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Phuket Gazette World News: Chinese families clash with police, slam Malaysia over lost plane

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Phuket Gazette World News: Chinese families clash with police, slam Malaysia over lost plane | Thaiger

PHUKET MEDIA WATCH

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

Chinese families clash with police, slam Malaysia over lost plane
Reuters / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: Dozens of angry relatives of passengers on a lost Malaysian jetliner clashed with police in Beijing on Tuesday, accusing the Southeast Asian country of “delays and deception” a day after it confirmed the plane crashed in remote seas off Australia.

About 20 to 30 protesters threw water bottles at the Malaysian embassy and tried to storm the building, demanding to meet the ambassador, witnesses said. Earlier, the relatives, many with tear-stained faces, had linked arms and chanted “Malaysian government has cheated us” and “Malaysia, return our relatives” as they marched peacefully and held banners.

The relatives’ grief and anger was unleashed on Monday night after Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak announced that Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, which vanished more than two weeks ago while flying to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur, had crashed in the southern Indian Ocean.

Citing satellite-data analysis by British firm Inmarsat, he said there was now no doubt that the Boeing jet came down in the ocean in one of the most remote places on Earth – an implicit admission that all 239 people on board had died.

Bad weather in the region far off Australia’s western coast on Tuesday forced the suspension of the search for any wreckage, just as a series of satellite images and other sightings of floating objects had raised hopes that debris from the plane would be found.

Malaysia’s confused initial response to the Boeing 777’s disappearance and a perception of poor communications has enraged many relatives of the more than 150 Chinese passengers and strained ties between Beijing and Kuala Lumpur.

After Najib’s announcement, Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Xie Hangsheng demanded Malaysia hand over all relevant satellite analysis showing how Malaysia had reached its conclusion about the fate of the jet.

Anger, grief

A group reportedly representing families issued a statement describing the Malaysian airline, government and military as “executioners” who constantly tried to delay and deceive them.

“We will take every possible means to pursue the unforgivable crimes and responsibility of all three,” said the statement on the microblog of the Malaysia Airlines MH370 Family Committee.

The relatives protesting in Beijing held signs that said: “MH370, Don’t let us wait too long!” and “1.3 billion people are waiting to greet the plane”. They wore matching t-shirts that said: “Best of luck to MH370, return home safely.”

“We’ve waited for 18 days and still, you make us wait. How long are we supposed to hang on?” a woman surnamed Zhang told Reuters.

The protest ended after a few hours, when police told protesters to get on buses and escorted them away.

Criticism of the Malaysian national carrier mounted after some relatives of those on board first received the news that the search for survivors was over in an SMS from the airline, which said: “We have to assume beyond all reasonable doubt that MH370 has been lost and none of those on board survived.”

At a news conference at Kuala Lumpur’s international airport on Tuesday, company officials defended the move, saying the text message had only been sent as a “last resort” to ensure that some relatives did not hear the news first from media.

“This is a time of extraordinary emotions and we fully understand,” said Malaysia Airlines Chairman Mohd Nur Yusof. “In fact, we really feel for the next of kin. In terms of how they react, it’s emotional.”

Asked whether he would resign over the crisis, the airline’s chief executive, Ahmad Jauhari Yahya, said that would be a “personal decision” to be made at a later time.

Wreckage could hold key

Flight MH370 vanished from civilian radar screens less than an hour after taking off on March 8. No confirmed debris from the plane has been found since.

Investigators believe someone on the flight may have shut off the plane’s communications systems. Partial military radar tracking showed it turning west and re-crossing the Malay Peninsula, apparently under the control of a skilled pilot.

Recovery of wreckage could unlock clues about why the plane had diverted so far off course. Theories range from a hijacking to sabotage or a possible suicide by one of the pilots, but investigators have not ruled out technical problems.

An international air and sea search in the area on Monday spotted several floating objects that might be parts of the plane and an Australian navy ship was close to finding possible debris, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said.

But the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) said gale-force winds, heavy rain and low cloud meant planes could not fly safely to the zone on Tuesday, and waves of 6 metres (20ft) or more forced the navy ship from the area.

The search site is far from commercial flight paths about 2,500 km (1,550 miles) southwest of Perth, a region of deep, frigid seas known as the Roaring 40s where storm-force winds and huge waves are commonplace.

Malaysia Airlines said in a statement that it would make arrangements to fly relatives to Australia once it had approval from the investigating authorities.

Australia’s Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said his department was working with the airline and Beijing to facilitate visas. Relatives would be given tourist visas with the usual fees waived, he said.

Costly, difficult investigation

Najib’s announcement opens the way for what will be one of the most costly and difficult air crash investigations ever. Normally, an official investigation can only begin once a crash site has been identified. That would give Malaysia power to coordinate and sift evidence.

A government source told Reuters that Malaysia would lead the investigation, but hoped other countries, especially Australia, would play a major role.

The United States said it was sending an undersea Navy drone to Australia, in addition to a high-tech black box detector, to help in the search.

The so-called black boxes – the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder – record what happens during flight. Black boxes carry locator beacons but they fade out after 30 days.

Najib said Inmarsat had performed further calculations on data gleaned from faint pings picked up by satellite that initially only narrowed the search area to two massive arcs.

That was not enough for some of the relatives. “There was no evidence,” a protester at the Malaysian Embassy surnamed Wang told Reuters. “It was just based on analysis from the satellite data and nothing found. Why would we believe it?”

(Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard, Megha Rajagopalan and Joseph Campbell in Beijing, Stuart Grudgings, Michael Martina, Siva Govindasamy and A. Ananthalakshmi in Kuala Lumpur; Phil Stewart in Washington; Jane Wardell in Sydney and Matt Siegel in Perth; Writing by Stuart Grudgings; Editing by Alex Richardson)

— 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

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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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