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COVID digest: Australia, NZ struggle to contain virus

August 19, 2021

Australia is ramping up vaccinations to curb the spread of COVID-19. New Zealand is tracking the spread of the delta variant in the country as cases continue to rise. DW has the latest here.

Covid restrictions in New South Wales, Australia
Australia is tightening curbs as infections continue to rise across the countryImage: Dan Himbrechts/AAP/AP Photo/picture alliance

Australia's two most populous states registered a record number of new infections on Thursday as the country struggles to control the spread of the coronavirus, in part due to the surge in the highly infectious delta variant. 

New South Wales recorded an all-time high of 681 new daily cases, mostly in Sydney. The neighboring state of Victoria also reported 57 new cases in its capital city of Melbourne, which is currently in its sixth lockdown of the pandemic. 

Authorities began pushing out emergency COVID-19 vaccine supplies in Sydney, targeting areas worst affected by the virus. 

"The next few weeks will be hard, but no doubt that once we get those high vaccination rates life will feel much better, it will look much rosier," New South Wales state Premier Gladys Berejiklian said. "I know these are challenging times, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel."

Starting over amidst the pandemic in Australia.

At the same time, officials in New Zealand drew closer to solving the puzzle linked to the country's first COVID cases in six months. 

The Auckland man, whose infection sparked a nationwide lockdown, had a version of the delta variant found in Australia. Health officials drew its origin to a person who traveled from Sydney on August 7. Since then, the traveler had been in quarantine and at a hospital. 

With 11 new infections detected, New Zealand is currently dealing with 21 infections linked to the recent case.

Here is a roundup of other coronavirus news from around the world:

Latest on COVID-19 vaccines

A new study published Thursday suggests the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has a waning effectiveness compared to the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Researchers at Oxford University said, "two doses of Pfizer-BioNTech have greater initial effectiveness against new COVID-19 infections, but this declines faster compared with two doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca."

While the study has not been peer reviewed, it is based on data from Britain's Office for National Statistics. PCR tests carried out in the UK between December of last year and this month were selected at random.

The research suggested protection against the virus from vaccines was higher among those who had already been infected with the virus.


The government of Hong Kong granted a quarantine exemption to Nicole Kidman on arrival to film a new Amazon Prime Video series called "Expats". Kidman reportedly arrived from Sydney and has been spotted around the city this week.

Hong Kong's quarantine restrictions recently tightened with those arriving from high-risk countries like the US requiring 21 days in quarantine. The fully vaccinated and those from medium risk countries are required to spend 14 days in quarantine beginning Friday.

South Korea has reported more than 2,152 new infections on Thursday, the second-highest number of cases since the pandemic began, prompting authorities to consider a different approach to stemming the spread of the virus.

After emerging around the capital city of Seoul, the latest surge in infections has spread nationwide as residents travel for vacations. The greater Seoul area has been under a Level 4 lockdown for six weeks, while most other regions remain under Level 3 curbs.

The government is expected to extend existing curbs for four weeks starting Friday.

South Korea's battle against COVID-19

The Paralympic Village in Japan has recorded its first coronavirus case just days before the Games open on August 24. The infection involves a member of the staff who is not a resident of Japan, organizers said.

At least 74 cases have been linked to the Paralympics where about 4,400 athletes from nearly 160 teams will take part. Most have been linked to contractors and Games staff living in Japan. No athletes have been reported. 


United States President Joe Biden has announced that all staff at nursing homes will need to get vaccinated in order for the facility to continue receiving federal Medicare and Medicaid funding.

“If you visit, live or work in a nursing home, you should not be at a high risk for contracting COVID from unvaccinated employees," Biden said, unveiling the new policy in a White House address.

This comes as the US urged over 150 countries to address the United Nations General Assembly virtually next month, instead of sending in leaders to the annual high-level meeting. 

In a note from the US Mission, the country urged the 192 other member nations to call for all UN-hosted meetings and side events to be held online, as trips to the UN headquarters in New York "needlessly increase risk to our community, New Yorkers and the other travelers."


Germany has recorded 8,400 new infections, taking the country’s total to 3,843,775, according to data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases on Thursday. Deaths rose by 22, data showed.

see/rs (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)