Australia ends strict Covid-19 isolation rule

Australia has said it will end mandatory Covid-19 isolation requirements from next month. Currently anyone who tests positive to the virus must isolate for five days, but that will end from 14 October. At times nicknamed “Fortress Australia”, the country has had some of the strictest restrictions in the world since the pandemic began. Australia’s chief medical officer, Paul Kelly, said the “emergency phase” of its response was probably over. But Prof Kelly said the decision “does not in any way suggest that the pandemic is finished”. Mandatory isolation had been one of the few restrictions remaining. Australia continues to … Continue reading Australia ends strict Covid-19 isolation rule

LOL: Double-masked flautists in ad spark ridicule

A Hong Kong video showing schoolchildren wearing double masks while performing the flute has drawn ridicule on social media. The ad, released by Hong Kong’s Education Bureau, was posted ahead of China’s National Day on 1 October. It also comes after Hong Kong earlier announced a further extension in Covid-19 restrictions, including masking. It is one of the few remaining cities that have retained strict Covid-19 measures since the pandemic struck. The video, titled “Young China Says”, which is centred around Hong Kong’s youth, shows various schoolchildren performing a variety of artistic activities, including singing, calligraphy, martial arts and musical … Continue reading LOL: Double-masked flautists in ad spark ridicule

Hong Kong to end controversial hotel quarantine policy

Hong Kong’s government says that from Monday people arriving in Hong Kong will no longer have to go into mandatory hotel quarantine. Travellers will also no longer have to show a negative Covid-19 test before boarding a plane to Hong Kong. Instead they will monitor themselves for possible infection for three days. The news sparked a rush for flight tickets to Hong Kong, with the Cathay Pacific website operating a queuing system to book. Hong Kong has had some of the world’s toughest rules as it follows China’s zero Covid-19 policies. So its departure from what the mainland is doing … Continue reading Hong Kong to end controversial hotel quarantine policy

US charges dozens with $250m pandemic relief fraud

US prosecutors have charged 47 people in the largest Covid-19 relief fraud scheme alleged to date. The suspects are accused of stealing $250m (¬£220m) from a government aid programme that was supposed to feed children in need during the pandemic. They allegedly spent the spoils on properties, cars and luxury goods. A Minnesota non-profit organisation, Feeding Our Future, is accused of orchestrating the plot. Founder Aimee Bock denies any wrongdoing. A lawyer for Ms Bock said “We have maintained our innocence from the first day.” He said the indictment was “merely the beginning of the criminal process” and represented a … Continue reading US charges dozens with $250m pandemic relief fraud

US President Joe Biden says Covid-19 pandemic is over

President Joe Biden has declared the pandemic over in the US, even as the number of Americans who have died from Covid-19 continues to rise. Mr Biden said that while “we still have a problem”, the situation is rapidly improving. Statistics show that over 400 Americans on average are dying from the virus each day. The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) said last week that the end of the pandemic is “in sight”. In an interview with CBS programme 60 Minutes aired on Sunday, Mr Biden said that the US is still doing “a lot of work” to … Continue reading US President Joe Biden says Covid-19 pandemic is over

Tragic: Quarantine bus crash kills 27 and injures 20

A bus carrying infected people to a Covid-19 quarantine facility in China has crashed, killing 27 of those on board. The coach overturned on a motorway in the south-western province of Guizhou. Another 20 people were injured. Only two people have died from Covid-19 in Guizhou province since the pandemic struck almost three years ago. The accident sparked anger online from those critical of Beijing’s “zero-Covid” policy. The strict policy involves mass testing and tracking, those who test positive and their close contacts have to isolate at home or in a quarantine facility. Just a handful of cases can spark … Continue reading Tragic: Quarantine bus crash kills 27 and injures 20

Japan could lift cap on foreign tourists to lift economy

Japanese officials may further relax border controls for foreign travellers as a way to boost its economy, local reports say. Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Seiji Kihara told local TV a weak yen was “most effective in attracting inbound tourism”. The yen slid to its lowest point against the US dollar in 24 years last week, dropping as much as 1.7 percent. He said a cap on daily entries could be lifted in the “not so distant future”. Japan has barred most foreign visitors for the last two years amid measures to slow the spread of Covid-19. Last year, overseas visitors … Continue reading Japan could lift cap on foreign tourists to lift economy

New York state ends 28-month mask mandate on public transport

New York state is ending a 28-month-old Covid-19 mandate requiring masks on public transport, Governor Kathy Hochul says. Masks will also no longer be required in airports and ride-share vehicles, she added. The state introduced the mandate in April 2020 as the virus was spreading throughout New York City. But now wearing masks will be optional, the governor said, citing recent guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “We have to restore some normalcy to our lives,” Ms Hochul said. “Masks are encouraged but optional.” She added that New York is in a far stronger position as … Continue reading New York state ends 28-month mask mandate on public transport

China approves inhaled Covid vaccine

China has become the first country to approve an inhaled Covid-19 vaccine. Made by CanSino, it has similar ingredients to its injected vaccine, using a harmless adenovirus as a carrier for the genetic code that teaches the body how to fight Covid-19. Inhaled as a fine mist, Convidecia Air can provide good protection¬†after just one breath, the company says. Other researchers, including teams in the UK and the US, have been investigating nasal spray vaccines. Scientists say these may give added immunity in the lining of the nose and upper airways, where Covid typically enters the body. The National Medical … Continue reading China approves inhaled Covid vaccine

Chinese city of Chengdu in lockdown after outbreak

Chengdu has become the latest Chinese city to be locked down as Beijing continues to pursue its controversial “zero-Covid” policy. Around 21 million people have been ordered to stay indoors, with just one person per household allowed out for essential shopping. On Thursday, the city recorded 157 new infections, including 51 asymptomatic. China’s Covid-19 policies require cities to enter strict lockdowns – even if just a handful of cases are reported. However, Beijing’s drive to ensure “zero Covid” has been accused of stifling economic growth, and has prompted rare public dissent from citizens. Chengdu’s residents, asked to stay at home … Continue reading Chinese city of Chengdu in lockdown after outbreak

The Marshall Islands records surging cases of Covid-19

Covid-19 infection numbers have surged in the Marshall Islands, just days after the Pacific nation recorded its first local spread of the virus. In the capital city of Majuro, total cases have nearly doubled since Friday. These latest figures mean one in ten of the city’s residents have been infected in recent days. On Sunday, Health Secretary Jack Niedenthal said about 75% of tests across the country were returning positive results. A number of Pacific islands had success with keeping coronavirus at bay early in the pandemic through stringent restrictions. The Marshall Islands, which has a population of 59,000, was … Continue reading The Marshall Islands records surging cases of Covid-19

New Zealand fully reopens borders after long pandemic closure

New Zealand’s borders are fully open for the first time since March 2020, when they shut in an effort to keep out Covid-19. Immigration authorities will now begin accepting visitors with visas and those on student visas again. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called it an “enormous moment”, adding it was part of a “cautious process”. Most visitors will still need to be fully vaccinated, but there are no quarantine requirements. The country’s maritime border has also reopened, with cruise ships and foreign recreational yachts now allowed to dock. New Zealand first announced a phased reopening plan in February. It allowed … Continue reading New Zealand fully reopens borders after long pandemic closure