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Phuket Gazette World News: Scores injured in London theatre collapse; Castro praises Obama handshake; World Bank names corruption Public Enemy No 1

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Phuket Gazette World News: Scores injured in London theatre collapse; Castro praises Obama handshake; World Bank names corruption Public Enemy No 1 | The Thaiger
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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH
– World news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Scores injured in London theatre collapse
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Emergency services said nearly 90 people were injured on Thursday when part of the ceiling collapsed during a performance at a packed London theatre, bringing the city’s West End entertainment district to a standstill.

The audience was showered with masonry and debris following the incident at the Apollo Theatre, where about 720 people including many families were watching the hugely popular play The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.

Emergency services said 88 people were injured. They described 81 as “walking wounded”, many with head injuries, while seven others were taken to hospital with more serious injuries.

Nick Harding from London Fire Brigade said a section of ornate plaster ceiling, measuring about 10 meters (33 feet) by 10 meters, had fallen onto the audience watching the evening show.

“The ceiling took parts of the balconies down with it,” he said. “Everyone is out of the building and everyone is safe,” he added, confirming there had been no fatalities.

He said it was too early to speculate about the cause but police said there was no suggestion that it was the result of any deliberate act or attack.

There was no indication either that heavy storms earlier in the evening were to blame and investigations would continue through the night, Harding said.

Witnesses said they saw the ceiling in the four-storey auditorium suddenly collapse during the performance, creating panic when those inside realized it was not part of the play.

“We saw the ceiling give way and it just dropped down onto the stalls. There was dust everywhere and people were screaming,” Steve George, 29, who was sitting in seats at the top of the theatre, told Reuters.

“I have no idea how many people would have been injured,” added George, a cinema manager who had taken his wife Hannah to the show for a birthday treat.

“It became like a black mist with people walking over me,” added Michelle Chew, another member of the audience.

Emergency vehicles blocked off Shaftesbury Avenue in the heart of London’s theatreland, packed with revelers on one of the busiest nights of the year in the week before Christmas.

“People were running in here with dust all over themselves,” said Thomas Asihen, manager of the McDonald’s restaurant located on the same block.

He said people were being brought out by paramedics shrouded in plastic blankets, with some carried out on stretchers.

Those injured inside the Apollo, which first opened its doors in February 1901, were taken to the nearby Gielgud Theatre while a bus was being used to transport those needing hospital treatment.

“In my time as a fire officer I’ve never seen an incident like this. I imagine lots of people were out enjoying the show in the run-up to Christmas,” Harding said.

U.S. Senate to ease path for sending Guantanamo detainees home
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: The U.S. Senate on Thursday is expected to open the way for President Barack Obama to speed up the transfer of many prisoners from Guantanamo Bay to their home countries, a crucial step toward the long-delayed closure of the military prison.

Tucked inside a defence spending bill awaiting final congressional approval, a bipartisan deal will ease some of the tough restrictions on Obama’s ability to send more of the 158 remaining inmates home after years of detention without trial at the U.S. Naval Base in Cuba.

Even with the new legislation, Obama will still face major obstacles to shutting Guantanamo. But he will be in a better position than before to reduce the detainee population at the facility, which has long been the object of international condemnation.

“While the bill does not address all of the administration’s concerns, its provisions regarding foreign transfers of detainees… will provide the administration additional flexibility to transfer detainees abroad consistent with our national security interests,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

Obama repeatedly pledged to close Guantanamo when he was campaigning for a first term and after he took office in 2009. But he blamed congressional resistance for frustrating his efforts to vacate the camp, which was opened by his predecessor, George W. Bush, to hold terrorism suspects rounded up overseas after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Renewing his long-standing vow to shutter the prison in a major policy speech at Washington’s National Defence University in May, Obama called it “a symbol around the world for an America that flouts the rule of law.”

The administration then named two special envoys to oversee the effort, stepped up negotiations with other countries, including Saudi Arabia, Algeria and Yemen, and worked with Congress to craft a compromise deal.

