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Coronavirus: Free to read

Coronavirus: Week of Oct. 3 to Oct. 9, Singapore hits record for new infections

Hong Kong logs first local case in 52 days; Japan buys 120m Pfizer booster doses

People dine at Singapore's Boat Quay. The country is confronting a spike in coronavirus infections.   © 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 237,224,675, according to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. The worldwide death toll has hit 4,842,443.

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

Friday, Oct. 8 (Tokyo time)

11:52 p.m. Singapore records its highest number of cases in a single day with 3,590 infections, as the city-state deals with a wave of infections after relaxing some restrictions. Six deaths are also reported. Of the 3,590 new cases, 2,825 are in the local community while 765 are from migrant worker dormitories, according to the Health Ministry.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong says on his Facebook page that he will address the nation about the rise in cases on Saturday, adding that "there is no need to rush out to stock up on items or dine out!"

5:49 p.m. Hong Kong authorities have confirmed a local coronavirus infection case, breaking a 51-day streak of only imported cases. It is not yet clear how the man, who handles cargo at the city's airport, contracted COVID-19.

Vaccinated travelers will be able to move between Singapore's Changi airport and South Korea's Incheon airport, without restrictions on the purpose of travel or requirements for a controlled itinerary.   © Reuters

4:30 p.m. Singapore and South Korea have agreed to launch vaccinated travel lanes starting from Nov 15, the city state's transport ministry says. Under the VTLs, fully vaccinated travelers can travel between Singapore's Changi airport and South Korea's Incheon airport, taking COVID-19 polymerase chain reaction tests instead of observing quarantine. There will be no restrictions on the purpose of travel or requirements for a controlled itinerary.

2:30 p.m. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida says he will do his utmost to lead Japan out of the COVID-19 crisis while also protecting its territory and people in an increasingly tough security environment. "I'm determined to devote body and soul to overcome this national crisis with the people, carve out a new era and pass on to the next generation a country whose citizens are rich at heart," Kishida said in his first policy speech to parliament. Surging infection numbers essentially forced his predecessor to step down.

1:36 p.m. India reports 21,257 new cases in the last 24 hours, down from 22,431 the previous day. The country's total comes to 33.9 million. Fatalities rose by 271 to 450,127. India has so far administered over 931 million vaccine shots nationwide since launching the inoculation drive in mid-January. Of its eligible adult population of over 940 million, 71% of the people have received at least one dose while 27% have been fully vaccinated, according to the health ministry.

12:30 p.m. Singapore is working to allow quarantine-free entry to travelers from the United States who are vaccinated against COVID-19 before the end of the year, its minister for trade and industry says. "We have had successful pilots of Vaccinated Travel Lanes with Germany and Brunei to facilitate the entry of fully vaccinated individuals into Singapore for business and leisure," Gan Kim Yong said in a speech during a visit to Washington DC. "We are now working on a VTL with the U.S. as soon as possible, and certainly before the end of the year."

11:30 a.m. South Korea reports 2,176 new cases, down from 2,425 a day earlier, pushing the country total to 327,976 infections. The daily case count has been above 2,000 for three straight days despite government efforts to combat the months-long delta outbreak.

Japan, which has fully vaccinated 62.7% of its population, is preparing to deliver booster shots next year.

11:10 a.m. Japan has signed a deal with Pfizer to purchase an additional 120 million doses of its vaccine, the health ministry says. Starting in January, the vaccine will be used mostly as a booster shot for those who have been fully vaccinated. Including those already supplied, Japan has now contracted for 314 million Pfizer doses. As of Wednesday, 62.7% of the country's population had been fully vaccinated.

11:05 a.m. Australian doctors warn a too-rapid easing of COVID-19 restrictions in Sydney could put pressure on health systems and risk lives. Stay-at-home restrictions are due to be lifted on Monday now that New South Wales state has hit its 70% full vaccination target for its adult population. Authorities on Thursday bumped up permitted limits for home gatherings, weddings and funerals. The Australian Medical Association, however, said opening "too fast or too early" will result in avoidable deaths and the reintroduction of lockdowns.

11:00 a.m. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida instructs his cabinet to compile an economic package once the general elections have taken place to ease pandemic-caused hardships. Finance Minister Shunichi Suzuki told reporters he hopes to compile a "high quality" extra budget immediately after the elections on Oct. 31 and have it approved by parliament by the end of the year.

