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Coronavirus: Free to read

Coronavirus: Week of Oct. 17 to Oct. 23, Parts of China toughen curbs

Qantas to step up international flights; India's Modi says economy boosted by 1bn vaccinations

China reported 28 new domestically transmitted cases for Thursday and while the numbers are tiny compared to elsewhere in the world, national guidelines of zero tolerance mean outbreaks are quickly contained.   © 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 242,446,133, according to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. The worldwide death toll has hit 4,928,844.

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

-- World map of spreading mutated strains

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

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UPDATES CLOSED

Saturday, Oct. 23 (Tokyo time)

2:47 a.m. Walgreens Boots Alliance and Walmart say their U.S. pharmacies started administering COVID-19 booster shots from Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, in addition to previously authorized Pfizer-BioNTech boosters.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday recommended J&J and Moderna's booster shots and said Americans can choose a different shot from their original inoculation as a booster.

Friday, Oct. 22

6:00 p.m. A new COVID-19 outbreak has spurred parts of China to increase restrictions on movement, with some areas in the capital Beijing being sealed off and northwestern regions imposing a range of transport curbs and closing public venues. China reported 28 new domestically transmitted cases for Thursday. The numbers are tiny compared to elsewhere in the world, but Chinese cities are quick to contain outbreaks under tough national guidelines of zero tolerance. The Changping district of Beijing banned people in certain higher-risk areas from leaving their residential compounds, suspended face-to-face classes at schools close to those areas and ordered nearby businesses to halt operations.

3:00 p.m. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi says economic growth is getting a boost from rising vaccinations across the country and urges citizens to purchase locally manufactured products over the upcoming festive season. Modi calls for vigilance against COVID-19 and recommends wearing masks during festivals. India's immunization campaign hit a milestone of 1 billion vaccinations on Thursday. Three-quarters of the country's 944 million adults have gotten at least one dose, although only 31% have gotten two.

Qantas workers prepare planes for the resumption of international flights at Sydney Airport on Oct. 21.   © Reuters

12:03 p.m. Malaysia is eyeing a trial border reopening for international tourists next month after a nearly two-year closure, Tourism Minister Nancy Shukri told Nikkei Asia in an exclusive interview. Nancy said her ministry has proposed launching travel bubbles by mid-November that would allow visitors access to vacation haven Langkawi and pockets of the southern tip of Johor, which borders Singapore. The ministry has also finalized a list of 10 countries whose fully vaccinated citizens would be allowed to participate, she said.

12:00 p.m. Qantas Airways says it will speed up plans to restart flights to many destinations and use some bigger planes amid "massive demand" for international flying as quarantine restrictions ease for Australian citizens. All 11,000 of the airline's staffers idled without pay -- around half its workforce -- will return to work by early December as domestic and international flying returns to more normal levels. Qantas will bring back two of its flagship Airbus SE A380 superjumbos in April -- three months earlier than planned -- and is in talks with Boeing about the delivery of three new 787-9s in storage.

11:30 a.m. South Korea reports 1,440 new cases, compared with 1,441 a day earlier, bringing the cumulative total to 348,969. Deaths rose 16 to 2,725.

10:20 a.m. China reports 43 new cases for Thursday, up from 21 a day earlier. Of the new infections, 28 were locally transmitted, compared with 13 a day earlier. The new local cases were reported in the provinces of Gansu, Shaanxi, Guizhou and Qinghai, the autonomous regions of Inner Mongolia and Ningxia and the city of Beijing. China also reports 26 new asymptomatic patients, which it classifies separately from confirmed cases, compared with 27 a day earlier.

10:00 a.m. New Zealand will end its strict coronavirus lockdown measures and restore more freedoms only when 90% of its eligible population is fully vaccinated, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says. Once the poster child for stamping out COVID-19, New Zealand has been unable to beat an outbreak of the highly infectious delta variant mostly in Auckland, forcing Ardern to abandon her elimination strategy and switch to living with the virus.

9:50 a.m. A panel of advisers to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention unanimously backs COVID-19 vaccine boosters for recipients of the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson shots, and says Americans can choose a different shot from their original inoculation as a booster.

