Australia, Singapore to create ‘travel bubble’
Australia is "working with Singapore" to create a travel bubble between the two nations as early as July, officials said on Sunday, in an effort to restart tourism and travel put on hold by COVID-19.
Early in the pandemic Australia effectively closed its international border to slow the spread of coronavirus, with non-citizens banned from visiting except in special circumstances.
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said Australia was "working with Singapore at the moment potentially for a bubble (beginning) in July".
"As the vaccine rolls out, not only in Australia but in other countries, we will reopen more bubbles," he told public broadcaster ABC.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported the deal would allow Singaporeans and Australians who had been vaccinated to travel between the countries without quarantining.
Canberra is also hoping that people from third countries - such as international students, business travellers and returning citizens - could complete two weeks' quarantine in Singapore before flying to Australia.
But Singapore, which has already opened its border to a handful of countries that have controlled the virus, including Australia, said it was "not in discussion on the concept of a quarantine centre or vaccination hub".
"Singapore is currently in discussions with Australia on the mutual recognition of vaccination certificates and resumption of travel with priority for students and business travellers," the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement Sunday.
"We are also discussing the possibility of an air travel bubble which will allow residents of Singapore and Australia to travel between both countries without the need for quarantine." Australia's 14-day hotel quarantine requirement for arrivals has left tens of thousands of Australians stranded overseas, with caps on returnees introduced as the limited system has been unable to cope with large numbers.
International tourism - worth about $A45 billion a year to the country's economy before the pandemic hit - has evaporated.
Australia already has a one-way "travel bubble" with New Zealand, allowing Kiwis to visit without quarantining, though the scheme has been suspended a number of times in response to virus outbreaks.
ITALY SUSPENDS ASTRA JAB AGAIN AFTER DEATH
Italy's northern Piedmont region on Sunday local time suspended use of the AstraZeneca vaccine after the death of a teacher who had received it the day before, the regional health authority said.
The woman, whose age has not been disclosed, died on Sunday at Biella, a town north of Turin.
"This is an extreme precautionary measure, while waiting to see if there exists a causal link between the vaccination and the death," said a statement from regional health advisor Luigi Genesio Icardi.
On Sunday, health ministry inspectors arrived in Sicily, in the south of the country, to investigate the death there of a 43-year-old soldier last Tuesday after having received the vaccine.
An autopsy was performed Saturday at a hospital at Catania, on the island. Several countries, including Ireland, Denmark, Norway and Bulgaria, have suspended use of the AstraZeneca jabs because of fears over blood cuts in patients who received the vaccine.
The World Health Organisation and the company have said there is no causal link between the vaccine and clotting and the Anglo-Swedish manufacturer says the jab is safe.
US WEIGHS NEW 3-FOOT RULE
The United States' top pandemic advisor said on Sunday that authorities were considering cutting social distancing rules to one metre (three feet), a move that would change a key tenet of the global fight against COVID-19.
Anthony Fauci, a world-respected figure during the coronavirus crisis, said, "The CDC is very well aware that data are accumulating making it look more like three feet are OK under certain circumstances," Dr Fauci added.
While cautioning that the CDC was still weighing the data and conducting its own tests, he said its findings would come "soon."
The six-foot social distancing rule has been a widely-adopted global measure to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, along with mask-wearing and hand-washing.
School officials across the world are under pressure to fully reopen as soon as safely possible, but many say the six-foot requirement makes it difficult without adding portable classrooms or shortening the school day.
The United States has the highest COVID-19 fatality toll in the world, now approaching 535,000, but it has seen case numbers and death rates fall this year.
INVESTIGATOR CLAIMS COVID BIOWEAPON A POSSIBILITY
A lead investigator says the coronavirus was released as the fall out of research performed by the Chinese military into bioweapons.
The pathogen not only came from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, but might also have been a bioweapon potentially used by the People's Liberation Army, according to David Asher, a former Department of State heavyweight who oversaw the task force into the coronavirus' origins.
"This has turned out to be the greatest weapon in history (for China)," he said.
The Sun reports that Mr Asher believes the virus which has crippled the world was created as part of a weapons program.
"The Wuhan Institute of Virology is not the National Institute of Health," he told Fox News, adding he was a "follow the money" kind of investigator at the State Department before getting his current position as a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute.
"It was operating a secret, classified program. In my view, it was a biological weapons program."
At Mr Asher's previous jobs at both the Department of State and Treasury, he worked under Democratic and Republican administrations to look into international nuclear procurement networks in Pakistan and North Korea.
He now believes the Chinese Communist Party has been trying to keep a lid on the true origins of the coronavirus for more than a year.
"And if you believe, as I do, that this might have been a weapons vector gone awry, not deliberately released, but in development and then somehow leaked, this has turned out to be the greatest weapon in history," Mr Asher said.
"You've taken out 15 to 20 per cent of global GDP. You've killed millions of people. The Chinese population has been barely affected. Their economies roared back to being number one in the entire G20."
He said he couldn't help but think on his work uncovering the Pakistani and North Korean governments' methods of cover-up.
"Motive, cover-up, conspiracy, all the hallmarks of guilt are associated with this," he said.
"And the fact that the initial cluster of victims surrounded the very institute that was doing the highly dangerous, if not dubious research is significant."
"We have entered into an area of Chinese biowarfare, and including using things like viruses," he ended. "I mean, they made a public statement to their people that this is a new priority under the Xi national security policy."
Meanwhile, the New York Times said that more than 345 million doses of vaccines have been given worldwide in the three months since mass inoculation began in December, but there is still a very big gap in vaccination rates.
Until the vast majority of the world is given a jab, the virus will continue to evolve into variants that are more contagious, deadlier and which can evade the immune response.
A worldwide program led by the bumbling World Health Organisation and other groups has made a few million doses of COVID-19 vaccines available to some African countries, but in a shocking revelation, the Times said it is unlikely to have enough doses for the rest of the world before 2024.
Israel continues to stand out in the global vaccination race, with 58 per cent of its population being given at least one dose of either the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, and 46 per cent having received both required doses. Chile claims that a quarter of its population has received at least one dose.
And even Britain is now claiming that a third of its population has received at least one dose, far ahead of any of its European counterparts as some studies indicate just one jab could mean far fewer hospitalisation.
In North America, 18 doses have been administered for every 100 people, while in South America, there have been just 4.9 vaccinations per 100 people as outbreaks grow across the continent. Many African nations have yet to even begin to roll out the jabs with less than one dose given across the continent for every 100 people.
Originally published as Australia, Singapore to create 'travel bubble'