Published: 11:56, July 16, 2022 | Updated: 17:11, July 16, 2022
Australia reinstates quarantine pay amid fresh Omicron wave
By Agencies

A health worker speaks to arrivals at a COVID-19 vaccination hub at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre in Brisbane on Aug 17, 2021. (PATRICK HAMILTON / AFP)

HANOI / MANILA / SINGAPORE / KUALA LUMPUR / SYDNEY / WELLINGTON / NEW DELHI - Australia will reinstate support payments for casual workers who have to quarantine due to COVID-19, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said on Saturday, as a fresh wave of Omicron-driven infections sweeps the country.

Australia is battling a major virus outbreak driven by the highly transmissible new Omicron subvariants, BA.4 and BA.5, with authorities warning it could lead to more people ending up in hospitals and further straining the health system.

"I want to make sure that people aren't left behind, that vulnerable people are looked after," Albanese told reporters after a snap meeting with state leaders.

"No one (should be) faced with the unenviable choice of not being able to isolate properly without losing an income and without being put in a situation that is very difficult."

Albanese said the leave payments, that ended on June 30 and entitled workers to get up to A$750 ($510) for each seven-day quarantine period, will be restored and extended until Sept 30.

The extension will cost taxpayers just under A$800 million, to be shared equally between the federal and state governments, Albanese said. People can apply from July 20.

As of the end of last year, the government had spent almost A$13 billion ($8.8 billion) on 2.4 million employees in pandemic payments, according to official data, while total federal support since the pandemic began is estimated to be over A$300 billion.

Authorities urged people to wear masks indoors and get their booster shots soon as they brace for "millions" of new cases over the coming weeks with Australia confronting a tough winter amid the co-circulation of both COVID-19 and the flu virus.

The current wave is likely to peak in August, Albanese said, adding health officials have likened the infection rate of the new variants to that of measles.


India on Saturday recorded over 20,000 new cases of COVID-19 for the third straight day, officials said.

According to federal health ministry data released on Saturday morning, 20,044 new cases of COVID-19 were reported during the past 24 hours, taking the total tally to 43,730,071.

With the new infections, India's active caseload stands currently at 140,760.

The South Asian country also logged 56 deaths from the pandemic during the cited period, bringing the death toll to 525,660 since the beginning of the pandemic.


Malaysia reported 5,230 new COVID-19 infections as of midnight Friday, bringing the national total to 4,613,998, according to the health ministry.

There are 11 new imported cases, with 5,219 cases being local transmissions, data released on the ministry's website showed.

Eight new deaths have been reported, pushing the death toll to 35,844.

New Zealand

New Zealand reported 9,241 new community cases of COVID-19 on Saturday, said the Ministry of Health in a statement.

The seven-day rolling average of community case numbers of COVID-19 in New Zealand now sits at 9,984. The ministry also reported 761 current hospitalizations, including 15 cases in ICU or HDU, and 29 deaths from COVID-19 on Saturday.

In addition, there were 308 new cases that have recently traveled overseas.

In combatting the recent surge of case numbers, the ministry has widened the access criteria of the three antiviral treatments for COVID-19 to include a wider group of people at risk of severe illness from COVID-19 infection.

A child receives the Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 5-11 as a performer dressed as superhero character Spider-Man looks on at a gym in San Juan City, suburban Manila on Feb 7, 2022. (TED ALJIBE / AFP)


The Philippines' Department of Health (DOH) reported 2,588 new COVID-19 infections on Friday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the Southeast Asian country to 3,727,970.

The DOH data showed "a continuous increase" in the number of infections across the archipelago, averaging over 1,700 cases daily or 40 percent higher than in previous week.

Metro Manila topped the regions with over 5,000 new cases reported from July 8 to 14, followed by its two adjacent areas.

"Most areas show a sharp increase in cases with Metro Manila showing the steepest increase, now almost at 750 cases per day," DOH officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a report.

Vergeire said that the hospitalization rate remains at low risk in all regions, with severe and critical hospital admissions at less than 1 percent.


Singapore reported 10,526 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, bringing the total tally to 1,579,946.

Of the new cases, 9,826 were local transmissions and 700 were imported cases. Among the local cases, 796 cases were detected through PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests and 9,030 through ART (antigen rapid test) tests, according to statistics released by the Ministry of Health.

Three more deaths were reported due to the COVID-19 infection, bringing the death toll to 1,447, the ministry said.

Passengers wait for transportation outside the arrival hall of Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi on March 15, 2022, as Vietnam announced the return of a visa exemption policy for 13 countries in an effort to kickstart its tourism sector. (NHAC NGUYEN / AFP)


Vietnam recorded 956 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, up by 24 from Thursday, according to its Ministry of Health.

The newly reported infections brought the total tally to 10,759,145. The country reported no new deaths from the pandemic on Friday, with the total fatalities staying at 43,090.

As of Friday, there are 37 severe cases in need of assisted breathing in the Southeast Asian country, according to the ministry.