9:00 a.m. Japan's household spending for August fell 3% from a year earlier, government data shows, as emergency curbs to combat the pandemic weighed on consumption during summer. The data bodes ill for new Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's efforts to revitalize the economy and distribute more wealth to households through higher wages. The decrease in spending was worse than a median market forecast for a 1.5% drop and followed a 0.7% increase in July.

7:40 a.m. Pfizer and BioNTech have asked U.S. regulators to authorize emergency use of their COVID-19 vaccine for 5- to 11-year-olds, a group for whom no shot is currently allowed, Pfizer says. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has set Oct. 26 for its panel of outside advisers to meet and discuss the application, making it possible for around 28 million children to begin receiving the two-dose vaccine. "With new cases in children in the U.S. continuing to be at a high level," Pfizer wrote on Twitter, "this submission is an important step in our ongoing effort against #COVID19."

Thursday, Oct. 7

6:10 p.m. Russia reports 27,550 new cases, the biggest one-day tally it has recorded this year, amid a wave of infections that has pushed officials to urge people to get vaccinated. The government coronavirus task force also said that 924 people had died of coronavirus-linked causes in the last 24 hours, close to a record one-day toll.

As a precaution, Finland is pausing the use of the Moderna COVID vaccine on young men after a Nordic study found that those aged 30 and below had a "slightly higher risk" than others of developing myocarditis.   © Reuters

5:30 p.m. Finland will pause the use of Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine for men born in and after 1991 due to reports of a rare cardiovascular side effect, the Institute for Health and Welfare says. Swedish and Danish health officials announced Wednesday they would pause the use of the Moderna vaccine for all young adults and children. "A Nordic study involving Finland, Sweden, Norway and Denmark found that men under the age of 30 who received Moderna Spikevax had a slightly higher risk than others of developing myocarditis," said Mika Salminen, director of the health institute.

Salminen said myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart, usually heals on its own within a few days. He said, however, that Finland would only give the Pfizer vaccine to boys and young men as a precaution.

3:30 p.m. The World Health Organization says it is sending COVID-19 aid for North Korea through China's border port of Dalian, despite few signs North Korea has eased strict border lockdowns to keep the virus out. In its latest weekly report for South and East Asia, which covers the period to the end of September, the WHO said it had begun shipments through Dalian, which is near the border with North Korea.

Merck's Molnupiravir antiviral medication could halve the chances of dying or being hospitalized for at-risk COVID-19 patients, experts say.   © Merck & Co/AP

3:00 p.m. Malaysia has struck a deal with U.S. drugmaker Merck & Co to buy 150,000 courses of its experimental antiviral pill, the Health Ministry says, joining other Asian countries in a rush to secure supplies. Molnupiravir, which would be the first oral antiviral medication for COVID-19 if it gets regulatory approval, could halve the chances of dying or being hospitalized for those most at risk of contracting severe COVID-19, clinical data has shown.

2:00 p.m. Thai consumer confidence picked up in September as tough coronavirus restrictions were eased to support economic activity, a survey shows. The consumer index of the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce increased to 41.4 in September from a record low of 39.6 in August.

1:19 p.m. India posts 22,431 new cases in the last 24 hours, up from 18,833 the previous day, pushing the country's total to 33.89 million. Deaths rose from 278 a day ago to 318, bringing the total number of fatalities to 449,856.

12:40 p.m. MSD, the Japanese subsidiary of U.S. pharmaceutical giant Merck, says it aims to start supplying Molnupiravir, the first oral antiviral medication for COVID-19, in Japan by the end of 2021. After applying for an emergency use permit in the U.S., the company plans to apply for approval from Japan's health ministry. In clinical trials the drug was found to reduce the risk of hospitalization and death by about 50% in patients with mild to moderate disease who were at risk for severe illness.

11:10 a.m. South Korea reports 2,427 new cases for Wednesday, up from 2,028 a day earlier and the first time it has topped 2,400 cases in six days, as authorities noted delta-variant outbreaks at workplaces and child care facilities.

11:00 a.m. China reports 25 new cases for Wednesday, compared with 26 a day earlier. All the new infections were imported. The country also reported 11 asymptomatic cases, which it does not classify as confirmed cases. No new deaths were reported.

