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Thai nationals in Frankfurt advised to exercise caution in face of terror threat

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PHOTO: NNT

The Thai Consulate General in Frankfurt is advising Thai nationals in the German city and surrounding areas to exercise extra caution and avoid being in crowded places in the face of terrorist threats.

The advice for Thai nationals follows the arrests of 10 terrorist suspects aged between 20-42 years in Germany on March 22, 2019.

They were allegedly involved in a planned terrorist act using cars, firearms and knives for potential massacres. The terrorist leader was suspected to be a 21 year old man from Offenbach which is close to Frankfurt and two 31 year old siblings from Wiesbaden who are related to the Salafis Muslim group.

The Thai Consulate General in Frankfurt is advising Thai citizens residing in Germany, especially those in Frankfurt and nearby areas, to exercise caution when traveling to places, avoid being in crowded places and closely follow the news and relevant announcements from the German authorities.

In case of emergency, please call 0174 352 3033.

SOURCE: NNT

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

The timeline of a pandemic – the early days of Covid-19

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The timeline of a pandemic – the early days of Covid-19 | The Thaiger
FILE PHOTO: Science News

The most critical time in the Covid-19 story is early January this year when either confusion, a lack of concrete knowledge or actual withholding of information, caused a delay in public information about the seriousness of a possible new coronavirus.

The timeline doesn’t suit the US or China’s leaderships as they try and re-write the narrative of this critical two week period. But it is clear that by the end of the second week in January there was public knowledge that there was a new virus in town.

The critical questions will be “what did they know” and “when did they know it”.

The World health Organisation publicly applauded China for its swift response and congratulated them on their quick sequencing of the novel coronavirus’ genome throughout January. But China had sat on releasing the genetic map for more than a week after three different Chinese labs had independently decoded the information.

Was it saving face? Was it a malicious attempt to withhold information? Was is “wanting to be sure” before a public announcement about a new virus? The latter appears to represent the situation as the timeline unfolds.

A new report by Associated Press suggests that, rather than colluding with China, as US President Trump keeps insisting, the World Health Organisation was left in the dark as China only offered up only the minimal information required by international law. But the world health agency continued to publicly portray China in the best light, most likely as a strategy to secure more information from the reluctant Chinese health officials.

To this day, World Health Organisation officials genuinely believe Chinese scientists had achieved “a very good result” in detecting and decoding the genome of the new virus, despite the lack of transparency from Chinese officials.

Here’s how the situation unfolded…

Sometime in mid-December 2019, doctors in Wuhan noticed mysterious groups of patients with fevers and breathing problems. The patients weren’t improving with standard flu treatments. So they sent test samples from patients to commercial labs in China for analysis.

December 27, 2019

Vision Medicals had sequenced most of the genome of a novel coronavirus with “striking similarities to SARS”. They shared its data with Wuhan officials and the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences. This was published in the Chinese finance publication Caixin.

December 30, 2019

Wuhan health officials shared internal memos about the “unusual pneumonia”. Some of these leaked on social media. Shi Zhengli, a scientist specialising in coronaviruses at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, famous for being able to trace the original SARS virus back to bats living in a cave, was told about the new strain of coronavirus. She immediately headed back from a conference in Shanghai to Wuhan to investigate the situation.

December 31, 2019

• This was the first time the World Health Organisation learned about the mysterious pneumonia cases from an open-source internet platform that searches for any mentions on outbreaks anywhere in the world, according to the WHO’s chief of emergencies, Dr. Michael Ryan.

• Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention director Gao Fu sent experts in the field of viruses to Wuhan.

January 1, 2020

World Health Organisation officials requested more information. Members of the WHO have 1-2 days to respond. Chinese officials reported 48 hours that there were 44 cases of the novel coronavirus and no deaths at that stage.

January 2, 2020

• The entire genome of the virus was published by Shi Zhengli, according to a notice posted on the institute’s website.

• Scientists agree that Chinese scientists detected and sequenced the then-unknown pathogen with astonishing speed. WHO director general Tedros Ghebreyesus would later say China set “a new standard for outbreak response.”

January 3, 2020

China’s National Health Commission issued a confidential order for institutions that had samples of the virus to destroy them or send them to selected institutes for safe storage. The memos, first reported by Caixin Global, would not allow labs to publish news about the virus without the Chinese government’s authorisation.

