m. China's Sinopharm will deliver to Hungary enough vaccines to inoculate 250,000 people in each month between February and April, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban's chief of staff says.

7:28 p.m. Malaysia reports 3,391 new cases, raising the cumulative total to nearly 235,000. The country's health officials register 19 new deaths, bringing total fatalities to 845.

6:00 p.m. Pfizer says it has withdrawn an application for emergency use authorization of its COVID-19 vaccine in India, after failing to meet the drug regulator's demand for a local study on its safety and ability to provoke an immune response. The decision means the vaccine will not be available for sale in the world's two most populous countries, India and China, in the near future. Both are running their immunization campaigns using other products. 

Unlike other companies conducting small studies in India for foreign-developed vaccines, Pfizer had sought an exception, citing approvals it had received elsewhere based on trials done in countries such as the United States and Germany.

British drugmaker AstraZeneca applied to Japan for authorization of its COVID-19 vaccine on Friday.   © Reuters

3:30 p.m. AstraZeneca applies to Japan for authorization of its vaccine. Despite ongoing clinical trials, the U.K. drugmaker decided to apply for approval because a level of safety and efficacy has been confirmed. AstraZeneca plans to submit clinical trial data in March. The company has agreed with the Japanese government to supply 120 million doses, of which more than 90 million will be produced locally. This is the second vaccine application in Japan, following one made by Pfizer.

2:21 p.m. India reports 12,408 cases in the last 24 hours, slightly down from 12,899 the previous day, bringing the country total to 10.8 million. Fatalities jumped by 120 to 154,823.

Health worker Reena Jani becomes one of the first Indians to receive a COVID-19 vaccine in Koraput on Jan. 16.   © Reuters

2:10 p.m. South Korea grants conditional approval to Celltrion's COVID-19 antibody treatment, says its drug safety minister, Kim Gang-lip. The ministry has decided to authorize the drug on condition that Celltrion submit results from a global Phase 3 trial, Kim said. The antibody drug is the first domestically made coronavirus treatment to win such approval in the country.

12:00 p.m. A South Korean advisory board issued a warning about AstraZeneca's vaccine for people over 65 due to a lack of data. If approved, it will be the first vaccine to be authorized for emergency use in the country. South Korea signed a deal in December with AstraZeneca to secure 20 million doses of the vaccine, with the first shipment due as early as this month.

Celltrion's headquarters in Incheon, South Korea. The company's antibody drug is the first domestically made coronavirus treatment to win conditional approval in the country.   © Reuters

11:27 a.m. Indonesia's economy contracted in 2020 for the first time in more than two decades as COVID-19 crippled business activity across the archipelago. The gross domestic product of Southeast Asia's largest economy plunged 2.07% from a year earlier, according to data released Friday -- a marked downturn from 2019, when Indonesia recorded growth of 5.02%.

10:30 a.m. China reports the fewest cases in over a month, suggesting that the latest virus wave is easing before the Lunar New Year holiday set to start next week. A total of 20 cases were reported for Thursday, down from 30 a day earlier and marking the fewest cases since Dec. 31.

Only six of the new cases were locally transmitted infections, with five reported in northeastern Heilongjiang province and one in Shanghai

9:47 a.m. South Korea confirms 370 new infections, down from 451 a day ago. Total cases reach 80,131 with 1,459 deaths.

9:10 a.m. Japan's household spending fell for the first time in three months in December, a sign consumer sentiment was weakening even before the government called a new state of emergency. Household spending fell 0.6% in December compared with the same month a year earlier. For the full year of 2020, spending fell 6.5% due to the hit from the pandemic.

South Africa has turned to the vaccine from Johnson & Johnson in light of recent findings about AstraZeneca's weaker than expected efficacy.   © Reuters

7:00 a.m. Johnson & Johnson says it has asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to authorize its single-dose COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use and will apply to European authorities in coming weeks. The drugmaker's application follows its Jan. 29 report in which it said the vaccine had a 66% rate of preventing infections in its large global trial.

J&J's vaccine could help boost supply and simplify the U.S. immunization campaign amid concerns over fresh surges due to the more contagious U.K. coronavirus variant and the potential for lower vaccine efficacy against the variant that first emerged in South Africa.

6:00 a.m. China will donate 100,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines to Congo Republic and forgive $13 million in public debt, its ambassador to the Central African country says. Ambassador Ma Fulin announced the measures after a meeting with Congo President Denis Sassou Nguesso. He did not say which Chinese-developed vaccine would be provided. The doses are enough to vaccinate 50,000 of Congo's 5.1 million people.

5:48 a.m. Nearly 90 million COVID-19 vaccine doses will be shipped to Africa starting this month under the World Heath Organization's COVAX initiative to supply developing countries. The initial phase announced by the WHO includes some 320,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, allocated to Cabo Verde, Rwanda, South Africa and Tunisia.

The World Health Organization's COVAX program expects to start sending millions of COVID-19 vaccines to Africa in February. (Photo courtesy of WHO Africa)

4:21 a.m. People who have had COVID-19 should still get vaccinated, says the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky was responding to a question asked during a Twitter Q&A event, while adding that temporarily delaying vaccination would be an option considering the lower risk of reinfection.

