Australia economy climbs back to pre-pandemic size


Australia’s economy has continued its rapid rebound, to grow larger than it was before the Covid-19 pandemic.

Official figures show that gross domestic product (GDP) rose by 1.8% in the first quarter, beating expectations.

Growth was spurred by a soaring demand for commodities around the world and spending by consumers and businesses.

Last year, Australia was tipped into recession after lockdown measures were imposed across the country.

Rising household spending, investment by businesses, and higher prices of iron ore and gas exports helped drive the expansion, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

The country’s speedy recovery has been helped by its ability to contain coronavirus outbreaks, which boosted consumer and business confidence.

Memorial Day weekend is first maskless holiday in over a year for many Americans as mandates lift


Travel is up, Covid-19 cases are down, and vaccines have been put in many arms.

The coronavirus pandemic isn’t over, but Memorial Day weekend is set to look more like it did before the virus upended life more than a year ago.

Americans Saturday were experiencing their first holiday weekend since the CDC changed its masking guidance on May 13 — that fully vaccinated people don’t need to wear masks indoors, and they don’t have to keep their distance from others.

Mask mandates melted away. As of Friday, California, Hawaii, New Mexico were the only states with mask mandates for everyone.

People are increasingly on the move. AAA estimated that more than 37 million people in the US would travel at least 50 miles from home over the Memorial Day weekend — 13% down from 2019, but 60% above last year.

President Joe Biden on Friday praised what vaccination progress has been made, expressing a sense of hope ahead of the unofficial start of summer.

“We’re not just saving lives. We’re getting our lives back, ” Biden said during remarks at Sportrock Climbing Center in Alexandria, Virginia on Friday.

N.Y.C. will eliminate remote learning for the fall, in a major step toward reopening


New York City will no longer have a remote schooling option come fall, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced during a television appearance on Monday, a major step toward fully reopening the nation’s largest school system.

This school year, most of the city’s roughly one million students — about 600,000 — stayed at home for classes. When the new school year starts on Sept. 13, all students and staff will be back in school buildings full-time, Mr. de Blasio said.

New York is one of the first big cities to remove the option of remote learning altogether for the coming school year. But widespread predictions that online classes would be a fixture for school districts may have been premature. Gov. Philip D. Murphy of New Jersey announced last week that the state would no longer have remote classes come fall, after similar announcements by leaders in Connecticut and Massachusetts.

New York City’s decision will make it much easier to restore the school system to a prepandemic state, since students and teachers will no longer be split between homes and school buildings.

Israel to end COVID-19 restrictions after vaccine success


Israel will end local COVID-19 restrictions following a successful vaccine rollout that has nearly stamped out new infections, the country’s Health Ministry said on Sunday.

With the majority of the population having received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, and about 92% of those 50 and older inoculated or recovered, Israel has been gradually reopening its economy after three lockdowns.

The country reported just 12 new virus cases on Saturday, down from a daily peak of more than 10,000 in January.

Curbs on higher-risk activities and limits on how many people can gather in a specific area remain, with a government-issued “Green Pass” that indicates immunity post-vaccination or recovery from COVID-19 allowing greater freedom.

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said on Sunday that he will not be extending the arrangement, meaning the restrictions and the Green Pass system will be revoked from the start of June.

‘Cautious hugging’ and pints: UK PM Johnson to ease England’s lockdown

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday gave the green light to cautious hugging and the serving of pints inside pubs after months of strict restrictions as he set out the next phase of coronavirus lockdown easing in England.

Johnson confirmed that England could continue to the next stage of his four-step plan to bring the country out of lockdown by the summer, as the COVID-19 situation improved thanks to the rollout of vaccines and social restriction measures.

“This unlocking amounts to a very considerable step on the road back to normality and I am confident that we will be able to go further,” Johnson told a media conference.

“We are announcing the single biggest step on our road map, and it will allow us to do many of the things that we’ve yearned to do for a long time.”

Broadway poised to announce September return


The Broadway League says it expects shows to officially return in September.

Sources say a formal announcement is set for May 11.

Mayor Bill de Blasio hinted at Broadway’s return during an appearance on MSNBC Thursday in which he said he would like to see the city fully reopen on July 1.

The initial plan is for some of the bigger blockbuster shows like “Wicked,” “The Lion King” and “Hamilton” to return first, most likely around Labor Day. Another source says the cast of “Moulin Rouge!” was called into a Zoom meeting this week and informed that the show will reopen in mid-September.

