Australia to begin to reopen its borders next month

Covid-19 has infected more than 234M people and killed at least 4.7M globally. Here are the virus-related developments for October 1:

People cross Bourke Street in Melbourne, Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021. (AP)

Friday, October 1, 2021

Australia to ease international border restrictions from November

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced an 18-month ban on Australians travelling abroad will be lifted from next month, easing one of the toughest restrictions imposed globally.

Reopening the international border for citizens and permanent residents will be linked to the establishment of home quarantine in Australia’s eight states and territories, Morrison said, meaning that some parts of the country will reopen sooner than others.

The first phase of the plan will focus on citizens and permanent residents being allowed to leave Australia, with further changes expected to permit foreign travellers to enter the country.

2 percent or less have had jabs in many African nations – WHO

Just two percent of the population, or less, have been fully vaccinated against virus in half of the countries in Africa, the World Health Organization said.

Fifteen of the continent’s 54 nations have managed to vaccinate at least 10 percent of their people, achieving the global goal for September 30, set in May by the World Health Assembly, the world’s highest health policy-setting body.

“The latest data shows modest gains but there is still a long way to go to reach the WHO target of fully vaccinating 40 percent of the population by the end of the year,” s aid Richard Mihigo, the World Health Organization’s vaccination coordinator in Africa.

India’s Serum Institute to boost vaccine exports gradually, report says

The Serum Institute of India, which produces the AstraZeneca vaccine, will resume small exports via the global vaccine-sharing platform COVAX this month and raise it substantially by January, its head told The Telegraph.

“Our exports to COVAX will recommence again in October, initially these supplies will be small but by January 2022, once we have satisfied domestic demands – people forget that India is still a lower-middle income country – we will see large volumes go to COVAX,” Chief Executive Adar Poonawalla said.

South Korea extends social distancing curbs as cases rise in Seoul

South Korea has extended social distancing curbs to combat the pandemic for two weeks, offering more incentives to people to get vaccinated as it battles thousands of new cases each day, particularly in the capital.

The rapid resurgence in the greater Seoul area prompted authorities to extend distancing restrictions until October 17, including a ban in the region on dining out after 10 p.m. and gatherings of more than two people after 6 p.m.

India logs 26,727 more cases

India has reported 26,727 Covid-19 cases, pushing the country’s tally to over 33.77M, as the death toll rises by 277 to 448,339, the health ministry said.

Philippines loosens curbs in capital region

The Philippines has further loosened virus restrictions in the capital region, allowing restaurants to accept more guests and gyms to reopen after recording a decline in daily cases.

The Philippines, which is battling one of the worst outbreaks in Asia, is gradually relaxing curbs to allow the recovery of the economy.

An alert level system first and small-scale lockdown system imposed on the capital region on Sept 16 to allow for greater mobility and more businesses to reopen will remain in place up to October 15.

Malaysia approves Sinovac’s vaccine for ages 12 to 17

Malaysia has given conditional approval for a vaccine made by China’s Sinovac to be used on young people aged between 12 and 17, its health ministry said.

Teenagers younger than 18 began receiving doses last month, after vaccinations of more than 80 percent of adults were completed in one of Southeast Asia’s fastest vaccine rollouts that has covered 62 percent of a population of 32 million.

In a statement, the health ministry said Malaysia’s drugs regulator advised priority for Sinovac’s product among teenagers without co-morbidities or allergy problems, or otherwise deemed unsuitable for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

Malaysia posts record monthly deaths as authorities cite backlog

Malaysia has recorded 9,671 deaths due to in September, the deadliest month since the pandemic began, government data showed, though authorities have said the increase was mostly due to the delayed inclusion of fatalities from previous months.

The spike has pushed Malaysia’s death toll to among the highest per capita in Asia, even as new infections have slowed in recent weeks amid a ramped-up vaccination programme.

September’s figure accounted for more than a third of the 26,335 total deaths reported in Malaysia, which has recorded over 2.2 million infections, the third-highest number in Southeast Asia.

Sri Lanka lifts 6-week lockdown amid economic worries

Sri Lanka has lifted a six-week lockdown as cases and deaths decline but will restrict people’s movement for work and obtaining essentials only – which are running short in the island country amid economic worries.

