Global: The global Covid death toll has passed the grim milestone of 6 million, with a figure of 6,051,511 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections have continued past 460 million to a world wide figure of 461,697,643.

The coronavirus pandemic obliterated 9.3 million jobs in Southeast Asia as lockdowns hit the region’s traditional engines of growth such as hospitality and tourism, according to the Asian Development Bank. This pushed 4.7 million people to extreme poverty last year, measured as living on less that $1.90 a day, the ADB said in a report Wednesday. Inequality also widened as movement restrictions hit hardest the retail and informal sectors, where women, young people and unskilled workers are typically employed.

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News by region


US: Covid -19 infections have now passed 79.5 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll has increased to more than 966,000 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Pfizer Inc. said it has asked US regulators for clearance of an additional Covid-19 booster shot for seniors, in a bid to protect vulnerable adults as immunity provided by the first three doses wanes. The New York-based drugmaker and its German partner BioNTech SE said on Tuesday that they have sought an emergency-use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration for a second booster of their vaccine, Comirnaty, for people 65 and older who have already received a booster of any of the authorized Covid-19 vaccines.

Asia pacific

Vietnam: Vietnam’s health ministry waived quarantine rules for all international travellers a day after the government said it was fully reopening to foreign visitors after two years of restrictions. All international visitors to Vietnam must undergo Covid-19 tests within the first 24 hours of arriving if they haven’t been tested within 24 to 72 hours before departure, according to a post on the health ministry’s website.

China: Shanghai ruled out imposing a broad lockdown for now, while urging workers in its main financial and business district to work from home as officials try to rein in a swelling Covid-19 outbreak in one of China’s biggest and most important cities. Gu Honghui, deputy secretary general of the Shanghai government, told reporters Tuesday that “there’s no need to lock down the city” at the moment, with authorities keen to minimize the impact of virus mitigation efforts on businesses and people’s lives.

New Covid cases in China came back down to 3,054 after rising above 5,000 the day before for the first time since the early days of the pandemic. A reduction in infections in Jilin province, which was locked down on Monday due to an explosive outbreak by China standards, was behind the drop in the national total. Jilin cased decreased to 1,456 from more than 4,000.

China has halved the duration of mandatory home isolation for discharged Covid patients to seven days, according to a revised notice posted on the State Council website late Tuesday. They were previously required to stay home for 14 days, according to a separate report by the state-run Xinhua news agency.

Hong Kong: About half of Hong Kong’s 7.4 million people have already been infected with Covid-19, according to an estimate of the damage caused by the deadly Omicron wave that’s overwhelmed the city. Researchers at the University of Hong Kong determined that about 3.6 million Hong Kongers caught the disease through 14 March. That’s up from an estimated 1.8 million infections they concluded had developed through 7 March based on disease modelling and an in-depth analysis of the ongoing outbreak. While the current wave peaked on 4 March, many more people will catch Covid before it ends, the researchers said. The total is likely to reach about 4.5 million, they said. More than 5,100 people will die from Covid by 1 May, the researchers forecast, up from an earlier estimate of about 5,010.

Hong Kong can’t commit to reopening its borders and lifting a flight ban on nine countries, Secretary for Transport and Housing Frank Chan says as the city faces a widespread Covid outbreak with tens of thousands of new cases a day. Hong Kong only in a position to reopen when Covid infections, serious cases and fatalities decline, Chan says in an interview with Bloomberg TV’s Stephen Engle. Separately, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said at a briefing that Hong Kong will cordon off beaches as beachgoers have been seen not wearing masks. The government currently has no plans to further tighten social distancing measures.

Philippines: The Philippine capital Manila will remain under the loosest movement restrictions from March 16 to 31, as the government seeks to boost economic activity amid declining Covid-19 infections. Metro Manila, which accounts for a third of the nation’s economic output, will stay under Alert Level 1 where businesses can fully operate, Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said in a statement. Forty-seven other areas were also placed under the lowest alert level. The restrictions are reviewed every two weeks.

New Zealand: New Zealand will begin reopening its border to the world next month, ending the “fortress” settings that kept Covid-19 out for much of the pandemic. Vaccinated Australians will be allowed to enter without needing to isolate on arrival from 11:59 pm on 12 April, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Wednesday in Wellington. The border will open to visitors from other visa-waiver countries such as the US, the UK, Japan, Singapore and Germany from midnight 1 May, she said. “We’re ready to welcome the world back,” Ardern told a news conference.

Economy news

China: UBS Group AG cut its China gross domestic product growth forecast for 2022 to 5% from 5.4% due to the damaging impact of the latest Covid outbreak and the Russia-Ukraine war. “We think Covid restrictions may tighten in more cities and last longer in the coming months, which would dampen consumption recovery,” UBS economists led by Tao Wang wrote in a report distributed Wednesday. Beijing’s official target for GDP growth this year is about 5.5%.