COVID digest: Austria vaccine mandate becomes law
Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen signed into law on Friday a mandate for all eligible adults over 18 in the country to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
While some nations, like Italy, are mandating that adults over 50 or people who work in the medical industry get vaccinated, Austria's new law calling for the vaccination of all adults is the first of its kind in Europe.
Health Minister Wolfgang Mückstein called it "a forward-looking and active step.''
However, it could be some time before the mandate takes practical effect, as the plan is to set it in motion in several steps that will take months. First, people will have their vaccine certificates ready to present at all times as of mid-March, and only later will the government use the national vaccine registry to track down who has not been jabbed and fine them.
Although Germany's parliament debated a mandate last week, it could be months before compulsory vaccine legislation becomes a reality in the Bundestag.
Here's the latest on coronavirus from across the globe:
Bali has reopened to foreign tourists from all over the world, with direct international flights to the Indonesian province resuming for the first time in two years.
The visitors will still need to go into a mandatory quarantine.
In India, officially recorded deaths from the coronavirus surpassed the 500,000 mark on Friday.
Figures from the country's health ministry showed the death toll reaching 500,055, with 1,072 deaths in the last 24 hours.
In terms of total cases of infection, the country stands second to the United States with a total of 41.9 million infections. Many experts believe that the official numbers are under-reported, potentially by a wide margin.
South Korea has extended its cap on indoor gatherings amid a fourth day of record infections, following the Lunar New Year holiday.
Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum announced the decision at a government meeting on Friday, citing the "inexorable'' virus spread, even as he acknowledged the public's fatigue with restrictions.
Meanwhile , n Japan, serious coronavirus cases have gone over the 1,000 mark for the first time in four months.
Official figures of Friday showed that the number of seriously ill patients rose by 131 to 1,042 cases, the highest it had been in four months. Omicron cases are now dominant among a population where less than 5% have received a booster jab.
Germany on Friday reported yet another record in daily infections with 248,838 new cases of COVID-19, data from the Robert Koch Institute showed. The seven-day incidence rate was at 1,349.5 per 100,000 people per week.
Ukraine also saw recorded a record caseload on Friday, at 43,778 new COVID-19 infections, data from the health ministry showed.
The Austrian government has admitted issues with the implementation of its planned vaccination lottery.
The incentive to get citizens jabbed was supposed to be administered by public broadcaster ORF, but on Friday it recognized it would be unable to manage the project for legal reasons, leaving the government without an operator.
The lottery launch may now have to be postponed by several months, the coalition government announced.
Vouchers worth €500 ($572), which can be redeemed in restaurants and various other establishments, were to be included in 10% of lottery tickets.
Qantas boss Alan Joyce has likened Western Australia to North Korea over the state's domestic border closures nearly two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, railing against measures that are proving costly for his company.
"The fact you can get to London, but not to Perth — we are supposed to all be Australian — but you can't even travel in your own country," the airline company's head told radio program 3AW Breakfast. "And there isn't a plan in Western Australia... It's starting to look like North Korea."
Western Australia was scheduled to remove its travel curbs on February 5, becoming the last Australian jurisdiction to do so. However, premier Mark McGowan has indefinitely postponed the state border's reopening owing to the spread of the omicron variant of the virus.
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The Pacific archipelago nation of Tonga's remoteness has kept the coronavirus pandemic at arm's length — until now.
Last month's volcanic eruption and tsunami brought outside deliveries of desperately needed fresh water and medicine, but with those supplies came the virus too.
Now Tonga is in an open-ended lockdown, which locals hope will help contain the outbreak.
jsi,dvv,es/msh (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)