Coronavirus latest: South Korea’s new cases reach record

Coronavirus latest: South Korea's new cases reach record

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 427,358,056, according to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. The worldwide death toll has hit 5,904,723.

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

Wednesday, Feb. 23 (Tokyo time)

11:05 am South Korea’s new daily cases hit a record high, surging to 171,452 from 99,569 a day ago. Total infections reach 2.33 million. The country’s daily deaths also jumped to 99, the fourth-largest figure so far, raising the total death toll to 7,607. The Ministry of Food and Drug Safety approved Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 5 to 11 as infections are increasing sharply in that age group.

12:20 am Japan reports a record daily death toll from COVID-19, surpassing 300 for the first time. The health ministry confirmed 322 deaths on Tuesday. The number of patients in serious condition reached 1,504, topping 1,500 for the first time since September last year.

Tuesday, Feb. 22

9:05 pm Hong Kong will enforce citywide coronavirus testing without resorting to a lockdown, Chief Executive Carrie Lam says after Beijing ordered city officials to contain the latest outbreak.

All 7.4 million residents will be required to take three nucleic acid tests over three weeks in March.

“We must detect early and quarantine early to cut the transmission chain,” Lam says.

5:49 pm Hong Kong reports 6,211 new COVID-19 infections, and another 9,369 positive cases from preliminary tests, as the city battles to curb a coronavirus outbreak that has overwhelmed health care facilities in the global financial hub.

3:30 pm South Korean health authorities say that people infected with the omicron variant are about 75% less likely to develop a serious illness or die than those who contract the delta variant. A study by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency of 67,200 infections since December shows that omicron’s severity and death rates averaged 0.38% and 0.18%, respectively, compared with 1.4% and 0.7% for delta. The KDCA classified severe cases as people who were hospitalized in intensive care units.

2:30 pm India’s daily cases continue to slide with the country logging 13,405 infections in the last 24 hours — the lowest single-day count since late December — bringing the country total to 42.85 million. Fatalities rose 235 to 512,344.

11:50 pm Canada’s parliament backs Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s decision to invoke rarely used emergency powers to end pandemic-related protests that have blocked streets in the capital Ottawa for more than three weeks. The Emergencies Act was approved in parliament by 185 to 151, with the minority Liberal government getting support from left-leaning New Democrats. The special measures, announced by Trudeau a week ago, have been deemed unnecessary and an abuse of power by some opposition politicians.

11:00 am Hong Kong says it has found COVID-19 on packages of frozen beef from Brazil and frozen pork skin from Poland, and vows to step up inspections of imported food. The city is pursuing a “dynamic zero COVID” strategy similar to mainland China’s, aiming to eradicate outbreaks at all costs. Daily infections have risen sharply this year, reaching a record 7,533 on Monday.

Coronavirus latest: South Korea's new cases reach record

An elderly person receives a third COVID jap at a facility in Yokohama, Japan. © Kyodo

9:30 am Japan reports a record number of COVID clusters at elder care facilities, while the total number of cases in the country has been on a steady decline since peaking in early February. For the week through Feb. 13, 455 clusters were reported to the health ministry — a record high and nearly nine times more than a month earlier. Experts say the low rate of older people receiving booster shots is an underlying problem, with only 36% of people aged 65 years or older having had a booster.

1:50 am UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he will end all coronavirus restrictions in England. The legal requirement to self-isolate for people who test positive for COVID will be removed Thursday, while free universal testing ends April 1.

“Restrictions pose a heavy toll on our economy, our society, our mental well-being and on the life chances of our children, and we do not need to pay that cost any longer,” Johnson tells Parliament. “So let us learn to live with this virus and continue protecting ourselves and others without restricting our freedoms.”

Coronavirus latest: South Korea's new cases reach record

A pedestrian in London on Feb. 20, as the spread of COVID-19 continues. © Reuters

Monday, Feb. 21

5:40 pm Hong Kong will officially roll out its “vaccine pass” scheme on Thursday, with the city reeling from a worsening fifth wave of infections. At least one jab will be required to enter most indoor premises. Residents will have to show their ID card and proof of vaccination to go into restaurants. Although presenting documentation won’t be required for access to shopping malls, street markets or supermarkets — where the vaccine pass also applies — law enforcement officers may conduct spot checks. Hong Kong reports a record 7,533 new cases on Monday, after the Center for Health Protection’s controller, Edwin Tsui, said the day before that the government might further tighten social distancing rules if the situation continues to worsen.

4:36 pm Britain’s Synairgen said its inhalable therapy failed an international late-stage trial testing the drug in patients hospitalized with COVID-19, dealing a blow to the development of the drugmaker’s key product.

4:00 pm India reports 16,051 new coronavirus infections, pushing the country’s cumulative total to 42.84 million cases. Deaths rose by 206 to 512,109.

