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New Zealand, Australia struggle with new coronavirus outbreaks

Jack Burton



New Zealand, Australia struggle with new coronavirus outbreaks | The Thaiger
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New Zealand reported 7 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 over the previous 24 hours, as a lockdown in the country’s biggest city, Auckland, was extended yesterday in response to the country’s first coronavirus outbreak in months. The new cases bring New Zealand’s total infections since the beginning of the outbreak to 1258; the number of currently active cases stands at 56. 22 people have died so far.

Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield told a media briefing in the capitol, Wellington, that 6 of the new cases have been linked to the Auckland cluster responsible for all the previous community cases this week, while 1 case is being investigated.

The lockdown in Auckland, home to 1.7 million, was extended for nearly 2 weeks, and follows the discovery on Tuesday of the country’s first infections in 102 days, in a family there.

New Zealand neighbouring Australia have suffered far less death and disease from the pandemic than many other nations, thanks in part to swift lockdown measures. Although economically damaging, the measures significantly raised public trust in the leaders of both countries.

But Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is now under pressure ahead of a upcoming general election, with the main opposition National Party accusing the government of failing to secure quarantine facilities and withholding information. And Australia’s second-most populous state, Victoria, still struggling after it became the centre of the country’s biggest coronavirus outbreak last month. Its capital, Melbourne, is under a strict 6 week lockdown and the rest of the state has limited public movement.

Victoria recorded 303 new cases and four deaths today, following 372 new infections and 14 deaths yesterday. While today’s numbers are well below the peak of 725 new cases seen on August 5 and there has been some stabilisation, state authorities still urge vigilance. Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews told a televised briefing:

“The signs are encouraging but it is not over. There is a long way to go and the only thing that wins if we get fatigued, if we were in a sense to give up, the only thing that wins is the coronavirus.”

SOURCES: Thai PBS World | Reuters

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    August 16, 2020 at 1:04 pm

    Oh my God, Mr Jack Burton! How can you publish something like “NZ is struggling with a new covid outbreak” with 7 cases (positive to test or effectively sick?)???
    You’re contributing to spread terror in the world for the sake of few clicks on your site…

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    August 19, 2020 at 2:39 am

    NZ struggling? Not at all. We were never that naive to think a second wave Would not take place. Much like other countries. And Thailand’s not exempt from this happening either. But NZ is showing how you act quickly and get on top of another wave. Come back in a few weeks and you will see how NZ has effectively dealt with this second wave. But to label us as struggling is way off the mark. Have you been reading our headlines lately. Have you noticed we are at levels 2 and 3 lockdown? I’m sitting in a busy cafe whilst writing this. I don’t see a struggle going on around me.

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Jack Burton is an American writer, broadcaster, linguist and journalist who has lived in Asia since 1987. A native of the state of Georgia, he attended the The University of Georgia's Henry Grady School of Journalism, which hands out journalism's prestigious Peabody Awards. His works have appeared in The China Post, The South China Morning Post, The International Herald Tribune and many magazines throughout Asia and the world. He is fluent in Mandarin and has appeared on television and radio for decades in Taiwan, Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau.

Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Has Thailand’s suicide rate increased due to Covid-19 restrictions? – VIDEO

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Has Thailand’s suicide rate increased due to Covid-19 restrictions? – VIDEO | The Thaiger

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Before Covid, in Thailand every 40 seconds someone lost their life to suicide and nearly 800,000 people die due to suicide every year, according to statistics from the WHO.

In Thailand, suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15-29 year olds, after road fatalities.

Now, an apparent rise in Thailand’s suicide rate, related to the country’s current business conditions, restrictions and ongoing world pandemic, is concerning health officials.

The Mental Health Department released a report in September indicating 2,551 people in Thailand had killed themselves from January to the end of July, 2020. That is up a palpable 22% compared to the same first 6 months of last year.

Health officials are citing “personal problems, economic pressures, depression and alcohol abuse” for the rise in cases that appear to be linked to Thailand’s current economic woes.

South East Asian suicide rates are generally around 20 to 30 % higher than the global average, and Thailand’s general rate was the highest suicide rate in the South East Asian region before the pandemic.

The Thai Mental Health Department Director General Kiartipoom Wongrachit believes that both isolation and pressures generated by social media have contributed to the rise.

But he also believes that social media is becoming a valuable tool to help identify self-harm behaviour and provide intervention.

“Signs of suicide have been increasing on social media. While some social media platforms have technology that can detect video clips recording self harm or suicides… there are many other signs to look out for that the technology can’t detect.”

He linked the increase in the suicide cases this year to the outbreak of the deadly virus and described the trend as “worrisome”.