The lockdown was imposed August 20 and extended three times as Sri Lanka grappled with a virus surge caused by the delta variant. The government has ramped up vaccination in recent months, with more than 50 percent of the 22 million people fully inoculated.

New daily infections have since fallen to below 1,000 and deaths to under 100, from a peak of over 3,000 cases and more than 200 deaths early September.

S. Africa president lobbies British PM over travel ban

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Thursday he has had discussions with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson aimed at removing South Africa from a travel “red list” that bans visitors to the UK because of Covid-19.

Ramaphosa said he “put South Africa’s case” to Johnson, “which he understood very well.”

“We hope for a positive outcome when the subject comes up for review in the coming days by their scientists,” Ramaphosa said.

Britain traditionally provides more tourists to South Africa than any other country outside Africa, and South Africa’s hard-hit tourism industry and struggling economy need a boost.

In a live speech on national television, Ramaphosa also announced the easing of virus-related restrictions in South Africa and said its third wave was now officially over, with new cases falling from over 20,000 a day during the wave’s peak to an average of just over 1,800 per day over the last seven days.

South Africa would revert to lockdown level 1, the lowest alert, from Friday, Ramaphosa said.

That meant the night time curfew hours were eased, bars and restaurants will be allowed to stay open a little later, and alcohol may be sold under normal licensing laws.

Brazil reports 27,527 new cases, 627 deaths

Brazil has recorded 27,527 new confirmed cases in the past 24 hours, along with 627 deaths, the Health Ministry said on Thursday.

Brazil has registered more than 21 million cases since the pandemic began, while the official death toll has risen to 596,749, according to ministry data.

Mexico records 8,828 new cases

Mexico registered 8,828 new coronavirus cases and 533 more fatalities on Thursday, according to health ministry data, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 3,664,223 and the death toll to 277,505.

Havana reopens its beaches following virus closure

Beaches and recreation centres reopened in Cuba’s capital on Thursday after authorities have announced it was time to resume outdoor activities.

Officials said the reopening was decided on because 90 percent of the city’s residents are vaccinated against the coronavirus and the number of new cases has been declining.

Some people were quick to take advantage of the announcement and headed to the beach to enjoy the sun and sand.

On Tuesday the governor of Havana, Reinaldo Garcia Zapata, revealed the reopening of beaches, swimming pools, gyms and other spots, adding to relaxations of pandemic restrictions announced last week.

These included shortening the hours of the night time curfew and allowing restaurants, cafes and bars to let in customers again and not just make home deliveries.

Maine CDC: Rural areas need more testing

Maine’s rural areas need better access to testing, the head of the state’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention has said.

The percent positivity rate in some of Maine’s rural counties is much higher than it is in more densely populated areas such as Cumberland County. Federal data show the percent positivity rate in Cumberland is about 2% while in rural Somerset County it’s more than 9%.

Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr Nirav Shah said on Thursday that’s a product of a lack of testing. He said the state is working to get more tests to rural corners of the state.

Maine has the lowest population density in New England.

The Maine Department of Health and Human Services also said on Thursday that Maine child care facilities can now access pooled testing for children and staff through a federal program that provides the testing for free to some community organisations and schools. The agency said Walgreen is also expanding testing options at almost all of its Maine locations.

“Not enough testing is happening in those parts of the state. We’re focusing on making community level testing more accessible,” Shah said.

US administers nearly 393 mln doses of vaccines – CDC

The United States had administered 392,909,995 doses of vaccines in the country as of Thursday morning and distributed 474,245,945 doses, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said.

Those figures are up from the 391,992,662 vaccine doses the CDC said had gone into arms by Wednesday out of 473,954,085 doses delivered.

The agency said 214,332,261 people had received at least one dose while 184,601,450 people had been fully vaccinated as of 6:00 am ET on Thursday.

The CDC tally includes two-dose vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech , as well as Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot vaccine.

About 4.03 million people have received an additional dose of either Pfizer or Moderna’s vaccine since Aug. 13, when the US authorised a third dose of the vaccines for people with compromised immune systems who are likely to have weaker protection from the two-dose regimens.

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