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Phuket Gazette World News: Investigators focus on hijack, sabotage behind Flight MH370

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Phuket Gazette World News: Investigators focus on hijack, sabotage behind Flight MH370 | Thaiger

PHUKET: An investigation into a missing Malaysian jetliner, now into its second week, is focusing more on the possibility of foul play as evidence suggests it was deliberately flown hundreds of miles off course, sources familiar with the Malaysian probe said.

Two sources told Reuters that military radar data showed an unidentified aircraft that investigators suspect was Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 following a commonly used navigational route toward the Middle East and Europe when it was last spotted early on March 8, northwest of Malaysia.

That course – headed into the Andaman Sea and towards the Bay of Bengal in the Indian Ocean – could only have been set deliberately, either by flying the Boeing 777-200ER jet manually or by programming the auto-pilot.

A third source familiar with the investigation said inquiries were focusing more on the theory that someone with knowledge of navigational waypoints – used by airlines to track established commercial flight paths – had diverted the flight off its scheduled course from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

“What we can say is we are looking at sabotage, with hijack still on the cards,” said the source, a senior Malaysian police official.

A U.S. source familiar with the investigation said there was also discussion within the U.S. government that the plane’s disappearance might have involved an act of piracy.

There has been no trace of the plane, which was carrying 239 people, nor any sign of wreckage as the navies and military aircraft of more than a dozen countries scour the seas on both sides of peninsular Malaysia.

India has deployed ships, planes and helicopters from the remote, forested and mostly uninhabited Andaman and Nicobar Islands, at the juncture of the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea.

“This operation is like finding a needle in a haystack,” said Harmeet Singh, spokesman for the armed forces in the islands.

Malaysian Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said he could not confirm the last heading of the plane or if investigators were focusing on sabotage.

“A normal investigation becomes narrower with time … as new information focuses the search, but this is not a normal investigation,” he told a news conference. “In this case, the information has forced us to look further and further afield.”

Investigators were still looking at four or five possibilities, including a diversion that was intentional or under duress, or an explosion, he said. Police would search the pilot’s home if necessary and were still investigating all passengers and crew on the plane, he added.

Indian Ocean ‘biggest challenge’

Britain’s Inmarsat said “routine, automated signals” from MH370 were seen on its satellite network during the plane’s flight from Kuala Lumpur and had been shared with authorities, but gave no other details.

On Thursday, two sources close to the investigation said satellites had picked up faint electronic pulses from the aircraft after it went missing, but added the signals gave no immediate information about where the jet was heading and little else about its fate.

One industry source with knowledge of the situation said it would be possible to figure out the location of MH370 by calculating the distance from the satellite to the plane and the angle of elevation. The source said such information about MH370 could become available in the next few days.

Malaysia’s civil aviation chief said on Friday the government was working with U.S. investigators to establish if there was any satellite information that could help locate the airliner.

If the jetliner did fly into the Indian Ocean, a vast expanse with depths of more than 7,000 metres (23,000 feet), the task faced by searchers would become dramatically more difficult. Winds and currents could shift any surface debris tens of nautical miles within hours.

“Ships alone are not going to get you that coverage, helicopters are barely going to make a dent in it and only a few countries fly P-3s (long-range search aircraft),” William Marks, spokesman for the U.S. Seventh Fleet, told Reuters.

“So this massive expanse of water space will be the biggest challenge.”

The U.S. Navy was sending an advanced P-8A Poseidon plane to help search the Strait of Malacca, a busy sealane separating the Malay peninsula from the Indonesian island of Sumatra. It had already deployed a Navy P-3 Orion aircraft to those waters.

Last radar sighting

The last sighting of the aircraft on civilian radar screens came shortly before 1:30 a.m. last Saturday, less than an hour after take-off. It was flying across the mouth of the Gulf of Thailand on the eastern side of Malaysia, heading towards Beijing.

Malaysia’s air force chief said on Wednesday that an aircraft that could have been the missing plane was plotted on military radar at 2:15 a.m., 200 miles (320 km) northwest of Penang Island off Malaysia’s west coast.

This position marks the limit of Malaysia’s military radar in that part of the country, a fourth source familiar with the investigation told Reuters.

Malaysia says it has asked neighbouring countries for their radar data, but has not confirmed receiving the information. Indonesian and Thai authorities said on Friday they had not received an official request for such data from Malaysia.

The fact that the plane – if it was MH370 – had lost contact with air traffic control and was invisible to civilian radar suggested someone on board had turned off its communication systems, sources said.

They also gave new details on the direction in which the unidentified aircraft was heading – following aviation corridors identified on maps used by pilots as N571 and P628 – routes taken by commercial planes flying from Southeast Asia to the Middle East or Europe.

Hishammuddin said it remained unclear if that aircraft was MH370.

— 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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