Fiji on Friday reintroduced more stringent Covid-19 safety measures as the island nation has reported a resurgence of fresh cases.

Hospitals have been notified to reintroduce more stringent safety measures of coronavirus while other workplaces have also been urged to more actively promote Covid-19 safety measures, Xinhua news agency quoted the Fiji Broadcasting Corporation (FBC) as saying in a report.

Permanent Secretary for Health James Fong said that hospitals in the country will now start restricting visitors, with more strict enforcement of masking and hand sanitization practices, and strengthening screening protocols.

The Ministry of Health is also calling on workplaces, advising that Covid-19 safety measures be more actively promoted and enforced by management, he added.

Fong confirmed that the ministry has noted an increase in cases admitted that are positive for the virus, with more cases reported from workplaces in the country.

According to the top official, Fiji has recorded 158 new Covid-19 cases since Tuesday, of which 67 were reported in the central part of the country, 53 in the western part, 21 in the northern part and 17 in the eastern part.

He also confirmed that an 89-year-old unvaccinated woman with co-morbidities died due to Covid earlier this week.

Fiji, a South Pacific island nation with a population of around 900,000, has recorded more than 65,000 Covid-19 cases, with 866 deaths since March 2020 when it recorded its first confirmed infection.


 Taliban supreme leader Haibatullah Akhundzada attended the ongoing Loya Jirga or grand assembly of Afghan religious scholars and elders in Kabul on Friday.

According to local media reports, the Taliban supreme leader would deliver a speech to the participants, reports Xinhua news agency.

About 3,500 ulema or religious scholars, according to the state-run Bakhtar news agency, have been invited from across the war-torn country to attend the three-day gathering, which opened on Thursday.

According to the Taliban-led administration, the Jirga allows people of Afghanistan and even representatives of Iran and Pakistan-based Afghan refugees to attend the grand assembly.

Some 70 personalities representing Afghan refugees in Pakistan and about 30 others from refugees living in Iran are in attendance.

Participants of the jirga are expected to discuss a series of issues, including reopening schools for girls from classes 7-12, the type of government, national flag and national anthem.


Australian Health Minister Mark Butler on Friday warned that Covid-19 isolation requirements would remain in place despite the end of pandemic leave payments.

The Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment scheme ended as planned on Thursday, meaning Australians who miss work due to being in coronavirus quarantine are no longer entitled to a lump sum payment from the federal government, reports Xinhua news agency.

Defending the move to end the scheme, Butler said the government could not afford to continue funding the payments, saying he "hoped" people would continue to isolate when required.

"We're going to have to start moving towards more normal programs that support the Australian community and people have been on notice about that for some time," he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) radio.

Butler echoed a warning from health authorities in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) on Wednesday that the country was facing a new wave of Covid-19 infections through July and August, urging as many people as possible to get their booster vaccines.

"Even if you caught Covid-19 in that big summer wave, where millions of Australians caught it, if you've only had two doses you are potentially susceptible to infection over coming months," he said.

Australia on Friday reported more than 30,000 new Covid-19 cases and over 30 deaths.

The new figures took the overall caseload and death toll to 8,132,210 and 9,900, respectively.

There were 3,267 cases being treated in hospitals, including 98 in intensive care.


Online shopping in South Korea continued to increase in May as the lifting of virus curbs bolstered demand for travel and cultural services and foodstuffs, data showed on Friday.

The value of online shopping transactions stood at 17.3 trillion won ($13.4 billion) in May, up 10.5 per cent from the previous year, according to the data from Statistics Korea.

Purchases made through smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices increased 14.6 per cent on-year to 12.9 trillion won. Mobile shopping took up 74.4 per cent of the total value of online shopping, reports Yonhap News Agency.

In May, online purchases of travel services as well as cultural and leisure services recovered to pre-pandemic levels on the back of eased virus curbs.

On April 18, South Korea lifted most Covid-19 restrictions, except the mask mandate, in a major step toward returning to pre-pandemic life.

In May, online shopping of travel and transportation services jumped 97.5 per cent on-year to 1.56 trillion won. The May reading marked the largest since 1.69 trillion won in August 2019.

That of cultural and leisure services soared 165.2 percent to 263.6 billion won. The May figure was the highest since the statistics agency began compiling related data in 2017.

Online shopping of food and beverage rose 16.8 per cent to 2.32 trillion won in the month.

Meanwhile, online transactions of food delivery services declined for the first time since 2017, as more people chose to dine out amid increased outdoor activity. They fell 3.7 per cent on-year to 2.06 trillion won, the data showed.


 Critics think that Beijing has shattered this promise in recent years with a restrictive national security law and electoral reforms which allow only "patriots" to run for Hong Kong's leadership, BBC reported.

The 2020 law followed massive pro-democracy protests in 2019, which included violent clashes between demonstrators and police.

Now, observers say, there is a slim hope for a more democratic political system and they fear that the character of the city has fundamentally changed, with Beijing in full control.

"Most Hong Kong people think that 'one country, two systems' has already disappeared," says Ted Hui, a former pro-democracy lawmaker who has fled the city, BBC reported.

Authorities say the national security law affects a minority, but Hui says it stifles Hong Kong's once-vibrant civil society.

In its wake, dozens of groups, including political parties and unions, have disbanded. The annual candlelight vigil commemorating the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre and the July 1 handover anniversary march have been effectively banned by authorities.

Several pro-democracy media outlets, including Apple Daily and Stand News, have closed down in the past year, BBC reported.

Hong Kong, once a beacon of press freedom in Asia, was ranked 148th in the world for press freedom this year, tumbling down nearly 70 places since the previous year.