Coronavirus: Singapore nears 4,000 daily cases; Australia relaxes internal movement restrictions

Asia's Tech News Daily

© AP Cyclists wearing faces masks pass near the Merlion statue in Singapore. Photo: AP

Singapore’s Health Ministry reported seven coronavirus-related deaths and nearly 4,000 positive test results on Tuesday, the highest number of cases in a single day.

The ministry said the rising numbers were putting hospitals “under significant pressure and strain”, with the number of patients in intensive care units up by four overnight, to 71.

Tuesday’s reported fatalities took Singapore’s pandemic death toll to 246, while the new cases mean almost 155,000 people have caught the virus in the city state of 5.45 million, around half of them over the past 28 days.

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While the ministry said Tuesday’s 3,994 cases could be just “the usual post-weekend surge,” it said it would nonetheless “closely monitor cases for the next few days, to determine if this is a temporary spike or a further surge in infections”.

Singapore had until late August largely avoided the worst of the Delta-variant surge that had led to record case numbers and reimposed lockdowns in neighbours such as Malaysia.

Around 84 per cent of Singaporeans have been double-jabbed against the virus. Of the cases reported over the past 28 days, the ministry said almost half those testing positive were fully vaccinated, with the remaining 51.4 per cent either unvaccinated or given one dose.

Australia’s Victoria state reopens to travellers from New South Wales

Travel restrictions between Sydney and Melbourne, Australia’s largest cities, eased on Wednesday as Victoria opened its borders to fully vaccinated residents from New South Wales amid a rapid rise in vaccination levels.

With cases trending lower in New South Wales, including Sydney, residents will be allowed quarantine-free entry into Victoria for the first time in more than three months. Travellers from Melbourne who wish to enter Sydney, however, must undergo a two-week home quarantine.

Daily infections in Victoria rose to 1,841 on Wednesday, up from 1,749 a day earlier. A total of 283 cases were reported in New South Wales, well down from the pandemic high in September.

The relaxation in border rules comes ahead of Victoria lifting the lockdown in Melbourne, the state capital, on Friday as double-dose vaccination rates in people above 16 neared 70 per cent. More restrictions will be eased when rates pass 80 per cent and 90 per cent.

© Provided by South China Morning Post People walk down a deserted street in Melbourne’s Chinatown. The city has endured six lockdowns since March 2020. Photo: AFP

By Friday, Melbourne’s 5 million residents would have endured six lockdowns totalling a cumulative 262 days since March 2020. Australian media say this is the longest in the world, exceeding a 234-day lockdown in Buenos Aires.

Australia had enjoyed a coronavirus-free life most of this year until a Delta outbreak began in Sydney in June, which quickly spread to neighbouring Victoria. Other states have no or very few cases.

Sydney and Canberra exited their months-long strict stay-home restrictions last week after racing through their vaccination targets.

Even with the Delta outbreaks, Australia’s Covid-19 numbers are far lower than many developed nations, with about 149,000 cases and 1,577 deaths.

‘You know nothing about us’: US Senator Ted Cruz scorned for Australia comments

Michael Gunner, chief minister of Australia’s Northern Territory, has countered criticism of the country’s Covid-19 vaccine mandates from US Senator Ted Cruz.

Gunner was responding to the Republican senator from Texas calling his territory’s vaccine policy for workers “Covid tyranny” in an October 14 tweet, when he shared a video of Gunner’s announcement that citizens would be fined if not complying to receive a vaccine.

Cruz noted in the tweet that he has always considered Australia to be the “Texas of the Pacific” because of its rugged independence but now believed the Australian government to be “disgraceful and sad.”

Gunner tweeted a direct response to Cruz’s previous criticism on Sunday, not holding back and tagging the senator in his rebuke.

Australia’s shift in messaging has lessons in leaving zero-Covid behind

“We don’t need your lectures. Thanks, mate,” the response read. “You know nothing about us. And if you stand against a life-saving vaccine, then you sure as hell don’t stand with Australia.”

Under Gunner, the Northern Territory has initiated a wide-reaching vaccine mandate that requires workers in customer-facing industries such as retail, hospitality and education to get at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine by November 12 and be booked for a second by December 24. Should citizens not comply, they will not be permitted to return to work and could face a fine over US$3,500.

G’day from Down Under @tedcruz. Thanks for your interest in the Territory. I’m the Chief Minister. Below are a few facts about COVID down here. https://t.co/cGFwBP7Nqx pic.twitter.com/mGNyOxlN41

– Michael Gunner (@fanniebay) October 18, 2021

“Vaccination is so important here because we have vulnerable communities and the oldest continuous living culture on the planet to protect,” Gunner added in his note to Cruz. “Nearly 70,000 Texans have tragically died from Covid. There have been zero deaths in the Territory. Did you know that?”

Cruz is vaccinated and has said publicly he supports vaccines but is against any type of federal mandate. Earlier this month, Texas Governor Greg Abbott banned any entity or business from mandating coronavirus vaccines for workers or customers in the state. The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention track Texas at more than 69,000 deaths related to Covid-19, but not directly caused by the virus – the state with the second most behind California.

Reporting by DPA, Reuters, Tribune News Service

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This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (www.scmp.com), the leading news media reporting on China and Asia.

Copyright (c) 2021. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

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