A passenger on Singapore Airlines flight arrives, under the Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL), at Changi Airport in Singapore on Oct 19, 2021. (ROSLAN RAHMAN / AFP)
SEOUL / BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN / JAKARTA / KUALA LUMPUR / TEHRAN / ANKARA / WELLINGTON / SYDNEY / NEW DELHI / SINGAPORE - Singapore will allow quarantine-free entry to travelers vaccinated against COVID-19 from Australia and Switzerland from Nov 8, the city-state's aviation regulator said on Tuesday.
Singapore is slowly re-opening its borders and has expanded quarantine-free travel to nearly a dozen countries, including Germany, Canada, France, Britain and the United States, under its Vaccinated Travel Lanes program.
Visitors can travel to Singapore under the program if they have been fully vaccinated and tested negative in COVID-19 tests.
Singapore has been reporting more than 3,000 daily infections in recent weeks, although most are asymptomatic or mild. Over 80 percent of Singapore's 5.45 million population has been vaccinated.
Last week, the United States advised citizens against travel to Singapore and raised its alert for the city-state to its highest risk level. Germany has also classified Singapore as a "high-risk area".
Meanwhile, the number of seriously ill COVID-19 patients in Singapore has risen to such an extent that 83.6 percent of intensive care unit beds in government-run hospitals have been taken up, and only 60 are currently vacant.
Of the 366 ICU beds in public hospitals, 306 have occupants, according to a statement from the Ministry of Health on Monday. Of that total, 171 patients were being treated for COVID-19 and 135 for non-COVID-19 ailments.
People shop outdoors at KMart on Bourke Street in Melbourne, Oct 22, 2021. (DANIEL POCKETT / APP IMAGE VIA AP)
The government of Australian state of Victoria announced on Tuesday new public health laws to replace emergency powers which were put into place at the beginning of the pandemic.
Under the new laws, the state's chief health officer would no longer have the final say on Victorian public health orders.
Furthermore, the laws would introduce a tiered system for fines to those in breach of public health orders to reduce the burden on disadvantaged citizens.
Victoria exited its sixth lockdown on Oct 22 as it reached a full vaccination rate of 70 percent.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews called for citizens to come forward and receive their second dose of the vaccine.
Meanwhile, Queensland has announced that international students will be allowed back into the state to study in 2022.
They will be required to be fully vaccinated and to quarantine at a new government facility at Wellcamp, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said. The state recorded two new Covid-19 cases in the community on Tuesday.
Australia’s most populous state, New South Wales, posted 282 cases and its second-most populous, Victoria, had 1,510.
Public buses and taxis are driven along Sula Pagoda road, Oct 24, 2021 in Yangon, Myanmar. (PHOTO / AP)
Member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations on Tuesday kick-started their 38th and 39th summits under the chairmanship of Brunei via virtual conference, with fighting the COVID-19 pandemic and promoting economic recovery high on the agenda.
The ASEAN summits, with the theme "We Care, We Prepare, We Prosper," is expected to discuss a number of issues including further strengthening the resilience of the ASEAN Community towards regional recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, enhancing the preparedness of ASEAN in addressing common challenges; seizing new opportunities in pursuit of shared prosperity; and maintaining cooperation towards achieving the region's long-term goals.
Scheduled for Tuesday to Thursday, the 38th and 39th ASEAN Summits and related summits will also be joined by leaders from ASEAN's dialogue partners, including China, Japan, South Korea, India, United States, Australia and Russia, among others.
Millions of Indians have taken Covaxin and many have complained of travel struggles as the vaccine has not been recognized for international travel by several countries.
Without a WHO nod, the two-dose Covaxin is unlikely to be accepted as a valid vaccine globally and would complicate travel plans for Indians who have taken it.
Meanwhile, India's health minister said on Tuesday that a government panel of experts was looking into a Delta coronavirus subvariant, AY.4.2, that has been detected in the United Kingdom.
Indonesia is "finalizing" a deal with Merck & Co to procure its experimental antiviral pills, named molnupiravir, to treat COVID-19 ailments, its health minister said on Monday.
Results from a large clinical trial this month showed that the pill, made with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, cut hospitalizations and deaths by 50 percent. Merck asked for an emergency use clearance from the United States earlier this month.
Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin told a news conference that the deal is being finalized so that the first shipment of molnupiravir may come at the end of the year after a visit to the company in the US.
