Thailand has lengthened its nationwide emergency decree until the end of February, a government spokesperson told a weekly news conference on Tuesday.

Spokesperson Anucha Burapachaisri said the cabinet has decided to extend the decree to ensure that authorities are equipped with the power to swiftly address a Covid-19 outbreak.

On Monday, Thailand recorded the largest daily increase in new virus cases since the beginning of the pandemic with 745 new infections, according to figures from the Department of Disease Control.

In global terms, the number of people affected by the pandemic in the country remains low. As of Tuesday, the total number of accumulated positive Covid-19 cases in Thailand stands at 8,966, with the death count at 65.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said Monday that the country has not imposed a lockdown, but more stringent measures — such as limiting dine-in services at restaurants — will be adopted to contain the outbreak, according to the country’s Center of Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA).

The country has already started local production of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine under a technology transfer agreement, which is expected to be distributed later this year, according to the CCSA.

As England woke up to another national lockdown Tuesday morning, a senior UK minister reiterated that the government hopes to be able to “progressively lift restrictions after February 15.”

Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove said on Sky News that “we can’t predict with certainty that we’ll be able to lift restrictions [in mid-February],” but that “what we will be doing is everything we can to make sure that as many people as possible are vaccinated, so that we can begin progressively to lift restrictions.”

On Monday, the UK became the world’s first to roll out the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine as cases surged.

The country is back in crisis mode as new daily Covid-19 cases soared above 50,000 infections for the seventh day in a row and hospitalizations exceed April’s peak.

Speaking on BBC News, Gove said that the government was looking at “further options to restrict international travel,” and that he had spoken with the first ministers of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to ensure that the approach would be a coordinated one.

Gove added that it was understandable that “there’s a natural concern about people coming into this country.”

The minister said that the new travel proposals were still being worked out but they would be reviewing the situation at airports and ports.

The announcement of new restrictions on Monday followed mounting calls from public health experts, teachers’ unions and lawmakers for a more stringent lockdown, and further criticism of the UK government’s handling of the pandemic.

The UK recorded a record 58,784 new coronavirus cases on Monday — the highest daily increase since the beginning of the pandemic. 

According to the latest government data, the total number of cases recorded across the UK now stands at 2,713,563.

A further 407 deaths have also been registered over the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of people who have died within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test in the UK to 75,431.

Italy will extend most of the coronavirus restrictions imposed during the Christmas holidays until January 15, the government said on Tuesday.

According to a new government decree, traveling between regions will be forbidden except for health or work reasons. People will be allowed to visit friends only once a day, with no more than two adults per group of visitors. Bars and restaurants will only provide takeout service. 

High schools will reopen on January 11, with only 50% of the students in class and 50% remotely. Kindergarten and primary school students will start as expected on January 7. 

Regional governors have the power to implement even tighter measures and in some regions, like Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia, high school students will resume activities at the end of January. 

According to the latest data from the Health Ministry on Tuesday, the total number of those infected by the virus in Italy is 2,166,224, with 10,800 more cases added on Monday. The total number of deaths is 75,680, with an increase of 348 fatalities on Monday.

Singapore police can obtain data from the country’s Covid-19 contact-tracing technology for criminal investigations, a government minister said in parliament.

TraceTogether is a digital system developed by the Singaporean government that notifies people who might have been exposed to Covid-19 through close contact with confirmed cases. It comes in the form of either a smartphone app or a Bluetooth token.

Tan added that the government is the “custodian” of data collected through the system, and that “stringent measures” are in place to ensure that it can only be used for “authorized purposes.”

As of Monday, more than 4.2 million people, or 78% of Singapore’s population, have enrolled in the TraceTogether program, said Lawrence Wong, co-chair of the multi-ministry task force tackling the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to information posted on TraceTogether’s website, the system only records users who have come into close contact with one another by exchanging Bluetooth signals on their tokens, but does not record their geolocation data.

Parts of the US are beginning to feel the brunt of last month’s holiday celebrations — at a time when hospital systems are already at their breaking point.

Experts warned holiday travels and gatherings could help fuel another surge of Covid-19 infections. Yet millions of Americans traveled anyway — with more than 1.3 million people — a pandemic record — screened by the TSA on Sunday alone.

