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Coronavirus: Free to read

Coronavirus: Week of March 28 to April 3, China reports more cases near Myanmar

Moderna to speed up output with bigger vials; Vietnam seeks support procuring vaccines

A medical worker tests a woman for COVID-19 in the city of Ruili, on the border of Myanmar, in this September 2020 photo. A cluster of new infections has recently emerged in the city. (cnsphoto/Reuters)

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 130,126,796, according to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. The worldwide death toll has hit 2,836,682.

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

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



Saturday, April 3 (Tokyo time)

12:00 p.m. Hong Kong has barred until mid-April passenger flights from Singapore operated by Singapore Airlines, after an arriving passenger tested positive for COVID-19. Three passengers on the carrier's March 31 flight also failed to comply with disease prevention precautions, Hong Kong authorities said.

11:40 a.m. Papua New Guinea had 144 confirmed new cases of the novel coronavirus as of Friday, with the country's number of known infections nearly doubling over the past 10 days. The Pacific island nation has logged 6,619 cases and 60 deaths in total, the National Control Centre for COVID-19 said. Australia has said, however, that official tallies vastly underestimate the extent of the crisis, as Papua New Guinea does not do mass testing.

11:00 a.m. China reports 26 new cases for Friday, up from nine cases a day earlier. Seven of the new cases were local infections in the southwestern province of Yunnan, where a COVID-19 cluster has emerged in the city of Ruili bordering Myanmar. The other 19 cases originated from overseas. The number of new asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed cases, rose to 24 from 20.

Friday, April 2 (Tokyo time)

6:30 p.m. The Philippines reports a daily record 15,310 new infections, one of the highest reported in the region since the pandemic started, bringing the country's total to 771,497 cases. It announced 17 new deaths, taking fatalities to 13,320. The Department of Health said the new cases reported on Friday included a backlog of 3,709 cases. The previous daily infection record was just over 10,000 new cases.

5:10 p.m. Vietnam asks countries for help accessing alternative vaccine sources in an attempt to secure the 150 million doses needed for its adult population. The country has received about 930,000 doses of AstraZeneca's vaccine but wants more sources, including Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, China's Sinovac and Russia's Sputnik V. Health Minister Nguyen Thanh Long met ambassadors on Friday and asked the Japanese embassy for help with technology transfer for vaccine production and testing in Vietnam.

4:00 p.m. Australia investigates a case involving a 44-year-old man who was admitted to a Melbourne hospital with blood clotting days after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine. "Investigators have not at this time confirmed a causal link with the COVID-19 AstraZeneca vaccine, but investigations are ongoing," an official said. The patient is suffering from serious thrombosis and a low count of platelets, or blood cells that stop bleeding.

3:23 p.m. Tokyo reports 440 new cases, down from 475 a day earlier. The seven-day-average of new cases in the capital, however, rose 15.5% from a week ago to 381.

1:40 p.m. India reports 81,466 new infections overnight, the highest since Oct. 2, 2020. India's total caseload stood at 12.30 million, making it the third-most affected country globally, behind the U.S. and Brazil. It also reported 469 more deaths, taking the total to 163,396.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has given Moderna permission to speed up output of its COVID-19 vaccine by letting it fill a single vial with up to 15 doses.   © Reuters

12:30 p.m. The U.S. drug regulator has given Moderna clearance to speed up output of its COVID-19 vaccine by letting it fill a single vial with up to 15 doses. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration also authorized vaccinators to extract a maximum of 11 doses from the current vials, instead of the 10 previously permitted.

11:11 a.m. The meeting between Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and U.S. President Joe Biden will take place on April 16 in Washington, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato tells a news conference. The leaders had planned to meet on April 9, but a senior Japanese official told Nikkei it would take time for the U.S. to prepare for the summit due to the spread of COVID-19.

10:27 a.m. South Korea reports 558 new cases, up from 548 a day ago. Total infections reach 104,194, with 1,737 deaths. Health authorities say 914,069 people have received their first vaccine shot, while 19,855 have been fully vaccinated.