Sydney's waterfront on Oct. 6. Starting Oct. 11, fully vaccinated people in New South Wales state will be able to leave their homes for any reason, and pubs, retail stores, theaters and gyms will reopen under strict social distancing rules.    © Reuters

9:30 a.m. COVID-19 restrictions will be eased further in Sydney from Monday, authorities say, as Australia's largest city looks set to exit a nearly four-month lockdown after hitting its target of 70% full vaccination. Fully vaccinated people in New South Wales state will be able to leave their homes for any reason, and pubs, retail stores, theaters and gyms will reopen under strict social distancing rules. The number of vaccinated visitors allowed to gather in a home will double to 10, while the limit on vaccinated people at weddings and funerals will be raised to 100. Masks will not be mandatory in offices.

4:33 a.m. Canada will place unvaccinated federal employees on unpaid leave and require COVID-19 shots for air, train and ship passengers, says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, unveiling one of the world's strictest vaccine mandate policies.

2:00 a.m. Advanced nations hold hundreds of millions of excess coronavirus vaccine doses at risk of expiring before they can be given to people in developing countries that have had greater difficulty in sourcing shots.

Wednesday, Oct. 6

11:21 p.m. Pfizer says it will study the effectiveness of its vaccine against COVID-19 by inoculating everyone over the age of 12 in a town in southern Brazil with a population of 143,000 to study transmission of the coronavirus in a "real-life scenario" after the population has been vaccinated.

Singapore is the latest Asian country to try to snap up supplies of Merck's experimental anti-COVID-19 pill.   © Reuters

1:02 p.m. Singapore signed a supply and purchase agreement with Merck that gives the city access to the drugmaker's experimental COVID-19 antiviral drug, becoming the latest Asian country to try to snap up supplies, various news outlets have reported. Molnupiravir, the first oral antiviral medication for COVID-19, is designed to introduce errors into the coronavirus's genetic code. Australia has made a similar deal, while Thailand, South Korea, Taiwan and Malaysia are in talks with Merck. Singapore reported a record 3,486 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday as it deals with its biggest outbreak so far.

12:33 p.m. South Korea this week begins taking reservations for coronavirus vaccinations from pregnant women, according to Reuters, as the country accelerates its inoculation drive to reach its goal of immunizing 80% of all adults by the end of the month. Health authorities, who see pregnant women as key to the campaign, have issued public notices and held news conferences saying pregnant women have a greater possibility of serious illness and death if infected with COVID-19. Pregnant women can start making appointments on Friday, and can begin receiving Pfizer or Moderna shots on Oct. 18, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).

10:27 a.m. New Zealand's central bank raises interest rates for the first time in seven years and signals further tightening to come as it looks to cool its domestic economy and a red-hot housing market. The 25 basis point increase to 0.5% by the Reserve Bank of New Zealand had been widely anticipated.

9:16 a.m. New Zealand says a person has died of COVID-19 in an Auckland hospital and that 39 new cases have been recorded, according to Reuters. The majority of the cases are in Auckland, but more infections are being reported in the Waikato region, health authorities say. The current outbreak has led to 1,420 infections.

12:52 a.m. AstraZeneca has requested emergency approval from U.S. regulators for its antibody cocktail, the first protective shot other than vaccines against COVID-19, another potential major step in the global fight to combat the virus, reports Reuters.

Tuesday, Oct. 5

9:03 p.m. Johnson & Johnson says it had submitted data to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorization of a booster shot of its COVID-19 vaccine in people aged 18 and older.

8:55 p.m. India's Supreme Court has ordered state authorities to pay 50,000 rupees ($672) as compensation for each death caused by COVID-19 to help families cope with the loss, Reuters reports after reviewing the order. India reports 449,260 deaths overall, a tally experts say is a massive undercount.

6:00 p.m. Vietnam's garment exports in 2021 may hit only $34 billion, according to the worst case scenario, below its target of $39 billion due to coronavirus curbs and a labor shortage, the government says. The industry is estimated to face a 35-37% labor shortage to the end of this year. Textiles manufacturing is a key industry for Vietnam's economy, making products for the world's biggest brands.

