Australians urged to work from home amid fresh Omicron wave

A health worker speaks to arrivals at a COVID-19 vaccination hub at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre in Brisbane on Aug 17, 2021. (PATRICK HAMILTON / AFP)

SYDNEY / HANOI / JAKARTA / SINGAPORE / BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN / MANILA / JERUSALEM – Australians admitted to hospitals from COVID-19 neared record levels on Wednesday as authorities urged businesses to let staff work from home and recommended people wear masks indoors and get booster shots urgently amid a major outbreak.

Australia is in the grip of a third Omicron wave driven by the highly transmissible new subvariants, BA.4 and BA.5, with more than 300,000 cases recorded over the past seven days, even as authorities flagged the actual numbers could be double. Tuesday's 50,000 cases was the highest in two months.

"We need to do some things differently at least for a short period of time," Australia's Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly told ABC Radio on Wednesday, as he predicted the number of people ending up in hospitals will soon hit an all-time high.

"We know that working from home is a very key component of stopping what we call macro spreading."

About 5,300 Australians are currently in hospital with COVID-19, not far off the record 5,390 recorded in January during the BA.1 outbreak, official data showed. Numbers in the states of Queensland, Tasmania and Western Australia are already at their highest since the pandemic began.

But Kelly said he had not recommended the reintroduction of mask mandates or any other restrictions.

Authorities have also warned of a lag in people taking their booster shots worsening the health crisis.

So far, 95 percent of people above 16 have had two doses, helping keep Australia's total COVID-19 cases just under 9 million and deaths at 10,845, far lower than many countries. But only about 71 percent  have received three or more doses.

Workers wearing protective suits spray disinfectant at Suri Seri Begawan Raja Pengiran Anak Damit Mosque in an effort to counter the spread of the COVID-19 in Bandar Seri Begawan in Brunei on March 17, 2020. (PHOTO / AFP)


The COVID-19 cases in Brunei have shown an increase during the past week, with an average rate of 1,730 new cases per day, the country's health ministry said in a weekly briefing.

According to local media reports on Tuesday, a total of 68,893 Antigen Rapid Test (ART) test results were uploaded to the government within one week, of which 17.5 percent were positive for ART tests.

The daily average of COVID-19 cases for the two weeks before last week was 1,667 cases and 1,370 cases, respectively, showed government data.

One case in Category 5 required treatment at the intensive care unit, and 15 cases in Category 4 required respiratory assistance.

Over 99 percent of the cases detected in the past week do not require hospital treatment, the health ministry said.

Brunei has no longer shared the daily number of new cases and active cases of COVID-19 since June 22 "as the Early Endemic Phase has ended."

As of July 18, 74.1 percent of Brunei's population have received three doses of COVID-19 vaccines. A total of 78.3 percent of second-dose vaccinations were administered to children aged five to 11 years old.

Travelers are processed at the international arrivals hall at Ngurah Rai International Airport in Tuban near Denpasar on Indonesia's resort island of Bali on Feb 16, 2022, after a Singapore Airlines flight arrived following a nearly two-year break due to COVID-19. (SONNY TUMBELAKA / AFP)


Indonesia has detected cases of the highly contagious COVID-19 subvariant Omicron BA.2.75, or Centaurus, Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin said.

"One case is in Bali, an international traveler, and the other two are in Jakarta which may have local transmission. We are still looking for the source of the transmission," Sadikin told a press conference on Monday.

The minister explained that Centaurus was first detected in India in May and has spread to at least 15 countries, including Britain, the United States, Australia, Germany and Canada.

Indonesia has emerged from the third wave of COVID-19 transmission with a peak of 64,718 cases on Jan. 16 and is now facing another spike with more than 3,000 new patients per day.

Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs Airlangga Hartarto said at the same press conference that the islands of Java and Bali accounted for up to 95 percent of national daily cases, but the bed occupancy rate was still under control.


International flights to Israel's Ramon Airport near the southernmost Red Sea resort city of Eilat will resume in August after being halted since the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak in 2020, airline and city authorities announced on Tuesday.

Two new flight routes from Larnaca of Cyprus and Batumi of Georgia to Eilat will be added by Arkia, one of the three Israeli international airlines, said separate statements issued by Arkia and the Eilat city.

These will also be the first-ever international flight routes to Eilat in the summer season. Over the years, international flights to the sunny resort city had been operated only during the winter, bringing in European tourists, mainly from northern cold countries.

A child receives the Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 5-11 as a performer dressed as superhero character Spider-Man looks on at a gym in San Juan City, suburban Manila on Feb 7, 2022. (TED ALJIBE / AFP)


The Philippines reported 1,841 new COVID-19 infections on Tuesday, bringing the number of confirmed cases in the Southeast Asian country to 3,737,222.

The Department of Health said the number of active cases slightly fell to 20,511 in the country. The death toll remained unchanged at 60,641.

The Philippines reported the highest single-day tally of new COVID-19 infections at 39,004 cases on Jan 15. The country has fully vaccinated over 71.3 million people.

A notice warning people not to gather in groups larger than five persons as part of restrictions to hald the spread of the coronavirus is displayed at Raffles Place financial business district in Singapore on Jan 4, 2022. (ROSLAN RAHMAN / AFP)


Singapore reported 13,794 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, bringing the total tally to 1,616,067.

Of the new cases, 979 cases were detected through PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests and 12,815 through ART (antigen rapid test) tests, according to statistics released by the Ministry of Health.

Among the PCR cases, 937 were local transmissions and 42 were imported cases. Among the ART cases with mild symptoms and assessed to be of low risk, there were 12,341 local transmissions and 474 imported cases, respectively.

Three deaths were reported from COVID-19 on Tuesday, bringing the total death toll to 1,460, the ministry said. 


Vietnam recorded 1,097 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, up by 257 from Monday, according to its Ministry of Health.

The newly reported infections brought the total tally to 10,762,532. The country reported no new death from the pandemic on Tuesday, with the total fatalities staying at 43,091.

As of Tuesday, there were a total of 29 severe cases in need of assisted breathing in the Southeast Asian country, according to the ministry.