9:55 a.m. China reports nine new cases for Thursday, down from 16 a day earlier. Four of the new cases were local infections reported in southwestern Yunnan Province, where a new cluster has emerged in the city of Ruili, which borders Myanmar. The number of new asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed cases, fell to 20 from 42 a day earlier.

Health officials still believe the preventative benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine outweigh the risk of blood clots.   © Reuters

8:50 a.m. British regulators say they have identified 30 cases of rare blood clot events after the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine, 25 more than the agency previously reported. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency said it had received no such reports of clotting events following the use of the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine. The health officials said they still believe the benefits of the vaccine in the prevention of COVID-19 far outweigh the risk of blood clots.

2:20 a.m. U.S. air travel is recovering at small regional airports serving vacation destinations while large hub airports have just a fraction of the travelers they did at this time last year, a New York Times report finds.

Smaller airports, including those near Wyoming's Jackson Hole and Colorado ski country, have passenger volume as much as 12% higher than this time last year.

Airports in San Francisco, Portland and Seattle are serving between 24% and 46% of their typical traveler volume. Washington National, close to the U.S. capital, is at 70% of usual passenger volume, and Kennedy International Airport in New York is serving about one-third of its normal volume, the story says, citing a Yale economist study.

Thursday, April 1

9:04 p.m. The section of the Tokyo Olympic torch relay through the city of Osaka is set to be canceled over a resurgence in coronavirus infections in Japan's second largest urban center. "My understanding is that the Osaka leg was scrapped as a result of discussions between the Tokyo Olympics' organizing committee and the city organizers for the relay," Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said Thursday.

5:13 p.m. Hong Kong's government says it will resume BioNTech inoculations on April 5 after a new batch of vaccines arrives. The government last week suspended all BioNTech vaccinations due to defective packaging. About half a million people in the city of 7.5 million residents have been vaccinated so far.

4:00 p.m. Vietnam receives 811,000 doses of AstraZeneca's vaccine, its first batch of shots under the global COVAX scheme, following a weeklong delay caused by limited supply. The country began its vaccination program last month and aims to secure 30 million doses in total via COVAX. Vietnam is looking to diversify its procurement, with suppliers to include Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, China's Sinovac and Russia's vaccine, Sputnik V.

3:30 p.m. Tokyo reports 475 new infections, up from 414 a day earlier, bringing the seven-day-average of daily cases to 372, 16.4% higher than a week ago.

2:10 p.m. Gambling revenue in Macao rose 58% in March, year-on-year, with the world's biggest casino hub seeing a pickup in visitors from its key market, mainland China, due to a relaxation of coronavirus measures that had impacted travel. March's figure was 8.3 billion patacas ($1.0 billion) according to data released by Macao's government. Gaming revenues slumped in 2020 due to coronavirus travel restrictions.

2:00 p.m. India reports a huge spike in coronavirus cases, 72,330 the last 24 hours, up from 53,480 the previous day and the biggest single day increase since early October, pushing the country total to 12.22 million. Fatalities rose by 459 -- the highest daily toll this year -- to 162,927.

Workers at Incheon Airport near Seoul: South Korea will issue COVID-19 "vaccine passports" to immunized citizens in an effort to revive cross-border travel.   © Reuters

12:40 p.m. South Korea says it will issue so-called COVID-19 vaccine passports to immunized citizens, joining other nations introducing such certificates to revive cross-border travel while keeping infection risks under control. Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said a mobile app, which will allow international travelers to show digital proof of vaccination, will be officially launched this month, adding that the app uses blockchain technology to prevent counterfeiting of credentials.

11:30 a.m. Health authorities in China's southwestern Yunnan Province report six new cases in Ruili, amid efforts to contain a fresh outbreak in the city bordering Myanmar. A home quarantine, restrictions on exiting the city and mass testing started Wednesday after authorities reported an outbreak of six COVID cases and three asymptomatic patients -- those who are infected but do not show symptoms. Two of the latest six patients and 10 of the 23 new asymptomatic patients in Ruili are Myanmar citizens.

10:30 a.m. Johnson & Johnson says it has found a problem with a batch of the drug substance for its COVID-19 vaccine being produced by Emergent Biosolutions, and said the batch did not advance to the final fill-and-finish stage. J&J did not say how many vaccine doses the batch would have produced. The New York Times reported that about 15 million doses were ruined, without citing a source. The Times said that workers had conflated ingredients for the J&J vaccine and a coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca, which is produced at the same plant, several weeks ago.

