Pentagon plans stronger US posture toward China, Russia

WASHINGTON, United States (AFP) — The US military will re-inforce deployments and bases directed at China and Russia, while maintaining forces in the Middle East adequate to deter Iran and jihadist groups, the Pentagon said Monday, referencing results of a review. The US Defense Department will be upgrading and expanding military facilities in Guam and Australia, underscoring its focus on China as the country’s leading defense rival, officials said. The details of the “global posture […]

S.Africa could top 10,000 daily Covid cases this week: epidemiologist

  by Sofia CHRISTENSEN Agence France Presse JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AFP) — The newly-discovered Omicron variant is likely to fuel a surge in South Africa’s coronavirus cases that could see daily infections treble this week, a top epidemiologist warned Monday. Health monitors reported over 2,800 new infections on Sunday, up from a daily average of 500 in the previous week and 275 the week before. “We can expect that higher transmissibility is likely and so […]

Japan to bar new foreign arrivals over virus variant: PM

TOKYO, Japan (AFP) — Japan will reinstate tough border measures, barring all new foreign arrivals over the Omicron Covid variant, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced Monday, just weeks after a softening of strict entry rules. “We will ban the (new) entry of foreigners from around the world starting from November 30th,” Kishida told reporters. Japan’s borders have been almost entirely shut to new overseas visitors for most of the pandemic, with even foreign residents at […]

Australia detects first Covid Omicron infections

SYDNEY, Australia (AFP) — Health officials said Sunday they had detected the Covid Omicron strain in Australia for the first time in two passengers who were tested after flying into Sydney from southern Africa. The eastern state of New South Wales’ health authority said it had conducted urgent genomic testing and confirmed the new strain was present in the two people who landed in Sydney on Saturday. Both passengers came from southern Africa and arrived […]

Singapore, Malaysia ease Covid travel curbs

SINGAPORE, Singapore (AFP) — Singapore and Malaysia eased coronavirus travel restrictions on one of the world’s busiest land borders Monday after nearly two years, allowing some vaccinated people to cross without quarantine. Before the pandemic, about 300,000 people used to commute across the border from Malaysia every day to the neighbouring city-state, to work in areas ranging from public transport to electronics manufacturing. But most travel was halted in March last year, leaving many who […]

G7 ministers meet as new Covid strain spreads around the globe

LONDON, United Kingdom (AFP) — G7 health ministers were to hold an emergency meeting Monday on the new Omicron Covid-19 strain spreading the globe and forcing border closures, as experts race to understand what the variant means for the fight to end the pandemic. The meeting was called by G7 chair Britain, which is among a steadily growing number of countries detecting cases of the heavily mutated new strain. Omicron, first discovered in southern Africa, […]

Botswana detects 19 cases of the new Covid variant

GABORONE, Botswana (AFP) –Botswana, the only African country outside South Africa to have reported Omicron cases, said Sunday it had detected 19 infections of the new Covid variant, including the first four declared last week. “As of today we have recorded a total of 19 cases of the variant,” Health Minister Edwin Dikoloti said at a press conference in the capital Gaborone. The southern African country had on Friday declared that the highly-mutated variant was […]

UPDATED: 7.5-magnitude earthquake shakes north Peru hours after 5.2 magnitude quake hit capital Lima

  LIMA, Peru (AFP) — A 7.5-magnitude earthquake struck northern Peru on Sunday, destroying buildings including a church tower, injuring at least 10 people and sending shock waves across the region. The strong quake hit at 5:52 am (1052 GMT) at a depth of 131 kilometers (81 miles), according to the Geophysical Institute of Peru. Civil Defense authorities said at least 10 people were injured, while 75 houses were destroyed. The quake also caused damage […]

Canada confirms first Covid Omicron infections

OTTAWA, Canada (AFP) — Canada said Sunday it has detected its first cases of the new Omicron strain of Covid, in two people who had traveled recently to Nigeria. Both patients are in isolation while public health authorities trace their possible contacts, said federal and Ontario provincial officials. “I was informed today by the Public Health Agency of Canada that testing and monitoring of Covid-19 cases has confirmed two cases of the Omicron variant of […]

Pandemic to cost global tourism $2.0 trillion in 2021: UN

by Mathieu GORSE / Valentin BONTEMPS MADRID, Spain (AFP) — The coronavirus pandemic will cost the global tourism sector $2.0 trillion in lost revenue in 2021, the UN’s tourism body said Monday, calling the sector’s recovery “fragile” and “slow”. The forecast from the Madrid-based World Tourism Organization comes as Europe is grappling with a surge in infections and as a new heavily mutated Covid-19 variant, dubbed Omicron, spreads across the globe. International tourist arrivals will […]

World races to contain new Covid variant

  by Joris FIORITI with Danny KEMP in The Hague and AFP bureaus Agence France Presse SCHIPHOL, Netherlands (AFP) — Several European nations on Saturday announced their first cases of a highly infectious new coronavirus strain, as governments worldwide began pulling down the shutters to contain the new Omicron variant. Britain, Germany and Italy confirmed their first cases of the new Covid-19 strain, while Dutch authorities quarantined 61 passengers from South Africa who tested positive […]

Germany confirms two cases of new Covid strain: regional ministry

BERLIN, Germany (AFP) — Germany on Saturday confirmed its first two cases of the new Omicron strain of Covid-19, in travellers who arrived at Munich airport from South Africa, regional officials said. “Two suspected cases of the new virus variant Omicron classified by the World Health Organization as a variant of concern have been confirmed in Bavaria,” the health ministry of the southern state said in a statement. The people, who arrived back in Germany […]