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Coronavirus: Free to read

Coronavirus: Week of Sept. 20 to Sept. 26, China halts seafood imports from Russian vessels

Australia says inquiry into COVID origin crucial; Indonesia reports record daily rise for 3rd day

A wet market in Beijing: China said on Sept. 26 that stop accepting import declarations from two Russian ships for four weeks, after it discovered the novel coronavirus on seafood packaging.    © Reuters

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

Global cases have reached 32,476,713, according to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

The worldwide death toll has hit 987,775.

To see how the disease has spread, view our virus tracker charts:

(Source photo by AP) 

Here are the latest developments (Tokyo time):

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UPDATES CLOSED

Saturday, September 26

11:58 a.m. China will stop accepting import declarations from two Russian vessels for four weeks, after the novel coronavirus was detected on outer packaging and samples of Russian marine products, Reuters reports. The customs office on Saturday said the coronavirus was detected by authorities in the eastern coastal province of Shandong.

10:40 a.m. The World Health Organization supported China's campaign to vaccinate certain people against coronavirus in July while clinical trials were still underway, a Chinese health official says. China launched the emergency program in July, having communicated with the WHO in late June, according to Zheng Zhongwei, a National Health Commission official.

9:29 a.m. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, in a speech to the United Nations General Assembly, says an inquiry into the origin of COVID-19 would minimize the threat of another pandemic. His comments could worsen already strained relations with China. 

7:21 a.m. Canada's two most populous provinces move to clamp down further on social gatherings in a bid to slow a second wave of coronavirus infections that since the start of the pandemic now total more than 150,000 nationwide.

5:58 a.m. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis lifts all COVID-19 restrictions on businesses, including restaurants and bars, saying the threat of the coronavirus pandemic had eased sufficiently to allow the U.S. state to enter the final phase of its reopening.

2:05 a.m. The global death toll from the pandemic could double to 2 million before a vaccine is in wide use, says the head of the World Health Organization's emergencies program. Mike Ryan sees reaching the threshold as "very likely" without concerted action.

12:52 a.m. The poor and weak should receive priority when a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available, Pope Francis tells the United Nations General Assembly in a video address. "If anyone should be given preference, let it be the poorest, the most vulnerable," he said.

Friday, September 25

10:00 p.m. Japan's Health Ministry has allowed shallow nasal swabs in coronavirus tests for people showing such symptoms as fever. Research shows that for symptomatic patients, samples collected from just inside the nostril are sufficiently accurate compared with those taken from deep inside, according to the ministry.

Health officials hope the easier swabs will expand availability of PCR tests -- an ongoing challenge for Japan.

8:20 p.m. Notwithstanding the worsening COVID-19 situation in India, thousands of the country's farmers have taken to the streets to protest against new agriculture reforms, which they fear will mainly benefit private players. Many protesters have not been wearing masks, despite continuous requests from the government for the public to use face coverings to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

8:00 p.m. The number of novel coronavirus cases in the U.S. has topped 7 million -- more than 20% of the world's total -- as Midwest states reported spikes in COVID-19 infections in September, according to a Reuters tally.

7:45 p.m. India is holding local elections in the densely populated state of Bihar, with millions of voters turning out, even as the country reported 86,052 new infections of coronavirus on Friday and remained set to overtake the U.S. by next month as the nation worst affected by the pandemic.

7:20 p.m. Iran and Russia's sovereign wealth fund are discussing the joint production of a COVID-19 vaccine, Russian news agencies said, quoted the Iranian ambassador to Moscow as saying on Friday.

6:20 p.m. The World Health Organization supports China's decision to start administering experimental coronavirus vaccines to people, even as clinical trials are still underway, a Chinese health official said at a news conference.

6:15 p.m. The Japanese government is planning to offer up to 1 million yen ($9,500) to people who move to rural areas while continuing to do their jobs in Tokyo remotely.

5:40 p.m. Indonesia reports a new daily caseload record for the third straight day, with 4,823 new infections and 113 additional deaths. The totals have reached 266,845 cases and 10,218 fatalities from COVID-19.

5:35 p.m. The Philippines reports 2,630 additional infections and 69 more deaths, the largest daily increase in casualties in six days. Total confirmed cases in the country have reached 299,361, the highest in Southeast Asia, while deaths have risen to 5,196.

5:15 p.m. China's annual production capacity for COVID-19 vaccines is expected to reach 610 million doses by the end of the year, the country's National Health Commission says. Capacity is forecast to reach 1 billion doses per year by 2021.

China's production capacity for COVID-19 vaccines is expected to reach 610 million doses by the end of the year and 1 billion doses per year by 2021, the National Health Commission says.   © Reuters

4:40 p.m. Russia's daily tally of new cases hit its highest level since June 23, as officials reported 7,212 infections across the country, bringing the national tally to 1,136,048. In Moscow, the tally of new cases rose almost 50% overnight to 1,560 from 1,050 the previous day.

