SYDNEY: Australia will within weeks allow residents of New Zealand to enter the country without having to quarantine, Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said on Friday (Oct 2), as Canberra seeks to revive its ailing economy as COVID-19 cases begin to slow.
Australia in March closed its borders to all non-citizens and permanent residents to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Opening its borders for the first time to foreigners, McCormack said New Zealand citizens and residents will be allowed to travel to Australia's most populous state New South Wales and its remote Northern Territory from Oct 16.
They will not have to undergo a two-week mandatory quarantine, which is required of all Australians returning from other nations.
"This is the first stage in what we hope to see as a trans-Tasman bubble between the two countries," McCormack told reporters in Canberra.
READ: COVID-19 – New Zealanders may be able to travel to some Australian states before Christmas, PM Ardern says
New Zealand has effectively eradicated COVID-19, reducing the threat of additional infections in Australia.
While Australia has eased restrictions on its closest ally, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said earlier on Friday those who travel to Australia would have to quarantine on their return.
She also said New Zealand would not open its borders to Australians for now.
The travel route is a boost to Australia's economy, which shrank 7 per cent in the three months ended June, the most since records began in 1959, as virus curbs paralysed business activity.
New Zealand is Australia's largest market for visitor arrivals, surpassing China due to the pandemic, according to Australian Tourism 2020 data.
Australia has in recent days accelerated plans to stoke economic growth as COVID-19 cases slow significantly.
New daily coronavirus infections in Australia's hotspot state Victoria have fallen to a near four-month low, authorities said on Friday,
The second most populous state Victoria said seven people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, down from 15 on Thursday and near the fRead More – Source
Queen Elizabeth and Duke of Edinburgh receive Covid-19 vaccine
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Dozens killed in suspected jihadist attack in Niger
Dozens of people were killed in an attack in Niger on Saturday, in a suspected jihadist attack.
The attack took place around 12:00 CET in the Tchomo-Bangou village in Tillabéri, a western region bordering Mali.
“The assailants surrounded the village and killed up to 50 people,” a local radio journalist said anonymously. “The wounded have been evacuated to the hospital in Ouallam.”
It came on the day provisional results for the first round of the presidential election, held on December 27, were released.
Mohamed Bazoum, the candidate for the ruling Party for Democracy and Socialism (PNDS) and a former interior minister, is in the lead with 39.3 per cent of the votes. Bazoum has vowed to strengthen the country’s fight against Islamist groups.
The second round of the election is to be held on February 21.
Niger has been a target for jihadist attacks for years, particularly in the western and southeastern parts of the country.
On December 21, six days before the presidential poll, seven soldiers were killed in Tillabéri. In May 2020, twenty people, including children, were also killed in two of the region’s villages.
Niger votes in presidential and legislative elections
People in Niger began voting in the country’s presidential and parliamentary elections on Sunday.
Mohamed Bazoum, the right-hand man of outgoing President Mahamadou Issoufou is the favourite to win.
The sixty-year-old former interior minister is aiming for outright victory in the first round — something that no candidate has done before.
He’s focussing on security and education.
Over 7 million people are eligible to vote. But some voters, like Gambina Moumouni, simply want a president they can trust.
“We pray to Allah to choose us the president who has the most mercy for the people, a president who will not betray the country and who will not betray the trust of the people, that is our wish. It is also our wish that Allah may help to make the poor, the peasants, the (cattle) breeders happy.
Thirty candidates are standing including two former presidents and two former prime ministers, but according to seasoned observers in the region, the poll is arousing little enthusiasm among the population.
Niger is the world’s poorest according to the UN’s Human Development Index and also one of those hardest hit by climate change.
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