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Coronavirus latest: Sinovac highly effective for serious illness, says Malaysian study

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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 230,637,884, according to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. The worldwide death toll has hit 4,729,308.

For more information about the spread of COVID-19 and vaccination progress around the world, please see our interactive charts and maps.

— Global coronavirus tracker charts

— Status of vaccinations around the world

— World map of spreading mutated strains

— Distribution, duration, safety: challenges emerge in vaccine race

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Friday, Sept.24 (Tokyo time)

5:30 p.m. More than half of Australia’s adult population was fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as of Friday, authorities say, as they step up inoculations in the hope of easing restrictions at a time when cases are lingering near record daily levels in the state of Victoria.

5:00 p.m. Tokyo reports 235 new cases, down from 531 from a day earlier. The seven-day average of new cases in the Japanese capital is 469, falling below the 500 mark for the first time since June 29.

4:00 p.m. Sinovac’s vaccine is highly effective against serious illness, although rival shots from Pfizer/BioNTech and AstraZeneca show better protection rates, a large real-world study from Malaysia shows. The vaccine has been under scrutiny following reports of infections among health care workers fully immunized with Sinovac in Indonesia and Thailand. The Malaysian government study found 0.011% of about 7.2 million recipients of the shot required treatment in intensive care units for infections. By contrast, 0.002% of about 6.5 million recipients of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine needed ICU treatment for infections, while 0.001% of 744,958 recipients of the AstraZeneca shot required similar treatment.

2:57 p.m. Indonesia has shed its undesirable tag as Southeast Asia’s COVID-19 epicenter, and now has the least daily infections per capita in the region. Daily infections topped 50,000 at their peak in July, now number less than 5,000 per day, with 3,263 new cases recorded on Thursday. The positivity rate has fallen below 5%, according to Our World in Data, below the threshold the World Health Organization has said was conducive to governments reopening their economies.

2:14 p.m. India posts 31,382 new cases for the past 24 hours, slightly down from 31,923 the previous day and pushing the cumulative tally to about 33.6 million. Deaths rose by 318 to 446,368. On the vaccine front, the country has administered 7.22 million shots since Thursday morning, bringing the total number to 841.5 million. Of India’s 940 million adults, 66% have received at least one dose, and 23% two, according to health ministry data. India has been averaging over 8 million shots this month, up from about 6 million in August and about 2 million in May.


November is the new target for allowing vaccinated foreign tourists on Phu Quoc as Vietnam scrambles for vaccines to inoculate the resort island’s residents.

  © Reuters

1:30 p.m. Vietnam has pushed back a plan to re-open the resort island of Phu Quoc to foreign tourists until November, after failing to meet targets for inoculating residents due to insufficient vaccine supplies. Authorities had initially planned to allow vaccinated foreign tourists onto Phu Quoc in October. “We have to inoculate residents here for herd immunity, but vaccine supplies are falling short,” Huynh Quang Hung, the chairman of Phu Quoc City’s People’s Committee, told the state-run VTC newspaper.

11:39 a.m. After the market was closed on Thursday for a national holiday, Japan’s Nikkei Stock Average catches up to global markets, at one point gaining more than 600 points, or 2.1%, on dissipating worries over China Evergrande Group’s debt problems. The U.S. Federal Reserve’s two-day monetary policy meeting also remained within market expectations, with Fed Chair Jerome Powell signaling that the central bank could start cutting back on bond purchases and start tapering in November.

10:30 a.m. Japan’s core consumer prices were flat in August from a year earlier with a record drop in mobile phone charges offset by sharply higher accommodation fees and surging energy prices as the economy gradually recovers from the pandemic, government data shows. The latest CPI, coming after 12 months of decline, does not change expectations that the Bank of Japan will maintain its monetary easing as its 2% inflation target remains far off.

10:15 a.m. Australia’s New South Wales reports 1,043 new locally acquired cases, down from 1,063 a day earlier, as first-dose vaccinations of the state’s adult population near 85%. The state reports 11 new deaths from the virus; 10 were unvaccinated. A total of 1,186 patients are in the hospital, with 232 in intensive care and 110 on ventilation.


Holiday crowds like this one at Gimpo airport in Seoul are being blamed for South Korea’s latest virus battle.

  © AP

9:50 a.m. South Korea’s new daily infections hit a record 2,434, bringing cumulative cases to 295,132, with 2,434 deaths. Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum said the Chuseok holidays, which ended Wednesday, helped the delta variant rapidly spread.

