Australia and Oceania

Nauru vaccinates all its adults in ‘world record’ effort

KOROR, Palau(AFP) — The tiny Pacific nation of Nauru has congratulated itself for a “world record” Covid-19 vaccination drive which resulted in all its adult population receiving their first jab. The remote island nation, one of the few places in the world to remain virus-free, said the four-week vaccination campaign had exceeded expectations. It said 7,392 people received the first dose, or 108 percent of the estimated adult population, with foreigners included in the figure. […]

Australia aims to vaccinate all adults by year’s end

  by Andrew BEATTY Agence France Presse CANBERRA, Australia (AFP) — Australia set a new target of vaccinating all willing adults by the end of 2021 on Tuesday, hoping to speed a glacial vaccine roll-out that threatens the country’s pandemic success story. Treasurer Josh Frydenberg — unveiling a free-spending, crisis-tinged budget — said the continuation of the country’s “roaring” economic recovery depended on “effective suppression of the virus”. To that end, he said, the conservative […]

Five stabbed in New Zealand knife attack, terror link ruled out

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AFP) — A knife-wielding attacker stabbed five people in a New Zealand supermarket Monday, critically injuring three, but Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said it appeared the rampage was not terror related. Police said the attack — highly unusual in the normally peaceful South Pacific nation — occurred at a Countdown supermarket in central Dunedin at 2:30pm (0230GMT) and a man had been taken into custody. Witnesses told local media a man carrying […]

Australia to end ban on citizens returning from India

SYDNEY, Australia (AFP) — Australia will not extend a controversial ban on citizens returning from Covid-hit India, the prime minister said Friday following widespread public outrage. Scott Morrison this week barred all travel from India, fearing a large number of Covid-positive arrivals would overwhelm Australia’s already strained quarantine facilities. The move stranded an estimated 9,000 Australian citizens and threatened them with large fines and jail time if they tried to dodge the ban and return […]

Australia borders could be shut until late 2022: minister

SYDNEY, Australia (AFP) — Australia is likely to remain shut to visitors until late 2022, the country’s trade and tourism minister said Friday, as another global coronavirus surge smashed hopes of a quick reopening. Minister Dan Tehan said a wave of cases on the Indian sub-continent showed Australia’s near blanket ban on arrivals was still essential to keep the country Covid-free. Since March 20, 2020, Australians have been barred from travelling overseas and a hard-to-get […]

Sydney rushes to trace first local Covid cases in a month

SYDNEY, Australia (AFP) — Sydney’s first local Covid-19 cases in more than a month left health authorities scrambling to trace their origins on Thursday, but they stopped short of ordering Australia’s most populous city into lockdown. A man in his 50s and his wife have tested positive for the virus, triggering warnings for a string of locations around the city that they visited while believed to be contagious. They are Sydney’s first recorded cases of […]

Australian court to examine contentious India travel ban

SYDNEY, Australia (AFP) — An Australian court on Wednesday agreed to hear a challenge to the country’s controversial ban on citizens returning home from coronavirus-hit India. A federal court said it would urgently hear a case brought by a 73-year-old man living in Bangalore who wishes to return. Prime Minister Scott Morrison this week banned arrivals from India, which is recording hundreds of thousands of new coronavirus infections each day. Under the measures, Australian citizens […]

Virus-hit Papua New Guinea starts vaccine roll-out

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (AFP) — Papua New Guinea’s prime minister launched a nationwide coronavirus vaccine roll-out Tuesday, hoping to quell a runaway outbreak and counter widespread public hesitancy about jabs. James Marape said a batch of 100,000 vaccines had arrived in Papua New Guinea and would be distributed countrywide, as he urged sceptical health workers and the general public to get vaccinated. “We want to reduce and prevent deaths of our people,” he […]

Ardern says New Zealand not dodging differences with China

by Neil SANDS WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AFP) — New Zealand’s differences with China on human rights are becoming “harder to reconcile”, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Monday, after Wellington faced criticism for failing to challenge its largest trading partner. Ardern’s government has taken flak over its meek criticisms of China’s rights record, leading to accusations New Zealand is a weak link in the US-led Five Eyes intelligence network. In a speech at a China Business […]

Controlled bushfire cloaks Sydney in hazardous smoke

SYDNEY, Australia (AFP) — Sydney was enveloped in a thick bank of hazardous bushfire smoke Monday, forcing authorities in Australia’s largest city to scale back controlled forest burning nearby. Ferries were cancelled and the city’s five million residents were told to stay indoors if necessary, as air pollution levels spiked. Levels of hazardous PM 2.5 pollution — particles that can seep deep into the lungs and cause respiratory illnesses — were among the worst in […]

Australia to upgrade military bases with eye on Pacific tensions

SYDNEY, Australia (AFP) — Australia announced Wednesday it would upgrade military bases in its far north and expand joint drills with US forces after warnings about the “drums of war” beating in the Pacific region. Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a plan worth more than half a billion US dollars to revamp four military training facilities in the remote north over the next five years. The package of upgrades is more extensive and more costly […]

Fiji fears virus ‘tsunami’ after outbreak found to be Indian variant

SUVA, Fiji (AFP) — A Covid-19 outbreak that forced Fiji’s capital into lockdown after the island nation avoided transmission for a year was confirmed as the Indian variant Tuesday, with health officials saying they feared a “tsunami” of cases. The Pacific country had largely dodged community transmission before a cluster emerged this month centred on a quarantine facility in Nadi, the city that is home to Fiji’s international airport. The permanent secretary for health and […]