A worker sprays disinfectant in a classroom at a high school in Seoul on May 19, 2020. (PHOTO / AFP)
ANKARA / RAMALLAH / RIYADH / NEW DELHI / SEOUL / SYDNEY —South Korea said on Wednesday it has approved the emergency use of Gilead Sciences Inc’s remdesivir to treat COVID-19 after a government panel last week cited positive results for the anti-viral drug in other countries.
Remdesivir, which is administered intravenously in hospital, is the first drug to show improvement in COVID-19 patients in formal clinical trials.
Under guidelines announced by South Korea’s Ministry for Food and Drug Safety, doctors can administer one dose of remdesivir a day, with 5 doses overall for patients with moderate symptoms, and 10 doses for patients with severe symptoms and who need oxygen support.
South Korea reported 49 more cases of the COVID-19 compared to 24 hours ago as of 0:00 am Wednesday local time, raising the total number of infections to 11,590.
The daily caseload stayed above 30 for three straight days due to small cluster infections from religious gatherings in the metropolitan area.
Of the new cases, three were imported from overseas, lifting the combined figure to 1,269.
One more death was confirmed, leaving the death toll at 273. The total fatality rate stood at 2.36 percent.
Two children suspected to be South Korea’s first cases of a life-threatening syndrome linked with the coronavirus were found to have contracted Kawasaki disease, a similar but separate infection, health authorities said on Wednesday.
South Korea unveiled on Wednesday a 35.3 trln won (US$28.8 billion) supplementary budget, to raise the total stimulus to 270 trillion won for an economy facing its worst growth since the 1998 Asian financial crisis due to the coronavirus pandemic.
An airport staff sprays disinfectant at the domestic departure check-in terminal of Bangalore International Airport in Bangalore, on June 2, 2020. (PHOTO / AFP)
Iran reported on Wednesday 3,134 new COVID-19 cases over the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of confirmed infections in the country to 160,696, the state TV reported.
Kianush Jahanpur, head of Public Relations and Information Center of the Iranian health ministry, said during his daily briefing that 70 people died of the coronavirus in the past 24 hours, raising the death toll to 8,012.
India’s coronavirus infections crossed 200,000, official figures showed on Wednesday, and a peak could still be weeks away in the world’s second-most populous country, where the economy has begun re-opening after a lockdown imposed in March .
Cases jumped by 8,909 over the previous day in one of the highest single-day spikes, taking the tally to 207,615, the health ministry said.
“We are very far away for the peak,” said Dr Nivedita Gupta, of the government-run Indian Council of Medical Research. Government officials have previously said it could be later this month, or even July, before cases start to fall off.
The death toll from the disease stood at 5,815.
India's top drug regulatory body Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) has approved the use of the antiviral medication remdesivir for the treatment of COVID-19 patients in emergency cases, a local newspaper Indian Express reported Tuesday.
"The injectable medicine was approved by Drugs Controller General of India Dr V G Somani for administration as part of a maximum five-day regimen," the newspaper said.
Remdesivir is one of the most closely watched drugs in global clinical trials to find a cure for COVID-19. The drug is manufactured by the United States biopharma giant Gilead Sciences.
Pedestrians wearing face masks walk through an underground shopping area in central Seoul on June 2, 2020. (PHOTO / AFP)
Small crowds at sporting events may be possible in the near future, Australia’s deputy chief medical officer said on Wednesday, citing successful efforts to slow the spread of coronavirus.
Australia has not reported a death from the disease for more than a week. It has recorded 102 COVID-19 deaths and almost 7,200 infections.
Australia’s economy shrank last quarter, setting the scene for what will be the country’s first technical recession in three decades as entire business sectors shut down to fight the coronavirus.
Wednesday’s data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) showed the economy contracted 0.3 percent in the first quarter ended March, the first decline in nine years.
That took the annual growth to 1.4 percent, the slowest since the 2009 global financial crisis.
The economic fallout deepened in Australia as the number of local coronavirus cases surged from less than 100 in early March to more than 7,000 now, forcing the government to shut borders and restrict large gatherings.
The country’s central bank stepped in by cutting the cash rate to a record low 0.25 percent and launching an unlimited bond buying program.
Japan has reported 31 new confirmed COVID-19 cases with the total reaching 17,031, according to the latest figures from the health ministry and local authorities on Wednesday.
The number excludes the 712 cases from the Diamond Princess cruise ship that was quarantined in Yokohama near Tokyo.
Meanwhile, the death toll in Japan from the pneumonia-causing virus currently stands at a total of 918 people, according to the health ministry, with the figure including those from the cruise ship.
In Tokyo, the epicenter of Japan's outbreak, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases increased by 12 to reach 5,295, followed by Osaka Prefecture with 1,783 infections.
Turkey's COVID-19 pandemic continued to slow down on Tuesday, with 786 new cases of infections registered.
Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca reported 786 new COVID-19 cases, raising the total number of confirmed cases in Turkey, the hardest-hit country in the Middle East, to 165,555.
