Official: BA.5 strain of Omicron found in Fiji’s community

Traditional dancers in grass skirts welcome holidaymakers in Nadi on Dec 1, 2021, as Fiji opens its borders to international travelers for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic swept the globe and devastated its tourism-reliant economy. (LEON LORD / AFP)

TOKYO / HANOI / BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN / SINGAPORE / CANBERRA / SYDNEY / COLOMBO / SEOUL / KUALA LUMPUR / WELLINGTON / SUVA / ISLAMABAD / NEW DELHI – Fiji's Permanent Secretary for Health James Fong said Tuesday that the BA.5 strain of Omicron was found in the Fijian community,.

Fong said although BA.5 has the ability to evade immune protection against infection induced by prior infection or vaccination, there remains significant protection against severe disease, the Fijivillage news website reported on Tuesday.

Fong is urging Fijians to stay up to date with their COVID-19 vaccination. In particular, adults over the age of 50 and anyone with underlying medical conditions should get vaccinated and get their first and second booster doses when due.

He said the elderly and people with underlying medical conditions are at higher risk of severe COVID-19 disease, so people in this group with COVID-19 symptoms must come forward to be tested, put onto a monitored care pathway by a medical provider, and immediately brought to the hospital if severe symptoms are present.

He said community and workplace leaders must bring back many of the COVID-19 safe measures that the community or organization has learned during the acute outbreak.

Meanwhile, 169 new cases of COVID-19 have been recorded since last Thursday and there are now 519 active cases in Fiji.

Medical staff transport a patient from the Royal Melbourne Hospital in Melbourne on Oct 9, 2021, as Victoria state recorded 1965 new COVID-19 cases, its highest daily infection number since the start of the pandemic, putting more pressure on the state's struggling health system. (WILLIAM WEST / AFP)


The number of Australians in hospital with coronavirus has reached the highest number since the start of the pandemic.

According to data from the Department of Health, there were 5,433 COVID-19 cases in hospital on Monday, up from 5,001 a week earlier.

It marks a new high point for COVID-19 hospitalizations, beating the previous record of 5,390 in January.

It comes as Australia's winter wave of COVID-19 infections is expected to peak in the coming weeks, increasing pressure on the hospital system.

Australia on Tuesday reported more than 40,000 new COVID-19 cases and more than 90 deaths.

As of Monday afternoon, a total of 9,139,047 cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Australia, including 11,200 deaths, and approximately 377,550 active cases, according to the latest figures from Department of Health.  

In another development, the state of Victoria has increased its investment into a home-based care system, designed to relieve pressure from the state's COVID-embattled hospital system.

On Tuesday, Victoria state Health Minister Mary-Anne Thomas said nearly 56,000 people had received home visitation medical care through the "Better at Home" program.

"We're investing heavily to help reduce pressure on the health system amid the ongoing effects of the pandemic, winter respiratory illnesses like the flu, two years of deferred care and many sick healthcare workers," said Thomas.

So far it has diverted more than 71,000 days of care that would otherwise be spent at hospital — freeing up an extra 200 hospital beds across the state.

This year the state government announced a further 698 million Australian dollars ($486 millions) of funding for the program, which would expand the service to 15,000 more residents.

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)


In the past week, the daily number of new COVID-19 cases detected in Brunei was 1,199 on average, the Health Ministry said on Monday.

According to the ministry, a total of 73,631 Antigen Rapid Test (ART) results were uploaded to the government within one week, and 11.3 percent were positive for the virus.

One case is in Category 5 requiring treatment at intensive care unit and six cases are in Category 4 requiring respiratory assistance.

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

Brunei has no longer shared the daily number of new cases and active cases of COVID-19 since June 22, 2022, "as the Early Endemic Phase has ended."


India's daily caseload further slipped to 14,830 on Tuesday, officials said.

According to health ministry data released on Tuesday morning, 14,830 new cases of COVID-19 were reported during the past 24 hours, taking the total tally to 43,920,451 in the South Asian country.

The new cases reported on Tuesday mark a decrease from the Monday daily caseload of 16,866. 

