Coronavirus latest: China limits Olympic torch relay to 3 days

Versie Dortch

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 342,684,472, according to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. The worldwide death toll has hit 5,574,860.

For more information about the spread of COVID-19 and vaccination progress around the world, please see our interactive charts and maps.

Global coronavirus tracker charts

Status of vaccinations around the world

Friday, Jan. 21 (Tokyo time)

10:27 p.m. The World Health Organization’s advisory panel recommends the use of a reduced dosage of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5-11.

The vaccine is currently recommended for use in people 12 and older. The recommended dosage for the younger population is 10 micrograms instead of 30 micrograms offered to those 12 and older.

7:30 p.m. The Hong Kong government orders a five-day lockdown for a public housing block hit by a coronavirus outbreak, affecting more than 2,700 people. The number of cases in the Yat Kwai House in the Kwai Chung estate had risen to 20, and health authorities say the lockdown is required to stop transmission by a so-called super spreader. The unprecedented move will force residents to be locked up in flats as small as 377 square feet and undergo multiple COVID-19 tests until Wednesday. In the meantime, the government will provide food and other household necessities.

6:00 p.m. China is limiting the torch relay for the Winter Olympics to three days amid coronavirus worries, organizers say. The flame will be displayed only in enclosed venues that are deemed “safe and controllable,” according to officials. No public transit routes would be disturbed and normal life will continue for the 20 million residents of the capital, where a handful of new cases have been recorded over recent days.

5:30 p.m. Singapore will extend its booster program to adolescents aged 12 to 17 years from next month. The nation is among the first few countries to recommend boosters for that age group, following Germany, the U.S., Israel and Hungary.

4:30 p.m. Restaurants and bars will close early in Tokyo and a dozen other areas across Japan today as the omicron variant spreads to tens of thousands more people. So far during the current wave, the anti-COVID measures have been akin to a pre-state of emergency; they are scheduled to last through Feb. 13. Okinawa, Hiroshima and Yamaguchi prefectures have been under a similar decree since early January. Now one-third of the country is subject to restrictions. Osaka, Kyoto, Hyogo and other prefectures are expected to soon join the list.

Tonga wants to safeguard its hard-won COVID-free status as it begins accepting overseas aid. (Australian Department of Defence/Handout via REUTERS)

2:30 p.m. An Australian aid flight on its way to devastated Tonga was forced to return to base due to a positive COVID-19 case onboard, a defense official says. The flight left Brisbane on Thursday but turned around midflight after being notified of the positive case. All crew had returned negative rapid antigen tests before departure, but PCR tests later turned up the positive result. Tonga is COVID-free and has a strict border control policy. As for the incoming aid, Tonga is requiring it to be handed over contact-free.

2:15 p.m. India logs 347,254 new cases for the last 24 hours, up 9% from the previous day, bringing the country’s cumulative total to 38.57 million. Deaths jumped by 703 to 488,396.

11:00 a.m. Japan approves Pfizer’s vaccine for 5- to 11-year-olds as the omicron variant continues to spread nationwide. It is the first COVID-19 vaccine made available in Japan for that particular age group. An inoculation program for these children will begin as early as March, according to the health ministry. Up to about 8 million children will be eligible. The vaccine is currently only available to people 12 and older in Japan.

South Korea’s self-employed and small businesses will be the biggest beneficiaries of an $11.75 billion supplementary budget cobbled together to fight the repercussions of the pandemic.

  © AP

10:30 a.m. South Korea unveils a 14 trillion won ($11.75 billion) supplementary budget to support hard-hit self-employed people and small businesses. Some 11.5 trillion won will be used to help small business owners and compensate them for losses caused by anti-pandemic measures. Another 1.5 trillion won is earmarked to secure 25,000 hospital beds as well as COVID-19 treatment pills for 400,000 people. The other 1 trillion won will be used as a contingency reserve should the omicron variant spread further.

9:50 a.m. Malaysia has resumed ticket sales for air and land travel to and from Singapore under a vaccinated travel lane program that had been suspended until Thursday due to omicron variant concerns, the health ministry says. The resumption follows a risk evaluation of the current COVID-19 situation in both countries. Malaysia, however, has imposed a ticket quota.

Japanese consumers in December paid 0.5% more for goods and services than they did 12 months earlier. Tokyo’s popular Ginza shopping district.