1:47 a.m. The U.K. starts a trial to determine the effectiveness of using different vaccines for the first and second doses. Combinations of the Oxford-AstraZeneca and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines will be administered to more than 800 volunteers. The intervals between the initial and booster shots will also be evaluated, with doses scheduled the prescribed four weeks apart and 12 weeks -- the current U.K. vaccination policy.

12:22 a.m. China's medicine regulator reviews the Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine for conditional approval, in what would mark the second domestically developed inoculation available. The CoronaVac vaccine, developed by Sinovac Biotech, was approved for emergency use in July 2020.

Thursday, Feb. 4

8:13 p.m. Taiwan will get a share of 1.3 million COVID-19 vaccine shots produced by AstraZeneca from the COVAX global vaccine programme, the government says, but without providing a timeframe or further details.

8:12 p.m. China's foreign ministry on Thursday says it has lodged "stern representations" to the British Broadcasting Corp over what it says was "fake news" coverage of COVID-19, and urged the broadcaster to publicly apologise.

In a statement, a ministry spokesperson says that the BBC had recently "linked the pandemic to politics" and "rehashed theories about covering up by China."

7:30 p.m. In an exclusive interview with Nikkei Asia, John Coates, a vice president of the International Olympic Committee, says the Tokyo Games will "100%" go ahead this summer, despite the pandemic, global disparities in vaccine rollouts and low public support in Japan.

7:29 p.m. An Indian government survey of more than 35,000 people shows about 21.5% of the country's 1.35 billion people may have been infected with COVID-19.

A healthcare worker collects a swab sample from a man during a rapid antigen testing campaign for COVID-19 at a kiosk in Ahmedabad, India, on Thursday.   © Reuters

7:19 p.m. Malaysia reports 4,571 new cases, raising the total number of recorded infections to 231,483. The health ministry also reports an additional 17 deaths, bringing total fatalities from the virus to 826.

6:10 p.m. Southeast Asia "superapp" provider Grab aims for all its employees, drivers and delivery partners to be fully vaccinated by the end of 2022. The Singapore-based technology unicorn said it plans to work with governments across the region to offer mobility, communications and logistics support for national vaccine deployment through its ground fleet network. It intends to subsidize vaccine costs for driver and delivery partners not covered by free national vaccination programs and will also pay for shots for all immediate family members of employees not covered.

6:00 p.m. Malaysia says it expects to complete its COVID-19 immunization program by February next year, covering 80% of its population of about 32 million people. The first phase of the vaccine rollout, from February to April this year, will involve 500,000 frontline workers, followed by 9.4 million high-risk individuals who will be vaccinated between April and August, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said. The final phase will involve more than 16 million adults aged 18 and older, and run from May to February next year.

5:30 p.m. Korean Air Lines posted a consolidated operating profit of 109 billion won ($97.55 million) in 2020, as cargo sales helped offset a slump in passenger travel on the back of coronavirus restrictions, the company says.

4:50 p.m. Norway will not offer the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to people over the age of 65, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health says, making it the latest European country to restrict its use. The institute said there had been few participants over the age of 65 in the clinical trial conducted by AstraZeneca on the vaccine, leading to a lack of documentation as to its effect on older age groups.

3:10 p.m. Tokyo reports 734 new infections, up from 676 a day earlier. The figure marked the seventh consecutive day for the capital to log fewer than 1,000 under the state of emergency, but Tokyo has been struggling to push the number down further and bring the outbreak under control.

2:25 p.m. Sexist remarks made by Tokyo Olympics chief Yoshiro Mori have drawn international condemnation, dealing a further blow to organizers, who face criticism for insisting the event will go ahead this summer despite rising COVID-19 infections and costs. "I apologize and am remorseful for the remarks," Mori told reporters on Thursday. However, he said he has "no intention" to step down.

Merchants in Bangkok wait to be tested for the novel coronavirus: Thai consumer confidence hit a nine-month low in January on concerns about a fresh wave of inflections.   © Reuters

1:00 p.m. Thai consumer confidence dropped for a second straight month in January, hitting a nine-month low, on concerns about a fresh wave of coronavirus inflections, a university survey shows. The consumer index of the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce fell to 47.8 in January from 50.1 in December. On Thursday, Thailand reported 809 new cases, up from 795 a day earlier.

11:30 a.m. Australia will buy 10 million additional doses of the COVID-19 vaccine jointly developed by U.S. drugmaker Pfizer and Germany's BioNTech, Prime Minister Scott Morrison says. "These additional vaccines have been secured, consistent with our requirements," Morrison told reporters in Canberra.

10:31 a.m. South Korea reports 451 new cases, down from 467 a day ago. Total infections have reached 79,762, with 1,448 deaths. The health authorities will distribute COVID-19 virus variants from the U.K. and South Africa to research institutions for study next week.

