Ontario Premier Doug Ford has said Canada’s largest province will drop many of its pandemic measures next month. The move comes amid protests, initially against vaccination mandates, that have spread across Canada.
Daily virus cases in Hong Kong surpassed 2,000 for the first time, health officials warning of a ‘crisis’ as rising numbers of positive cases threatened to overwhelm hospitals and upend the government’s Covid-zero strategy.
Several countries have moved towards easing travel restrictions. Lithuania has removed some entry requirements for people arriving from European Union member states. Indonesia has said it may drop quarantine rules for travelers from April. And Taiwan plans to reduce isolation periods for all visitors in mid-March.
Washington to lift mask mandate, mayor says
Washington will lift its mask mandate in certain settings starting March 1, Mayor Muriel Bowser said. The Nation’s Capital will no longer require face coverings in restaurants, bars, gyms and similar indoor locations. However, masks will still be mandatory in schools, healthcare facilities and on public transport.
Compulsory vaccination begins in Italy
Italy’s vaccination mandate for around 8.8 million workers over the age of 50 will begin on Tuesday. Private and public sector workers will have to show their so-called green super pass to prove their vaccination, or face fines of up to €1,500. Until Monday, proof of a negative test was enough to enter workplaces. More than 91% of people over 50 are partially vaccinated, leaving more than a million people aged 50-59 without any vaccinations.
Ontario plans to remove restrictions next month
Ontario Premier Doug Ford declared Canada’s largest province will fall many of its pandemic measures next month as cases and hospitalizations decline.
Vaccination proof requirements and capacity limits in indoor public places are among the measures that will be dropped as of March 1 if the healthcare system continues to improve, Ford said Monday. Masking requirements will remain in place, the province said.
The decision to end the measures comes amid protests, initially over Covid-19 vaccine mandates, that have spread across Canada and hit Ontario particularly hard. The protests shut down parts of Canada’s capital, Ottawa, for more than two weeks, and protesters blocked a bridge that serves as the country’s biggest trade artery with the United States for about a week until yesterday.
UK to give details of vaccinations for children
The UK will present “more details” on its vaccination strategy for children aged 5 to 11 next week, as part of its planned “Living with Covid” strategy, the spokesman told reporters on Monday. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Max Blain.
Currently, only children in clinical risk groups in this age group are eligible for vaccination, following advice issued in December by the government’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JCVI). The JCVI has since provided the government with advice for those not at risk, which ministers are now considering, Blain said.
Lithuania lifts travel measures for EU members
Lithuania has removed all Covid-19 related travel restrictions for European Union member states and will no longer require proof of vaccination or testing to enter the country.
The spread of the Omicron variant shows that “additional requirements for EU member states are no longer appropriate at this stage,” Health Minister Arunas Dulkys said on Monday.
Hong Kong cases top 2,000 for first time
Daily virus cases in Hong Kong surpassed 2,000 for the first time, with the worsening outbreak throwing the city’s Covid-zero surge into disarray.
Health authorities announced 2,071 cases on Monday, along with 4,500 preliminary infections. Cases have exceeded the capacity of public hospitals in Hong Kong, health officials said, adding that they will now prioritize care for the elderly and children who contract Covid.
Indonesia plans to lift quarantine measures
Indonesia plans to lift all quarantine requirements for travelers around April as Covid-19 hospitalizations and death rates remain under control despite a resurgence in cases.
From next week, the required quarantine period is reduced to three days instead of five for incoming travelers who have received a third dose of vaccines, said Luhut Panjaitan, the minister in charge of pandemic response in Java. and in Bali, in its weekly briefing. Monday. PCR testing requirements will remain in place for arriving travellers.
Taiwan eases restrictions on business travelers
Taiwan plans to ease border restrictions for business travelers and reduce quarantine from 14 to 10 days for all arrivals, according to a statement from the Centers of Disease Control. Business travelers can currently only enter after obtaining special government approval. The new rules are expected to come into effect in mid-March.
Suzhou cluster linked to Omicron
Seven confirmed cases and one asymptomatic infection have been reported in the Chinese city of Suzhou, prompting authorities to tell schools and kindergartens to postpone the new semester and begin mass testing at an industrial park in the city. Preliminary results link the cluster to Omicron.
US-Canada bridge reopens
The Ambassador Bridge that connects Canada to the United States reopenedclearing the biggest commercial artery between the two countries after protesters closed it.
Protest over Covid restrictions halted transportation of $13.5 million per hour of traded goods and forced automakers to cut production or cancel shifts at factories in Ontario and Michigan .
New Zealand moves to phase 2
New Zealand’s response to Omicron will increase to a new stage from midnight Tuesday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said at a press conference.
A confirmed case will be required to self-isolate for 10 days instead of 14, while a close contact will be required to self-isolate for seven days instead of 10. The self-isolation period for New Zealanders returning from Australia to from the end of February drops to seven days. days. People working in a critical industry can continue to go to work if they test negative using a daily rapid antigen test.
During this time, protesters gathered for a seventh day on the grounds of parliament in Wellington. Concerns are growing over sanitation at the site, where protesters are demanding an end to vaccination mandates.
Merck to speed up delivery of pills to Japan
Merck’s Japanese unit, MSD, said it would speed up delivery of its Covid-19 drug to the Japanese government, providing enough pills to treat 220,000 people in February and another 330,000 people in March as infections in the country are increasing.
Japan’s health ministry has also agreed to purchase an additional 10 million doses of Pfizer’s Covid vaccine in the first quarter as the country steps up its booster program.
Infections reported at the Winter Olympics
Three new Covid infections were discovered among those involved in the Olympics on Sunday, the Beijing Games organizing committee said in a statement.
Truckers quarantined in Shenzhen
About 300 to 400 cross-border drivers are quarantined in Shenzhen for 21 days and less than 50 can continue to work, Radio Television Hong Kong reported, citing an official.
Earlier this month, Hong Kong residents faced a shortage of fresh produce – and rapidly rising prices for what they could find in stock – as virus checks in mainland China prevented responsible truckers transporting supplies back into town. .
Hong Kong seeks funds to fight pandemic
The Hong Kong government is seeking HK$27 billion ($3.5 billion) for its anti-epidemic fund after the spike in cases. Lawmakers will deliberate on the funding proposal on February 15.
South Korea will offer a fourth Covid vaccine
South Korea will start offering a fourth Covid vaccine to people with weakened immune systems and nursing home patients, as breakthrough cases among vaccinated older people have started to rise.
The country saw a spike in new cases overall, mostly due to the Omicron variant, but deaths and critical cases remained relatively low, with nearly 90% of people age 60 and older receiving boosters. South Korea reported 54,619 new cases on Monday.
Singapore is studying tests for arrivals at Changi Airport
Singapore’s Ministry of Health is conducting a study to assess the effectiveness of Rapid Antigen Test (ART) kits for passengers arriving at Changi Airport, potentially replacing the polymerase chain reaction test, Business hours reported.
Under current rules, most travelers to Singapore are required to take a PCR test upon arrival and self-isolate until they return a negative test result. A move to ART testing would ease the burden on inbound passengers by reducing costs and reducing the wait time for results from several hours to 15 minutes. SM/MC
– With help from Ian Fisher, Peter Pae, Kevin Ding and Dong Lyu.