Ban on transfers to U.S. to remain intact

Though lawmakers on both sides of the aisle refused to budge on a ban on bringing Guantanamo prisoners to the U.S. mainland, they gave ground on the rules for sending prisoners home.

Among the earlier restrictions was that the administration had to certify that the country where an inmate was being sent was not “facing a threat that is likely to substantially affect its ability to exercise control over the individual.” This all but ruled out politically chaotic Yemen, home to the largest group of Guantanamo detainees.

Transfers were also banned to countries that Washington had designated “state sponsors of terrorism,” a category that made it difficult to move Syrian inmates. Prisoners also could not be sent back to any country where previously released Guantanamo detainees had returned to “terrorist activity.”

Such rules were lifted or significantly relaxed under the current bill, the National Defence Authorization Act, which was approved by the House of Representatives last week.

Even before the Senate gave final congressional approval, the administration had been showing signs of a more active transfer policy. In recent weeks, it sent two detainees back to Sudan, two to Saudi Arabia and two to Algeria.

About half of Guantanamo’s remaining detainees have been cleared for transfer or release since 2009, but most were blocked from going home because of congressional restrictions.

While more transfers are sure to follow, the White House made clear that it will move carefully. Obama can also expect continued pressure from some lawmakers, including Republican critics, who want to keep Guantanamo open.

“The president has directed the administration to responsibly reduce the detainee population to the greatest extent possible,” said National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden.

“Even in the absence of transfer restrictions, our longstanding policy is to transfer detainees only if the threat posed by the detainee can be sufficiently mitigated and when consistent with our humane treatment policy,” she said.

On top of that, complications remain with Yemen, where an active al Qaeda branch is the main U.S. concern. The Yemeni government also has yet to build a long-promised detention centre to house any Guantanamo prisoners sent home.

Putin to pardon jailed tycoon Khodorkovsky
— Phuket Gazette Editors

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World

International travel slow to take off, Covid-19 restrictions evolving

Caitlin Ashworth

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International travel slow to take off, Covid-19 restrictions evolving | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Jetstar

While Thailand is working on safely, and slowly, reopening its borders to foreign tourists after a 7 month border closure, other countries are also adapting to new, pandemic-induced, travel measures and restrictions. Now some are slowly lifting restrictions and resuming flights, while some remain grounded. What’s happening in your part of the world?

In all cases, check your local travel restrictions and quarantine requirements, if any. And if you leave a country, what paperwork or restrictions will await you when you return? Don’t book any flights until you’ve done your homework.

Australia

Qantas Airlines flights from Australia to the US will continue to be grounded until at least January 31, 2021 which includes the destinations New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Honolulu. The airline will also continue to ground flights to Japan, including Tokyo, Osaka and Sapporo.

Singapore

Jetstar Asia, based in Singapore, will resume flights to major destinations in Southeast Asia with flights to Bangkok starting next month. Since flights are always changing due to uncertainties and travel restrictions, flights to select Southeast Asia cities are only being offered from October 25 to November 15. JetStar will then review flights again. Destinations include Clark in the Philippines, Jakarta in Indonesia as well as Kuala Lumpur and Penang in Malaysia.

Hong Kong

Hong Kong and Singapore have agreed on a travel bubble schemed that will allow Hong Kong nationals and Singapore nationals to travel between the 2 countries without going through Covid-19 tests or quarantine periods. But the countries have not announced when the scheme will begin.

Maldives

All incoming tourists and short-term visitors must have a certificate declaring negative Covid-19 test result issued 96 hours before arrival, extending the window from the previous 72 hours.

SOURCE: TTR Weekly

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Covid19 – US infections “balloon”, world case total surpasses 40 million

The Thaiger

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Covid19 – US infections “balloon”, world case total surpasses 40 million | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Ipsos

“We were really hoping to crater the cases in preparation for a bad winter. We’ve done basically the opposite.”

New Covid-19 cases are again surging in many countries. Globally, the number of infected people exceeded 40 million as of last night with new infections starting to accelerate again. Today the total number of confirmed cases around the world is 40,323,461. The number of total deaths remains at 1,118,826 and recovered patients at 30,135,040 (as of 4pm Thai time).