A Melbourne barbershop does business on Oct. 22, the first day of eased coronavirus regulations following a lockdown to curb an outbreak.   © Reuters

8:00 a.m. Melbourne residents flock to the city's pubs, restaurants and hair salons after the world's most locked-down city emerged from its latest spate of COVID-19 restrictions. Australia's second-largest city has so far endured 262 days, or nearly nine months, of restrictions during six separate lockdowns since March 2020, the longest cumulative lockdown for any city in the world. Just over 70% of adults in Australia are now fully vaccinated, and many residents are planning to fly overseas again as international border restrictions start to ease from November.

5:22 a.m. The White House calls on all World Trade Organization members to support an intellectual property waiver for COVID-19 vaccines.

2:12 a.m. Thailand will allow quarantine-free entry to travelers from 46 countries and territories, including the U.S., China and the U.K., from Nov. 1. "If we want to attract more foreign tourists to stimulate our tourism and tourism-related businesses, we needed to be proactive," Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said on Facebook. The announcement was well above the 10 countries that the government had earlier proposed for its plan to reopen to international visitors.

Thursday, Oct. 21

Specialists sanitize the Leningradsky railway station amid a new COVID-19 outbreak in Moscow on Oct. 19.   © Reuters

6:30 p.m. Moscow will reintroduce lockdown measures on Oct. 28 to combat the resurgent virus, Mayor Sergei Sobyanin says. Bars and restaurants are to close as well as most stores. Supermarkets, pharmacies and outlets selling essential goods will be exempted. Russia on Thursday reported a record 1,036 coronavirus-related deaths for the past 24 hours as well as a record 36,339 new infections. President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday approved a nationwide weeklong workplace shutdown from Oct. 30 to Nov. 7 and said regional leaders could introduce other measures at their discretion.

6:00 p.m. As of Oct. 1, there were more than 370,000 foreign nationals who due to COVID restrictions could not enter Japan despite being precertified for residence, Nikkei has learned. About 70% of this group are technical intern trainees and international students. While many countries are taking steps to ease immigration restrictions and reopen their economies, Japan, in principle, remains shut.

1:30 p.m. Japanese drugmaker Shionogi says it has started a Phase 2/3 clinical trial for its vaccine candidate. The trial for the recombinant protein-based vaccine will take place in Japan following a Phase 1 trial in the country. Shionogi said it will also prepare to conduct multiple trials globally.

1:00 p.m. Domestic car sales in Thailand dropped 19.1% in September from a year earlier to 56,871 vehicles, the Federation of Thai Industries says. In August, sales slumped 38.8% from a year earlier, hit by stricter measures to contain a coronavirus outbreak.

11:30 a.m. South Korea reports 1,441 new cases, down from 1,571 a day earlier, bringing the country total to 347,529. Deaths rose 11 to 2,709.

A health worker administers a vaccination at a pop-up drive-in clinic on Oct. 11 in Auckland. (Photo by New Zealand Herald via AP)   © AP

10:30 a.m. New Zealand reports record daily cases for the second time in three days as the delta variant continued to spur a spike in infections in the country's biggest city, Auckland. Authorities report 102 new infections, of which 94 were in Auckland, taking the total in the current outbreak to 2,260. There have been 28 deaths in total since the pandemic began, and 46 people are currently hospitalized.

8:30 a.m. Qantas Airways expects to get back to flying 100% of its pre-COVID-19 domestic capacity by January as Australian state borders open up due to surging vaccination rates, says company CEO Alan Joyce. Qantas currently has just one daily flight from Sydney to Melbourne, down from 55 before the pandemic. "We will progressively in the first week of November go back to nearly 15 flights a day and by Christmas get back to closer to 30 to 40 flights per day and in the new year, February, when business comes back, pretty close to the pre-COVID schedule," Joyce says.

8:00 a.m. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has authorized booster doses of the COVID-19 vaccines from Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, and says Americans can choose a different shot from their original inoculation as a booster. That means all three vaccines authorized in the United States -- these two plus the Pfizer one -- can also be given as boosters.

2:45 a.m. The White House has announced a plan to ensure a COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11, once approved, "it is quickly distributed and made conveniently and equitably available to families across the country."

"We will be ready to begin getting shots in arms in the days following a final [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] recommendation," the Biden administration says in a statement.

Enough vaccine has been procured to provide shots to 28 million children ages 5 to 11, according to the White House.

Thus far, the U.S. has approved COVID-19 vaccines for Americans as young as 12.