4:00 p.m. Russia's sovereign wealth fund says it has agreed to supply up to 35 million doses of an experimental Russian COVID-19 vaccine to Laxisam, a pharmaceutical company in Uzbekistan. It has also inked supply deals with Kazakhstan, India, Mexico and two states in Brazil.

3:12 p.m. Tokyo reports 195 new infections, unchanged from a day earlier, bringing the capital's total to 24,843 cases.

2:30 p.m. Japan and Singapore agreed to mutually ease travel restrictions for long-term residents, such as expatriates working for companies, starting Sept. 30, Japan's foreign ministry says. Japan also reached a similar deal with Brunei that takes effect Oct. 8. A 14-day quarantine period at a hotel is still required for entrants from abroad.

2:01 p.m. South Korea says it will impose tighter restrictions during the Chuseok autumn holiday weeks when people traditionally reunite with families, flagging the risks of new clusters of coronavirus infections. The new curbs apply to at least 11 high-risk facilities in the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, including nightclubs and bars.

1:25 p.m. India reports 86,052 cases in the last 24 hours, slightly down from 86,508 the previous day, bringing the country's tally to over 5.8 million. The death toll jumped by 1,141 to 92,290.

Of India's total confirmed cases, 16.67% are active patients, while 81.74% have recovered, the health ministry says in its latest update, adding that the country's COVID-19 mortality rate is at 1.59%.

12:10 p.m. Singapore's population decreased for the first time since 2003, as pandemic-related travel curbs and job losses drove foreign workers from the global business hub, according to an annual population report. The population shrunk by about 18,000 people, or 0.3%, to 5.69 million. A plunge in foreigners -- down 2% to 1.64 million -- along with a marginal fall in permanent residents outweighed a modest rise in citizens, some of whom returned from overseas as the virus spread.

10:52 a.m. U.S. cases topped 7 million on Thursday -- more than 20% of the world total -- as states in the midwestern part of the country reported spikes in September, according to Reuters. The latest figure comes just days after the nation surpassed 200,000 fatalities, the world's highest death toll. Over 700 people die daily in the U.S. from COVID-19.

10:04 a.m. South Korea confirms 114 new cases, down from 125 a day ago. Total infections reach 23,455 with 395 deaths.

9:20 a.m. China reports eight cases for Thursday compared with seven a day earlier. All new infections were imported and involved overseas travelers. The number of asymptomatic cases fell to 18 from 20 a day earlier.

9:10 a.m. Australia says it may simplify bank lending to free up credit in a bid to stimulate the economy, which slid into its first recession in nearly 30 years. The changes will ease regulatory burdens, making it easier for consumers and small businesses to get loans.

8:20 a.m. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro will issue decrees to facilitate Brazil's joining the global COVAX vaccine partnership and earmark 2.5 billion reals ($453.8 million) for securing vaccines through the facility.

7:50 a.m. Australia's coronavirus hot spot of Victoria reports eight deaths from COVID-19 in the last 24 hours and 14 infections. The state is set to partially ease tough restrictions over the weekend. Victoria reported two deaths and 12 cases a day earlier.

6:30 a.m. Novavax started a late-stage trial on Thursday of its experimental COVID-19 vaccine in the U.K., in partnership with the government's Vaccines Taskforce. The news pushed its shares up 6% after the bell. The study is expected to enroll up to 10,000 participants aged between 18 and 84 years and comes after the vaccine candidate produced high levels of antibodies in a small, early-stage clinical trial.

5:26 a.m. The scientific head of the U.S. government program designed to speed development of COVID-19 vaccines says he supports stricter rules to grant emergency use of new inoculations against the novel coronavirus, reports Reuters. Operation Warp Speed scientific lead Dr. Moncef Slaoui says he supports recommendations being drafted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that companies wait two months after the last administration of their vaccine before seeking emergency use authorization of their products.

Concern is rising among public health experts and citizens that a vaccine could be rushed without proper safety checks, especially as the Nov. 3 presidential election nears.

5:12 a.m. The French Open tennis tournament will be able to welcome only 1,000 people a day, including players, staff and organizers, down from the 5,000 spectators it had hoped for, Prime Minister Jean Castex says.

4:37 a.m. Three U.S. states report record one-day increases in new COVID-19 cases, according to Reuters. Montana reported 330 new coronavirus cases and South Dakota recorded 463 new cases, while Utah's governor said the state set a one-day record with 1,198 new cases.

4:23 a.m. China's Sinovac is ready to boost output of its coronavirus vaccine now in clinical trials to developing countries. The company completed a vaccine plant in Beijing in just four months, and it's CEO says similar sites can now be assembled even quicker.

4:17 a.m. Saudi Arabia suspends flights to and from India and banned those who have visited the country in the past 14 days from entering the kingdom, reports Reuters, citing two sources familiar with the matter.

4:05 a.m. Mexico's central bank lowers its policy rate 0.25 percentage point to 4.25%, cutting interest rates for an 11th straight meeting.

French President Emmanuel Macron, facing front, arrives to meet elderly people and health care staff at a nursing home in Bracieux on Sept. 22.   © Reuters

3:50 a.m. France reports 16,096 cases for Thursday, topping the previous high of 13,498 and bringing the country to total to 497,237. This was the fourth time in eight days that new daily highs have been recorded. Deaths on the day numbered 52, bringing the country total to 31,511.