10:10 a.m. China reports 30 new cases on Wednesday, up from 25 a day earlier but still well below the peaks seen at the height of the latest wave last month. Of the new cases, 17 were locally transmitted infections. The northeastern province of Jilin reported eight new cases, while neighboring Heilongjiang Province reported four, and the city of Shanghai saw three new cases. Hebei, the province surrounding Beijing, also reported two cases.

Britain has begun a trial assess the immune responses when doses of the COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and AstraZeneca are combined in a two-shot schedule.   © Reuters

9:10 a.m. Britain launches a trial to assess the immune responses when doses of the COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and AstraZeneca are combined in a two-shot schedule -- an initial dose of Pfizer vaccine followed by a booster of AstraZeneca's, as well as vice versa. Researchers said data on vaccinating people with the two different types of vaccines could help understanding of whether shots can be rolled out with greater flexibility around the world. Initial data on immune responses is expected to be generated around June.

8:50 a.m. Vietnam reports 37 local COVID-19 infections in a fresh outbreak, all linked to a factory in the northern province of Hai Duong, where the coronavirus was first found last week after nearly two months, the Health Ministry said. Those patients were put under quarantine after the virus was detected and the outbreak has no chance to spread further, according to the ministry.

7:20 a.m. Brazil is negotiating to acquire 30 million doses of Russia's Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine and India's Covaxin vaccine, the Health Ministry says. Russian biomedical center Gamaleya will be able to offer 10 million Sputnik V vaccine doses in February and March if a deal is reached, and Bharat Biotech will be able to offer 8 million doses of Covaxin in February and another 12 million in March.

6:20 a.m. Global airlines are bracing for a slower recovery as governments respond to new COVID-19 variants with more travel curbs, the International Air Transport Association says.

Passenger traffic may improve by only 13% compared with last year in a worst-case scenario, the IATA says. That compares with an official forecast of a 50% rebound issued in December.

Curbs on cross-border trips in response to new COVID-19 flare-ups could stifle a recovery despite strong pent-up demand, IATA Chief Economist Brian Pearce says in a media briefing.

New coronavirus strains could dampen a recovery in air travel this year, an industry body warns.   © Reuters

12:17 a.m. The COVAX coronavirus vaccine sharing scheme has allocated at least 330 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines for poorer countries in the first half of 2021, the GAVI vaccine alliance says.

The allocation includes an initial 240 million doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccine made by the Serum Institute of India, an additional 96 million doses of the same shot made by AstraZeneca, plus 1.2 million doses of Pfizer/BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine.

Wednesday, Feb. 3

9:15 p.m. Aon, a U.K.-based financial services company, finds in a recent survey that 52% of Asia-Pacific companies had a pandemic plan in place before COVID-19 hit, compared with a global average of 31%. Also, 11% of organizations in the Asia-Pacific region reported significantly higher numbers of businesses thriving during the pandemic, compared with 7% globally.

9:00 p.m. Sinovac Biotech says its unit Sinovac Life Science has filed application for the public use of its COVID-19 vaccine to Chinese medical product regulator. The application has been accepted by National Medical Products Administration for processing, Sinovac Biotech said.

8:17 p.m. Vietnam reports 28 new locally transmitted infections, mostly linked to an outbreak detected last week in the northern province of Hai Duong, the country's Health Ministry said. The outbreak has spread to at least 10 cities and provinces, including Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. Vietnam has recorded 1,911 coronavirus cases in total and 35 deaths.

7:23 p.m. Malaysia reports 4,284 new cases, raising the total number of recorded infections to 226,912. The Health Ministry also reported 18 new deaths, bringing the total number of fatalities to 809.

6:10 p.m. Singapore has approved the Moderna coronavirus vaccine and expects the first shipment to arrive next month, the government said. The vaccine is the second approved in the country after the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in December. Over 175,000 residents -- about 3% of the total population -- have received their first dose of that vaccine.

Moderna's coronavirus vaccine has been approved for use in Singapore, with the first shipment expected to arrive in March.   © Reuters

5:02 p.m. Thailand's central bank leaves its key interest rate unchanged at a record low, preserving its limited policy ammunition. But it warned of risks as the country deals with a fresh wave of coronavirus infections.

5:01 p.m. China plans to provide 10 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to global vaccine sharing arrangement COVAX, as three Chinese companies have applied to it for approval of their vaccines, the foreign ministry said. COVAX, backed by the World Health Organization and the GAVI vaccine alliance, is due to start rolling out vaccines to low- and middle-income nations this month, with 2 billion out of 3 billion doses expected to be delivered this year. The ministry said in January that Sinovac Biotech, China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm) and CanSino Biologics had applied to join.

3:10 p.m. Tokyo reports 676 new infections, up from 556 a day earlier, marking the sixth consecutive day for the capital to report fewer than 1,000 cases. But with the medical system still under stress, the Japanese government has extended a state of emergency for Tokyo and nine other prefectures for another month to March 7.

2:11 p.m. India reports 11,039 cases in the last 24 hours, up from the eight-month low of 8,635 the previous day, bringing the country total to 10.78 million. Fatalities jumped by 110 to 154,596.

