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    Thursday, June 04, 2020, 22:36
    India's urban virus outbreak morphing into rural health crisis
    By Agencies
    Thursday, June 04, 2020, 22:36 By Agencies

    A volunteer sprays disinfectant on a street after the government eased a nationwide lockdown imposed as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus in Amritsar on June 4, 2020. (NARINDER NANU / AFP)

    ANKARA / ADEN / RAMALLAH / AMMAN / MUSCAT / JERUSALEM / DUBAI - Rural parts of India have begun to see a surge in novel coronavirus infections, as millions of migrant workers returning from big cities and industrial hubs bring the virus home with them, according to data collected from seven Indian states. 

    Officials said the spike in cases was a fresh challenge for the country's health authorities, even as they struggle to check the outbreak in cities amid the easing of a months-long lockdown. 

    Dr. Naman Shah, an epidemiologist and physician advising a federal government coronavirus task force, said rural outbreaks could be "devastating" given the inadequate number of doctors and health facilities.

    India's health ministry Thursday morning said 260 new deaths due to COVID-19, besides fresh 9,304 positive cases, were reported during the past 24 hours across the country, taking the number of deaths to 6,075 and total cases to 216,919.

    A top Indian civilian defence official has tested positive for coronavirus and is in home quarantine, government officials said on Thursday, as the daily rise in infections hits a new high.

    Defence Secretary Ajay Kumar is the highest ranking official to have tested positive for the virus that has also affected officials in the finance, foreign and law ministries based in a sprawling set of buildings in central Delhi.


    Japan will allow some resident foreigners to re-enter the country on humanitarian grounds after facing criticism its policies made their return uncertain and left the group in a COVID-19 travel limbo.

    A notice on the Justice Ministry’s website says permission to land may be granted “depending on the individual situation if there are special exceptional circumstances, particularly such as when there are circumstances that require humanitarian consideration.”

    In a bid to contain the spread of the coronavirus, Japan had banned entry from 111 countries and regions, including the US, Europe and India. Unlike many other advanced economies, it included permanent residents who call Japan home and spouses of Japanese nationals among those forbidden to enter.

    Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi has said loosening of Japan’s borders in general is likely to start with business travel and visits by experts, followed by foreign students, with tourism likely to come later.

    The country’s travel policies are set to come to the test next year when Tokyo hosts the Summer Olympics, which were pushed back by a year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

    Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said on Thursday it may be necessary to a stage a “simplified” Olympics next year due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and that organizers were already discussing possible changes.

    Koike’s comments come after the Yomiuri newspaper reported that various options, such as mandatory coronavirus testing and having fewer spectators, were being considered by organizers.

    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.

    In this photo taken on May 14, 2020, people walk on a street in Wellington. (PHOTO / AFP)

    New Zealand

    New Zealand rejected calls by business leaders on Thursday to restart flights to Australia within a month as too short a timeframe.

    An Australian and New Zealand business lobby group said it intended to take a proposal to governments this week to kick off a travel bubble between the pair’s capital cities with a test flight as soon as July 1.

    Foreign Minister Winston Peters said no plans had been agreed as the two countries continue to work on a blueprint to resume travel, adding that date “was too early.”

    New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said earlier this month that September was a more realistic date for the resumption of flights.

    Falling numbers of active and new coronavirus cases in both countries have paved the way for the proposed easing of travel restrictions. New Zealand reported no new COVID-19 cases for a 13th consecutive day on Thursday and has just one active case. Australia has reported daily single digit and low double digit numbers of new cases in recent weeks and has 490 active cases, with just 25 people in hospital.


    The total number of COVID-19 cases in Yemen's government-controlled provinces increased to 419 on Wednesday, as 20 new cases were confirmed.

    The Yemeni Health Ministry said in a brief statement that during the past 24 hours, 20 cases of COVID-19 were detected in a number of provinces under the control of internationally-recognized government.

    The ministry said that the number of recoveries in the government-controlled areas increased to 17 since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus on April 10.

    Also, the government announced that the death toll from the deadly respiratory disease climbed to 95 in different areas under its control, including the southern port city of Aden.

    The Yemeni government has taken several measures to contain the outbreak of COVID-19, including imposing a partial overnight curfew in Aden and other major cities under its control.


    Nepal confirmed 334 new COVID-19 cases and the 10th death on Thursday, taking the total number of infected in the country to 2,634.

    "With the addition of 334 cases today, there are now 2,450 male and 184 female COVID-19 patients across the country now," said Bikash Devkota, spokesperson at the Ministry of Health and Population in a daily press briefing.