This news comes on the heels of Telecharge putting tickets for “Chicago,” “Jagged Little Pill” and “Ain’t Too Proud” on sale for performances for early to mid-September. No official reopening dates have been announced for those shows, but it is possible they will also be making a return sooner rather than later.

The US is taking a major step toward resuming normal life


As May arrives, the US is taking a major step toward resuming normal life, with cities, businesses and entertainment venues announcing plans to begin reopening after the deadly winter surge of Covid-19 infections.

New York City indoor dining capacity will expand to 75% beginning May 7, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday, detailing a swath of other measures that will ease restrictions.

The travel industry is gearing up for a big summer season. This week, Delta will resume filling the middle seat on flights while Disneyland in California is opening its park gates for the first time in more than a year at around 25% attendance capacity.

In sports, the Atlanta Braves and Atlanta United are among the first teams in their leagues to return to 100% capacity for games starting in May, with the condition that fans wear face coverings. The Kentucky Derby will have thousands of spectators Saturday, although attendees will also have to wear masks, following a state requirement for outdoor events with more than 1,000 people.

The latest data is offering hope as the seven-day average Covid-19 death rate is at its lowest point of the year, according to a CNN analysis of Johns Hopkins University data. The daily average number of deaths in April was 684, down from the January average of 3,431 deaths per day. It’s the lowest point since October.

Almost 44% of the population — nearly 144 million people — have received at least one dose of vaccine, according to the latest numbers from the CDC. Around 30% of the US population is fully vaccinated.

Vaccinated Americans no longer need to wear masks outside except in crowds, CDC says


Joe Biden has told fully vaccinated Americans they can go outdoors without a face mask, except in big crowds, as he attempts to steer a lockdown-weary nation back towards normality.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, the president used the bully pulpit of the White House to assure the public science shows the risk of coronavirus infection is very low for vaccinated people in outdoor spaces.

“Starting today, if you’re fully vaccinated and you’re outdoors and not in a big crowd, you no longer need to wear a mask,” said Biden, beside a tree and lawn, in warm spring sunshine.

“I want to be absolutely clear. If you’re in a crowd, like a stadium or at a conference or a concert, you still need to wear a mask, even if you’re outside. But beginning today, gathering with a group of friends in a park, going for a picnic as long as you are vaccinated and outdoors, you can do it without a mask.”

“The CDC is able to make this announcement because our scientists are convinced by the data that the odds of getting or giving the virus to others is very, very low if you’re both fully vaccinated and out in the open air.”

Biden also hailed the “stunning progress” the US has made against the virus since he took office on 20 January, with 215m vaccine shots administered and cases and deaths “down dramatically”. Two thirds of elderly people are now fully vaccinated, he said, resulting in an 80% drop in deaths and 70% drop in hospitalisations among that group.

‘No sign’ of infection after Barcelona Covid-19 concert trial


There has been “no sign” of coronavirus infection among 5,000 unvaccinated people who took part in an indoor trial concert last month in Barcelona seeking pandemic-safe ways to celebrate mass events, organisers said on Tuesday (April 27).

The participants underwent PCR tests two weeks after the March 27 event and “there is no sign that suggests transmission took place during the event”, Mr Josep Maria Llibre, a specialist in infectious diseases from the Germans Trias i Pujol hospital told a news conference.

Organised by the hospital and a group of Spanish music promoters, the concert in the Palau de Sant Jordi was billed as Europe’s biggest indoor rock concert since the start of the pandemic.

78,113 people attend the traditional ANZAC Day AFL match in Melbourne, the biggest attendance at a global sporting event since the start of the pandemic


A crowd of 78,113 packed into the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) for an Australian rules match between Collingwood and Essendon on Sunday, the highest attendance at a sports stadium anywhere in the world since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Authorities in Australia’s southern state of Victoria, of which Melbourne is the capital, on Friday raised the cap on the attendance at the 100,000-seater arena to 85,000 ahead of the traditional Anzac Day blockbuster.

Sunday’s attendance was higher than the 67,200 and 66,352 crowds attracted to the first two Twenty20 cricket matches between India and England at the 132,000-capacity Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad in March.

Anzac Day, which commemorates a bloody battle fought by the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) during World War One, is an iconic day in the regional calendar with bumper crowds guaranteed at sporting fixtures.

The Collingwood Magpies and Essendon Bombers, two of the best-supported teams in the Australian Football League (AFL), have met since 1995 on what is a public holiday when it falls on a weekday.

Last year, the match was played at an empty MCG but the fans were back with a vengeance at the cavernous stadium on Sunday, emitting a roar when the commemorative pre-match preliminaries were completed.