2:10 p.m. SoftBank Group makes its coronavirus testing service available to individuals in Japan via an app offered by its mobile services unit, a move that reveals its ambitions in the health care technology business.

1:39 p.m. Thailand reports 795 cases, bringing the country total to 21,249. No new deaths were reported, keeping fatalities at 79 overall.

1:01 p.m. A lab study released on Tuesday showed that vaccines from two Chinese companies -- including Sinopharm -- triggered immunity against a variant first found in South Africa, but appeared weaker than when used against the original virus and another variant currently spreading.

Members of the World Health Organization team investigating the origins of COVID-19 arrive at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan, China on Feb. 3.   © Reuters

11:24 a.m. An investigative team working on behalf of the World Health Organization visits the Wuhan Institute of Virology, a major research lab in China's central city of Wuhan, seeking clues to the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic.

10:14 a.m. South Korea's disease control agency says it will apply to import 117,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine through the global COVAX initiative later this month. The agency will distribute the vaccine immediately upon delivery.

10:01 a.m. New Zealand's medicine regulator Medsafe has provisionally approved use of the vaccine developed by U.S. drugmaker Pfizer and Germany's BioNTech. The vaccine is expected to arrive in the country by the end of the first quarter.

9:59 a.m. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga faces mounting pressure to deal with the outbreak in the country or risk jeopardizing the Tokyo Olympics and further harming the economy, as the government extends the state of emergency to March 7.

9:54 a.m. South Korea reports 467 cases, up from 336 a day earlier, bringing the country total to 79,311 with 1,441 deaths.

9:46 a.m. China reports 25 cases for Feb. 2, down from 30 a day earlier. Of the new cases, 15 were locally transmitted compared with 12 a day earlier. New asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed, fell to 12 from 15 a day earlier.

9:01 a.m. Almost all people previously infected with COVID-19 have high levels of antibodies for at least six months, which likely protects them from the disease, according to a study by UK Biobank. Among participants who had tested positive for COVID-19, 99% retained antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 for three months. After six months, 88% still had them.

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a news conference at WHO headquarters in Geneva in July 2020.   © Reuters

7:44 a.m. COVID-19 vaccine nationalism is harmful for all, says the head of the World Health Organization, citing weak cooperation between nations as a major barrier to achieving worldwide vaccination.

"Allowing the majority of the world's population to go unvaccinated will not only perpetuate needless illness and deaths ... but also spawn new virus mutations," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus wrote in a piece published in Foreign Policy magazine.

7:16 a.m. One thousand companies have gone bankrupt in Japan due to the impact of the coronavirus epidemic, according to a private sector tally, as shorter hours and sheltering habits have overwhelmed vulnerable industries, hitting restaurants particularly hard.

5:18 a.m. COVID-19 vaccines will be available to all French people by the end of the summer, President Emmanuel Macron says. In a local television interview, he also says that vaccine production in France will begin in the coming weeks.

3:53 a.m. German drugmaker BioNTech is confident that its COVID-19 vaccine will be delivered to Japan soon after approval is granted, CEO Ugur Sahin says. Tokyo is expected to approve the vaccine as early as mid-February. Japan has a deal with U.S. drugmaker Pfizer -- BioNTech's partner -- to obtain 144 million doses by the end of the year.

3:38 a.m. The U.S. will ship coronavirus vaccines directly to retail pharmacies starting next week, with an initial 1 million doses to be available at 6,500 stores. Locations were selected with hard to reach areas and socially vulnerable communities in mind, according to Jeff Zients, the Biden administration's COVID-19 response coordinator. The program may expand to as many as 40,000 stores.

2:14 a.m. A single dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine has 76% efficacy against symptomatic infection for three months, according to a preliminary study. The findings support the U.K.'s decision to extend the interval between the initial and booster doses to 12 weeks, Oxford University says.

1:45 a.m. Andrew Yang, the New York City mayoral candidate and former Democratic candidate for president, tests positive for the coronavirus. He is experiencing mild symptoms, but otherwise feeling well, according to his tweet announcing the test result.

1:05 a.m. Pakistan launches its COVID-19 vaccine drive with 500,000 doses donated by China. The Sinopharm vaccine arrived on Monday, allowing authorities to kickstart the campaign with health workers. Pakistan has also been pledged 17 million doses of AstraZeneca's vaccine under the global COVAX initiative to ensure supplies for developing countries.

Tuesday, Feb. 2

11:45 p.m. Russia's so-called Sputnik V vaccine appears to be almost 92% effective against COVID-19, according to peer-reviewed late-stage trial results published in The Lancet, a prominent international medical journal.

When Russia approved Sputnik V in August, saying it was the first country to deploy an inoculation against the coronavirus, its claims prompted accusations that the vaccine program was rushed out before sufficient data had been collected. Tuesday's published findings bolster confidence in the vaccine's effectiveness.

Meanwhile, Mexico becomes the latest country to sign a supply contract for Sputnik V. The country's deputy health minister is quoted by Reuters as saying emergency approval use for the coronavirus shot is expected within hours.

