Case Record in S.Korea; Australia Eyes Tourists: Virus Update

Author of the article: Bloomberg News Bloomberg News (Bloomberg) — South Korea reported a record 38,502 daily Covid cases on Sunday, surpassing 1 million total infections for the first time, as the omicron variant spreads, data from Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency showed.  Australia plans to open its borders to international tourists as soon…
Case Record in S.Korea; Australia Eyes Tourists: Virus Update

Author of the article:

Bloomberg News

Bloomberg News

(Bloomberg) — South Korea reported a record 38,502 daily Covid cases on Sunday, surpassing 1 million total infections for the first time, as the omicron variant spreads, data from Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency showed. 

Australia plans to open its borders to international tourists as soon as possible, a government minister said Sunday, following a report that they will be allowed back by the end of February after a Covid-related hiatus of almost two years. 

Tensions boiled over at protests against vaccine mandates in two Canadian cities as demonstrations that began with frustrated truckers spread across the nation and are threatening to spill into the U.S. Demonstrators are planning a convoy to Washington, D.C.

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker is seeking an appeal of a judge’s ruling temporarily blocking the state from enforcing a mask mandate at dozens of school districts.

Key Developments:

Virus Tracker: Cases top 392.6 million; deaths pass 5.7 millionVaccine Tracker: More than 10.2 billion shots administeredCDC expands hunt for early warnings of Covid in sewage wasteCovid rebellion brews in Canada, sending warning across globeCovid Zero keeps Beijing Winter Olympics opening a muted affairIs Covid becoming endemic? What would that mean?: QuickTake

Record Daily Infections in South Korea (9:10 a.m. HK)

Daily cases continue to accelerate in South Korea, driven by the fast-spreading omicron variant. Still, the death rate is declining along with the number of critical cases. There were 15 new deaths, and hospitals were treating 272 severe cases, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said. 

The country’s high vaccination rate is helping to insulate the populace from serious infection, according to health authorities. South Korea has fully vaccinated 95.4% of those aged 60 and over and administered boosters to 86.2% of them.

Thailand Cases Rise After Re-opening (9:10 a.m. HK)

Thailand reported 10,879 new infections on Sunday, according to the government, the highest single-day tally in four months. There were also 20 deaths from the virus in the past 24 hours.

Rising infection numbers come after the southeast Asian nation opened up its borders earlier this week with a quarantine-free entry program for inoculated tourists. Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha on Saturday has ordered Betong International Airport to be ready to accept travelers as the new gateway for tourism in the south, Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said in a statement.

Vietnam Orders Pfizer Vaccine for Children (9:10 a.m. HK)

Vietnam will purchase 21.9 million doses of Pfizer Inc. Covid-19 vaccine doses for children aged five to 12, according to a post on the government’s website. Vietnam acquired more than 206 million vaccine doses between March 2021 and Jan. 4, of which more than 182,000,000 have been administered, the post said, citing the Ministry of Health.

Australia to Reopen to Tourists: Report (5:55 p.m. NY)

Overseas tourists will be allowed to visit Australia by the end of February, after a Covid-related hiatus of almost two years, the Herald Sun paper reported Sunday, citing an unnamed senior government source.

An announcement from the government could come as soon as Monday following a meeting of the National Security Committee, the paper reported. Lifting restrictions on international visitors will give a boost to the country’s hospitality sector, which has been ravaged by Covid-related lockdowns and border controls. 

Prior to the pandemic, tourism generated over $120 billion in annual revenue and employed about 5% of the workforce, according to industry body Tourism Australia. 

Canada Trucker Protests Widen (5:53 p.m. NY)

Tensions boiled over at protests against vaccine mandates in two Canadian cities Saturday as a smoke bomb was deployed in Toronto and four men were injured in a hit-and-run incident in Winnipeg.

Toronto police arrested a 22-year-old man on the North side of Queen’s Park after he set off a smoke bomb, officials said in a Twitter post. In Winnipeg, police arrested a 42-year-old man who drove through a group of protesters downtown. Three men suffered minor injuries and a fourth was treated in a hospital and released.

