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COVID-19

Saudi Arabia eases mask mandate as first Hajj pilgrims arrive

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(Last Updated On: June 14, 2022)

Saudi Arabia has lifted a mask mandate for indoor spaces even as COVID-19 infection numbers steadily climb past 1,000 new cases a day.

Monday’s move comes as the kingdom prepares to welcome around 850,000 pilgrims from abroad to participate in the annual Hajj pilgrimage.

The first batch of foreign pilgrims since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic began arriving from Indonesia earlier this month.

Masks will still be required at Islam’s holiest sites in Mecca and Medina, where pilgrims gather for worship, according to the new rules and organizers of events and festivals can continue to require masks if they wish.

The COVID-19 pandemic Muslim pilgrimages, which are usually key revenue earners for the kingdom, bringing in some $12 billion annually.

One of the five pillars of Islam, the Hajj must be undertaken by all Muslims who have the means at least once in their lives.

For nearly two years, Saudi Arabia was among the world’s most restrictive in its efforts to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

COVID-19

India reports nearly 16,000 new COVID cases, 68 deaths

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(Last Updated On: August 13, 2022)

India reported nearly 16,000 new COVID cases and 68 fatalities, according to the Union Health Ministry data on Saturday.

The data also showed active cases came down by 4,271 in a span of 24 hours to stand at 119,264, constituting 0.27 percent of the total infections.

The new 15,815 coronavirus infections and 68 deaths pushed the overall figures to 44,239,372 cases and 526,996 deaths, according to the data.

The national COVID-19 recovery rate was recorded at 98.54 percent, the health ministry said.

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COVID-19

Mask mandates return in New Delhi as COVID-19 cases rise

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(Last Updated On: August 12, 2022)

The Indian capital reintroduced public mask mandates on Thursday as COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the country.

The New Delhi government reinstituted a fine of 500 rupees ($6) for anyone caught not wearing a mask or face covering in public, AP reported. 

India’s Health Ministry said 16,299 new cases were recorded in the past 24 hours nationwide, with a positivity rate of 4.58 percent. Nearly 2,150 infections were reported in New Delhi.

On Wednesday, New Delhi reported eight deaths due to the coronavirus, the highest in nearly six months. People in most parts of the country began discarding face masks as infections dropped following two devastating earlier waves of COVID-19.

New Delhi’s top elected official, Arvind Kejriwal, said that COVID-19 cases were on the rise but there was no need to panic because most of the new cases were mild.

India started vaccinating people in January 2021 and has administered over 2.04 billion doses, including first, second and booster doses. More than 94% of the eligible population (12 years and older) has received at least one shot, and 86% are fully vaccinated.

Most experts believe India’s official death toll of more than 414,000 is a vast undercount, but the government has dismissed those concerns as exaggerated and misleading.

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COVID-19

North Korea declares victory over COVID-19

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(Last Updated On: August 11, 2022)

North Korea’s Kim Jong Un declared victory in the battle against COVID-19 on Thursday, with the leader’s sister revealing he had suffered from fever and vowing “deadly retaliation” against South Korea which it blames for causing the outbreak, Reuters reported.

Kim ordered a lifting of maximum anti-epidemic measures imposed in May, adding that North Korea must maintain a “steel-strong anti-epidemic barrier and intensifying the anti-epidemic work until the end of the global health crisis,” according to a report by state news agency KCNA.

North Korea has never confirmed how many people caught COVID-19, apparently lacking testing supplies. It had instead reported daily numbers of fever patients, which totalled some 4.77 million, but has registered no new such cases since July 29.

Kim’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, said the young leader himself had suffered from fever symptoms, according to KCNA, indicating for the first time that he might have been infected with the virus.

“Even though he was seriously ill with a high fever, he could not lie down for a moment thinking about the people he had to take care of until the end in the face of the anti-epidemic war,” she said in remarks at a meeting on Wednesday to review the country’s anti-epidemic responses.

She did not elaborate on Kim’s health, but blamed leaflets from South Korea found near the border for causing the outbreak, Reuters reported.

The World Health Organization has cast doubts on North Korea’s claims, saying in June the situation could be getting worse. 

Pyongyang’s declaration of victory over COVID comes despite no known vaccine programme. Instead, the country says it relied on lockdowns, homegrown medicine treatments, and what Kim called the “advantageous Korean-style socialist system.”

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