World

Australia in talks with Singapore, other nations to reopen travel

Singapore one of those involved in discussions as infections in state of Victoria dip

MELBOURNE: Australia is in talks with Japan, South Korea, Singapore and South Pacific nations on reopening travel as coronavirus infections ease, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said yesterday.

Australia shut its borders in March to slow the spread of the coronavirus and is looking to revive tourism to help pull the country out of its first recession in nearly three decades.

While Australia has managed to contain the outbreak better than others, it is facing a second wave in the state of Victoria, where Melbourne remains under a tight lockdown. But infections there have been falling since early August.

Mr Morrison said he had spoken to his counterparts in Japan, South Korea and some Pacific nations, while Foreign Minister Marise Payne had held talks in Singapore this week on resuming travel.

"There are a number of countries that have performed well on the health front, and Australia and those countries are one of a handful of countries that have had the same level of success," Mr Morrison said at a televised media conference.

"But we have to go cautiously on this - very, very cautiously. Covid-19 hasn't gone anywhere. It's still there. And it is no less aggressive today than it was six months ago."

The country reported 19 new cases yesterday, 12 of them in Victoria. It reported one fatality, taking the total Covid-19 death toll to 898.

New Zealanders will be able to travel to some Australian states from Friday without quarantining, including to New South Wales, Canberra and the Northern Territory.

Moves to ease a hard lockdown in Victoria state have stalled. The state government had been set to allow all shops in Melbourne to reopen, outdoor dining to resume, and free movement from Oct 19 if the two-week average of new cases fell below five.

In Indonesia, Jakarta will kick off a two-week "transitional" period of eased curbs from today after the pace of infections slowed over the last two weeks, Governor Anies Baswedan said.

The capital city of about 11 million in South-east Asia's largest economy reimposed tougher social restrictions from mid-September after a spurt in virus infections put stress on its health services.

"We need to emphasise that discipline must remain high so that the chain of transmission remains under control and we don't have to do an emergency brake again," Mr Anies said in a statement yesterday.

The new measures allow non-essential businesses to work from offices, but making use of only half their capacity, while dine-in customers at restaurants are also limited to 50 per cent of capacity.

Parks and museums will start opening with some curbs, while all businesses have to follow a strict hygiene protocol and keep data on their visitors for contact tracing purposes.

Indonesia reported 4,497 new infections and 79 deaths yesterday, the lowest daily fatality count since Sept 27, the health ministry said. The new infections brought the total infections to 333,449. Total deaths rose to 11,844.

Malaysia reported 561 new cases yesterday, the bulk of them in Sabah.

It now has a total of 15,657 cases, according to the health ministry. There were two deaths reported, raising the death toll to 157.- REUTERS

WORLD