At the same time, 22 more people died from the respiratory virus, taking the death toll in Turkey to 4,585, Koca tweeted.
Koca urged Turkish citizens to continue taking precaution against COVID-19 pandemic, despite the downward trend as shown in the continuing decline in daily new cases.
"The lifting of the curfew does not mean that everything is back to normal," Koca said.
Saudi Arabia reported 2,171 news infections on Wednesday, bringing the accumulated cases to 91,182, the Health Ministry tweeted. A total of 30 fatalities reported, increasing the death toll to 579.
In regards to recoveries, there were 2,369 cases that defeated the infection in the last 24 hours, bringing the total of recovered cases to 68,159.
Meanwhile, Riyadh continued to top the list of the highest city in the number of new infections with 683 cases followed with Jeddah that reported 428 cases.
Cambodia has identified 562,686 poor and needy families with nearly 2.3 million people for cash subsidies during the COVID-19 pandemic, a senior official at the Ministry of Planning said on Wednesday.
The Southeast Asian country has reported a total of 125 confirmed COVID-19 cases to date, mostly imported, and no death has been recorded, the Ministry of Health said, adding that currently, only two out of the patients remain hospitalized.
In Qatar, the Health Ministry announced 1,826 new COVID-19 cases, increasing the tally of confirmed cases in the Gulf state to 60,259.
A total of 2,599 more people recovered from the disease, bringing the total recoveries to 36,036, while three patients died, raising the death toll to 43.
Kuwait on Wednesday reported 710 new cases of COVID-19 and four more deaths, raising the tally of infections to 29,359 and the death toll to 230, the health ministry said in a statement.
Currently, 13,379 patients are receiving treatment, including 191 in ICU, according to the statement.
The ministry also announced the recovery of 1,469 more patients, raising the total recoveries in the country to 15,750.
The United Arab Emirates
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced 596 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total confirmed cases in the country to 35,788.
The UAE's Ministry of Health and Prevention said 388 more patients made full recovery from the virus, taking the tally of the UAE's recoveries to 18,726. The death toll in the UAE rose to 269, after three more fatalities were added on Tuesday.
Oman' Ministry of Health announced 576 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total cases to 12,799. Nine new deaths were reported, bringing the death toll to 59.
Sultan of Oman Haitham bin Tariq urged people in the country to co-exist with the new circumstances resulting from the spread of COVID-19 disease.
Iraq's Health Ministry reported a new record in the daily increase with 519 cases, taking the total number of COVID-19 cases to 7,387.
It also said that 20 people died from the virus, in the highest single-day rise, bringing the death toll in the country to 235.
Meanwhile, Iraqi Minister of Health Hassan al-Tamimi reiterated his call on the citizens to cooperate with the health authorities through abiding by the measures of the full curfew to avoid catastrophic consequences.
The Israeli Ministry of Health on Tuesday reported 116 new COVID-19 cases, the highest daily rise since May 1 when 155 infections were confirmed.
This brings the total number of COVID-19 cases in Israel to 17,285. The ministry also reported five new deaths from the respiratory disease, the highest daily fatalities since May 11.
Earlier on Tuesday, Israel's Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said Israel would expand the number of coronavirus tests, including tests for asymptomatic people.
Lebanon's number of COVID-19 infections increased on Wednesday by 14 cases to 1,256, while the death toll remained at 27, the National News Agency reported.
Lebanon has reduced general mobilization measures for businesses to reopen given the dire economic circumstances and the companies' need to generate revenues and cover their expenses.
Palestine on Tuesday said that two new cases were confirmed in the West Bank, bringing the total number of cases in the country to 630.
The Palestinian Health Ministry said in a press statement that the latest cases are a child and a 25-year-old woman from the northern West Bank district of Qalqilya.
Of the total cases, five died and 527 recovered, according to the health ministry.
Minister for Human Settlement of Pakistan's southern Sindh province Ghulam Murtaza Baloch died of COVID-19 in provincial capital of Karachi on Tuesday, the spokesperson of the provincial government said.
Some other political figures including the National Assembly speaker, governor of Sindh and several other law makers and ministers have also been tested positive of the disease.
Singapore's Ministry of Health (MOH) reported 544 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, bringing the total confirmed cases in the country to 35,836.
Of the new cases, 99 percent are linked to known clusters, while the rest are pending contact tracing.
Overall, the number of new cases in the community has decreased, from an average of seven cases per day in the week before, to an average of four infections per day in the past week. The number of unlinked cases in the community has remained stable at an average of two per day in the past two weeks.
A total of 709 more cases of COVID-19 infection have been discharged from hospitals or community isolation facilities. In all, 23,175 have fully recovered from the infection and have been discharged from hospitals or community care facilities, the ministry said.
The COVID-19 pandemic has cost the Maldives government US$57.6 million by the end of May, state media quoting the Ministry of Finance reported here Tuesday.