9:30 a.m. Australia’s Victoria state reports 733 new daily cases, forcing authorities to step up their efforts to get more people vaccinated. More than half the country’s adult population is already fully vaccinated. Friday’s tally represents the second biggest daily tally but is down from a record 766 on Thursday. Most cases were detected in Melbourne.

Thursday, Sept. 23

11:43 p.m. Singapore’s health ministry reports 1,504 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, the highest since the beginning of the pandemic.

10:31 p.m. Novavax and its partner Serum Institute of India say they have applied to the World Health Organization for an emergency use listing of Novavax’s COVID-19 vaccine, reports Reuters.

5:02 p.m. The Philippine central bank leaves key interest rates steady Thursday as it continues to support an economy grappling with recent COVID-19 curbs, even as raised inflation forecasts for 2021-2023. The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) kept the rate on the overnight reverse repurchase facility at 2.0%.

2:22 p.m. India reports 31,923 new cases in the last 24 hours, up from 26,964 the previous day, pushing the country’s total infections to 33.56 million. Deaths rose by 282 to 446,050. Meanwhile, the country has administered more than 7 million COVID-19 vaccine shots since Wednesday morning, bringing the total number of doses given to people nationwide to about 834 million.

12:52 p.m. The price of used corrugated cardboard shipments to Vietnam have soared roughly 60% so far this year as coronavirus restrictions slash the amount of the material available from the Southeast Asian country’s factories and households. Used cardboard is a major input in paper product production. But as the usual sources dry up, prices have risen 20% since April. Imports are also on the rise, with Japan seeing the volume it exports to Vietnam rise around 60%.

12:29 p.m. Domestic car sales in Thailand fell 38.8% in August from a year earlier to 42,176 vehicles, Reuters reports, citing the Federation of Thai Industries. In July, sales dropped 11.62%, year-on-year. Thailand imposed stricter measures to contain its most severe coronavirus outbreak in July and August, slowing economic activity.

12:09 p.m. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the country should aim for a 90%-plus rate of inoculation, and could drop strict coronavirus lockdown measures once enough people were vaccinated, according to Reuters. New Zealand eliminated COVID-19 last year and remained largely virus-free until an outbreak of the highly infectious Delta variant in August led to a nationwide lockdown. Authorities reported 15 new cases on Wednesday, all in Auckland, taking the total number of new infections in the current outbreak to 1,123.


The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has authorized booster shots of the Pfizer and BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for those 65 and older.

  © Reuters

10:57 a.m. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized a booster dose of the Pfizer and BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines for people 65 and older, people at high risk of severe disease and others who are regularly exposed to the virus. The decision paves the way for a quick rollout of booster shots as soon as this week for millions of people who had their second dose of the vaccine at least six months ago.

4:00 a.m. Japan plans to give other countries 60 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga says, doubling the target from the previous pledge of 30 million doses.

Of the first 30 million, Japan has already provided about 23 million doses mostly in Asia, including Taiwan, Vietnam and Indonesia.

2:31 a.m. The U.S. promises to buy 500 million more COVID-19 vaccine doses to donate to other countries, bringing its total contribution to more than 1.1 billion doses.

“To beat the pandemic here we need to beat it everywhere,” U.S. President Joe Biden said, kicking off a virtual summit hosted from the White House.

Global health experts say 5 billion to 6 billion doses are needed by poorer countries.

Wednesday, Sept. 22

7:57 p.m. Vaccine maker Serum Institute of India (SII) will invest 50 million pounds ($68 million) in Oxford Biomedica to help fund the development of a plant that manufactures COVID-19 shots, the British company announced on Wednesday.

Serum, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, and Oxford Biomedica both produce AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine. Serum Life Sciences, a unit of India-based SII, will pick up a 3.9% stake in Oxford Biomedica as part of the deal.


British Prime Minister Boris Johnson visits an Oxford Biomedica lab where batches of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine are tested. Serum Institute of India will invest $68 million in Oxford Biomedica.

7:15 p.m. South Korea will donate more than 1 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine to Vietnam next month in what would become Seoul’s first direct cross-border sharing of its vaccine stockpile, according to Reuters. Vietnam, a major manufacturing hub for many South Korean companies including technology company Samsung Electronics, has fully vaccinated only about 7% of its 98 million people, one of Asia’s lowest inoculation rates.