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Iran reported on Monday 7,516 new COVID-19 cases, taking the country's total infections to 5,868,360.
According to an official briefing published on the Iranian Health Ministry's official website, the pandemic has claimed 125,363 lives in the country so far, after 140 new deaths were registered in the past 24 hours.
A total of 5,429,982 people have recovered from the disease or been discharged from hospitals across the country, while 4,256 remain in intensive care units, the ministry said on its official website.
Malaysia reported 4,782 new COVID-19 infections as of midnight Monday, bringing the national total to 2,436,498, according to the health ministry.
Fifteen of the new cases are imported, with 4,767 being local transmissions, data released on the ministry's website showed.
Another 92 more deaths have been reported, bringing the death toll to 28,492, while 7,414 patients have been released after recovery, bringing the total number of cured and discharged to 2,334,783.
In this file photo taken on Feb 14, 2021, a man wearing a face mask shops for toilet rolls at a supermarket in Auckland, New Zealand, as the city went into a snap lockdown. (ZHAO GANG / XINHUA)
Vaccination will be required for all workers at businesses where customers need to show COVID-19 Vaccination Certificates in New Zealand, such as hospitality and close-contact businesses, as part of a range of measures to help protect workplaces and workers from the pandemic.
Non-vaccinated workers in roles requiring vaccination will be given a new four-week notice period to get vaccinated before employment can be terminated, Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety Michael Wood said on Tuesday.
Employers are to be required to provide paid time off for workers to get vaccinated and will need to keep records about workers' vaccination status, Wood said in a statement.
Meanwhile, New Zealand reported 79 new Delta variant cases of COVID-19 in the community on Tuesday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the country's community outbreak to 2,759.
A total of 75 of the new infections were recorded in the largest city of Auckland, four in nearby Waikato, according to the Ministry of Health.
Thirty-seven community cases are being treated in hospitals, including four in intensive care units or high dependency units.
New Zealand also reported one new case identified at the border among recent returnees. The case has remained in quarantine in Auckland.
A visitor wearing a face mask to help curb the spread of the coronavirus walks at an exhibition hall in Goyang, South Korea, Oct 20, 2021. (LEE JIN-man / AP）
South Korea unveiled on Monday a three-phase strategy to get back to normal from the coronavirus with all limits on gatherings and distancing gone by February, after it achieved a goal of vaccinating 70 percent of its people on the weekend.
The scheme begins next Monday and is due to run until Feb 20, by when all distancing curbs will be scrapped except for mask-wearing mandates, a government health panel said.
In the first phase of the plan, all operating-hour curbs on restaurants, cafes and other businesses will be dropped, though nightclubs will still have to close by midnight.
Visitors to high-risk venues, such as indoor gyms, saunas and karaoke bars will have to be fully vaccinated, while private gatherings in the capital, Seoul, and surrounding areas can include up to 10 people regardless of vaccination status.
Authorities will focus on weekly hospitalization and mortality rates rather than on daily new COVID-19 cases and people with only mild symptoms will be allowed to treat themselves at home.
Turkey on Monday confirmed 27,663 new COVID-19 cases, raising its tally of infections to 7,879,468, according to its Health Ministry.
The death toll from the virus in Turkey rose by 232 to 69,344, while 30,824 more people recovered in the last 24 hours.
A total of 351,152 tests were conducted over the past day, it said.
Thailand has detected its first local case of a Delta plus sublineage less than a week before a planned nationwide reopening for vaccinated international visitors.
One case of Delta subtype AY.1 was reported in the northern province of Kamphaeng Phet, while 18 cases of alpha plus, which has been spreading in neighboring Cambodia, have been reported in three provinces, Supakit Sirilak, director-general of the Department of Medical Sciences, said on Tuesday.
The local Delta plus case was found in a patient at a field hospital by the Armed Forces Research Institute of Medical Sciences, he said. Thailand has so far detected 19 Delta subtypes, and AY.30 is the most common with more than 1,300 cases, Health Ministry data showed.
Vietnam’s Health Minister Nguyen Thanh Long warned about the risks of another outbreak tied to large numbers of workers returning to rural provinces from southern virus-hit areas, according to a post on the health ministry’s website. Long instructed local officials to monitor returnees from Ho Chi Minh City and surrounding industrial provinces of Binh Duong, Dong Nai and Long An.
HONG KONG NEWS