Meanwhile, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has ordered all city employees to show proof of vaccination by Oct. 29 or face being put on unpaid leave.

Wednesday, Oct. 20

9:20 p.m. Singapore authorities say restrictions on social activities will remain in place for another month as COVID-19 infections continue to strain the healthcare system. The restrictions, which include allowing only pairs of people to dine in at restaurants, will be extended from Oct. 25 to Nov. 21.

Nearly 90% of isolation beds for COVID patients have been filled, with occupancy for beds in intensive care units at about 67%. A total of 3,994 new COVID-19 cases was reported on Tuesday night.

3:17 p.m. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will allocate up to $120 million to help lower-income countries obtain an experimental COVID drug being developed by U.S. pharmaceutical Merck, it announced on Tuesday. The money will support efforts to make generic versions of what could become the first oral antiviral medication if it wins regulatory approval, the foundation said. "To end this pandemic, we need to ensure that everyone, no matter where they live in the world, has access to lifesaving health products," Melinda Gates said. "The unjust reality, however, is that low-income countries have had to wait for everything from personal protective equipment to vaccines. That is unacceptable."

1:36 p.m. Australia plans to allow companies to ditch in-person shareholders meetings and hold them online, making rules introduced during the pandemic permanent, according to Reuters. A bill criticized by shareholders groups has been introduced in parliament that allows companies to hold online meetings if the company's constitution permits it, "provided that members, as a whole, are given reasonable opportunity to participate," Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said in a statement.

People ride bicycles on a Hanoi street on Oct. 1 after Vietnam lifted restrictions imposed for the past months due to the pandemic.   © Reuters

12:48 p.m. Vietnam's exports are likely to rise 10.7% in 2021, with annual inflation expected below 4%, Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh says, promising lawmakers that economic revival lies ahead, Reuters reports. Chinh told the national assembly that Vietnam -- consistently one of Asia's fastest-growing economies -- had been badly affected by the coronavirus, which disrupted supply chains and hit workers in key industries. Vietnam's gross domestic product contracted 6.17% in the third quarter of 2021 from a year earlier due to COVID-related curbs. It was the sharpest quarterly decline on record. Chinh said he expected GDP to expand 6.0% to 6.5% next year, with the government aiming to cap inflation at 4%.

11:50 a.m. Japan's car exports in September fell 40.3% from a year earlier due to pandemic-related supply chain disruptions in Southeast Asia and a global semiconductor crunch. Auto shipments marked their first year-on-year drop in seven months -- the sharpest decrease since a 49.9% dive in June 2020 amid the initial shock of the pandemic.

11:21 a.m. Daily cases in New Zealand fall after a record jump the day before, with most infections in Auckland as the delta variant continues to affect the country's biggest city, according to Reuters. Authorities reported 60 new infections on Tuesday, of which 56 were in Auckland, bringing the total number of cases during the current outbreak to 2,158. There have been 28 deaths since the pandemic began and 43 people are currently hospitalized because of the virus.

10:20 a.m. China reports 30 confirmed cases for Oct. 19 compared with 25 a day earlier, Reuters reports, citing the country's health authority. Of the new infections, 17 were local cases, up from nine a day earlier. The new local cases were reported in Inner Mongolia, Gansu, Beijing, Guizhou, Yunnan, Shaanxi and Ningxia. The country also reports 22 asymptomatic infections, which are counted separately from confirmed cases, compared with 19 a day earlier.

Tuesday, Oct.19

11:15 p.m. Quarantine-free travel is slowly resuming in Asia, with Singapore and some other key destinations opening up to passengers who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Starting Tuesday, Singapore is allowing vaccinated travelers from the U.K., the U.S. and six other countries -- Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain -- to enter for any purpose, without isolating upon arrival. These eight countries add to two existing partners, Germany and Brunei, already eligible for Singapore's "vaccinated travel lane" program. Read more here.

10:45 p.m. Moscow's city government orders elderly people to stay home for four months and tells businesses to have at least 30% of staff work from home, effective Monday, while Russian Deputy Prime Minister Tatiana Golikova proposes shutting workplaces nationwide for nine days starting Oct. 30.

The country reports 1,015 coronavirus-related deaths in the past 24 hours, its highest single-day toll since the start of the pandemic, as well as 33,740 new infections, just shy of a record daily rise, with authorities blaming the surge on a slow vaccination campaign.

