Daily Archives: January 19, 2020

Chinese Health Officials Report Huge Spike in Cases of New Virus

Chinese health officials in the central city of Wuhan confirmed 136 new cases of a new coronavirus � a huge spike � over the past three days.

The Wuhan Municipal Health Commission says the total number of cases of the virus now exceeds 200, including two new cases in Beijing and one in Shenzhen in southern China. Most of the confirmed cases are described as mild, but three deaths have been reported.

Doctors in Wuhan, China’s seventh most populous city, have stepped up screening for suspected cases of pneumonia. They are urging people to be more conscious of their personal hygiene and to cover their mouths when they cough or sneeze.

South Korean health officials said Monday they confirmed a case of the coronavirus in a 35-year-old woman who flew from Wuhan to Incheon. Thailand and Japan have also confirmed cases.

On Friday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention started screening passengers arriving from Wuhan at three airports in three cities � San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York. Airports in Japan, Thailand, South Korea and Singapore are also screening passengers.

Passengers on a flight that arrived Saturday morning in San Francisco said they went through the screening and it was an easy procedure. Their temperature was taken and they filled out a form.

Chinese and U.S. health officials are particularly concerned because many of the 1.4 billion Chinese citizens are expected to travel for the Lunar New Year holiday that starts Jan. 25, both inside China and beyond.

A coronavirus is one of a large family of viruses that can cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to the deadly Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. SARS, which also started in China, killed nearly 800 people globally during an outbreak 17 years ago.

Chinese health experts know little about the new strain, dubbed 2019-nCoV, in Wuhan, especially how it is transmitted. They suspect the outbreak started in a Wuhan seafood market, which also sold other animals such as poultry, bats, marmots and wild game meat, but some patients say they were never there.

Health officials are urging caution but say there is no reason to panic. The World Health Organization is not recommending against travel to China, and China’s National Health Commission says the current outbreak is “preventable and controllable.”

According to the latest information received and WHO analysis, there is evidence of limited human-to-human transmission of the virus, the WHO tweeted Sunday. This is in line with experience with other respiratory illnesses and in particular with other coronavirus outbreaks.

“While there is currently no clear evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission, we do not have enough evidence to evaluate the full extent of human-to-human transmission. This is one of the issues that @WHO is monitoring closely.”

Of the new cases announced this weekend, all involve adults ages 25 to 89. About half are male (78) and half are female (75), according Minnesota Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, which translated the Wuhan commission’s statement.

Of the 198 patients confirmed so far, 28 have recovered or been discharged. Of the 170 people still in the hospital, 126 have mild illness, 35 are listed as severe, and 9 are in critical condition. Three deaths have been now reported. Hospitalized patients in Wuhan are isolated at a designated facility.

The number of close contacts under monitoring has risen from 763 to 817, and monitoring is still under way for 90. So far no related cases have been found in contacts.

Source: Voice of America

Malaysia on Track to Commercially Roll Out 5G in Q3 2020 – Dr Mahathir

LANGKAWI, Jan 19 Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said Malaysia is on track to commercially roll out 5G technology in the third quarter of 2020.

Launching the 5G Malaysia Demonstration Projects here tonight, he said this marks a significant beginning in the nation’s journey towards strengthening its economy to achieve sustainable growth and share the country’s prosperity with the people.

(This will also) ensure that we achieve our target of providing every single citizen in this nation a decent standard of living by 2030, Dr Mahathir said.

He noted that preparations to deploy 5G have been progressing well since he launched the ‘5G Malaysia Showcase’ in April 2019.

Dr Mahathir said that economically, 5G can serve as the infrastructure for innovative growth.

The convergence of 5G and different industrial sectors such as agriculture, education, healthcare, manufacturing, smart transportation and tourism, presents new opportunities for industries, society and individuals to advance their digital ambitions, and deliver new and better services, he said.

The prime minister underscored that technology will continue to change the way people do things.

And we risk being left behind if we do not change as well. On the other hand, it offers new, exciting challenges as well as immeasurable opportunities if we are capable of embracing them, he said.

Malaysia, he said, needs to be agile, for if it remains stagnant, it will not be able to compete in the global economy.

Dr Mahathir said that Malaysia, endowed with an abundance of resources and prospects, is poised to embark on a new era of growth.

While this is within our grasp, we are at a tipping point from where we can either rise or falter, he told the audience at the Langkawi International Convention Centre.

The prime minister noted that the interconnectedness of the economy may not make Malaysia immune to global economic headwinds.

(But) it is what we continue to strive towards individually and collectively every day to outperform and push boundaries, that will allow us to stay resilient and stride forward confidently, Dr Mahathir said.

He also spoke of the need to equip the nation’s workforce with skills of the future and continue to collaborate in the new spirit of ‘coopetition’ to face the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

The willingness of organisations to open doors to others and share best practices will expedite the adoption of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and unlock the benefits that manufacturers can create, Dr Mahathir said.

He said this spirit of collaboration also cuts beyond the confines of the private sector, alluding to the concept of Malaysia Incorporated introduced during his first tenure as the prime minister.

The initiative integrated the private and public sectors under one common objective of developing Malaysia.

Thus, I firmly believe the concept still applies to this day, and it is more important than ever before for the sectors to work together to achieve the country’s big and ambitious goals, Dr Mahathir said.

Due to such collaboration, he said, 100 5G use cases had been identified through the 5G demonstration projects, of which 72 use cases are being undertaken in 56 live 5G sites across Kedah, Kuala Lumpur, Perak, Selangor, Terengganu and Penang.