10:29 a.m. South Korea reports 551 new cases, up from 506 a day ago. The country's total confirmed infections have reached 103,639 with 1,735 deaths. Health authorities said that 876,573 people have received their first shot of the COVID-19 vaccine, while 12,973 are fully vaccinated.

The Japanese government will ask three prefectural governments, including Osaka, to put stronger coronavirus countermeasures in place, such as shorter operating hours for restaurants.   © Reuters

10:00 a.m. The Japanese government has decided to designate Osaka, Hyogo and Miyagi prefectures as areas requiring stronger anti-COVID-19 measures, based on a law enacted in February following a sharp rebound in infections. Measures to be taken by the prefectural governments include further shortening operating hours for restaurants. Under the law, the prefectures can fine those who violate the curbs. Osaka reported 599 new cases Wednesday, higher than Tokyo's 414.

9:10 a.m. Business sentiment among Japan's large manufacturers improved for a third straight quarter in March despite the coronavirus pandemic, semiconductor shortages and lingering geopolitical tensions, the Bank of Japan's latest Tankan survey shows. The headline index for big manufacturers' sentiment rose to plus 5 in March from minus 10 in December, hitting the highest level since September 2019.

9:00 a.m. Australian authorities will end a lockdown of the country's third-biggest city on Thursday after reporting just one new case in the state of Queensland. Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the three-day lockdown in Brisbane would end at noon local time, but residents would still be required to wear masks in public and some social distancing restrictions would remain in place.

4:28 a.m. France will extend lockdown measures to the entire country from Saturday for at least one month, President Emmanuel Macron says. Schools will close for three weeks. The current measures are limited to regions including the Paris area.

Pandemic lockdown measures that have been in place in such areas as Paris will be extended nationwide in France.   © Reuters

1:13 a.m. Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan rules out a general lockdown of the country amid a third wave of the pandemic. The government has opted for short-term restrictions generally imposed at the neighborhood level as a way to balance efforts to tame the disease and to keep the economy afloat.

Wednesday, March 31

10:30 p.m. Global economic output is expected to be about 3% lower in 2024 than projected before the pandemic, the International Monetary Fund estimates, while noting that the medium-term impact won't be as severe as with the global financial crisis of 2008-09.

"Unlike what happened during the global financial crisis, emerging market and developing economies are expected to have deeper scars than advanced economies, with losses expected to be the largest among low-income countries," the IMF said.

7:55 p.m. Chinese vaccine makers Sinopharm and Sinovac have presented data on their COVID-19 vaccines indicating levels of efficacy that would be compatible with those required by the World Health Organization, the chair of a WHO advisory panel said on Wednesday. The WHO's Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) hopes to issue recommendations on those vaccines by the end of April, its chair Alejandro Cravioto, told a news briefing. The vaccines would first require WHO emergency use listing.

Vials labelled "Sputnik V Coronavirus COVID-19 Vaccine" and a syringe are seen in front of a displayed Sinopharm logo, in this illustration photo taken March 12.   © Reuters

7:45 p.m. Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE said on Wednesday their COVID-19 vaccine was safe and effective and produced robust antibody responses in 12- to 15-year olds, paving the way for them to seek U.S. emergency use authorization in weeks. Pfizer hopes that vaccinations of the group could begin before the next school year, Albert Bourla, Pfizer's chairman and chief executive, said in a statement. Pfizer's vaccine is already authorized for use in people starting at age 16. The new study offers the first evidence of how the vaccine will also work in school-age adolescents.

6:19 p.m. A health-tech startup developed by Japan's University of Tsukuba will begin to analyze up to 6,000 COVID-19 samples from Thursday to help detect and curb the spread of more contagious variants. Named iLAC, the startup's processing capacity is one of the biggest in the country. It is hoped that the company will be able to find variants of the coronavirus that may be more resistant to vaccines that will allow authorities to contain any spread of such.