A medical worker holds a vial of the Sputnik V vaccine at a clinic in Moscow on Dec. 5.   © Reuters

11:00 p.m. U.S. drugmaker Pfizer expects its coronavirus vaccine, developed with Germany's BioNTech, to yield about $15 billion in revenue this year, according to an earnings update.

As a percentage of total revenue, sales of the vaccine are expected to reach the "high 20s," the company says.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has received conditional marketing authorization, emergency use authorization or temporary authorization "in more than 50 countries," Pfizer says. It was the first vaccine against the virus causing COVID-19 approved for use in the U.S. and a number of other countries.

9:55 p.m. Japan reports 2,323 new COVID-19 cases as of 8 p.m., with 119 new deaths.

9:01 p.m. Vietnam reports 31 new local infections, mostly linked to an outbreak detected last week in the northern province of Hai Duong, Reuters reports, citing the country's Health Ministry.

The outbreak has spread to at least 10 cities and provinces, including economic hub Ho Chi Minh City and capital Hanoi, with 301 infections, the ministry said. Vietnam has recorded 1,882 coronavirus cases in total, with 35 deaths.

8:00 p.m. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga says the state of emergency in 10 prefectures including Tokyo will be extended by a month to March 7. Though the number of infections has fallen in some places, it is too soon to lift restrictions, he says.

"It is obvious that the number of new cases has decreased in Tokyo and elsewhere since the declaration of the state of emergency. Focusing on restaurants to ask for cooperation has been effective," Suga tells reporters.

The emergency decree, Japan's second in its battle against the coronavirus, took effect Jan. 8. Suga says it could be lifted earlier than March 7 for any prefecture that shows an improvement in infection and hospitalization rates.

As Malaysia grapples with a surge in infections, a lockdown that covered all but one state and was to end on Feb. 4 has been extended until Feb. 18.   © Reuters

7:20 p.m. Malaysia reports 21 coronavirus deaths, the highest daily fatality rate since the start of the pandemic, as daily infection rates show a recent drop. Total fatalities have reached 791. Malaysia's Health Ministry also reports 3,455 new cases, bringing the cumulative total to 222,628.

7:15 p.m. Dubai will start inoculations with the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, the state media office says, after receiving its first shipment from India.

6:05 p.m. Hong Kong retail sales slumped 24.3% in 2020, new government figures show. Retail sales fell 13.2% year-on-year in December. The city is mired in a fourth wave of coronavirus infections that has kept stringent social distancing restrictions in place.

6:00 p.m. China's Shenzhen Kangtai Biological Products says it completed a facility that can produce 400 million doses of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine yearly, doubling a capacity target promised in 2020. The company obtained rights to supply the AZD1222 vaccine, developed by the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker and Oxford University, in mainland China last year, on the proviso that it ensure capacity of at least 200 million doses by the end of 2021.

5:18 p.m. Hong Kong's minimum wage will be frozen at HK$37.50 ($4.84) an hour as the government cites a struggling economy amid the pandemic. This marks the first time since the index was introduced in 2011 for the minimum hourly pay to remain at the same level.

5:15 p.m. Malaysia extends a lockdown and broad movement restrictions by two weeks, as the country grapples with a surge in coronavirus infections. The lockdown, which covered all but one state and was to end Feb. 4, will now continue until Feb. 18, Defense Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob says.

4:30 p.m. Johnson & Johnson is seeking Thailand's approval for its vaccine, Reuters says. The country's Food and Drug Administration previously received requests from AstraZeneca and China's Sinovac Biotech. J&J started the request process late last month. "We can proceed with the approval within 30 days after all documents are submitted," said Surachoke Tangwiwat, deputy secretary-general of the FDA.

4:20 p.m. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga tells the steering committee of the lower house of parliament the government intends to extend the state of emergency in 10 prefectures, including Tokyo, by one month through March 7.

4:00 p.m. Panasonic raises its net profit forecast for the year ending in March to 150 billion yen ($1.43 billion), up from 100 billion yen, thanks to a faster-than-expected recovery in auto-related businesses and continued solid sales of home appliances, an effect of coronavirus precautions. The new forecast represents a 34% fall from the previous fiscal year's net profit, though it is better than the 56% drop previously expected.

3:30 p.m. Vietnam's health minister says the country's latest outbreak, which has infected 276 people and spread to 10 provinces and cities, is of the more contagious British variant. Six days after it was detected in the northern province of Hai Duong, the cluster there is under control, the minister said. But it has spread to Hanoi, where 20 new cases have been detected, and containing it in the capital will take longer, he added.

3:22 p.m. Tokyo reports 556 new infections, up from 393 a day earlier, marking the fifth consecutive day for the capital to report fewer than 1,000 cases. But with the medical system still under stress, the Japanese government has taken steps and this evening is to extend a state of emergency for Tokyo and nine other prefectures until March 7.