3:00 p.m. The debut in September of Nanocovax, the front-runner COVID-19 vaccine project in Vietnam, has become uncertain after Vietnam’s National Ethics Committee in Biomedical Research issued a statement on Sunday. It said the committee would send vaccine documents to the Advisory Council for the Registration of Circulation of Drugs and Medicinal Ingredients for review.

2:58 p.m. As Prime Minister Narendra Modi this week heads to a Quad summit in the U.S., where COVID-19 vaccines are expected to top the agenda, India says it will resume exporting coronavirus jabs in the quarter starting next month thanks to a significant production jump. India, the world’s largest vaccine maker, suspended overseas shipments in April as it fought its second COVID wave. The nation intends to fully immunize its eligible adult population of over 940 million by the end of the year.

12:24 p.m. The Bank of Japan keeps monetary policy steady but offers a bleaker view on exports and output, reinforcing expectations it will maintain its massive stimulus even as major counterparts eye a withdrawal of crisis-mode support. The gloom hanging over manufacturers, hit by Asian factory shutdowns caused by the coronavirus pandemic, adds to woes for Japan’s fragile recovery, which has been hobbled by weak consumption.

10:35 a.m. China’s northeastern city of Harbin, with a population of 10 million, went into semi-shutdown after reporting new locally transmitted COVID-19 cases for the first time since early February, according to Reuters. Three of 16 new local cases reported in China for Sept. 21 were in Harbin, the provincial capital of Heilongjiang. The last reported locally transmitted cases in the city were on Feb. 4.

Harbin on Tuesday swiftly told residents to avoid leaving town unless essential. Indoor venues such as cinemas, gyms and mah-jong parlors were also shut, and tourist sites were ordered to limit visitor-traffic to half their capacity, state television reported on Tuesday.

10:00 a.m. Southeast Asia’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic will be much slower than initially expected, the Asian Development Bank said in a report on Wednesday, as the region continues to wrestle with the highly infectious delta variant.

Southeast Asia’s gross domestic product is expected to grow 3.1% this year before expanding by 5% next year, according to an update to Asian Development Outlook, ADB’s widely followed economic publication. The new 2021 outlook is lower than the 4% forecast in July, which was already a downward revision from the bank’s original projection of 4.4% in April.

9:38 a.m. Canada is extending restrictions on all direct commercial and private passenger flights from India until Sept. 26, the federal transport ministry said on Tuesday. Travelers eligible to enter Canada will be able to board direct flights from India once the restrictions expire as long as they have proof of a negative COVID-19 molecular test.

3:00 a.m. A second shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine boosts protection against symptomatic and severe COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, the drug company says.

In a clinical trial, researchers found that two doses of the vaccine delivered 94% efficacy against mild to severe COVID-19 in the U.S., up from 74% conferred with a single shot, the company reports.

Tuesday, Sept. 21

11: 00 p.m. Japan plans to offer coronavirus vaccine booster shots to those 65 and older from early next year, says vaccination czar Taro Kono.

Medical workers could start receiving the shots before the end of the year, Kono added. The announcement comes after the health ministry presented to experts a plan to start giving booster shots to people eight months after their second dose.

Because the eight-month time frame determines the dates for the third shots, Kono says he does not expect the rush for reservations seen when vaccinations were first opened up to the general public in early summer.


Vaccination czar Taro Kono says Japan will start offering booster shots to the elderly from early next year. (Photo by Uichiro Kasai)

6:30p.m. Tokyo’s new daily cases hit the lowest number in three months as the Japanese capital appears to have got the latest delta variant outbreak under control. The city reported 253 new cases, down from 302 a day earlier, while the seven-day average in Tokyo fell to 663, down about 46% from a week ago. Tokyo is still under the state of emergency through Sept. 30.

5:20 p.m. New Zealand announces higher fines of up to NZ$12,000 ($8,400) for individuals who breach coronavirus restrictions amid concerns that the current outbreak may spread beyond Auckland to other regions. A person who intentionally fails to comply with a COVID-19 order, such as traveling without permission, will be deemed guilty of a criminal offence and liable on conviction for a fine of up to 12,000 New Zealand dollars, up from NZ$4,000, or six months imprisonment.