The same order prevented Shi Zhengli’s laboratory from releasing the genetic sequence or publishing warnings of potential dangers or other information.

January 3, 2020

The Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention had independently sequenced the novel coronavirus.

January 5, 2020

The Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences had now decoded the sequence, prepared and submitted a report about the novel coronavirus.

By now three independent laboratories had decoded and analysed the new virus but Chinese government health officials said nothing official at this stage or released any public statements.

January 5, 2020

• The World Health Organisation reported on their Twitter account that “investigations were under way into an unusual cluster of pneumonia cases with no deaths in Wuhan, China”. It would share “more details as we have them.”

• The Shanghai Public Clinical Health Centre, led by a highly respected Chinese virologist Zhang Yongzhen, was the latest to sequence the virus. He submitted the sequencing information to the GenBank database, where it sat awaiting review. He also notified the Chinese National Health Commission. He warned that the “new virus was similar to SARS and likely infectious”.

• The World Health Organisation says, based on preliminary information they had obtained from China… “there was no evidence of significant transmission between humans, and did not recommend any specific measures for travellers”.

• The Chinese CDC raised its emergency level to the second highest and technicians started to isolate the virus, prepare testing guidelines and design testing kits. The Chinese CDC didn’t have authority to declare public warnings. The raising of the emergency level was even kept secret from many of their own staff.

From January 6, 2020

• For the next two weeks, the Wuhan officials reported no new infections. Chinese officials censored information from doctors who continued to warn of “suspicious pneumonia-like cases”. But cases were “few” and some CDC researchers didn’t believe at the time that the virus easily spread between humans.

• Researchers found the novel coronavirus (still without an official designation) used a distinct spike protein to bind itself to human cells.

• Thai media reports about a pneumonia-like outbreak in Wuhan, China. Read our report HERE.

“A viral pneumonia outbreak in the central Chinese city of Wuhan is causing concern across the region. At least 59 patients there have been placed under observation so far.”

January 7, 2020

• Yet another team at the Wuhan University had sequenced the novel coronavirus confirming Shi Zhengli’s analysis that the pathogen was a novel coronavirus. But Associated Press reports that the Chinese CDC experts said they “didn’t trust Shi’s findings and needed to verify her data before she could publish”.

• Associated Press allege that the major factor behind the gag from the Chinese CDC order was that they wanted to publish their papers first.

“They wanted to take all the credit,” according to Li Yize, a coronavirus researcher at the University of Pennsylvania.

• As days passed even some of the Chinese CDC’s staff were wondering why it was taking so long for Chinese authorities to officially identify the novel coronavirus.

January 8, 2020

• The Wall Street Journal reports that scientists had identified a novel coronavirus in samples from pneumonia patients in Wuhan. The article pre-empted and embarrassed Chinese officials. Many lab technicians in Wuhan admitted the first they heard about the novel coronavirus was the story in the WSJ.

Dr. Tom Grein, chief of the World Health Organisation’s acute management team says the health agency looks “doubly, incredibly stupid.”

“The fact is we’re two to three weeks into an event. We don’t have a laboratory diagnosis, we don’t have an age, sex or geographic distribution, we don’t have an epidemic curve (a graphic of outbreaks used to indicate the progress of an epidemic).

• Chinese state media, precipitated by the WSJ article, officially announced the discovery of the novel coronavirus.

• Despite the public broadcast of the information, now available to the world, Chinese health authorities still did not release the genome of the new virus. They also continued to withhold diagnostic tests and patient data that would provide information about how infectious the virus was.

• Thai airport officials take a female passenger from Wuhan aside “with a runny nose, sore throat, and high temperature”.

“A first case of ‘New Coronavirus Pneumonia’ has been identified in Thailand, but the Public Health Ministry is assuring the public there is no wider outbreak of the virus. The mystery virus has now been identified by Chinese scientists and was earlier nicknamed as the mystery Wuhan pneumonia.”

• Professor Supaporn Wacharapluesadee from Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok found the passenger was infected with a new coronavirus, very similar to what Chinese officials had mentioned. She and her team independently figured out the genetic sequence by January 9 and reported the findings to the Thai government.

• Because Chinese authorities hadn’t officially published any genetic sequences the team were unable to corroborate their findings. They were unable to prove the passenger’s virus was the same one sickening residents in Wuhan.

