Sri Lanka has reimposed a countrywide 24-hour curfew after a surge in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases, most of them navy sailors who were hunting those evading quarantine.
The 46 new infections on Friday were the highest in a day. They brought to 420 the number of COVID-19 patients in the Indian Ocean island, including seven deaths.
Sri Lanka partially lifted a monthlong curfew on Monday during daytime hours in more than two thirds of the country.
The new curfew remains in effect until Monday. Police have arrested more than 30,000 violators.
Among the newly infected were 30 navy sailors from a camp on the outskirts of the capital, Colombo. A total 60 sailors so far have been infected and the camp isolated.
The virus is believed to have entered the camp through sailors who were deployed to search for a group of drug addicts who had contact with a COVID-19 patient and were evading quarantine.
— EASING OF LOCKDOWN IN INDIA: India announced the easing of a stringent lockdown for 1.3 billion people by allowing neighborhood and standalone shops to reopen. India has reported more than 18,600 cases and 775 deaths. Last week, the government allowed resumption of manufacturing and farming activities in rural areas as millions of daily wage earners were left without work.
— NO NEW DEATHS IN CHINA: For the 10th straight day, China reported no new deaths from the coronavirus. Twelve new cases were reported on Saturday, 11 of them brought from overseas and one local transmission in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang bordering on Russia, according to the National Health Commission. Just 838 people remain hospitalized with COVID-19 while another 1,000 people are undergoing isolation and monitoring for being either suspected cases or having tested positive for the virus while showing no symptoms. China, widely believed to be the source of the global pandemic, has reported a total of 4,632 deaths among 82,816 cases.
— DOWNWARD TREND IN SOUTH KOREA HOLDS: South Korea has reported 10 fresh cases of the new coronavirus, the eighth day in a row its daily jump came below 20. No new deaths were reported Saturday for the second straight day. The figures released by South Korea's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention brought national totals to 10,718 cases and 240 deaths. While a slowing caseload has allowed South Korea to relax its social distancing guidelines over the past week, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun raised concern over possible transmissions by "quiet spreaders" and instructed officials to conduct antibody tests in worst-hit Daegu and nearby towns to learn how widespread the coronavirus is. Chung also called for stronger financial tools to ease the epidemic's economic shock, which has caused severe cashflow problems for airlines while also hurting major exporters such as carmakers and shipbuilders. The government is looking to create a 40 trillion won ($32 billion) fund through bonds issued by state-run banks to protect jobs in key industries, but the plan needs parliamentary approval. South Korea's economy shrank 1.4% during the first three months of the year, the worst contraction since late-2008, as the pandemic hit both domestic consumption and exports.
— AUSTRALIA MARKS ANZAC DAY WITH HOME VIGILS: Traditional crowds at dawn services for the Anzac Day memorial holiday in Australia were replaced with candlelit vigils in driveways and neighbors gathering to listen to buglers play "The Last Post." Restrictions on crowds and social distancing due to the coronavirus meant that the usual packed dawn services in cities and towns across the country were not held. The holiday, also celebrated in New Zealand, marks the anniversary of New Zealand and Australian soldiers, known as Anzacs, landing on the Gallipoli Peninsula in 1915. In New Zealand, where even tighter crowd restrictions are in place, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern stood at dawn on the driveway of Premier House, the leader's official residence, for a ceremony.
After achieving progress on the plasma therapy over the past couple of days, the Delhi government has decided to carry on giving the therapy to more COVID-19 patients who are seriously infected and admitted in intensive care units at various hospitals, said Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Friday.
The chief minister appealed to those who have recovered and been discharged from hospitals to come forward and donate their blood plasma in order to save other serious patients.
"Normally, the anti-bodies in the blood plasma retrieved from one (COVID-19) cured person can cure one serious patient, but in some cases it can be successfully given to two patients," Kejriwal said at a video conferencing.
"We will give the same therapy to a few more serious COVID-19 patients over the next couple of days," said Kejriwal.
According to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Delhi continues to remain the third most infected state in India, with a total of 2,376 positive cases and 50 deaths, and 808 patients have been successfully cured and discharged.
