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Italian prosecutors blame captain for collision in migrant shipwreck

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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH

– World news selected by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Italian prosecutors blame captain for collision in migrant shipwreck
Reuters / Phuket Gazette


PHUKET: Italian prosecutors blamed the captain of a grossly overloaded fishing boat for a collision which capsized and sank his vessel off Libya, drowning hundreds of migrants including many women and children locked below deck.

The few survivors of Sunday’s tragedy told investigators how the African and Bangladeshi migrants, among hundreds of thousands trying to escape war and poverty, had waited up to a month in Libya before the boat set sail for Europe. One said he had suffered a beating at the hands of people traffickers.

The heavy loss of life among the migrants, who paid hundreds of dollars in the hope of getting over the Mediterranean, has put heavy pressure on European leaders to respond effectively to a dramatic rise in deaths among people attempting the crossing.

Only 28 survivors have been brought to Italy from the hundreds of people on board the fishing boat. Police have quoted them as giving death tolls ranging from 400 to 950 in what appears to have been the worst disaster ever among migrants fleeing by sea to Europe from north Africa.

Italian police arrested a 27-year-old Tunisian, named as Mohammed Ali Malek, who is believed to have been the captain of the ship. He may be charged with multiple homicide, as well as people smuggling and causing a shipwreck.

His lawyer, Massimo Ferrante, said he had spoken very briefly to Malek but language difficulties limited their contact. Ferrante added that he expected a fuller discussion of the case before a judge begins questioning witnesses on Friday to decide whether to file charges.

Prosecutors say that with his boat already in serious difficulty, the captain attempted to come up to a Portuguese merchant vessel that had approached to give aid and collided with the much larger ship.

The prosecutors’ office in the Sicilian coastal city of Catania said no blame was attached to the Portuguese vessel.

As well as the captain, Catania prosecutors also arrested Mahmud Bikhit, a 25-year-old Syrian believed to have been his main assistant, who is accused of people smuggling offences.

Already a grim picture has begun to emerge of the conditions during the voyage, in which hundreds of men, women and children were held in the hold of the 20-metre-long fishing boat for more than 48 hours before the disaster.

So few survived because most of those on board, including an estimated 200 women and around 50 children, had been locked in the hold and lower decks of the three-deck vessel, said Giovanni Salvi, chief prosecutor in Catania.

That has also made it impossible to reach the bodies so far and verify the toll, although investigators may try to recover the wreck.

Prosecutors say survivors have told them they paid between 500-1,000 Libyan dinars ($420-$840) for the voyage and were kept in an agricultural building near Tripoli for as long as a month before the boat set out on Thursday evening.

They were taken by truck in groups of 30 to the embarkation point and one man said he was beaten when he left his group to answer a call of nature.

PRESSURE FOR RESPONSE BUILDS

French President Francois Hollande compared the migrant traffickers with “terrorists” and said EU leaders meeting in an emergency summit on Thursday would have to act decisively.

“That’s why the European Council meeting on Thursday can’t just be an ordinary European Council where we take ordinary decisions, we have to go much further,” he told reporters.

Nearly 1,800 would-be migrants have drowned this year, compared with fewer than 100 by the end of April last year – a period when a similar number attempted the crossing. An expected rise in numbers in the late spring and summer months has added to the urgency.

The cancellation last year of Italy’s “Mare Nostrum” search-and-rescue operation, over cost pressures and criticism that rescuing migrants lures more to cross, has failed to solve the crisis. The policy, still backed by some European Union countries, appears to have made the voyage deadlier without reducing the numbers attempting it.

The EU proposed on Monday doubling the size of its small naval mission in the area, which replaced the far larger Italian operation but which has been criticized as wholly inadequate.

The Italian coast guard said 638 migrants were rescued from rubber dinghies on Monday in six operations and a further 112 on Tuesday. Merchant ships and coast guard patrol boats also helped a fishing boat carrying migrants about 80 miles off the southeastern coast of Calabria, in mainland Italy. All 446 aboard were rescued.

Lawlessness in Libya, where most of the migrant boats originate, has made it difficult to stop traffickers packing thousands of people into unsafe fishing boats and dinghies that have proved to be deathtraps.

Sunday’s disaster, while greater in scale, followed a similar pattern to other recent losses in which overloaded vessels have capsized, often when desperate passengers have rushed to one side of the boats.