2:30 a.m. Britain records its highest number of daily cases on Thursday at 6,634, as a second wave of infections sweeps the country. The new number likely reflects a much higher level of testing than during the first wave. Thursday's total was up from 6,178 on Wednesday and 4,926 on Tuesday.

2:28 a.m. The Hong Kong Open tennis tournament, scheduled to be held next month, is canceled for the second straight year.

1:00 a.m. The debate on universal basic income has gained momentum in South Korea, as the coronavirus outbreak and the country's growing income divide force a rethink on social safety nets.

Thursday, September 24

11:42 p.m. The Japan Professional Football League, or J.League, will increase its audience limit at soccer games by 50% effective Wednesday. Clubs will be able to choose either the higher limit or a lower capacity with the option to designate seats for away-team supporters.

10:35 p.m. Japan's NEC says it has developed technology that can recognize faces with an accuracy of more than 99.9% when a person is wearing a mask. The new method checks features around the eyes.

A man wearing a protective face mask is checked with a thermal scanner at a shopping mall in Jakarta on Sept. 22.   © Reuters

9:08 p.m. Jakarta Gov. Anies Baswedan announces that the Indonesian capital is extending large-scale movement restrictions for another two weeks, meaning only 11 essential sectors including food, finance and construction, are allowed to operate at half of capacity. Baswedan said daily new coronavirus infections in Jakarta have slowed since restrictions were reinstated on Sept. 14, but cases in satellite cities are still surging.

7:56 p.m. Iran's death toll from the coronavirus rises by 175 to 25,015 on Thursday -- the highest in the Middle East -- with the total number of identified infections spiking to 436,319. Health Ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari told state TV that 3,521 new cases were identified in the last 24 hours.

6:48 p.m. China's Sinovac Biotech hopes to supply its experimental coronavirus vaccine to more South American countries by outsourcing some manufacturing procedures to a partner in Brazil. Sinovac plans to provide semi-finished products to its partner Instituto Butantan, which will complete the rest of the process and supply finished items to other South American countries, Chairman Yin Weidong said at a news conference.

6:00 p.m. AstraZeneca is still waiting for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to approve the restart of the clinical trial of its COVID-19 vaccine in the United States, almost three weeks after it was paused due to safety concerns. U.S. testing of AstraZeneca's vaccine candidate, initially developed by the University of Oxford, remains on hold while regulators investigate an illness in one of the participants, even after a British study and other programs outside the U.S. have resumed.

Relatives mourn a family member who died from COVID-19 at the Pondok Ranggon cemetery in Jakarta on Sept. 24.   © Reuters

5:50 p.m. Indonesia reports a daily record high for the second consecutive day with 4,634 new infections, and 128 deaths. The country has now a total of 262,022 coronavirus cases, with the death toll crossing the 10,000 mark for the first time to 10,105.

5:10 p.m. The Philippines reports 2,180 new infections and 36 additional deaths. Total confirmed cases rose to 296,755, still the highest in Southeast Asia, while deaths reached 5,127, nearly half of which were recorded in the past 30 days.

3:40 p.m. SoftBank Group starts offering PCR coronavirus testing with saliva that will cost 2,000 yen ($19) per person, excluding delivery fees, for corporate customers. In Japan, PCR testing is typically priced from 20,000 to 40,000 yen. The Japanese tech investor aims to expand the testing market by making tests available to people without symptoms at a reasonable price through its unit. It also plans to offer the service to individuals this winter.

3:10 p.m. China National Biotec Group says it will donate 200,000 doses of its candidate coronavirus vaccine to the central city of Wuhan, where the virus first emerged. Hundreds of thousands of people have taken experimental vaccines in China before trials are completed, thanks to an emergency use program launched in July. The 200,000 shots of a vaccine developed by CNBG's Wuhan unit, enough to inoculate 100,000 people, will be used to protect medical workers in the city.

Women walk past masked mannequins at a market in Sydney: Australia's government plans to change the country's bankruptcy law, giving small companies more time to restructure their debts.   © Reuters

2:30 p.m. Australia unveils the biggest shakeup in its bankruptcy laws in nearly three decades, allowing small businesses to trade while insolvent and to take more control over debt restructuring, in a bid to help cash-strapped companies through the coronavirus crisis. Businesses with liabilities of less than A$1 million ($708,000) will be able to keep operating for 20 business days while they come up with a debt restructuring plan, rather than be placed in the hands of administrators.

12:00 p.m. A South Korean fisheries official who went missing this week was questioned on a North Korean patrol boat before being shot dead by troops, who then doused his body in oil and set it on fire, South Korea's military says. It is unclear why the official was shot, but the North Korean troops may have been acting under anti-coronavirus orders, the South's military said.

10:21 a.m. South Korea confirms 125 new coronavirus cases, up from 110 a day ago. Total infections have reached 23,341, with 393 deaths. Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency Commissioner Dr. Jung Eun-kyeong was chosen as one of Time magazine's 100 most influential people of 2020 for leading the nation's successful antivirus efforts by dealing with the public in an open and transparent manner.

