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New Zealand Suspends Quarantine-Free Travel with Australia


FILE - A sign painted near the runway of the Wellington International Airport greets travelers returning home in Wellington, New Zealand, April 19, 2021. The sign reads "Welcome Whanau" with the second word an Indigenous Maori word meaning family.

As Australia struggles to bring an outbreak of the highly contagious COVID-19 delta variant under control, New Zealand has announced the suspension of its quarantine-free travel arrangement with Australia.

“This is not a decision we have taken lightly, but it is the right decision to keep New Zealanders safe,” the country’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, said Friday.

The director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Rochelle Walensky, said Thursday the delta variant of the coronavirus that results in COVID-19 “is one of the most infectious respiratory viruses we know of and that I have seen in my 20-year career.”

Officials in Washington on Thursday urged people to get COVID vaccinations to protect themselves from the variant and to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

China is not happy that the World Health Organization wants to continue to investigate whether the coronavirus escaped from a lab in Wuhan, resulting in the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic.

The vice minister of the Chinese National Health Commission, Zeng Yixin, said Thursday WHO’s proposal to reopen its investigation into a Chinese lab leak as the source of the global outbreak lacked “respect for common sense and an arrogant attitude toward science.” He said China “can’t possibly accept such a plan.”

An investigation China and WHO conducted earlier this year concluded that it was “extremely unlikely” that a Wuhan lab leak was the source of the virus. International experts say, however, that Chinese scientists wielded too much influence in determining the results of the investigation.

After a one-year pandemic delay, the Tokyo Olympics formally opens Friday.

The event will be held amid tens of thousands of empty seats in Tokyo’s Olympic Stadium, with only about 900 dignitaries and other officials attending because of COVID-19 precautions.

The Japanese public is broadly opposed to holding the Games, fearing they will worsen Japan’s already deteriorating pandemic situation.

Tokyo on Thursday reported nearly 2,000 new COVID-19 infections – a six-month high for a city that is already under a state of emergency due to COVID pandemic.

India’s health ministry said Friday it had recorded more than 35,000 new COVID cases and 483 deaths in the previous 24-hour period.

Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center reported a total of 192.5 million global COVID cases Friday.