SEOUL, South Korea – South Korea’s daily surge in coronavirus infections has hit the 62nd mark.
The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said more than 940 of the 1,375 new cases reported Monday came from Seoul and the nearby metropolitan area, where a surge in infections has been linked to school reopenings and summer vacation returnees was brought.
While the virus has slowed outside the capital region in recent weeks, KDCA official Kim Ki-nam said transmissions could worsen nationwide during the Chuseok hiatus, which begins September 20, a time when normally Millions travel across the country to meet relatives.
Officials enforce the strongest social distancing rules in the country unless there is a lockdown in the metropolitan area, where private social gatherings of three or more people are prohibited after 6 p.m. unless attendees are fully vaccinated.
Due to a slow adoption of the vaccine, less than 35% of South Koreans will be fully vaccinated by Monday. Kim said the country hopes to speed up injections over the next few weeks so that 70% of a population of more than 51 million people will be vaccinated by the end of October.
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WHAT ELSE HAPPENS:
HANOI – Approximately 23 million Vietnamese students have started a new school year, most of them in virtual classrooms, amid a COVID-19 lockdown to contain a surge in virus in the country.
Since April, when the latest wave of the virus spread through the country, Vietnam has closed schools and educational institutions in pandemic areas and shifted learning activities to online platforms.
Millions of students spent their summer vacation at home as more than half of the country is locked. In severely affected provinces, schools have been converted into quarantine facilities and field hospitals.
In Ho Chi Minh City, the epicenter of Vietnam’s worst virus outbreak, teachers and students observed a minute’s silence to pay tribute to those who died of COVID-19 and to honor the frontliners before class on Monday opened.
In this latest wave, Vietnam reported 520,000 confirmed cases with over 13,000 deaths. Ho Chi Minh City, a metropolis of 10 million people, is responsible for most of the toll.
WELLINGTON, New Zealand – Most of New Zealand will come out of lockdown on Tuesday, with the exception of the largest city, Auckland, which will remain in the strictest form of lockdown until at least next week, the government said on Monday.
The nation has been battling an outbreak of the delta variant of the coronavirus since last month. All of the most recent cases have been found in Auckland, including 20 that were found on Monday.
A total of 821 cases were identified in the outbreak. The government is pursuing an unusual strategy to completely eliminate the virus.
JERUSALEM – Israel says it will reopen its doors to foreign tour groups soon – even as it battles one of the highest rates of coronavirus infection in the world.
The country’s tourism ministry announced on Sunday that organized tour groups would be allowed into the country from September 19.
Tourists must be vaccinated against the coronavirus, present a negative PCR test before their flight, and undergo both PCR and serological tests upon arrival. Visitors would have to be quarantined in their hotels until the test results come back – a process that is not expected to take more than 24 hours.
Tourists from a handful of “red” countries with high infection rates – including Turkey and Brazil – are not allowed to enter for the time being.
Israel launched a similar program in May after vaccinating most of its population earlier this year. However, the program was suspended in August when the Delta variant began to spread.
In recent weeks, the country has begun giving booster vaccinations to anyone vaccinated over five months ago. The campaign has shown signs of controlling the delta eruption so the government can begin allowing tourists to return.
WASHINGTON – The U.S. government’s foremost infectious disease expert says he believes delivery of COVID-19 vaccine booster shots to Americans who have received doses of Pfizer may begin on September 20, while Modernas may have one hits the market a few weeks later.
Dr. Anthony Fauci told CBS Face the Nation on Sunday that it was still the Biden government’s plan to start “in some ways” on the third dose in the week of September 20 pending food approval and Drug Administration.
The government had hoped that by this time both Pfizer and Moderna booster shots would be introduced. But Fauci said it was “conceivable” that Moderna “could have no more than a couple of weeks, if any, a couple of weeks of delay,” as the company provides the FDA with more data on the booster ‘s effectiveness.
President Joe Biden announced boosters on Aug. 18 as protection against the more highly transmissible Delta variant of the virus and said Americans should consider getting a booster eight months after their second vaccination.
Ron Klain, Biden’s chief of staff, said Sunday the government has always made it clear that September 20 is a target date and “no one will get boosters until the FDA says they are approved.”
Klain told CNN, “We’re ready to go as soon as science tells us.”
ROM – Italy’s health minister has hinted that a meeting of his G-20 colleagues could lead to a pledge to ensure COVID-19 vaccines reach everyone in poor countries.
Minister Roberto Speranza told reporters on Sunday after the opening session of the two-day meeting in Rome that he hoped the assembly would produce a “pact” on the challenge of making vaccines available to all, including the more fragile populations.
Speranza complained that there was a deep divide between wealthier and poorer countries in vaccine distribution. He expressed optimism that the meeting of the Group of 20 Nations would lead to a determination “that the vaccine is the right of all and not just a privilege for the few”.
Italy currently holds the rotating G-20 presidency. Speranza also held separate meetings with the UK, India and Russia ministers of health. On the eve of the gathering, Speranza tweeted that “only working together can ensure a fairer distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.”
LONDON – The UK government has confirmed that it plans to introduce vaccination cards for nightclubs and large gatherings from next month.
Vaccination Minister Nadhim Zahawi said on Sunday that officials want to start certification measures from the end of September, when two doses of COVID-19 vaccine would have been offered to the entire population over the age of 18.
Zahawi told Sky News that this is the “right thing” to ensure the economy stays open. However, lawmakers and companies have criticized the measure as divisive, saying it could involve nightclubs in discrimination cases.
“It is best to work with industry to ensure that they can be opened safely and sustainably over the long term.
The plans stipulate that people wishing to enter nightclubs and other major events must provide evidence that they have received two doses of a coronavirus vaccine.
Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon said earlier this week that nightclubs and large events will require vaccination certificates from the end of this month as Scotland faces a surge in infections.