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Tuesday, October 20, 2020, 23:44
S'pore quells virus 'fire,' sees last phase of pandemic curbs
By Agencies
Tuesday, October 20, 2020, 23:44 By Agencies

Office workers wearing face masks enter a building during lunch time in the financial business district in Singapore on Aug 11, 2020. (PHOTO / AFP)

JERUSALEM / MANILA / DUBAI / SEOUL / SINGAPORE - Singapore is looking to ease up more on pandemic curbs, with the size of social gatherings possibly raised to eight, in a further step toward normalized activity as new daily coronavirus cases dwindle near zero.

Phase Three, which may start by year-end, would allow further easing of measures, the Ministry of Health said in a release Tuesday, while also outlining a pilot program for on-site testing of attendants at large-scale gatherings.

The ministry said the group size for gatherings outside the home could rise from five people to eight while visitors allowed to homes would similarly increase.

Capacity limits at public venues could be increased, and events with multiple zones of 50 persons could be allowed, the ministry said.

Higher-risk settings like bars, karaoke lounges and nightclubs aren’t expected to reopen as activities there pose a higher risk of transmission, it said.

The city-state will gradually allow more travel to resume, and is exploring ways to deploy more frequent testing to let more travelers enter Singapore without needing to quarantine, it added.

The ministry said all residents and long-term pass holders traveling overseas can now access government subsidies and insurance coverage for their COVID-related medical bills.

It added that, from Nov 1, live performances will be allowed to resume at designated venues, with up to two zones of 50 audience members.

“When can all of these measures take place?” Minister of Education Lawrence Wong said during a briefing by the task-force handling the pandemic crisis. “That is the big question and the answer is that it really depends on all of us.”

“You can liken the current situation to one where a fire has just been put out, but there are still embers of the fire lying around,” Wong said. “Each time we make further relaxation of any measures, we are simply adding wood to the fire. You don’t know when, but at some point in time, the more wood you add, the whole thing will combust yet again.”

South Korea

Daily new cases in South Korea fell to 58, marking the fifth consecutive day that the number of infections has been below 100. The slowdown comes as the Asian nation relaxed social distance measures and began gradually reopening classrooms and public parks and museums.

Of the new cases, 11 were Seoul residents and 22 were people residing in Gyeonggi province.

Seventeen were imported cases, lifting the combined figure to 3,550.

Three more deaths were reported, bringing the death toll to 447. The total fatality rate stood at 1.76 percent.


Cambodia on Tuesday confirmed two new imported COVID-19 cases, bringing the total number of infections in the country to 285, the Ministry of Health (MoH) said in a press statement.

The latest cases were found on a Cambodian couple, aged 33 and 32 years old, who arrived in Cambodia on Sunday from Iraq, with connecting flights in Qatar and South Korea, the statement said.

"The result of their samples' tests showed (on Monday) that they were positive for the COVID-19," it said. 


The Iraqi Health Ministry reported on Monday 4,044 new COVID-19 cases, raising the nationwide total number to 430,678.

The ministry also reported 63 more deaths, raising the death toll from the infectious virus to 10,317 in the country. It also said 3,055 more patients recovered in the day, bringing the total number of recoveries to 363,532.

The ministry has attributed the increase of COVID-19 infections to the lack of public compliance to the health instructions and the stronger testing capacity with the increase of labs in Baghdad and other provinces.

READ MORE: India's COVID-19 tally nears 7.5m with 61,871 new cases


The number of COVID-19 infections in Israel rose to 304,876 on Monday, after the addition of 1,767 new cases, said the Israeli health ministry.

The death toll reached 2,263, with 54 new fatalities. The number of patients in serious condition decreased from 669 to 634, out of 1,125 patients currently hospitalized, according to the ministry.

The total number of recoveries reached 278,394, with 10,301 new ones, while active cases dropped to 24,209 in Israel.


Kuwait on Monday reported 686 new COVID-19 cases and nine more deaths, raising the tally of infections to 116,832 and the death toll to 710 in the country, the Health Ministry said in a statement.

