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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

CORONAVIRUS update: Scientists debunk conspiracies, South Korea cases jump to 82

The Thaiger

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CORONAVIRUS update: Scientists debunk conspiracies, South Korea cases jump to 82 | The Thaiger
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“We stand together to strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin.”

China’s National Health Commission reports there has been 114 new deaths from the coronavirus outbreak bringing the death toll to at least 2,126. 16,433 people have now fully recovered around the world. Around the world, there are 31 new cases in South Korea now which puts them in the top 4 countries with confirmed coronavirus cases. Japan has 84, Singapore also 84 and now South Korea has reached 82 cases.

Thailand’s confirmed cases remain at 35 with no new cases announced since Sunday.

China’s national health commission also reported 394 new confirmed cases in the past 24 hours, significantly lower than the 1,749 new cases reported the day before. The latest confirmed number of cases is the biggest drop in almost a month.


South Korea reported 31 new cases of coronavirus on Thursday, bringing the number of people infected in the country to 82. Of the new cases, 23 cases were traced to church services that a 61 year old patient had attended in the central city of Daegu.

Yesterday, the Shincheonji Church posted a statement on its website confirming 10 of its members were infected by the woman who had attended services.


The US public network NPR reports that there are two basic approaches to stopping viral infections. One is to block an enzyme the virus needs either to make copies of itself or infect cells. The other is to make a monoclonal antibody, based on a recovered patient’s immune response.

Researchers around the world are already testing the first idea with an experimental, broad-acting antiviral drug known as Remdesivir, which works by “gumming up a virus’s ability to replicate”.

The drug is currently being tested in China on patients who have coronavirus (Covid-19). A study published just last week found that Remdesivir successfully reduced respiratory symptoms in rhesus monkeys exposed to another coronavirus that causes serious disease, MERS, or Middle East respiratory syndrome.

In other work, the biopharmaceutical company Sirnaomics, a US pharmaceutical company in Maryland, is hoping to use a gene-silencing technique known as “RNA interference” to turn off key genes in the new coronavirus. But first, the company must identify viral genes to target.

Patrick Lu, Sirnaomics CEO says the testing is ongoing.

“We are currently testing 150 of them using cell-based culture. We are working with groups in the US and China.”


A group of Australians have landed in Darwin airport this morning after being evacuated from the virus-stricken cruise ship in Yokohama Bay in Japan. About 180 nationals and permanent residents had earlier left Japan on a chartered QANTAS jet.

The evacuees had been confined on the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Yokohama for the past two weeks. The ship had a total of 621 confirmed cases of the virus, the most in any single location outside of China.


The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has sternly denounced China’s expulsion of three Wall Street Journal reporters and is urging Beijing to respect freedom of the press.

“Mature, responsible countries understand that a free press reports facts and expresses opinion. The correct response is to present counter-arguments, not restrict speech.”

The move follows official complaints from Chinese authorities about the headline of an opinion article in the WSJ, which referred to China as the Real Sick Man of Asia* and a decision by Washington earlier this week to treat five government-controlled Chinese news organisations as foreign government functionaries. The move is seen as a likely tit-for-tat move by the Chinese after the US’s open criticism of Chinese media.

* We’ve provided a link to the editorial but there’s a pay-wall if you want to read it


27 prominent public health scientists are pushing back against the steady stream of fake stories and even a debunked scientific paper suggesting a laboratory in Wuhan may be the origin of the outbreak of coronavirus. The scientists, from 9 countries, wrote their statement and were published in The Lancet yesterday.

“The rapid, open, and transparent sharing of data on this outbreak is now being threatened by rumours and misinformation around its origins.”

The letter does not openly criticise any specific assertions about the origin of the outbreak, but many posts on social media have singled out the Wuhan Institute of Virology for intense scrutiny because it has a laboratory at the highest security level, and its researchers study coronaviruses from bats, including the one that is closest to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Conspiracy theories have included the possibility that the “virus was bioengineered in the lab” or that a lab worker was infected while handling a bat and then transmitted the disease to others. Researchers from the institute have insisted there is no link between the outbreak and their laboratory.

“We stand together to strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin.”


The coronavirus outbreak that continues to paralyse China’s economy may have a silver lining for the environment. China’s carbon emissions have dropped by least 100 million metric tonnes over the past two weeks, according to a study published by the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air in Finland.

“That is nearly 6% of global emissions during the same period last year.”

Over the past two weeks, daily power generation at coal power plants was at a four-year low compared with the same period last year, while steel production has sunk to a five-year low, researchers found.

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Teen near the Thai-Myanmar border tests positive for Covid-19

Caitlin Ashworth

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Teen near the Thai-Myanmar border tests positive for Covid-19 | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Thairath

A Burmese teenager who lives near the Thai-Myanmar border tested positive for Covid-19. Now, Thai border patrol officers are tightening security even more to make sure Myanmar’s outbreak doesn’t cross the border and cause a second wave in Thailand.

The 17 year old Burmese boy tested positive for Covid-19 last week. Reports say the teen was in Myanmar’s Payatongsu district, about 5 kilometres from the Three Pagodas Pass checkpoint bordering Kanchanaburi. The teen started having symptoms on September 11 and tested positive on September 17.

Only around 13 people were reportedly in close contact with the teen and they are now in quarantine at a district school. Health officials suspect the teen was exposed to the virus from his uncle who had travelled to Moulmein, a large city near Yangon which had a spike in coronavirus cases. The uncle has been tested and is in quarantine, but his test results are still pending.