    The country has recently been reporting three-digit daily addition to the COVID-19 cases. Most of the cases were those staying in quarantine after entering Nepal from different Nepal-India border points.

    South Korea

    The country reported 39 additional infections over 24 hours, bringing its total tally to 11,629, according to data from the Korea Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. Fourteen cases were confirmed in Seoul.

    A landslide election victory for President Moon Jae-in’s parties in April showed resounding support among South Koreans for increased government spending supported by the central bank to ride out the economic impact of the pandemic.

    Yemeni sanitation workers, wearing protective gear, spray disinfectant in a neighbourhood in the northern Hajjah province on May 31, 2020, during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. (PHOTO / AFP)


    Turkey plans to resume flights with around 40 countries in June and has reached preliminary agreements for reciprocal air travel with 15 countries, Transport Minister Adil Karaismailoglu said on Thursday. 

    Turkey largely sealed off its borders as part of measures to contain the coronavirus outbreak. Domestic flights resumed on Monday to some provinces as Ankara eased restrictions after a significant drop in infection rates.

    Turkey’s health minister said on Wednesday his team would not recommend extending a weekend stay-at-home order nearly two months after it was imposed as the government continues to ease coronavirus containment measures.

    The virus has killed 4,609 people in Turkey, with more than 165,000 infections so far. The economy is expected to tip into recession as a result of the containment measures, but President Tayyip Erdogan has promised a quick recovery.


    Iran on Thursday reported 3,574 new COVID-19 cases over the past 24 hours, raising the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 164,270, official IRNA news agency reported.

    Kianush Jahanpur, head of Public Relations and Information Center of the health ministry, said during his daily update that 59 people died overnight, taking the total fatalities of the virus to 8,071.

    So far, 127,485 have recovered and 2,569 remain in critical condition, said Jahanpur.

    Saudi Arabia

    Saudi Arabia reported 2,171 news infections on Wednesday, bringing the accumulated cases to 91,182, the Health Ministry said.

    A total of 30 fatalities were reported, increasing the death toll to 579, the ministry said.


    Qatar's Health Ministry on Wednesday announced 1,901 new infections of COVID-19, increasing the total number of confirmed cases in the Gulf state to 62,160.

    "Some 1,506 people recovered, bringing the total number of recoveries to 37,542, while two died, raising the fatalities to 45," the official Qatar News Agency reported, quoting a ministry's statement.

    The ministry revealed that infections doubled due to family gatherings and visits between friends and extended families, and people ignoring the preventive measures recommended by the authorities concerned, the most important of which is staying at home and maintaining social distancing.

    ALSO READ: S. Korea approves emergency use of remdesivir to treat virus

    The United Arab Emirates

    The United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Wednesday announced 571 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total confirmed cases in the country to 36,359.

    UAE's Ministry of Health and Prevention said in a statement the new cases include many nationalities. All are in a stable condition and receiving medical treatment.

    According to the ministry, 427 more patients have made full recovery from the virus, taking the tally of the UAE's recoveries to 19,153.

    The ministry also confirmed one more death, pushing the country's death toll to 270.


    Israel’s parliament suspended sessions scheduled for Thursday after a lawmaker tested positive for the coronavirus, while some schools shut down anew amid worries about fresh outbreaks.

    Having moved aggressively against the global pandemic in March and seen a tailing-off of new cases, Israel has eased curbs in recent weeks. But officials warn that public complacency could lead to a resurgence in cases.

    The Israeli Ministry of Health reported 92 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, bringing the total confirmed cases to 17,377.

    According to the ministry, the number of death cases rose from 290 to 291, while the number of patients in serious condition decreased to 27 (the lowest since March 22), out of 108 patients currently hospitalized.

    The number of recoveries increased to 14,983, with 43 new recoveries, while the number of active cases increased to 2,103.


    The Omani Ministry of Health announced on Wednesday 738 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of cases in the country to 13,538.

    According to a statement issued by the ministry, all new cases, including 324 Omanis, are related to community contact.

    The statement also said 33 patients of COVID-19 have recovered, bringing the total recovered cases to 2,845. Eight new death were reported, bringing the death toll to 67.

    The ministry called on people to observe the procedures for quarantine, avoid public places or places of worship, and ensure public hygiene.


    Iraq's Health Ministry on Wednesday said that the total number of COVID-19 cases jumped to 8,168 after setting a new record of daily increase with 781 infections.

    It also said that 21 people died from the coronavirus during the day, in the highest single-day rise, bringing the death toll in the country to 256, while 4,095 patients have recovered.

