Australia, Singapore further restrict travel as coronavirus spreads

Australia’s premier on Friday warned citizens the coronavirus pandemic is now so widespread that they should reconsider all foreign travel. (AFP)
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Updated 13 March 2020

Australia, Singapore further restrict travel as coronavirus spreads

  • Australian citizens should reconsider all foreign travel
  • Singapore to deny entry or transit to visitors who have been in Italy, France, Spain or Germany in the last 14 days

SYDNEY/SINGAPORE: Australia and Singapore have further restricted travel movement as the coronavirus continues to spread globally.
Australia’s premier on Friday warned citizens the coronavirus pandemic is now so widespread that they should reconsider all foreign travel, as the government moved to halt events of more than 500 people.
“We now advise all Australians to reconsider your need to travel overseas at this time, regardless of your destination, age or health,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said, stepping up measures to slow the spread of the disease.
Singapore meanwhile will deny from Monday entry or transit to visitors who have been in Italy, France, Spain or Germany in the last 14 days, as part of measures to control the fast-spreading coronavirus, the health ministry said on Friday.
The southeast Asian travel hub, which also advised against non-essential travel to the four countries, will immediately halt docking by cruise ships, it added.
Singapore has a similar ban in place for travelers from Iran, South Korea and China, where the virus first surfaced late last year.


Pakistan launches anti-polio drive as COVID-19 cases decline

Updated 15 August 2020

Pakistan launches anti-polio drive as COVID-19 cases decline

  • Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria are the three countries in the world where polio is still endemic
  • Since Jan., Pakistan has reported about 100 new polio cases from various parts of the country

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani health officials on Saturday launched a seven-day vaccination campaign against polio as part of efforts aimed at eliminating the crippling disease amid a steady decline in fatalities and infections from the coronavirus, which had recently overwhelmed the country’s fragile health system.
The anti-polio campaign, which began amid tight security, aims to vaccinate as many as 34 million children across Pakistan, including former Taliban strongholds bordering Afghanistan, a government statement said.
Medical workers participating in the drive against polio were seen adhering to social distancing regulations as they wore face masks and gloves while going house-to-house to avoid a spike in coronavirus cases.
“I am hopeful that parents will continue to realize the importance of vaccinating their children during this campaign,” said Faisal Sultan, an adviser to the prime minister on health issues.
According to Rana Safdar, who heads the government’s polio program, similar campaigns against polio will be launched in October, November and December.
Earlier Saturday, Pakistan’s military said Bill Gates, the Microsoft co-founder and billionaire philanthropist, praised Islamabad’s success in the fight against coronavirus in a telephone call to the country’s army chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa. It said Gates also discussed the resumption of the drive against polio.
Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria are the three countries in the world where polio — a disabling and life-threatening disease caused by the polio virus — is still endemic. The nonprofit Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has helped Pakistan and other places worldwide fight the disease.
Pakistan had hoped to eliminate the disease by 2018, when only 12 cases were reported. But there was a surge in new cases the following year. Since January, Pakistan has reported about 100 new polio cases from various parts of the country, including the northwestern region bordering Afghanistan.
Pakistani Taliban and other militants regularly stage attacks on polio teams and security forces escorting them because they claim the anti-polio drive is part of an alleged Western conspiracy to sterilize children or collect intelligence. Attacks on polio teams increased after it was revealed that a fake hepatitis vaccination campaign was used as a ruse by the CIA in the hunt for Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden was killed by US commandos in 2011 in Pakistan.
Pakistan halted the drive against polio in March and resumed it last month amid a decline in infections and fatalities from COVID-19.
On Saturday, Pakistan reported only 9 new deaths from the new virus in the past 24 hours, increasing the country’s total of COVID-19 deaths to 6,162. So far, Pakistan has reported 288,047 cases and officials say about 93% of the patients recovered since February, when the country reported its first confirmed case.