Customers eat outside in cafes in central Auckland, New Zealand, Dec 3, 2021. (ALEX BURTON / NZ HERALD VIA AP)
ANKARA / DHAKA / ISLAMABAD / NEW DELHI / SINGAPORE / SYDNEY / WELLINGTON - Aucklanders returned to nightclubs, cinemas and cafes on Friday as New Zealand's biggest city exited pandemic lockdown after more than 100 days.
Bars, nightclubs and restaurants in Auckland can open to guests with vaccine certificates but with a limit of 100 people and 1 meter social distancing
Retailers threw open their doors to vaccinated customers as the country ended lockdowns and moved into a new 'traffic light system' that rates regions as red, orange or green depending on their level of exposure to COVID-19 and vaccination rates.
Auckland, the epicentre of the country's Delta outbreak, will start at red, making face masks mandatory and putting limits on gatherings at public places.
Bars, nightclubs and restaurants can open to guests with vaccine certificates but with a limit of 100 people and 1 meter social distancing. Outdoor events are allowed.
Auckland's domestic border curbs are still in place and will ease on Dec 15 allowing residents to travel across the country for Christmas and the summer break.
With an average 150 new Delta cases reported each week, mostly in Auckland, its reopening has raised concerns that COVID-19 will spread more rapidly across the country and pose risks to the marginalised Maori community.
But for now, businesses are cheering the move.
Australia’s New South Wales state is investigating whether its ninth case of the omicron variant was caused by community transmission, Health Minister Brad Hazzard said Friday.
“NSW Health is concerned the virus may have been acquired in the community as the case has no overseas travel history or links to people with overseas travel history,” the department said in an update on Twitter.
Australia now has nine confirmed cases of the Omicron variant, eight in NSW. Although some states have tightened domestic border controls, the federal government is hoping to avoid a return to stop-start lockdowns.
Australia on Friday reported its first community transmission of the new Omicron coronavirus variant, but authorities held steady on a plan to reopen the economy amid hopes it would prove to be milder than previous strains.
Australia now has nine confirmed cases of the Omicron variant, eight in New South Wales
The new case, a school student from Sydney, was the first confirmed Omicron infection of a person who had not travelled overseas, a sign the variant was now in the community, authorities in New South Wales state said.
Asked if the federal government would stop targeting arrivals from southern Africa, now that the new variant was no longer limited to people who had been there, Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said "we will continue to review the medical advice, but we follow it because it has kept Australia safe."
Bangladesh's COVID-19 vaccination drive has achieved a historic milestone of administering more than 100 million vaccine doses.
According to the figure released Thursday by the Directorate General of Health Services under the Ministry of Health, a total of 100,002,123 vaccine doses were administered as of Wednesday, including 73,172,360 Chinese vaccine doses.
It took Bangladesh about 10 months to reach the milestone of administering more than 100 million vaccine doses.
A woman returns after getting inoculated as other line up to register their names to receive COVID-19 vaccine in Hyderabad, India, Dec 2, 2021. (MAHESH KUMAR A. / AP)
The Indian government on Thursday said two COVID-19 cases of the Omicron variant have been detected in India.
The cases were reported in the southwestern state of Karnataka.
All contacts of the two patients, both males aged 66 and 46, have been traced, Lav Agarwal, a senior health ministry official said at a press briefing.
Officials said strict measures for international travellers have been implemented to check the spread of the new coronavirus strain.
A nurse prepares a dose of the Pfizer vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) for a secondary school student at a vaccine center in Shah Alam, Malaysia, Sept 20, 2021. (VINCENT THIAN / AP)
Malaysia reported its first case of Omicron variant infection as the new coronavirus strain spreads across the world.
The variant was identified in a 19-year-old woman who had arrived from South Africa via Singapore on Nov 19, Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said in a briefing on Friday. She is a student at a private university in Ipoh, Perak, and has completed her COVID vaccination, he said.
