Singapore primary schools to shift online as virus cases rise

Students wearing face masks, as a preventive measure against COVID-19, walk home from school in Singapore on March 25, 2020.

NEW DELHI / HANOI / KUALA LUMPUR/ SYDNEY/ SEOUL/ ANKARA /WELLINGTON/ TEHRAN/ VIENTIANE / DUBAI/ MELBOURNE – Singapore's primary schools will shift to home-based learning for 10 days ahead of a key national examination, the education ministry said on Saturday, as the country reported 935 new COVID-19 cases the previous day, the highest since April last year.

Primary 1 to 5 students will move to home-based learning from Sept 27 to Oct 6.

Primary 6 students will go on a study break for a few days from Sept.25 before sitting for the national examination to minimize risk of school-based transmissions and reduce the number of students placed in quarantine.

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"With the PSLE (Primary School Leaving Examination) written paper examinations approaching, we will undertake further measures to protect students who are not yet medically eligible for vaccination and give parents and students greater peace of mind," said Education Minister Chan Chun Sing.

A recent rise in cases after the relaxation of some COVID-19 measures has prompted Singapore to pause on further reopening. More than 80 percent of its population has been vaccinated against COVID-19.

The country is looking at vaccinating children under 12 years in early 2022.

Protesters march through the streets during an anti-lockdown rally in Melbourne on Sept 18, 2021.


Australia's police arrested 235 people in Melbourne and 32 in Sydney on Saturday at unsanctioned anti-lockdown rallies and several police officers were injured in clashes with protesters.

Victoria police said six officers required hospitalization. Several officers were knocked to the ground and trampled, the police said and television footage showed.

About 700 people managed to gather in parts of Melbourne, as 2,000 officers made the city centre virtually a no-go zone, setting up checkpoints and barricades. Public transport and ride shares into the city were suspended.

In Sydney, riot squad officers, highway patrol, detectives and general duties police were also deployed to the streets, preventing large gatherings.

Australia has been grappling with an outbreak of the Delta variant of the coronavirus since mid-June, with both Sydney and Melbourne, and the capital Canberra, in strict lockdowns for weeks now. On Saturday, there were 1,882 new coronavirus cases reported, most of them in Sydney.

Most of the restrictions in Victoria, New South Wales and Canberra are to remain until at least 70% of those 16 and older are fully vaccinated, which based on the current pace of inoculations could be in late October or early November.

A high rate of compliance with public health orders has helped Australia keep the number of infections relatively low, with just under 85,000 total cases and 1,145 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

The vast majority of Australians support vaccinations and the public health measures, but there have been sporadic and sometimes violent protests against the management of the pandemic.

A health worker administers the Covishield vaccine for COVID-19 during a special vaccination drive in Hyderabad, India, Sept 17, 2021. (MAHESH KUMAR A./AP)


India gave a record 22.6 million vaccinations on Friday, three times the average daily total during the past month, as some states organized special inoculation drives on Prime Minister Narendra Modi's birthday.

The health minister called the vaccine milestone a birthday gift for Modi, who turned 71 and was criticized heavily for India's dramatic rise in infections and deaths in April and May.

READ MORE: Indonesia's COVID-19 cases surpass 4 million

"Every Indian would be proud of today’s record vaccination numbers," Modi said on Twitter. "Let us keep boosting vaccination to defeat COVID-19."

India's previous vaccination peak of 14.1 million was reached on Aug 31, with a daily average of 7 million doses in the last 30 days.

The country of 1.35 billon people has administered more than 792 million doses, the most after China.

The country has reported more than 33.38 million coronavirus cases and 444,248 deaths.


The Iranian health ministry reported on Friday 17,605 new COVID-19 cases, taking the country's total infections to 5,396,013.

The pandemic has claimed 116,436 lives in the country so far, after 364 new deaths were registered.


Researchers from Israel told a panel of US vaccine experts weighing a potential COVID-19 booster dose from Pfizer Inc and BioNTech that it’s unclear how long the benefit of such a shot would last.

A big part of the case for booster shots is data from Israel showing that, in the short term, a third dose of the vaccine dramatically lowered infections and severe illness in the short term in people over age 60 and older.

However, it isn’t yet clear whether the enhanced protection boosters could provide would be short-lived, or if the benefit would be lasting.


Lao capital Vientiane on Saturday recorded 264 local COVID-19 transmissions, the highest daily infection ever recorded in the city.

Laos has logged a total of 467 new cases over the past 24 hours including 383 local transmissions. 

As of Saturday, the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Laos reached 18,814 with 16 deaths.


Malaysia reported 18,815 more COVID-19 infections as of midnight Thursday, bringing the national total to 2,049,750.

New Zealand

New Zealand reported 20 new community cases of COVID-19 on Saturday, said the Ministry of Health in a statement.

Of the new community cases, 19 were contacts of previously confirmed cases and one remained unlinked, the ministry said.

South Korea

South Korea reported 2,008 more cases of COVID-19 as of midnight Thursday compared to 24 hours ago, raising the total number of infections to 281,938.

The daily caseload was up from 1,943 in the prior day, hovering above 1,000 for 73 straight days.


Turkey on Thursday confirmed 28,118 new COVID-19 cases, raising its tally of infections to 6,767,008, according to its health ministry.

The death toll rose by 262 to 60,903.


Abu Dhabi will cancel COVID-19 testing requirements to enter the emirate for travelers from the UAE starting on Sunday, the United Arab Emirates' state news agency WAM said on Saturday.

The UAE's capital had restricted entry into the emirate to those with a negative PCR test. Earlier this month, Abu Dhabi removed the need to quarantine for all vaccinated travelers arriving from international destinations.


Vietnam has approved Cuba's Abdala vaccine for use against the new coronavirus, the government said on Saturday, as the Southeast Asian country is battling its worst outbreak.

Abdala becomes the eighth COVID-19 vaccine approved for use in Vietnam, which has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the region, with only 6.3 percent of its 98 million people having received at least two shots.

Vietnam has recorded 667,650 coronavirus infections and 16,637 deaths, the vast majority in the Delta-driven outbreak from late April.