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Phuket Media Watch: Chinese news round-up

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Phuket Media Watch: Chinese news round-up | Thaiger
PHUKET MEDIA WATCH

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

Collapse at coal mine in southwestern China kills 9

Phuket Gazette / News Wires

Nine workers have been killed and two others are injured after a collapse at a coal mine in southwestern China, local authorities said on yesterday.

The accident happened at around 5:20 p.m. local time on Tuesday at a mine in Fuyuan county, which is part of Qujing city in Yunnan province. It happened when a group of workers were clearing residue coal, causing a coal heap to collapse.

According to the state-run Xinhua news agency, local officials said that nine miners died while they were being transported to a local hospital. Two other miners were also rushed to a hospital but were said to be in a stable condition.

Tuesday’s accident is the second deadliest accident to hit Qujing in the last few months. On November 10, at least 35 miners were killed when methane gas leaked into a shaft at the Sizhuang Coal Mine in Qujing. The gas quickly spread to other parts of the mine, which was operating illegally.

Safety conditions at mines in China have significantly improved in recent years but they remain among the world’s most dangerous with 1,083 fatalities in the first seven months of 2011 alone. There were 2,433 fatalities in 2010 and 2,631 in 2009.

China in recent years shut down scores of small mines to improve safety and efficiency in the mining industry. The country has also ordered all mines to build emergency shelter systems by June 2013 which are to be equipped with machines to produce oxygen and air conditioning, protective walls and airtight doors to protect workers against toxic gases and other hazardous factors.

The first manned test of such a permanent underground chamber was carried out in August when around 100 people – including managers, engineers, miners, medical staff, and the chamber’s developers – took part in a 48-hour test at a mine owned by the China National Coal Group in the city of Shuozhou in northern China’s Shanxi Province.

One of the worst mining accidents in China in recent years happened in November 2009 when 104 workers were killed after several explosions at a coal mine in Heilongjiang province.

Two Indian traders freed after being held by locals in China
Phuket Gazette / News Wires

Two Indian traders, who were earlier taken captive by locals at a trading hub in China, were released on Wednesday, local media has reported.

After talks with Chinese Ambassador Zhang Yan in New Delhi, India’s external affairs minister SM Krishna said the two traders were escorted safely to the consulate in Shanghai. Zhang assured that Beijing was paying “serious attention” to the safety of Deepak Raheja and Shyam Sunder Agarwal, the Hindustan Times reported.

“The traders have been released and they are on their way to Shanghai under consular officers security. Raheja and Agarwal are out of Yiwu. Let’s not blow this incident out of proportion,” Krishna told reporters after the meeting.

The traders, who are involved in a civil litigation, were trapped in a hotel in Yiwu city, a trading hub near Shanghai. Locals alleged that the firm they worked with, and whose owner is absconding, owed them millions of dollars. The traders claimed in TV interviews that they were beaten up and tortured by some people.

“Our consular officers have met them. They will perhaps work out the details, but let us not forget that there is a civil litigation against them and we will have to take that into consideration,” Krishna added.

Ambassador Zhang said the Chinese authorities were “working hard to resolve the issue”. “I think it will be settled according to legal procedure and according to the rule of law,” he said.

“This is an individual case triggered by economic disputes. China hopes India can treat this case with objectivity and fairness, and actively educate Indian merchants in China to behave according to the Chinese law, behave honestly and operate legitimately,” Hong Lei, spokesperson for the Chinese foreign ministry, said in a statement.

Chinese officials have said they would initiate criminal proceedings against five locals who held the traders hostage.

Tour bus falls off bridge in southwestern China, killing 18

Phuket Gazette / News Wires

At least eighteen people were killed on early Wednesday evening when a tour bus fell off a bridge in southwestern China, the government said yesterday. Dozens more were injured.

The accident happened at around 5.35 p.m. local Phuket time on Wednesday when a passenger bus ran off a bridge in Guilding county of Guizhou province, causing it to fall about 9 meters (29.5 feet). It took place on the Lanzhou-Kaikou expressway.

A spokesperson for the State Administration of Work Safety said the death toll stood at 18 as of yesterday, while 38 others were reported to have been injured. The 53-seat bus was carrying a total of 57 people, including four infants, at the time of the accident.

The tour bus, which was registered to the Kaihong Passenger Travel Company in Anhui province, had earlier left the city of Yiwu in Zhejiang Province and was heading toward Xuyong county in Sichuan province.

The cause of the accident was not immediately known, but police said the driver of the bus was fatigued and was speeding on the icy section of the expressway.

Wednesday’s accident marks the week’s second deadly accident involving a passenger bus in China. On Tuesday, at least 13 people were killed and 41 others were injured when a coach collided with a heavy-duty truck on the mid-section of Shanghai-Kunming expressway in central Hunan Province.

Roads in China are known to be among the most dangerous in the world with more than 70,000 fatalities in 2009 alone. Many accidents are the result of drivers violating traffic laws, bad road conditions and overloaded vehicles.

With the upcoming Chinese New Year and the country’s vacation and travel high season, some 2.85 billion people are expected to hit the road across the country. The travel peak is expected to begin on January 8 and last until February 16.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

WHO says pandemic reaching critical levels in South Asia

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WHO says pandemic reaching critical levels in South Asia | Thaiger
Stock photo via World Bank Blogs

Despite vaccines being rolled out, the WHO is warning that the Covid-19 pandemic has reached a “critical level” in South Asia as infections keep rising. The virus has already taken 2.9 million lives, infecting 136 million worldwide and the WHO’s technical lead on Covid-19, Maria Van Kerkhove, says the “trajectory of this pandemic is growing…exponentially.”

