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World News: “Frankenstorm” hits New Jersey; Campaign events cancelled

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World News: “Frankenstorm” hits New Jersey; Campaign events cancelled | Thaiger
PHUKET MEDIA WATCH
– World news selected by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Massive storm Sandy crashes ashore in New Jersey
PHUKET: Sandy, one of the biggest storms ever to hit the United States, roared ashore with fierce winds and heavy rain earlier this morning (Phuket time) near the gambling resort of Atlantic City, New Jersey, after forcing evacuations, shutting down transportation and interrupting the presidential campaign.

High winds and flooding racked hundreds of miles of Atlantic coastline while heavy snow was forecast farther inland at higher elevations as the centre of the storm marched westward.

More than 3 million customers have already been left without power and more than a million people were subject to evacuation orders. Many communities were swamped by flood waters.

The National Hurricane Centre said Sandy came ashore as a “post-tropical cyclone,” meaning it still packed hurricane-force winds but lost the characteristics of a tropical storm. It had sustained winds of 80 miles per hour (129 kph), well above the threshold for hurricane intensity.

The storm’s target area includes big population centres such as New York City, Washington, Baltimore and Philadelphia.

Trees were downed across the region, untethered pieces of scaffolding rolled down the ghostly streets of New York City, falling debris closed a major bridge in Boston and floodwater inundated side streets in the resort town of Dewey Beach, Delaware, leaving just the tops of mailboxes in view.

In Fairfield, a Connecticut coastal town and major commuter point into Manhattan, police cruisers blocked the main road leading to the beaches and yellow police tape cordoned off side entrances. Beach pavilions were boarded up with plywood, and gusts of wind rocked parked cars.

“People are definitely not taking this seriously enough,” police officer Tiffany Barrett, 38, said. “Our worst fear is something like Katrina and we can’t get to people.”

U.S. stock markets were closed for the first time since the attacks of September 11, 2001, and will remain shut. The federal government in Washington was closed and schools were shut up and down the East Coast.

One disaster forecasting company predicted economic losses could ultimately reach $20 billion (600 billion baht), only half insured.

Governors up and down the East Coast declared states of emergency. Maryland’s Martin O’Malley warned there was no question Sandy would kill people in its way.

WATER RISING
Sandy made landfall just south of Atlantic City, about 120 miles (193 km) southwest of Manhattan. Casinos in Atlantic City had already shut down.

Television images showed water rising to historic heights in lower Manhattan, raising the possibility of flooding in the city’s subway system.

New York electric utility Con Edison said it expected “record-size outages,” with nearly 35,000 customers in lower Manhattan and Brooklyn likely to be impacted. The company is facing both falling trees knocking down power lines from above and flood waters swamping underground systems from below.

“In the olden days, you would have had lots of fatalities. We’re not through this yet… It may be as bad a storm as we’ve ever seen, but I would expect the damage to be relatively minor,” New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg told an evening news conference last night (Phuket time).

New York City evacuated neighbours of a 90-story super luxury apartment building under construction after its crane partially collapsed in high winds, prompting fears the entire rig could crash to the ground.

Meteorologists say Sandy is a rare, hybrid “super storm” created by an Arctic jet stream wrapping itself around a tropical storm.

The combination of those two storms would have been bad enough, but meteorologists said there was a third storm at play – a system coming down from Canada that would effectively trap the hurricane-nor’easter combo and hold it in place.

While Sandy does not have the intensity of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans in 2005, it has been gathering strength. It killed 66 people in the Caribbean last week before pounding U.S. coastal areas as it moved north.

An AccuWeather meteorologist said Sandy “is unfolding as the Northeast’s Katrina,” and others said Sandy could be the largest storm to hit the mainland in U.S. history.

PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN INTERRUPTED
The storm interrupted the U.S. presidential campaign with eight days to go before the election, as President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney cancelled events. Both men acted cautiously to avoid coming across as overtly political while millions of people are imperilled by the storm.

As runways, roads, bridges and tunnels were progressively shut down by the storm yesterday, it became difficult if not impossible to get from Washington to New York City along what is normally one of the most heavily travelled corridors in the United States.

Several feet of water flooded streets in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. Police knocked on doors, reminding people there was a mandatory evacuation. While the police took names, they allowed residents to stay at their own risk.

Off North Carolina, the U.S. Coast Guard rescued 14 of the 16 crew members who abandoned the replica tall ship HMS Bounty, using helicopters to lift them from life rafts. The Coast Guard later recovered the body of an “unresponsive” 42-year-old woman while continuing to search for the 63-year-old captain of the ship, which sank in 18-foot (5.5 meters) seas.

Besides rain, the storms could cause up to 3 feet (1 meter) of snowfall in the Appalachian Mountains from West Virginia to Kentucky. Some people in that part of the country did not have to go to work because of the storm and used the time to vote.

At the Berkeley County Courthouse in Martinsburg, West Virginia, early voting for the November 6 elections was going ahead despite the bad weather, with hundreds of people casting ballots.

“More (people) came out today than what I anticipated but a lot of people are off work,” Bonnie Woodfall, chief deputy for voter registration, said after fielding a flurry of calls about whether the polls should stay open. “It’s neat.”

On the small New York island neighbourhood of City Island, which juts into Long Island Sound east of the Bronx, many residents were ignoring a mandatory evacuation order. The narrow island, known for its seafood joints and maritime-themed antique shops, is home to an isolated, working-class community of New Yorkers who say they’re used to big storms and flooding.

— Reuters / Gazette Editors

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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

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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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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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