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Coronavirus: Free to read

Coronavirus: Week of Jan. 9 to Jan. 15, Japan cuts quarantine for foreign arrivals

Shanghai curtails tourism to stem infections; Australia cancels Djokovic's visa again

People are screened at Narita Airport before being allowed into the country. 

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 320,965,178, according to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. The worldwide death toll has hit 5,523,594.

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

-- Global coronavirus tracker charts

-- Status of vaccinations around the world

UPDATES CLOSED

Saturday, Jan. 15 (Tokyo time)

1:43 a.m. Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson has tested positive and will work from home.

Crown Princess Victoria and her parents, the king and queen of Sweden, have also recently tested positive. So have Green Party spokesman Per Bolund and Center Party leader Annie Loof, following a parliamentary debate this week.

12:50 a.m. Japan shortens the quarantine period for those arriving from overseas to 10 days from the current two weeks. The change takes effect from Saturday.

The move is in line with cutting the required quarantine period for those who came in close contact with COVID-19 patients.

Friday, Jan. 14

7:30 p.m. Hong Kong has unveiled a HK$3.57 billion ($458 million) relief fund for businesses hit by coronavirus measures, in particular the restaurant sector. Hong Kong's chief executive has also announced that current social distancing restrictions will be extended for another 14 days; they were originally due to end Jan. 21. Under the measures, patrons are not allowed to dine in after 6pm, and gyms, bars and beauty parlors among other venues are required to stay shut as the city confronts an omicron outbreak.

6:30 p.m. China's Shanghai has cut some tourist trips as it rushes to head off local COVID-19 cases amid a rise in imported infections. Shanghai's tourism and culture authority says travel agencies and online tour companies must halt organizing group tours between Shanghai and other provinces, regions or municipalities. The city reported five new domestically transmitted infections on Thursday, all linked to a previous overseas arrival.

5:03 p.m. As the omicron variant continues to surge, the Philippines logs a record 37,207 new infections for the day, up from 34,021 a day earlier. That brings the total tally to 3.13 million cases, 265,509 (8.5%) of which are active. Deaths went up by 81 to 52,815.

4:18 p.m. The Australian government has cancelled Novak Djokovic's visa for a second time, saying the world tennis no. 1, who is unvaccinated for COVID-19, may pose a risk to the community. The decision raises the prospect of a second court battle by the Serbian tennis star to be allowed to stay and bid for a record 21st major tennis title at the Australian Open, but time is running out with the tournament starting on Monday.

2:37 p.m. Hong Kong's international airport says it is temporarily banning transit flights from about 150 countries deemed to be high coronavirus risks as the city battles to contain an outbreak of the highly contagious omicron variant. The order comes after the international financial hub slapped a two-week ban on flights from eight nations, including the U.S., the U.K., Australia and Canada, from Jan. 8.

People shop at a crowded market in the old quarters of Delhi amid surging COVID cases on Jan. 11.   © Reuters

1:45 p.m. India reports 264,202 cases in the last 24 hours -- up nearly 7% from the previous day and the highest daily count in about eight months -- bringing the country total to 36.58 million. Deaths rose 315 to 485,350. Meanwhile, the national capital territory of Delhi, which is among the worst hit regions in the country, reported 28,867 cases, its highest ever single-day surge since the start of the pandemic.

1:20 p.m. Indonesia has approved Merck & Co's antiviral medication molnupiravir for emergency use, with a lot of 400,000 pills having arrived in Indonesia, Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin said earlier.

1:00 p.m. Pfizer says it has applied for Japanese approval of its oral COVID-19 treatment. The country is betting on such treatments to keep serious infections and deaths at bay. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said last week he aimed to distribute the Pfizer pills next month. The government has already started distributing molnupiravir after agreeing to pay Merck & Co and its partner Ridgeback Biotherapeutics about $1.2 billion for 1.6 million courses of the medication.

12:48 p.m. China's trade surplus in 2021 reached $676.4 billion, the largest ever and up about 30% from the previous year, the country's General Administration of Customs says. The second-largest global economy's previous record was set in 2015. With demand for Chinese personal computers and toys recovering in major markets such as the U.S. and Europe, total exports increased by 29.9% to $3.36 trillion.

