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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

US and China compete to control the narrative on the origins of Covid-19

The Thaiger

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US and China compete to control the narrative on the origins of Covid-19 | The Thaiger
PHOTO: There was no secret laboratory 'inventing' the Covid-19 virus - National Post
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With the two year trade war between the economic super-powers still being sorted out, the Chinese and US governments have entered into a tit-for-tat exchange of blame for the origins of the Covid-19 virus this week.

Conspiracy theories have been fired back and forth between officials in the two countries. Washington has described the coronavirus outbreak as the “Wuhan Virus”. Even the US President has called it the “foreign virus”… “that started in China” during a nationwide address.

And US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has publicly called the new coronavirus the “Wuhan virus”, prompting China’s foreign ministry to reject the term as “despicable” and “disrespecting science”.

The diplomatic media spat comes as Chinese officials try to deflect blame for the origins of the contagion and reframe the narrative with China taking “decisive steps” to buy the world time by placing large sections its population under quarantine. (This step was unprecedented at the time and never before attempted on a city-wide scale)

With cases swiftly falling in China (only 20 new cases announced in the past 24 hours whilst there were 3,497 new cases in Italy and 1,365 in Iran), Beijing is trying to re-imagine the widely held assessment that Wuhan, in Hubei province, is the birthplace of the outbreak.

Without any verifiable evidence, the Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian took to Twitter on Thursday claiming “it might be US army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan”.

A video showing a US health official saying some flu victims were posthumously diagnosed as having had Covid-19, was a popular search item on China’s Weibo platform this week, (Weibo is a Chinese homegrown Facebook/Twitter-style App), with Chinese readers taking the bait.

Zhao then posted the clip on Twitter. This prompted the US State Department to officially invite the Chinese Ambassador to the State Department for a “please explain” meeting.

Zhao then complained that journalists using the term “China virus” were “suggesting its origin without any supporting facts or evidence” and had “ulterior motives.” But the indignant foreign ministry spokesman didn’t relent and wouldn’t retract his comments.

Even Gao Fu, the head of China’s Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, said back in January “we now know the source of the virus is wild animals sold at the seafood market” in Wuhan.

Robert O’Brien, the US national security adviser, insisted this week that the virus originated in Wuhan. Blaming the pandemic on an initial lack of cooperation from Chinese officials and a cover-up when the outbreak first emerged, O’Brien said this had “cost the world community two months to respond” to the threat.

Chinese government officials described his remarks “extremely immoral and also irresponsible”.

But there have been plenty of other unhelpful and nonsense theories running amok on social media which are equally untrue, and since debunked. In one version of the rumour, the coronavirus Covid-19 was magically engineered in a Chinese lab by humans as a “bioweapon”. In another rumour, the virus was apparently being studied in the lab and then “escaped” or “leaked” because of poor safety protocol.

The Wuhan Institute of Virology is a real place (that’s evidence enough for some), and the precise origin (as in date and location) of the novel coronavirus remains a mystery. Researchers continue to isolate the true origins but virologists who’ve parsed the genome, and epidemiologists who study coronaviruses, say they have enough evidence to emphatically prove that Covid-19 is brand new and came from nature, not the test tube of a rogue Chinese scientist.

Scientists have now conclusively cited the genome analyses from multiple countries, affirmed in The Lancet and other peer-review documents, that Covid-19 originated in wildlife.

Chinese authorities, after a slow start, eventually identified Wuhan and the rest of Hubei province as a threat so they placed some 50 million+ people under strict quarantine to in an unprecedented effort to contain the epidemic.

But, probably in a face-saving action by the Chinese government to deflect accusations from their citizens on social media, began sowing doubts in late February. This is the time Zhong Nanshan, a respected consultant with the Chinese National Health Commission, told reporters “the epidemic first appeared in China, but didn’t necessarily originate in China.”

International scientists, however, have long suspected, and since provided evidence, that the virus jumped from an animal at the Wuhan market to a human before spreading globally. The prime suspects are either civet cats or bats.

The World Health Organisation has also stated that, while the exact pathway between its animal source and humans is still unclear, Covid-19 was “unknown before the outbreak began in Wuhan, China, in December 2019”.

Gerald Keusch, a professor of medicine and international health and associate director of Boston University’s National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories, told Vox.com this week…

“Conspiracy theories about manmade viruses are not new. We saw this with HIV… the rumour that the US made it and introduced it into Africa. But they are really dangerous kinds of things to get spread around.”

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Coronavirus UPDATE: World total passes 1 million cases, Covid-19 vs Flu

The Thaiger

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Coronavirus UPDATE: World total passes 1 million cases, Covid-19 vs Flu | The Thaiger

Case numbers have passed through the 1,000,000 mark, whilst world deaths have now reached over 50,000 as we wake up on the final day of the week in Thailand. Just after 7am the total around the globe has now reach 1,015,000 cases since the outbreak started and over 53,000 people have nw died as a result of the Covid-19 virus.