5:00 p.m. Property prices in Japan fell 0.4% in the year to July, following last year’s 0.6% decline, as the country’s closed its borders and imposed emergency curbs to combat the pandemic hit demand for new restaurants and hotels, an annual government survey shows. In a sign the pandemic is reshaping the economy, land prices for industrial areas rose for the fourth straight year on booming demand for warehouses for electronic appliances and other goods catering to stay-at-home demand.

4:40 p.m. Indonesia’s central bank holds its benchmark rates unchanged at a record low as it seeks to prop up the economy after a recent devastating COVID-19 wave without adding pressure on the currency, the rupiah. Bank Indonesia held the benchmark seven-day reverse repurchase rate steady at 3.50% for a seventh straight monetary review.

4:00 p.m. Spas, cinemas and mahjong salons in the Chinese city of Harbin were ordered to close to prevent COVID-19 from spreading in poorly ventilated spaces, state television reports. The temporary shutdowns were part of a range of restrictions imposed on the northeastern city after one case of community transmission was detected. Religious activities were also suspended, tourist attractions were ordered to operate at half capacity, and visits to retirement homes were banned.


(photo by Takaki Kashiwabara)

3:20 p.m. Japan will start administering a third dose of vaccines to the elderly early next year, vaccination minister Taro Kono says. The government decided last week to give booster shots to people who have gone at least eight months since receiving their second dose. Health care workers are expected to receive booster shots by the end of the year, as they were the first to be vaccinated in Japan starting in February. The vaccine rollout expanded to people aged 65 and older in the spring, followed by those with underlying conditions such as diabetes and finally the general population.

2:16 p.m. India reports 26,115 new cases in the last 24 hours, down from 30,256 the previous day, pushing the country’s total to 33.5 million. Deaths rose by 252 to 445,385. Meanwhile, the country administered 9.65 million vaccine shots since Monday morning, bringing the total number of doses given to people nationwide to 818.5 million.

11:30 a.m. China reports 42 new locally transmitted cases, all in the southeastern province of Fujian. The daily tally was down from 49 a day earlier, but the number in Fujian rebounded from 28 the previous day.

11:00 a.m. South Korea reports 1,729 cases — up from 1,604 a day earlier — marking a record high in cases for a Monday and the fourth consecutive day to register a higher daily count than the same day a week earlier.

10:30 a.m. Australia’s New South Wales state, the epicenter of the country’s worst coronavirus outbreak, reports 1,022 locally acquired cases, up from 935 a day earlier. Ten new deaths were recorded in the state, taking the total number of fatalities in the latest outbreak to 255.


Construction workers in Melbourne clash with unionists while protesting work-related COVID restrictions on Sept. 20.

  © AAP Image/Reuters

8:45 a.m. Australia shut down construction sites in Melbourne for two weeks after a protest against vaccine mandates in the city turned violent and infections in the state of Victoria surged. Hundreds of people clashed with union officials, throwing bottles and a crate at them, footage on social media showed, after Victoria required all construction workers to have at least one vaccine dose by Friday.

2:51 a.m. Sport climbing’s Boulder and Speed World Cup scheduled to be held in Seoul on Oct. 1-3 has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the International Federation of Sport Climbing says.

2:15 a.m. The U.S. will allow fully vaccinated foreign travelers to enter the country starting in November, according to the White House COVID-19 coordinator.

Travelers will have to show proof of vaccination before boarding any plane flying to the U.S., as well as proof of a negative COVID-19 test within three days of departure. There will be no quarantine mandate. Unvaccinated Americans returning from abroad will face stricter testing requirements. Read more.

1:09 a.m. India expects to get its first Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine doses from next month, filled and finished in India by a partner of the U.S. drugmaker, reports Reuters, citing a source with knowledge of the matter.

Monday, Sept. 20


A teenager receives a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine against the coronavirus in the U.S.

  © Reuters

9:35 p.m. Clinical trials in which the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was administered to children aged 5 to 11 showed a robust immune response, the companies say. They plan to seek authorization to use the vaccine for that age range as soon as possible in the U.S., Europe and elsewhere.

The safety profile and immune response in the companies’ Phase II/III clinical trial is generally comparable to that of the 16-to-25 age group, Pfizer and BioNTech add.

“Over the past nine months, hundreds of millions of people ages 12 and older from around the world have received our COVID-19 vaccine,” Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla says in a statement. “We are eager to extend the protection afforded by the vaccine to this younger population, subject to regulatory authorization, especially as we track the spread of the Delta variant and the substantial threat it poses to children.”