    The new cases were recorded after 8,585 test kits were used across the country during the past 24 hours, and a total of 260,299 tests have been carried out since the outbreak of the disease, according to the statement.

    Meanwhile, Iraqi Minister of Health Hassan al-Tamimi predicted in a statement that the latest increase of daily infections of the disease will continue between 600 to 800 in the upcoming days.

    Al-Tamimi attributed the current high number of infections to "the increase of test capacity and to the lack of awareness among the citizens," according to the statement.


    Jordan on Wednesday reported two cases of the novel coronavirus, increasing the overall number of cases to 757.

    Jordan's Health Minister Saad Jaber said the two cases are for a Jordanian who recently arrived from Russia and was in quarantine after arrival and the second for a non-Jordanian truck driver who came from Saudi Arabia.

    The minister said in a statement that 12 patients recovered on Wednesday, and he added that 5,495 tests were conducted, increasing the overall number of tests to 204,374.

    Meanwhile, Jordan will resume arranging flights to bring Jordanians stranded abroad back to the country next week.


    Singapore's Ministry of Health (MOH) reported 569 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, bringing the total confirmed cases in the country to 36,405.

    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 six cases per day in the week before, to an average of four 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.

    Another 407 cases of COVID-19 infection have been discharged from hospitals or community isolation facilities. In all, 23,582 have fully recovered from the infection and have been discharged from hospitals or community care facilities, the ministry said.

    A total of 24 have passed away from complications due to COVID-19 infection.

    Testing all the migrant workers in Singapore could take some time and go on until August or September, Singaporean Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said in parliament. An outbreak among low-wage migrant workers staying in cramped dormitories has led the city-state to record one of the largest virus tallies in Asia.

    READ MORE: Tokyo issues alert over possible COVID-19 resurgence


    The Nepali government on Wednesday confirmed its ninth death from the COVID-19 as the total number of cases in the country reached 2,300 with 201 new confirmed cases reported on the day.

    "A 76-year-old man from mid-western Dolakha district, who had tested positive for COVID-19, died on Wednesday while undergoing treatment at Kathmandu-based Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital," Bikas Devkota, a spokesperson at the Ministry of Health and Population, said at a regular press meeting on Wednesday.

    According to him, the man was first admitted to the Kathmandu-based Kathmandu Medical College for hemorrhagic stroke on May 26 and was shifted to the Teaching Hospital on May 28 after he was diagnosed with COVID-19.

    Nepal is also seeing a rapid rise in the number of cases in recent days.


    The Jakarta government will begin easing restrictions put in place to counter the spread of COVID-19 as authorities in Indonesia push to reopen Southeast Asia’s biggest economy.

    The capital will begin transitioning to a lifting of curbs with offices, restaurants and retail outlets permitted to open from June 8, albeit with a 50% capacity limit, Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan said Thursday. 

    It was still too soon to fully lift large-scale social distancing rules, he said, with the announcement coming as Jakarta continues to record new cases from the disease.

    Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Thursday ordered relevant authorities to double COVID-19 tests and aggressively trace the infected people as the country is gearing up for a new normal scenario.

    The provinces of East Java, South Sulawesi and South Kalimantan where the infection rates stay afloat have to be put in priority efforts to curb the coronavirus transmission, the president told a limited cabinet meeting at the State Palace.

    The COVID-19 cases in Indonesia rose by 585 within one day to 28,818, and the death toll increased by 23 to 1,721, Achmad Yurianto, a health ministry official, said at a press conference here on Thursday.

    According to him, 486 more people had been discharged from hospitals, making the total number of recovered patients to 8,892.


    Australia's largest airline Qantas and its low-cost carrier Jetstar are resuming domestic and regional flights in June and July as travel restrictions start to ease across the country.

    Qantas announced on Thursday that more than 300 return flights would be back in operation by the end of June, an increase of 10 percent of pre-coronavirus levels.

    Additional flights will likely to operate during July depending on the travel demand and further relaxation of state borders.

    To ensure a safe environment at airports and onboard aircraft, Qantas and Jetstar will have a range of measures in place from June 12, 2020, including contactless check-in, enhanced cleaning, as well as free masks and sanitising wipes for all passengers.


    Uzbekistan has further lifted lockdown restrictions, allowing restaurants, clothing markets and kindergartens to reopen starting from June 15 depending on the sanitary and epidemiological situation of COVID-19, the country's Special Republican Commission to Combat Coronavirus said Thursday.