717,000 of those cases are still ‘active’ cases and over 37,000 of the patients are considered serious or critical.

Bottomline, we’re still in the early days of this pandemic and the world has a lot more pain to endure, and action to take, before we see a levelling out of the curve and, eventually, a drop in cases. For now there is no cure whilst labs around the world are racing to develop a reliable and safe vaccine. Clinical trials are underway but scientists warn that the final results are probably a year away.

Again, it’s the US, which added 29,317 cases in the past 24 hours, that is contributing nearly 25% of the world’s current cases. Italy, Spain and Germany, all with populations of 46-82 million each, now lead China’s total number of cases. China yesterday added 35 new cases and 6 deaths as it grapples with a steady re-opening of services.

Here are the world’s 14 leading countries with coronavirus cases…

Coronavirus UPDATE: World total passes 1 million cases, Covid-19 vs Flu | News by The Thaiger

worldometers.com

THREE MONTHS AGO

Back on January 6 The Thaiger published an article about Thai arrivals being checked at four international airports after early cases of a mysterious virus were emerging in Wuhan, China. At that stage 59 patients had been placed under observation. Just three days later a case of the ‘Chinese pneumonia’ was detected in Chiang Mai.

DAILY TV NEWS REPORT below

THAILAND

Last night Thailand’s PM announced a nationwide curfew between 10pm – 4am starting from today (Friday) to try to curb the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus in the Kingdom.

There will be some exceptions to the new measure, including the transport of medical supplies, movement of people into quarantine, patients and travel of medical personnel, according to the statement presented this afternoon.

Also announced in the past 24 hours is a total ban on all foreign arrivals until at least April 15.

Thaveesilp Wissanuyothin, spokesman of the Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration, says that PM Prayut Chan-ocha has ordered the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to issue a new directive prohibiting any new arrivals.

COVID-19 vs SEASONAL FLU

Covid-19 and influenza vary drastically. 80% of Covid-19 infections have so far been relatively mild or even asymptomatic, 15% are severe (requiring oxygen and hospitalisation) and 5% are critical (requiring ventilation). These figures are considerably higher than what is typically observed in flu, a LOT higher.

Covid-19 is also more deadly than seasonal influenza. The raw data for mortality rates for Covid-19, based on cases to date, is currently estimated by the World Health Organisation (and all the available statistical data) to be between 3-4%, with seasonal influenza sitting well below 0.1%.

US

The US has now reported more than 244,000 cases, and the number of deaths has reached 5,900, 795 of them just yesterday. And 6.6 million people in the US filed for unemployment last week, the highest number of initial claims in history.

The government’s appointed task force’s response coordinator, Dr. Deborah Birx, says she can tell by looking at the US curve of coronavirus cases that not every American is following the guidelines set out by the administration for people to stay home and be vigilant about washing their hands.

“Just to everybody out there across the country, when we say no gatherings of 10, we want to be clear, if you have a family of 10, we don’t want you to be split up. The guidelines mean people should be having no dinner parties, no cocktail parties.”

“I know you’ve seen the slope on the US versus the slope in Italy, and we have to change that slope. What it means in the US is not everyone is doing it.”

With more than 1,000 cases added in one day, there are now 9,191 people in California with coronavirus and 203 have died. New York City has a total of 49,707 coronavirus cases and has recorded 1,562 deaths.

BRAZIL

For third day in a row, Brazil’s health authorities have reported a consecutive spike of more than 1,000 new Covid-19 cases in a single day. 1,074 new cases were announced yesterday, bringing the South American country’s total number of cases to 7,910 and 299 deaths. The rapid spike, over the past week, is an indication of the country’s starting of mass testing.

SPAIN

Spain announced 961 people had died in the previous 24 hours. The number of confirmed Spanish cases rose from 102,136 on Wednesday to 112,065 – an 8% rise that is similar to the rate recorded in previous days. Authorities believe the virus is now peaking and say they expect to see a drop in figures in the days ahead. Spain, the second-worst hit nation in terms of deaths, has also lost nearly 900,000 jobs.

María José Sierra, from Spain’s health ministry’s emergency co-ordination unit says… “We continue with an increase of around 8%. This points, as we have already seen, to a stabilisation in the data that we’re registering.”

CHINA

The Chinese city of Shenzhen, sharing a border with Hong Kong, is banning the eating of dogs and cats as part of a wider clampdown on the wildlife trade since the start of the new coronavirus.

