Nikkei Asia is tracking the spread of the coronavirus that was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.
Cumulative global cases have reached 330,169,466, according to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. The worldwide death toll has hit 5,544,624.
For more information about the spread of COVID-19 and vaccination progress around the world, please see our interactive charts and maps.
Tuesday, Jan. 18 (Tokyo time)
5:00 p.m. China is urging people to wear masks and gloves when opening mail, especially from abroad, after authorities suggested the first case of the omicron variant found in Beijing could have arrived via a package from Canada. Authorities vowed to step up disinfection of overseas mail and are insisting postal staff handling it are fully vaccinated. The precautions come less than three weeks before the capital opens the Winter Olympics and as several cities work to stamp out new outbreaks.
3:49 p.m. Foxconn Industrial Internet, a unit of iPhone assembler Hon Hai Precision Industry, says 96% of its global employees are fully vaccinated and 60% have received booster shots. CEO Brand Cheng told an industry forum in Taipei that the company uses a self-developed big data platform to monitor and manage COVID prevention statuses at its manufacturing bases around the world. The platform has helped the company quickly shift some manufacturing from Mexico to Europe and to immediately escalate measures in Vietnam during a COVID crisis, the CEO said.
2:40 p.m. Toyota Motor plans to produce about 700,000 cars globally in February, up 10% from a year earlier but still 20% shy of what it had originally planned, as the global chip shortage takes a further toll amid the omicron surge, sources tell Nikkei.
12:40 p.m. Japan’s western prefecture of Osaka is expected to report more than 5,000 new daily cases, a record-high. In recent weeks, various parts of Japan have been reeling from record transmissions due to the omicron variant’s rapid spread.
11:53 a.m. The Bank of Japan raises its inflation forecast for the coming fiscal year, with rising prices potentially dragging further on the nation’s slow recovery from the pandemic. According to the central bank’s quarterly outlook report, the median forecast for consumer inflation among its nine policy board members came in at 1.1% for fiscal 2022, which starts in April, up from 0.9% three months ago.
11:00 a.m. A fourth shot of vaccine boosts antibodies to even higher levels than the third jab but not enough to prevent omicron infections, according to a preliminary study in Israel. Sheba Medical Center has given second booster shots in a trial among its staff and is studying the effect of the Pfizer booster in 154 people after two weeks and the Moderna booster in 120 people after one week, said Gili Regev-Yochay, director of the Infectious Diseases Unit. “We know by now that the level of antibodies needed to protect and not to get infected from omicron is probably too high for the vaccine, even if it’s a good vaccine,” she told reporters.
10:40 a.m. Australia suffers its deadliest day of the pandemic as an omicron outbreak continues to push hospitalization rates to record levels, even as daily infections slightly ease. By late morning, 74 deaths had been registered in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland, Australia’s three most populous states, exceeding the previous national high of 57, recorded Thursday.
10:10 a.m. China reports 171 new cases for Monday, down from 223 a day earlier. Of the new infections, 127 were locally transmitted, down from 163 a day earlier. The other new cases were imported. The new local transmissions were in Henan, Tianjin, Guangdong, Beijing and Shaanxi. The country reported 33 new asymptomatic cases for Monday, which it classifies separately from confirmed cases, up from 28 a day earlier.
9:30 a.m. Hong Kong police say they have arrested and charged two former flight attendants over allegations they broke the city’s coronavirus rules. They did not name the airline but the announcement comes after Cathay Pacific said in January that it had fired two aircrew who were suspected of breaching COVID-19 protocols. Police said the two had returned to Hong Kong from the U.S. on Dec. 24 and 25 where they had “conducted unnecessary activities” during their home isolation period. They both later tested positive for the omicron strain. If convicted, they could face up to six months in prison and a fine of up to HK$5,000 ($642).
2:30 a.m. Canada approves Pfizer’s oral antiviral treatment for mild to moderate cases of COVID-19 in people aged 18 and older, but said supply shortages would keep doses from being made available immediately, reports Reuters.