Dr Mahathir commended the Communications and Multimedia Ministry and the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) for their efforts in laying the necessary building blocks for the implementation of 5G in the country.

It is an important component for this country as the 5G technology � the next generation of mobile broadband � has the power to promote an array of new services, improve manufacturing efficiency and spur innovation, he said.

Present were his wife Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali, Kedah Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir, Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo and MCMC chairman Al-Ishsal Ishak.

Source: Prime Minister’s Office of Malaysia

Philippines Looks for Safer Homes for Volcano Residents

Philippine officials said Sunday the government will no longer allow villagers to return to a crater-studded island where an erupting volcano lies, warning that living there would be like having a gun pointed at you.

Taal volcano has simmered with smaller ash ejections in recent days after erupting on Jan. 12 with a gigantic plume of steam and ash that drifted northward and reached Manila, the capital, about 65 kilometers (40 miles) away. While the volcano remains dangerous, with large numbers of local villagers encamped in emergency shelters, officials have begun discussing post-eruption recovery.

Interior Secretary Eduardo Ano said officials in Batangas province, where the volcano is located, have been asked to look for a safer housing area, at least 3 hectares (7 acres) in size, for about 6,000 families that used to live in four villages and worked mostly as tourist guides, farmers and fish pen operators on Volcano Island. The new housing site should be at least 17 kilometers (10 miles) away from the restive volcano to be safe, he said.

The island has long been declared by the government as a national park that’s off-limits to permanent villages. The government’s volcano-monitoring agency has separately declared the island a permanent danger zone, but impoverished villagers have lived and worked there for decades.

We have to enforce these regulations once and for all because their lives are at stake, Ano said, adding that closely regulated tourism work could eventually be allowed on the island without letting residents live there permanently.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has approved a recommendation for the island to be turned into a no man’s land, but he has yet to issue formal guidelines. After an initial visit last week, Duterte plans to return to hard-hit Batangas province on Monday to check conditions of displaced villagers, Ano said.

Although it’s one of the world’s smallest volcanoes, the 311-meter (1,020-foot) -high Taal is the second most-active of 24 restive Philippine volcanoes. The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology has placed Taal and outlying cities and towns at alert level 4, the second-highest warning, indicating a more dangerous explosive eruption is possible within hours or days due to fewer but continuous earthquakes and other signs of restiveness.

They lived on the volcano itself with 47 craters. That’s really dangerous. It’s like having a gun pointed at you, Renato Solidum, the head of the volcanology institute, told The Associated Press.

Taal left more than 200 people dead in a powerful 1965 eruption, then again exploded in 1977. Officials of the government institute said they began issuing advisories about Taal’s renewed restiveness as early as March last year, helping local officials prepare and evacuate thousands of villagers rapidly from Volcano Island hours before the volcano erupted thunderously.

Lucia Amen, a 45-year-old mother of six, said she started packing up clothes in bags in November after hearing from her children that their teachers were warning that the volcano was acting up again. When the volcano erupted, she said she was ready with her family and rapidly moved out of Laurel town, which lies near Volcano Island.

Amen wept quietly Sunday while attending Mass in an evacuation center in Tagaytay city in Cavite province, saying she was worried about her children as the eruption dragged on.

A senator from Batangas, Ralph Recto, has recommended the creation of a commission to oversee the recovery of the volcano-devastated region. It will be similar to a government body that was established after Mount Pinatubo’s 1991 eruption north of Manila.

A long-dormant volcano, Pinatubo, blew its top in one of the biggest volcanic eruptions of the 20th century, killing hundreds of people and devastating the Philippines’ main rice-producing region.

The disaster-prone Philippines lies along the Pacific Ring of Fire, a string of faults around the ocean basin where many of the world’s earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur.

Source: Voice of America

Hong Kong Rally Canceled After Clashes With Police

A large protest in Hong Kong was ended by police when clashes broke out between protesters and plainclothes officers Sunday.

Organizers originally applied for a permit to march which was denied by police. Authorities allowed organizers to hold a rally if they agreed to stay in once place.

But roughly 10,000 protesters gathered and some began clashing with police on Sunday afternoon when officers in nearby streets in the Central District began to perform stop and searches. Protesters reportedly threw water bottles and paint at the officers, leading to police calling off the rally. A statement from the police said that protesters attacked and injured two officers with umbrellas and batons, leaving them with bloody head injuries.

In an apparent new tactic, police have been showing up ahead of time in riot gear, with officers conducting “stop and search” operations near expected demonstrations.

“Everyone understands that there’s a risk of stop-and-search or mass arrests. I appreciate Hong Kong people still come out courageously, despite the risk, said organizer Ventus Lau.

On Jan 1, a march of tens of thousands of people ended with police firing tear gas to disperse crowds.

The gathering in the park was initially relaxed, with many families with children listening to speeches by activists.

In one corner, a group of volunteers set up a stand where people could leave messages on red cards for the lunar new year to be sent to those who have been arrested. One read: Hong Kongers won’t give up. The future belongs to the youth.

Authorities in Hong Kong have arrested more than 7,000 people, many on charges of rioting that can carry jail terms of up to 10 years. It is unclear how many are still in custody.

Anger has grown over the months due to perceptions that Beijing was tightening its grip over the city, which was handed over to China by Britain in 1997 in a deal that ensured it enjoyed liberties unavailable in the mainland.

Beijing denies meddling and blames the West for fomenting unrest.

Source: Voice of America