Scientists speculate the coronavirus passed to humans from animals. Some of the earliest infections were found in people who had exposure to a popular wildlife market in Wuhan, central China, where bats, snakes, civets (small cat-like mammals) and other animals were sold.

TRACKING

If you want to track the growth of Coronavirus, and hopefully the eventual dropping of case numbers, here are some websites you can go to for the info…

Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering

The map aggregates data from 17 sources, including the World Health Organization, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, and several individual governments.

COVID Tracking Project

These statistics lay out the cases numbers and stats around all US states.

Worldometer

It’s a general reference site that aggregates case numbers and lays statistics out in an orderly, numerical fashion.

91-DIVOC

If you want to track the ‘curve’ we’re watching for the ‘flattening of the curve’, here it is in stark daily upsets.

SOUTH KOREA

How did South Korea contain, but not eliminate, Covid-19?

“A multi-prong approach was key”, explains South Koreas Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha. She says the country worked quickly and identified “super spreaders,” those who pass the virus to multiple people. Key, however, was taking an all-government approach, mobilising government ministries as well as regional and city governments.

“That strategy paid off, especially when it came to limited health care resources.”

“When one region ran out of hospital beds we asked other provinces to open up beds in their hospitals. When it ran out of doctors, we asked doctors in other regions to help.”

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

All new arrivals to Thailand banned, effective immediately

Greeley Pulitzer

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All new arrivals to Thailand banned, effective immediately | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Asia Times

Effective today, and until at least April 15, Thailand will bar all arrivals due to the increasing number of Covid-19 coronavirus cases.

Thaveesilp Wissanuyothin, spokesman of the Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration, says that PM Prayut Chan-ocha has ordered the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to issue a new directive prohibiting any new arrivals.

“The spread of Covid-19 must be stopped. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will give more details on the directive. However, people who already have permission and who need to enter Thailand are exempted, but there will be a strict process via the embassy.”

Thaveesilp says Thais returning from overseas and foreign visitors are partly responsible for the continuing rise in the number of new infections.

“Though the number of travellers from overseas has significantly declined, the PM believes more needs to be done to stem overseas arrivals in order to further flatten the curve.”

He says the PM wants to see stringent measures imposed on overseas arrivals between April 2-15. The Foreign Ministry has been tasked to find out ways to implement the directive from the PM.

Asked whether the government is moving toward imposing curfew to enforce its “stay at home” measure, Thaveesilp said “just wait for what the prime minister will have to say today.”

He says 4 of the 6 Thais who recently returned from Italy tested positive for the virus, with another 50 people who have come into contact with them being quarantined.

As many as 47 of the 132 Thai Muslims in southern Thailand who returned from a religious function outside Kuala Lumpur last month have also tested positive and 4 have died. More than 1,000 people had to be quarantined as a result.

Four executives of the CP Group, Thailand’s largest private company and one of world’s largest conglomerates, returned recently from negotiating the Tesco deal and one of them died after being infected with the virus.

Thaveesilp says these figures only reinforce concerns that the spread of the deadly virus cannot be curbed if people from overseas continue to be allowed in without more stringent screening.

He says the PM told the Foreign Ministry to further tighten restrictions on Thais planning to return from abroad, asking them to postpone their trips until after April 15. This new measure, he said, applies to all Thai citizens abroad, including American Field Service exchange program students who are living in the US with their host families, with the exception for those already issued with permits to return to Thailand.

The total number of coronavirus cases in Thailand hit 1,875 today with 104 new infections confirmed over a 24-hour period, a fifth consecutive drop in the daily number. 3 more deaths were reported.

Source: The Nation | Thai PBS World

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

New Covid-19 test kits produced in Thailand

Anukul

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New Covid-19 test kits produced in Thailand | The Thaiger
PHOTO: chiangmainews.co.th

Today the first batch of 20,000 new Covid-19 test kits, developed by a joint effort of the Siam Bioscience and The Department of Medical Science, has been delivered to Government House. Each locally produced test kit costs around 1,500 baht each, while imported ones will cost about 4,500 baht each.

The association of Siam Bioscience and The Department of Medical Science aim to produce 20,000 test kits every week, and once 100,000 kits have been produced, they will be distributed among 100 hospitals nationwide.

Meanwhile, the Government Pharmaceutical Organisation yesterday approved the urgent purchase of 400,000 N95 masks and the same number of personal protection suits from China. A budget of 660 million baht has been earmarked for the purchase. China will send 150,000 by air within this week and will ship 250,000 in the next few weeks.

A similar story where Chulalongkorn University has developed, and currently testing, a new blood test for the Covid-19 virus. The “Baiya Rapid Covid-19” testing strip uses blood drawn from the fingertip and delivers results in 10 to 15 minutes.

SOURCE: The Nation

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