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World News: Housing crisis for victims of Hurricane Sandy

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World News: Housing crisis for victims of Hurricane Sandy | Thaiger
PHUKET MEDIA WATCH
– World news selected by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

US storm victims face housing crisis as cold snap hits
Phuket Gazette / Reuters
PHUKET: A housing crisis loomed in New York City as victims of superstorm Sandy struggled without heat in near-freezing temperatures yesterday and nearly 1 million people in neighboring New Jersey shivered in the dark without power.

Fuel shortages and power outages lingered nearly a week after one of the worst storms in US history flooded homes in coastal neighbourhoods. Mayor Michael Bloomberg said 30,000 to 40,000 people in New York City alone would need shelter.

“We don’t have a lot of empty housing in this city. It’s a problem to find housing. We’re not going to let anybody go sleeping in the street,” Bloomberg said. “But it’s a challenge and we’re working on this as fast as we can.”

Temperatures were forecast to fall close to freezing overnight and an early-season “Nor’easter” storm was expected to hit the battered region this week with strong winds and heavy rain.

“The power is back, but we have no heat,” said Adeline Camacho, a volunteer who was giving soup and sandwiches to needy residents of the Lower East Side of Manhattan. “A lot of people haven’t been able to bathe or stay warm. Last night was cold and this night is going to be much worse.”

US Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said federal agencies are looking for apartments and hotel rooms for people displaced by Sandy. “Housing is really the number one concern,” Napolitano said at a news conference with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

Overnight, at least two more bodies were found in New Jersey – one dead of hypothermia – as the overall North American death toll from Sandy climbed to at least 113.

“People are in homes that are uninhabitable,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said at a news conference.

Concerns are also growing that voters displaced by Sandy won’t get to polling stations on Election Day tomorrow. Scores of voting centres were rendered useless by the record surge of seawater in New York and New Jersey.

STRUGGLING IN STATEN ISLAND
Sandy killed 69 people in the Caribbean before turning north and hammering the US Eastern Seaboard on Monday with 80 mile-per-hour (130-kph) winds.

The two new deaths in New Jersey – where the storm came ashore last Monday night – included a 71-year-old man who suffered from hypothermia and a 55-year-old man who died from smoke inhalation in a house fire, police said.

That raised New Jersey’s death toll to 24 while the New York City death count was 40.

In the hard-hit borough of Staten Island, Marie Mandia’s house had a yellow sticker on it, meaning the city restricted its use. The storm surge broke through her windows and flooded her basement and main floor, the retired teacher said.

“I’m not staying here. There’s no protection,” said Mandia, 60, who stood outside by a pile of her ruined things – a washer, drier, television and furniture. “Here’s my life. Everybody’s looking at it.”

Similar scenes of destruction were to be seen in the Rockaways, a strip of land along the Atlantic in Queens. Street after street, people were digging out from under several feet of sand and cleaning up from the deluge of water that ripped apart fences, turned over cars and left homes flooded.

Volunteers made their way there to help, even as life appeared to be back to normal in Times Square, where the neon lights were bright and Broadway theatres were up and running.

“It’s like the city, the officials have forgotten us. Only our neighbours and strangers, volunteers, have been here,” Gregory Piechocki said. “We don’t need food or water. We need a warm place to sleep and some sign that we aren’t forgotten.”

The Federal Emergency Management Agency said 182,000 individuals in Connecticut, New York and New Jersey had registered for assistance by yesterday afternoon, and more than US$158 million had been approved.

Sunday was to have been marathon day in New York, an occasion that normally draws more than 40,000 runners from around the world. But Bloomberg abruptly called off the race on Friday, bowing to criticism that it would divert resources from flood-ravaged neighbourhoods.

Without a race, hundreds of runners set off on informal runs to deliver food and clothes to people in need. More than 1,000 people crowded onto two Staten Island Ferry boats early yesterday morning, headed to the stricken borough with relief supplies.

Ruth Silverberg, 59, recently took a cruise in the Bahamas. She returned to her Staten Island home for the first time since the storm and found more than 4 feet (1.2 meters) of water in her basement. “Things were just floating. I thought it would take me two weeks to clear it out,” she said.

Instead, a group of 15 marathon runners formed an assembly line and cleared the basement of its contents in two hours. “I’m awed,” Silverberg said, her voice breaking.

FUEL AND POWER CRISIS
Fuel supplies continued to rumble toward disaster zones and electricity was slowly returning to darkened neighbourhoods where many families have been without power for six days.

In New Jersey, where residents were waiting for hours in line at gas stations, Christie tried to ease the fuel crunch by reassuring people that refineries and pipelines were back online and gas was being delivered. “We do not have a fuel shortage,” he said at a news conference.

The New York Harbor energy network was returning to normal with mainline power restored, but there were growing concerns about heating oil supplies with cold weather forecast.

Power restorations over the weekend relit the skyline in Lower Manhattan for the first time in nearly a week and allowed 80 percent of the New York City subway service to resume. But Bloomberg said it would be a “very, very long time” before power would return to certain New York neighbourhoods along the coast.

Most schools were due to reopen on Monday, though some were still being used as shelters. Walt Whitman High School in Huntington Station, Long Island, was housing about 100 people and expecting more to arrive as temperatures fall.

Some 1.9 million homes and business still lacked power across the Northeast on Sunday, down from 2.5 million the day before.

“All these numbers are nice, but they mean nothing until the power is on in your house,” Cuomo said.

One of those still without power was 70-year-old Ramon Rodriguez, who lives in the Brooklyn seafront neighbourhood of Red Hook. “I feel like I’ve spent my whole Social Security check on batteries and candles,” Rodriguez said as he waited in line at the 99 Cent Dreams store. His search for ice to keep his freezer cold came up short. But, he added, “at least it’s cold enough to leave food outside the windowsill.”

At the building where he lives, garbage bags were piled high and the intercom that is typically used for security was not working, so the front door was unlocked.

ELECTION FACES ‘REAL PROBLEMS’
President Barack Obama, neck-and-neck in opinion polls with Republican challenger Mitt Romney, ordered emergency response officials to cut through government “red tape” and work without delay to help affected areas return to normal.

With the post-storm chaos overshadowing the final days of campaigning, an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found that 6

— Reuters

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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 its first quarter, marking an 18.3% jump in year over 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 first quarter 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

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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