Singapore will allow quarantine-free entry to travellers vaccinated against COVID-19 from Australia and Switzerland from Nov. 8, the city-state’s aviation regulator said on Tuesday.
Singapore is slowly re-opening its borders and has expanded quarantine-free travel to nearly a dozen countries, including Germany, Canada, France, Britain and the United States, under its Vaccinated Travel Lanes (VTL) programme.
Visitors can travel to Singapore under the programme if they have been fully vaccinated and tested negative in COVID-19 tests.
Singapore has been reporting more than 3,000 daily infections in recent weeks, although most are asymptomatic or mild. Over 80% of Singapore’s 5.45 million population has been vaccinated.
Last week, the United States advised citizens against travel to Singapore and raised its alert for the city-state to its highest risk level. Germany has also classified Singapore as a “high-risk area”.
(Reporting by Chen Lin; Editing by James Pearson)
Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Thursday – CBC News
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Thursday that people who aren’t vaccinated will be excluded from nonessential stores, as well as cultural and recreational venues, and parliament will consider a general vaccine mandate, as part of an effort to curb coronavirus infections that again topped 70,000 newly confirmed cases in a 24-hour period.
Speaking after a meeting with federal and state leaders, Merkel said the measures were necessary in light of concerns that hospitals in Germany could become overloaded with people suffering COVID-19 infections, which are more likely to be serious in those who haven’t been vaccinated.
Merkel is cited by media reports as saying that “culture and leisure nationwide will be open only to those who have been vaccinated or recovered.”
“The situation in our country is serious,” Merkel told reporters in Berlin, calling the measure an “act of national solidarity.”
She said officials also agreed to:
- Require masks in schools.
- Impose new limits on private meetings.
- Aim for 30 million vaccinations by the end of the year.
Merkel also said that parliament will debate the possibility of imposing a general vaccine mandate that would come into force as early as February.
About 68.7 per cent of the population in Germany is fully vaccinated, far below the minimum of 75 per cent the government is aiming for.
Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, who is expected to be elected chancellor by a centre-left coalition next week, said Tuesday that he backs a general vaccine mandate, but favours letting lawmakers vote according to their personal conscience rather than party lines on the matter.
The rise in COVID-19 cases over the past several weeks and the arrival of the new omicron variant have prompted warnings from scientists and doctors that medical services in the country could become overstretched in the coming weeks unless drastic action is taken. Some hospitals in the south and east of the country have already transferred patients to other parts of Germany because of a shortage of intensive care beds.
Agreeing what measures to take has been complicated by Germany’s political structure — with the 16 states responsible for many of the regulations — and the ongoing transition at the federal level.
Germany’s disease control agency reported 73,209 newly confirmed cases Thursday. The Robert Koch Institute also reported 388 new deaths from COVID-19, taking the total since the start of the pandemic to 102,178.
-From The Associated Press and CBC News, last updated at 9:35 a.m. ET
What’s happening across Canada
What’s happening around the world
As of early Thursday morning, more than 263.6 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus tracker. The reported global death toll stood at more than 5.2 million.
In Africa, the heavily mutated omicron variant of the coronavirus is rapidly becoming dominant in South Africa, less than four weeks after being identified there, authorities said, as other countries tightened their borders against the new threat.
In Europe, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said on Thursday that the omicron variant, which the World Health Organization has deemed a variant of concern (VOC), could be responsible for more than half of all COVID-19 infections in Europe within a few months. According to a document the EU public health agency published on Thursday, preliminary data from South Africa suggests omicron may have “a substantial growth advantage” over delta.
“If this is the case, mathematical modelling indicates that the omicron VOC is expected to cause over half of all SARS-CoV-2 infections in the EU/EEA within the next few months,” the document says.
The European Union and European Economic Area includes the 27 EU states plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.
<a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/JustPublished?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#JustPublished</a>:<br>Threat Assessment Brief: Implications of the further emergence and spread of the <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/SARSCoV2?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#SARSCoV2</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/B11529?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#B11529</a> variant of concern (<a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/Omicron?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#Omicron</a>) for the EU/EEA – first update<br><br>Full report: <a href=”https://t.co/WcXGA2iqxc”>https://t.co/WcXGA2iqxc</a><a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/COVID19?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#COVID19</a> <a href=”https://t.co/BpuC377vf1″>pic.twitter.com/BpuC377vf1</a>
In the Asia-Pacific region, South Korea broke its daily record for coronavirus infections for a second straight day on Thursday with more than 5,200 new cases, as pressure mounted on a health-care system grappling with rising hospitalizations and deaths. The rapid delta-driven spread comes amid the emergence of the new omicron variant, which is seen as potentially more contagious than previous strains of the virus, and has fuelled concerns about prolonged pandemic suffering.