The incidents come as protests against vaccine mandates and Covid restrictions expanded across Canada this weekend. The protests started in reaction to Canadian and U.S. laws that went into effect in January, requiring truckers crossing the border to be fully vaccinated. They have since morphed into a rally against Covid restrictions more broadly, and Canada’s “Freedom Convoy” has since been championed by the likes of Fox News and by podcaster Joe Rogan, Tesla billionaire Elon Musk and former President Donald Trump. 

U.S. demonstrators are planning to continue the Canadian protests with a convoy to Washington, D.C.

Illinois to Appeal Ruling Against School Mask Order (1:48 p.m. NY)

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker is seeking an appeal of a judge’s ruling temporarily blocking the state from enforcing a mask mandate at dozens of school districts.

Late Friday, Sangamon County Judge Raylene DeWitte Grischow ruled in favor of the group of parents who brought the lawsuit, issuing a temporary restraining order against Pritzker’s executive order requiring districts to mandate masks for students and teachers.

The temporary order also applies to the governor’s order that school districts deny entry for a period of time to students and teachers who are close contacts of confirmed or probable Covid-19 cases if they refuse to test. 

Turkey President Erdogan Tests Positive (7:24 a.m. NY)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a Twitter post that he and his wife tested positive for coronavirus.

“We have mild symptoms which we learned to be omicron variant,” Erdogan, 67, said. “We await your prayers.” Erdogan, who is vaccinated, said he would continue to work from home. 

Austria Total Cases Reach 2 Million (7:14 a.m. NY)

Covid cases in Austria since February 2020 reached 2 million on Friday, government figures showed. The second million came in less than three months as a result of the highly infectious omicron variant.

Austria’s Ministry of Health announced that anyone who’s already recovered from an omicron infection will no longer have to quarantine after contact with an infected person, according to local media. The new guideline is expected to help kindergartens and elementary schools, where infections have been running high, and reduce workplace absences. 

Street protests were held again Saturday against Austria’s vaccine mandate.

Italy Death Toll Under Scrutiny (6:02 a.m. NY)

Italy reported 433 deaths from Covid on Friday, in line with the average in the past week, higher than France and the U.K. and more than twice the number recorded in Germany. That’s despite a high vaccination rate: 84.3% of the population is at least partly vaccinated, according to the Bloomberg vaccine tracker.

Higher deaths in January are still largely due to the delta variant, which was dominant in December, local experts have said. Still, there may be a reporting bias in Italy to count deaths due to other causes as Covid deaths, la Repubblica said, citing virologists including Maria Rita Gismondo of the Sacco hospital in Milan.

Hong Kong Reports Record Cases (5:54 p.m. HK)

Hong Kong reported a record 351 daily coronavirus cases on Saturday, more than double its previous highest daily tally, as the city struggles to contain a fifth wave of infections.

Locally transmitted infections accounted for 343 of the total, Hong Kong health officials said at a press conference. The city’s previous highest number of cases was 164 reported on Jan. 27.

Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan said at Saturday’s briefing that the government will send patients with mild infections to the government-run Penny’s Bay quarantine center as soon as next week to make room for more severe cases in hospitals.

Winter Olympics Cases Accelerate (1:30 p.m. HK)

China reported a pickup in new Covid-19 cases among those in the country for the Winter Olympics on the day the Beijing games began. Official data showed 45 new cases were identified on Feb. 4, more than double the previous day’s tally and compared to an average of 40 for the latest three days. 

The latest daily infections included 26 new arrivals who tested positive at the airport, and 19 who were already in the “closed loop” that’s cut off from the broader population, the Chinese committee organizing the event said in a statement. 

India New Cases Decline for Second Day (12:10 p.m. HK)

India added 127,952 new daily cases, according to health ministry data on Saturday, declining for a second day. Total deaths climbed to 501,114 after 1,059 were reported in the last 24 hours. Vaccinations rose to 1.69 billion doses in total, data showed.

©2022 Bloomberg L.P.

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