Under Italian law, prosecutors outline the charges they believe a defendant should face before the defendant is formally charged by a judge.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Covid-19 deaths about to surpass 1 million whilst more reports emerge about former patients’ “brain fog”

The Thaiger

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Covid-19 deaths about to surpass 1 million whilst more reports emerge about former patients’ “brain fog” | The Thaiger

The world’s Covid-19-related deaths will pass 1 million today as the the cycle of country lockdowns and re-openings are getting mixed results. As of this morning, Thai time, the number of total deaths has reached 998,721 , with 4-6,000 deaths still being recorded, globally, every day. The surge in daily new world Covid-19 cases has levelled off a bit since July but there has still been 300-320,000 new cases being added every day in September. On a more positive note, the number of daily deaths continues to level off, even dropping some weeks, as treatments continue to improve. At this stage, officially, only .42% of the world’s population has so far been infected.

The milestone comes in a week where another report from the UK catalogues the “brain fog” experienced by former Covid-19 sufferers.

 

Covid-19 deaths about to surpass 1 million whilst more reports emerge about former patients'The current hotspots for the virus, now 9 months in circulation, of new daily cases is led by India. Yesterday India added nearly 90,000 cases to the world total whilst the US is showing a resurgence in new cases after dropping the average down during August. There is also a resurgence in new cases in parts of Europe, including the UK, which is now recording more new cases as it was at its peak in the first wave in April and May this year. The following graphs records the top 10 countries for new Covid-19 cases recorded yesterday…

Covid-19 deaths about to surpass 1 million whilst more reports emerge about former patients'

SOURCE: worldometers.info

Both South America and India are showing the highest rates of new cases, in pure numbers whilst US health authorities are concerned about the latest surge in new cases as the country starts to head into its autumn and cooler weather.

Meanwhile, more former Covid-19 patients, even those who only suffered mild symptoms, continue to report about long-term effects from the coronavirus.

In Canada, some 130,000 Canadians have recovered but some patients report that they’re experiencing “debilitating side effects” months after their infection. Canadian scientists report that they are finding some of the long-term effects of Covid-19 include heart damage as well as neurological issues like “brain fog” and “difficulty thinking”. Other patients are reporting hair loss, fatigue and even painful lesions called “Covid toes,” many weeks or even months after infection.

One study based out of Italy reports that nearly 90% of patients who have recovered from Covid-19 reported at least one persistent symptom two months later.

39 doctors wrote about these “long-haulers” and their battle with Covid-19 and their persistent symptoms in a manifesto published in the British Medical Journal. Following the report, the doctors called on politicians, scientists and public health officials to conduct more research into chronic Covid-19 symptoms and to create additional clinical services.

“Failure to understand the underlying biological mechanisms causing these persisting symptoms risks missing opportunities to identify risk factors, prevent chronicity, and find treatment approaches for people affected now and in the future.”

The reports also defined the affected patients as not in the current list of “at risk” Covid-19 patients – usually elderly with underlying conditions – but instead representing a much wider demographic of younger and healthy patients who were experiencing the post-Covid symptoms.

SOURCE: BBC | CTV News

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Economy

Vietnam’s booming manufacturing sector reduced to a trickle as world pandemic kills demand

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Vietnam’s booming manufacturing sector reduced to a trickle as world pandemic kills demand | The Thaiger

Vietnamese finance officials are downgrading expectations for a recovery of the south east Asian nation’s economy in 2021. The normally fast-growing gross domestic product in 2020 has stalled due to a huge drop in local and global demand, and the absence of international tourism. The booming economy, growing at an average of 6% per year since 2012, will struggle to reach a growth rate of 2% this year.

Fuelled by manufactured exports, the Vietnam economy has dropped back to a trickle. The Asian Development Bank estimates that this year’s GDP growth could be as low as 1.8%. The Vietnamese factories, that usually crank out shoes, garments, furniture and cheap electronics, are seeing dropping demand as the world’s consumer confidence drops dramatically.

Stay-at-home rules in Europe and America are keeping are keeping people away from retail stores. And despite the acceleration of online retail, many of the consumers are emerging from the Covid Spring and Summer with vastly reduced spending power.

The headaches of 2020 are also challenging Vietnam to maintain its reputation as south east Asia’s manufacturing hotspot. Rising costs and xenophobic foreign policy have put China ‘on the nose’ with some governments, complicating factory work in China, whilst other south east Asian countries lack infrastructure and are incurring higher wage costs.