3:20 p.m. The Malaysian economy is expected to grow between 6% and 7.5% this year, the central bank said on Wednesday, with COVID-19 vaccinations and stronger external demand driving a recovery from the 5.6% contraction for 2020.

3:11 p.m. Russia has registered the world's first vaccine against COVID-19 for animals, the country's agriculture safety watchdog Rosselkhoznadzor says. Russia already has three coronavirus vaccines for humans, the most well known of which is Sputnik V. Moscow has also given emergency approval to two others, EpiVacCorona and CoviVac. The vaccine for animals, developed by a unit of Rosselkhoznadzor, is named Carnivac-Cov, the watchdog says.

1:45 p.m. India reports 53,480 COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours, down from 56,211 the previous day, bringing the country's total to 12.15 million. There were 354 additional deaths -- the highest number of daily fatalities in over three months -- bringing the death toll to 162,468.

1:03 p.m. Australia is confident all of its athletes will be vaccinated against COVID-19 before they head off to the Tokyo Olympics, Ian Chesterman, the Australian Olympic Team's chef de mission, said at the unveiling of the team's uniforms for the games on Wednesday, Reuters reports. Vaccination is not a prerequisite for athletes competing in the delayed games, but Chesterman said it was "common sense" to add a "layer of safety" around the delegation and ensure they do not bring the virus home with them.

11:26 a.m. China's manufacturing expanded at the quickest pace in three months in March as factories cranked up production after the Lunar New Year holidays. The manufacturing Purchasing Manager's Index rose to 51.9 from 50.6 in February, remaining above the 50-point mark that separates growth from contraction for the 13th straight month. Analysts had expected a rise to 51.0.

11:17 a.m. Japan's industrial output in February fell 2.1% from the previous month after a strong earthquake in northeastern Japan disrupted parts supply for major automakers, reducing production.

Medical workers test people for the coronavirus in Ruili, China, in September 2020: Ruili has been placed on a one-week lockdown on March 31, after an outbreak.   © Reuters

11:08 a.m. The Chinese city of Ruili bordering Myanmar orders a one-week home quarantine for residents due to new locally transmitted cases. The city also ordered mass testing and will crackdown on illegal border crossings, according to a statement from the city government.

10:14 a.m. South Korea reports 506 cases, up from 447 a day ago, bringing the country total to 103,088 with 1,731 deaths. Health authorities say 852,202 people have received their first shots of the vaccine, while 8,185 completed the two-shot innoculation.

9:58 a.m. Australia reports a decrease in locally acquired cases in the state of Queensland, fueling optimism that a three-day lockdown in the state capital of Brisbane will be lifted ahead of Easter holidays. More than two million residents of Australia's third-largest city have been asked to stay home until Thursday evening as authorities rush to contain two virus clusters.

9:31 a.m. China reports 11 cases for March 30, up from eight a day earlier. Six of the new cases were local infections in Yunnan Province, the most since six cases were reported on Feb. 5.

7:35 a.m. A critical component of the immune system known as T cells, which respond to infection from the original version of the coronavirus, appear to also protect against three of the new variants, according to a U.S. laboratory study. Several studies have shown that certain variants of the coronavirus can hinder protection from antibodies and vaccines.

5:28 a.m. Spain confirmed it would use the AstraZeneca vaccine for people aged 55 to 65, and said it could give Johnson & Johnson's version to older people when it becomes available in the country. Meanwhile, Germany limits use of AstraZeneca's jab to people aged 60 and above as well as high-priority groups following additional reports of a rare brain blood disorder.

Director-General of the World Trade Organization Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala plans to convene an event in mid-April on ramping up COVID-19 vaccine production.   © Reuters

4:55 a.m. The head of the World Trade Organization, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, said on Tuesday that she plans to convene an event in mid-April on ramping up vaccine production amid what she called "a very serious scarcity in supply." The event will bring together WTO regional groups, vaccine manufacturers from developing and developed countries and civil society, among others, the WTO said in a statement posted on its website.

Tuesday, March 30

11:58 p.m. The novel coronavirus that has killed around 2.8 million people worldwide most likely first spread to humans from animals, a World Health Organization report on the origins of the pandemic has found.

