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Malaysia releases missing plane report, reveals confusion

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Malaysia releases missing plane report, reveals confusion | Thaiger

PHUKET MEDIA WATCH

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

Malaysia releases missing plane report, reveals confusion
Reuters / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: Malaysia on Thursday released its most comprehensive account yet of what happened to missing Flight MH370, in a preliminary report that detailed the route the plane probably took as it veered off course and revealed the confusion that followed.

It showed four hours elapsed between the first sign that the Malaysia Airlines jet had failed to report in when expected to and the decision to mount a search operation – and that time included lapses of communication and a false lead from the airline itself.

The document, dated April 9, also contributed to a growing safety debate by urging the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), the U.N. body that oversees aviation, to consider introducing a system for tracking commercial jets.

The call comes ahead of a meeting at the Montreal-based agency later this month to address mounting pressure for improvements to fill communications blind spots over the world’s oceans, but until now regulators have said such systems still need to be proven despite lobbying by the satellite industry.

The Malaysian government and military have come under intense criticism for their handling of events on and after March 8, when the Malaysia Airlines flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing disappeared with 239 passengers and crew on board.

Although the preliminary report issued by the Ministry of Transport leaves many key questions about what happened nearly eight weeks ago unanswered, and is not intended to resolve speculation about the cause, Malaysia may be hoping it sets the record straight on at least some of the contentious issues.

The fate of Flight MH370 remains a mystery despite the biggest search operation in commercial aviation history, and relatives of the passengers on board are desperate for confirmation of what happened to their loved ones.

Boeing, the manufacturer of the 777 aircraft, will also be keen to learn exactly what caused the plane to veer sharply off course and disappear from sight, and in particular whether it was mechanical failure or human intervention.

While not ruling out technical faults, a parallel Malaysian police investigation has so far focussed on the pilots amid signs that the aircraft followed a twisting and deliberate course for at least the first hour of its journey off course.

THAILAND AND INDONESIA

The report confirmed that military radar tracked a plane as it turned in a westerly direction across the Malaysian Peninsula on the morning of March 8, and said the radar operator took no further action because the aircraft was deemed “friendly”.

In an accompanying statement, Defence and Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said the military data was played back that morning and after he and Prime Minister Najib Razak were informed of the possible turnback, military ships and an aircraft were sent to look for MH370 in the Straits of Malacca.

The report also described what appeared to be frantic attempts to trace the aircraft, with air traffic control in Kuala Lumpur contacting counterparts in Singapore, Hong Kong and Phnom Penh, Cambodia, when something appeared to have gone awry.

Kuala Lumpur was initially informed of a problem when air traffic controllers in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, who were meant to take over monitoring MH370 around the time the plane disappeared, said they had not heard from its pilots.

They told their Malaysian counterparts the “radar blip” had disappeared at a navigation point called BITOD about half way between Malaysia and Vietnam. Investigators suspect the aircraft’s radar transponder was turned off at about that time.

The airline at first wrongly told controllers the jet was over Cambodia and later that it had passed over Vietnam, but this turned out to be a projection rather than real information.

Released to the public for the first time were recordings of conversations between the cockpit of MH370 and Kuala Lumpur air traffic control and maps showing MH370’s probable flight path.

The pilot recordings, ending with a deadpan “good night” and the call sign, begin with the first contact on the ground and appear business-like, without any obvious signs of stress.

According to the maps, MH370 turned back from the South China Sea, cut across the southernmost tip of Thailand near the border with the Malaysian state of Kelantan and then flew across the Malaysian Peninsula.

It made a turn to the west in the Straits of Malacca near Penang and flew beyond the limits of Malaysian military radar.

ELECTRONIC HANDSHAKES

From this point, investigators have had to rely on an estimated course based on electronic handshakes picked up by a UK satellite, which came to light days after the disappearance.

After leaving Malaysian military radar coverage, investigators believe MH370 turned south and flew over the northern tip of Indonesia’s Sumatra Island before heading for the southern reaches of the Indian Ocean off Australia’s western coast, where a massive underwater search is now concentrated.

The course, contradicting reports the plane skirted round Indonesian airspace, raises potentially awkward questions over why Indonesia did not identify the aircraft on its own radar. Sensitivities over the sharing of data have been a recurring theme in the search for the jet, according to people involved.

The report identified three areas in the southern Indian Ocean where they can say with different levels of certainty that the jet crashed, but although searchers identified pings from its black boxes a thorough seabed search has been fruitless.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has said that the seabed search over a wider area could take 6-8 months, but some experts say it could take even longer, possibly years.

Fuelling the debate over tracking, Malaysia’s Transport Ministry pointed to the disappearance of Flight MH370 and Air France Flight AF447 in 2009 as evidence that a system for real-time tracking would help to locate missing aircraft more easily.

Details of the initial findings including the audio tapes were shared before the report’s publication with mainly Chinese relatives who have protested about Malaysia Airlines’ handling of the case, in particular the use of text messages to inform some relatives when the aircraft was deemed to have crashed.

