COVID-19 pandemic

WHO plans to end acute phase of pandemic, despite cases flaring in the Pacific

WHO's South Pacific representative Dr Mark Jacobs said the plan will help countries to move on from the emergency phase of Covid-19, to a phase of managing it "like an ongoing issue".

"In the Pacific, it's been about working with countries, and along with partners, to help build their capacity to manage Covid into the future," he said.

The plan talks about three different possible scenarios, one of those being the virus continues to evolve into new variants.

"The severity of it will go down over time, as immunity increases because of vaccination," Dr Jacobs said.

Europe entering Covid pandemic 'ceasefire', says WHO

Dr Hans Kluge cited high vaccination rates, the end of winter and the less severe nature of the Omicron variant.

Speaking to reporters, he said: "This period of higher protection should be seen as a 'ceasefire' that could bring us enduring peace."

It comes as a number of European nations end Covid-19 restrictions.

Dr Kluge said some 12 million new virus cases were detected across Europe last week - the highest recorded - but officials have not seen a significant spike in those needing critical hospital care.

Pandemic presents big challenges for Pacific seasonal workers

New Zealand has a new one-way travel bubble with Pacific island countries such as Samoa, Vanuatu and Tonga.

Vaccinated RSE workers from these countries can come to New Zealand without self-isolating or taking Covid-19 tests on arrival, after the one-way quarantine-free travel took effect last week.

Up to 5,000 workers are needed across the horticulture and viticulture industries during peak summer season in December and January.

The usual supply of backpackers to New Zealand's recognised seasonal workers scheme remains cut off due to Covid-19 border restrictions.

Covid-19 deaths pass five million worldwide

Vaccines have slowed the death rate, but some health experts say the true toll could be far higher.

The milestone comes amid warnings from health officials that cases and deaths in some places are rising for the first time in months.

Nearly 250 million cases of the virus have been recorded worldwide.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates the pandemic's real global death toll could be two to three times higher than official records.

In the US, more than 745,800 people have died, making it the country with the highest number of recorded deaths.

Airlines increasingly unlikely to fly unvaccinated passengers to Australia

Most international airlines who fly into Australia are likely to accept only vaccinated passengers, with larger carriers now considering whether it is logistically and commercially viable to sell tickets to unvaccinated travellers. Some carriers have had their allocation of unvaccinated passengers capped at zero.

Red Cross calls for urgent help for PNG after record COVID surge

Concerted international action is necessary to help Papua New Guinea (PNG) deal with a record surge in COVID-19 cases that is overwhelming the country’s health system, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has said.

The latest wave of COVID-19 has seen PNG report the highest number of daily cases since the pandemic began in March 2020.

The country reported 376 new cases on Saturday and is dealing with nearly 3,000 active cases of the disease, according to the latest government data.

New Clues Emerge About Whether Vaccines Can Help Fight Long Covid

Millions of people suffer from symptoms of long Covid, doctors estimate. Now, early research is offering some clues about whether vaccinations might help.

New Zealand COVID-19 pandemic strategy in doubt amid Delta spread

COVID-19 response minister Chris Hipkins said the variant "changes the game considerably" and makes existing protections "look less adequate".

It comes as the country announced a further 21 confirmed cases in the latest outbreak of the virus.

New Zealand had quashed earlier COVID outbreaks with rapid, strict lockdowns.

The country was praised for its efforts, which effectively stopped the spread of the virus. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has repeatedly referred to New Zealand as "our team of five million".

New Zealand Rugby scraps all first-class, club and school matches for this weekend

New Zealand Rugby (NZR) made the announcement on Wednesday after the return of Covid-19 cases in the community in Auckland.

From Tuesday midnight, the government announced that Auckland and Coromandel will remain at level 4 for seven days, while the rest of New Zealand is at level 4 for three days – at this stage.

There were seven community cases as of Wednesday afternoon’s Covid-19 press conference.

The next rounds of the national provincial championship (NPC), Farah Palmer Cup (FPC) and Heartland Championship will be played at a later date, NZR said.

Amazon predicts slower sales growth as COVID boost eases

Customers turned to Amazon and other online platforms during the COVID crisis, leading to record profits for the US giant.

But Amazon's breakneck growth is beginning to level as customers start to return to bricks and mortar shops.

Revenue climbed 27% to £113bn (£80bn) in its second quarter, but this missed analyst expectations.

Amazon shares fell 5% in after-hours trade.