Friday, February 3

Thousands Flee Hong Kong; Australian Tourism Hopes: Virus Update


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(Bloomberg) — Hong Kong is considering stricter social-distancing measures to curtail an escalating outbreak that’s strained its hospitals. That’s spurring Chinese in the city to go to great lengths to get back to mainland China.

Australia is reopening its borders to double-vaccinated visitors, and is pinning its hopes on a recovery in tourism. The sector employed about 5% of the nation’s workforce and contributed 3% to the economy prior to the pandemic.

Canadian police said they have largely cleared downtown Ottawa of the anti-vaccine protests that have railed the country and its capital for the last three weeks. Queen Elizabeth II, the UK’s 95-year-old monarch, has tested positive for Covid-19, Buckingham Palace confirmed.

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Key Developments:

Virus Tracker: Cases near 424 million; deaths approach 5.9 millionVaccine Tracker: More than 10.5 billion doses administeredHong Kong tycoons offer land for makeshift virus hospitalsUnmasking comes too soon for some still wary of Covid’s wilesExpat exodus builds in Hong Kong but escape is expensive

Thousands Fleeing Hong Kong for China (7:30 am HK)

Chinese in Hong Kong are going to great lengths to get back to the mainland as Covid-19 takes hold in the formerly virus-free financial hub, posing a challenge for officials fearful of contagion.

On Friday, hundreds of people queued at a border checkpoint between Hong Kong and Shenzhen, with many waiting hours to get through the checks and processes. Most have family ties with the mainland or are Chinese nationals studying or working in Hong Kong.

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Ottawa Blockade Largely Dispersed (7:12 am NY)

Police said they have largely cleared downtown Ottawa of the anti-vaccine protests that have roiled Canada and its capital for the last three weeks, as a financial crackdown widened to help prevent similar disturbances.

“The number of unlawful protesters has dramatically declined in the last 24 hours,” Ottawa’s interim police chief, Steve Bell, told reporters on Sunday.

Though still facing pockets of protest, the police have made 191 arrests, with 107 people charged so far. Much of the city’s downtown is still ringed with fencing and subject to checkpoints to ensure protesters don’t return.

Israel to Allow Unvaccinated Tourists (12:16 pm NY)

Israel will allow unvaccinated tourists of all ages to enter the country, beginning March 1. However, both vaccinated and unvaccinated tourists will have to take two coronavirus PCR tests: one before getting on the plane, and one upon arrival in the country.

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The decision, announced by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, is one of a number of steps to ease coronavirus limitations that are being taken by government as the number of new infections declines.

Egypt to Export Locally Made Vaccine (9:49 am NY)

Egypt is readying to export locally made Covid vaccines to African nations, looking to position itself as a hub for inoculations on the continent grappling with the virus.

Egyptian authorities are expected to discuss potential export plans with a Chinese delegation at the end of February, Heba Wali, president of the state-run Holding Company for Biological Products & Vaccines, or Vacsera, said Sunday in an interview in Cairo.

Hong Kong Weighs Stricter Social Measures (9:42 am NY)

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Hong Kong is considering stricter social-distancing measures to try to curtail an escalating outbreak that’s strained its hospitals and exposed an inadequate health infrastructure.

The current wave of infections, by far the most severe the city has faced during the pandemic, is testing Hong Kong’s zero-tolerance approach to the virus. Scenes of elderly patients lying on gurneys in the street because hospitals have no more space and frightened residents flooding emergency rooms have shocked residents, and drawn an unusually direct intervention from China’s President Xi Jinping.

Australia Looks to Tourism as Borders Open (9 am NY)

Tourists can finally dip their toes in Bondi Beach, dive the Great Barrier Reef and drive the Great Ocean Road again.

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Australia reopened its international borders to double-vaccinated visitors Monday, following almost two years of strict travel bans introduced to stem the spread of Covid-19.

It’s a long-awaited day for the tourism sector — which employed about 5% of the nation’s workforce and contributed 3% to the economy prior to the pandemic — and was already reeling in early 2020 from devastating wildfires.

Queen Elizabeth Tests Positive (8.50 pm HK)

Queen Elizabeth II, the UK’s 95-year-old monarch, has tested positive for Covid-19, Buckingham Palace confirmed. The queen is experiencing mild “cold-like symptoms” but expects to continue “light duties” at Windsor over the coming week , the palace said.

Concerns about the queen contracting Covid heightened this month after her son and heir to the throne, Prince Charles, tested positive after having had contact with her.

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