  © AP

8:40 a.m. Japan’s core consumer prices rose 0.5% in December from a year earlier, government data shows. The nationwide core consumer price index, excluding volatile fresh food items, marked the fourth straight month of year-on-year increase. Prices for kerosene, electricity and other energy commodities continued to rise. In 2021, the core CPI declined 0.2%, falling for the second straight year.

3:00 a.m. Israel will ditch mandatory quarantine for children exposed to COVID-19 carriers, the government says, citing a need to relieve parents and schools as case numbers spiral due to the fast-spreading but low-morbidity omicron variant. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said that as of Thursday, children will instead be required to take twice-weekly home antigen tests for the virus and, if they prove positive or feel unwell, stay away from school until they recover.

Thursday, Jan. 20

5:30 p.m. Tokyo reports 8,638 cases, hitting a new daily high as omicron spreads rapidly across Japan. The tally eclipsed the previous high of 7,377 logged on Wednesday. The seven-day rolling average of daily infections stood at 5,386 in the capital.

People stand outside Beijing Railway Station as the travel rush starts ahead of the Chinese Lunar New Year — also known as the Spring Festival — on Jan. 17.

  © Reuters

5:17 p.m. Local governments in China are trying to keep people from returning to their hometowns during the Chinese New Year, as a number of provinces are seeing more local cases. Henan Province, home to the world’s largest iPhone factory, has recorded more than 950 infections since the beginning of the month. A viral video on Thursday shows Dong Hong, head of Dancheng County in Henan, saying that those who return from medium- and high-risk areas will be “quarantined first then sent to a detention center” — even if they are vaccinated and have negative test results within 48 hours. Dong later responded that the video was erroneous, in that it left out when he said his order was “for those who don’t listen and maliciously return home.” However, his response sparked even more anger on social media.

4:30 p.m. The western Japan prefectures of Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo on Friday will ask the national government to place them under a quasi-state emergency, Osaka Gov. Hirofumi Yoshimura says. The planned request reflects an increasing strain on the local medical system, with Osaka seeing around 6,000 new daily infections recently, Yoshimura says. Japan on Wednesday decided to expand quasi-emergency curbs to Tokyo and 12 other prefectures for three weeks, beginning Friday. A quasi-emergency allows governors to request or even order restaurants and bars to close early, and to stop or limit the serving of alcohol.

3:00 p.m. Thailand will resume its “Test & Go” quarantine waiver for vaccinated arrivals, starting on Feb. 1, the country’s coronavirus taskforce says. All arrivals must take a COVID-19 test on arrival and five days later, spokesperson Taweesin Wisanuyothin said at briefing, during which additional “Sandbox” areas were announced, a similar scheme to revive its battered tourism sector, where visitors must stay for one week in a designated location.

2:00 p.m. Hong Kong secondary schools will suspend in-person classes, starting next Monday, the government announced, after the city recorded two more untraceable COVID-19 cases. Primary schools and kindergartens had already moved classes online after the city introduced a string of coronavirus measures, including shutting down bars and gyms and banning restaurant dine-ins after 6 p.m. The most recent local outbreaks have been linked to the highly transmissible delta and omicron variants.

1:41 p.m. India reports 317,532 cases in the last 24 hours — up 12% from the previous day and the highest daily count in over eight months — bringing the country total to 38.22 million. Deaths rose by 491 to 487,693.

A sign marks the boundary of a “bubble” area created to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the runup to the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics.

  © Reuters

1:00 p.m. Beijing reports three domestically transmitted, symptomatic cases for Wednesday, up from one a day earlier. The capital has reported less than 10 local infections since Jan. 15, with both the delta and omicron variants detected — a tiny case count compared with the rest of the world. However, with the Winter Olympics just weeks ahead, China is pursuing a zero-COVID policy and has ramped up efforts to curb infections, ordering checks among cold-chain businesses and urging residents to reduce unnecessary gatherings.

11:20 a.m. China’s central bank cuts its benchmark lending rate for the second straight month to shore up the slowing economy, in a contrast to the United States and other major economies that are moving to tackle inflation.

10:00 a.m. Australian employment raced past expectations in December as the jobless rate fell to its lowest since 2008, government data shows. Employment jumped by 64,800 in December, topping market forecasts of a 43,300 rise and adding to November’s record jump of 366,000. The unemployment rate fell to 4.2%, from 4.6% in November, the lowest reading since August 2008 when the jobless rate bottomed out at 4.0%.