1:30 a.m. U.S. Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley tested positive for COVID-19 on Sunday, a Pentagon spokesperson says. The highest-ranking American uniformed officer is said to be experiencing minor symptoms while isolating and working remotely.
Monday, Jan. 17
10:00 p.m. Tickets for the Winter Olympics set to begin on Feb. 4 will be distributed to “targeted” groups of people and will not be sold to the general public, the organizing committee says, in the latest setback to the Games in the face of COVID-19. Organizers had said in September that there would not be any international spectators at the Games, under COVID prevention policies that have all but shut China’s borders to international travelers. In Monday’s announcement, the committee cited the “severe and complex” COVID situation and the need to protect the safety of Olympics personnel and spectators.
6:00 p.m. The governors of Tokyo and its three surrounding prefectures agreed to jointly ask for the central government to put the area under a quasi-state of emergency. The governors discussed the issue in an online meeting as the number of COVID-19 cases rises rapidly in the capital region. If the central government accepts the request, local governments will have the authority to ask restaurants and bars to cut business hours and stop serving alcohol.
3:00 p.m. Japan will bring forward booster shots as much as two months earlier than planned, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida says in a speech to parliament amid the omicron surge. With an upper house election slated for later this year, containing the pandemic is critically important for Kishida. His predecessor, Yoshihide Suga, was forced to step down after public support tumbled over rising infections. Fewer than 1% of Japanese have received boosters — far behind the U.K.’s 53% and 24% in the U.S. — according to the Our World in Data project at the University of Oxford.
1:30 p.m. Japan plans to allow into the country 87 government-sponsored foreign students as exceptions to the COVID-19 entry ban, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno says. The students have less than one year left until they graduate or finish their studies, he said. The government will consider individual cases in making further exceptions, Matsuno added.
11:50 a.m. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has left the door open for Novak Djokovic to compete at next year’s Australian Open despite the tennis superstar facing an automatic three-year ban from entering the country. Under immigration law, Djokovic cannot be granted another visa for three years unless Australia’s immigration minister accepts there are compelling or compassionate reasons. “I’m not going to precondition any of that or say anything that would not enable the minister to make the various calls he has to make,” Morrison told 2GB radio on Monday as Djokovic was en route to Dubai.
11:12 a.m. China’s central bank cuts the borrowing costs of its medium-term loans for the first time since April 2020, defying market expectations, to cushion any economic slowdown. The People’s Bank of China says it is lowering the interest rate on 700 billion yuan ($110.19 billion) worth of one-year medium-term lending facility loans to some financial institutions by 10 basis points to 2.85% from 2.95% in previous operations.
11:00 a.m. China’s gross domestic product growth in the fourth quarter of 2021 slowed to 4% on the year, delivering a full-year result of 8.1%, as COVID-19 and a real estate downturn combined to restrain economic momentum. The figures, announced on Monday by the National Bureau of Statistics, were above the average forecasts of 3.3% for the quarter and 7.9% for the year in a Nikkei poll of economists released last month.
10:36 p.m. Credit Suisse Chairman Antonio Horta-Osorio, who was being investigated by the bank’s board for breaching COVID-19 quarantine rules, has resigned with immediate effect. “I regret that a number of my personal actions have led to difficulties for the bank and compromised my ability to represent the bank internally and externally,” he said in a statement. Horta-Osorio’s resignation comes less than a year since he was brought in to clean up a corporate culture marred by the bank’s involvement with collapsed investment firm Archegos and insolvent supply chain finance firm Greensill Capital.
9:00 a.m. Japan’s core machinery orders, a highly volatile data series regarded as an indicator of capital spending in the coming six to nine months, grew 3.4% in November from October, rising for the second straight month, Cabinet Office data shows. That beat economists’ median estimate of a 1.4% rise and followed a 3.8% jump the month before.