The Finance Ministry in a weekly spending report said that the government has spent US$57.6 million in the battle against COVID-19.
State media reported that expenses were primarily incurred due to the procurement of testing kits, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), ventilators, medical supplies, as well as the construction and development of quarantine and isolation facilities.
No new COVID-19 cases were reported in Maldives on Tuesday, however, one new COVID-19-related death was reported, bringing the country's total death count to seven.
A child plays on a swing at a park in Wellington on May 14, 2020. (PHOTO / AFP)
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Wednesday she could lift all social distancing measures to return the country to normal life, bar the international border closure, as early as next week.
Ardern will decide on Monday whether the country is ready to shift to alert level 1, more than two months after she imposed a strict level 4 lockdown, shutting most businesses and forcing people to stay home, in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Arden said waiting until Monday would allow her to see if recent changes, like the removal of restrictions on the number of people in bars and at social gatherings, had led to a rise in cases.
“If it hasn’t, then we will be in a good position to move,” she said during a televised news conference.
Under level 1 there is no requirement for physical distancing or limits on the number of people allowed in places like bars, clubs, churches, and sports venues, she said.
However, there would be one major change from pre-pandemic normality, with no immediate plans to reopen New Zealand’s border.
New Zealand recorded no new cases of coronavirus for a 12th consecutive day on Wednesday and has just one active case. Ardern’s decision to swiftly impose one of the harshest lockdowns in the world has been credited with constraining the spread of COVID-19 in New Zealand, which has reported a total of 1,504 cases and 22 deaths.
Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on Wednesday appealed to the public not to pressure the government to hasten the fourth phase of the easing of lockdown restrictions, and not to expect a quick cure to COVID-19 pandemic as Thailand is still in the midst of researching an effective vaccine.
"The government has eased lockdown restrictions on many activities to allow the economy to start recovering but if we let loose of ourselves and converge without adhering to social distancing, we will see a second wave of infections," Prayut added.
Thailand on Wednesday reported one new coronavirus infection and no new deaths, bringing the country's total to 3,084 confirmed cases and 58 fatalities since the outbreak started in January.
The new case is a 26-year-old Thai man who recently returned from Saudi Arabia, said Panprapa Yongtrakul, a spokeswoman for the government's coronavirus task force.
Laos reported two more COVID-19 patients recovered and were discharged from hospital in Lao capital Vientiane on Wednesday.
As of Tuesday, Laos has tested 7,249 suspected cases with 19 cases tested positive. Only one patient remains hospitalized and the rest were discharged from hospital after recovery.
Kyrgyzstan will resume domestic flights and bus circulation between its provinces and allow charter flights from China this month to bring in staff for numerous Chinese investment projects, the Bishkek government said on Wednesday.
Kyrgyzstan will also resume domestic flights and public transit between its provinces from June 5.
Kyrgyzstan on Wednesday reported 26 new COVID-19 cases and three coronavirus-related deaths, bringing the total tally of infections to 1,871 and the death toll to 20.
Vietnam’s most gravely-ill COVID-19 patient, a British pilot who works for its national airline, has started to recover from the illness and may no longer require a lung transplant, state media said on Wednesday.
Vietnam, which has reported no deaths from the coronavirus, has mounted an all-out effort to save the 43-year-old man, who has been identified officially by the government as “Patient 91”.
Until recently, the Vietnam Airlines pilot was thought by doctors and officials to be in urgent need of a lung transplant.
The fate of “Patient 91” has received unprecedented national attention, with more than 50 people in Vietnam offering themselves as potential lung donors, according to state media.
The man, who is being treated at a hospital in Ho Chi Minh City, can now smile, shake hands and respond to commands from hospital staff, the official Vietnam News Agency (VNA) said on Wednesday.
His reliance on artificial life support has also been reduced but he is still on a ventilator to allow his badly-damaged lungs to recover, VNA said.
He has tested negative for the coronavirus, and Vietnam has spent more than US$215,000 treating him, the report added.
Vietnam’s second most serious case, “Patient 19”, was discharged from hospital on Wednesday. Of Vietnam’s 328 coronavirus cases, 90% have recovered.
Malaysian health authorities reported 93 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday,raising the cumulative total to 7,970.
The health ministry reported no new deaths, leaving the toll at 115.
The number of coronavirus cases in the Philippines surged to 19,748 after the Department of Health (DOH) reported 751 more infections on Wednesday.
The DOH said in a daily bulletin that the number of recoveries further climbed to 4,153 after 90 more patients have recovered, and the death toll also increased to 974 after eight more deaths were reported.
According to the DOH, 242 of the daily reported cases were in Metro Manila, 342 cases in the Central Visayas region in the central Philippines and 156 cases were reported in other parts of the country.
The DOH added that 11 overseas Filipino workers repatriated by the government have also tested positive for the virus.
Subscribe to our newsletters to get the latest on COVID–19 and stories of your interest directly in your inbox.Register
HONG KONG NEWS