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Sydney Airport
Finer details are still being ironed out, but Australia's international borders should be open within weeksImage: Jenny Evans/Getty Images
HealthAustralia

COVID digest: Australia to open overseas travel

October 1, 2021

Prime Minister Scott Morrison delivered the news as the country closed in on achieving its 80% vaccination target. Elsewhere, Thailand relaxed COVID restrictions as cases fell. Follow DW for the latest.

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Australia to reopen borders

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that Australians will soon be allowed to travel overseas, 18 months after they were forced to lock down within their country as the coronavirus pandemic began sweeping across the globe. 

He hasn't announced the exact details of the relaxation of rules, but assured that border regulations would be eased "within weeks" once 80% of the population is vaccinated. The government is currently working on a national plan to be able to do so.

The first phase of reopening will focus on allowing Australians to travel, Reuters news agency reported. Plans to allow tourists and other foreign travelers into the country will be worked out soon, following the first phase of reopening.

Since the prime minister announced he was shutting down Australia's borders in 2020, only a limited number of citizens and permanent residents have been allowed to enter the country. And everyone who did manage to get in had to quarantine in a hotel at their own expense for 14 days.

The federal government is hoping it will meet its vaccination target of 80% by the end of next month.

Here are the latest major coronavirus developments from around the world:

Americas

A new US pill could reduce COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths by half, drug-maker Merck announced on Friday.

Merck and its partner Ridgeback Biotherapeutics said it would soon ask health authorities in the US and the rest of the world to authorize its use.

Merck CEO Belen Garijo gives a press conference in April 2021
Merck CEO Belen Garijo is looking forward to get her new drug officially approvedImage: Markus Scholz/dpa/picture alliance

The new pill, called molnupiravir, was tested on 775 patients, albeit in a study that is yet to face peer review. Researchers found that 7.3% of patients who took it after five days of first discovering coronavirus symptoms were hospitalized or died as opposed to 14.1% who took a placebo pill.

Merck said it would be submitting the new drug to the US Food and Drug Administration for approval within days.

"When you see a 50% reduction in hospitalization or death that's a substantial clinical impact," said Dr Dean Li, vice president of Merck Research Laboratories.

Asia

Pakistan is banning unvaccinated adults from boarding flights, Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan said on Friday. The government had earlier announced it would not allow unvaccinated people to enter offices and shopping malls from Friday.

Even though Pakistan has no shortage of vaccines, skepticism among some sections of its population has hampered vaccination rates. So far, nearly 30 million people of the 220 million have been fully vaccinated.

The Philippines will allow restaurants to accept more guests and gyms to reopen in the capital region around Manila, as officials move toward reopening the economy. Although case numbers remain high, the capital region has seen a decline in recent weeks. Cases have averaged at 1,700 daily in the past week, down from nearly 4,300 in the previous week.

Japan emerged out of a COVID state of emergency for the first time in more than six months on Friday. Tokyo's busy Shinagawa train station was full of commuters rushing to work despite an approaching typhoon. The emergency measures ended on Thursday evening, although mask rules in public transportation are still in place.

Thailand is relaxing some of its coronavirus restrictions beginning Friday. It has shortened a nighttime curfew, which means restaurants and bars can now stay open until 10 p.m. Vaccinated foreign travelers to the country will also have to quarantine for a shorter duration of seven days, instead of 14.

COVID infections have been steadily falling in the country, with authorities recording around 11,600 new infections on Friday, as compared with more than 20,000 cases per day in August.

Malaysia has given conditional approval for a COVID vaccine made by China's Sinovac biopharmaceutical company to be used on young people aged between 12 and 17, its Health Ministry announced on Friday.

The country began inoculating teenagers last month, after having vaccinated more than 80% of adults. 

Myanmar mosque rescues COVID patients

Europe

Switzerland is giving out restaurant and cinema vouchers to citizens who bring their friends to get vaccinated in an innovative drive to boost inoculation rates.

"The immunization rate ...remains very low and this means we cannot end containment measures," Health Minister Alain Berset told reporters in the Swiss capital, Bern.

Lifting of restrictions due to Covid-19, restaurant terraces open, on the square in front of the Federal Palace in Bern, Capital of Switzerland
Swiss authorities in Bern have found it hard to fully reduce restrictions and attract touristsImage: Glories Francois/ABACA/picture alliance

With 42% of it 8.7 million population still not fully vaccinated against COVID-19, Switzerland has one of the lowest vaccination rates among Europe's richer countries.

The 50 franc (€45.74) vouchers can be used at participating restaurants and cinemas.

In Germany, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) of public health reported 10,118 new COVID cases and 73 deaths on Friday. The total number of cases for Germany stands at 4,237,619 and the number of deaths at 93,711.

The RKI, which advises the German government on coronavirus policy, also said Friday that it expects the number of infections to rise this autumn and winter. The RKI said contributing factors to rising infections include unvaccinated people and an increased number of indoor gatherings.

Meanwhile, the German states of North Rhine-Westphalia, Bavaria and Saarland are lifting most of their remaining coronavirus-related restrictions on Friday.

 rm/jsi,wmr (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP) 

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