One Vietnamese factory operated by Taiwan-based Pou Chen Group, which produces footwear for top international brands, has laid off 150 workers earlier this year. There are hundreds more examples of the impact of falling demand in the bustling Vietnamese manufacturing economy.

Vietnam’s border closure is also preventing investors from making trips, setting up meetings and pushing projects forward. Those projects in turn create jobs, fostering Vietnam’s growing middle class. Tourism has also been badly affected by the restrictions on travel. “International tourism is dead,” says Jack Nguyen, a partner at Mazars in Ho Chi Minh City.

“Inbound tourism usually makes up 6% of the economy.”

“Things will only pick up only when the borders are open and there’s no quarantine requirements. Who knows when that’s going to be.”

A mid-year COVID-19 outbreak in the coastal resort city Danang followed by the start of the school year has reduced domestic travel, analysts say. Some of the country’s hotels are up for sale as a result.

“Recovery could take 4 years.”

The Vietnamese Ministry of Planning and Investment is now warning that global post-pandemic recovery could take as long as 4 years, perhaps more.

Not that foreign investors in the country are pulling out. Indeed, many are tainge a long-term view that Vietnam’s underlying strengths will outlive Covid-19. Vietnam reports just 1,069 coronavirus cases overall.

SOURCE: VOA News

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Business

Singapore’s population contracts along with its GDP

The Thaiger

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Singapore’s population contracts along with its GDP | The Thaiger

The little south east Asian island nation of Singapore, which has always punched way above its weight, with the fourth largest economy, but the biggest GDP per capita in the region, is getting smaller. Both its economy and population. The population of the Republic of Singapore is shrinking for the first time since 2003. Border closures and, mostly, job losses, are forcing 10s of 1000s of foreign workers back to their home countries.

Singapore’s overall population dropped by nearly 20,000 people, or 0.3% of the population at the endow 2019, to 5.69 million people.

There’s been a sharp drop in expats, down 2% to 1.64 million, and a smaller drop in permanent residents. At the same time, the Covid-19 pandemic has caused a number of citizens to return from overseas, swelling the numbers of locals slightly.

The annual report of Singapore’s demographics notes that the transitions are nearly entirely due to the coronavirus outbreak. The report also says that there has already been an economic decline officially estimated between 5%-7% for 2020.

“These trends were largely due to Covid-19 related challenges, brought about by weak demand and travel restrictions. The government has been raising barriers for foreign hiring to preserve jobs for locals.”

Singapore’s non-resident population has surged 200% over the last 2 decades, fuelling mega population growth in the city-state with one of the world’s lowest birth rates. If not for the influx of foreigners, Singapore would have been recording a net drop in population.

The rise of Singapore’s middle class, and the ‘trend’ to hire domestic help, has caused an influx of low-paid migrants to act as nannies, maids, cleaners, drivers and construction workers. Many of these have either voluntarily headed back to their countries, mostly the Philippines, or been sacked.

National University of Singapore sociologist Tan Ern Ser notes that the decline in non-resident population is mostly due to the departure of work permit holders, who take up jobs which Singaporeans avoid in the first place. He says the trend probably signals some sectors of the economy are not doing well.

“The issue of foreigners in our midst cannot be addressed simply by cutting down their numbers, without negative consequences for our economy.”

Meanwhile, Japan says it has made an agreement with SE Nations Singapore and Brunei to reopen their borders for newly arriving expats from next Wednesday and and other long-term residents from October 8.

Those eligible to travel will be allowed in on condition they self-quarantine for 14 days after arrival as a preventative measure against the spread of Covid-19.

Brunei and Singapore join 7 other ASEAN countries, including Vietnam and Thailand, with the new travel bubble with Japan. Japan still has a ban in place for the entry of travellers from 159 countries and regions. Japan’s foreign minister Toshimitsu Motegi says the government is seriously considering how to restart travel back to Japan, both for business and tourism.

“We see the resumption of new entries (of foreigners) to Japan as an extremely important issue.”

Japan already allows short-term business travellers from Singapore to enter the country without doing quarantine, on condition they take a test before they travel to Japan, then another when they arrive, can provide an itinerary of their stay and take preventative steps to actively socially distance during their visit.

SOURCE: trip.sg

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