The airline urged families who have remained in Kuala Lumpur to return home, saying they would be kept informed, and pledged to pay early compensation to those who qualified. Such payments would not affect their rights to claim additional compensation.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Covid-19 vaccine CEOs say 3rd dose may be needed along with annual jabs

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Covid-19 vaccine CEOs say 3rd dose may be needed along with annual jabs | Thaiger
Stock photo of Pfizer vaccine via Flickr

The CEO for the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccines says it is likely that people will need a 3rd dose of the vaccine and to receive it annually. Albert Bourla, told CNBC, that the booster, or 3rd dose, will be needed less than a year after being fully vaccinated.

“A likely scenario is that there will be likely a need for a 3rd dose, somewhere between 6 and 12 months and then from there, there will be an annual revaccination, but all of that needs to be confirmed. And again, the variants will play a key role. It is extremely important to suppress the pool of people that can be susceptible to the virus.”

Bourla’s comment echoes that of Johnson & Johnson’s CEO when he stated in February, that people may need to get vaccinated against Covid-19 annually, just like seasonal flu shots. Both statements reflect the fact that since the vaccine is new, and testing periods are shorter than most vaccines in the past, researchers are still unclear about how long the vaccine will protect against the virus.

Pfizer says that its Covid-19 vaccine was more than 91% effective at protecting against the coronavirus and more than 95% effective against severe diseases up to 6 months after the 2nd dose. Moderna’s vaccine, which uses technology similar to Pfizer’s, was also shown to be highly effective at 6 months.

Just yesterday, the Biden administration’s Covid response chief science officer, David Kessler, noted that new Covid variants could “challenge” the effectiveness of the shots.

“We don’t know everything at this moment. We are studying the durability of the antibody response. It seems strong but there is some waning of that and no doubt the variants challenge … they make these vaccines work harder. So I think for planning purposes, planning purposes only, I think we should expect that we may have to boost.”

Late last month, the National Institute of Health started testing a new Covid vaccine from Moderna in addition to the one it already has, designed to protect against a problematic variant first found in South Africa. The variant is similar to that of the UK one that has recently made landfall in Thailand.

Recent findings, by The Lancet, however, have stated that the UK variant, known as B117, has a higher reproductive rate than other strains, and it’s more transmissible. However, it refuted earlier reports that the strain is more severe. Meanwhile, Thailand’s health minister is confirming his commitment to making AstraZeneca the nation’s chosen vaccine.

SOURCE: CNBC

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Economy

China grows 18.3%, the only major economy to grow in 2020

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China grows 18.3%, the only major economy to grow in 2020 | Thaiger
PHOTO: China - the second largest economy, and only major economy to grow last year.

China’s economy set a record for growth in Q1, 2021, marking an 18.3% jump in year-on-year figures, the biggest quarterly growth in almost 30 years. China only started publishing growth statistics in 1992, and this drastic increase is the fastest growth recorded since then.

The figures, however impressive, are mainly due to what is called a “low base effect” where the change from a low starting point translates into big percentage statistics. Because of the devastating economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Q1 2020 figures were dismal, allowing the big gain over the last year.

Quarter to quarter, the last 3 months saw only a 0.6% growth, but in the last quarter of 2020 China recorded an economic boom of 6.5% according to the Chinese government. Still, the figures are admirable, as China was the only major economy in the world to achieve growth in 2020. Most of the planet struggled to contain global Covid-19 outbreaks, crippling economies across the globe. But China, now the second-largest economy in the world, managed a 2.3% overall expansion. Even Chinese officials called the impressive statistics “better than we had expected.”

China has been growing in terms of imports and exports as well, with exports expanding nearly 31% and imports up 38% by price over last years.

SOURCE: CNN

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Denmark becomes first country in Europe to ditch AstraZeneca vaccine

Maya Taylor

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Denmark becomes first country in Europe to ditch AstraZeneca vaccine | Thaiger
PHOTO: Flickr

Denmark has announced that it is abandoning the AstraZeneca vaccine, the first European country to do so, amid concerns about very rare but serious blood clots. The rollout of the vaccine has run into problems in several countries, with its use either temporarily suspended or restricted to older age groups.

When concerns first arose over the vaccine’s rare side-effects, Denmark was the first country in Europe to suspend its use. In Thailand, use of the vaccine was suspended last month, before officials judged it safe to proceed, with Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul going on to confirm it would become the Kingdom’s primary Covid-19 vaccine.

Both the European drugs regulator and the World Health Organisation are standing by the jab, saying the benefits outweigh the risks. However, health officials in Denmark have now decided to ditch it for good.

“Denmark’s vaccination campaign will go ahead without the AstraZeneca vaccine.”

Denmark has reported 2 cases of thrombosis (blood clotting) linked to administration of the AstraZeneca vaccine, one of which proved fatal. The blood clot incidents arose after 140,000 people had received the jab. The Bangkok Post reports that 8% of Denmark’s 5.8 million inhabitants have been fully vaccinated and 17% have received their first dose.

The country plans to continue its rollout using the Modern and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines. Officials say they are confident that the availability of other jabs, coupled with the fact that Covid-19 is relatively under control in Denmark, means the country’s mass inoculation can continue without issue.

Meanwhile, AstraZeneca has released a statement acknowledging the decision taken by Danish health authorities.

“We recognise and respect the decision taken by the Danish Health Authority. Implementation and rollout of the vaccine programme is a matter for each country to decide, based on local conditions. We will continue to collaborate with the regulators and local authorities to provide all available data to inform their decisions.”

SOURCE: Euro News | Bangkok Post

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