Australia and Oceania

Melbourne eases months-long Covid lockdown restrictions

MELBOURNE, Australia (AFP) — One of the world’s most locked-down cities will reopen late Thursday, with Melbourne residents hoping this sixth bout of stay-at-home restrictions will be their last. Five million people in Australia’s second-biggest city have endured lockdowns totalling more than 260 days since the beginning of the pandemic. But now that 70 percent of eligible people in Melbourne and surrounding Victoria state are fully vaccinated, restrictions that began on August 5 will be […]

Grapefruit-sized hailstones hit Australian town

BRISBANE, Australia (AFP) — A tropical north Australian town has been pounded by “record-breaking” hailstones the size of mangoes or grapefruit, with some shattering car windscreens. The giant hailstones measured more than 16 centimetres (six inches) in diameter, Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology said Wednesday. They hit Yalboroo when a storm swept through the small town about 1,000 kilometres (621 miles) north of Brisbane late Tuesday. Social media images showed the icy monsters spilling out of […]

New Zealand Covid cases hit record despite vaccination push

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AFP) — New Zealand recorded its highest number of daily coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic on Tuesday as a Delta-variant outbreak that dashed the nation’s “Covid Zero” hopes showed no signs of easing. Health authorities announced 94 new virus cases, exceeding the previous daily record of 89 set in April last year during the first wave of Covid-19 infections. While case numbers remain low by most international standards, they […]

Sydney to scrap quarantine, readies to welcome overseas visitors

by Andrew BEATTY SYDNEY, Australia (AFP) — Sydney will scrap all quarantine requirements for travellers from next month, officials said Friday, an abrupt step toward reopening Australia’s long-shuttered borders. In a surprise announcement, Premier Dominic Perrottet of New South Wales said that from November 1 vaccinated travellers would be allowed to enter the state without quarantine of any kind. “For double vaccinated people around the world, Sydney, New South Wales, is open for business,” Perrottet […]

Palau nears 100 percent Covid vaccination

KOROR, Palau (AFP) — The tiny Pacific nation of Palau has emerged as one of the world’s most vaccinated places with more than 99 percent of the eligible population fully protected against Covid-19, according to data released Thursday. In a population of about 18,000, almost 15,000 people have been fully vaccinated, according to the country’s ministry of health and human services. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said that meant […]

New Zealand health workers, teachers told ‘no jab, no job’

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AFP) — New Zealand announced Monday a sweeping “no jab, no job” policy for most healthcare workers and teachers to prevent the spread of Covid-19. “We can’t leave anything to chance so that’s why we are making it mandatory,” said Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins, who is also the education minister. Doctors, nurses and other frontline health workers must be double-jabbed by December 1 while everyone working in the education sector who […]

Sydney lockdown ends after 106 days

by Andrew BEATTY SYDNEY, Australia (AFP) — Elated Sydneysiders were emerging from almost four months of “blood, sweat and no beers” early Monday as a long coronavirus lockdown was lifted in Australia’s largest city. Sydney’s more than five million residents have been subjected to a 106-day lockdown, designed to limit the march of the highly transmissible Delta variant. With new infections now falling — New South Wales state recorded 477 cases on Sunday — and […]

Sydney readies for ‘freedom day’ after long virus lockdown

by Andrew BEATTY SYDNEY, Australia (AFP) — Australia’s largest city will emerge from a 106-day lockdown on Monday, as Sydney authorities confirmed coronavirus vaccination targets had been met. Stay-at-home orders will be lifted for the Harbour City’s five-million-plus people now that 70 percent of state residents over 16 have been double jabbed. “The light at the end of the tunnel is now very, very close,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Thursday, hailing the reopening announcement. […]

Australian firm recalls US Covid tests over false positives

  BRISBANE, Australia (AFP) — Australian medical tech manufacturer Ellume said it had recalled almost 200,000 at-home Covid-19 tests in the United States over an increased chance of false positives. Ellume’s rapid at-home coronavirus test last year became the first to receive emergency use authorisation in the US. The US Food and Drug Administration issued an alert Tuesday over the “potential for false positive results with certain lots of the Ellume COVID-19 Home Test, due […]

New Zealand drops ‘Covid zero’ goal after Delta outbreak

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AFP) — Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern admitted Monday that New Zealand’s widely praised “Covid zero” strategy had failed to halt a stubborn outbreak in Auckland and said a new approach was needed. The hardline elimination policy had largely protected the country from the pandemic, with residents enjoying a near-normal domestic life alongside tight restrictions on international borders. But an August outbreak prompted a seven-week lockdown in its main population centre that has […]

New Zealand tightens travel rules as Covid spreads

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AFP) — New Zealand announced Sunday tighter border restrictions, as new cases of Covid-19 emerged in areas previously free of the coronavirus. “We are introducing the requirement for air travellers aged 17 and over, who are not New Zealand citizens, to be fully vaccinated to enter New Zealand,” Covid-19 response minister Christ Hipkins said. The national flag carrier Air New Zealand also announced it was introducing a “no jab, no fly” policy […]

Deep focus magnitude 7.3 quake hits Vanuatu region – USGS

Quake occurred at a depth of 535.8 kilometers, causing minimal surface waves; no tsunami warning issued   (Eagle News) — A magnitude 7.3 quake struck the Vanuatu region on Saturday, Oct. 2, occuring at a depth of 535.8 kilometers. The US Geological Survey (USGS) said the quake occured at 6:29 UTC time or 2:29 p.m. Philippine time. Because it occured deep into the earth, it was not felt that much. The USGS said it was […]