The Latest: Thailand adds 745 virus cases, new restrictions
BANGKOK — Thailand registered 745 new coronavirus cases in two days on Monday with a new death reported in Bangkok, where a semi-lockdown went into effect, the government said.
The Centre of COVID-19 Situation Administration said the new infections bring the total number since last January to 8,439, while the death toll stands at 65 since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
The agency said the number included 152 Thais and 577 migrant workers in Samut Sakhon, the province next to Bangkok that is the epicenter of the new outbreak. An additional 13 were found in special quarantine hotels for incoming travelers.
Nearly all the infected workers were employed in fish markets and factories and are all housed in dormitories, which have since the outbreak been closed off to the public. Since the initial surge in late December, the virus has now been found in 54 of Thailand’s 73 provinces.
The government has ordered all schools closed from Monday and had taken earlier other steps to try and restrict the spread of the virus, including closing bars, massage parlors, playgrounds and banned all public gatherings.
It has not yet closed down shopping malls and stores while restaurants are still allowed to operate but cannot serve alcoholic beverages.
Provincial governors can also order their own, tougher, measures and Bangkok authorities have decreed that all eateries can only do take away service from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. starting Monday evening.
The government has been considering tougher measures if the spread of the virus does not slow down around the country.
THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— Congress has convened for a new session, with strict COVID-19 protocols in place
— Fauci says faster vaccination rate a ‘glimmer of hope,' Biden's pledge of 100 shots in his 1st 100 days is achievable
— Vaccines are a distant thought in Somalia, where coronavirus is spreading with little being done to stop it
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
TOKYO — Japan’s prime minister said vaccine approval was being speeded up as the coronavirus spreads in the nation scheduled to hold the already-delayed 2020 Olympics this summer.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga stressed his determination to hold the Olympics and said preparations were moving ahead. The Games are scheduled to be held in July, which will mean the arrival of tens of thousands of athletes, officials and media.
Suga said holding the Olympics will be “proof that people have overcome the coronavirus,” giving “hope and courage.”
The vaccine timetable will advance by a month, meaning the approvals will start this month and vaccinations will be administered to people beginning in February, instead of March or later.
Cases have been growing in Japan in recent weeks, with more than 3,400 deaths so far related to the coronavirus.
SYDNEY — Wearing masks became mandatory Monday in some circumstances in Australia’s largest city due to the risks of the coronavirus.
People risk a $154 fine in Sydney if they don’t wear masks in shopping malls, on public transit and inside various indoor areas.
New South Wales state Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant could not say how long the measure would be in place.
The state on Monday reported its first 24-hour period without a new COVID-19 infection being detected since Dec. 15.
A cluster that started in Sydney last month has spread to Melbourne, Australia’s second-largest city, where masks have been mandatory since July.
Australian Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said three new cases had been detected in Melbourne during the latest 24-hour period, bringing the national total to 28,504 cases since the pandemic began.
DALLAS — Texas has hit a new record high for COVID-19 hospitalizations as a surge in the disease caused by the coronavirus continued to strain state medical resources following holiday travel and gatherings.
State health officials reported 12,563 COVID-19 patients in Texas hospitals on Sunday, an increase of more than 240 from Saturday. It was the sixth time in seven days that the state reported record-breaking hospitalizations.
Intensive care units in several parts of the state were full or nearly full Sunday, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.
The department reported 14,535 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 Sunday, 1,510 more probable cases and 50 fatalities. Texas has seen more than 1.8 million cases and more than 28,000 deaths.
BALTIMORE — The COVID-19 death toll in the United States has surpassed 350,000 as experts anticipate another surge in coronavirus cases and deaths stemming from holiday gatherings over Christmas and New Year’s.
Data compiled by Johns Hopkins University shows the U.S. passed the threshold early Sunday morning. More than 20 million people in the country have been infected. The U.S. has begun using two coronavirus vaccines to protect health care workers and nursing home residents and staff but the rollout of the inoculation program has been criticized as being slow and chaotic.
Multiple states have reported a record number of cases over the past few days, including North Carolina and Arizona. Mortuary owners in hard-hit Southern California say they’re being inundated with bodies.
The U.S. by far has reported the most deaths from COVID-19 in the world, followed by Brazil, which has reported more than 195,000 deaths.