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Phuket Gazette World News: More than 300 people missing after South Korean ferry sinks

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Phuket Gazette World News: More than 300 people missing after South Korean ferry sinks | Thaiger

More than 300 people missing after South Korea ferry sinks
Reuters / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: More than 300 people were missing after a ferry sank off South Korea, the coastguard said on Wednesday, with a three-fold increase in the number of passengers unaccounted for put down to a miscalculation by officials.

The ferry was carrying 477 people, of whom 164 were confirmed rescued, coastguard officials said. Two people were confirmed dead after the ferry listed heavily onto its side and capsized in apparently calm conditions off South Korea’s southwest coast.

The Ministry of Security and Public Administration had reported that 368 people had been rescued and that about 100 were missing.

It later described those figures as a miscalculation, turning what had first appeared to be a largely successful rescue operation into potentially a major disaster.

The cause of the disaster was not immediately clear.

Most of those on board were children and their teachers from a high school in Seoul on a field trip to Jeju island, about 100 km (60 miles) south of the Korean peninsula.

There were 477 people and 150 vehicles on board the ferry Sewol, officials said. Witnesses said many people were likely still inside the stricken vessel.

An official from the Danwon High School in Ansan, a Seoul suburb, had earlier said all of its 338 students and teachers had been rescued safely but that could not be confirmed by the coastguard or other officials involved in the rescue.

The school official asked not to be identified.

LOUD IMPACT

The ferry began to list badly about 20 km (12 miles) off the southwest coast as it headed for Jeju.

Within a couple of hours, television pictures showed the ship, Sewol, lying on its port side. Soon after the ship had completely capsized, with only the forward part of its white and blue hull showing above the water.

Coastguard vessels and fishing boats scrambled to rescue those on board, with dramatic television footage showing rescuers pulling passengers in life vests out of the water by hand as their boats bobbed beside the ferry’s hull.

Other terrified passengers were winched to safety by helicopters hovering overhead.

The ferry left from the port of Incheon, about 30 km (20 miles) west of Seoul, late on Tuesday.

A distress signal was sent from the ship early on Wednesday, the South Korean coastguard said, triggering a rescue operation that involved almost 100 coastguard and navy vessels and fishing boats, as well as 18 helicopters.

There was no immediate indication of what caused the ship to list and roll on its side, although one witness told YTN television there had been a “loud impact and noise” before it started sinking.

Heavy fog had set in overnight off the west coast, leading to the cancellation of many ferry services.

The coastguard said one person had been found dead inside the sinking ferry. An official from the Mokpo Hankook hospital on the mainland said another person had died soon after arriving at its emergency ward.

Television and still pictures showed the stricken ferry surrounded by debris, rescue ships, and inflatable lifeboats.

The ship, which also carries cars and trucks, has a capacity of about 900 people, an overall length of 146 metres (480 feet) and it weighs 6,586 gross tonnes. Shipping records show it was built in Japan in 1994.

— 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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