The Latest: Thailand passes 1M cases as latest surge drops
BANGKOK — Thailand passed 1 million total coronavirus infections Friday as its latest surge dropped below 20,000 daily cases for the first time in 10 days.
Over 97% of the cases counted since the pandemic began have been since April.
The outbreak connected to Bangkok entertainment venues and travel during the traditional new year in mid-April grew more serious when the delta variant was detected in crowded construction worker camps and spread into markets, communities, and families.
The government closed public places and imposed other restrictions last month, but infections and deaths remained high.
On Friday, however, the Disease Control Department’s daily statistics report showed the average number of COVID-19 tests has fallen over the past seven days.
Thailand reported 19,851 new cases on Friday.
Apisamai Srirangsan, a deputy spokesperson for the government’s Center for COVID-19 Situation Administration, said in a briefing that although the number of daily cases remains high, it seems quite steady.
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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
— Malaysia expanded freedoms for those fully vaccinated Friday, allowing them to dine in at eateries and visit night markets despite record high daily infections.
More businesses have been allowed to reopen as authorities this month begun to ease restrictions after nearly three months of lockdown.
It’s widely viewed as a flip-flop in policies to tackle the pandemic. Daily infections in Malaysia hit 22,948 on Thursday, more than doubled since a lockdown began June 1. The country’s total infections have surged to nearly 1.5 million while 13,000 people have died.
Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, a caretaker leader since he resigned Monday, also said picnics, camping and non-contact sports are allowed for those fully vaccinated. He said the decision was made as over half Malaysia’s adult population have been fully vaccinated.
Some eateries reportedly voiced concern due to high daily virus cases. The Malaysian Medical Association also said authorities should focus on ramping up vaccination to cover at least 80% of the adult population.
SEOUL, South Korea – South Korea’s new infections exceeded 2,000 for the second straight day as officials extended the highest level of social distancing restrictions short of a lockdown in large population centers.
Seoul, Busan, Daejeon and the southern resort island of Jeju will remain under the strongest social distancing rules for at least another two weeks. The rules prohibit private social gatherings of three or more people after 6 p.m. and force nightclubs and churches to close.
Senior Health Ministry official Lee Ki-il said indoor dining hours at restaurants and cafes will be reduced by an hour to until 9 p.m.
Some experts say officials should tighten social distancing even further, such as forcing more white-collar workers to work from home and expanding the gathering restrictions to daytime hours.
SYDNEY — A lockdown in Australia’s largest city was extended through September and tougher measures to curb the coronavirus’s delta variant were imposed Friday, including a curfew and a mask mandate outdoors.
New South Wales state, which includes Sydney, reported 642 locally acquired infections in the latest 24-hour period.
Sydney has been locked down since late June due to the outbreak caused by the more contagious delta variant. Since then, 65 people have died from COVID-19 in New South Wales, included four overnight.
The Sydney lockdown was to end on Aug. 28, but the state government announced it will continue until Sept. 30.
The entire state has been in lockdown since last week because the virus had spread from the city.
A curfew will apply from 9 p.m. to 5 p.m. from Monday in the worst-affected Sydney suburbs. Wearing masks will be compulsory across the state outside homes. Previously, masks weren’t compulsory in all circumstances outdoors.
WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand’s first coronavirus outbreak in six months has spread from the largest city of Auckland to the capital, Wellington.
Health authorities said Friday that three people in Wellington who recently visited Auckland had tested positive. They said the outbreak had grown to 31 cases.
The government also expanded the lockdown that had been put in place Tuesday after the first community case was found in Auckland. All of New Zealand will remain in lockdown until at least next Tuesday. Previously it had been a three-day lockdown for the nation and a seven-day lockdown only for certain areas.
Genome testing has linked the outbreak to an infected traveler who returned from Sydney earlier this month and was quarantined, although health authorities don’t yet know how the virus escaped quarantine.
New Zealand is continuing to pursue an elimination strategy aimed at wiping out the virus entirely.
AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas Supreme Court has declined to block restraining orders against Gov. Greg Abbott’s mask mandate ban.
The justices remanded Attorney General Ken Paxton’s appeal to the 3rd Texas Court of Appeal in Austin for a hearing. The court did not issue an opinion for its Thursday decision.
The move comes the same day as the Texas Education Agency dropped, for now, enforcement in the state’s public school systems of Abbott’s mask mandate ban.
In a public health guidance letter issued Thursday, the TEA said enforcement was being dropped because of ongoing court challenges to the ban.
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — More than 3,000 fake COVID-19 vaccination cards have been confiscated at cargo freight facilities at the Anchorage airport as they were being shipped from China.
Officers from U.S. Customs and Border Protection seized the cards in the last week as they arrived in small packages.
An agency spokesperson said there were between 135 to 150 packages found in Anchorage, all sent by the same person in China. Each package contained a small number of the fake cards, between 20 to 90 cards.
A high volume of counterfeit vaccination cards have been detected nationwide.
Another 3,600 fake cards were found recently at cargo facilities in Memphis. Federal law enforcement officers are investigating.