A March study by Chiang Mai University also identified 38 suicide attempts that were likely linked to stress associated with the lockdown at the time. 28 of them ended up in deaths.

The research was conducted in the middle of the local lockdowns and restrictions implemented by the Thai government to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

In June, Oxford University also released a study on the impact of the pandemic on suicide rates in the International Journal of Medicine.

The study found stress from Covid-19 had played a part in the suicide rates and that the problem “could linger after the outbreak ends”.

If you or anyone you know is in emotional distress, please contact the Samaritans of Thailand 24-hour hotline: 02 713 6791 (English), 02 713 6793 (Thai) or the Thai Mental Health Hotline at 1323 (Thai).

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Bangkok’s Khao San Road re-opening for local trade

Maya Taylor



Bangkok’s Khao San Road re-opening for local trade | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Screengrab - Bangkok Extra

Bangkok’s Deputy Governor Sakoltee Phattiyakul says the capital’s iconic Khao San Road is set to re-open for trade, targeting the local market of Thais and expats. The street is normally a mecca for international tourists, in particular, younger backpackers making the rite-of-passage pilgrimage through Southeast Asia.

There was a pre-Covid botched attempt to meddle with the area’s long-established, and rather endearingly ramshackle, mixture of shops, bars, vendors and scammers. Whilst not particularly popular with the locals, the old Khao San Road was a magnet to tourists. Attempts by the Bangkok Metropolitan Authority to gentrify the area resulted in a number of unsuccessful attempts to tame the traders and bring some order to the busy shopping zone.

But the closure of shops and the lack of tourists from the Covid outbreak provided the break the BMA needed to “sort out” the old Khao San Road and do a make-over for the eventual re-opening of the new Khao San Road.

The Covid-19 pandemic has hit the street hard, with businesses shut, and a marked absence of the international tourists who normally make up a solid 90% of Khao San’s visitors. Now Sakoltee says it’s time for the street to come back to life, saying vendors will target a new demographic of local Thais and expats whilst the borders remained largely closed.

The Bangkok Post reports that Sakoltee chaired a meeting yesterday to plan the re-opening, which it’s hoped will happen at the end of this month. It’s understood additional vendors who attract local custom will set up shop on the road, with various monthly events to boost visitor numbers.

Bangkok Governor Aswin Kwanmuang says areas surrounding the road will get a clean-up, in particular, the Chong Nonsi Khlong, or canal. Officials are planning to turn the waterway and the surrounding area into a visitor attraction, a development project that will take place in 2 stages. The first job is to clean the canal, which is currently home to weeds and rubbish. Aswin has directed 250 municipal workers to begin the clean-up operation. Trees along the canal will also be trimmed regularly, and the canal’s drainage and treatment systems are set to be revamped at some point in the future plan.

The Bangkok Metropolitan Association is also planning to create footpaths along both sides of the canal, a project that will be paid for through donations from local businesses. Aswin hopes to have all works completed by April 2021.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

How has Thailand avoided the worst of Covid-19? – VIDEO

The Thaiger



How has Thailand avoided the worst of Covid-19? – VIDEO | The Thaiger

We examine some of the reasons Thailand has been able to avoid the surges and 2nd waves of Covid-19. Whilst many countries are now suffering a 2nd and 3rd wave of the coronavirus, Thailand has locked itself in a bubble of its own making. Almost zero cases and any new cases coming from repatriates. Now the country has to figure out how to re-open its economy and borders, safely.

Why has Thailand, with a population greater than that of the UK, been largely spared the catastrophic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic sweeping the nation and much of the world?

Social distancing is embedded in Thai culture – Thais rarely touch when greeting, preferring the prayer-like “wai” gesture to a handshake or embrace. Could this custom be at least partly responsible for the country’s low numbers?

There have been no overwhelmed hospitals in the country’s public hospital system. No dead bodies in the streets. No social media postings from frantic doctors or nurses. The country simply acted swiftly, and with a determined force.

Thailand was quick to adopt the use of facemasks, close schools and enforce social distancing on public transport, even before declaring a national state of emergency and curfew, sealing its borders and forbidding interprovincial travel. Is that what prevented the runaway transmission of the virus here? Is there a genetic component that makes the immune systems of Thais (and others in the Mekong River region) more resistant to the virus? Or is it some combination of all these factors that have insulated this country of 69 million?

One thing’s for sure, despite an influx of foreign visitors early in the year from countries badly hit by the virus, especially China, Thailand has recorded just 3,236 cases since January, 58 deaths and achieved a 95.5% recovery rate. As of today, there have been no cases of local transmission for about 7 weeks (although there’s been a steady flow of daily single-figure infections as Thais repatriate from overseas)

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