The ministry also announced the recovery of 746 more patients, raising the total recoveries in the country to 108,606.

Catholic faithful sit outside the Quiapo church in Manila on Oct 9, 2020, as health protocols imposed by authorities limit church goers inside the church to filling only 10 percent of their seating capacity. (TED ALJIBE / AFP)


A top Lebanese security official has tested positive for COVID-19 in the United States, his department said on Monday, forcing him to delay his return from talks in Washington and to cancel scheduled meetings in Paris.

Major-General Abbas Ibrahim is in good health, the directorate of General Security, which he heads, added in a tweet.

Ibrahim met US national security adviser Robert O’Brien at the White House last week to discuss American citizens held in Syria, the Wall Street Journal reported.


Two people tested positive for COVID-19 in Mongolia, bringing the country's total number of COVID-19 cases to 326, the country's health ministry said Tuesday.

The two patients are returnees from abroad who were under quarantine in the country's capital Ulan Bator, the ministry said in a statement.

New Zealand

New Zealand reported 11 imported COVID-19 cases from a large group of international fishermen on Tuesday, days after they arrived in Christchurch.

About 440 fishermen from Russia and Ukraine arrived in New Zealand on two charted flights, with the first arriving from Moscow via Singapore on Friday. Most of the 237 people onboard have been under isolation at the government-managed Sudima Hotel, near Christchurch Airport.

The hotel was in lockdown since the cases were found on Tuesday.


The Omani health ministry on Monday announced 641 new COVID-19 infections, raising the total number of confirmed cases in the Sultanate to 110,594, the official Oman News Agency (ONA) reported.

Meanwhile, 776 people recovered during the past 24 hours, taking the overall number of recoveries to 96,400, while 13 others reportedly died, raising the tally to 1,114, according to a ministry statement quoted by ONA.

ALSO READ: Indonesia to initially provide 9.1m COVID-19 vaccines


The Qatari health ministry on Monday announced 240 new COVID-19 infections, raising the total number of confirmed cases in the Gulf state to 129,671, the official Qatar News Agency (QNA) reported.

Meanwhile, 244 more recovered from the virus, bringing the overall recoveries to 126,650, while the fatalities remained 224 for the second day running as no new death was reported.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia health ministry announced on Monday 381 new COVID-19 cases, raising the total number in the kingdom to 342,583.

The number of recoveries rose to 328,895 after 357 new ones were reported, while the death toll from the disease reached 5,201 with the registration of 16 new fatalities.

Saudi Arabian Health Minister Tawfiq Al-Rabiah on Monday warned of a rise in COVID-19 cases in the coming weeks if precautionary measures are not followed.

Saudi Arabia has controlled the spread of coronavirus with a series of steps, including full and partial curfews and suspension of many activities.

Displaced Syrian youths attend classes, inside a tent that was transformed into a classroom, at a camp for the internally displaced in the town Maarrat Misrin in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province on Oct 6, 2020. (OMAR HAJ KADOUR / AFP)

The Philippines 

The Philippines' Department of Health (DOH) on Tuesday reported 1,640 new confirmed COVID-19 cases, bringing the total number in the country to 360,775.

The DOH said 369 more patients recovered, raising the total number of recoveries to 310,642. The death toll climbed to 6,690 after 17 more patients died from the viral disease.

The Philippines shortened curfew hours in Manila and eased the stay-at-home order to further reopen its economy.

The curfew in most of the capital region will now be from midnight to 4 am, having previously been from 10 pm to 5 am, Interior Secretary Eduardo Anosaid in a televised briefing with President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday.


Turkish authorities on Tuesday started to take drastic actions against violations of the COVID-19 pandemic rules amid the rising number of daily cases.

The Turkish Interior Ministry on Sunday declared that inspections would be carried out non-stop this week across the country to monitor compliance with the COVID-19 rules.

In line with the ministry's notice, more than 400 teams of some 1,000 personnel have taken to the streets in the country's most populous city Istanbul, which has recently become the epicenter of the pandemic once again.

The teams have so far inspected over 4,500 public recreational and entertainment facilities across the province, Istanbul Governor Ali Yerlikaya announced.

