A health worker prepares a dose of Sinovac's COVID-19 vaccine during a vaccination drive at the Baiturrahman grand mosque in Banda Aceh on Sept 7, 2021. (CHAIDEER MAHYUDDIN / AFP)
MELBOURNE / JERUSALEM / PHNOM PENH / JAKARTA – Indonesia added 19 fatalities in the 24 hours through midday Sunday, the fewest since May 25, 2020.
There were 747 confirmed infections over the same time period, near the 16-month low of 620 reached on Oct 11.
Indonesia’s outbreak has eased in recent weeks, allowing the government lift movement and border restrictions further, including reopening tourist hot spot Bali to 19 countries
Indonesia’s outbreak has eased in recent weeks, allowing the government lift movement and border restrictions further, including reopening tourist hot spot Bali to 19 countries.
According to the Health Ministry, 1,086 more people were discharged from hospitals, bringing the total number of patients recovering from COVID-19 to 4,073,418.
To date, at least 107.50 million people in Indonesia have taken their first doses of the COVID-19 vaccines, 62.73 million have been fully vaccinated, and some 1.07 million Indonesians have received their third doses, the ministry added.
The Indonesian government aims to vaccinate 208.2 million people in the country.
Melbourne, which has spent more time under COVID-19 lockdowns than any other city in the world, is set to lift its stay-at-home orders this week, officials said on Sunday.
By Friday, when some curbs will be lifted, the Australian city of 5 million people will have been under six lockdowns totalling 262 days, or nearly nine months, since March 2020.
Australian and other media say this is the longest in the world, exceeding a 234-day lockdown in Buenos Aires.
While coronavirus cases keep rising in Victoria state, of which Melbourne is the capital, the state's double-vaccination rate is set to reach 70 percent this week, allowing for the ease in restrictions.
"Today is a great day," said Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews in announcing the lockdown. "Today is a day when Victorians can be proud of what they have achieved."
When hospitality venues and some businesses reopen, their capacity will remain heavily restricted. More easing, including the reopening of many retailers, will come once 80 percent of eligible Victorians are fully vaccinated – estimated by Nov 5 at the latest.
On Sunday, Victoria recorded 1,838 new coronavirus cases and seven deaths. Neighbouring New South Wales, which emerged last week from a 100-day lockdown, reported 301 cases and 10 deaths. Eighty percent of the state's people have been fully vaccinated.
Australia, once a champion of a COVID-zero strategy of managing the pandemic, has been moving towards living with the virus through extensive vaccinations, as the Delta variant has proven too transmissible to suppress.
The new strategy makes lockdowns highly unlikely once 80 percent of the population is fully vaccinated. As of the weekend, around 68 percent of eligible Australians have been fully inoculated.
People cross Bourke Street in Melbourne on Sept 30, 2021. (DANIEL POCKETT / AAP IMAGE VIA AP)
Australia's health officials said on Sunday that quarantine-free travel from New Zealand's South Island, where there is no outbreak, will resume on Wednesday. The government is also in discussions with Singapore about reopening travel between the two countries for the fully vaccinated.
Despite the rise in cases in recent months, Australia's coronavirus numbers are low compared to many other developed countries, with just over 143,000 cases and 1,530 deaths.
Neighbouring New Zealand, which is also learning to live with COVID-19 by accelerating inoculations, reported 51 new cases on Sunday, 47 of them in the largest city Auckland, which has been in a lockdown since mid-August.
On Saturday, New Zealand vaccinated more than 2.5 percent of its people as part of a government-led mass vaccination drive.
The Cambodian government has decided to reduce the quarantine period for fully vaccinated inbound travelers after the majority of its population were vaccinated against the COVID-19, the Ministry of Health (MoH) said in a statement released on Saturday.
Foreign investors, technical experts, diplomats, and cooperation project managers and coordinators, as well as Cambodian officials returning from overseas missions will be required to undergo a three-day quarantine only, while general inbound passengers, both Cambodians and foreigners, will be quarantined for seven days, the statement said.
However, the travelers who have not received the COVID-19 vaccine or not been fully vaccinated, will be required to go into a full 14-day quarantine, it said.
The statement added that foreign travelers still need to present a medical certificate for a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours prior to their arrival in Cambodia, and they must carry a vaccination card or certificate indicating their full vaccination status and vaccination date.
Also, they must have proof of accommodation during the quarantine period and need to hold a COVID-19 insurance policy issued by Forte Insurance (Cambodia) Plc, which is the insurance consortium, it said, adding that all inbound passengers' samples will be taken for PCR tests upon their arrival in the Southeast Asian country.
According to the statement, all visas must be requested at Cambodian embassies abroad, as visas on arrival will not be offered.
"The new quarantine rules will take effect from Oct 18, 2021 onwards," Health Minister Mam Bunheng said in the statement.
Chhay Sivlin, president of the Cambodia Association of Travel Agents, on Sunday welcomed the new quarantine policy, saying that it was a good sign for tourism industry, which had been hit hard by the pandemic.
"It's good news for our tourism because a shorter quarantine period will encourage investors, business people and tourists to come to Cambodia," she told Xinhua. "With this new quarantine policy, we hope our tourism will start to recover gradually."
The latest move came after the kingdom has administered at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to 13.58 million people, or 84.9 percent of its 16-million population, according to the MoH.
Of them, 12.54 million, or 78.3 percent, have been fully inoculated with two required shots, and 1.36 million, or 8.5 percent, have received a third dose or booster dose, the MoH said.
Cambodia reported 258 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, bringing the total tally to 116,665 with 2,658 deaths, including 24 new fatalities from the pandemic.
An additional 405 patients have recovered, taking the total number of recoveries from the coronavirus epidemic in the country to 110,870, said the MoH.
The total number of active COVID-19 cases in Israel decreased by 328 to 19,797, the state's Ministry of Health said on Saturday.
This marked a sharp drop of 78.3 percent since Sept 5, when a record of 91,346 active cases was reported in the country.
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The ministry also reported 1,560 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the country's total infections to 1,315,271.
The death toll from the virus rose by seven to 7,983. The total recoveries rose to 1,287,491 after 1,379 newly recovered cases were added.
The number of people who have received the first doses of COVID-19 vaccines in Israel surpassed 6.2 million, or 66 percent of its total population, while nearly 5.7 million have taken two doses and over 3.8 million have got three jabs, according to the ministry.
Japan’s minister in charge of virus response said restrictions on bars and restaurants could be lifted next month if the current infection trend continues.
Daishiro Yamagiwa was speaking on a program broadcast by Fuji TV. The government is also considering softening border restrictions, he added.
Tokyo bars are being instructed to stop serving alcohol by 8 pm and close by 9 pm. The daily number of infections recorded in the capital has been less than 100 for a week.
Singapore’s number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care surged on Saturday, according to the Ministry of Health.
The ministry said 62 people were in critical condition, compared with 48 a day earlier. The city state reported 3,348 new coronavirus cases as of noon on Oct 16, including four imported infections.
ALSO READ: Singapore seeks to contain virus disruption in worker dorms
United Arab Emirates
The United Arab Emirates reported fewer than 100 coronavirus cases for the first time since March 2020, when the pandemic began.
The Gulf nation reported 99 new infections on Sunday. With 86 percent of its population fully inoculated, the UAE has one of the fastest vaccination programs in the world and cases have dropped by about 95 percent since the start of August.
The decline in infection rates comes as Dubai, one of the UAE’s seven emirates, hosts Expo 2020. The exhibition is expected to attract 25 million visits — both virtually and in person — over six months.