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 244,428,695, according to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. The worldwide death toll has hit 4,962,486.
For more information about the spread of COVID-19 and vaccination progress around the world, please see our interactive charts and maps.
Wednesday, Oct. 27 (Tokyo time)
1:13 p.m. With 100 days until the start of the Winter Olympics, Beijing is promising a “simple and safe” 2022 Games. Beijing will be the first city to stage both the Summer and Winter Games, but the 2022 event is shadowed by the coronavirus pandemic and calls from human rights groups for a boycott over China’s treatment of Tibet, Uyghur Muslims and Hong Kong.
11:16 a.m. The premier of the Australian state of Victoria, Daniel Andrews, said his government will not apply for travel permits to allow unvaccinated tennis players to compete at the Australian Open after Prime Minister Scott Morrison indicated they would be allowed into the country, Morrison said earlier on Wednesday that unvaccinated players would be free to compete at the Grand Slam after a two-week COVID-19 quarantine, provided that Victoria, which hosts the tournament in Melbourne, applied for permits for them. Andrews said his state would make no such applications.
9:08 a.m. The U.S. state of Louisiana is ending its indoor mask mandate, except for K-12 schools, because of declining new cases of COVID-19, Gov. John Bel Edwards said Tuesday.
8:10 a.m. All fully-vaccinated Australian citizens and permanent residents will be able to leave the country without a special exemption from Nov. 1. Australians have been unable to travel abroad for more than 18 months without a government waiver, while thousands of fully vaccinated residents living abroad have been unable to return due to a cap on arrivals to slow the spread of COVID-19. “The national plan is working … (it) is about opening Australia up and that is because the vaccination rates are climbing so high,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison told Seven News.
5:24 a.m. An expert panel votes overwhelmingly to recommend the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorize the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children aged five to 11, saying the benefits of inoculation outweigh the risks. The FDA is not obligated to follow the advice of its outside experts, but usually does. The vaccine could be available to the younger age group as soon as next week.
Tuesday, Oct. 26
11:49 p.m. BioNTech signs an agreement with the Rwandan government and Institut Pasteur de Dakar in Senegal on the construction of the first mRNA vaccine manufacturing facility in Africa starting in mid-2022, to help the continent ease health inequalities compared with other world regions, reports Reuters.
BioNTech, which developed the western world’s most widely used COVID-19 shots with partner Pfizer, will initially build a production line with an annual capacity of 50 million doses that could be used to make vaccines for such diseases as malaria and tuberculosis as well as for COVID-19, the company said.
6:15 p.m. Singapore announces the inclusion of Australia and Switzerland in its Vaccinated Travel Lane scheme, which allows passengers to fly in from selected countries without the need for quarantine. Fully vaccinated travelers from Australia and Switzerland can enter Singapore from Nov. 8, subject to virus testing. The city-state has already included countries like Brunei, Germany, Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, the U.K. and U.S. under the scheme, as it moves to revive air travel and rebuild the country’s position as an international hub.
5:00 p.m. India’s health minister says that a government panel of experts is looking into a delta coronavirus subvariant, AY.4.2, that has been detected in the United Kingdom. The U.K. Health Security Agency said last week that it was investigating AY.4.2 as it was possibly more transmissible than delta, although there was no evidence that it caused more severe disease or rendered vaccines ineffective.
4:20 p.m. China is demanding faster and more accessible COVID-19 testing services in its latest effort to reinforce a zero-tolerance policy against the virus, even when cities have already scrambled to test millions in just a few days amid outbreaks. Frequent testing, and sometimes mass testing, has been standard practice in China’s containment of outbreaks in the past year, but health authorities say testing services remain unsatisfactory in parts of China amid flare-ups. “Small clusters and sporadic infections have occurred in some areas, exposing problems such as the unreasonable locations of nucleic acid testing agencies, inconvenient services and delays in the returning of results,” state media reported, citing the National Health Commission.