With the reporting of fresh cases, the number of active cases currently stands at 147,512 in India.

The country also logged 36 new deaths due to COVID-19, bringing the death toll to 526,110 since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, the ministry said.

With the increase in cases, the daily positivity rate stood at 3.48 percent and the weekly positivity rate was recorded at 4.53 percent, the ministry data showed.

A person wearing a protective mask to help curb the spread of the coronavirus stands in front of a public awareness notice for COVID-19 protection in Shinjuku district on July 14, 2022, in Tokyo. (EUGENE HOSHIKO / AP)


Japan on Monday reported 126,575 new daily COVID-19 cases amid a seventh wave of infections linked to the spread of the BA.5 Omicron subvariant.

The daily nationwide tally compares to 176,554 new infections reported on Sunday, which was a drop from a record 200,975 cases reported on Saturday.

The Tokyo metropolitan government on Monday said that Tokyo's new cases increased by 22,387.

In Tokyo's neighboring prefecture of Kanagawa, 12,495 new daily COVID-19 cases were reported, while 7,785 new cases were confirmed in the western prefecture of Osaka.

Aichi prefecture in central Japan, meanwhile, confirmed 5,018 new infections.


Malaysia recorded 3,300 new COVID-19 infections as of midnight Monday, bringing the total tally to 4,654,951, according to the health ministry.

Among the new infections were two new imported cases and 3,298 local transmissions, data released by the ministry showed.

Nine new deaths have been reported from the pandemic, bringing the death toll to 35,923.

New Zealand

New Zealand recorded 9,256 new community cases of COVID-19, the Ministry of Health said on Tuesday.

There are now a total of 1,396 deaths confirmed as attributable to COVID-19, either as the underlying cause of death or as a contributing factor, it said.

A total of 430 COVID-19 cases have recently traveled overseas, it added.


Pakistan reported 371 new COVID-19 cases over the past 24 hours, the Ministry of Health said on Tuesday.

The new infections were detected after diagnostic testing was performed on 13,439 samples.

With the new infections, the overall number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 has risen to 1,551,251 in the Asian country, showed data released by the ministry.

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 5,551 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, bringing the total tally to 1,664,707.

Of the new cases, 434 cases were detected through PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests and 5,117 through ART (antigen rapid test) tests, according to statistics released by the Ministry of Health.

Among the PCR cases, 407 were local transmissions and 27 were imported cases. Among the ART cases with mild symptoms and assessed to be of low risk, there were 4,951 local transmissions and 166 imported cases.

Seven death was reported from COVID-19 on Monday, bringing the total death toll to 1,483, the ministry said.  

South Korea

South Korea reported 99,327 new COVID-19 cases as of midnight Monday compared to 24 hours ago, bringing the total number of infections to 19,346,764, the health authorities said on Tuesday.

The daily caseload was sharply up from 35,883 in the prior day, far higher than 73,558 tallied a week ago, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).

For the past week, the daily average number of confirmed cases was 69,337.

The latest number of infected people who were in a serious condition stood at 168, up by 24 from the previous day.

Seventeen more deaths were confirmed from the pandemic in the country, raising the COVID-19 related death toll to 24,907. The total fatality rate stands currently at 0.13 percent.

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka's health authority on Tuesday strongly advised the public to wear face masks when they are indoors, traveling by public transport or at public gatherings.

Director General of Health Services Asela Gunawardena noted that COVID-19 infections have seemed to be on the rise again in Sri Lanka.

Gunawardena said health officials have noticed an increase in coronavirus cases mainly in the South Asian country's Western province.

Sri Lanka lifted the face mask mandate in June 2022, but has advised those who suffer from respiratory diseases to keep on wearing a face mask.

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 896 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, up by 148 from Sunday, according to its Ministry of Health.

The newly reported infections brought the total tally to 10,768,844. The country reported no new death from the pandemic on Monday, with the total fatalities staying at 43,092.

More than 242.8 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in the country, including nearly 211.4 million shots on people aged 18 and above, said the ministry.

Vietnam has already recorded COVID-19 infections with Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 sub-variants and is accelerating the inoculation of its people with a fourth vaccine dose.