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Phuket Media Watch: UN lifts Syria death toll to ‘truly shocking’ 60,000

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Phuket Media Watch: UN lifts Syria death toll to ‘truly shocking’ 60,000 | Thaiger

PHUKET MEDIA WATCH

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

PHUKET (Reuters): More than 60,000 people have died in Syria’s uprising and civil war, the United Nations said on Wednesday, dramatically raising the death toll in a struggle that shows no sign of ending.

In the latest violence, dozens were killed in a rebellious Damascus suburb when a government air strike turned a petrol station into an inferno, incinerating drivers who had rushed there for a rare chance to fill their tanks, activists said.

“I counted at least 30 bodies. They were either burnt or dismembered,” said Abu Saeed, an activist who arrived in the area an hour after the 1 p.m. raid in Muleiha, a suburb on the eastern edge of the capital.

In the north, rebels launched a major attack to take a military airport, and said they had succeeded in destroying a fighter plane and a helicopter on the ground.

U.N. Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay said in Geneva that researchers cross-referencing seven sources over five months of analysis had listed 59,648 people killed in Syria between March 15, 2011 and November 30, 2012.

“The number of casualties is much higher than we expected and is truly shocking,” she said. “Given that there has been no let-up in the conflict since the end of November, we can assume that more than 60,000 people have been killed by the beginning of 2013.”

There was no breakdown by ethnicity or information about whether the dead were rebels, soldiers or civilians. There was also no estimate of an upper limit of the possible toll.

Previously, the opposition-linked Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group had put the toll at around 45,000 confirmed dead but said the real number was likely to be higher.

Fatal Rush for Petrol

Video footage taken by activists at the scene of the air strike on the petrol station showed the body of a man in a helmet still perched on a motorcycle amid flames engulfing the scene. Another man was shown carrying a dismembered body.

The video could not be verified. The government bars access to the Damascus area to most international media.

The activists said rockets were fired from a nearby government air base at the petrol station and a residential area after the air raid.

“Until the raid, Muleiha was quiet. We have been without petrol for four days and people from the town and the countryside rushed to the station when a state consignment came in,” Abu Fouad, another activist at the scene, said by phone.

President Bashar al-Assad’s forces also fired artillery and mortars at the capital’s rebellious districts of Douma, Irbin and Zamlaka, activists living there said.

After nightfall there was shelling in the Jobar and Assali districts, and fighting occurred in the northern suburb of Harasta, on the highway leading north, Syria’s main artery.

Assad’s forces control the centre of the capital, while rebels and their sympathisers hold a ring of southern and eastern suburbs that are often hit from the air.

The Observatory said a separate air strike killed 12 members of a family, most of them children, in Moadamiyeh, a southwestern district near the centre of Damascus where rebels have fought for a foothold.

The rebels hold wide swathes of the north and east of the country, but have been unable to protect the areas they control from Assad’s air power. Their main targets in recent months have been air bases, with a goal of preventing the government from using its jets and helicopters.

The rebels launched a major attack on Wednesday on Taftanaz, a northern air base which they hope to seize. A statement by the northern rebel Idlib Coordination Committee said they had battled their way to the airport’s main command building but were not yet in control of the site.

The statement said the rebels had detonated a car bomb inside the Taftanaz airport grounds and destroyed a helicopter.

A rebel speaking from near the airport told Reuters the base’s main sections were still in loyalist hands but rebels had destroyed a fighter jet as well as the helicopter.

The family of an American freelance journalist, James Foley, 39, said on Wednesday he had been missing in Syria since being kidnapped six weeks ago by gunmen. No group has publicly claimed responsibility for his abduction.

Syria was by far the most dangerous country for journalists in 2012, with 28 killed there.

The conflict began in March 2011 with peaceful protests against four decades of Assad family rule and turned into an armed revolt after months of government repression.

‘For God’s Eyes’

Both sides have been accused of committing atrocities in the 21-month-old conflict, but the United Nations says the government and its allies have been more culpable.

In the latest evidence of atrocities, Internet video posted by Syrian rebels shows armed men, apparently fighters loyal to Assad, stabbing two men to death and stoning them with concrete blocks in a summary execution lasting several minutes.

Reuters could not verify the provenance of the footage or the identity of the perpetrators and their victims. The video was posted on Tuesday but it was not clear where or when it was filmed. However it does clearly show a summary execution and torture, apparently being carried out by government supporters.

At one point, one of the assailants says: “For God’s eyes and your Lord, O Bashar,” an Arabic incantation suggesting actions being carried out in the leader’s name.

The video was posted on YouTube by the media office of the Damascus-based rebel First Brigade, which said it had been taken from a captured member of the shabbiha pro-government militia.

The perpetrators show off for the camera, smiling for close-up shots, slicing at the victims’ backs, then stabbing them and bashing them with large slabs of masonry.

Syria’s civil war is the longest and deadliest conflict to emerge from uprisings that began sweeping the Arab world in 2011 and has developed a significant sectarian element.

Rebels, mostly from the Sunni Muslim majority, confront Assad’s army and security forces, dominated by his Shi’ite-derived Alawite sect, which, along with some other minorities, fears revenge if he falls.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Denmark becomes first country in Europe to ditch AstraZeneca vaccine

Maya Taylor

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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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Transport

Travelling from the UK? Here’s some details on restrictions….

