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Phuket Gazette World News: Planes, ships race against bad weather in search for Malaysian jet debris field

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Phuket Gazette World News: Planes, ships race against bad weather in search for Malaysian jet debris field | Thaiger

PHUKET MEDIA WATCH

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

Planes, ships race to beat bad weather in search for Malaysian jet debris field
Reuters / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: Aircraft and ships scouring the southern Indian Ocean for wreckage of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 were racing to beat bad weather on Thursday and reach an area where new satellite images showed what could be a debris field.

The international search team has been bolstered to 11 military and civilian aircraft and five ships that will criss-cross the remote search site with weather conditions forecast to deteriorate later in the day.

New satellite images have revealed more than 100 objects that could be debris from the Boeing 777, which is thought to have crashed on March 8 with the loss of all 239 people aboard after flying thousands of miles off course.

“We have now had four separate satellite leads, from Australia, China and France, showing possible debris,” Malaysian Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein told a news conference in Kuala Lumpur late Wednesday. “It is now imperative that we link the debris to MH370.”

The latest images were captured by France-based Airbus Defence & Space on Monday and showed 122 potential objects in 400 sq km (155 sq mile) area of ocean, Hishammuddin said. The objects varied in size from one metre to 23 metres (75 ft) in length, he said.

Flight MH370 vanished from civilian radar screens less than an hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur bound for Beijing, and investigators believe someone on the flight may have shut off the plane’s communications systems. Theories range from a hijacking to sabotage or a possible suicide by one of the pilots, but investigators have not ruled out technical problems.

Partial military radar tracking showed the plane turning west off its scheduled course over the South China Sea and then recrossing the Malay Peninsula, apparently under the control of a skilled pilot.

The logistical difficulties of the search have been highlighted by the failure so far to get a lock on possible debris despite the now numerous satellite images and direct visuals from aircraft and ships.

The search area some 2,500 km (1,550 miles) southwest of Perth has some of the deepest and roughest waters in the world, roiled by the “Roaring Forties” winds that cut across the sea.

The winds are named for the area between latitude 40 degrees and 50 degrees where there is no land mass to slow down gusts which create waves higher than six metres.

The search was called off for a full day this week because conditions were too dangerous for the search crews, which come from Australia, the United States, New Zealand, China, Japan and South Korea. Meteorologists say the current break in the stormy weather will be short.

“This is only going to be a narrow window of opportunity by the looks of things, because another weather system is moving in for Thursday, which looks like that will bring an increase in winds again and also lead to a reduction in visibility through the rain associated with the cold front,” said Neil Bennett, a spokesman for Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology.

Passengers’ relatives distraught

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak this week confirmed Flight MH370 had crashed in the southern Indian Ocean, citing satellite-data analysis by British firm Inmarsat.

Recovery of wreckage could unlock clues about why and how the plane had diverted so far off course in one of aviation’s most puzzling mysteries.

The United States has sent an undersea Navy drone and a high-tech black box detector which will be fitted to an Australian ship due in Perth in the coming days.

The so-called black boxes – the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder – record what happens during flight, but time is running out to pick up their locator beacons, which stop about a month after a crash due to limited battery life.

Malaysia said on Tuesday that the U.S. “Towed Pinger Locator” would not arrive in the search area until April 5, which would give it only a few days to find the black box before the beacon battery would be expected to run out.

The prolonged and so far fruitless search and investigation have taken a toll, with dozens of distraught relatives of Chinese passengers clashing with police in Beijing on Tuesday, accusing Malaysia of “delays and deception”.

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

— 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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