10:00 a.m. China reports seven new coronavirus cases for Thursday, down from 10 reported a day earlier. All new cases were imported infections involving travelers from overseas. The number of new asymptomatic cases rose to 20 from 18 a day earlier.

A woman makes Christmas products at a factory in China's Zhejiang Province: The country's economic recovery from COVID-19 is uneven, with the wealthy east outpacing other areas.   © Reuters

9:51 a.m. Japan has begun preparations to accept foreign athletes for the Tokyo Summer Olympics, aiming to host the full games after a year of delay by the pandemic while ensuring the safety of participants.

7:55 a.m. Australia's state of Victoria reports two deaths from the coronavirus and 12 new cases, compared with five deaths and 15 cases a day earlier. Victoria, which is on an extended lockdown until Sunday, may consider easing some tough restrictions sooner than previously planned, as new infections have continued a steady downtrend in recent days.

7:00 a.m. Although China's economy is recovering from the pandemic, the majority of companies in its poorer western and central provinces are recovering far more slowly than those in wealthier areas around Beijing, Shanghai and Guangdong, a report from China Beige Book International shows. Sales increased 41%, quarter-on-quarter, for Shanghai and the wealthy eastern provinces of Zhejiang and Jiangsu, but fell by 10% in the more remote western regions of Tibet, Gansu, Qinghai and Xinjiang, it said.

6:22 a.m. Marseille, the city in southern France, will shut down restaurants starting Saturday, while Paris will lower the maximum capacity of gatherings to 1,000 from 5,000. About 13,000 people have been found to be infected in the past 24 hours, and the health minister said that the situation is worsening.

4:38 a.m. Britain plans to host clinical trials where volunteers are deliberately infected with the new coronavirus to test the effectiveness of vaccine candidates, the Financial Times reports, citing people involved in the project. This will reportedly be the first "human challenge trials" in the world.

A man crosses the road in the City of London financial district. Britain intends to infect volunteers deliberately in trials of COVID-19 vaccines.   © Reuters

3:20 a.m. U.S. drugmaker Johnson & Johnson said Wednesday it began a 60,000-person trial on an experimental single-shot COVID-19 vaccine which, if effective, could simplify distribution of millions of doses compared with those of rivals that require two doses. The company expects results of the Phase 3 trial by year's end or early next year.

2:38 a.m. India's junior railways minister Suresh Angadi dies, nearly two weeks after he tested positive for COVID-19. Angadi, 65, was "a dedicated [member of Parliament] and effective Minister, admired across the spectrum," Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted Wednesday night. "His demise is saddening. My thoughts are with his family and friends in this sad hour."

1:23 a.m. The governor of Brazil's Sao Paulo says that the state will likely begin immunizations using China's Sinovac vaccine in mid-December.

Wednesday, September 23

11:43 p.m. New York City's famed Hilton Times Square will permanently close in October due to the collapse of the tourism to the Big Apple, according to documents submitted by the operating company. Around 200 furloughed workers will lose their jobs.

9:00 p.m. Vietnam Airlines has opened bookings for the first scheduled international flight into Vietnam since April -- departing from Seoul for Hanoi on Friday.

8:00 p.m. Singapore will introduce a new outbound business travel pass for senior executives with regional or international responsibilities who need to fly regularly. Those on the pass will be required to follow a strictly controlled itinerary while abroad. Upon return, they will be given the option of taking a COVID-19 test in lieu of a 14-day stay-at-home requirement, but will need to self-isolate under the result comes back. Authorities say the number of passes will be limited at first, but the program could be expanded.

Police officers stop a driver for not wearing a face mask in Palembang, Indonesia, as the country struggles to contain the pandemic.   © Getty Images

5:41 p.m. Indonesia sets a daily record of 4,465 new infections in the past 24 hours and counts another 140 deaths. This is the fourth time for Indonesia's daily cases to top 4,000 -- and each instance has come this week -- since the outbreak reached the country in March. Indonesia's totals are at 257,388 infections and 9,977 deaths, with Jakarta being the worst-hit city.

4:21 p.m. Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin announces an additional economic stimulus package worth 10 billion ringgit ($2.41 billion) to help industries and citizens badly hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

4:05 p.m. Thailand's central bank left its key interest rate unchanged at a record low on Wednesday and upgraded its GDP outlook slightly as Southeast Asia's second-largest economy showed some signs of recovery from the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.

3:14 p.m. Tokyo reports 59 cases, marking the lowest daily figure in nearly three months. The number was down from 88 on Tuesday and 98 on Monday, and the lowest since June 30, when 54 cases were reported.

2:57 p.m. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies warned on Thursday that the novel coronavirus is driving discrimination toward vulnerable communities in Asia, including migrants and foreigners.