Workers spray disinfectant at the Leningradsky railway station in Moscow on Oct. 19.   © Reuters

6:00 p.m. China's capital, Beijing, reports its first local case since August on Tuesday, in a person who had traveled on the same train as an infected person in northwestern Yinchuan in the Ningxia autonomous region. Overall, China reported nine new domestically transmitted cases for Monday, the highest daily tally since the end of September, with the latest outbreak prompting two northern border areas to enforce a lockdown -- in the northwestern city of Xian in Shaanxi province, and in Erenhot city in the northern Chinese region of Inner Mongolia.

5:20 p.m. Thailand's cabinet approves a further 54.5 billion baht ($1.64 billion) in relief measures as the country deals with its biggest and most prolonged coronavirus outbreak. The measures include 42 billion baht of cash transfers under an existing co-payment scheme, a government spokesman says.

12:30 p.m. New Zealand records 94 infections, the highest daily number since the pandemic began last year, as the delta variant spreads in Auckland, its biggest city. The total number of cases in the current outbreak has reached 2,099. There have been 28 deaths due to COVID-19 and 38 people are currently hospitalized because of the virus.

11:30 a.m. Japan kicks off the first day of campaigning ahead of the Oct. 31 general election, which will largely hinge on government's handling of the pandemic. The ruling coalition, led by the Liberal Democratic Party under new Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, faces a test from the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party, which is aligning with the Japanese Communist Party and two other groups.

11:00 a.m. South Korea reports 1,073 cases, compared with 1,050 a day earlier, bringing the country total to 344,518. Deaths rose 21 to 2,689.

Diners share a toast at a restaurant on Oct. 1, the first day after Japan lifted the COVID-19 state of emergency.   © Reuters

10:30 a.m. Japan reports 232 cases for Monday, registering fewer than 300 cases nationwide for the first time in over a year, as the government continues to push vaccination. As of Oct. 17, about 67% of the country's entire population has been vaccinated with over 75% having received at least one shot. The country will begin conducting trials this week on using proof of vaccinations or negative test results at eateries.

10:00 a.m. Australia's central bank says the delta variant outbreak has interrupted economic recovery but expects the setback to be temporary, with the economy set to bounce back as vaccination rates rise. The country should return to growth in the December quarter but the recovery is likely to be slower than in late 2020 and early 2021, according to minutes of the Reserve Bank of Australia's October meeting.

2:30 a.m. Britain reports its highest number of new cases in three months as infection numbers reach levels last seen when lockdown restrictions were in place in England during summer. Infections in Britain are currently much higher than in other western European countries and have risen over 60% in the last month.

Monday, Oct. 18

9:54 p.m. Colin Powell, the first Black U.S. secretary of state and top military officer, dies at the age of 84 due to complications from COVID-19. He was fully vaccinated, his family said in a statement.

Former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell salutes the audience as he takes the stage at the Washington Ideas Forum in Washington in Sept. 30, 2015.   © Reuters

5:50 p.m. Russia reports 34,325 new infections, its highest single-day case tally since the start of the pandemic. The country's coronavirus task force also reports 998 coronavirus-related deaths in the last 24 hours.

5:00 p.m. Tokyo reports 29 new cases, the lowest daily case count for the capital this year, as the Japanese government continues to expand its vaccination program. As of Oct. 17, about 67% of the country's entire population has been vaccinated with 75% having received at least one shot.

4:00 p.m. Japan will begin conducting trials this week on using proof of COVID-19 vaccinations or negative test results at eateries in preparation for another possible wave of infections this winter. The trials, aimed at maintaining economic activity while preventing the spread of infections, will allow individuals presenting such proof to eat in larger groups and eateries to extend their opening hours, with many local governments continuing to implement preventive steps after a state of emergency covering Tokyo and 18 prefectures was lifted on Oct. 1. The trials will begin Thursday in Kyoto Prefecture, followed by Hokkaido and Fukuoka prefectures.

1:46 p.m. India reports 13,596 new cases in the last 24 hours, the lowest daily count in seven and a half months. The country's total cases rose to 34.08 million. Fatalities rose by 166 to 452,290. India's financial hub of Mumbai -- one of the cities worst hit by the pandemic -- reported zero COVID-related deaths on Sunday for the first time since March 26 last year.