Tuesday's report almost totally rules out the laboratory leak hypothesis, which alleges that the virus escaped or was released from a research facility. This scenario, one of four considered by investigators during a joint WHO-China study from January to February, is called "extremely unlikely."

The report comes a little over a year after the coronavirus pandemic was declared and conforms with Chinese arguments that the virus causing COVID-19 did not come from the Wuhan Institute of Virology. But the findings are not without controversy.

5:07 p.m. Japan's city of Osaka reports 432 new cases, up from 213 a day earlier and marking the highest daily tally since Jan. 24. Osaka has seen the number of infections rising again after a state of emergency was lifted in the prefecture in early March.

A health worker sprays disinfectant inside a Vietnam Airlines airplane. A court in Vietnam gave a two-year suspended jail term to a Vietnam Airlines flight attendant after finding him guilty of breaking quarantine rules and spreading the virus.   © Reuters

3:20 p.m. A court in Vietnam hands a two-year suspended jail term to a Vietnam Airlines flight attendant after finding him guilty of breaking quarantine rules and spreading the virus. The man breached the country's 14-day quarantine and met 46 other people following his flight from Japan in November, according to the indictment posted on a police website.

3:03 p.m. Tokyo reports 364 cases, up from 234 a day earlier, bringing the capital's seven-day-average of new cases to 361 -- 17.4% higher than a week ago.

2:40 p.m. India reports 56,211 new cases in the last 24 hours, down from this year's biggest daily spike of 68,020 the previous day, bringing the country's total to about 12.1 million. Fatalities rose by 271 to 162,114.

Tokyo has lifted the state of emergency but continues to ask restaurants and bars to close early.   © Reuters

11:20 a.m. Japan's health minister apologizes for ministry employees' gathering at a restaurant in violation of the government's COVID-19 protocols. Norihisa Tamura said 23 ministry employees ate dinner together in Tokyo on March 24. The capital had just emerged from a state of emergency on March 21, but the government has continued to ask restaurants to close early at 9 p.m. and for the public to limit gatherings.

10:37 a.m. South Korea reports 447 cases, up from 378 a day ago, bringing the country total to 102,582 with 1,729 deaths. Authorities say 822,448 people have had their first shot of the COVID-19 vaccine, while 6,151 completed the two-shot regimen.

10:30 a.m. Australia reports eight locally acquired cases in Queensland as the state scrambles to stop an outbreak linked to the U.K. variant. The new cases bring the total in the latest outbreak to 15, a day after the state announced a snap three-day lockdown in Brisbane, Australia's third-most-populous city.

9:50 a.m. China reports eight cases for Monday, down from 15 a day earlier. All new cases originated overseas. The number of new asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed cases, fell to six from 18 a day earlier.

9:30 a.m. Japanese retail sales fell for the third straight month in February as households kept a lid on spending amid the coronavirus emergency, underscoring the fragile nature of the economic recovery. Retail sales dipped 1.5% in February from a year earlier, according to the government.

9:20 a.m. Air New Zealand says domestic business travel has returned to 90% of pre-pandemic levels, bucking a downward trend in many other countries with more severe COVID-19 outbreaks. The airline was "blown away" by the new data, noting it had initially hoped to return to 70% of pre-pandemic levels in 2022.

8:35 a.m. Japan's jobless rate stood at 2.9% in February, unchanged from January, amid a state of emergency that lasted 10 weeks through March 21.

Canada is the latest country to temporarily halt use of the AstraZeneca vaccine over mounting safety concerns.   © Reuters

8:00 a.m. Canada will stop offering AstraZeneca's vaccine to people under age 55 and require a new study of the shot's risks and benefits based on age and gender. The moves follow reports from Europe of rare but serious blood clots, bleeding and in some cases death, mainly in young women.

3:50 a.m. U.S. President Joe Biden says 90% of adults in the United States will be eligible for vaccinations by April 19. Biden called on local leaders to reinstate mask mandates as he warned about the potential for an upsurge in infections.

1:00 a.m. The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines against COVID-19 are highly effective at preventing symptomatic and asymptomatic infections under real-world conditions, according to a federal study. In a study of about 4,000 essential workers, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the vaccines reduced the risk of infection by 80% after one shot. Protection increased to 90% following the second dose. The findings are consistent with clinical trial results.

