Australia has pledged new foreign aid funding to help eradicate Covid-19 across south-east Asia and the Pacific.
NGOs have welcomed the $500 million commitment, which will fund immunisation programs throughout the region over the next three years.
“We have been asking for Australia to dig deeper, just as it did after the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami,” said World Vision Australia acting chief executive Graham Strong.
“John Howard said at the time it was ‘a human tragedy on a scale that none of us in our lifetime have seen, and it does require a response above the ordinary’. Covid-19 marks a new era in human tragedy – once again ‘a response above the ordinary’ is urgently needed.
“This announcement, building on Australia’s previous commitment to the region is demonstrating the type of leadership and friendship our region has come to know and expect from Australia.”
Residents in the Australian city of Melbourne are easing in to their first weekend since the end of one of the world’s longest lockdowns.
Eased restrictions for the city of five million mean locals can now dine at cafes and restaurants, or grab a drink at bars and pubs.
However, strict patron limits remain in place and venues have been encouraged to seat customers outside.
Retailers are also open once again, and residents may now invite two adults from the same household into their homes.
The restrictions were eased on Wednesday, with some venues opening their doors to customers from just past the stroke of midnight.
Brazil reports 508 new deaths, 22,000 cases
Brazil has reported a further 508 deaths and 22,282 new cases of coronavirus in the past 24 hours, the country’s health authorities have said.
It takes the country’s death toll to 159,477, while more than 5.5m cases have now been recorded since the start of the pandemic.
Cristiano Ronaldo has recovered from Covid-19 after 19 days, and will be able to leave home quarantine.
The Juventus striker has missed four matches since he tested positive.
The club said in a statement:
Cristiano Ronaldo carried out a check with a diagnostic test (swab) for Covid-19.
The exam provided a negative result. The player has, therefore, recovered after 19 days and is no longer subjected to home isolation.
Australia’s Penrith Panthers rugby league club has copped a $10,000 fine after its fans breached Covid-19 restrictions during last weekend’s NRL grand final.
Footage showed excited patrons mingling, hugging and drinking while standing during the team’s 20-26 loss to the Melbourne Storm, reports AAP.
The ANZ Stadium was also fined $5,000 for allowing patrons to congregate in bar areas to watch the match.
Two other venues at Sydney Olympic Park – The Brewery at the Novotel and the Locker Room – were also issued $5,000 fines.
Brazil’s government will “of course” buy a Chinese Covid-19 vaccine that is being tested in the country, the vice-president, Hamilton Mourão, said on Friday, in the latest example of him contradicting the president Jair Bolsonaro.
Last week, Bolsonaro, a long-standing China critic, said the federal government would not buy a Covid-19 vaccine from China’s Sinovac, one day after the health minister said that it would be included in the nation’s immunisation program.
Reuters reports that his comments thrust into the open a simmering debate over vaccine policy between the president and key governors, who have been exploring alternatives to the AstraZeneca vaccine the federal government has prioritied.
However, in an interview in the magazine Veja that hit the stands on Friday, Mourão said Bolsonaro’s stance was without substance, putting it down to a war of words with political rivals, like Sao Paulo state Governor João Doria.
“The government will buy the vaccine, of course it will. We have already put the resources in Butantan to produce this vaccine. The government will not run away from that,” Mourão was quoted as saying.
Sao Paulo state biomedical research centre the Butantan Institute is testing the Sinovac vaccine. Doria hopes to have regulatory approval by the end of the year and start vaccinating people in January.
On Wednesday, Brazil’s health regulator Anvisa said it had authorised the import of Sinovac’s raw materials to produce the vaccine.
Hi everyone, this is Luke Henriques-Gomes in Melbourne taking over from Nadeem Badshah.
I’ll be with you for the next few hours.
Qantas CEO Alan Joyce says Queensland border decision ‘ridiculous’
Australia’s political fight over Covid-19 border closures is continuing despite moves from some states to ease their restrictions.
Facing pressure from other states and industry, the premiers of Western Australia and Queensland have now both announced they would relax tough border rules preventing residents of other states entering in the coming days.
But business and political leaders have hit out at Queensland’s decision to continue a hard border with the Greater Sydney area, despite minimal community transmission in the city.
Alan Joyce, the chief executive of Qantas, labelled the decision “ridiculous”.
“Keeping the doors bolted to places you can’t reasonably call hotspots makes no sense from a health perspective and it’s doing a lot of social and economic damage as well,” he said.
All states continue to keep their borders closed to Victoria, where authorities have just confirmed one new case was recorded in the past 24 hours.
The 14-day rolling average in Melbourne, which just came out of one of the world’s longest lockdowns, is now 2.4. There are only two cases that haven’t been linked to a known outbreak over the past two weeks.
In New South Wales, education authorities will close Sydney’s Cabramatta High School after a student returned a positive test.
Queensland will reopen to regional NSW from Tuesday, while Western Australia has confirmed it will ease hard border restrictions for all states on 14 November.
Four tourists were arrested in Brazil for allegedly falsifying Covid-19 tests in an attempt to visit a beach.
The two men and two women were arrested on Thursday after landing in Fernando de Noronha, a group of islands off northern Brazil, according to a statement on the archipelago’s official website.
The Brazilians, who took a private jet and arrived Wednesday night, were accused of falsifying documents, using falsified documents and criminal association.
TripAdvisor users rated Fernando de Noronha’s Sancho Bay as the world’s top beach in 2020.
Fernando de Noronha reopened to tourists on 10 October, requiring Covid-19 tests that show negative results and administered no earlier than one day before departure. The visitors presented test results that were dated three days prior to their arrival.
Officials said they could not accept their tests and asked for samples to retest them. The defendants refused, and soon presented new results with a different date, according to the statement.
Officials became suspicious and called the laboratory, which confirmed the documentation had been altered in an attempt to meet the island’s requirements.
The tourists, who are from Brazil’s Tocantins state, were jailed and were tested for Covid-19 on Friday.
Canada has recorded 10,074 deaths and 228,542 cases so far and continues to break daily records for the number of new cases.
Some of the 10 provinces are reintroducing bans on indoor dining and limiting the size of gatherings.
Manitoba, which has the highest rate of active cases per capita among provinces, said it would tighten restrictions starting on Monday.
In Winnipeg, where most cases are located, all restaurants and bars will close to in-person dining.
Ontario premier Doug Ford said his government would introduce legislation in the coming days to extend the moratorium on commercial evictions in Canada’s most populous province.
France reports a further 49,000 Covid-19 cases
France has reported 49,215 new confirmed coronavirus cases over the past 24 hours, compared with 47,637 on Thursday.
The total number of infections rose to 1,331,984. The death tally went up by 256 over 24 hours to 36,565.
Stricter lockdown rules come into effect at midnight. People will only be able to leave their own homes for certain essential purposes, as the country tries to put the brakes on a Covid-19 outbreak that the president, Emmanuel Macron, said risked accelerating out of control. More details here.
US surpasses 9 million cases
The US has passed 9 million coronavirus cases, according to Johns Hopkins University’s tracker.
The figure stands at 9,007,298, the highest in the world, followed by India with 8,088,851 and Brazil with 5,494,376.
The US also has the highest death toll globally with more than 229,000.
US President Donald Trump, during his campaign rally in Michigan, has bizarrely criticised doctors who have been treating coronavirus patients on the frontline of this pandemic.
He said: “Our doctors get more money if someone dies from Covid.
“You know that, right? I mean, our doctors are very smart people,” Trump said, griping about those with comorbidities being counted as coronavirus victims.