That’s as hospitalizations hit another grim record Monday, with more than 128,200 Covid-19 patients, according to the COVID Tracking Project. But some states are warning worse may be yet ahead.

After marking a particularly deadly day in New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday there has been a spike following the recent social gatherings that took place.

“It is clear that the increase through the holidays, increased the infection rate and increased the number of people who are now walking into hospitals,” the governor said.

In California — where at least two regions have zero ICU beds left — infections are continuing to soar.

“We are heading into what we anticipate as a surge on top of a surge,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a Monday news conference. “It’s going to put a lot of pressure on hospitals and I see it coming out of the holidays.”

Indonesia will give the first Covid-19 shot to President Joko Widodo to mark the beginning of its vaccination program on January 13, the country’s state-run Antara News Agency reported on Tuesday. 

Vaccinations will continue across the country on January 14 and 15, Antara reported, citing Home Affairs Minister Tito Karnavian.

Indonesia has already received 3 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines from Chinese pharmaceutical firm Sinovac. It has also signed deals with AstraZeneca and Novavax to secure another 100 million doses of vaccines, according to Antara, but no details were given on when those shipments will arrive.

In December, Widodo said the country will provide free Covid-19 vaccines for the public amid the worsening outbreak.

As of Tuesday, Indonesia has reported 772,103 Covid-19 cases and 22,911 deaths, according to John Hopkins University.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will discuss extending a nationwide lockdown with the leaders of her country’s 16 states on Tuesday, as the number of Covid-19 infections continue to rise.

The current lockdown, which went into effect in mid-December, is set to expire this Sunday. But the situation in Germany remains “extremely difficult” due to new coronavirus infections, Merkel spokesman Steffen Seibert said.

Seibert said it is also hard to obtain an accurate picture of the pandemic at this point in time because it is unknown how potential holiday travel and gatherings may have affected the situation.

The core of Merkel’s discussion with regional leaders will center on the speed of the vaccination process and whether to reopen schools.

The German government has come under pressure from both politicians and scientific experts for not securing enough doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine to roll out its vaccination program.

Merkel is set to meet the premiers virtually at 1 p.m. (7 a.m. ET). She will hold a news conference to announce the outcome in the afternoon.

Caseload and vaccinations: Germany has reported at least 1,787,410 Covid-19 cases, killing at least 35,518 people.

At least 11,897 cases and 944 deaths were identified since Monday by the Robert Koch Institute, the German disease control agency

By Monday, 264,952 people — or about 0.3% of the population — had been immunized, according to the institute.

French Health Minister Olivier Veran announced on Monday a plan to “amplify, accelerate and simplify” the distribution of Covid-19 vaccines throughout the country,

Veran’s announcement came after the government was criticized for the slow rollout of its program. Speaking to RTL radio, Veran said the following people will be part of the new vaccination program:

By the end of January, people older than 75 and who are not in nursing homes will also be able to get vaccinated, Veran said.

A cluster of islands in the Pacific Ocean that’s one of the few places on Earth entirely free from Covid-19 could become one of the first countries vaccinated against the disease.

The Republic of Palau, an archipelago home to about 18,000 people, received its first shipment of the vaccine developed by US pharmaceutical company Moderna on Saturday. Vaccinations started the next day, Palau’s Ministry of Health announced on Twitter.

The first shipment included 2,800 doses of the vaccine, which will be administered in two shots, 28 days apart. Health care workers, key officials and vulnerable groups will be among the first to receive the vaccine, according to the ministry’s statement.

To date, Palau has not recorded a single coronavirus case or virus-related death, according to the World Health Organization.

In January, as the virus began to spread across Asia and the Pacific, Palau was among the first to implement stricter border controls. Its borders were entirely locked by March, and it began testing citizens for the virus by April. These measures were key to keeping Covid-19 out, Palau’s ambassador to the UN said in May.

An independent nation in free association with Washington, Palau has access to the United States’ mass Covid-19 vaccination program, known as Operation Warp Speed (OWS).

The archipelago covers an area of just 177 square miles (459 square kilometers) — about a sixth of the size of Rhode Island, the smallest US state. That small size puts Palau in prime position to be among the first nations to be inoculated against Covid-19, according to the country’s Incident Commander of the Ministry of Health, Ritter Udui.


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