Thailand has tightened coronavirus restrictions and warned of further measures as daily cases surpassed 10,000 and the death toll hit a record 141 on Saturday, despite an overnight curfew in Bangkok and several other provinces.
The surge since April has overwhelmed hospitals, strained the economy and thrown tourism recovery plans in doubt in the country of 70 million. The vaccine rollout, hindered by supply problems, has been sluggish, with some five per cent of the population fully vaccinated and 15 per cent only partially.
“I would like everyone to realize our necessity to impose stricter measures soon. We all may get affected and be inconvenienced in many ways,” Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha wrote on his Facebook page late Friday.
Cases have been climbing, particularly in Bangkok and surrounding provinces. The government imposed additional measures overnight, including a ban on any gatherings and activities that can spread the virus. They include anti-government rallies that have criticized Prayuth’s handling of the pandemic.
Violators face up to two years in prison and/or a fine of up to $1,539 US.
Prayuth said the forthcoming additional measures seek to limit people’s mobility as much as possible, close down virtually all non-essential places and implement strict work from home. He said the government’s medical committee will discuss and study the lockdown measures in other countries carefully before approving the new ones.
To ease the pressure on hospitals, Prayuth said authorities are considering allowing people to test themselves at home with antigen test kits.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Thailand has reported 391,989 confirmed cases and 3,240 fatalities related to COVID-19.
What’s happening across Canada
As of 11 a.m. ET on Saturday, Canada had reported 1,422,822 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 4,721 considered active. The country’s COVID-19 death toll stood at 26,492. More than 44.8 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered so far across the country, according to a CBC News tally.
In Atlantic Canada, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia both reported no new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday.
P.E.I. and Newfoundland and Labrador had yet to provide an update. As of Friday, N.L. was dealing with 46 active cases, all but one of them aboard two ships anchored in Conception Bay.
Quebec reported 83 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday and three additional deaths. The province has announced it will hold draws for $2 million in cash prizes and bursaries this summer to encourage more people to get vaccinated.
Ontario reported 176 new cases and three new deaths on Saturday. The province entered Step 3 of its reopening plan on Friday, a few days earlier than scheduled based on high COVID-19 vaccination rates and other positive public health trends.
Under Step 3, gyms, cinemas, theatres, museums and other venues can reopen for indoor service; dining inside restaurants is allowed; nightclubs can reopen with capacity limits; and social gatherings of up to 25 people indoors and 100 people outdoors are permitted.
In the Prairie provinces, Manitoba is also welcoming looser restrictions this weekend. Beginning Saturday, restaurants, food courts and licensed premises can stay open until midnight instead of 10 p.m., and capacity sizes move up to 50 per cent, though outdoor patio seating remains at eight people per table.
The province reported 39 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday.
In British Columbia, health officials announced 45 new cases of COVID-19 and no new deaths on Friday. In an effort to get more people immunized against COVID-19, Vancouver Coastal Health is holding drop-in vaccination clinics in popular summer destinations around the city over the next few days, including Trout Lake Park and the Shipyards District on the North Shore.
In the North, Yukon reported five new cases on Friday, all of them in Whitehorse, while Nunavut and the Northwest Territories saw no new cases.
What’s happening around the world
As of Saturday morning, more than 189.6 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported, according to a tool from U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University, which has been collecting coronavirus data from nations around the world. The reported death toll stood at more than four million.
In the Asia-Pacific region, an official of Tokyo 2020 has been confirmed as the first Olympic Village resident to test positive for COVID-19. Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto said he would not reveal the nationality of the individual, citing privacy concerns. The person is currently in quarantine, according to organizers.
In the Middle East, a surge of new coronavirus infections in Iran fuelled by the fast-spreading delta variant has threatened to overwhelm hospitals.
That has prompted thousands of Iranians to flock to neighbouring Armenia, where authorities have been doling out free vaccine doses to foreign visitors as vaccine uptake remains sluggish among its population amid widespread vaccine hesitancy.
Iran has the highest COVID-19 death toll in the Middle East, and less than two per cent of the country’s 84 million people have received both doses.
In Europe, British Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who is in charge of the coronavirus response, said he has tested positive for COVID-19 and is self-isolating while he awaits the results of a second test.
This morning I tested positive for Covid. I’m waiting for my PCR result, but thankfully I have had my jabs and symptoms are mild.<br><br>Please make sure you come forward for your vaccine if you haven’t already. <a href=”https://t.co/NJYMg2VGzT”>pic.twitter.com/NJYMg2VGzT</a>
France will allow international travellers who have had AstraZeneca’s Indian-manufactured vaccine into the country starting Sunday. At the same time, it is tightening border checks to control the spread of the delta variant and protect hospitals, according to a statement from the prime minister on Saturday.
The move to accept visitors vaccinated with AstraZeneca’s vaccine made by India’s Serum Institute came after global outcry over the fact that the European Union’s COVID-19 certificate only recognizes AstraZeneca vaccines manufactured in Europe. Several other EU countries already accept the Indian version.
Greece banned music in restaurants and bars and restricted movement on its popular holiday island of Mykonos on Saturday after a rise in new coronavirus infections there.
In the Americas, cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. have tripled over the past three weeks, and hospitalizations and deaths are rising among unvaccinated people. While the rates are still sharply down from their January highs, officials are concerned by the reversing trendlines and what they consider needless illness and death.
“Look, the only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated,” President Joe Biden said Friday, echoing comments made earlier in the day by Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In Africa, Kenya’s tourism minister says African countries need to get equal access to COVID-19 vaccines so they can start rebuilding their devastated tourism industries.
About 21 million jobs have been lost in the sector across the continent since the start of the pandemic, Najib Balala said Friday on the sidelines of a meeting of his African counterparts, called to discuss the crisis. “Without the vaccination of hospitality workers, Africa will be isolated,” he said.