Australia’s economy is bouncing back strongly despite the spread of the omicron variant, with unemployment falling to 4.2%, the lowest reading since August 2008.

  © Reuters

9:30 a.m. Japan’s exports rose faster than expected in December to mark the 10th straight month of year-on-year growth, government data shows, as supply bottlenecks continued to ease toward the end of 2021. Exports increased 17.5% in December from a year earlier, compared with a 16.0% gain expected by economists in a Reuters poll and following a 20.5% increase in the previous month. Shipments to China, Japan’s biggest trade partner, grew 10.8% in December from a year earlier.

9:00 a.m. United Airlines Holdings trims its capacity forecast and warns of higher costs, after posting a smaller-than-expected fourth-quarter loss, citing turbulence from the omicron variant. The carrier said the latest wave of the health crisis has depressed near-term demand, even as bookings for the spring and beyond remain strong. Its 2022 capacity is now projected to be lower than in 2019, instead of growing 5% as estimated earlier.

3:54 a.m. The U.S. will make 400 million N95 masks from its strategic national stockpile available for free to the public starting next week, a White House official says, as part of the Biden administration’s efforts to contain the omicron variant. The masks will be distributed to community health centers and pharmacies such as CVS and Walgreens.

1:12 a.m. COVID-19 infections in the Americas are accelerating to new peaks, with 7.2 million new cases and more than 15,000 coronavirus-related deaths in the past week, the Pan American Health Organization says. The Caribbean is witnessing the steepest increase in COVID infections since the start of the pandemic, the regional health agency says, while the U.S. and Canada continue to experience a surge in hospitalizations.

Wednesday, Jan. 19

The Shinjuku district in Tokyo. Japan’s capital saw a record 7,377 infections on Wednesday.

  © Kyodo

11:05 p.m. Japan reports more than 40,000 COVID cases in a day for the first time, with the tally tripling from a week ago. New cases in Tokyo and Osaka on Wednesday reach 7,377 and 6,101, respectively, both daily records.

10:25 p.m. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson ends COVID-19 measures introduced last month to curb the rapid spread of the omicron variant in England, looking to live with the virus after a peak in cases. Face masks will not be legally enforced anywhere, COVID passes will not be mandatory and advice to work from home will end.

The U.K. was the first country to limit international travel over omicron, raising alarms about its mutations. Johnson hopes to reset his agenda following an uproar over the lockdown social gatherings at his office, as some in his party plot to remove him.

5:35 p.m. India, which is experiencing an alarming surge in COVID cases, mainly driven by the omicron variant, extends until Feb. 28 its ban on scheduled international passenger flights. “This restriction shall not apply to international all-cargo operations and flights specifically approved” by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, an official order says, adding that “air bubble” flights arranged with over 30 countries will also “not be affected.” New Delhi suspended commercial passenger flights in March 2020 and was looking to resume them last month.

India in December 2021 was beginning to consider the resumption of international passenger flights, which have been suspended since March 2020.

  © Reuters

3:00 p.m. Japan’s blue-chip Nikkei Stock Average took a tumble on Wednesday, at one point falling over 900 points, or 3.3%, before closing down 2.8% at its lowest level since mid-August. The benchmark’s decline follows a weakening of U.S. stocks overnight in the face of higher Treasury yields. Concerns are also rising over Japan’s surge in COVID-19 infections. On Tuesday, the country recorded its highest number of daily infections, prompting the government to tighten restrictions in some regions.

2:43 p.m. Australian mining giant BHP Group warns of further disruptions from COVID-19, including labor shortages, and says the impact of the omicron variant will last into the second half of its financial year. With the country in the grip of an omicron wave, BHP’s production of some commodities fell in the December quarter. “Workforce absenteeism arising from the COVID-19 omicron variant is anticipated to continue into the early part of the second half of the 2022 financial year,” the company says.

2:34 p.m. India logs 282,970 new cases in the last 24 hours, up 19% from the previous day, bringing the country’s total to 37.9 million. Deaths rose by 441 to 487,202.

