Asia Today: Australia to restart flights to New Zealand

International

Health workers attend a training session on handling the coronavirus pandemic in villages in Fatehpur, Uttar Pradesh state, India, Wednesday, June 3, 2020. (AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh)

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Canberra Airport opened a register for travelers interested in flying from the Australian capital to New Zealand on July 1 in a proposed resumption of international travel.

The proposal to restart flights connecting the two capitals was under discussion between the two governments as well as Qantas and Air New Zealand, Canberra Airport Managing Director Stephen Byron said Thursday.

Under the proposal, the flights between Canberra and Wellington would not require quarantine of passengers. Canberra Airport opened its register of interest for the first flight on July 1 and 140 names were added within the first hour.

“There’s very strong demand for these flights which supports the commercial proposition, but it also underlines the social importance of starting these flights as soon as the health authorities deem it safe to do so,” Byron told The Associated Press.

“We do think that the time is right now for government to set a date and for the parties to work together to deliver the service on that date,” Byron added.

Return flights would leave Wellington and Canberra on the first morning that flights were allowed, he said.

“We have to be safe, there’ no doubt, but the number of infections on both sides is very low. It is crucial that this is just a trial … and we’ve chosen the two most COVID-safe cities in the world, almost,” Bryon said.

New Zealand is on the verge of eradicating the virus after it notched a 13th straight day with no reported new infections. Only a single person in the nation of 5 million people is known to still have the virus, and that person is not hospitalized. However, it remains likely that the country will import new cases once it reopens its borders, and officials say their aim remains to stamp out new infections as they arise.

In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:

— INDIA’S TOLL RISING: India’s tally of COVID-19 fatalities has crossed the 6,000-mark after registering 260 deaths in the last 24 hours. The country also reported 9,304 new cases of the coronavirus in another biggest single-day spike, raising the total infections to 216,919 with 6,075 deaths. The Health Ministry said it was ramping up testing across the country with 4 million people tested so far. India has faced a spike in infections in recent weeks, mostly in cities. The coastal state of Maharashtra continues to be the worst affected with 74,860 cases and 2,587 deaths. India is the seventh worst-hit nation by the pandemic.

— 39 CASES IN SOUTH KOREA: South Korea confirmed 39 additional cases of the coronavirus, all but three in the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area as authorities are struggling to contain a resurgence of COVID-19. The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the newly reported cases raised the country’s total to 11,629 with 273 deaths. The agency says 10,499 of them have recovered while 857 remain in treatment. South Korea faces a spike in new infections in recent weeks, mostly in the Seoul area where about half of the country’s 51 million people reside. Those cases have been linked to nightlife establishments, church gatherings and a large e-commerce warehouse. Authorities have subsequently shut thousands of nightclubs and other venues.

— INDONESIA TO EASE LOCKDOWN: Authorities in Indonesia’s capital will ease a partial lockdown as the world’s fourth most populous nation braces to gradually reopen its economy. Jakarta Gov. Anies Baswedan announced the reopening of mosques, churches and temples on Friday but only at half capacity. Offices, public transport. restaurants, grocery stores and beaches will be allowed to operate also at half capacity. Malls and parks are scheduled to reopen mid-June. Schools remain shut this month. Baswedan said the decision to reopen follows a significant decrease in the number of infections in recent days. He said everyone except elderly, children under 5, pregnant women and sick people will be allowed to leave their homes wearing masks. Jakarta has recorded 7,690 confirmed cases with 523 deaths, while the toll nationwide stood at 28,818 infections and 1,721 fatalities.

— CURFEW IN SRI LANKA: Sri Lanka imposed a two-day curfew across the country on Thursday and Friday, in an apparent move to restrict public movement during a key Buddhist holiday and a long weekend. Sri Lanka’s majority Buddhists celebrate Poson Poya on Friday, which marks the introduction of Buddhism in the 3rd century B.C. The curfew came nearly two weeks after the government relaxed the 2-month lockdown. There are 1,749 confirmed cases in Sri Lanka, including 839 who have recovered, and 11 deaths.

— MYANMAR ELECTIONS ON TRACK: Myanmar’s Election Commission said this year’s general election will take place as planned in November and won’t be postponed because of the coronavirus crisis. The exact date will be announced later. Myanmar on Thursday announced one new confirmed case of COVID-19, bringing its total to 234 including six deaths.

— AUSTRALIA OFFERS GRANTS FOR NEW HOMES: Australia’s government has thrown the residential building sector a lifeline from a pandemic downturn by offering 25,000 Australian dollar ($17,323) grants to people who want to build new homes or substantially renovate existing dwellings. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Thursday the grants were expected to cost AU$680 million ($471 million) by the end of the year. The grants would “support those families and those Australians whose dream it was to build their home or to do that big renovation — a dream that they thought might have been crushed by the coronavirus,” Morrison told reporters. The government announced Wednesday that the Australian economy had entered its first recession since 1991.

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