12:00 p.m. Japan's blue-chip Nikkei Stock Average fell over 500 points, or 1.9%, on Friday morning after U.S. stocks ended lower overnight on concerns about the Federal Reserve's looming rate hike. Investors are also worried about Japan's rising COVID-19 infections and their potential impact on the economy if another state of emergency is imposed.

People wait to be tested for COVID-19 during citywide mass testing in Tianjin, China on Jan.9.   © cnsphoto/Reuters

11:20 a.m. Japanese chipmaker Rohm has suspended production at its China plant in Tianjin due to local COVID-19 restrictions, which have made it difficult for workers to commute, the company says. The Tianjin area has been placed under a strict lockdown after omicron was detected. The plant employs about 1,300 workers and has been making products such as diodes and optical sensors. The suspension started on Jan. 9 and no date has been set for restarting operations.

10:30 a.m. China reports 201 cases for Thursday, up from 190 a day earlier. Of the new infections, 143 were locally transmitted compared with 124 a day earlier. The new local cases were in Henan, Tianjin, Shaanxi, Guangdong and Shanghai. Sticking to its zero COVID policy, China has locked down several cities including Xi'an, capital of Shaanxi Province, to combat the virus spread ahead of the Beijing Winter Olympics, with more than 20 million people ordered to stay home.

9:58 a.m. The Bank of Korea raises its key interest rate to 1.25% from 1%, a second straight hike aimed at easing inflation in Asia's fourth-largest economy. The increase -- expected by 25 out of 35 economists in a Reuters poll -- follows a 25 basis point rise in November.

Local health authorities distribute free rapid at-home COVID-19 testing kits at a vaccination clinic in Philadelphia, U.S., on Dec. 21.   © Reuters

5:13 a.m. The U.S. Supreme Court blocks President Joe Biden's pandemic-related vaccination-or-testing mandate for large businesses at a time of escalating COVID-19 infections, but allows his administration to enforce its separate vaccine requirement for health care facilities. Temporary mandates were issued in November by two federal agencies aimed at increasing U.S. vaccination rates and making workplaces and health care settings safer.

2:07 a.m. U.S. President Joe Biden says he is directing the government to procure an additional 500 million free COVID-19 tests to help meet demand across the country amid the spread of the omicron variant. The order comes on top of 500 million tests that the White House pledged before the Christmas holiday would be available to Americans free of charge, starting this month.

A website is on track to roll out next week from which people will be able to order free tests to be shipped to their homes, according to Biden. He also said the administration would announce next week how it would make masks available for free.

Thursday, Jan. 13

11:54 p.m. GSK and Vir Biotechnology say they are seeking U.S. approval for their antibody-based COVID-19 treatment to be given as a shot in the arm, on top of the currently approved intravenous administration, reports Reuters. On Tuesday, the drugmakers said the U.S. had agreed to buy 600,000 more doses of the therapy, sotrovimab, for an undisclosed sum, as the country bolsters its arsenal of treatments against the Omicron coronavirus variant.

10:38 p.m. Another 1,000 federal health workers are deploying to six states to help overwhelmed hospitals amid the U.S. surge in omicron-related COVID-19 cases, the White House says.

The teams of seven to 25 military doctors, nurses and other personnel will head to New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Rhode Island, Michigan and New Mexico to support emergency departments and let hospital staff continue with other care. The Biden administration has deployed federal surge teams since July to combat the delta variant.

As the omicron variant takes hold in their country, Filipinos line up for vaccine boosters in Makati City, Metro Manila, on Jan. 5.   © Reuters

6:13 p.m. The Philippines logs a record 34,021 new daily infections as the omicron variant takes hold, bringing the country's cumulative total to 3.092 million cases, 237,387 of which are active. An additional 82 fatalities were recorded, bringing the total to 52,736.

5:00 p.m. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government raises its COVID-19 alert to the second highest of four levels as its daily cases, driven by the omicron variant, surpass the 3,000 mark for the first time since Sept. 2. The metro government expects the seven-day average of new cases to be around 9,500 one week from now, up from 1,148.7 on Wednesday, which was an 847% increase from a week earlier.