Jung Eun-kyeong, commissioner of the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency, said the government plans to conduct omicron testing on all international passengers who test positive for the coronavirus and will work with biotech companies to develop new tests that could detect the variant faster. Anyone who comes in close contact with a person infected with omicron will be required to quarantine for a minimum of two weeks, even if they are fully vaccinated, she said in a briefing.
Meanwhile, India on Thursday confirmed its first cases of the omicron coronavirus variant in two people who travelled abroad, and a top medical expert urged people to get vaccinated.
India’s Health Ministry said the cases include two men in southern Karnataka state who came from abroad. It did not say which country. Health official Lav Agarwal said all contacts of the two men had been traced and tested for the virus.
In the Middle East, the United Arab Emirates reported its first case of the new omicron variant in an African woman arriving from an African country through an Arab country, according to state news agency WAM.
In the Americas, U.S. President Joe Biden is set to kick off a more urgent campaign for Americans to get COVID-19 booster shots Thursday as he unveils his winter plans for combating the coronavirus and its omicron variant with enhanced availability of shots and vaccines but without major new restrictions.
Meanwhile, the new omicron variant of the coronavirus is likely to soon spread to other countries in North and South America after being detected in Canada and Brazil, the Pan American Health Organization said.
-From Reuters and The Associated Press, last updated at 9:25 a.m. ET
First cases of COVID-19 discovered in Canadian wildlife – CTV News
The first cases of COVID-19 in Canadian wildlife have been discovered in three white-tailed deer, a press release from Environment and Climate Change Canada reports.
The National Centre for Foreign Animal Disease confirmed the detections on Nov. 29 but the deer were sampled between Nov. 6 to 8 in the Estrie region of Quebec. The deer showed no evidence of clinical signs of disease and were “all apparently healthy.”
“As this is the first detection of SARS-CoV-2 in wildlife in Canada, information on the impacts and spread of the virus in wild deer populations is currently limited,” the press release states.
“The finding emphasizes the importance of ongoing surveillance for SARS-CoV-2 in wildlife to increase our understanding about SARS-CoV-2 on the human-animal interface.”
The World Organisation for Animal Health was notified about the discovery on Dec. 1.
The department is urging added precaution – like wearing a well-fitted mask – when exposed to “respiratory tissues and fluids from deer.”
The virus has been found in multiple animal species globally including farmed mink, cats, dogs, ferrets, and zoo animals such as tigers, lions, gorillas, cougars, otters and others.
“Recent reports in the United States have revealed evidence of spillover of SARS-CoV-2 from humans to wild white-tailed deer, with subsequent spread of the virus among deer. There has been no known transmission of SARS-CoV-2 from deer to humans at this time,” the release reads.
U.N. seeks record $41 billion for aid to hotspots led by Afghanistan, Ethiopia
The United Nations appealed on Thursday for a record $41 billion to provide life-saving assistance next year to 183 million people worldwide caught up in conflict and poverty, led by a tripling of its programme in Afghanistan.
Famine remains a “terrifying prospect” for 45 million people living in 43 countries, as extreme weather caused by climate change shrinks food supplies, the U.N. said in the annual appeal, which reflected a 17% rise in annual funding needs.
“The drivers of needs are ones which are familiar to all of us. Tragically, it includes protracted conflicts, political instability, failing economies … the climate crisis, not a new crisis, but one which urges more attention and of course the COVID-19 pandemic,” U.N. aid chief Martin Griffiths told reporters.
In a report to donors, the world body said: “Without sustained and immediate action, 2022 could be catastrophic.”
Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Ethiopia and Sudan are the five major crises requiring the most funding, topped by $4.5 billion sought for Taliban-ruled Afghanistan where “needs are skyrocketing”, it said.
In Afghanistan, more than 24 million people require life-saving assistance, a dramatic increase driven by political tumult, repeated economic shocks, and severe food insecurity caused by the worst drought in 27 years.
“We are in the business in the U.N. of trying to urgently establish with support from the World Bank as well as the U.N. system, a currency swap initiative which will allow liquidity to go into the economy,” Griffiths said.
“The absence of cash in Afghanistan is a major impediment to any delivery of services,” he said. “I am hoping that we get it up and running before the end of this month.”
In Ethiopia, where a year-old conflict between government and Tigrayan forces has spread into the Amhara and Afar regions, thousands have been displaced, while fighting, drought and locusts push more to the brink, the U.N. said.
Nearly 26 million Ethiopians require aid, including more than 9 million who depend on food rations, including 5 million in Tigray, amid rising malnutrition rates, it said.
“Ethiopia is the most alarming probably almost certainly in terms of immediate emergency need,” Griffiths said, adding that 400,000 people had been deemed at risk of famine already in May.
Noting that heavy fighting continued, with government forces battling Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front forces who have moved closer to the capital Addis Ababa, he added: “But capacity to respond to an imploded Ethiopia is almost impossible to imagine.”
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; editing by Richard Pullin)
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