NZ ends most COVID-19 curbs as pandemic worry eases

A man looks out a window while in quarantine at the Ramada Hotel in Auckland, New Zealand, March 30, 2020. (BRETT PHIBBS / NEW ZEALAND HERALD VIA AP)

SYDNEY / MANILA / SINGAPORE / HANOI – New Zealand scrapped mask wearing rules and vaccine mandates on Monday, bringing an end to some of the toughest COVID-19 pandemic rules in the world about two years after they were put in place.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in a weekly news conference that it was time to safely turn the page on the country's COVID-19 management and live without the extraordinary measures it previously used.

"Finally, rather than feeling that COVID dictates what happens to us, our lives, and our futures, we take back control," Ardern said.

"For the first time in two years we can approach summer with the much needed certainty New Zealanders and business need, helping to drive greater economic activity critical to our economic recovery," she added.

All mask wearing requirements were removed, except in healthcare and aged care facilities. Only COVID-19 positive individuals will be required to isolate for seven days, while household contacts no longer need to, the government said in a statement.

All government vaccine mandates will also be scrapped on Sept 26, Ardern said, adding that employers will now decide whether or not they require their workforce to be vaccinated.

The government will also remove all vaccination requirements for incoming travelers and air crew.

A man shops for face masks in Divisoria, a local shopping district in Manila on May 17, 2022. (JAM STA ROSA / AFP)


Philippine President Ferdinand Romualdez Marcos has extended the COVID-19 pandemic state of calamity until the end of this year as the country continues to deal with the infectious disease, Press Secretary Rose Beatrix Cruz-Angeles said on Monday.

In a press conference, Angeles said the state of calamity is extended "possibly for three months but only to preserve the benefits under it, such as but not limited to the indemnification, emergency procurement, special risk allowance for healthcare workers."

The state of calamity was declared by former President Rodrigo Duterte in March 2020, and has been extended for twice until Sept 12 this year.

Under the state of calamity, authorities are allowed to "monitor and control prices of basic necessities and prime commodities; and provide basic services to the affected populations."

The Philippines reported 2,038 new COVID-19 infections on Monday, bringing the number of confirmed cases in the Southeast Asian country to 3,908,295.

The Department of Health (DOH) said the number of active cases dipped to 25,262, while 38 more patients died from COVID-19 complications, pushing the country's death toll to 62,342.

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 1,453 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, bringing the country's total tally to 1,861,390.

Of the new cases, 127 cases were detected through polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests and 1,326 through antigen rapid tests (ART), according to statistics released by the Ministry of Health.

Among the PCR cases, 116 were local transmissions and 11 were imported cases. Among the ART cases with mild symptoms and assessed to be of low risk, there were 1,184 local transmissions and 142 imported cases, respectively.

Passengers wait for transportation outside the arrival hall of Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi on March 15, 2022, as Vietnam announced the return of a visa exemption policy for 13 countries in an effort to kickstart its tourism sector. (NHAC NGUYEN / AFP)


Vietnam recorded 2,013 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, up by 370 from Sunday, according to its ministry of health.

All the new cases were locally transmitted, said the ministry.

The newly reported infections brought the total tally to 11,441,626. The country reported a new death from the pandemic in the northern city of Hai Phong on Monday, bringing the total fatalities to 43,130.