People disembark from a suburban train after authorities resumed train services for all commuters in Mumbai, India.   © Reuters

2:14 p.m. India's daily cases and deaths have hit fresh lows. The country reported 8,635 cases in the last 24 hours, down from 11,427 the previous day and the lowest single-day rise since early June, bringing the total to 10.77 million. Fatalities fell to 94, sinking below 100 for the first time since the second week of May and bringing the total to 154,486. India started vaccinations on Jan. 16 and has so far inoculated 3.95 million people, according to the health ministry.

12:30 p.m. China reports 30 cases, the fewest in a month, as imported cases overtook local infections. The figure suggests the country's worst wave since March 2020 is being eradicated ahead of a key holiday. Of the new cases, 18 originated overseas, eight were local cases in northeastern Heilongjiang Province and four were in neighboring Jilin Province.

12:00 p.m. An investigative team led by the World Health Organization arrives at an animal health facility in the Chinese city of Wuhan in a search to discover the origins of the pandemic. The team has already visited key hospitals, the regional disease control center and the city's Huanan seafood market, where the first infections were believed to have originated late in 2019.

10:20 a.m. Moderna says it has proposed filling vials with additional doses of its vaccine, raising the volume to 15 doses from 10 to ease a production crunch. The company would "need to have further discussions with the FDA to assure the agency's comfort with this approach before implementing," Moderna said, referring to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

10:10 a.m. Chinese police arrest more than 80 people and confiscate over 3,000 fake doses of a vaccine as part of a campaign to combat vaccine-related crimes, state news agency Xinhua reports. The suspects had been carrying out the ruse since at least September last year.

A worker performs a quality check at Chinese vaccine maker Sinovac Biotech in Beijing on Sept. 24.   © Reuters

10:01 a.m. South Korea reports 336 new cases, up from 305 a day ago. Total infections reach 78,844 with 1,435 deaths.

7:17 a.m. COVID-19 vaccines will be available to all Germans by September, Chancellor Angela Merkel says, defending the government's vetting process and vaccination program. Germany has decided to seek regular, not emergency, approval for the vaccines and administer injections at the prescribed interval. While the path has been slower, "there were good reasons for this," Merkel told reporters after a European Commission meeting.

5:28 a.m. Many places in China will suspend religious gatherings during the Lunar New Year holidays to control the coronavirus outbreak, the Communist Party-affiliated Global Times reports. Beijing and Chengdu, as well as Ninghai in Zhejiang Province -- south of Shanghai -- are among the places across the country that have ordered such suspensions, according to the newspaper.

3:36 a.m. The U.S. economy will grow 4.6% in 2021, the Congressional Budget Office forecasts, with gross domestic product returning to its pre-pandemic level at midyear. After contracting 3.5% in 2020, the economy is expected to continue recovering on resumed business activity and coronavirus stimulus spending.

3:21 a.m. The World Health Organization-led investigative team in China has had "good discussions" with Chinese counterparts assessing the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a WHO official in Geneva. The group of independent experts did not speak to reporters after visiting the provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Hubei, the epicenter of the initial outbreak in 2019.

2:17 a.m. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte accuses the European Union of holding COVID-19 vaccines hostage, referring to potential export restrictions on AstraZeneca's vaccine. "This is a fight among the highest bidders, who can pay first," Duterte said in a televised address, according to Reuters. The Philippines aims to vaccinate 70 million people this year, or two-thirds of the population.

1:55 a.m. Japan's health ministry will consider having shots administered at workplaces once the country's COVID-19 vaccine program reaches the general population. Hospitals, health clinics and community civic centers are currently among the ministry's proposed vaccination sites. In addition to the convenience, workplace shots are seen alleviating weekend crowding at other vaccination sites.

People worship at the Buddhist Jing'an Temple in Shanghai in July 2020.   © Reuters

12:34 a.m. The Maldives plans to vaccinate its entire population of roughly 500,000 against the coronavirus within six months, according to President Ibrahim Solih. The country's Food and Drug Authority has approved the Covishield vaccine for emergency use, with 100,000 doses already received.

Monday, Feb. 1

10:09 p.m. Japan plans to extend its COVID-19 state of emergency that is set to expire on Feb. 7 for another month for all prefectures currently covered except Tochigi.

8:26 p.m. India unveils a budget that includes proposals to more than double its health care outlay to over 2.2 trillion rupees ($30 billion) and raise the ceiling on foreign direct investment in the insurance sector.

8:23 p.m. Vietnam reports 32 more COVID-19 cases on Monday, all from the capital Hanoi, and has shut schools in at least 22 cities and provinces since a new outbreak began in the country on Thursday, the Ministry of Health said.

8:01 p.m. About 1,500 of the initial volunteers in a late-stage clinical trial of the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine were given the wrong dose, but weren't informed that a mistake had been made after the blunder was discovered, Reuters reports, citing documents obtained.

7:56 p.m. A joint Philippine congressional panel approved on Monday a bill that will reduce the rate of corporate income tax to attract more foreign investment and help the coronavirus-hit Southeast Asian economy recover.

