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World News: These tragedies must end: US President Obama

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World News: These tragedies must end: US President Obama | Thaiger
PHUKET MEDIA WATCH
– World news selected by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Funerals begin for Newtown victims as schools confront tragedy

Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: The small Connecticut town shattered by an act President Barack Obama called “unconscionable evil,” held today the first two of 20 funerals for schoolchildren massacred in their classrooms last week.

Meanwhile, schools across the country will reopen their doors to confused and scared children full of questions about why the Newtown, Connecticut, shooting happened – and whether they are safe from the very same danger.

Obama, addressing an interfaith vigil in Newtown last night, spoke forcefully on the country’s failings in protecting its children and demanded changes in response to the mass shootings of the last few months.

“We can’t tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change,” he said, adding that he would bring together law enforcement, teachers, mental health professionals and others to study how to best stop the violence.

But before those changes, the families of the victims will grieve. Noah Pozner and Jack Pinto will be laid to rest Monday afternoon.

Noah, 6 years old just last month, was the youngest victim. Reports describe him as “inquisitive” and as particularly mature for his age. The family’s rabbi has said he encouraged Noah’s mother to focus on her other four children amid the grief.

Jack, also 6, was a wrestler who loved sports. The New York Giants receiver Victor Cruz played Sunday’s football game with the boy’s name written all over his cleats and gloves.

All the dead children were 6 and 7 years old. The school principal of Sandy Hook Elementary, the school psychologist and four teachers were also gunned down.

The victims were remembered Sunday night at a memorial of just over an hour whose featured speaker offered words of hope and promises of action to stop any further tragedies.

“We bear responsibility for every child … This is our first task, caring for our children. It’s our first job. If we don’t get that right, we don’t get anything right,” Obama said.

The president kept his emotions in tighter check than he did Friday, when he cried openly while addressing the shooting. But his tears were matched by the packed crowd in the local high school auditorium, who wailed when he read the names of the adults and children who were killed.

Schools ready to open
While the two boys are laid to rest and the other families prepare their own memorials, schools across the country will attempt to return to business as usual, though there will be signs everywhere of how unusual the situation has become.

Some schools will put on extra security guards. Others will begin their day with a moment of silence. On Twitter, young people nationwide have urged their classmates to wear green and white, the colours of Sandy Hook Elementary School.

“I’m struggling with if I should bring it up at all. And if I do, what am I going to say about it? I’m just praying about it, because I don’t know,” said Molli Falgout, a first-grade teacher in Kernersville, North Carolina.

But in Newtown, schools will not reopen today. The district has said teachers need time to prepare for the students’ return.

Instead, the town’s youth sports groups have set up a field day of sorts to keep kids occupied, with athletics, board games and arts and crafts. Schools superintendent Janet Robinson described it as an effort “to help provide some small level of comfort and support to the children in our community.”

The community will also have to make a decision about what to do with the bullet-ridden Sandy Hook Elementary, whose students will for now attend classes in an empty school the next town over.

“I think we have to go back into that building at some point. That’s how you heal. It doesn’t have to be immediately but I sure wouldn’t want to give up on it,” said local resident Tim Northrop.

Meanwhile, a more detailed picture of 20-year-old Adam Lanza’s attack emerged yesterday.

After killing his mother, Nancy Lanza, at home, Adam Lanza shot his way into the school. He had attended Sandy Hook as a child, according to former classmates.

Police said Adam Lanza was armed with hundreds of bullets in high-capacity magazines of about 30 rounds each for the Bushmaster AR 15 rifle and two handguns he carried into the school, and had a fourth weapon, a shotgun, in his car outside.

Investigators are examining forensic evidence and scouring the crime scene in a process likely to extend for weeks.

— 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 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

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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