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Phuket Gazette: Ecuador to decide Assange’s asylum request today

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Phuket Gazette: Ecuador to decide Assange’s asylum request today | The Thaiger
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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH
– World news selected by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Ecuador to decide on Assange’s asylum today
Phuket Gazette / News Wires
PHUKET: The Ecuadorian government could make a decision today on the fate of Julian Assange, founder of the controversial whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks, an official said late yesterday.

Assange had requested political asylum at Ecuador’s embassy in London on Tuesday.

Ecuador’s deputy foreign minister Marco Albuja told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) yesterday that, “We can’t make a final decision public until tomorrow. The national government is considering its position and the president will give us his instructions tomorrow.”

In his request for political refuge, Assange told the embassy that the government of Australia – where he was born – had abandoned him and that he is being persecuted politically. He also fears being extradited to the United States, where he says he believes he could be sentenced to death if he is indicted.

“Such statements make it impossible for me to return to my home country and put me in a state of helplessness by being requested to be interrogated by the Kingdom of Sweden, where its top officials have openly attacked me, and investigated me for political crimes in the United States of America, a country where the death penalty for such offences is still in force,” Assange said in his request on Tuesday.

Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño said the government is evaluating the request and assured it will take into account the rules and principles of international law and human rights.

His country’s embassy in London says Assange will remain in the compound, under the protection of the Ecuadorian government, until a decision is made.

Yesterday morning Ecuadorian Ambassador Anna Alban met with British officials to discuss Assange’s application for asylum. “The discussions were cordial and constructive,” Alban said. “I also emphasized to the UK government that it was not the intention of the Ecuadorian government to interfere with the processes of either the UK or Swedish governments.”

Assange’s choice to seek asylum at the Ecuadorian Embassy surprised many, especially because of Ecuador’s bad record when it comes to press freedom and accusations that President Rafael Correa is leading a relentless campaign against free speech, but senior government officials have previously welcomed WikiLeaks.

In November 2010, then-deputy foreign minister Kintto Lucas invited Assange to visit Ecuador and offered him residency. “We are open to giving him residency in Ecuador, without any problem and without any conditions,” he said at the time, although the Ecuadorian government later said Lucas was speaking on his personal behalf.

Nonetheless, Correa voiced his support for WikiLeaks in a recent interview with Assange for his TV series ‘World Tomorrow’. “We have nothing to hide. If anything, the WikiLeaks have made us stronger, as the main accusations made…were due to our excessive nationalism and defense of the sovereignty of the Ecuadorian government,” he said.

Correa added: “On the other hand, many WikiLeaks cables spoke about the interests in the national media about the power groups who go to seek help, to foster relationships with foreign embassies, and benefit from the embassy’s contacts. Here we fear absolutely nothing. Let them publish everything they have about the Ecuadorian Government.”

Also yesterday Scotland Yard said Assange has breached one of his bail conditions and will be arrested once he leaves the embassy compound. “As Mr Assange is in the Ecuadorean embassy he is in diplomatic territory and beyond the reach of the police,” Britain’s foreign office said in a statement. Police officers could be seen waiting outside the embassy compound.

Assange has been fighting extradition from Britain to Sweden where he faces allegations of sexual molestation, unlawful coercion and rape. A London court dismissed Assange’s appeal in November 2011 and the UK Supreme Court earlier this month rejected his bid to reopen the case.

The accusations are unrelated to Assange’s work for WikiLeaks which brought diplomatic earthquakes to the United States when it began releasing classified American documents that it had obtained. Assange has claimed the cases have been politically-linked, arguing that the sexual encounters with the two women in Sweden were consensual.

WikiLeaks’ first big scoop was on April 5, 2010, when it released a classified video which showed a 2007 U.S. helicopter attack in Iraq which left several civilians killed, including two unarmed Reuters journalists. Assange previously said he had been told to expect ”dirty tricks” from the Pentagon, including ”sex traps” to ruin his reputation.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Covid-19 death toll exceeds 100,000 in the UK, government mulls quarantine for travellers

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Covid-19 death toll exceeds 100,000 in the UK, government mulls quarantine for travellers | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Bloomberg

With the Covid-19 death toll exceeding 100,000 in the United Kingdom, the British government is considering a mandatory hotel quarantine for visitors entering the country. A quarantine system is considered to be an effective way to limit virus transmission and stop new coronavirus variants from spreading into the country.

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke with senior officials in a meeting yesterday, saying that the government will consider tighter border measures. UK citizens and residents arriving from most of southern Africa and South America, as well as Portugal, will have to quarantine in a hotel for 10 days at their own expense.

Currently, people arriving in the UK from abroad must show the Covid-19 test results, while direct flights from South Africa, Brazil, and Portugal are banned to prevent the spreading of new variants in the Kingdom.

Hotel quarantine measures have been used in Australia, New Zealand, China, India, and Singapore, but the disease control practice has not been widely used in Europe.

In Thailand, those who enter the country from abroad must quarantine for 14 days at either a state quarantine facility or at an alternative quarantine hotel. Travellers must also be tested for Covid-19 before their flight to Thailand and tested at least another 2 times before they are released from quarantine.

SOURCE: Associated Press

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Mass Covid-19 immunisation in poor countries could take until 2024

Caitlin Ashworth

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Mass Covid-19 immunisation in poor countries could take until 2024 | The Thaiger
Stock photo by Gustavo Fring for Pexels

While developed countries, like those in the European Union, are likely to vaccinate most of the population within the next year, most poor countries won’t be able to reach mass Covid-19 immunisation until 2024, according to an analysis from the Economist Intelligence Unit.

84 of the world’s poorest countries will not receive enough vaccinations to reach herd immunity within the next year, according to the unit’s global forecasting director and author of the report, Agathe Demarais.

Agathe told the Guardian that disparity in vaccinations between the rich and poor countries will “define the global economy, the global political landscape, travel, pretty much everything.”

Poor countries may have poor medical infrastructure and few health workers that are trained to administer vaccines. Some countries may also have issues securing vaccine ingredients as well as production constraints and delays in delivery.

Countries with many people living in rural areas, like India and China, may also have problems reaching people in remote areas, according to Agathe.

SOURCE: Guardian

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Moderna vaccine is proved ‘protective’ against Covid-19 variants

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Moderna vaccine is proved ‘protective’ against Covid-19 variants | The Thaiger
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As fear over new variants of Covid-19 had prompted the travel restrictions to tighten worldwide, the United States biotech firm Moderna announced that its vaccine should protect against the variants identified in the United Kingdom and South Africa.

Latest studies on the efficacy of Moderna vaccines confirmed that the vaccines are effective and protective against new variants. The company will continue more tests adding a second booster of its vaccine, bringing to 3 shots in a total.

“We are encouraged by these new data, which reinforce our confidence that the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine should be protective against these newly detected variants.”

Last month, a private hospital in Bangkok advertised pre-orders for the Moderna vaccine, which still needs approval from Thailand’s FDA. Thailand’s Department of Health Service Support demanded that the hospital remove the advertisements.

In the ads, the hospital was charging 4,000 baht for a booking of the vaccine. In the post the hospital said the vaccine would arrive in Thailand in October 2021. They also announced that the vaccine would cost 6,000-10,000 baht.

Health officials say private hospitals will be allowed to administer vaccines that are approved by the FDA. So far, the Thai government has only approved the AstraZeneca vaccine for emergency use. The first batch of 50,000 doses are expected to arrive next month. Frontline health care workers and vulnerable groups in high risk areas will be first to receive the vaccine.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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