Global: The global Covid death toll has passed 6 million, with a figure of 6,152,887 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections have continued past 491 million to a world wide figure of 491,442,055.
News by region
US: Covid -19 infections have now passed 80 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll has increased to more than 982,000 according to Johns Hopkins University data.
Democrats and Republicans are near agreement on a $10 billion Covid-19 funding package as the White House mounts a last-ditch effort to salvage money for global vaccine efforts that had been championed by President Joe Biden. Utah Senator Mitt Romney, the top GOP negotiator on the bill, said Thursday afternoon that there is an agreement in principle but that Republicans are awaiting a cost estimate from the Congressional Budget Office.
Finland: In Finland, 25,000 nurses went on strike Friday in protest against low pay and unpredictable working hours, just as Covid infections are spreading at a fast pace. The strike affects several hospital districts, including those around the most populous cities Helsinki, Turku and Tampere, according to two nursing unions, Tehy and SuPer. Emergency rooms are likely to be crowded and almost all non-urgent care has been cancelled, the Helsinki University Hospital said on its website.
Hong Kong: Hong Kong reported 96 new deaths, the first time since late-February that the daily tally excluding backlogged cases has dipped below 100. The lower number of fatalities has come alongside a decline in infections. The city reported 5,823 new cases on Friday, also the lowest since February. There are 30 patients in critical condition and 24 people in serious condition in hospital.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong has halved quarantine for local crew on passenger flights to seven days, in line with air-cargo pilots and a new rule for regular travelers, paving the way for Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. to operate more services as staff won’t be stuck in isolation for two weeks and unable to work.
Japan: Japan will increase the number of international arrivals allowed under coronavirus restrictions to 10,000 a day from the current 7,000, starting April 10, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said. Japan has opened its doors to students, businesspeople and other workers, but foreign tourists are still banned. The government earlier on Friday lowered a travel warning for 106 nations including the US to the second-lowest of four levels.
China: China is able to return Covid infections to zero based on the past two years of experience and new understandings of virus changes, according to Wu Zunyou, chief epidemiologist at China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Covid Zero is still achievable with more sensitive surveillance that detects flareups early and treats them with forceful measures, Wu said at a press conference.
China is struggling to manage growing public unhappiness over tough Covid Zero measures in Shanghai, as some residents revolt against lockdown orders. Tech giant Tencent Holdings Ltd. took down two videos earlier this week of a rare protest at a Shanghai housing compound after they started trending on the company’s WeChat microblogging and video publishing platforms, according to a person familiar with the matter. The videos had been posted by users to their WeChat timelines, the person said.
Shanghai started part two of its phased lockdown on Friday, confining some 16 million people living in the western part of the city to their homes after ending a four-day lockdown of the eastern half. Residents in the western part of the Chinese financial hub, where about two-thirds of Shanghai’s population lives, were confined to their homes starting at 3 am on Friday. Shanghai has emerged as the epicenter of China’s worst virus outbreak since the early days of the pandemic. The city’s daily infections shot up from less than five at the beginning of March to almost 6,000 earlier this week, though they’ve subsequently declined.
Many patients have died in recent days at a large Shanghai elderly-care hospital amid a Covid outbreak, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the situation. Shanghai hasn’t officially reported any Covid-related deaths or outbreaks in its elderly-care centers since cases began climbing in March. The fatalities are a sign that infections are hitting Shanghai harder than authorities have publicly disclosed, the report said.
Singapore: Thousands of people travelled between Malaysia and Singapore in cars, motorcycles and by foot on Friday after the land border separating the two nations reopened fully for the first time in two years. The causeway links, one of the world’s busiest land crossings, opened at midnight last night, allowing vaccinated people to cross over without having to test or quarantine. People began gathering at the border checkpoint as early as 7:30 p.m. in Singapore, according to Straits Times and Channel News Asia, celebrating the possibility of reuniting with families and friends in Malaysia.
Thailand: Thailand reported a record number of new Covid infections for a second day, with the death toll jumping to the highest in more than five months. The Health Ministry on Friday reported 28,379 confirmed cases in the past 24 hours, including 62 imported cases, while there were 92 fatalities. Starting Friday, no pre-travel Covid tests will be required for foreign visitors to Thailand as the tourism-reliant nation seeks to draw more holiday-makers to help it sustain a nascent economic recovery. Overseas visitors will still be required to undergo an RT-PCR test on arrival and a self-administered antigen test on day five.
South Korea: South Korea will ease social distancing measures, allowing private gatherings of up to 10 people and restaurants to operate until midnight as there are signs that the spread of the Omicron variant is slowing, Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum said in a meeting. Currently, up to eight people are allowed in private gatherings, and restaurants and cafes must close by 11 pm The eased measures will be effective Monday. South Korea will consider lifting most social distancing measures if the Covid-19 spread continues to slow for the next two weeks, Health Minister Kwon Deok-cheol said during a briefing.
China: Macau’s gaming revenue plunged 56% in March, to the lowest in 18 months, as the worsening Covid-19 outbreak in China battered tourism in the world’s largest gambling hub. After a short-lived recovery, Macau’s casinos face challenges from the outbreak in mainland China – the enclave’s biggest source of visitors – that’s led to lockdowns in major cities like Shenzhen and Shanghai.
Shanghai’s strict lockdowns are threatening production at hundreds of factories in nearby industrial regions that rely on a steady flow of metal from China’s top commodities trading hub. Trucking of base metals like copper and zinc in and out of warehouses in Shanghai, including those in the duty-free bonded zones, largely ground to a halt this week after the city’s government imposed tight curbs on the movement of people and vehicles, according to traders and logistics managers.