Pfizer's antiviral pills, Paxlovid, arrived in South Korea on Thursday and will be used to treat patients from Friday.   © Reuters

4:30 p.m. South Korea will begin treating coronavirus patients with Pfizer's antiviral pills on Friday, health officials say, as concern mounts over the spread of the highly contagious omicron variant. At least 21,000 of the pills, called Paxlovid, arrived on Thursday to be distributed to some 280 pharmacies and 90 residential treatment centers, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency.

The pill will be used to treat more than 1,000 people a day, with priority groups including patients at high risk of severe illness, those aged 65 or older and those with reduced immunity, the KDCA says.

4:10 p.m. Novak Djokovic has been included in the Australian Open official draw, although uncertainty remains about whether the government will cancel the top seed's visa for a second time. Organizer Tennis Australia had delayed the official draw for more than an hour, without saying why.

The draw for the Australian Open was delayed but eventually included the world's top player, Novak Djokovic, who is unvaccinated against COVID-19 and faces deportation.   © Reuters

3:00 p.m. Singapore has inoculated nearly half its population with third coronavirus shots, leading Asia in terms of booster coverage, as the region fears new waves of infections fueled by the omicron variant. Governments are expediting booster vaccine programs following explosive outbreaks in the West, hoping to avoid a repeat of the long lockdowns and states of emergency triggered by the delta strain last year.

1:45 p.m. India reports 247,417 new infections in the last 24 hours, up from 194,720 the previous day and the first time since late May that the daily cases have crossed the 200,000-mark, bringing the country's total to 36.32 million. Deaths rose by 380 to 485,035, according to the latest update from the health ministry. V.K. Paul, Indian government's top adviser on COVID-19, warned Wednesday evening that omicron "is not common cold" and cannot be taken lightly.

1:30 p.m. The Australian Open draw has been postponed until further notice, organizers say, amid uncertainty over Novak Djokovic's participation in the tournament. The draw was to start at 3 p.m. local time, but after a short delay, a tournament staffer told reporters outside the media conference room it would not go ahead.

12:00 p.m. Novak Djokovic has acknowledged that his Australian travel declaration form contained incorrect information as the government nears a decision on whether to deport the Serbian tennis star, who is not vaccinated against COVID-19, on public interest grounds. He blamed "human error" by his support team for failing to declare that he had traveled in the two-week period before entering Australia. Although Djokovic won a legal battle to reinstate his visa status on procedural grounds that allowed him to stay in the country, he still faces the prospect of deportation.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is considering shortening the current 14-day isolation period for those identified as close contacts of people with the omicron variant of COVID-19. (Photo by Uichiro Kasai)

11:00 a.m. The Japanese government is considering shortening the current 14-day isolation period for those who have been identified as a close contact of a person infected with the omicron variant, officials say. The incubation period of omicron is said to be shorter than those of other variants. "We'd like to consider responding flexibly as needed," Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters.

7:30 a.m. Moderna says it expects to report data from its COVID-19 vaccine trial in children 2 to 5 years old in March. "If the data is supportive and subject to regulatory consultation, Moderna may proceed with regulatory filings for children 2-5 years of age thereafter," the company said. Moderna's vaccine, based on the messenger RNA platform, already has authorizations in Europe, the U.K., Australia, and Canada for adolescents ages 12 to 17, and has submitted applications for children 6 to 11 years old.

5:30 a.m. U.S. Inflation jumped at its fastest pace in nearly 40 years last month, a 7% spike from a year earlier that is increasing household expenses, eating into wage gains and heaping pressure on President Joe Biden and the Federal Reserve to address what has become the biggest threat to the U.S. economy. Prices rose sharply in 2021 for cars, gas, food and furniture as part of a rapid recovery from the pandemic recession.

12:12 a.m. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson apologizes for attending a "bring your own booze" gathering at his official residence during the country's first coronavirus lockdown, while opponents demand that he resign.

Johnson admits for the first time that he attended the party at No. 10 Downing St. on May 20, 2020, when COVID-19 rules limited social gatherings to a minimum, and says he understands the public anger the revelations caused.