7:08 p.m. China's Clover Biopharmaceuticals says it has terminated its partnership with GlaxoSmithKline to develop a COVID-19 vaccine using the British drug maker's adjuvant.

Clover has been testing two COVID-19 vaccine candidates, one containing an adjuvant from GSK and the other from Dynavax, and has said that the candidate with the GSK product would move to mid- to late-stage clinical trial in December. It says on Monday both candidates induced high levels of neutralizing antibodies but it has decided to initiate Phase II and III study of the candidate using the Dynavax adjuvant after taking into account "scale-up manufacturing considerations."

6:46 p.m. Poland has found its first case of COVID-19 in mink, the agriculture ministry said, raising fears of costly culls in an industry that counts over 350 farms in the country. With new variants of the coronavirus threatening global efforts to get the pandemic under control, authorities in several countries have begun mass culls of the animals due to fears of a mutated strain of the illness being transmitted to humans.

Malaysia is reportedly expected to receive its first batch of Pfizer coronavirus vaccines on Feb. 26.   © Reuters

6:37 p.m. Myanmar's Health Minister Myint Htwe says on the ministry's official Facebook page that he is leaving his post because of the "evolving situation" in the country, after the military seized power in a coup. He urges colleagues to continue to serve the population, especially considering the pandemic and the vaccinations to come. Myint Htwe does not say if his departure is voluntary.

6:00 p.m. Malaysia is expected to receive its first batch of Pfizer vaccines on Feb. 26, a senior health official says, according to a report by national newswire Bernama. In November, Malaysia said it had agreed to buy 12.8 million doses of the vaccine, jointly developed by the U.S. drugmaker and German partner BioNTech. Under the deal, Pfizer will deliver the first one million doses in the first quarter of 2021, with 1.7 million, 5.8 million and 4.3 million doses to follow in subsequent quarters, respectively.

4:15 p.m. Nintendo has raised its earnings forecast for the year ending March for the second time in three months and now expects a record net profit of 400 billion yen ($3.8 billion) backed by continued strong demand for the Switch console since the coronavirus outbreak, the game maker says.

4:05 p.m. A World Health Organization-led team investigating the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic visits the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in China's central region of Hubei, where the outbreak emerged in late 2019. The group of independent experts spent about four and a half hours on their longest site visit since completing two weeks of quarantine on Thursday. The WHO said its members would be limited to visits organized by their Chinese hosts and have no contact with community members, due to health concerns.

3:30 p.m. Tokyo reports 393 new infections, down from 633 a day earlier and marking the first time for the capital to register fewer than 400 since Dec. 21, 2020. Still, Japan is likely to extend its state of emergency, at least for Tokyo, beyond Feb. 7 as area hospitals remain under strain.

People in Tokyo may face an extended state of emergency due to the pandemic.   © Reuters

2:33 p.m. India reports 11,427 cases in the last 24 hours, down from 13,052 the previous day, bringing the country total to 10.76 million. Fatalities rose by 118 to 154,392. Meanwhile, total vaccinations in the country have crossed 3.75 million since the start of the campaign on Jan. 16, according to the health ministry's latest update.

1:35 p.m. Japan is likely to extend its state of emergency beyond Feb. 7, at least for Tokyo, government sources tell Nikkei. The government will hold a COVID-19 advisory committee meeting as early as Tuesday to discuss the emergency, which covers 11 prefectures, including Osaka, Kyoto, Aichi and Fukuoka, as well as the capital. For each prefecture, the committee will make a judgment based on multiple indicators, such as the number of new infections per 100,000 people over the last week.

11:00 a.m. The surge in international container-shipping rates in recent months has left companies reliant on maritime transport facing delays and mounting costs that risk bogging down a post-coronavirus economic recovery.

10:05 a.m. South Korea reports 305 cases, down from 355 a day ago, bringing the country total to 78,508 with 1,425 deaths. The government has extended social distancing rules in greater Seoul for two more weeks to control the outbreak during next week's Lunar New Year holiday.

9:20 a.m. China reports 42 cases, down from 92 a day earlier and marking the lowest one-day increase since Jan. 8, amid efforts to contain the disease ahead of the holiday season. Of 33 locally transmitted infections reported, 22 were in the northernmost province of Heilongjiang. New cases reported in neighboring Jilin Province fell to 10 from 63 a day earlier.

A worker in protective gear sanitizes an entrance to a Beijing railway station as the Spring Festival travel season begins ahead of the Chinese Lunar New Year.   © Reuters

8:00 a.m. Israel extended a national lockdown on Sunday as coronavirus variants hindered its vaccination drive and officials predicted a delay in a turnaround from the crisis. Highlighting Israel's challenges in enforcing restrictions, thousands of Orthodox Jews attended the Jerusalem funerals of two prominent rabbis on Sunday, drawing criticism from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's coalition partners. Netanyahu's cabinet voted to extend the five-week-old lockdown until Friday, with a separate ban on international flights to remain in place until Sunday. Parliament earlier voted to double fines for lockdown violators to 10,000 shekels ($3,051).