For older Americans, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is expected to make a decision soon on whether to approve the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine as a booster shot.


Cathay Pacific continues to aim for a cash burn of less than HK$1 billion ($130 million) a month for the rest of the year. 

  © Reuters

2:20 p.m. Vietnam’s capital Hanoi will further ease its coronavirus restrictions from this week, the government said, with new cases on the decline and the majority of its adult population partially vaccinated, according to Reuters.

2:00 p.m. Coronavirus restrictions in New Zealand’s largest city Auckland will be eased slightly from Wednesday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told a news conference, according to Reuters.

1:45 p.m. Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways says it had lowered its passenger capacity forecast for the remainder of the year to 13% of pre-COVID levels, down from an earlier 30% target for the fourth quarter, as travel restrictions linger. The airline said it continued to target a cash burn of less than HK$1 billion ($130 million) a month for the rest of the year, according to its monthly traffic report.

10:25 a.m. Australia’s Victoria State reports its biggest daily rise in COVID-19 cases this year. A total of 567 new locally acquired infections were detected in the state, the majority in the state capital, Melbourne, up from 507 on Sunday. One new death was recorded. Daily cases have topped 500 for the past five days, according to Reuters.


Demonstrators protest a lockdown during  “The Worldwide Rally for Freedom” in Melbourne, Australia on Sept. 18. 

  © Reuters

4:04 a.m. A plan must be crafted to transfer 100 million stockpiled vaccine doses to poorer countries before the shots expire, former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown says.

U.S. President Joe Biden is due to convene a virtual COVID-19 summit Wednesday on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly. Brown said he had sent Biden and fellow Group of Seven leaders the research of analytics company Airfinity, which found that rich Northern Hemisphere countries had 100 million doses that would expire by December without being used.

Sunday, Sept. 19

4:17 p.m. India reports 30,773 new cases in the past 24 hours, and a cumulative total of 33.4 million, according to the health ministry. Deaths rose by 309 to a cumulative 444,838. The country has administered 804.3 million vaccine doses.

2:22 p.m. Australia reports 1,607 new cases as states and territories gradually shift from trying to eliminate outbreaks to living with the virus. Victoria, home to about a quarter of Australia’s more than 25 million people, recorded 507 as Premier Daniel Andrews said a lockdown will end once 70% of those 16 and older are fully vaccinated — a threshold forecast to be reached around Oct. 26. About 43% of Victorians aged 16 and older have been fully vaccinated, trailing the national rate of about 46%.

New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state and home to Sydney, reports 1,083 cases as it uses lockdowns and vaccination blitzes to fight an outbreak of the delta variant that began in mid-June. The state eased some restrictions on gathering Sunday. About 52% of people 16 and older there have been fully vaccinated.

1:12 a.m. Singapore records 1,009 new cases, the highest since April last year. A recent rise in cases after the relaxation of some COVID-19 measures has prompted Singapore to pause further reopening. More than 80% of its population has been vaccinated.

Saturday, Sept. 18

9:15 p.m. United Arab Emirates capital Abu Dhabi cancels COVID-19 testing requirements to enter the emirate for travelers from the UAE, state news agency WAM reports.

The capital had restricted entry to those with a negative PCR test. This month, Abu Dhabi removed the need to quarantine for all vaccinated travelers arriving from international destinations.

5:07 p.m. Police arrest 235 people in Melbourne and 32 in Sydney at unsanctioned anti-lockdown rallies, where several police officers are injured in clashes with protesters.

About 700 people gather in parts of Melbourne, as 2,000 officers made the city center virtually a no-go zone, setting up checkpoints and barricades. Public transport and ride shares into the city are suspended.

In Sydney, riot squad officers, highway patrol, detectives and general duties police are also deployed to the streets, preventing large gatherings.

12:00 p.m. Vietnam has approved Cuba’s Abdala vaccine for use against the new coronavirus, the government says, as the Southeast Asian country is battling its worst outbreak. Abdala becomes the eighth COVID-19 vaccine approved for use in Vietnam, which has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the region, with only 6.3% of its 98 million people having received at least two shots. The announcement came hours after President Nguyen Xuan Phuc left Hanoi for an official visit to Havana.

To catch up on earlier developments, see the last edition of latest updates.

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