January 9, 2020

A 61 year old man died in Wuhan, the first known death from the novel coronavirus. The man’s death wasn’t reported until January 11.

• World Health Organisation officials registered their complaints in internal meetings that they were seeking more data, especially the possible rate of infection between humans.

• The WHO’s chief of emergencies, Dr. Michael Ryan forecast the future narrative that would emerge as some world leaders would try and deflect their own inaction over the early days of the pandemic in their nations….

“The danger now is that despite our good intent… especially if something does happen, there will be a lot of finger-pointing at WHO.”

January 11, 2020

• The Shanghai Public Health Clinical Centre finally published a sequence on virological.org, a popular website used by researchers to share information about pathogens. This reportedly angered Chinese officials from the CDC. The next day the laboratory was temporarily closed by health authorities.

• Thailand’s Dr. Supaporn compared her sequence with Dr. Zhang from the Shanghai Public Health Clinical Centre and found it was a 100% match, confirming that the Chinese patient in Thailand had the same virus detected in Wuhan.

• Thailand informed the World Health Organisation of the case.

• The Chinese CDC, the Wuhan Institute of Virology and the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences worked together to publish their sequences, gather patient information, prepare reports and send them to the Chinese National Health Commission for approval, according to documentation obtained by Associated Press.

January 12, 2020

• The three Chinese labs together finally published the genetic sequence of the novel coronavirus on GISAID, a platform for scientists to share genomic data. GISAID is based in Germany.

• Around 600 people had been infected in the past week.

January 13, 2020

• The World Health Organisation announced that Thailand had a confirmed case of the virus.

• The next day, according to Associated Press, a confidential teleconference was held where China’s top health official told the country to prepare for a pandemic, describing it as “most severe challenge since SARS in 2003”. Chinese CDC staff across China initiated screenings, isolations, and testing for cases of the novel coronavirus. They found “hundreds”.

• As the Chinese CDC internally declared a level one emergency, Chinese officials still maintained the chance of sustained transmission between humans was low. This led to an official statement from the World Health Organisation that would come back to haunt them…

Maria Van Kerkhove, the American infectious disease epidemiologist, speaking at a press briefing on January 13 said “it is certainly possible there is limited human-to-human transmission.” Just hours later, the WHO tweeted that “preliminary investigations conducted by the Chinese authorities have found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission”.

The timings of these two statements have been used by critics to slam the WHO for issuing misleading information.

January 20, 2020

• Zhong Nanshan, heading up an expert team and a renowned government infectious diseases doctor, declared publicly that the new virus was spreading between people. He had just returned from Wuhan.

• Chinese President Xi Jinping called for the “timely publication of epidemic information and deepening of international cooperation.”

• The UN health agency dispatched a small team to Wuhan for two days, including Dr. Gauden Galea, the WHO representative in China. Galea recalled that the WHO’s Chinese counterparts were “talking openly and consistently” about human-to-human transmission. Dr. Galea reported to WHO colleagues in Geneva that China’s main request to the WHO was for help “in communicating this to the public, without causing panic.”

January 22, 2020

TheWHO convened a specialist committee to determine whether to declare a global health emergency. After two inconclusive meetings where experts were split, they decided against it.

• Chinese officials order the largest ever ‘lockdown’ in history of an entire population in Wuhan.

Asked by a CNBC reporter whether there were any concerns about the virus spreading to the US, President Trump said: “We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control. It’s going to be just fine.”

January 23, 2020

WHO chief Tedros publicly described the spread of the new coronavirus in China as “limited.”

January 30, 2020

The World Health Organisation finally declares an international health emergency.

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

100,000 More Covid-19 tests to be conducted by the end of June

Anukul

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100,000 More Covid-19 tests to be conducted by the end of June | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Thailand.prd.go.th

Today, Thailand News revealed that the Department of Medical Sciences is planning to accelerate its plan to conduct 100,000 more Covid-19 tests across the country by the end of June.

In laboratory analysis, sample tests will be divided into three groups:

  1. Suspected cases
  2. Close contact with Covid-19 infected persons
  3. Proactive inspection for Covid-19 infection

Provincial communicable disease control committees will be authorised to make decisions on which groups should undergo tests and the locations for the tests, in accordance with the disease control situation in their respective areas.