5:10 p.m. Tokyo reports 144 new cases, up from 87 a day earlier. The seven-day average of new cases in the capital is 181, down about 46% from a week ago.

An Indian man dressed as Mahatma Gandhi, right, is greeted by a person on the anniversary of Gandhi's birth in Mumbai on Oct. 2. (AP Photo/Rajanish Kakade)   © AP

1:56 p.m. India reports 18,346 infections in the last 24 hours -- the lowest daily count in nearly seven months -- pushing the country total to 33.85 million. Deaths rose from 180 a day ago to 263, bringing the total number of fatalities to 449,260. Meanwhile, over 7.25 million vaccine shots have been administered nationwide since Monday morning, bringing vaccination coverage to 915.5 million doses.

12:06 p.m. Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam says opening up to the mainland is a top priority, adding that the government will review its pandemic control measures to more closely mirror the mainland's. "Whether it's about the economy or people's livelihoods, Hong Kong people need to be able to travel to the mainland," she said. Hong Kong maintains a strict quarantine for travelers coming from overseas. Up to 2,000 visitors from the mainland and Macau are allowed into Hong Kong quarantine-free under certain conditions, including proof of a negative test result. Hong Kong visitors going to the mainland are subject to hotel quarantine.

National Day celebrants climb the Great Wall in Beijing on Oct. 1.   © Reuters

11:30 a.m. New Zealand says that next month it will begin using COVID-19 vaccine certificates as proof of inoculation at large events and in other high-risk settings, its latest weapon against the delta variant. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Monday abandoned a long-standing strategy of eliminating the spread of the virus due to the variant's high virulence. She said the certificates will help ensure music festivals and other large gatherings do not become superspreader events.

11:00 a.m. China reports no new local cases for the first time in more than three weeks after outbreaks in Fujian and Heilongjiang provinces were brought under control. The first recent case in Fujian was reported on Sept. 10 in the city of Putian. Infections spread to nearby Xiamen but were contained within the southeastern province. Heilongjiang reported its first case on Sept. 21; infections were contained within the northeastern province. For Monday, China reported 26 new coronavirus cases, all imported.

8:00 a.m. Australia will buy 300,000 doses of Merck's experimental antiviral pill, Prime Minister Scott Morrison says, as the country aims to reopen its borders next month. Molnupiravir would be the first oral antiviral medication for COVID-19 if it gets regulatory approval. Experts say it could halve the chances of dying or being hospitalized for people most at risk of contracting severe COVID-19. Merck said last week it planned to seek U.S. emergency use authorization for the pill and apply for regulatory approval worldwide, including in Australia.

4:00 a.m. Purchases of PCR tests in China's Hubei Province surged months before the first official reports of a novel coronavirus case there, according to a report from researchers in the U.S., the U.K. and Australia.

1:31 a.m. A year after South Africa and India introduced a novel proposal to temporarily waive intellectual property rights on COVID-19 vaccines and therapies at the World Trade Organization, negotiations are deadlocked and directionless, reports Reuters, citing trade sources.

Monday, Oct. 4

11:12 p.m. The EU drug regulator says people with a severely weakened immune system may be given a third dose of COVID-19 vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna at least 28 days after their second dose.

9:44 p.m. Thailand is in talks with Merck to buy 200,000 courses of the U.S. drugmaker's experimental antiviral pill for COVID-19 treatment, known as molnupiravir.

South Korea, Taiwan and Malaysia say they are also in talks to buy the potential treatment, while the Philippines, which is running a trial on the pill, says it hopes its domestic study will allow access to the treatment. Interim clinical trials released Friday indicate that molnupiravir could reduce by around 50% the chance of hospitalization or death for patients at risk of severe disease from COVID-19.

6:00 p.m. Indonesia will reopen the tourist island of Bali for some international travelers, including those from China, New Zealand and Japan from Oct. 14, a senior cabinet minister says. Visitors will be required to quarantine for eight days.

People stroll about Tokyo on Oct. 2, a day after Japan lifted a state of emergency in the nation's capital and other prefectures.

5:00 p.m. Tokyo reports 87 cases -- the lowest since Nov. 2 last year -- after the central government lifted the state of emergency in the capital and other prefectures on Oct. 1. Over 60% of Japan has been fully vaccinated, with 71% of the population having received at least one shot as of Oct. 3.