Wednesday, Jan. 12

11:00 p.m. The U.S. records the highest inflation since 1982 as the consumer price index rose 7% in December from a year earlier, according to the Labor Department.

10:00 p.m. The Chinese city of Tianjin postpones its Municipal People's Congress due to the latest wave of coronavirus infections. With the Beijing Olympics nearing, China is determined to prevent Tianjin's omicron surge from spreading to the capital, just 66 miles away.

9:12 p.m. India's Bharat Biotech says a booster shot of its Covaxin COVID-19 vaccine administered six months after the last of two doses neutralizes both the omicron and delta variants. "The neutralization activity of Covaxin-boosted sera was comparable to what has been observed in mRNA vaccine-boosted sera against the omicron variant," it says in a statement.

7:52 p.m. China orders the suspension of six more U.S. flights over the coming weeks after passengers recently tested positive for COVID-19. The new suspensions will take to 70 its cancellations this year in a schedule that had already been cut back drastically. From the week of Jan. 24, the aviation regulator will suspend two United Airlines flights from San Francisco to Shanghai, after seven passengers tested positive on a recent flight. It will also suspend four China Southern Airlines flights from Los Angeles to Guangzhou from the week of Jan. 31, a move that will also affect return flights in February.

5:28 p.m. Japan's daily count of new COVID-19 cases exceeds 10,000, the highest tally since Sept. 9, as the sixth wave of the pandemic spurred by the omicron variant continues to spread across the country. Tokyo logged 2,198 cases, while Osaka saw 1,711 new cases. Okinawa Prefecture, which has been under a state of quasi-emergency since Sunday, records 1,644 cases, its second-highest daily toll since the pandemic began.

1:48 p.m. India logs 194,720 new cases for the past 24 hours, up from 168,063 the previous day and the highest daily count since late May, bringing the country's cumulative total to 36.07 million. Deaths rose by 442 to 484,655. Meanwhile, the number of confirmed omicron cases has jumped to 4,868 from 4,461 a day ago, according to the health ministry's latest update.

1:42 p.m. China's inflationary pressure eased further in December, thanks to lower food and commodity prices. But a recent COVID flare-up, notably in Tianjin, has weighed on the growth outlook for the first quarter amid preparations for the upcoming Spring Festival and Winter Olympics. December's producer price index decreased to 10.3% from a year earlier, down from the 13.5% record reached in October. The consumer price index for December fell back to October's level of 1.5% on lower food items and gasoline prices.

A woman reacts as she receives a dose of vaccine in Jakarta in August 2021. Elderly and immunocompromised people will get priority in Indonesia's booster program.   © Reuters

12:55 p.m. Indonesia kicks off its COVID-19 vaccine booster program for the general public, as the world's fourth-most-populous nation's caseload hit an almost three-month high. The booster rollout comes amid concern about the spread of the omicron variant in Indonesia, a densely populated developing country that was hit by a crippling delta wave in July. On Tuesday, Indonesia recorded 802 new cases, the highest number in almost three months, with Senior Cabinet Minister Luhut Panjaitan saying that numbers could peak in February. The Sinovac, Astra Zeneca, Pfizer and Zifivax vaccines have been approved for the booster rollout.

11:14 a.m. The Chinese city of Tianjin starts a new round of COVID-19 testing among its 14 million residents to block the spread of omicron, with analysts cautioning the move could dent China's economic growth. Tianjin reported 33 domestically transmitted coronavirus infections with confirmed symptoms for Jan. 11, up from 10 a day earlier, national data showed.

9:30 a.m. Canada's second-most populous province, Quebec, plans to require adults who refuse to get vaccinated for COVID-19 to pay a "health contribution" tax, a move likely to spur a debate about individual rights and social responsibility. Premier Francois Legault told reporters the levy would not apply to those who cannot get vaccinated for medical reasons. Unvaccinated people put a financial burden on others, and the provincial Finance Ministry is determining a "significant" amount that unvaccinated residents would be required to pay, Legault said, adding that it would not be less than C$100 ($79.50).