The student, who was asymptomatic, completed her quarantine on Nov 29, and all her close contacts have been tested and found negative, Khairy said.
Malaysia will maintain its travel lane with Singapore for now, he said.
Malaysia on Wednesday added Malawi to its temporary travel ban on African countries and mandated additional COVID testing for those participating in its travel lane with Singapore.
Pakistani experts and officials believed that the emergence of Omicron further underlined the importance of nationwide vigorous vaccination drive and adherence to basic preventative measures of wearing masks and maintaining social distance to fight against Omicron that the World Health Organization named a "variant of concern."
Asad Umar, chairman of the National Command and Operation Center which oversees the country's response to the pandemic, earlier this week urged the Pakistani people to get fully vaccinated in order to protect themselves from the new variant.
Although Omicron has not been detected in the country, the Pakistani government has taken a number of initiatives, such as setting up dozens of call centers across the country to persuade people to get the second dose of vaccine, reviving contact-tracing system, increasing the number of daily tests, door-to-door vaccination drive and enhanced precautionary measures at airports.
On Saturday, the NCOC announced to ban direct or indirect inbound travel from some countries and regions including South Africa, Botswana and Namibia, among others, with immediate effect to stop the spread of Omicron.
The Sindh government also limited the attendance of people in hotels, restaurants and wedding halls, according to the notification, adding that only vaccinated individuals will be allowed to take part in activities related to tourism, board a flight, and enter parks.
In this May 19, 2021, file photo, commuters wear face masks and practice social distancing to help reduce the spread of the coronavirus while onboard a subway in Singapore. (ZEN SOO / FILE / AP)
The Philippines is considering stretching the shelf life of some COVID-19 vaccines, an official said, after thousands of AstraZeneca Plc shots were reported to have been unused past their original expiry dates.
The nation may follow Canada in extending the expiration dates of some COVID-19 shots, Health Undersecretary Myrna Cabotaje said in a televised briefing on Friday. Earlier this year, Health Canada lengthened the shelf life of AstraZeneca vaccines by a month, citing scientific evidence supporting the move.
The Philippines — which lags most of Southeast Asia in inoculations — administered about 8 million shots at its three-day vaccine drive earlier this week, falling short of a target of 9 million jabs. The government plans to hold another mass vaccination drive mid-December.
Singapore reported 1,101 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, the Ministry of Health said.
Of the new cases, 1,050 were in the community, 41 were in migrant worker dormitories and 10 were imported cases, bringing the total tally in the country to 267,150.
The ministry also said on Thursday that it has detected two imported COVID-19 cases who have tested preliminarily positive for the Omicron variant on Dec 2. Both cases were isolated upon arrival in Singapore on Dec 1, and had not interacted in the community. There is currently no evidence of any community transmission from these cases.
The cases are currently recovering in isolation wards at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases. Both are fully vaccinated, and have mild symptoms of cough and scratchy throat, it added.
The South Korean prime minister on Friday urged the country to work from home and not move around too much. A new restriction announced is no more than six people can gather, down from 10 currently, in the greater Seoul area. High-risk businesses such as nightclubs and bars will remain open.
The measured step parallels moves made by other Asian nations trying to avoid returning to days of lockdowns and containment rules that hampered their economies and frustrated the public — despite resurgence of the virus and the emergence of the omicron variant.
Turkey on Thursday reported 21,747 new COVID-19 cases, raising its tally of infections to 8,839,891, according to its health ministry.
The death toll from the virus in Turkey rose by 192 to 77,230, while 22,284 more people recovered in the last 24 hours.
Turkey started mass COVID-19 vaccination on Jan 14 after the authorities approved the emergency use of the Chinese Sinovac vaccine.
More than 56.31 million people received their first doses of vaccines, while over 50.55 million had their second doses. Turkey has so far administered over 120.64 million doses including third booster jabs.
HONG KONG NEWS