1:00 p.m. South Korea reports 1,050 new cases, down from 1,420 a day earlier and the lowest daily count since July 7. Starting from Monday, the government is allowing gatherings of up to four unvaccinated people and easing restrictions on the operating hours of venues like restaurants, cafes and movie theaters.

A drive-through vaccination at a clinic in the Auckland suburb of Otara on Oct. 16.   © Reuters

12:30 p.m. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the country's biggest city, Auckland, will remain in lockdown for another two weeks while the government tries to accelerate inoculations and live with COVID-19. There will be no changes in the social restrictions that have already been in place for over two months in Auckland under alert level 3.

11:00 a.m. China's economic growth continued to decelerate in the third quarter, government data shows. Softened by the country's zero-tolerance COVID measures and energy shortages, the year-on-year GDP growth rate of 4.9% was below the median 5% expansion forecast by 29 economists in a Nikkei poll released earlier this month. The figure slid from 7.9% for the April-to-June quarter, weighed down by high commodity prices amid uncertainty kindled by the Evergrande Group's debt crisis.

10:10 a.m. China reports 24 new cases for Sunday, up from 20 a day earlier. Two local cases were found in the northwestern city of Xian, while the rest of the infections were imported from abroad. China also reports nine new asymptomatic patients, which it classifies separately from confirmed cases, down from 13 a day earlier.

8:24 a.m. Thousands of children return to Sydney's schools after nearly four months of home learning as Australia's largest city eases more restrictions just a week after lifting its COVID-19 lockdown amid a surge in vaccination levels.

Masks will be off in offices and more people can gather at home and outdoors as Sydney readies to live with COVID-19 after spending large parts of this year virus-free until a delta outbreak in mid-June. Retail stores, pubs and gyms can allow more vaccinated patrons, nightclubs can reopen for seated drinking, and weddings can have unlimited guests, according to Reuters.

Retail stores, pubs and gyms in Sydney can now allow more vaccinated patrons.   © Reuters

2:05 a.m. Public-sector employees in Egypt will have to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or take a PCR test weekly to be allowed into work after Nov. 15. The government has also decided to allocate 1 billion pounds ($64 million) for pandemic-related spending.

12:10 a.m. Britain on Sunday reported 45,140 new cases, the highest daily number since the middle of July, and 57 new deaths within 28 days of a positive test, according to official data.

Sunday, Oct. 17

12:21 p.m. Melbourne, which has spent more time under COVID-19 lockdowns than any other city in the world, is set to lift its stay-at-home orders this week, officials say. By Friday, when some curbs will be lifted, the Australian metropolis of 5 million will have been under six lockdowns totaling more than eight months since March 2020. Australian and other media call this the longest in the world, exceeding that in Buenos Aires by about a month.

12:47 a.m. Singapore reports 3,348 daily new cases as of noon Saturday local time, down 97 from the day before, along with nine deaths. The new cases break down into 2,688 in the community, 656 in migrant worker dormitories, and four "imported cases," according to the Ministry of Health.

Saturday, Oct. 16

11:17 p.m. Pope Francis calls on pharmaceutical companies to release patents to make vaccines for COVID-19 more available to the poor, noting that only 3%-4% of the population in some countries had been vaccinated, Reuters reports.

The 84-year-old pope says some people, including within the church, consider him to be "a pest" for defending the poor and most vulnerable but that won't stop him, as it is part of Christianity: "Thinking about these situations (of exclusion and inequality), I make a pest of myself with my questions. And I go on asking. And I ask everyone in the name of God."

4:35 p.m. Thousands of Sydney residents flock to a prominent horse race as Australia's biggest city emerges from a strict COVID-19 lockdown and the nation begins to live with the coronavirus through extensive vaccination, Reuters reports. Up to 10,000 fully vaccinated spectators can now attend races such as The Everest in Sydney, Australia's richest turf horse race, and the country's most famous, Melbourne Cup Day, on Nov. 2.

Also, New South Wales state, of which Sydney is the capital, reaches its target of 80% of people fully vaccinated, well ahead of the rest of Australia. "80% in NSW! Been a long wait but we've done it," New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet says on Twitter.

3:00 p.m. New Zealand vaccinates at least 2.5% of its people in one day, Reuters reports, as the government tries to accelerate inoculations. According to preliminary data from the Health Ministry, 124,669 shots were administered by late in the day in the country of 4.9 million.

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

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