2:51 p.m. Bank of Japan Gov. Haruhiko Kuroda said Wednesday that the central bank was ready to provide more stimulus, as the coronavirus pandemic has kept the economic outlook murky. "There is a lot of uncertainty on how the pandemic could affect the economy and financial conditions," Kuroda said. "As such, we'll keep an eye out on the impact for the time being and take additional easing steps without hesitation, if necessary," he said in a speech delivered online to business leaders in Osaka.

1:50 p.m. India reports 83,347 cases in the last 24 hours, up from 75,083 the previous day, bringing the country total to nearly 5.65 million. The death toll has jumped by 1,085 to 90,020. The country's testing capacity now exceeds 1.2 million per day, and more than 66 million tests have been conducted so far.

1:05 p.m. Fujifilm Holdings says its Avigan drug reduced viral loads and symptoms of COVID-19 patients, paving the way for approval in Japan after months of delays. The Phase 3 clinical study of 156 patients showed that those treated with Avigan improved after 11.9 days, versus 14.7 days for a placebo group.

Avigan, also known by its generic name favipiravir, has already been used as an anti-influenza medication in Japan.   © Reuters

12:36 p.m. Japan hopes to ease entry restrictions and resume accepting visitors from around the world in October, according to Nikkei. The government will limit entry to 1,000 people per day. Those who have permission for stays of more than three months will be able to enter but must quarantine for two weeks upon entry.

11:40 a.m. South Korea confirms 110 cases, up from 61 a day ago, bringing the country total to 23,216 with 388 deaths. The government will send out a second stimulus check to small business owners and families with children this week.

11:30 a.m. One of the world's top gaming conventions, the Tokyo Game Show, will be held entirely online for the first time through a collaboration with Amazon Japan.

11:10 a.m. The Reserve Bank of New Zealand holds its official cash rate at 0.25% in a widely expected decision, as data suggested the economic hit from the coronavirus was less severe than initially feared. The bank also retained its large scale asset purchase (LSAP) programme at as much as NZ$100 billion ($66.32 billion).

10:42 a.m. A group of 40 Japanese shipping companies, shipbuilders and technology companies aims to have remote-control vessels ply Japanese waters as early as 2025, a potential life preserver for a graying industry suffering from a chronic labor shortage.

9:25 a.m. China reports 10 cases for Sept. 22, up from six a day earlier.

7:33 a.m. Australia's coronavirus hot spot of Victoria reports 15 cases and five deaths for Sept. 22 compared with 28 infections and three deaths the previous day, as the state looks to ease lockdown restrictions as early as next week.

6:47 a.m. The governor of the U.S. state of Wisconsin declares a new public health emergency and extends a face mask mandate into November to fight a re-emergence of coronavirus cases.

Tony Evers says that social gatherings of younger people is responsible for the flare up and urges college students to wear masks and avoid bars.

5:32 a.m. Deutsche Lufthansa plans to start making rapid COVID-19 antigen tests available to passengers in October and is weighing the option of opening test centers at airports in the U.S. and Canada, reports Reuters, citing a company executive.

3:49 a.m. Walt Disney Co. tells California officials that its original Disneyland theme park, which has been closed for six months, should be reopened, noting that its sites in Shanghai, Paris and Florida have resumed operations with limited attendance and safety precautions.

2:50 a.m. In a virtual address to the U.N. General Assembly, U.S. President Donald Trump rips into China for not halting outbound flights at the outset of the coronavirus outbreak, saying it infected the world. Trump also blames the country and the World Health Organization, which he said "is virtually controlled by China," for declaring that there was no evidence of human-to-human transmission.

Chinese President Xi Jinping in his own speech makes no mention of the origin of the novel coronavirus, but says "COVID-19 reminds us that economic globalization is an indisputable reality and a historical trend."

12:43 a.m. Deaths in the U.S. from COVID-19 have reached 200,005, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. More people have died there from the novel coronavirus than in any other country. Global deaths are nearly 1 million.

American flags representing some of the 200,000 lives lost in the U.S. to the COVID-19 pandemic are placed on the National Mall in Washington.   © Reuters

Tuesday, September 22

11:45 p.m. International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach, in an open letter to the Olympic Movement, gives an upbeat assessment of the prospects for holding the delayed Olympic Games in Tokyo.

The return of sporting events around the world shows "that sport can be organized safely, even under the ongoing restrictions," Bach writes. "This should give all of us confidence in our preparations for future events, including the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020."

9:40 p.m. More than 60% of Americans say the coronavirus pandemic is either staying the same or getting better in their local communities, the most upbeat view since the summer outbreak began, the latest monthly survey by the Financial Times and the Peter G. Peterson Foundation shows.

At the same time, anxiety over the financial impact of the disease is rising. Now 42% say they are more worried about the economy than public health, up 9 percentage points from last month.

The U.S. death toll from COVID-19 is on the verge of reaching 200,000.

8:07 p.m. Pakistan has launched Phase III clinical trials for CanSino Biologics' COVID-19 vaccine candidate, a government minister and an official at the Chinese pharmaceutical company say. Pakistan gave the go-ahead for the country's first Phase-III clinical trial in August for CanSino's candidate, Ad5-nCoV, led by the government-run National Institute of Health and pharmaceutical company AJM, the local representative of CanSino.