2:00 p.m. Hong Kong will soon scrap most of its quarantine exemptions for overseas and mainland travelers, Chief Executive Carrie Lam says. The exemptions allow people in certain industries, including executives from financial companies, to enter Hong Kong without a compulsory quarantine of up to 21 days. Lam said Hong Kong’s measures must be more consistent with the mainland’s to improve chances of China allowing more cross-border travel while dismissing a living with COVID strategy that other financial centers have undertaken. The announcement comes a day after an industry group says the city’s zero-COVID policy undermines its financial hub status.
11:50 a.m. Japan’s new daily infections fall below the 200 mark for the first time in 16 months, since early July last year, as nearly 70% of the entire population has been fully vaccinated. Japan reported a total of 153 new cases for Monday, down from 234 a day earlier. The government lifted restrictions on eateries on operating hours in Tokyo and other areas on Monday because cases have eased.
11:00 a.m. Facebook and YouTube have removed a video by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro in which the far-right leader made a false claim that COVID-19 vaccines were linked with developing AIDS. Both Facebook and YouTube parent company Alphabet said the video, recorded on Oct. 21, violated their policies. “Our policies don’t allow claims that COVID-19 vaccines kill or seriously harm people,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement.
9:30 a.m. SK Hynix forecasts steady growth in demand for memory chips as the South Korean chipmaker posts its highest quarterly operating profit since 2018 on the back of rising prices, which offset slowing personal computer sales as COVID-19 lockdowns eased.
9:10 a.m. South Korea’s economic growth slowed in the third quarter as subdued private consumption and weak construction and facility investment offset robust exports. Gross domestic product grew a seasonally adjusted 0.3%, central bank data shows, the slowest in five quarters and following a 0.8% rise in the second quarter. “The toughened social distancing measures and impacts from the heat wave and rising raw material prices that continued over the third quarter seem to have limited the recovery in domestic demand,” Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki said.
4:02 a.m. U.S. President Joe Biden signs an order imposing new vaccine requirements for most foreign nationals traveling to the U.S. by air, the White House says. Travel restrictions in place since early 2020 that barred most non-U.S. citizens from traveling to the U.S. from places including China, India and much of Europe have been lifted. The order takes effect Nov. 8.
Biden’s order says it is in the U.S. interest to “move away from the country restrictions” previously applied and to adopt an air travel policy that “relies primarily on vaccination” to advance the safe resumption of international air travel to the country.
The White House confirms that children under 18 are exempt from the new vaccine requirements, as are people with some medical issues. Nontourist travelers from about 50 countries with nationwide vaccination rates of less than 10% will likewise be eligible for exemption from the rules. Those receiving an exemption will generally need to be vaccinated if they plan to stay in the U.S. for more than 60 days.
Monday, Oct. 25
9:45 p.m. Moderna says its COVID-19 vaccine generated a strong immune response and was generally well-tolerated in children ages 6 to 11 years, citing interim data from a study.
The company says the data showed two 50-microgram doses of the vaccine, half the strength of the doses used in the vaccine given to adults, generated virus-neutralizing antibodies in children. The majority of side effects were mild or moderate in severity, it says.
6:30 p.m. China has decided to postpone the Oct. 31 Beijing marathon amid a resurgence of coronavirus infections, as the capital tightens its COVID restrictions, state-run media reports. Around 100 days before the Beijing Winter Olympics is due to start in February, the government under President Xi Jinping is restricting the movements of Chinese citizens and carrying out virus tests on those who live in high-risk areas under its zero COVID policy.
5:00 p.m. Tokyo, its three neighboring prefectures, and Osaka have lifted coronavirus restrictions on the operating hours of eateries, as the Japanese capital reports just 17 new cases, the lowest daily count this year.
Restaurants and bars in regions where infections were high had been banned from serving alcohol and were asked by the government to close by 8 p.m. under a state of emergency imposed in April. The restriction on alcohol was eased with the lifting of the emergency at the end of September. For Tokyo and Osaka eateries, this is the first time in 11 months that all restrictions have been totally lifted.
