Relief, revival as Singapore scraps its COVID-19 curbs

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)

JERUSALEM / NEW DELHI / SINGAPORE / HANOI / WELLINGTON / NEW DELHI / SEOUL / SYDNEY / BENGALURU / PHNOM PENH / SUVA – Office workers queued for trains, restaurants and elevators and delivery riders raced from building to building as the buzz returned to Singapore's business district on Tuesday, its first day free of COVID-19 curbs.

The city-state's high-rise commercial heart of global banks, malls and tech firms was in full swing again, with swarms of people headed to work and queues outside restaurants and crowded coffee shops after authorities lowered the pandemic alert level for the first time.

Strict limits on workplaces and gatherings were removed on Tuesday, with employees lingering outside workplaces and public transport teeming with commuters eager for normalcy after two years of containment.

Singapore has been lauded for its speed and success in its vaccine rollout, with 93 precent of the population inoculated, one of the highest rates in the world, helping to limit COVID-19 fatalities to just 1,331.

The finance hub of 5.5 million people successfully managed initial outbreaks and has maintained stringent policies on group sizes, contact-tracing, testing, travel and office work.

Though mask-wearing is still required in indoor settings or on public transport, most other curbs have been removed, to the relief of many after two long years.

Also removed was testing requirement for incoming travelers vaccinated against COVID, in an effort to boost the economy, which is forecast to expand 3 percent to 5 percent this year.

The cruise ship Ruby Princess departs from Port Kembla, some 80 kilometers south of Sydney, on April 23, 2020. (SAEED KHAN / AFP)


Australia's cruise industry, which is just resuming business following a two-year hiatus caused by the pandemic, has hit a setback with a dozen COVID-19 cases on a ship docked in Western Australia (WA).

WA health authorities have confirmed that 10 passengers and two crew members of the Coral Discoverer tested positive to the virus after the ship docked in the popular tourist destination of Broome on Monday, having completed a 10-day trip from the Northern Territory (NT) capital of Darwin.

The cases, all of whom were fully vaccinated, are reportedly mild or asymptomatic, and several of them have been sent to designated quarantine hotels to complete their isolation period.

The outbreak on the Coral Discoverer came only days after Australia ended its prolonged ban on cruise ships entering its ports, a safety precaution which immediately stalled an industry estimated to generate about 5.2 billion Australian dollars ($3.7 billion) annually.

That ban began in March 2020 following more than 440 COVID-19 cases disembarking from the cruise ship Ruby Princess into Australia's most populated city, Sydney.


Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen on Tuesday lifted the mandate to wear masks outdoor after vast majority of the Southeast Asian country's population have been vaccinated against the COVID-19 pandemic.

People can make their own decisions to wear a mask or not at all outdoor places, but the requirement is still in place for air-conditioned indoor places such as meeting rooms and movie theaters, he said.

The prime minister expressed his hope that the decision, which took effect immediately, would ease financial burdens for the Cambodian people, who spent an estimated $3 million a month buying masks.

The Southeast Asian nation reported only two new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday with zero new fatalities, bringing the kingdom's confirmed total cases since the pandemic began to 136,230 including 3,056 deaths, the Ministry of Health said.

No new infections were reported in capital Phnom Penh for the first time in more than a year.

A girl walks past a poster at a vaccination centre in New Delhi on April 10, 2022, after government announced the paid precaution dose against the coronavirus to be available for everyone above 18 years of age at private vaccination centers. (MONEY SHARMA / AFP)


India has approved emergency use of Biological E's COVID-19 vaccine Corbevax for children aged five to 12 and Bharat Biotech's Covaxin for six to 12-year olds, the country's health minister said in a tweet on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the local government of the northern Indian state of Haryana announced on Monday that it will provide free COVID-19 booster vaccine doses to the eligible population aged 18-59 years.

According to the Directorate of Information, Public Relations and Languages Department, the eligible population in the state can now get each booster dose worth 250 Indian rupees ($3) free of charge from any government hospital or dispensary.

The announcement came days after local governments in Delhi and Bihar offered free booster doses to people aged between 18 and 59 years in government-run hospitals.

Earlier this month, India's federal health ministry said that those aged 18 years and older are eligible for a booster dose nine months after the second dose.

India's COVID-19 tally rose to 43,062,569 on Tuesday with 2,483 new cases registered during the past 24 hours in the South Asian country, showed the federal health ministry's latest data.

This is the seventh consecutive day when the number of daily new cases has surpassed the 2,000-mark, after lower tallies were reported in recent weeks.

Meanwhile, 1,399 deaths due to the pandemic recorded since Monday morning took the death toll to 523,622.

A medical staff member wearing protective gear tends to a coronavirus patient in the COVID-19 ward at Beilinson Hospital Rabin Medical Centre in Israel's central city of Petah Tikva on Feb 1, 2022. (JACK GUEZ / AFP)


Israel's active COVID-19 cases on Monday dropped by 2,833 to 27,477 cases, reaching the country's lowest annual level, according to the Ministry of Health.

This is the lowest number of active cases recorded in Israel since Dec 30, 2021, when the figure stood at 27,144.

The ministry also reported 3,759 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the national total to 4,060,259.

The number of death cases from the virus remained unchanged at 10,670, while the number of patients in serious condition decreased from 226 to 218.

As COVID-19 morbidity is declining in Israel, health authorities on Saturday lifted the requirement of wearing a face mask in most closed spaces, while recommending people at risk continue to wear masks indoors.

New Zealand

New Zealand recorded 6,380 new community cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, the country's Ministry of Health said in a statement.

Of the new community infections, 1,667 were detected in the largest city of Auckland. In addition, 62 new cases of COVID-19 were detected at the New Zealand border, said the ministry.

Samoa and Vanuatu

The two South Pacific island nations of Samoa and Vanuatu reported more COVID-19-related deaths over the past few days.

According to the newspaper Samoa Observer, Samoa's Ministry of Health confirmed on Tuesday that the COVID-19-related death toll has risen to 16 in Samoa with the total number of community cases standing at 8,280 on April 24 this year.

The ministry added that from April 17 to April 24 this year, Samoa reported 2,214 more community cases of COVID-19, with 7,536 cases in the country's second-largest island of Upolu and 736 cases in the country's largest island of Savai'i.

The ministry also reported three new COVID-19-related deaths, bringing Samoa's COVID-19-related death toll to 16.

Meanwhile, in Vanuatu, the country has reported 13 COVID-19-related deaths. It has also recorded 6,860 COVID-19 cases.

South Korea

South Korea recorded 80,361 new COVID-19 cases as of midnight Monday compared to 24 hours ago, raising the total number of infections to 17,009,865, the health authorities said Tuesday.

The daily caseload was up from 34,370 in the previous day, but it was lower than 118,478 a week earlier, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).


Vietnam reported 7,417 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, down 1,395 from Sunday, according to its Ministry of Health.

The new infections, recorded in 60 provinces and cities, were all domestically transmitted. The infections brought the total tally to 10,571,772 with 43,021 deaths.