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Travelling from the UK? Here’s some details on restrictions…. | Thaiger
Stock photo of London Heathrow Airport via Flickr

As the summer holiday is just around the corner, many in the UK are wondering if and how they will travel abroad during the Covid pandemic. Despite it being against the law to travel abroad for holiday and leisure in the UK, those who need to travel may want to know what requirements certain countries have in order to enter.

Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, and Indonesia, are some of the popular places that travellers need to visit, and here we have the latest updates on requirements from those nations.

Australia

After locking down borders early, Australia has spent most of last year living a more normal life than those in the UK have, seeing significantly fewer Covid infections and deaths. But part of why they have been more successful is due to the tough travel measures that are still in place. The country currently is closed to outsiders, except for Australian citizens, permanent residents, or those with an exemption.

If travellers do fall into those categories, they must undergo a 14 day mandatory quarantine on arrival at a designated facility, like a hotel. And, even if you are inside Australia wanting to depart, the strict guidelines apply to those leaving the country as well. Only those with an exemption are able to leave Australia and there has been no indication as to when the country will relax the rules for coming and going. Experts do say that the country may not return to pre-pandemic levels of free travelling until 2024.

New Zealand

New Zealand is another country that has succeeded in tackling the pandemic early on, as most residents are living quite normally. Again, the strict guidelines that were in place are still ongoing as the country is closed to almost all arrivals. Those who are allowed in, must present evidence of a negative Covid test within 72 hours of departing their country of residence.

But, good news is coming later this month as NZ will enter a travel bubble with Australia, allowing its people to travel between the 2 nations without needing to undergo a quarantine.

Thailand

Thailand was also considered to be succesful in combatting the Covid virus, until a 2nd and 3rd wave rocked the country, with experts saying it could be the worst yet to come. As the nation is planning to reopen fully in October, with an even earlier opening in July for its tourist-laden island of Phuket, arrivals still must undergo quarantines of up to 10 days. The quarantine time period depends on where you are entering in the country, as well as whether or not you have been fully inoculated against the Covid virus.

Other restrictions include where you are coming from prior to entering the country, as certain nations with Covid variants may still be required to undergo the full length of the original 14 day quarantine, or could be denied entry altogether.

Indonesia

Since the beginning of this year, all non-Indonesian travellers are currently banned from entering the country, with only a few exemptions in place. Any travellers allowed to enter must provide evidence of a negative Covid test and follow mandatory quarantine arrangements once landing.

The country is currently administering China’s Sinovac vaccine, which has faced criticism over its low effectiveness rates. But, Indonesia has lost 75% of its tourism in 2020, a figure that its government is surely to tackle in the near future.

SOURCE: MyLondon.news

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

US pauses use of Johnson & Johnson vaccine after “rare and severe” blood clots

Maya Taylor

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US pauses use of Johnson & Johnson vaccine after “rare and severe” blood clots | Thaiger
PHOTO: Flickr

Health officials in the United States have decided to pause administration of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine while they investigate a number of cases of “rare and severe” blood clots. According to a CNN report, a 45 year old woman has died and another patient is in critical condition. In total, there were 6 blood clot incidents, out of more than 6.8 million vaccine doses administered. All of the cases involved female patients between the ages of 18 and 48, with symptoms developing between 6 to 13 days after inoculation.

Speaking to CNN, Dr Carlos del Rio from Emory University School of Medicine says that such side-effects are extremely rare, pointing out that they’re more likely to be observed outside clinical trials, due to the larger number of people involved.

“It’s a very rare event. You’re talking about 1 per million, and when you give millions of doses of vaccines, you will see events like this that you couldn’t see in the clinical trial just because you didn’t have millions of people enrolled.”

He adds that blood clotting may be occurring for the same reason seen with the AstraZeneca vaccine, given that both jabs are adenovirus vector vaccines. The other vaccines in use in the US – Pfizer and Moderna – are mRNA vaccines.

Peter Marks from the US Food and Drug Administration agrees that there appear to be similarities between the incidents of blood clots reported with both the Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca vaccines.

“The AstraZeneca is a chimpanzee adenoviral vector vaccine. The Janssen is a human adenoviral vector vaccine. We can’t make some broad statement yet, but obviously they are from the same general class of viral vectors. We don’t have a definitive cause, but the probable cause that we believe may be involved here – that we can speculate – is a similar mechanism that may be going on with the other adenoviral vector vaccine. That is that this is an immune response that occurs very, very rarely after some people receive the vaccine and that immune response leads to activation of the platelets and these extremely rare blood clots.”

Janssen is the vaccine arm of Johnson & Johnson. Yesterday, the manufacturer issued a statement confirming a decision to delay the European rollout of its Covid-19 vaccine. The statement goes on to say that anyone who has already received the jab and experiences a severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain or shortness of breath within 3 weeks of being inoculated should see a doctor. However, it adds that such side effects are extremely rare.

Last month, the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine became the third jab to be approved for emergency use in Thailand.

SOURCE: CNN

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