3:03 a.m. Turkey records 74,266 new COVID-19 cases for its highest daily figure of the pandemic, Health Ministry data shows Tuesday. There were 137 deaths related to coronavirus in the same period. In late December, Turkey's daily cases totaled around 20,000.

2:24 a.m. Some members of Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador's family and cabinet are isolating and taking COVID-19 tests after he said Monday evening that he was diagnosed with COVID-19. None of those people, including Lopez Obrador's wife and his interior minister, have symptoms, a spokesman told Reuters. Lopez Obrador said Tuesday he was doing well and would continue working.

Tuesday, Jan. 11

6:00 p.m. Tokyo reports 962 new coronavirus cases, up from 871 a day earlier. The daily tally is lower than the cases over the weekend when they surpassed 1,200, but nearly 80% of the infections reported in the week up to Jan. 10 are of the highly contagious omicron variant.

4:22 p.m. Delhi imposes new curbs as COVID cases surge in the Indian national capital area, with all workers at private offices instructed to work from home, while city government offices will continue to operate physically at 50% capacity. Bars have been ordered shut and dining in at restaurants is not permitted, though food takeout and home delivery is allowed. On Monday, Delhi reported 19,166 new COVID cases, 17 deaths and a positivity rate of 25%, meaning 1 in 4 people tested were found to be positive.

3:20 p.m. A third Chinese city has locked down residents, raising the number of people confined to their homes in China to about 20 million. It is not clear how long the lockdown of Anyang, a city in central Henan Province and home to 5.5 million, will last, according to AP. Another 13 million people are locked down in the city of Xi'an and 1.1 million in Yuzhou. The lockdown of Anyang follows the confirmation of two omicron cases on Monday that are believed to be linked to two cases found on Saturday in the city of Tianjin.

2:27 p.m. India reports 168,063 new infections for the past 24 hours, down from 179,723 the previous day and bringing the country's total caseload to over 35.87 million. Fatalities rose by 277, and the total now stands at 484,213. Meanwhile, the number of confirmed omicron cases has climbed to 4,461 from 4,033 a day ago, with Maharashtra state reporting the most such infections, 1,247; followed by Rajasthan, 645; and Delhi, 546; according to the health ministry.

Hong Kong residents line up at a temporary coronavirus testing center in Victoria Park on Jan. 9.   © AP

11:54 a.m. Hong Kong will suspend in-person classes at kindergartens and primary schools from Friday for three weeks, Chief Executive Carrie Lam says. Children over 5 years old will be offered Sinovac vaccinations at schools when face-to-face classes resume following the Lunar New Year to further boost the rate of vaccinated residents. Lam also announces a new anti-epidemic relief fund for businesses worth 4 billion Hong Kong dollars ($640 million) after gyms, cinemas, nightclubs and other venues were required to shut amid rising cases of the highly transmissible omicron variant.

10:20 a.m. Australian retail sales surged past forecasts for a second month in November as consumers splashed out using their pent-up savings, a reminder of how well the economy was doing before an explosion of coronavirus cases cast a pall over Christmas. Retail sales jumped 7.9% in November, adding to an already stellar 4.9% rise in October, government data shows, as much of the country emerged from a tough pandemic lockdown.

9:50 a.m. Facebook parent Meta Platforms has delayed the date for reopening its U.S. office and mandated COVID-19 booster shots for employees returning to the office as the omicron variant surges. For employees who opt to work at the office, the reopening date has been delayed to March 28, instead of Jan. 31. All workers returning to the office will have to present proof of booster shots. Meta currently requires all its U.S. employees coming to the office to be vaccinated.

9:35 a.m. Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announces an extension of a ban on new foreign arrivals as the government tries to stop the spread of the highly transmissible omicron COVID variant. "We will maintain the framework [of restrictions] until the end of February," Kishida told reporters. "We will take necessary responses in line with humanitarian and national interests."