0:30 a.m. Palestinians receive 100,000 doses of Sinopharm vaccine donated by China to help broaden an initial campaign to vaccinate medical staff, the elderly and the chronically ill. Palestinian health authorities have been mounting a limited vaccination drive among the 5.2 million people living in the Israel-occupied West Bank and Gaza, using vaccines provided by Israel, Russia, the United Arab Emirates and the global COVAX vaccine-sharing initiative. So far, more than 69,000 Palestinians have received their first dose of the vaccine, and around 7,600 people have had both shots.

Monday, March 29

7:00 p.m. The Philippines receives 1 million doses of vaccines purchased from Sinovac Biotech, the first batch to be delivered under a procurement deal covering 25 million shots. The Chinese government earlier donated 1 million shots of Sinovac jabs, bringing the Philippines' supply to around 2.5 million doses, including 525,600 AstraZeneca jabs courtesy of the COVAX facility.

The Philippines has received 1 million doses of vaccines purchased from Sinovac Biotech, the first batch to be delivered under a procurement deal covering 25 million shots.    © Reuters

6:50 p.m. Johnson & Johnson has agreed to supply up to 400 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine to the African Union from the third quarter of 2021, the drugmaker says. J&J unit Janssen Pharmaceutica has entered into a deal with the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust to deliver 220 million doses of its single-dose shot. AVAT could order an additional 180 million doses through 2022. The deal comes after months of negotiations with the AU, which announced a provisional agreement in January to buy 270 million doses of vaccines from three drugmakers: J&J, AstraZeneca and Pfizer.

5:34 p.m. Social distancing restrictions in Hong Kong will be relaxed as daily new infections dropped to single digit in recent days. An increased number of people will be allowed in cinemas and theme parks. Swimming pools, public beaches, and churches can also reopen.

5:17 p.m. The Philippines reports 10,016 new infections, a record high, as Metro Manila and four neighboring provinces enter a weeklong lockdown to fight the surge of cases which has overwhelmed hospitals. The latest count brings the total number of cases to 731,894, of which 115,495 are classified as "active." The death toll stands at 13,186, including 16 new fatalities.

4:35 p.m. All Nippon Airways has carried out a trial of a digital "health passport," the first test in Japan of a certification that some hope will breathe new life into international travel and airlines battered by the pandemic. ANA tested the CommonPass digital health app on two passengers for a flight to New York that departed from Tokyo's Haneda Airport. The app enables users to upload their negative test results, and proof of vaccination status, before boarding international flights.

3:40 p.m. Osaka Gov. Hirofumi Yoshimura says he plans to ask the central government to designate the prefecture as an area requiring stronger measures against the pandemic that are legally binding, saying that the region has already entered the "fourth wave" of infections. Osaka is the first in the country to seek binding measures to stop the spread of the virus, based on a revised law that took effect in February, which include fines for businesses that do not comply with restrictions on operating hours. On Sunday, Osaka reported 323 new infections, higher than Tokyo's 313.

3:30 p.m. Tokyo reports 234 new cases, down from 313 a day earlier. Still, the seven-day average of new cases for the capital rose 18.1% from a week ago to 357.

1:00 p.m. A new factory in Abu Dhabi will start manufacturing a COVID-19 vaccine from Chinese pharmaceutical giant Sinopharm later this year under a joint venture between Sinopharm and Abu Dhabi-based technology company Group 42 (G42). The project is an expansion of Chinese diplomacy in the Gulf region and helps the United Arab Emirates' quest to diversify its economy away from hydrocarbon production.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan show the Chinese-made vaccine from Sinopharm during their meeting in Abu Dhabi on March 28. (WAM/Handout via Reuters)

11:50 a.m. Vietnam's GDP grew 4.48% in the first quarter of 2021 from the same period a year earlier, government data shows. The expansion compared with 3.8% growth in the first quarter of 2020 and 4.48% in the fourth quarter. The industrial and construction sector in the January-March period grew 6.3% from a year earlier, while the services sector rose 3.34%. The first quarter growth, however, fell below the 5.12% expected by the government.