China has decided to give another US$ 30 million to the World Health Organization (WHO) in support of global efforts to fight COVID-19 and the construction of public health systems in developing countries, a Foreign Ministry spokesperson said here Thursday.
Spokesperson Geng Shuang told a news briefing that the WHO, led by Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, had actively fulfilled its duties with objective, science-based and fair position and played an important role in assisting countries in responding to the outbreak and boosting international cooperation on COVID-19.
Geng said to support the WHO is to defend the principles of multilateralism and safeguard the status and authority of the United Nations at a crucial time of the battle against the pandemic, adding that the virus is the common enemy of humankind, and the international community can only defeat it through unity and cooperation.
In March, China donated 20 million dollars to the WHO to support the global fight against COVID-19.
The spokesperson said China's donations to the WHO reflected the support and trust of the Chinese government and people in the organization, and China also made its own contributions to global public health and the fight against the pandemic.
"China will continue to stand in solidarity and render mutual assistance with other countries to jointly overcome the pandemic, safeguard regional and global public health and build a community with a shared future for mankind," he said.
Vietnam says it will loosen travel restrictions as it lifts a nationwide shutdown since there has been no new coronavirus case the past week.
The government announced the confinement order will be lifted starting Thursday in most cities and provinces except in the capital Hanoi, which has nearly half of the country's 268 infections. Vietnam is among a few countries with no reported deaths from the virus.
The government requests people carry on social distancing and bans public gathering of more than 20 people, in-dining restaurants and other nonessential business will remain closed. In several provinces where no infection was reported, schools will be reopened. Students will be scanned for temperature before entering the premises.
"We have basically contained the situation, but we must stay alert and take very careful steps when reopening the country," deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam said.
Vietnam shut down its border with China in January, stopped international arrivals in mid-March and vigorously carried out contact tracing down to commune level.
India says it plans to manufacture wristbands that will monitor the locations and temperatures of coronavirus patients and help in contact tracing.
The wristband project aims to track quarantined patients and aid health workers and those delivering essential services. India is ramping up surveillance as it begins to ease one of the world's strictest virus lockdowns.
It has 19,984 confirmed cases of coronavirus, including 640 deaths, and experts fear the epidemic's peak could still be weeks away. Thousands of wristbands are expected to be deployed, but an exact figure has not been released.
The wristbands mirror a similar program in Hong Kong, where authorities used bands to monitor overseas travelers ordered to self-isolate.
Broadcast Engineering Consultants India, a government-owned company, will present wristband designs to hospitals and state governments next week and work with Indian start-ups to manufacture them.
George Kuruvilla, the company's chairman, said the wristbands are likely to be rolled out in May.
Prime Minister NarendraModi has urged the country's 1.3 billion people to download a government contact-tracing app called ArogyaSetu to help determine their infection risk. It has been downloaded over 50 million times since it was launched on April 2.
Kuruvilla said the wristbands could integrate data captured in the app.
He said the wristbands will be used to monitor the movements of quarantined patients, both at home and at hospitals, and any spikes in their body temperature. They will send an alert to public health officials if patients move outside their quarantine zone. The devices will also have an emergency button that wearers can use to call for help.
The wristband will let health workers know if people they encounter have been to high-risk areas or have been in contact with an infected person, while aiding those delivering essential services such as groceries or medicines.
It will capture all the places an infected person has visited, the routes they took, determine if they had any foreign travel and identify those who were in their vicinity. It will also tell people if a sick person is nearby.
It will also help in creating a geofence, or a virtual perimeter, around areas being monitored, such as common meeting places, public transit or places for religious gatherings. A person leaving or entering the virtual perimeter could be alerted through the wristband.
The monitoring has raised privacy concerns.
Dr. AnantBhan, a public health and bioethics expert, said it is "important to factor in privacy protections and data protections" for both apps and wristbands.
"It is also important to ensure that where possible, consent is sought for the use of location tracking and sharing. Such initiatives could be useful for public health and surveillance purposes, but should not be used to stigmatize individuals or communities," he said.