A total of 741 businesses were fined and two others banned from operations for violating the rules such as hygiene, social distancing and wearing masks, he announced on his Twitter account.

Within the scope of the new coronavirus measures, police teams also checked public vehicles throughout the province where public transport is heavily relied on. The capacity in buses, minibuses, trams, and the metro had been reduced by nearly half to curb the spread of coronavirus.


Vietnam reported a new case of COVID-19 infection on Tuesday, raising its total number of confirmed cases to 1,141 with 35 deaths, according to its Ministry of Health.

The new case, a 29-year-old Indian woman, has recently entered the country from abroad and was quarantined upon arrival, said the ministry.

The ministry said as many as 1,046 patients have been given all-clear as of Tuesday, and over 13,500 people are being quarantined and monitored in the country.

Vietnam has gone through 48 straight days without any COVID-19 cases in the community. 


The COVID-19 cases in Indonesia rose by 3,602 within one day to 368,842, with the death toll adding by 117 to 12,734, the Health Ministry said on Tuesday.

According to the ministry, 4,410 more people were discharged from hospitals, bringing the total number of recovered patients to 293,653.

The virus has spread to all the country's 34 provinces.

Specifically, within the past 24 hours, Jakarta recorded 964 new cases, West Java 472, Central Java 449, East Java 300, West Sumatra 168 and Riau 167.

No more new positive cases were found in two provinces, namely North Kalimantan and Gorontalo.


Malaysia reported 862 new COVID-19 infections, the Health Ministry said on Tuesday, bringing the national total to 22,225.

Health Ministry Director-General Noor Hisham Abdullah said in a press briefing that two of the new cases are imported and 860 are local transmissions, among which 673 were reported from the eastern state of Sabah.

Three more deaths have been reported, bringing the death toll to 193.

Another 634 patients have been released after recovery, bringing the total cured and discharged to 14,351, or 64.6 percent of all cases.

Of the remaining 7,681 active cases, 95 are being held in intensive care and 29 of those are in need of assisted breathing.


Bangladesh reported 1,380 new COVID-19 cases and 18 new deaths on Tuesday, making the tally at 391,586 and death toll at 5,699, the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) said.

The official data showed that 13,611 samples were tested in the last 24 hours across Bangladesh.

The total number of recovered patients in the country stood at 307,141 including 1,542 new recoveries on Tuesday, said the DGHS.

According to the official data, the COVID-19 fatality rate in Bangladesh is now 1.46 percent and the current recovery rate is 78.44 percent.

Bangladesh recorded the highest daily new cases of 4,019 on July 2 and the highest number of deaths of 64 on June 30.


Iran’s new coronavirus cases jumped by a fifth to exceed 5,000 for the first time on Tuesday, as a weeks-long surge in infections threatens to overwhelm the country’s health system.

The Health Ministry recorded 5,039 cases overnight, spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari said, while 322 people died in the last 24 hours. Iran, which has the biggest outbreak in the Middle East and an economy weighed down by US sanctions, has now registered 539,670 cases and 31,034 fatalities.

All but one of the country’s provinces are in the most severe tier for new infections, Lari said.

Government attempts to re-introduce lockdown measures that were eased after they took a major toll on the economy have so far failed to contain the outbreak. Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi has said non-emergency patients won’t be admitted to hospitals until further notice because of the high volume of COVID patients.


Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday said the government was working rapidly to ensure the supply of COVID-19 vaccines to all citizens once they are available.

In his address to the nation, Modi urged Indians to continue wearing masks and uphold social distancing rules to prevent further spread of the pandemic ahead of India’s festive season.

“Whenever the corona vaccine comes, how it reaches to every Indian as soon as possible, the government is also working for that,” Modi said in a short speech in Hindi.

Earlier on Tuesday, India reported its lowest daily coronavirus caseload in nearly three months, as new cases continued to decline from a peak in September.

The country reported 46,790 new infections in the last 24 hours, taking its tally to nearly 7.6 million - the second highest behind the United States. It also reported 587 deaths, taking the total to 115,197.

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