6:30 p.m. The Philippine health ministry has reported 1,635 new coronavirus cases, the lowest daily increase in infections in two weeks, and 50 additional deaths. The total confirmed infections have increased to 291,789, still the highest in Southeast Asia.

6:08 p.m. Indonesia reports its deadliest day of the pandemic so far, with 160 new deaths in the past 24 hours and 4,071 new infections. Fatalities have topped 100 every day over the past week, with East Java Province reporting the most deaths, followed by Jakarta and Central Java. Indonesia's total cases have now reached 252,923, with 9,837 deaths.

Meanwhile, Finance Minister Sri Mulyani forecasts a deeper economic contraction in the third quarter of between 1% and 2.9%, which would put the country in a technical recession after the economy shrank 5.32% in the second quarter. She also forecast a sharper fall for all of 2020 of between 0.6% and 1.7%. The previous forecast was for -1.1% to 0.2% growth.

Hong Kong Disneyland has been closed since July 15. It will reopen on Sept. 25 for five days a week initially and to a reduced number of visitors.   © Reuters

5:31 p.m. Hong Kong's Disneyland said it will reopen on Friday to a reduced number of visitors and only for five days a week initially. It will also implement social distancing measures and visitors will be expected to wear face masks. Indoor live performances will still be suspended.

The resort is reopening after the latest wave of coronavirus infections forced it to close for two months.

4:30 p.m. Russia reports 6,215 new coronavirus cases, the most recorded over 24 hours since July 18, pushing its national tally to 1,115,810, the fourth-highest in the world. Authorities also reported 160 deaths in the last 24 hours, bringing the official death toll to 19,649.

3:13 p.m. India confirms 75,083 coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, its lowest daily increase in three weeks, bringing its infection tally to 5.56 million. The death toll rose to 88,935, up 1,053 since Monday morning.

The country also reported a daily record of 101,468 recoveries, taking its recovery rate to 80.86%. Its active COVID-19 cases account for 17.54% of total confirmed infections, while the mortality rate stands at 1.6%, according to health ministry data.

Visitors pose with a performer on the reopening day at the Ocean Park theme park in Hong Kong on Sept. 18.    © Reuters

11:29 a.m. Hong Kong will extend social distancing measures until Oct. 1, China's National Day, when anti-government protests might attract many people again. Gatherings of more than four people will continue to be banned, while restaurants and bars must close by midnight.

11:20 a.m. South Korea's health authorities are asking people to stay home during Chuseok holidays, or the Korean autumn harvest festival, next week to prevent another outbreak of the coronavirus. The country confirmed on Tuesday 61 new cases, down from 70 a day ago. Total infections reached 23,106 with 388 deaths.

5:35 a.m. Wall Street's main indexes closed lower on Monday as the death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg appeared to make the passage of another stimulus package in Congress less likely before the Nov. 3 presidential election, sparking large declines in the healthcare sector.

The Dow shed as much as 900 points and the CBOE Market Volatility index, Wall Street's fear gauge, shot up to its highest level in nearly two weeks. The S&P 500 ended down less than 9% from its record high on Sept. 2 after paring losses that had pushed the benchmark almost into corrective territory.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average shed just over 500 points, or 1.8%, while the S&P 500 dropped 1.1%.

A trader works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in January. Wall Street's main indexes tumbled to their lowest in nearly seven weeks on Monday as worries about fresh coronavirus-driven lockdowns spilled over from Europe.   © Reuters

4:03 a.m. Six tennis players in the men's and women's qualifying draw for the French Open have been withdrawn due to COVID-19 concerns, organizers have said.

"The Roland Garros tournament directors can confirm that two players competing in the qualifying tournament have tested positive for COVID-19 and three others have confirmed close contact with a coach who has tested positive for COVID-19," the French Tennis Federation (FFT) had said in a statement.

Organizers did not reveal the names of those who had been pulled out but Bosnia's Damir Dzumhur said he had been withdrawn because his coach Petar Popovic had returned a positive test.

The French Open will be held from Sept. 27-Oct. 11 after being moved from its usual late May-June slot.

3:50 a.m. London Mayor Sadiq Khan said Monday he had agreed with local council leaders and public health experts on new COVID-19 restrictions to be put to central government in an attempt to stem the outbreak in the capital.

The measures include reduced opening hours for pubs and bars and extending the wearing of face masks on public transport and in shops to other public areas.

Khan said he will be asking the government to implement the plan as soon as possible and would discuss it with Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday.

"Without adequate testing or contact tracing in London we have no choice but to look at other measures to slow the spread of the virus," he said in a statement.

"I firmly believe that acting early, rather than having to impose more stringent measures later, is the right thing to do both for public health and the economy."

3:40 a.m. The weekly number of new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. rose last week for the first time after falling for eight straight weeks.

Experts attributed the increase to schools reopening and parties over the Labor Day holiday.

New cases rose 17% to about 287,000 for the week ended Sept. 20, while deaths rose 5.5% to about 5,400 people after falling for the previous four weeks, Reuters reported.