5:10 a.m. The COVAX global vaccine-sharing program has delivered 1 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses. COVAX was launched in 2020 with the goal of delivering 2 billion doses by the end of 2021, but supplies to poorer nations had long been limited as wealthier states secured most of the doses initially available from December 2020. But in the last quarter, shipments have exponentially increased, allowing COVAX to reach the milestone of 1 billion doses shipped to 144 countries, said vaccine alliance Gavi, which co-leads the program alongside the World Health Organization.
5:04 a.m. France’s National Assembly has passed a law to require proof of vaccination for people 16 and older for restaurants and certain other public facilities, aiming to avert new lockdown measures.
2:32 a.m. With the omicron variant having cut into their traffic, Israeli airlines will receive a maximum of $85 million in aid over three years via bonds that can be repaid without interest or converted into government-owned shares. The newly approved plan adds $41 million to $44 million in aid approved this past November.
Sunday, Jan. 16
9:00 p.m. Arrivals in Beijing will have to take a nucleic acid test within 72 hours. The new requirement, effective from this coming Saturday to the end of March, aims to promote early detection amid the spread of the omicron variant, according to government newspaper Beijing Daily. The announcement comes the day after the Chinese capital reported its first locally transmitted omicron case — and the month before the Lunar New Year holiday period and the start of the Winter Olympics there.
7:42 p.m. Thailand has reported its first fatality from the omicron variant, an 86-year-old woman with Alzheimer’s disease from the southern province of Songkhla. The Southeast Asian country detected its first omicron case in early December and moved to reinstate mandatory COVID-19 quarantines for foreign visitors that month.
4:00 p.m. The Federal Court of Australia has upheld the government’s decision to cancel Novak Djokovic’s visa, dashing the unvaccinated tennis star’s hopes of playing in the Australian Open and possibly racking up a record-breaking 21 men’s Grand Slam titles. Djokovic later boards a Dubai-bound Emirates flight that leaves shortly before 11 p.m. local time (9 p.m. Tokyo time).
4:36 a.m. The COVAX global vaccine-sharing program has delivered 1 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses, says one of the organizations that manages it.
4:15 a.m. Iran, the pandemic’s epicenter in the Middle East, reports the country’s first three deaths from omicron variant. COVID-19 patients with the omicron variant in the country reaches 1,162, a Health Ministry spokesman says. Iran last week lifted restrictions on land travel to and from neighboring countries and some European states but maintained a ban on arrivals from the U.K., France and eight countries in Southern Africa.
1:16 a.m. Israel’s finance minister tests positive for COVID-19 and will self-isolate but continue working from home. “I feel good and will isolate in the next few days,” Avigdor Lieberman says in a tweet. Foreign Minister Yair Lapid tested positive on Jan. 10.
Saturday, Jan. 15
10:24 p.m. Indonesia records 1,054 new COVID-19 cases, the highest daily increase in three months, as the government braces for a new wave of infections driven by the spread of the omicron variant. The world’s fourth-most-populous country grappled with a devastating second wave of infections in July, driven by the spread of the delta variant. Daily case numbers dropped to about 200 by December before rising this month amid reports of local transmission of the omicron variant.
7:09 p.m. India lengthens a ban on political rallies and roadshows in five states because of a major spike in cases. The election commission says the ban, which runs to Jan. 22, excludes indoor political party events of less than 300 people, or at 50% of a venue’s capacity. Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state and a key battleground for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, will hold elections starting next month. The northern states of Punjab and Uttarakhand, tourist hot spot Goa and the northeastern state of Manipur will also hold elections in coming months.
6:30 p.m. Japan’s confirmed daily coronavirus cases top 25,000 for the first time since Aug. 26, inching closer to a record-high number, as the omicron variant rapidly spreads. The tally, based on data provided by local governments across the country, stands at 25,742. Some prefectures report all-time-high numbers of infections, with Osaka and Okinawa confirming 3,692 and 1,829 cases, respectively. Hiroshima reports over 1,000 cases for the first time.
3:53 p.m. India reports 268,833 new cases of the coronavirus in the past 24 hours, taking its total tally to 36.84 million, the Health Ministry says. Deaths from COVID-19 rose by 402 to 485,752.
To catch up on earlier developments, see last week’s latest updates.