2:13 pm New Zealand will lift COVID-19 vaccine mandates and social distancing measures after the omicron peak has passed, says Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. As protesters occupying the parliament grounds again clashed with police, Arden said: “We all want to go back to the way life was, and we will. … But when that happens, it will be because easing restrictions won’t compromise the lives of thousands of people — not because you demanded it.” The peak is expected in mid- to late March.

Coronavirus latest: South Korea's new cases reach record

A medical worker in blue assists people as they wait for coronavirus tests in Seoul on Feb. 20. © Associated Press

12:00 pm South Korea’s number of seriously ill COVID patients rose 41 to 480 on Sunday, the highest level in a month, according to Yonhap news. Daily cases fell below 100,000 for the first time in four days, due partly to fewer tests over the weekend. But the daily tally was still 70% higher than a week ago.

10:38 am Thailand’s economy expanded 1.6% overall in 2021, as a strong recovery in exports helped Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy. The turnaround followed a 6.2% contraction in 2020 as a result of the pandemic, but was too weak to push the economy back to 2019 levels.

8:58 am Australia fully reopens its borders to vaccinated travelers. The country had barred travelers for nearly two years. More than 50 international flights will reach Australia through the day, including 27 touching down at Sydney, according to Reuters.

Coronavirus latest: South Korea's new cases reach record

As Australia opens up to overseas visitors, more than 50 international flights are scheduled to arrive in the country on Feb. 21. © Associated Press

6:40 am US average daily cases and hospitalizations continue to fall, as infections on Saturday barely topped 100,000 — a sharp downturn from about 800,850 on Jan. 16, according to Johns Hopkins University data. In New York, the number of cases plummeted more than 50% over the last two weeks.

Sunday, Feb. 20

11:30 pm Israel will allow entry to all tourists, regardless of whether they have been vaccinated against COVID-19, beginning March 1, the prime minister’s office says. Entry into Israel will still require two PCR tests, one before flying in and one upon landing in Israel. Currently, foreigners are allowed into Israel only if vaccinated.

10:07 pm British Prime Minister Boris Johnson wishes Queen Elizabeth a quick recovery from COVID-19. “I’m sure I speak for everyone in wishing Her Majesty The Queen a swift recovery from COVID and a rapid return to vibrant good health,” Johnson says on Twitter.

8:45 pm Queen Elizabeth tests positive for COVID-19 and is experiencing mild, cold-like symptoms, Buckingham Palace says. The palace says the queen will continue with “light” duties at Windsor Castle over the coming week.

“She will continue to receive medical attention and will follow all the appropriate guidelines,” the palace says.

5:48 pm Hong Kong health authorities report 6,067 new cases of COVID-19 and 14 deaths, after posting 6,063 confirmed cases on Saturday, as the city battles to contain an outbreak of coronavirus that has overwhelmed its health care system.

1:17 am US health regulators are looking at authorizing a potential fourth dose of a COVID-19 vaccine in the fall, The Wall Street Journal reports, citing sources familiar with the matter. The Food and Drug Administration has been reviewing data to authorize a second booster dose of the messenger RNA vaccines from Pfizer and vaccines from Moderna, the report adds.

Saturday, Feb. 19

11:59 pm Moderna will soon start a clinical trail for a next-generation booster that is effective against both the delta and omicron variants of the coronavirus, with the aim of delivering the shot this fall, the company’s chief medical officer, Paul Burton, tells Nikkei. The vaccine developer is also planning to offer a shot that offers protection against both the seasonal flu and the coronavirus in 2023 as it sees COVID-19 as an endemic that humanity will have to grapple with for years to come.

11:45 pm Canadian police use pepper spray and stun grenades in a final push to clear the capital of trucks and demonstrators who have occupied the downtown core of Ottawa for more than three weeks to protest against pandemic restrictions. After clearing a portion of the blockade and making more than 100 arrests on Friday, 47 more arrests are made this morning as police move quickly to disperse the main portion of the blockade in front of parliament and the prime minister’s office.

6:20 pm China is giving booster vaccines using technologies different from the initial injections, in an effort to improve immunization strategies amid concerns that its most-used jabs appeared to be weaker against variants such as omicron. Adults injected with a vaccine developed by Sinopharm or Sinovac at least six months earlier can now receive booster doses with a vaccines using different technologies, produced by CanSino Biologics or a unit of Chongqing Zhifei Biological Products, National Health Commission official Wu Liangyou says. Around one-third of China’s 1.4 billion people had received boosters using vaccines of the same technologies as their primary doses as of Feb. 7.

5:45 pm Hong Kong health authorities report 6,063 new COVID-19 cases and 15 new deaths. To combat an outbreak of the virus raging across the city, Chief Executive Carrie Lam says the government will build 10,000 isolation units in two new community facilities, with the help of the mainland. Meanwhile, 114 Chinese medical personnel arrive in Hong Kong, the second batch of health workers sent from the mainland, Reuters reports.


To catch up on earlier developments, see last week’s latest updates.