Thai people queuing up for COVID test. (Photo: BBC) Thailand tally keeps on surging, PM blames on illegal migration
Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on Tuesday (Dec 22) blamed a spike in coronavirus cases on illegal migration after the country's biggest outbreak yet saw more than 1,000 infections, mostly among workers from Myanmar at a seafood market near the capital.
Authorities have suspected some workers may have entered the country illegally as infections soared in neighboring Myanmar, where about 117,000 cases have been recorded. At least a dozen infected Thai nationals are also known to have returned from Myanmar in the last month without passing through immigration or undergoing quarantine.
Prayut said he would meet his COVID-19 task force this week and discuss "additional regulations that may be appropriate for the evolving situation," without elaborating, according to Channel News Asia.
Health officials reported 427 new coronavirus infections on Tuesday and urged about 1,000 people from a quarter of the country's provinces who had visited the seafood centre this month to report to authorities. The new cases include 16 people in eight different provinces, with five of the infections in Bangkok.
Japan's COVID-19 death toll tops 3,000 Tuesday. (Photo: Japan Times) Japan's COVID-19 death toll tops 3,000, PM requires shorter business hours
Japan's death toll linked to the novel coronavirus came to 3,026 on Tuesday, topping the 3,000-mark only a month after exceeding 2,000 amid fears that a recent spike in the number of infections could further squeeze Japan’s health care system, said Japan Times.
On Tuesday, 2,687 new infections were confirmed nationwide, including 563 in Tokyo, 348 in Kanagawa Prefecture, and 283 in Osaka Prefecture. According to the health ministry, the number of seriously ill patients stood at a record high of 620 as of Tuesday, up by 17 from Monday.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has denied the need to declare another national state of emergency, even amid the latest surge in cases and as health experts warn that the medical system is becoming strained. Speaking in a pre-recorded TV interview on Monday night, Suga said the government may instead ask restaurants and bars to further shorten business hours in a bid to curb the spread of the virus. Also Monday, the government’s coronavirus point man indicated it will consider a law revision to strengthen prefectural governors’ authority in the fight against the pandemic.
Antarctica, once the only continent not to be affected by the coronavirus pandemic, has reportedly recorded its first cases. (Photo: Al Jazeera) Covid cases recorded in Antarctica for first time
Antarctica, once the only continent not to be affected by the coronavirus pandemic, has reportedly recorded its first cases. The 36 new infections are among people stationed at a Chilean research base and include 26 members of the Chilean army and 10 maintenance workers.
In a statement, the Chilean army said: “Thanks to the timely preventive action … it was possible to relieve said personnel, who, after being subjected to a medical control and the administration of a PCR test ... turned out to be positive for Covid-19.”
The 36 individuals who tested positive have since been evacuated to the city of Punta Arenas in Chile, where they are reported to be under isolation and in good condition. Trying to keep the virus at bay in Antarctica has come at a cost. All major research projects in the Antarctic have been halted. As a result, research by scientists around the world has been interrupted. While the continent has no permanent residents, 1,000 researchers and other visitors stayed on the island over winter, according to the Associated Press.
Covid vaccines 'highly likely' to work on UK new variant. (Photo: BBC) Covid vaccines 'highly likely' to work on UK new variant
British drugmaker AstraZeneca Plc told Reuters that its COVID-19 vaccine should be effective against the new coronavirus variant, adding that studies were underway to fully probe the impact of the mutation.
“AZD1222 (AstraZeneca’s vaccine candidate) contains the genetic material of the SARS-CoV-2 virus spike protein, and the changes to the genetic code seen in this new viral strain do not appear to change the structure of the spike protein,” an AstraZeneca spokesperson said in an email.
The chief executive of the German pharmaceutical company BioNTech has said he is confident its coronavirus vaccine works against the new UK variant, but that further studies are needed to be certain. He said the proteins on the UK variant were 99% the same as those on the prevailing strains, and therefore BioNTech had “scientific confidence” its vaccine would be effective. “We believe there is no reason to be concerned or worried,” he said.
BioNTech’s vaccine, developed with the US pharmaceutical company Pfizer, has been authorized for use in more than 45 countries, including Britain and the US.
EU citizens can enter France from UK if they have negative COVID test. (Photo: Reuters) EU citizens can enter France from UK if they have negative COVID test
French and EU citizens will again be allowed to enter France from Britain from midnight on Tuesday provided they have a negative COVID-19 test that is less than 72 hours old, the French prime minister’s office said. An announcement on the resumption of goods transport would be made later on Tuesday evening, the French transport minister said.
France and several other countries closed their borders to Britain on Monday over fears of a highly infectious new coronavirus strain, causing travel chaos and stranding many French citizens in Britain.
“Planes, boats, and the Eurostar (train) will start operating again from (Wednesday) morning,” French Transport Minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari said on Twitter.
The prime minister’s office statement said British citizens or citizens from third countries who have a residence in France or the European Union can also enter the country or transit through it from Britain as long as they have a negative COVID test.
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