The experimental COVID-19 treatment pill molnupiravir.   © Merck & Co/Handout via Reuters

9:30 a.m. Merck's COVID-19 molnupiravir pill has a mechanism of action that can work against omicron and any other variant, Dean Li, president of Merck Research Laboratories, says at J.P. Morgan's annual health care conference. Data on molnupiravir's impact against omicron is not yet available, but the pill was shown to be 30% effective at reducing hospitalizations and deaths, based on data from 1,433 patients released in November. However, this data showed significantly less effectiveness as compared to the previous figure of 50%.

8:00 a.m. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. State Department advise against travel to Canada because of a rising number of COVID-19 cases as the omicron variant spreads. The CDC elevated its travel recommendation to "level four: very high" for Canada, telling Americans they should avoid travel, while the State Department also on Monday issued a "level four: do not travel" advisory for Canada.

A woman receives a booster dose of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine in Brussels.   © Reuters

3:48 a.m. A Pfizer vaccine that targets the omicron variant of COVID-19 will be ready in March, and the U.S. company has begun producing the doses, CEO Albert Bourla tells television network CNBC. "The hope is that we will achieve something that will have way, way better protection particularly against infections," Bourla says in the interview.

3:41 a.m. COVID-19 hospitalizations in the U.S. reach a record 132,646, a Reuters tally shows, as a surge in infections caused by the highly contagious omicron variant strains health systems in several states including Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The hospitalization count for Monday surpasses the record of 132,051 set in January 2021.

A girl receives China's Sinovac Biotech jab against COVID-19 during a mass vaccination program for children aged 6-11 years in Jakarta on Jan. 5. 

Monday, Jan. 10

10:20 p.m. Nepal bans large public gatherings and closes schools for nearly three weeks after a spike in coronavirus cases. The Himalayan nation reports 1,357 new infections, the biggest single-day jump since September, taking its total to 833,946 since the pandemic began. Nepal's death toll from the coronavirus is 11,606.

9:55 p.m. Moderna anticipates sales of $18.5 billion in 2022 from contracts for its COVID-19 vaccine, and $3.5 billion from potential additional purchases including booster candidates updated for variants. The U.S. company expects a booster candidate that targets the fast-spreading omicron variant to reach clinical trials in early 2022.

9:35 p.m. Pope Francis condemns "baseless" ideological misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines and backs national immunization campaigns in his yearly address to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Vatican. By saying "health care is a moral obligation" in the context of a speech supporting vaccinations, Francis appears to be responding to Catholics and other Christians, particularly in the U.S., who say they have a religion-based right of conscientious objection to vaccines.

Francis, who is fully vaccinated, also renews his appeal for the equitable distribution of vaccines to poor nations, saying that "monopolistic rules" regarding patents should be put aside for the greater good.

9:30 p.m. Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is expected to announce this week an extension of a ban on foreign arrivals as the government tries to stop the spread of the highly transmissible omicron COVID variant. Read more.

5:27 p.m. The Philippines reports a record 33,169 new cases, bringing the country's total tally to nearly 3 million. Of these, over 157,000 are active cases. An additional 145 deaths were recorded, bringing total fatalities to 52,293.

3:23 p.m. Indonesia's Food and Drug Monitoring Agency issues emergency use authorization for Sinovac, Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna and Zifivax vaccines to be given as booster shots in the country. Citing the body's own study, agency chief Penny Lukito said a third Sinovac shot after full doses of the same vaccine shows the highest efficacy with immunogenicity increasing by 21-35 times 28 days after the jab was administered.

2:32 p.m. India rolls out booster shots -- or what the government calls 'precaution' doses -- for its health care and front-line workers such as doctors, nurses and police personnel. Senior citizens who have comorbidities like diabetes and hypertension will also receive the shots.

The country logged 179,723 new cases in the last 24 hours, up from 159,632 the previous day and the highest daily count since late May, bringing the country's total to 35.7 million. Deaths rose by 146 to 483,936. India's confirmed omicron cases have reached 4,033 since it first detected the new variant in early December, with the western state of Maharashtra accounting for the most such infections at 1,216.

1:20 p.m. Virgin Australia says it will cut capacity across its network by around 25% for the rest of January and for February due to reduced travel demand and staff being required to isolate as COVID-19 cases rise in Australia, according to Reuters.