In another case, a 2 year old Burmese child tested positive for Covid-19 after leaving Thailand. A report from Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health Disease Control Department says the child most likely contracted the virus while travelling from Thailand to Myanmar around September 4 to September 10. The family travelled to Mae Sot and entered Myanmar through natural passageways. 2,635 people in Mae Sot tested negative for Covid-19.

Since Myanmar reported a surge in cases, starting mostly in the country’s Rakhine state on the western coast, Thailand has been increasing border patrol to make sure people are not entering Thailand illegally and potentially spreading the virus. Now that there are cases in some Myanmar border towns, Thailand checkpoints are on high alert.

The daily number of Covid-19 cases in Myanmar continues to rise. The country reported a total of 6,471 cases with 100 deaths and 1,445 recoveries, according to Worldometer.

In some border districts, police have placed barbed wire along the border to prevent people from entering illegally. Security has increased and dozens of migrants have been arrested in the past month for allegedly entering Thailand illegally. Even volunteers have stepped up to patrol the borders. No migrants arrested for allegedly crossing the border have tested positive for the virus.

Daily new Covid-19 cases in Myanmar

Teen near the Thai-Myanmar border tests positive for Covid-19 | News by The Thaiger

The daily number of Covid-19 cases in Myanmar continues to rise. As of September 22, the country reported 6,471 cases with 100 deaths and 1,445 recoveries, according to Worldometer.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Business

Struggling airlines to get reprieve through small loans, extension to fuel tax cut

Maya Taylor

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Struggling airlines to get reprieve through small loans, extension to fuel tax cut | The Thaiger
PHOTO: TAT News

Airlines in Thailand are being offered a financial lifeline, as the Government Savings Bank announces soft loans for carriers left struggling as a result of the current Covid-19 ‘disruption’. Nation Thailand reports that the GSB is offering the loans over a 60 month period, with an annual interest rate of 2%. Chairman Patchara Anuntasilpa says the proposal will shortly be put to Cabinet for approval.

Airlines have been left financially devastated by the fallout from the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, with countries closing their borders, passenger numbers plummeting, and carriers forced to slash the number of flights on offer. The services available, including the food services, were also curtailed early on as a preventative measure but that restriction has since been lifted. The effect is being keenly felt by all the airlines in Thailand, with the Kingdom’s borders closed to nearly all international traffic since March.

In a further effort to ease the financial crisis faced by Thai airlines, the Excise Department says it will extend the fuel tax cut for low-cost carriers by another 6 months from the end of this month. Patchara, who also serves as director-general of the Excise Department, says the tax may end up being abolished completely. In normal times, taxation on aviation fuel generates around 1 billion baht a year.

Air Asia has also cut some of its ground costs by using airport buses to ferry passengers from a cheaper aircraft parking area, back to the terminals, foregoing the costs of the airport airbridges. Flights from Phuket to Don Mueang, for example, are now a full ‘bus’ service, sometimes adding an additional 15 minutes at either end for the loading up of the buses and the trip to the planes or the terminal.

It’s understood the excise tax collected since October 2019 totals 503 billion baht, down more than 6.5% on last year’s figure. Most of the income comes from oil or oil products, cars, alcohol, and cigarettes.

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

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Tourism

Phuket’s governor calls for help in restoring island’s economy

Maya Taylor

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Phuket’s governor calls for help in restoring island’s economy | The Thaiger
Shuttered businesses along Bangla Road in Patong yesterday

The governor of Phuket has likened the southern province to a “patient in a coma”, as he pleads for help to restore its devastated economy. According to a report in the Bangkok Post, Phuket Governor Narong Woonciew was addressing a Public Health Association forum, where he highlighted the economic crisis caused by the ongoing ban on international tourists. The island’s international airport closed in April, shutting off the supply of international tourists, and cutting off the flow of international money flowing into the island’s tourist economy.

The latest figures show that Phuket has lost over 400 billion baht since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. The island’s economy is, either directly or indirectly, 90% reliant on a steady flow of international tourists, and has seen a massive tourist infrastructure boom over the past 20 years, including accommodation, tours, tour boats, tours buses and passenger vans, international shows, new roads, restaurants and rentals – all aimed at the many levels of traveller budgets.

Governor Narong predicts the province will face similar hardship next year, and is calling on the government to organise conferences and other events that will attract more visitors to the province.

“So far, the province has invited 15,000 village health volunteers in the south to travel and spend time in the province while today’s seminar is bringing in 10,000 attendees and followers and will relieve some of the hardship.”

Meanwhile, PHA president Prapat Thamwongsa, says the forum gives those attending the opportunity to share knowledge and advice on tackling the spread of disease, with presentations and competitions addressing all public health activities.

Phuket usually receives around 14 million visitors every year, with around 10-11 million arriving from outside Thailand. The airport usually welcomes up to 300 international flights a day but is now only receiving around 80 flights a day, since the ban on foreign flights started in April. Narong says an estimated 40,000 of the island’s workers are now unemployed, while those still employed have taken hefty pay cuts of anything from 20% to a hefty 90%. Less than 30% of the province’s hotels are currently open.

“Phuket is like a patient in a coma in ICU. So, it is necessary for all stakeholders to help restore Phuket as quickly as possible.”

The Cabinet recently approved a long-stay visa (the Special Tourist Visa) for tourists who wish to visit the Kingdom, although critics say the strict requirements, coupled with the extortionate cost of the mandatory 14 day quarantine, make it unworkable. The new visa is also insisting that travellers will have to arrive on restricted charter or private jet flights, adding further cost and restrictions.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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