2:09 p.m. Fumio Kishida, president of Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party, has been elected as the country's prime minister amid news that he has decided to dissolve the lower house later this month to hold general elections on Oct. 31. Kishida, a former foreign minister, is forming a cabinet that will seek to keep COVID-19 under control, revive a battered economy and appeal to voters in the upcoming elections.

2:04 p.m. India posts 20,799 new cases in the last 24 hours, down from 22,842 the previous day, bringing the country's total to over 33.8 million. Deaths rose by 180 to 448,997. Of the total confirmed infections so far, India's active caseload accounts for 0.78% currently, the lowest since March 2020. The present recovery rate of 97.89% is the highest in over one and a half years, according to the health ministry.

Aucklanders exercise on Aug. 26 amid a lockdown.   © Reuters

12:15 p.m. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern extends the Level 3 lockdown in its biggest city, Auckland, but says some restrictions will ease. From Wednesday, Aucklanders will be able to connect with loved ones outdoors, although with no more than two households gathering at a time and a maximum of 10 people. Early childhood education will return, and people can also move around for recreation such as beach visits and hunting, she said.

10:30 a.m. Australia reports 2,029 new infections, up from Sunday, even as its two most populous states remained under extended lockdowns and vaccination rates rose. The state of New South Wales, of which Sydney is the capital, reported 623 new cases, down from 667 on Sunday. Victoria state reported 1,377 new cases, up from 1,220 a day earlier.

5:00 a.m. Israel says only those who have received a third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine are eligible for a "green pass" that allows entry to restaurants, gyms and many other venues. The pass is being issued to those who received three shots or recently recovered from COVID-19, replacing a previous system that required two shots. About 37% of Israel's 9.4 million population has received a booster shot.

An Israeli man receives a third vaccine shot. The country is requiring boosters for anyone entering restaurants, gyms and other businesses.   © Reuters

4:20 a.m. The U.S. has administered over 395.9 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines nationwide as of Sunday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. More than 215 million Americans have received at least one dose while over 185 million are fully vaccinated.

About 5.3 million people have received an additional dose of either Pfizer or Moderna's vaccine since Aug. 13, when the U.S. authorized a third shot for people with compromised immune systems who are likely to have weaker protection from the two-dose regimens.

Sunday, Oct. 3

3:08 p.m. Beijing will hold its city marathon on Oct. 31, resuming the annual race after suspending it last year due to COVID-19, state media outlet Xinhua says. The marathon, expected to host about 30,000 runners, will start in Tiananmen Square and finish at Olympic Forest Park, Xinhua said, citing organizers.

Beijing marathoners are required to stay in the capital at least 21 days before the race, declaring their health status online daily during the period, Xinhua says. The race is open to permanent residents of Beijing 20 or older. Runners must submit proof of vaccination and a negative nucleic acid test to compete.

12:19 p.m. Australia reports more than 1,900 new cases of the delta coronavirus variant, as authorities struggle to quell the outbreak in the two most populous states and infections spread elsewhere. Victoria and New South Wales, which have been under lockdown for weeks, report 1,887 cases and 13 deaths. The island state of Tasmania, which had no cases for 58 days, reported a new local infection late Saturday, while new cases occurred in South Australia state over the weekend.

12:15 a.m. Russia sees a clear path for registering its Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine with the World Health Organization, with only paperwork remaining, Russian Health Minister Mikhail Murashko says.

The Sputnik V shot, widely used in Russia and approved for use in over 70 countries, is undergoing a review by the WHO and the European Medicines Agency. Their approval could open up new markets for the shot, especially in Europe. Murashko has met WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in Geneva.

Saturday, Oct. 2

8:17 p.m. Singapore is reviewing how to simplify its pandemic protocols, which many in the city-state find overly complex, including whether to continue testing those who show no symptoms of the disease, the government says.

According to a Reuters report, "We are relooking at all our protocols and one of the areas we are looking at is how to address people who have no symptoms at all, and whether or not we need to test them," Kenneth Mak, the health ministry's director of medical services, tells reporters.

5:47 p.m. Malaysia is in talks to procure an experimental antiviral pill developed by Merck for COVID-19 treatment, Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin says. "As we transition to living with COVID, we will be adding new, innovative treatment options to our arsenal in addition to vaccines."

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

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