9:56 a.m. Total COVID-19 infections in Australia surpass 1 million, with over half of them recorded in the past week. The omicron variant has ripped through most of the country and is driving up the number of people being hospitalized, also straining supply chains, Reuters reports.

A woman visits a COVID-19 testing center in Sydney on Jan. 5. Total infections in Australia have now surpassed 1 million, with the omicron variant spreading rapidly.   © Reuters

Sunday, Jan. 9

5:00 p.m. The Philippines reports a record 28,707 new coronavirus infections. Another 15 people have died from COVID-19, the Health Department says, bringing total fatalities to 52,150. The country has reported more than 2.96 million cases since the pandemic started.

3:00 p.m. China's northern coastal city of Tianjin begins testing its population of around 14 million after at least two local cases of the highly transmissible omicron variant are detected, state media report. Residents in four districts will be tested over the next 24 hours, while other districts will be tested the next day. Residents will be given the green health code necessary to travel only if they receive a negative result. The city advises the public not to leave town for unnecessary reasons.

2:03 p.m. Australia's most populous state, New South Wales, reports a record 16 COVID-19 deaths for Saturday as the omicron variant sweeps the country. The health authority in the home state to Sydney and one-third of Australia's 25 million people also reports 30,062 new infections. The second-largest state, Victoria, which hosts the Australian Open tennis tournament this month, reports 44,155 new cases and four deaths.

10:39 a.m. China confirms 165 coronavirus cases for Saturday, up from 159 a day earlier. Of the new infections, 92 are locally transmitted, the National Health Commission says, compared with 95 on Friday. Most of the new local cases are in Henan and Shaanxi provinces. At least two cases in the northern coastal city of Tianjin are caused by the omicron variant, the local authority says.

2:37 a.m. The pandemic death toll in the U.K. passes 150,000 as the country deals with a record amount of cases caused by the omicron variant. Some 313 deaths within 28 days of a positive COVID-19 test are reported, bringing the total fatalities on this measure to 150,057. Meanwhile, the country records 146,390 new cases.

Saturday, Jan. 8

11:08 p.m. Swedish Crown Princess Victoria tests positive for COVID-19 and is experiencing mild symptoms, the Royal Court says, adding that the heir to the throne is fully vaccinated. Earlier in the week her parents, the king and queen of Sweden, both also tested positive amid a mounting fourth wave of the virus, driven by the highly contagious omicron variant, that has seen the country repeatedly report record daily case numbers.

9:35 p.m. U.K. government advisers recommend against giving a fourth dose of COVID-19 vaccine to nursing home residents and people over 80 because data shows that a third shot offers lasting protection against admission to the hospital. For people over 65, protection against hospitalization remains at about 90% three months after the third dose, according to data compiled by the U.K. Health Security Agency.

8:20 p.m. One of two people who attended a large gathering with senior Hong Kong officials and was believed to be infected with COVID-19 turned out to be a false positive, The Associated Press reports, meaning about 80 of more than 180 attendees may no longer face a lengthy quarantine.

Microbiologist Yuen Kwok-yung tells reporters that a woman at the party who was a preliminary positive case tested negative in two subsequent tests and had no symptoms. He says the swab used for the initial test, which was conducted by a doctor who is the woman's husband, may have been contaminated because he had vaccinated 13 other patients earlier.

5:10 p.m. New daily coronavirus cases in Tokyo rise to 1,224, the Tokyo metropolitan government says, the highest since Sept. 11. The capital's daily count on the previous day was 922 cases. Compared with just 79 a week ago, the number grew 15-fold.

5:00 p.m. The Philippine Health Department reports a record 26,458 confirmed new cases, according to Reuters. In a bulletin it says confirmed cases have exceeded 2.93 million, while deaths have reached over 52,000 as 265 fatalities are recorded on Saturday. The previous daily record in COVID-19 cases was 26,303 on Sept. 11.

1:15 p.m. India reports 141,986 new COVID-19 cases, the highest daily number since the end of May, as the omicron variant of the coronavirus overtakes the delta strain in the cities. The health ministry also reported 285 new deaths, taking the total to 483,463. Total infections stand at 35.37 million.

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To catch up on earlier developments, see last week's latest updates.

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