12:25 p.m. Star forward Mana Iwabuchi will miss the start of Nadeshiko Japan’s title defense at the Women’s Asian Cup, in India, after testing positive for the coronavirus, the Japan Football Association announces. The 28-year-old is asymptomatic and will isolate with a view to joining the team after receiving medical clearance, the JFA said. The attacker for English club Arsenal has not been in close contact with any other Nadeshiko Japan players, having traveled separately to India. The tourney kicks off today and runs through Feb. 6.

11:17 a.m. China reports its lowest daily count of local confirmed infections in two weeks, after cities sealed off certain areas deemed to be at risk for the virus, quarantined patients and conducted mass testing. Mainland China reports a total of 55 domestically transmitted infections with confirmed symptoms for Tuesday, according to official data on Wednesday. This is down from 127 a day earlier and marks the fewest cases since Jan. 4. The central city of Anyang reported 29 new local symptomatic cases for Tuesday, compared with 94 the prior day, data from the National Health Commission shows.

A health worker administers a COVID-19 test in Hanoi, Vietnam, on Jan. 6. The country has detected its first omicron transmissions.

  © AP

11:04 a.m. Vietnam has recorded its first community cases of the omicron variant, state media reports. Three positive cases were detected over the weekend in Ho Chi Minh City and confirmed as omicron late on Tuesday, the Tien Phong Newspaper reported, citing health authorities.

9:49 a.m. South Korea’s daily new infections hit a one-month high as health authorities report 5,805 cases, up from 4,071 the previous day. Total infections reach 705,902 with 6,452 deaths.

5:00 a.m. The U.S. begins taking orders for free COVID-19 tests, a day ahead of the planned launch of its website for ordering and distributing 1 billion tests to Americans.

The website is operating at limited capacity ahead of the official launch, White House press secretary Jen Psaki says.

People can go to the site,, and follow a link that takes them to an order form on the U.S. Postal Service website. Only one order for four tests can be placed per address, according to the form.

Stevon Tataendy, 8, is not happy after receiving a dose of COVID-19 vaccine in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

  © Reuters

2:05 a.m. There is no evidence at present that healthy children and adolescents need booster doses of COVID-19 vaccine, the World Health Organization’s chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan says.

“The aim is to protect the most vulnerable, to protect those at highest risk of severe disease and dying.” Swaminathan says. “Those are our elderly populations, immuno-compromised people with underlying conditions, but also healthcare workers.”

Tuesday, Jan. 18

11:16 p.m. The European Union’s drug regulator finds that mRNA COVID-19 vaccines do not cause pregnancy complications for expectant mothers and their babies, after it assessed data from studies involving 65,000 pregnancies at different stages. Such mRNA vaccines include those from Pfizer and Moderna.

The European Medicines Agency says it also found that COVID-19 shots are as effective at cutting the risk of hospitalization and death in pregnant woman as in other people.

7:28 p.m. Hong Kong plans to cull 2,000 hamsters and ban their import after some rodents that tested positive for COVID-19 possibly infected a pet shop worker, authorities say.

7:10 p.m. Japan is set to grant permission to the governors of Tokyo and 12 other prefectures to tighten restrictions on social activities as COVID-19 cases hit a daily record. Read more.

6:30 p.m. Japan’s daily coronavirus cases have topped 30,000 for the first time, surpassing the previous record of 25,992 registered in August last year. The western prefecture of Osaka reported 5,396 new cases, a fresh record, driven by the omicron variant, while Tokyo confirmed 5,185 new cases, up more than fivefold from a week earlier. Tokyo and other areas are asking the central government to place them under a quasi-state of emergency, which would allow authorities to request that dining establishments shorten their business hours and stop serving alcohol.

China is investigating whether the first case of the omicron variant found in Beijing arrived with a package from Canada. Passengers at Nanjing Railway Station have their health information inspected.

  © China Daily/Reuters

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.

Israeli infectious disease expert: “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.”

  © Reuters

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.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, U.S. Army General Mark Milley.

  © 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.

Tickets for the Winter Olympics set to begin on Feb. 4 will not be sold to the general public, as the COVID-19 pandemic casts its shadow over the Games.

  © Reuters

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.

Under Australian immigration law, Novak Djokovic cannot be granted another visa for three years unless the immigration minister finds there are compelling or compassionate reasons.

  © AP

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.

The COVAX global vaccine-sharing program has now delivered 1 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses.

  © Reuters

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 local 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.

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