“This is not the situation we want to be in 16 months into a pandemic when we have proven control measures. We are at a critical point of the pandemic right now.”

The US is still the country with the most amount of infections, but India has recently taken the number 2 spot over Brazil, reporting 168,000 new cases in 1 day. India’s total amount of infections is now at 13.5 million, edging Brazil’s 13.48 million into the number 3 spot.

But a race among nations for Covid infections is not what the WHO – or anyone for that matter – is wanting. 28 year old Rohit, a waiter in Mumbai, seems to say that the race won’t end if people continue to not listen to safety protocols.

“The solution is for everyone to stay home for two months and end this (pandemic) once and for all. But the public doesn’t listen. Nobody follows the rules in the restaurant… If we tell customers to wear masks, they are rude and disrespectful to us.”

Ignoring the social – distancing rules has experts up in arms as they warn that huge, mass gatherings are what we all thought they were: a super spreader event for Covid-19.

But the Indian government appears desperate to avoid a repeat of last year’s nationwide March shutdown which saw some of the world’s toughest measures causing misery all around. Thus, the balance between managing a country’s overall health and financial situation is a tedious one.

Bangladesh has chosen health, for now, as it is shuttering both international and domestic airports from tomorrow. Its population of 160 million people, will be sealed off from the rest of the world.

And, in Thailand, a 3rd wave has hit, making plans for a full reopening by October, seem to be in vain. Social distancing and mass gatherings are, again, to blame, as entertainment venues sparked the recent spread. As normally tourism-heavy destinations, like the Andaman island of Phuket, are rapidly inoculating its residents to prepare for a July reopening, the new wave has dampened hopes of reviving the economy.

For now, the efforts to contain the Covid pandemic have been futile worldwide, but history has a habit of repeating itself, especially when safety protocols fall on deaf ears.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

China may combine its Covid-19 vaccines to improve efficacy

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China may combine its Covid-19 vaccines to improve efficacy | Thaiger
PHOTO: Jernej Furman / Flickr

Health officials in China say they may consider combining vaccines to boost their efficacy, after admitting the protection rate is “low”. In a rare acknowledgment of weakness, Gao Fu from the Chinese Centres for Disease Control and Prevention admitted the country’s vaccines do not offer high levels of protection. He was addressing a conference in the south-western city of Chengdu at the weekend.

According to a Thai PBS World report, China has 4 Covid-19 vaccines and the country plans to produce 3 billion doses by the end of this year. However, data shows that although strict temperature requirements govern their storage and transportation, the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines far outperform their Chinese counterparts in terms of efficacy. As a result, Gao says researchers in China are now considering combining their vaccines. They may also look at altering the number of doses required and/or the amount of time between doses.

“Inoculation using vaccines of different technical lines is being considered.”

The Chinese-developed Sinovac jab, currently being rolled out in Thailand, was found to be just over 50% effective in trials involving the Brazilian variant, although a separate Turkish study found it to be 83.5% effective.

Meanwhile, the efficacy rate of a second vaccine, made by the China National Pharmaceutical Group Corporation, aka Sinopharm, is not known. However, the manufacturers say they have developed 2 vaccines and that interim results show them to be 79.4% and 72.5% effective.

Officials in China have long defended the country’s vaccines, while casting doubt on those developed by other countries. Chinese vaccines are the only ones being administered in China and the country has also exported millions of jabs around the world.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

UK Covid strain not more severe than others- The Lancet

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UK Covid strain not more severe than others- The Lancet | Thaiger
Stock photo via Pixabay

2 studies by The Lancet say there is no evidence that the recent UK Covid-19 variant, B117, is not more severe than other strains. Despite the bit of good news, the study did say that the particular strain is more transmissible, meaning its viral load is higher and well as its reproduction rates.

The recent study, indeed, gives backing to the fact that B117 is now the dominant strain appearing across Europe. Thailand is now reporting infections featuring the strain, as a new cluster in Thong Lor district of Bangkok, is becoming Thailand’s 3rd wave epicentre.

Despite previous studies showing the strain was linked to a higher likelihood of death than the other Covid variants, the 2 new studies published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases and The Lancet Public Health journals found no evidence that people with B117 experience worse symptoms or a greater risk of developing long Covid than those infected with different variants.

Authors of the first study looked at data from 341 patients who tested positive for Covid-19. They found that 58% of those patients had B117, while 42% had non-B117 Covid-19. Of those infected with B117, 36% became severely ill or died, compared with 38% of those with non-B117, suggesting that there was no association between B117 and heightened risk of severe infection.

The study also noted that those patients who were infected with the variant were younger, and the variant occurred more often in minority groups.

A 2nd study analysed self-reported data from 36,920 British users of a Covid-19 symptom app. They found that the B117 variant had a reproduction rate 1.35 times higher than normal coronavirus variants, but also found no evidence of increased disease severity.

Thailand reported 985 new Covid infections yesterday, with the death toll remaining at 97. 28,248 have recovered from the virus, while 5, 265 are listed as still in care or under observation.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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