The country set a record of testing over 1 million people on Saturday.

3:00 a.m. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday took down its guidance warning on possible airborne transmission of the novel coronavirus, saying that the draft recommendation was posted in error.

The now-withdrawn guidance, posted on the agency's website on Friday, recommended that people use air purifiers to reduce airborne germs indoors to avoid the disease from spreading.

12:38 a.m. A total of 156 countries have joined the global COVAX scheme intended to ensure fair distribution of supplies of future vaccines against COVID-19, an alliance led by the World Health Organization says.

Monday, September 21

11:35 p.m. Wall Street's main indexes hit their lowest in nearly seven weeks on Monday as concerns about fresh coronavirus-driven lockdowns and the inability of Congress to agree on more fiscal stimulus raised fears about another hit to the domestic economy. The Dow's fall extends to 800 points or 3%.

10:50 p.m. The Dow's decline widens to 2%, American Express and UnitedHealth, as investors watch rising cases of coronavirus in Europe.

10:30 p.m. U.S. stocks tumble at the open, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average falling more than 460 points, or 1.7%.

10:05 p.m. Tokyo reports 98 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday and one new death. People in their 20s made up the largest group of new cases, at 29.

Osaka reports 39 new cases and one death.

8:00 p.m. Myanmar intends to go ahead with its Nov. 8 general election, rejecting opposition calls for a postponement due to rising coronavirus cases, Reuters reports. An election commission official says precautious will be taken, including increasing polling stations. The daily case count of 671 on Sunday was the country's highest yet.

6:50 p.m. The U.K. is reportedly considering another lockdown, according to Reuters, as the trend in new infections heads in the wrong direction. The country's health secretary says the restrictions would be likely to focus on socializing, rather than schools and workplaces. Total cases are nearing 400,000, with over 41,000 deaths.

5:55 p.m. Indonesia hits a fresh daily record with 4,176 new cases, along with 124 deaths. These numbers bring the country's totals to 248,852 infections and 9,677 dead.

2:50 p.m. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has eased a ban on overseas travel by Filipino nurses and other medical workers, allowing more to take jobs abroad, his spokesman said, as the government believes it has the coronavirus outbreak under control.

2:34 p.m. India reports 86,961 coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, the lowest figure in six days, bringing the country's total infections to nearly 5.5 million. The death toll jumped to 87,882, an increase of 1,130 since Sunday morning.

Also in India, the Taj Mahal, in the northern city of Agra, reopens with strict COVID-19 safety guidelines, such as mandatory wearing of masks and social distancing, six months after the 17th century-architectural marvel was closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. A maximum 5,000 tourists are allowed per day.

India's famed Taj Mahal, in the northern city of Agra, reopened on Sept. 21 with strict COVID-19 safety protocols. The number of visitors is limited to 5,000 per day.   © Reuters

1:38 p.m. China keeps its benchmark lending rate for corporate and household loans steady for the fifth straight month at its September fixing, as expected. The one-year loan prime rate (LPR) was kept unchanged at 3.85%, while the five-year LPR remained at 4.65%.

12:37 p.m. Asian countries were some of the most aggressive in closing their borders to fight COVID-19 and are among the slowest to reopen to tourists, recently compiled data shows, underscoring the prolonged pressure on economies that rely heavily on international visitors.

12:06 p.m. Five players have been pulled from qualifying for the French Open tennis tournament after two players and a coach tested positive for COVID-19, organizers said. The qualifiers will begin later Monday, with the main draw set to begin Sept. 27.

12:04 p.m. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Monday lifted all coronavirus restrictions across the country, except in Auckland, as the number of new infections slowed to a trickle. Some restrictions were also eased in Auckland to allow gatherings of up to 100 people, but the country's biggest city needs more time before all curbs can be lifted, Ardern said.

11:24 a.m. South Korea confirms 70 new coronavirus cases, down from 82 a day ago. The total number of infections has reached 23,045, with 385 deaths. One-third of students in Greater Seoul return to the classroom starting Monday, even as new cases reach double digits for two straight days.

10:25 a.m. South Korea's exports for the first 20 days of September rose for the first time since March, helped by higher microchip and car sales, in a boost to recovery hopes in the trade-dependent economy. Exports climbed 3.6% from a year earlier, while imports fell 6.8% on the year, Korea Customs Service data show.

A truck moves a shipping container at the port of Pyeongtaek in South Korea: The country's exports rose, year over year, for the first time since March, helped by higher auto and chip shipments.   © Reuters

8:59 a.m. Mainland China reports 12 new COVID-19 cases on Sept. 20, up from 10 cases a day earlier, the country's national health authorities said.

8:46 a.m. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison's approval rating has risen slightly, a poll shows, as measures taken by the conservative government to tackle the pandemic helped to maintain his popularity. A Newspoll survey conducted for The Australian newspaper showed Morrison's performance rating rose a percentage point to 65% from a month earlier, just short of its highs of 68% in June and July.

