Australia and Oceania

Pacific’s Micronesia records first Covid-19 case

KOROR, Palau (AFP) — The remote Pacific nation of Micronesia recorded its first case of Covid-19 on Monday, ending its run as one of the few places on Earth without the coronavirus. President David Panuelo acknowledged the development was “alarming” for the country’s 100,000 inhabitants but said the case had been contained at the border. “For this reason, citizens across the nation should remain calm,” he said in a televised address. “Do not panic because […]

UK virus strain triggers lockdown in Australia’s Brisbane

BRISBANE, Australia (AFP) — The Australian city of Brisbane has called a snap three-day lockdown after a worker at a quarantine hotel contracted the highly infectious UK strain of Covid-19. From Friday evening, more than two million residents in the Greater Brisbane area would have to stay at home, authorities said. “If we are going to stop the spread of this infectious strain, this UK strain, we must act immediately,” Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk told […]

Australia vows not to rush vaccine rollout, citing UK ‘problems’

SYDNEY, Australia (AFP) — Under mounting pressure to speed up coronavirus vaccinations, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Tuesday said he would not take “unnecessary risks” and emulate Britain’s emergency drug approval. While vaccinations are already well underway in many countries, Australia’s pharmaceutical authority is not expected to rule on candidate drugs for around another month, and is aiming to administer the first doses by the end of March. Pressed about that seemingly sluggish timetable, […]

Australian ‘lives and homes’ at risk as fire nears Perth

PERTH, Australia (AFP) — An out-of-control bushfire threatened lives and homes in Australia’s west coast city of Perth Monday, with locals told to shelter in place from toxic fumes. Residents in several suburbs south of Perth have been warned to be on watch as around 150 firefighters battled a blaze which has razed more than 230 hectares since Saturday. The local emergency department downgraded the fire from earlier “emergency” level, but warned there was still […]

Sydney bans New Year crowds as Australian virus cluster grows

SYDNEY, Australia (AFP) — Plans to let thousands of frontline workers ring in the new year around Sydney Harbour were ditched Monday as authorities work to suppress a growing cluster of virus cases in Australia’s most populous city. Ordinarily, hundreds of thousands of eager partiers flock to vantage points for the midnight fireworks launched from the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Although allowing the usual hordes of revellers had been ruled out this year, officials had plans […]

Deadly Fiji super cyclone sparks disease fears

SUVA, Fiji (AFP) — Disease threatens to worsen an already desperate situation in Fiji, an official warned Sunday, where thousands of lives have been devastated in the wake of the deadly super cyclone Yasa. Agencies rushed food and clean water to areas where the storm smashed into the northern islands of the South Pacific nation on Thursday night, forcing more than 23,000 people to flee their homes. Four people died and entire villages were wiped […]

Parts of Sydney locked down as Australia battles growing cluster

  SYDNEY, Australia (AFP) — Parts of Sydney were heading into a fresh lockdown on Saturday as officials in Australia’s most populous city said they hoped the restrictions would be enough to control a growing outbreak in time for Christmas. As a cluster of cases on the city’s northern beaches grew to 38, residents were ordered to stay at home from late Saturday until midnight on Wednesday, other than for essential reasons. “We’re hoping that […]

‘Villages destroyed’ as super cyclone hits Fiji

SUVA, Fiji (AFP) — Super cyclone Yasa flattened entire villages as it tore through Fiji, but there were no initial reports of casualties, aid agencies in the Pacific island nation said Friday. The top-of-the-scale Category Five storm made landfall on Fiji’s second-largest island Vanua Levu late Thursday, packing winds gusts of up to 345 kilometers an hour (210 miles an hour). The eye of the slow-moving cyclone took about four hours to gouge its way […]

Fijians warned of flooding, huge waves as super storm bears down

by Leon LORD SUVA, Fiji (AFP) — Fijians were warned Thursday that no part of the Pacific island nation would escape the wrath of approaching super cyclone Yasa, expected to bring flash floods, huge waves and widespread destruction. Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama blamed the unfolding emergency on climate change and told islanders that the storm could be worse than a cyclone four years ago that killed dozens. The top-of-the-scale category five storm continued to gather […]

Illegal Chinese fishing vessel detained in Palau

KOROR, Palau (AFP) — An illegal Chinese fishing vessel and its 28 crew have been detained in Palau, authorities said, creating a delicate diplomatic situation for the tiny Pacific nation, which is allied with Beijing’s rival Taiwan. The boat was intercepted by a patrol boat at Helen Reef, in Palau’s territorial waters, and escorted to the main island of Koror, the Division of Marine Law and Enforcement (DMLE) said. “They did have sea cucumber on […]

Pacific’s Samoa records first case of coronavirus

APIA, Samoa (AFP) — Samoa announced its first case of Covid-19 on Thursday, as the coronavirus pandemic continued to spread to previously untouched Pacific island nations. Prime Minister Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi called for calm in the nation of 200,000 after confirming a man who flew into the country last Friday tested positive while in managed isolation. “We now have one case and will be added to the countries of the world that have […]

Pacific’s Vanuatu records first Covid-19 case

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AFP) — Vanuatu has recorded its first Covid-19 case, health officials announced Wednesday, ending the Pacific island nation’s status as one of the few countries in the world to remain virus-free. The health department said a 23-year-old man who had recently returned from the United States was confirmed to have the virus on Tuesday after being tested while in quarantine. “A case detected in quarantine is considered a border case and not […]