Today’s coronavirus news: About 15 per cent of Hong Kong’s population may have been infected by COVID-19

The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Saturday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.

8:50 a.m.: Will you be forced back to the office this spring? Here’s what to expect when it comes to your workspace, your hours — and that dreaded commute.

Read the full story from the Star’s Rosa Saba.

8:10 a.m.: Starting Monday, New Yorkers will no longer require proof of vaccines to eat inside or go to concerts and children won’t need to cover their faces in school, Mayor Eric Adams announced Friday. The easing follows similar moves by Boston, Washington D.C., and Philadelphia, and is a sign of economic revival.

“This is clearly an Arnold Schwarzenegger moment: We’ll be back,” Adams said during an announcement in Times Square.

Still, he doesn’t plan to revoke the city-wide mandate requiring public and private sector employees to be fully vaccinated.

8:10 a.m.: Indonesia will allow quarantine-free entry for foreigners travelling to Bali starting March 7, bringing forward the plan by a week. Visitors from 23 countries, including the U.S., U.K. and Australia, can get a visa on arrival as long as they are fully vaccinated and test negative for COVID-19 prior to departure.

They will be tested again upon arrival on the island, with those positive for the virus required to isolate in a hotel or hospital until a followup swab on the third day. They must also have health insurance with COVID-19 coverage.

Bali’s local government is preparing for the looser entry requirements by accelerating its booster program to reach at least 30% of its population by March 7, and readying hospital capacity for COVID-19 care.

8:10 a.m.: Malaysia will announce the date for reopening its international borders next week, the New Straits Times reported, citing Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin. The Cabinet approved the reopening proposal at a meeting this week and Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob will announce the date, the report said.

The announcement is crucial to allow airlines, hotels, immigration department and other tourism-related businesses to prepare for the reopening, Khairy told reporters on Saturday at a conference.

8:10 a.m.: Hong Kong reported 37,529 new daily Covid cases and 150 deaths, taking total fatalities in the fifth wave of the virus to 1,561.

The city’s death rate from the latest wave is 0.36 per cent and involves people aged 11 months to 108 years old, with a median age of 85, health authorities said at a news conference. Six of the fatalities were children, four of whom were under the age of 10.

8:08 a.m.: About 15 per cent of Hong Kong’s population may have been infected by COVID-19, local media reported, citing estimates by a professor advising the government on the pandemic.

New cases will continue to rise and may peak by the middle of this month, Radio Television Hong Kong cited David Hui, a Chinese University of Hong Kong professor of respiratory medicine, as saying. Hui made the estimate based on infection rates found in buildings that have been subject to localized lockdowns and compulsory testing in recent days, RTHK reported.

The city is grappling with a record outbreak that has led overwhelmed mortuaries to deploy mobile refrigeration units to store bodies. Hong Kong’s January retail sales grew at the slowest pace since July, with the government warning of further pressure amid a surge in Covid cases.

8:05 a.m.: The U.S. will soon begin to run out of money to bolster COVID-19 testing supplies and to guarantee that uninsured Americans keep getting free treatment for the virus unless Congress swiftly approves more funding, the White House warned.

Nearly a year after passage of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, the administration says the federal government has nearly used up the money dedicated directly to COVID-19 response. More money from Congress is urgently needed to buy antibody treatments, preventative pills for the immunocompromised and to fund community testing sites, officials say.

“From the COVID side, the bank account is empty,” said COVID-19 deputy coordinator Natalie Quillian. “We’re in conversations with lawmakers about how to secure the funding, but it’s urgently needed.” Some of the consequences could be felt later this month.

The White House last month told Congress it was preparing to seek $30 billion for the virus response, but cut that to $22.5 billion in a formal request earlier this week that officials said includes only the most critical needs. It’s being coupled with a $10 billion request to provide support to Ukraine and its people after Russia’s invasion.

8 a.m.: On a quiet day in the intensive care unit of the Halifax Infirmary, registered nurse Joan Kearney described the new infection-control measures deployed against COVID-19 and the exhaustion of staff after nearly two years of the pandemic.

“I’m tired, just like everyone. It’s been a long journey,” Kearney said during a recent interview. “At the very beginning, the changes were coming daily as far as what we were doing and how we were doing it.”

The Infirmary is now in the midst of a lull, as hospitalizations from the most recent wave of the pandemic gradually decline. But staff say they’re expecting a new rise in cases, as most public health restrictions in the province are set to lift later this month.

“I don’t think it’s petering off,” Kearney said of the pandemic. “I think once things open up again, we will see another little blip, for sure.”

Provincial health officials announced last month that by March 21, restrictions such as gathering limits, social distancing and masking would end. Premier Tim Houston has said the province was ready to “make gradual changes” with “confidence.”

Read the full story from the Canadian Press


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