5:12 a.m. Ursula Von der Leyen, president of the European Commission tweeted that AstraZeneca will deliver nine million more doses of its vaccine to the EU in the first quarter, making a total of 40 million for the period. Deliveries will start one week earlier than expected. The Anglo-Swedish company unexpectedly announced in January that it would cut supplies to the EU of its vaccine candidate in the first quarter, sparking a row over supplies. AstraZeneca would expand its manufacturing capacity in Europe, she said.

5:00 a.m. France has delivered nearly 1.5 million shots during its vaccination program, reporting just a few thousand more than 24 hours earlier. The country's faltering vaccine rollout has been bogged down by bureaucracy and recent supply shortages.

Sunday, Jan. 31

9:30 p.m. Indonesia will receive 13.7 million to 23.1 million doses of AstraZeneca's vaccine through the COVAX global vaccine sharing scheme, its foreign ministry says. Delivery is expected to be split into two lots.

8:50 p.m. Vietnam reports 50 infections for Sunday, most linked to an outbreak that began on Thursday in the northern province of Hai Duong. The outbreak has spread to at least nine cities and provinces, including the economic hub of Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, with 238 locally transmitted infections.

6:40 p.m. At least 5.6 million doses of two international vaccines are expected to arrive in the Philippines in the first quarter, the chief of the country's coronavirus task force says. The initial volume is part of the 9.4 million doses of the two vaccines -- one developed by Pfizer and BioNTech and the other by AstraZeneca -- expected to be shipped in the first half.

1:40 p.m. A World Health Organization-led team of experts investigating the origins of COVID-19 in the central Chinese city of Wuhan was expected to visit a Huanan market later on Sunday. The market is a wholesale seafood center where the coronavirus was initially detected.

1:01 p.m. China's factory activity grew at the slowest pace in five months in January, hit by a wave of domestic infections but still in line with the ongoing recovery in the world's second-largest economy. The official manufacturing Purchasing Manager's Index fell to 51.3 in January from 51.9 in December, the government said in a statement on Sunday.

12:47 p.m. Australia reopened its "travel bubble" with New Zealand on Sunday after its neighbor reported no new locally acquired cases, but added new screening measures as it marked its longest infection-free run since the outbreak began. The decision marks the resumption of the only international arrivals into Australia who do not require 14 days in hotel quarantine. Australia had paused quarantine exemptions for trans-Tasmania arrivals six days earlier after New Zealand reported its first new case in months.

12:40 p.m. Takeda Pharmaceutical and two Japanese universities are developing a drug to treat the clogging and inflammation of blood vessels, both of which are complications of COVID-19. The drug uses a mechanism different from those of existing coronavirus drugs. The developers report that it will likely help prevent the aggravation of symptoms.

12:28 a.m. Pakistan has secured 17 million doses of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine under the COVAX scheme. About 6 million of the doses will arrive in the first quarter and the remainder by the middle of the year, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on National Health Services Faisal Sultan said on Twitter.

Saturday, Jan. 30

11:15 p.m. Pregnant women with protective coronavirus antibodies are likely to pass those antibodies to their unborn babies, according to a new study from the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia in the U.S.

The findings, published in the in the Journal of the American Medical Association's JAMA Pediatrics, show 72 out of 83 infected or previously infected pregnant women transferred the antibodies across the placenta. Researchers say this might suggest pregnant women who get a COVID-19 vaccination could pass that along also.

7:26 p.m. Malaysia reports its biggest daily rise in coronavirus cases for the second straight day, with 5,728 new infections recorded. The new cases took the cumulative total of infections to 209,661. The health ministry also reports 13 new deaths, raising total fatalities from the pandemic to 746.

5:54 p.m. India reports its lowest active number of coronavirus cases in seven months, a year after the virus was first confirmed in the country. The infection rate has slowed significantly since September and 13,083 new cases are reported Saturday, one of the lowest figures on record and down from more than 20,000 each day at the beginning of the month, federal health data showed.

4:32 p.m. The World Health Organization-led team investigating the origins of COVID-19 in China visit a hospital in the central city of Wuhan that treated early coronavirus patients. On its second day after two weeks in quarantine, the team goes to Jinyintan Hospital, where doctors had collected samples from patients suffering from an unidentified pneumonia in late 2019. Team members leaving the hospital did not speak to journalists, who have been kept at a distance since the group left its quarantine hotel on Thursday.

3:57 p.m. Taiwan's government reports the island's first death from COVID-19 since May, as it battles a small and unusual outbreak of locally transmitted cases. A woman in her 80s with underlying health conditions died after being infected with the coronavirus as part of a domestic cluster connected to a hospital, says Health Minister Chen Shih-chung.

12:47 p.m. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issues a sweeping order requiring the use of face masks on nearly all forms of public transportation as the country continues to report tens of thousands of daily COVID-19 deaths.

The order, which takes effect at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on Monday, requires face masks to be worn by all travelers on airplanes, ships, trains, subways, buses, taxis, and ride-shares and at transportation hubs like airports, bus or ferry terminals, train and subway stations and seaports.


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

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