Covid19 - US infections

Notably, the death rate from Covid-19 is not rising as treatment for complicated cases continues to rapidly improve. The US, India, Russia, Brazil, the rest of South America, and parts of Europe and the UK, are the current ‘hot spots’ (below).

Regionally, the surge of cases in Myanmar is causing headaches for Thai border officials in the north west of the country. The Governor of Tak decided to close the border checkpoints this morning. But the 2,000 kilometre long land border between Thailand and Myanmar has many unofficial “Natural” crossing points.

In the US, the nation’s top infectious disease doctor, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says following public health measures is the way out of the crisis that has hobbled the economy, claimed thousands of lives and sickened millions.

“The predicted fall surge is here, and rising cases across the US appear to bear that out.”

The US is averaging more than 55,000 new cases a day, and 10 states reported their highest single-day cases counts last Friday. As of this morning, US time, there were more than 8.5 million cases and 219,674 coronavirus deaths, according to Worldometers.info

“The Covid-19 crisis would have to be ‘really, really bad’ to implement a national lockdown. Despite the climbing totals, a nationwide lockdown is not the way forward unless the pandemic gets “really, really bad.”

Tara Smith, a professor of epidemiology at Kent State University says the worst fears of rising cases, leading into winter, are being realised.

“We were really hoping to crater the cases in preparation for a bad winter. We’ve done basically the opposite.”

After hitting an all-time high in July, cases did drop significantly, but the US never reached a level where the public health system could truly get a handle on the outbreak or describe it as ‘contained’.

Now infections are on the rise again, driven by ballooning outbreaks across the country’s interior, especially in the Midwest, the Great Plains and the West.

Contributing to the rise is the return of students to schools and campuses across the country, puzzling resistance to social distancing and mask wearing recommendations, and more people spending time in restaurants and other indoor settings as the weather starts to cool down.

SOURCE: worldometers.info | nor.org

Covid19 - US infections

TABLE: worldometers.com

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

2 Covid vaccine trials halted in phase 3 over safety concerns

Maya Taylor

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2 Covid vaccine trials halted in phase 3 over safety concerns | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Medical Xpress

After Johnson & Johnson paused phase 3 of its Covid vaccine trials due to safety concerns, a second pharmaceutical company has followed suit. Eli Lilly has halted phase 3 trials of a lab-produced antibody treatment, 24 hours after the Johnson & Johnson decision. The Bangkok Post reports that an unspecified incident led Eli Lilly to call a temporary halt to the trials. The day before, Johnson & Johnson paused its phase 3 trials after a participant fell ill. A spokesperson for J&J says the hiatus is temporary.

The 2 delays follow a similar incident with phase 3 trials of a vaccine being jointly worked on by Oxford University and Astra Zeneca, which was briefly delayed last month due to an unexplained illness in one participant. Trials of that vaccine have now resumed globally, with the exception of the US, for reasons unknown. Such snags are par for the course in the final phase testing of vaccine development, particularly as the number of participants is increased significantly to see if very rare side-effects are presented.

A spokesperson for Eli Lilly says the company backs the Data Safety and Monitoring Board in calling a temporary halt to phase 3 trials.

“Lilly is supportive of the decision by the independent DSMB to cautiously ensure the safety of the patients participating in this study.”

Eli Lilly’s trial began in August, aimed at recruiting 10,000 participants, across 50 sites, including the US, Denmark and Singapore, using a lab-produced antibody treatment, similar to that developed by Regeneron and used to treat US President Donald Trump recently. Eli Lilly has not given any further information about the safety concern which has paused phase 3.

Meanwhile, a J&J spokesman says such breaks are to be expected in large-scale trials and that reported illnesses or side-effects may be unrelated to the vaccine.

“It’s not at all unusual for unexpected illnesses in large studies over their duration. In some cases, serious adverse events may have something or nothing to do with the drug or vaccine being investigated.”

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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