The tests have previously been conducted in several provinces, such as Nakhon Ratchasima, Surat Thani, and Pattani. Thailand has tested more than 400,000 samples and, together with active contact tracing, has helped the country to minimise the spread of Covid-19.

Meanwhile, Deputy PM and Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul says…

“Good progress has been made on the development of Covid-19 vaccine in Thailand. After the vaccine candidate has been tested successfully in mice and monkeys, it will be tested in humans in the first phase, sometime in the second half of 2020.”

“If everything achieves the set target, it is expected that the results of the test in humans will be known in the third phase, in late 2021. By then, Thailand expects to be able to produce its own coronavirus vaccine and to become among the first countries in the world to provide Covid-19 vaccine for the people.”

Despite the public health minister’s optimistic assessment of Thailand’s Covid-19 vaccine development program, it is likely to be well into 2021 when any viable vaccine is developed, anywhere in the world. The vaccine is an MRNA vaccine designed to help the body create immunity against the novel coronavirus. Chulalongkorn University’s Vaccine Research Centre joined forces with the National Vaccine Institute and the Department of Medical Sciences in this vaccine development, along with a North American manufacturer.

Testing around SE Asia and other countries shows that Thailand has been at the low-end of actual testing. South Korea and Singapore have had a very high percentages of testing per million population, Thailand about a third as many tests as South Korea, per capita.

100,000 More Covid-19 tests to be conducted by the end of June | News by The Thaiger

Meanwhile in Thailand…

100,000 More Covid-19 tests to be conducted by the end of June | News by The Thaiger

Thailand ranks #79 in the world based on total numbers of Covid-19 cases, and has tested a total of 420,529 people, whereas higher ranking countries of confirmed Covid-19 cases with similar populations, for example South Korea, have tested double the amount of people.

Thailand has tested 3 times people, per capita, compared to Malaysia.

But Thailand has had a persistent regime of contact tracing since the first cases was detected. The first case detected in Thailand was on January 13 – a traveller from China. The first case of local transmission was a Bangkok taxi driver on January 31.

SOURCE: Thailand PRD | Worldometer.com

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

“No evidence of Covid-19 losing potency” – WHO experts dismiss claims of Italian scientist

The Thaiger & The Nation

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“No evidence of Covid-19 losing potency” – WHO experts dismiss claims of Italian scientist | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Members of the medical staff in ICU at the San Raffaele Hospital

There is no evidence that the Covid-19 virus has been losing potency. A high profile Italian doctor made the assertions on Sunday. But the World Health Organisation and a range of other noted scientists say there was no evidence to support the assertion.

Professor Alberto Zangrillo, the head of intensive care at the San Raffaele Hospital in Lombardy, Italy, told state television that the new coronavirus “clinically no longer exists”. Lombardy was the region in northern Italy which bore the brunt of Italy’s Covid-19 outbreak. The professor said that new infections appear to be showing “a dramatic change… swab tests show patients have noticeably less of the virus in their bodies”.

Zangrillo, the personal doctor of former Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi, claims his comments are backed up by a study conducted by Massimo Clementi, a fellow scientist, which Zangrillo says would be published next week.

“We have never said that the virus has changed, we said that the interaction between the virus and the host has definitely changed,” he told Reuters.

“The result was unambiguous: an extremely significant difference between the viral load of patients admitted in March compared to” those admitted last month, Zangrillo said.

But WHO epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove, along with several other experts on viruses and infectious diseases, responded by saying Zangrillo’s comments “were not supported by scientific evidence.”

“There is no data to show the new coronavirus is changing significantly, either in its form of transmission or in the severity of the disease it causes.”

The WHO’s Van Kerkhove told reporters that… “in terms of transmissibility, that has not changed, in terms of severity, that has not changed.”

The Covid-19 pandemic has so far killed more than 377,000 people and infected more than 6,366,000+ (as of Tuesday morning Thai time).

“Major studies looking at genetic changes in the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes Covid-19 did not support the idea that it was becoming less potent, or weakening in any way.”

The comments from Martin Hibberd, professor of emerging infectious diseases at London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

“With data from more than 35,000 whole virus genomes, there is currently no evidence that there is any significant difference relating to severity.”

And a scientist at University of Glasgow’s Centre for Virus Research, Oscar MacLean, says suggestions that the virus was weakening were “not supported by anything in the scientific literature and also seem fairly implausible on genetic grounds.”

SOURCE: Reuters | Straits Times

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