The Latest: Hong Kong, Singapore agree to new travel bubble

A medical staff takes a swab from a child near a residential area in Qingdao in east China's Shandong province on Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020. A hospital president and the director of the health commission in the northern Chinese city of Qingdao have been fired after China's latest coronavirus outbreak, authorities said Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020. (Chinatopix via AP)

A medical staff takes a swab from a child near a residential area in Qingdao in east China’s Shandong province on Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020. A hospital president and the director of the health commission in the northern Chinese city of Qingdao have been fired after China’s latest coronavirus outbreak, authorities said Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020. (Chinatopix via AP)


HONG KONG — Hong Kong and Singapore say they have agreed to a bilateral air travel bubble, re-establishing travel links as coronavirus infections in both cities decline.

Under the air travel bubble, travelers from Hong Kong and Singapore will not be restricted on their travel purposes, Hong Kong commerce minister Edward Yau said at a news conference on Thursday. This means that tourists from each city will be able to visit the other.

Both Hong Kong and Singapore temporarily closed their borders earlier this year, banning short-term visitors from entering as they fought to reduce coronavirus infections.

Under the air travel bubble, travelers will also not be subject to compulsory quarantine, provided they have taken coronavirus tests mutually recognized by both cities, with a negative test result.

Additionally, travelers are required to fly on dedicated flights, which will only serve air travel bubble travelers between Hong Kong and Singapore.

The launch date has yet to be announced.



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PRAGUE — Coronavirus infections in the Czech Republic have hit a new record high, surpassing 9,000 confirmed cases in one day for the first time.

The Health Ministry says the day-to-day increase registered on Wednesday reached 9,544, more than 900 more than than the previous record set on Friday in the nation of over 10 million.

The Czech Republic has had a total of 139,290 cases since the beginning of the pandemic with 1,172 deaths.

The record surge is followed by the growing number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals. Of the 77,217 currently ill with the virus, 2,678 needs hospitalization while 518 are in serious condition.

The government says the hospitals could reach its full capacity by the end of October while working to increase the number of beds available to 10,000.

The Health Ministry has imposed a series of restrictive measures in efforts to contain the spike with schools and restaurants closed and public events banned.


BERLIN — Germany has reported more than 6,600 new coronavirus cases, its highest recorded daily total since the pandemic began.

The national disease control center, the Robert Koch Institute, said early Thursday that 6,638 infections were reported over the past 24 hours. That is about 1,500 higher than a day earlier, and exceeds the previous high of nearly 6,300 seen in late March. Testing has been expanded considerably over recent months.

While Germany is still in better shape than many other European countries, the latest figures underscore concern about a rapid rise in infections over recent weeks.

On Wednesday night, Chancellor Angela Merkel and the country’s 16 state governors agreed to tighten mask-wearing rules, make bars close early and limit the number of people who can gather in areas where coronavirus infection rates are high.

In total, Germany has reported more than 341,000 cases of COVID-19, including 9,710 deaths. On Thursday, 33 new deaths were reported.


BRUSSELS — One of Belgium’s main universities is moving to online education whenever possible because the coronavirus is continuing to soar across the nation and another is preparing to follow suit.

Ghent University said the measure will enter into force on Oct. 26 and Dutch-speaking Free University of Brussels said it already prepared its staff and facilities to do likewise if necessary.

Belgium has said keeping its schools open was a key goal while it took other measure to counter the resurgence of the virus, but the main indicators are spiking at a sustained rate.

Over the week ending Oct. 11, new cases increased by 101 % compared to the previous week and stood at 5,421. The total of confirmed cases since the pandemic began stood at 181,511 in the nation of 11.5 milion. The cases per 100,000 inhabitants stood at 494, one of the highest in Europe.

The virus has killed 10,278 people in Belgium.


NEW DELHI — India has reported its lowest daily increase in coronavirus deaths in nearly three months.

The Health Ministry on Thursday reported 680 fatalities in the past 24 hours, the lowest in 11 weeks, raising the country’s death toll since the pandemic began to 111,266. The country was seeing more than 1,000 virus deaths per day last month.

The ministry also reported 67,708 new infections, raising India’s total to more than 7.3 million.

According to the ministry, India’s average number of daily cases dropped to 72,576 last week from 92,830 during the week of Sept. 9-15, when the virus peaked. Over the last month, the country has been seeing a trend of declining cases on a week-to-week basis.

Health experts have warned about the potential for the virus to spread during the religious festival season beginning later this month, which is marked by huge gatherings of people in temples and shopping districts.


COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Authorities in Sri Lanka will impose a curfew on a key industrial town, after a surge of COVID-19 cases centered around a garment factory in the capital’s suburbs.

Police spokesman Ajith Rohana says a curfew will be imposed in Katunayake from Thursday until further notice.

Katunayake houses the country’s flagship industrial zone where more than 50,000 workers are employed. The country’s main international airport is also located there.

Authorities say the factories in the zone will continue their operations despite the curfew.

A curfew was first imposed last week in some parts of Western province, where the cluster was reported in Minuwangoda which is near Katunayake.

The Indian Ocean island nation last week reported its first locally transmitted infection in more than two months when a garment factory worker tested positive.

By Thursday, the number of infections linked to the cluster had climbed to 1,723, and more than 2,000 other people have been asked to quarantine at home.


CANBERRA, Australia — Australia’s prime minister says his government is giving priority to reopening air services to Japan, Singapore and South Korea.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Thursday that he discussed reopening air routes with the leaders of all three countries.

He described Japan and South Korea as “two countries that have done particularly well” in dealing with the pandemic.

“There are a number of countries we’re looking at to see what we can do probably next year. We’re not going to rush into this,” Morrison said.

The three Asian countries “are my current priorities in how we would pursue that,” he added.

Australia will allow travelers from neighboring New Zealand to arrive without hotel quarantine from Friday. New Zealand has mostly stopped community transmission of COVID-19.

Australia reported only 12 new cases of community transmission of the virus on Thursday.


SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has reported 110 new cases of the coronavirus as a hospital in Busan emerged as the country’s latest cluster of infections.

The numbers released by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency on Thursday brought the number of infections since the pandemic began to 24,988, with 439 deaths.

Half of the new cases were reported from Busan, a southern port city where at least 54 infections were tied to a hospital for the elderly.

South Korea just lowered it social distancing measures, allowing high-risk venues like nightclubs and karaoke bars to reopen and spectators to return to professional sports.

Health officials are planning to test 160,000 employees at hospitals, nursing homes and welfare centers for senior citizens in Seoul and nearby areas in part of efforts to prevent outbreaks at these facilities.


MEXICO CITY — Mexico reported Wednesday that a total of 1,744 health-care workers have died so far of COVID-19, and another 164 are suspected to have died of it but their test results are still pending.

The number of doctors, nurses, technicians and hospital employees confirmed to have been infected with the novel coronavirus in Mexico now amounts to 127,053. That means health care professionals account for about 15% of all Mexico’s confirmed coronavirus cases, and about 18% of all COVID-19 deaths.

The Health Department said that of those who died, 42% were nurses, 26% were doctors, and 32% were technicians, cleaning staff or other hospital employees.

Mexico has one of the highest rates of medical-personnel deaths in the world, and hospital employees have staged a number of demonstrations in Mexico to protest insufficient personal protective equipment. But Health Department officials denied the death rates was because of a lack of protective gear.

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