11:30 a.m. A panel of South Korean advisers determined that a coronavirus vaccine from Johnson & Johnson was safe and effective, moving the single-dose shot a step closer to regulatory approval. When approved, the J&J vaccine will be the third COVID-19 jab authorized in South Korea, following ones from AstraZeneca and Pfizer/BioNTech. South Korea has an agreement to receive 6 million doses of the J&J vaccine and has said it will be ready for inoculation from the second quarter.

11:00 a.m. China reports 15 new cases for Sunday, up from eight a day earlier. All the new cases originated from overseas. The number of new asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed cases, fell to 18 from 19 a day earlier.

10:25 a.m. South Korea reports 384 cases, down from 482 a day ago, bringing the country total to 102,141 with 1,726 deaths. The government will pay the fourth "disaster subsidy" to small business owners and self-employed people starting from Monday.

9:30 a.m. Australia announces a snap three-day lockdown in Brisbane from Monday afternoon as authorities try to halt an outbreak of the U.K. variant. About 2 million people in the country's third-largest city must stay home from 5 p.m. local time except for essential work, health care, grocery shopping or exercise.

Sunday, March 28

11:55 p.m. A total of 30,151,287 people in Britain have received the first dose of a vaccine -- about 57% of all adults -- while 3,527,481 have been given their second dose. "The vaccine is saving lives and is our route out of this pandemic," said health minister Matt Hancock.

8:30 p.m. Russian President Vladimir Putin said he expected his country to reach herd immunity and lift pandemic-related restrictions by the end of summer, the Interfax news agency reports, citing the president's televised comments. Putin, who was vaccinated this week with a Russian vaccine, also said the only side effects were slight muscle pains and discomfort at the point of the injection.

2:23 p.m. India's western state of Maharashtra imposes night curfews to tackle a record surge in COVID-19 cases, with financial capital Mumbai reporting 6,123 new cases -- the highest single-day spike since last March.

India logs 62,714 cases of the coronavirus in the last 24 hours, the health ministry says, the highest single-day tally since mid-October. With 312 deaths, single-day mortality figures were also at their highest since Christmas.

3:24 a.m. A World Health Organization-backed program to supply coronavirus vaccines to poorer countries expects the Serum Institute of India to resume full deliveries of the AstraZeneca shot to it in May, UNICEF says. "Deliveries of SII/AZ vaccine are expected to begin fully again by May, with catch-up deliveries to reach every participant's full allocation up to May, accelerating thereafter," a UNICEF spokeswoman tells Reuters via email.

Saturday, March 27

11:32 p.m. Indonesia expects a slowdown in COVID-19 inoculations next month as India delays shipments of AstraZeneca vaccines, its health minister says. India has put a temporary hold on all major exports of the AstraZeneca coronavirus shot made by the Serum Institute of India, prioritizing domestic demand as cases rise.

India's move will affect supplies to the GAVI/WHO-backed global COVAX vaccine-sharing facility, through which 64 lower-income countries, including Indonesia, are supposed to get doses from SII.

8:11 p.m. The Serum Institute of India now hopes to launch by September a vaccine developed with U.S.-based biotech firm Novavax, according to SII CEO Adar Poonawalla. Clinical trials of Corovax have kicked off in India, Poonawalla tweets, without explaining why the vaccine launch was delayed from June.

7:30 p.m. The Philippines will reimpose stricter quarantine measures in capital Manila and nearby provinces as the country battles to contain a surge in COVID-19 cases that put a bigger strain on hospitals. Presidential spokesman Harry Roque says the measures, which will be in place until April 4, will ban nonessential movement, mass gatherings and in-restaurant dining. They represent a further tightening of curbs imposed March 22.

The health ministry reports 9,595 new coronavirus cases, marking the second straight day that the daily increase exceeds 9,000. The country has posted a record rise in three of the past five days.

3:26 a.m. The World Health Organization urges countries to donate COVID-19 vaccine doses to inoculate the most vulnerable in 20 poorer nations after India, a key supplier to the agency's COVAX vaccine-sharing program, says it is prioritizing local needs.

2:46 a.m. The AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is still recommended for use while studies continue to look for any potential link to "very rare" side effects, including blood clots, a senior World Health Organization official says.


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

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