Australia and Oceania

New Zealand opposition picks ‘Crusher’ to challenge Ardern

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AFP) — New Zealand’s opposition has installed a conservative veteran nicknamed “Crusher” as leader as it regroups for the daunting task of trying to oust Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in a September general election. The center-right National Party selected Judith Collins in a caucus vote late Tuesday, hours after her predecessor Todd Muller unexpectedly quit, saying the pressure of the role was too much. Collins is best known to New Zealanders for […]

Australia locks down second city as global cases top 12 million

by Ryan Smith with Robin Millard in Geneva and AFP bureaus MELBOURNE, Australia (AFP) — Millions of people in Australia’s second-biggest city went into lockdown on Thursday to battle another coronavirus outbreak, as the number of infections worldwide surged past 12 million. Caseloads and death tolls have risen relentlessly in many of the world’s biggest nations, with the virus now claiming over 550,000 lives across the planet. In Melbourne, five million people began a new […]

Five million begin lockdown in Australian city

by Ryan Smith MELBOURNE, Australia (AFP) — Five million people in Australia’s second-biggest city began a new lockdown Thursday, returning to tough restrictions just weeks after they ended as Melbourne grapples with a resurgence of coronavirus cases. Residents have been told to stay at home for six weeks after other measures to contain a spike in COVID-19 failed to prevent the virus spreading. The state of Victoria has been effectively sealed off in an effort […]

Panic-buying returns as Melbourne braces for lengthy lockdown

by Tania Lee MELBOURNE, Australia (AFP) — Shoppers in Australia’s second-biggest city stripped supermarket shelves Wednesday as millions in Melbourne prepared for a return to virus lockdown, with warnings the new restrictions will cost the economy Aus$1 billion a week. Five million residents were ordered back into a six-week lockdown beginning midnight Wednesday into Thursday as soaring community transmission of the coronavirus brings more than 100 new cases daily. A further 134 infections were detected […]

Australia warns of ‘arbitrary detention’ in China

SYDNEY, Australia (AFP) — Australia warned its citizens Tuesday they could face “arbitrary detention” if they travel to China, the latest sign of growing tensions between the two nations. The foreign ministry issued the warning in updated travel advice, which also noted that Chinese authorities had detained foreigners for allegedly “endangering national security”. Australia has already told its citizens to avoid all international travel due to the coronavirus pandemic, and the updated advice did not […]

Australia locks down millions as US struggles to contain virus

  by AFP Bureaus Australia on Tuesday ordered millions of people locked down in its second-biggest city to combat a surge in coronavirus cases, as nations across the planet scrambled to stop the rampaging pandemic. While some countries are worried about second waves of infections, the worst-hit — the United States — was still “knee-deep” in its first, its top expert warned, with cases also surging in India and Brazil. Global COVID-19 cases have surged […]

Fiji reports first coronavirus case in 78 days

SUVA, Fiji (AFP) — Fiji’s 78-day run without coronavirus is over, with Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama confirming Monday a 66-year-old man tested positive after returning from India. It is the 19th case in the small South Pacific island nation, and more are now expected. “We’ve confirmed a border case of COVID-19 among a returning citizen while he was securely in the confines of government-funded quarantine,” Bainimarama said. All arrivals to Fiji have to undergo 14 […]

New Zealand says APEC 2021 to be virtual summit

WELLINGTON, United States (AFP) — The annual APEC summit of Asia-Pacific leaders will be virtual next year to avoid travel risks associated with the global coronavirus pandemic, 2021 hosts New Zealand said Tuesday. Foreign Minister Winston Peters said holding the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit online, instead of in Auckland, was a “pragmatic” response to the crisis. “COVID-19 has seriously impacted how we conduct international diplomacy,” he said in a statement. “Given the current global environment, […]

Quake shakes New Zealand’s South Island, no damage reported

WELLINGTON, United States (AFP) — A moderate 5.5-magnitude earthquake rattled New Zealand’s South Island Thursday but police said there were no reports of damage and the offshore tremor did not prompt a tsunami warning. The shallow quake struck at 10:20am (2220 GMT) just off the coast of the remote Milford Sound region at a depth of 14 kilometers (nine miles), the US Geological Survey said. New Zealand’s official GeoNet seismic monitoring service put the strength […]

Australia calls military in after virus surge

MELBOURNE, Australia (AFP) — Australia’s military was called in Wednesday to help tackle a coronavirus outbreak in Melbourne — a surge in infections that has rattled the country’s second-most populous city. Victoria has recorded double-digit increases in new daily cases for more than a week — mostly in the state capital Melbourne — representing a sizeable spike in cases in a country that has otherwise successfully curbed COVID-19. Health Minister Greg Hunt said the federal […]

Fears of second virus wave in Australia’s second city

MELBOURNE, Australia (AFP) — Australians were warned Monday to avoid travelling to Melbourne, as the country’s second biggest city tightened coronavirus restrictions amid fears of a second wave of the epidemic. Victoria state has recorded more than 110 cases in the past week — many of them in Melbourne — prompting leaders of other regions to warn against visiting the city’s six designated virus “hot spots”. The premier of neighbouring New South Wales state, Gladys […]

New Zealand cop dies in ‘devastating’ shooting: PM

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AFP) — An unarmed New Zealand police officer was fatally shot on an Auckland street Friday, the force’s first death in the line of duty for more than a decade, with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern describing the attack as “devastating”. Police said the officer and a colleague were carrying out a routine traffic stop involving a car carrying two people when one of them produced a rifle and opened fire. One officer […]