    Uzbekistan has divided the country into red, yellow and green zones depending on the level of quarantine severity. It also allowed resumption of domestic tourism, educational, recreational and sports centers in green zones starting from Friday.

    In green zones, people are also allowed to hold weddings and other ceremonies with no more than 30 relatives, and inter-regional bus commuting will reopen.

    However, the commission said that in all the zones, the ban on mass events such as praying in mosques, concerts, nightclubs, computer game centers will stay unchanged.

    So far, Uzbekistan has registered 3,874 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with 16 deaths and 3,014 recoveries.

    People wearing face masks wait at the Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo on May 31, 2020. (PHOTO / AFP)


    Kyrgyzstan reported 28 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, taking its total number of infections to 1,899.

    The country's deputy health minister Nurbolot Usenbaev said at his daily news briefing that the majority of the newly confirmed patients are citizens already under medical observation, with seven cases of unknown sources.

    Among the newly infected cases, seven are medical workers, taking the total number of infections among medical workers to 372, including 270 recoveries, he said.

    Meanwhile, 27 patients recovered from the disease in the last 24 hours, taking the total to 1,292, the official added.

    There are currently 587 patients in the country hospitalized for COVID-19, with three in the intensive care unit.


    Mongolia reported one new COVID-19 case in the past 24 hours, bringing the nationwide count to 186, the National Center for Communicable Diseases (NCCD) said Thursday.

    "A total of 469 tests for COVID-19 were conducted across Mongolia yesterday and one of them tested positive," NCCD's head Dulmaa Nyamkhuu said at a daily press conference.

    The latest case is one of the over 170 Mongolian nationals who returned home from Russia on a chartered flight on May 26 amid the pandemic, said Nyamkhuu.

    According to the official, all the confirmed cases, including four foreigners, were imported, mostly from Russia. No local transmissions or deaths have been reported in the country so far.


    Palestinian Minister of Health Mail al-Kaila said on Thursday that six new COVID-19 cases were recorded in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

    Al-Kaila said in a press statement that three cases were recorded in the town of Bartaa, south of the northern West Bank city of Jenin, and three cases were recorded in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

    "Three children, aged two, five, and six were infected with COVID-19 in the West Bank and three cases were recorded in the Gaza Strip, including a 63-year-old woman," she said.

    Al-Kaila noted that the three young children were infected with the virus from their mother, who was recorded on Wednesday, adding that all of them were moved to quarantine for medical care and their health conditions are stable.

    She said that the number of COVID-19 cases in the Palestinian territories since March 5 has reached 642, of whom 532 have recovered and five died including two in East Jerusalem, two in the West Bank and one in Gaza.


    Malaysia reported the steepest daily increase in cases since the pandemic started. The country added 227 new positive results, bringing the total to 8,247.

    The health ministry reported no new deaths, keeping total fatalities at 115.

    The Philippines

    The Philippine health ministry on Thursday confirmed 10 more deaths from the coronavirus and 634 new infections.

    In a bulletin, it said total deaths have increased to 984 while confirmed cases have reached 20,382, of which 4,248 have recovered.


    Thailand on Thursday witnessed 17 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total cases in the country to 3,101.

    All of the new cases were Thais staying in quarantine after returning from the Middle East.

    The death toll remains at 58, and 2,968 patients have recovered.

    The Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) said that among the new cases, 13 were Thais returning from Kuwait, two returning from Qatar, and two from Saudi Arabia.

    CCSA spokesman Dr. Taweesin Visanuyothin said that the Ministry of Public Health will be in discussion with the Thai government in expanding quarantine facilities to accommodate an average of 400 to 500 Thai people returning from abroad daily.

    "We cannot ban Thais from returning home from overseas," said Taweesin.

    Taweesin warned that although there was no new local infection, a second wave of infections may occur if people let their guards down.


    Bangladesh confirmed 35 more fatalities from COVID-19 on Thursday, bringing the country's death toll to nearly 800.

    Nasima Sultana, a senior Health Ministry official, told an online media briefing in Dhaka that "2,423 new COVID-19 positive cases and 35 deaths were reported in the last 24 hours across Bangladesh."

    "The number of confirmed infections in the country totaled 57,563 while fatalities stood at 781," she added.


    Kuwait on Thursday reported 562 new cases of COVID-19 and six more deaths, raising the tally of infections to 29,921 and the death toll to 236, the health ministry said in a statement.

    Currently, 12,462 patients are receiving treatment, including 184 in ICU, according to the statement.

    The ministry also announced the recovery of 1,473 more patients, raising the total recoveries in the country to 17,223.

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