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Asia Today: Vietnam to test high-risk groups in largest city


The Vietnam News Agency said the city authority plans to test high-risk groups in a population of 9 million with a testing capacity of 100,000 samples a day.

At least 145 cases of coronavirus infection linked to the revival Ecclesia mission, a Protestant denomination, and the city district of Go Wap, where the church is located, have been closed. Vietnam has since banned all religious gatherings across the country.

The newspaper said church followers gathered in small spaces for singing and chanting without proper distance and wearing masks. Ho Chi Minh City Police said the mission has 48 registered members.

The report stated that the husband and wife accused in the case were responsible for leading and organizing the activities in the church. He has not been identified and has not been arrested.

Since late April, the increase in COVID-19 has spread to 31 municipalities and provinces, with more than 4,000 cases in Vietnam, nearly double the total number reported in the country since the start of the pandemic.

The health minister said on Saturday that some recent patients in Vietnam were infected with a hybrid of the virus found in India and Britain. Nguyen Than Long said the hybrid could spread more easily and could be responsible for Vietnam’s recent boom.

Viruses often develop small genetic changes as they reproduce, and new forms of the coronavirus have been observed almost since they were first detected in China in late 2019. The World Health Organization classified the UK and Indian types, along with two other previously found South African and Brazilian types, as “anxiety types”, as they appear to be more contagious.

Vietnam has vaccinated 1 million people with AstraZeneca shots. It has signed a deal with Pfizer to deliver 30 million doses later this year. It is also in talks with Moderna that will give it enough shots to fully vaccinate 80% of its 96 million people.

Elsewhere in Asia and the Pacific:

Thailand is restarting efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus in labor camps, factories and markets as the number of new cases reported on Monday reached an all-time high. A government spokesman said public health officials met with labor and industry officials to discuss better ways to prevent infections concentrated in crowded, high-risk locations. The government on Monday reported a record 5,485 new cases, with nearly 2,000 in prisons. Confirmed deaths increased by 19, bringing the total to 1,031 since the pandemic began. Concerns over rising numbers prompted the government to scrap a plan by Bangkok’s governor to ease some pandemic restrictions in the capital, including reopening parks. The scheme, which took effect from Tuesday, has been postponed for 14 days. Thailand had largely managed to keep the outbreak under control, at great economic cost to tourism in particular, as foreign visitors were largely banned from entering the country. That changed in early April, when a spate of cases centered on Bangkok bars and clubs spread, as many people traveled during the Thai New Year holiday. The total number of confirmed cases has now risen to 159,792, of which 82% occurred during the latest surge.

– Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Monday that controls were working to reduce coronavirus infections, announcing a move to vaccinate students after transmission in schools and learning centres. Lee said controls on banning eating and severely limiting social gatherings were “on track” to be relaxed after June 13. He urged the public to be vigilant and step out of the house only when they need to. The government imposed tighter controls this month as many local coronavirus cases were linked to malls, hospitals and airports almost never before in the year. Nearly three quarters of the city-state’s 760,000 senior citizens have received at least one dose of the vaccine or have booked their appointments. Now the jabs – which are offered to people age 40 and older – will be extended to students 12 and older starting Tuesday.

Malaysia on Monday opened its first mega vaccination center as the government sought to accelerate vaccination amid a worsening outbreak. Located in an exhibition center in the largest city, Kuala Lumpur, the center can vaccinate up to 8,000 people a day. Officials say more such large centers will be opened across the country, but some critics urged the government to instead set up smaller centers at the district level to improve access. Malaysia is introducing an almost complete lockdown from Tuesday for the second time in more than a year. Most social and economic activities, except in 17 essential sectors, will remain closed for at least two weeks as the government struggles to contain a worsening pandemic. Daily virus cases hit a record high of 9,020 on Saturday before easing on Monday to 6,824. Malaysia’s total infections have risen to 572,357, while deaths are more than 2,600, both a five-fold increase from last year. Science Minister Khairi Jamaluddin said on Monday that the government was assessing the suitability of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. So far, Malaysia has approved the use of only Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Sinovac vaccines. More than 12 million people have registered but less than 10% of the country’s 33 million population have been vaccinated so far.

Hong Kong authorities on Monday appealed to the private sector to offer incentives to help ease COVID-19 vaccine hesitation, and warned that those who do not get vaccinated could face more stringent sanctions Maybe, the city should face a new outbreak. Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said at a news conference that she has written letters to more than a hundred real estate developers and retail outlets, urging them to provide incentives to boost the city’s vaccination campaign. The move comes at a time when Hong Kong is facing vaccine hesitation, with only 20% of its population being vaccinated since late February, despite widespread vaccination access. Vaccine registrations increased over the weekend after a real estate developer held a $1.4 million apartment as a grand prize in a lucky draw, open to all Hong Kong permanent residents who were vaccinated, among other prizes is. “Although this is a very short period of a few days, we have seen some positive results,” Lam said. On Sunday, around 26,900 people booked online to receive vaccinations, more than double the 12,600 on Friday, the day the lucky draw was announced.

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This story has been updated to correct that Ho Chi Minh City plans to test for high-risk groups, not the entire population.

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