4:55 p.m. South Korea will donate 1 million doses of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine to Iran, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency says.
1:04 p.m. A financial industry group warns that Hong Kong’s zero-COVID policy and strict quarantine requirements for international travelers threaten to undermine the city’s status as a financial hub. The Asia Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association said a survey of members showed 48% were contemplating moving staff or functions away from Hong Kong due to operational challenges, including uncertainty over when and how travel and quarantine restrictions will be lifted.
11:00 a.m. South Korea reports 1,190 new cases, down from 1,423 a day earlier, bringing the cumulative total to 353,089. Deaths rose by 7 to 2,773.
10:30 a.m. Indonesia will gradually reopen parts of the country where COVID-19 vaccination rates are above 70%, President Joko Widodo tells a Southeast Asian business forum. Jokowi, as the president is known, also said Southeast Asia should start loosening travel restrictions, including vaccinated lanes for inoculated arrivals with negative COVID-19 tests.
9:50 a.m. New Zealand reports 109 new locally acquired cases, the bulk of them in its largest city, Auckland, the second-worst day of daily infections since the pandemic began. The country over the weekend also reported the first community case of the virus in the South Island in nearly a year, a cause for further headache.
4:41 a.m. The U.S. has administered 413,645,478 doses of COVID-19 vaccines in the country, says the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC tallies two-dose vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech, as well as Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot vaccine.
4:11 a.m. Vaccines for children in the U.S. between the ages of 5 and 11 will “very likely” be available “within the first week or two of November,” top U.S. infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci says.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration officials are reviewing the Pfizer/BioNTech application seeking authorization for its two-dose vaccine for the age group, with a panel of outside advisers due to advise the agency on Oct. 26.
Sunday, Oct. 24
8:57 p.m. A Chinese health official says the nation’s latest COVID-19 outbreak is increasingly likely to spread further, Reuters reports. More than 100 locally transmitted cases have been confirmed over the last week across 11 provincial areas. With the situation worsening, authorities urge all regions to escalate monitoring and call for a reduction in travel across provinces.
China reported 26 new locally transmitted cases on Saturday, according to the National Health Commission. As of Oct. 23, the country has administered over 2.24 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines.
7:21 p.m. Israel and the United Arab Emirates have signed a “green corridor” agreement allowing passengers vaccinated against the novel coronavirus to travel freely between the two countries, the Israeli consulate in Dubai says on Twitter.
2:13 a.m. The U.K. records the highest number of new cases since July over the past week, government figures show, a day after Prime Minister Boris Johnson played down the prospect of a return to lockdown. Some 333,465 people in Britain tested positive for COVID-19 over the past seven days, up 15% on the previous week and the highest total since the seven days to July 21, Reuters reports.
12:25 a.m. Singapore’s Health Ministry detects 3,598 new cases and six deaths, compared with 3,637 infections the previous day. Out of Saturday’s new cases, 2,804 are recorded in the community while 790 are from migrant worker dormitories and four cases are imported.
Saturday, Oct. 23
7:57 p.m. Singapore’s government is ramping up pressure on residents who are yet to get jabs against COVID-19, saying people will be barred from their workplaces from the start of next year unless they are fully vaccinated or can show negative test results. The city-state joins some Western jurisdictions that are shifting to workplace vaccine mandates, a trend that could spread into Asian countries as vaccination rates rise in the region.
6:42 p.m. South Korea says it has achieved its goal of vaccinating 70% of its 52 million people, paving the way for a planned return to normal next month. The target, set a month before the country kicked off its inoculation campaign in late February, was reached by 2 p.m., with some 36 million vaccinated, said the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency.
12:28 p.m. New Zealand reports 104 new coronavirus infections, including the first community case of the virus in the country’s South Island in nearly a year, health officials say. Most of the new infections were reported in Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city that has been under a strict lockdown for more than two months. Looser restrictions are in place in most of the rest of the country of 5 million.
To catch up on earlier developments, see last week’s latest updates.