7:12 a.m. Australia's coronavirus hot spot of Victoria on Monday reported two deaths from COVID-19 and 11 cases, continuing a steady downward trend in daily cases and putting the state on course to ease more restrictions.

7:06 a.m. Brazil recorded 16,389 additional confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in the past 24 hours, and 363 deaths from the disease, the Health Ministry said on Sunday.

6:00 a.m. Britain is at a critical point in the COVID-19 pandemic and faces a very challenging winter, one of the government's top medical advisers will warn at a public briefing on Monday. Cases in Britain are on the increase in what Prime Minister Boris Johnson has labelled a second wave of the virus, with large areas of the country subject to restrictions on social freedom and London expected to be next in line.

2:37 a.m. Fujifilm Holdings will soon apply to produce and sell its Avigan antiviral drug as a treatment for the new coronavirus in Japan, Nikkei learned Sunday.

Men construct a barricade blocking off their street to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Yangon, Myanmar, September 12.   © Reuters

Sunday, September 20

11:34 p.m. Myanmar announces a stay-home order for its biggest city Yangon, starting Monday, forcing all employees to work from home. The health ministry said on Sunday that it had recorded 671 new coronavirus cases.

4:18 p.m. Indonesia has suspended exports from local seafood company Putri Indah into China after its frozen fish products tested positive for the coronavirus, the country's fisheries ministry says. An investigation is underway, and the suspension will only apply to Putri Indah. The virus was detected on the outside of the packaging.

1:44 p.m. India's coronavirus case tally surged to 5.4 million as it added 92,605 new infections in the last 24 hours, according to data from the health ministry. The country has posted the highest single-day caseload in the world since early August and lags behind only the United States, which has 6.7 million cases in terms of cumulative infections. A total of 1,113 people died of COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, the health ministry said, taking mortalities to 86,752 -- a relatively low 1.6% of all cases.

11:21 a.m. AstraZeneca says its COVID-19 vaccine trial in the U.S. is still on hold.

10:11 a.m. Mainland China reported 10 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, down from the 14 cases reported a day earlier, according to the national health authority. The National Health Commission says all new cases were imported infections involving travelers from overseas.

9:48 a.m. South Korea reports 82 new coronavirus cases as of midnight Saturday, the lowest daily count of infections since mid-August, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of the total, 72 were locally transmitted, bringing the total tally to 22,975, with 383 deaths.

Saturday, September 19

5:11 p.m. Indonesia reports its biggest daily rise in coronavirus infections, with 4,168 new cases, taking the total to 240,687, according to data from the health ministry. The data adds 112 new deaths to take the total to 9,448, the highest in Southeast Asia.

5:09 p.m. The Philippines' health ministry reports 3,962 new coronavirus infections and 100 additional deaths, with both numbers the highest in five days. In a bulletin, the ministry says total confirmed cases have risen to 283,460, the highest in Southeast Asia, while deaths have reached 4,930.

2:33 p.m. As more people work at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, consumption of instant coffee is perking up in Japan. Rising demand for robusta beans, used mainly for instant coffee, has made Vietnam, the world's biggest producer of robusta, Japan's top coffee bean supplier and relegated Brazil to second place.

10:30 a.m. Japanese brewers are trying to adjust to the coronavirus-ravaged landscape by developing healthier drinks and supporting the restaurant industry through e-commerce in hopes of boosting earnings. Kirin Holdings says its new focus on health drinks arose after sales jumped for products containing a particular strain of lactic acid bacteria. Kirin also plans to launch Japan's first sugar-free beer under its Ichiban Shibori brand as consumers become more health-conscious.

10:20 a.m. China reports 14 new infections for Friday, down from 32 a day earlier. All new cases were imported infections involving travelers from overseas. It also reports 24 new asymptomatic cases, up from 20 a day earlier.

9:30 a.m. Australia's state of Victoria, the center of the country's coronavirus outbreak, reports its lowest daily increase of infections in three months, putting it on course to relax a hard lockdown in the state capital of Melbourne by the end of the month. Victoria recorded 21 new cases in the prior 24 hours, less than half the previous day's number and its lowest since June 24.

5:20 a.m. U.S. President Donald Trump says he thought the U.S.-Canada border would open before the end of the year, reports Reuters. The restrictions on non-essential travel at land borders between the two countries were first imposed in March and do not cover trade or travel by air. They have been extended several times, including on Friday to Oct. 21, as the U.S. has struggled to contain its coronavirus outbreak.

2:13 a.m. India ordered its states not to hoard oxygen supplies and allow free movement amidst reports of shortages, as novel coronavirus infections hit 5.2 million on Friday, edging the country's tally closer to the United States, which is the worst-hit globally, according to Reuters.

12:04 a.m. The European Union agrees to buy a potential COVID-19 vaccine from Sanofi and GSK in its second such deal to secure supplies, as a deadline for joining the World Health Organization's purchase program looms, reports Reuters. The deal will see the French and British drugmakers, which have teamed up to manufacture a recombinant protein-based vaccine they hope to get approved next year, provide the EU with up to 300 million doses in exchange for a down payment of 324 million euros ($384 million).

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

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