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Phuket Gazette World News: Search for missing Malaysia jet set to move to sea floor

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Phuket Gazette World News: Search for missing Malaysia jet set to move to sea floor | Thaiger

PHUKET MEDIA WATCH

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

Search for missing Malaysia jet set to move to sea floor
Reuters / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: A robotic search vehicle is likely to be sent deep into the Indian Ocean on Tuesday to look for wreckage of a missing Malaysian jetliner on the sea floor, as officials say the chance of finding anything on the surface has dwindled.

Angus Houston, head of the Australian agency coordinating the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, said the month-long hunt was at a critical stage given the black box recorder batteries were dying – or had died.

An Australian ship that picked up signals consistent with the beacons from aircraft black box recorders over the weekend had not registered any further pulses, Houston said.

“The locator beacon has a shelf life of 30 days and we are now passed that time and as a consequence there is a chance that the locator beacon is about to cease transmission, or has ceased transmission,” Houston told Australian Broadcasting Corp radio.

“It’s all very finely balanced and I think it’s absolutely imperative to find something else.”

Houston said the chance of finding anything on the surface was greatly diminished due to strong currents and a cyclone that had passed through the area in the past week.

The black boxes record cockpit data and may provide answers about what happened to the plane, which was carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew when it vanished on March 8 and flew thousands of kilometres off its Kuala Lumpur-to-Beijing route.

Authorities have not ruled out mechanical problems as a cause of the plane’s disappearance but say evidence, including loss of communications, suggests it was deliberately diverted.

A U.S. Navy “towed pinger locator”, which has been trawling an area some 1,680 km (1,040 miles) northwest of Perth, picked up two “ping” signal detections over the weekend – the first for more than two hours and the second for about 13 minutes.

Houston said the Australian ship Ocean Shield was still pulling the pinger locator in an effort to regain contact but would likely move quickly to remove that equipment and instead send down an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) named Bluefin-21.

The Bluefin will scour the ocean floor in 20-hour missions using sonar in an attempt to find the Boeing 777, before its findings are downloaded and analysed on board the Ocean Shield.

If anything unusual is spotted, the sonar on board the robotic vehicle will be replaced with a camera to take a closer look. The potential search area was 4.5 km (2.8 miles) deep, the same as the Bluefin range.

Malaysia’s acting transport minister, Hishammuddin Hussein, told reporters in Kuala Lumpur he was “cautiously hopeful” that the signals picked up would lead to a positive finding soon.

Difficult search

Houston said he was confident the search teams were looking in the right area, based on analysis of sporadic radar and satellite data.

“We are pretty confident that we are in the right area because the calculations of the search area are right where we are picking up these transmissions,” Houston said, adding that a decision to deploy the Bluefin would be made later on Tuesday.

“We’ve probably got to about that stage now,” he said.

It could be several days before the Bluefin had anything to report.

“Nothing happens fast when you’re working at depths of 4,500 metres,” Houston said. “It’s a long, painstaking process, particularly when you start searching the ocean floor.”

Up to eleven military planes, three civilian planes and 14 ships will take part in the search on Tuesday, with the Australian coordination centre reporting good weather in the search area.

A second search area was being maintained in waters where a Chinese vessel had also picked up “ping” signals at the weekend in an area more than 300 nautical miles from the latest signals.

Chinese patrol ship the Haixun 01 reported receiving a pulse signal with a frequency of 37.5 kHz, consistent with the signal emitted by flight recorders, on Friday and again on Saturday.

Houston said the Chinese and Australian discoveries of pings were consistent with work done on analysing radar and satellite data but the Ocean Shield’s leads were now the most promising.

Malaysian authorities have faced heavy criticism, particularly from China, for mismanaging the search and holding back information. Most of the 227 passengers were Chinese.

— 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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