US expands China health alert amid illness reports

US State Department issued an expanded health alert for all of China. (Shutterstock)
Updated 08 June 2018

US expands China health alert amid illness reports

  • US diplomats based in the country had experienced a mysterious malady that resembles a brain injury
  • The US government said that it had brought a group of people from that consulate back to the United States for further evaluation of their symptoms

BEIJING: The US State Department on Friday issued an expanded health alert for all of China amid reports some US diplomats based in the country had experienced a mysterious malady that resembles a brain injury and has already affected US personnel in Cuba.
A previous statement in May only mentioned the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou as the location for the health alert, though it was sent to US citizens throughout the country.
The State Department had confirmed earlier that one US employee assigned to the consulate in Guangzhou had “suffered a medical incident,” and that it had deployed a team to screen employees and family members there.
On Wednesday the US government said that it had brought a group of people from that consulate back to the United States for further evaluation of their symptoms, and reiterated that it was offering screening to anyone at the US embassy in Beijing or other consulates in China who requested it.
The United States also operates consulates in the mainland Chinese cities of Chengdu, Shanghai, Shenyang and Wuhan.
The updated statement, sent by email, changed the location of the health alert to “countrywide” from Guangzhou.
It warned of “unexplained physical symptoms or events, auditory or sensory phenomena,” and said symptoms of the ailment included dizziness, headaches, tinnitus, fatigue, cognitive issues, visual problems, ear complaints and hearing loss, as well as difficulty sleeping.
China has said that it thoroughly investigated the initial case reported by the United States and found no reasons or clues to explain it.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Thursday that as far as she was aware the Chinese government had not had any formal communication with US officials on any new cases.
China’s state-run Global Times tabloid called the situation at the consulate “very strange.”
“Practically all Chinese people do not believe that this country’s official organizations would carry out such sonic attacks against US diplomats. This does not fit with China’s basic concept and principles of diplomacy, and is inconceivable,” the Global Times said in an editorial.
It also said people found it hard to believe that another foreign country could carry out such an attack in China, escape China’s monitoring, and leave no trace.
Last year, 24 US government employees and family members in Cuba displayed the symptoms, which were similar to those related to concussion and mild traumatic brain injury, according to the State Department.
The illnesses among the American diplomats stationed in Havana heightened tension between the old Cold War foes.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo released a statement on Tuesday saying the department established a task force last month “to direct a multi-agency response to the unexplained health incidents.”


Lavrov says Russia will respond in kind to any new US sanctions — Ifax

Updated 02 March 2021

Lavrov says Russia will respond in kind to any new US sanctions — Ifax

  • Two US sources familiar with the matter have said that the United States is likely to impose sanctions as early as Tuesday to punish Russia for the poisoning of Navalny

MOSCOW: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday that Moscow would respond in kind to any new US sanctions over the treatment of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, the Interfax news agency reported.
Two US sources familiar with the matter have said that the United States is likely to impose sanctions as early as Tuesday to punish Russia for the poisoning of Navalny. The Kremlin has denied any role in Navalny’s illness last year and said it had seen no proof he was poisoned.


UK rollout data on AstraZeneca shot ‘should guide’ other countries

Updated 02 March 2021

UK rollout data on AstraZeneca shot ‘should guide’ other countries

  • Britain has been rolling out the vaccine since January, beginning with the elderly and health workers, after approving its use for all adults

LONDON: Data from Britain’s vaccine rollout on the effectiveness of the AstraZeneca/Oxford University COVID-19 shot in older people should help other countries reassess their use of it, the head of the university’s vaccine research group said on Tuesday.
Britain has been rolling out the vaccine since January, beginning with the elderly and health workers, after approving its use for all adults.
Many European countries have advised that the vaccine should not be given to over-65s due to a lack of clinical trial data on its efficacy in that age group, and a significant proportion of doses of the vaccine that they have acquired have gone unused.
In the face of shortages of other vaccines, France is easing those restrictions to allow some people aged 65-74 to receive the shot.
Though efficacy data was limited in clinical trials, real world data from being generated by Britain’s vaccine rollout, has shown both AstraZeneca and Pfizer’s shot are both more than 80% effective in preventing hospitalizations in over-80s after one shot.
Public Health England (PHE) also said that protection against symptomatic COVID in those over-70 is between 60-73 percent four weeks after the first shot of Oxford-AstraZeneca’s vaccine, compared to 57-61% for one dose of Pfizer-BioNTech’s one.
Asked if other countries should look at real world data from Public Health England and reassess how they use the shot, Oxford Vaccine Group’s Andrew Pollard said: “I think that the scientific committees in each of these countries will be doing exactly that over the days ahead.”
“The strength of evidence that we’re now seeing... all of that is being accessed by scientific committees in different countries, and I’m sure will help support their decision-making,” he told BBC radio.
On Monday, England’s deputy chief medical officer said that the PHE approach vindicated the belief in Britain that the vaccine would give protection to older people despite the initial lack of data.


Turkey’s reopening relieves restaurants but worries doctors

Updated 02 March 2021

Turkey’s reopening relieves restaurants but worries doctors

  • Cafe and restaurant owners have long urged a reopening of in-house dining after sector revenues dropped 65%

ISTANBUL: Turkish restaurants reopened and many children returned to school on Tuesday after the government announced steps to ease COVID-19 curbs even as cases edged higher, raising concerns in the top medical association.
On Monday evening, President Tayyip Erdogan lifted weekend lockdowns in low- and medium-risk cities and limited lockdowns to Sundays in those deemed higher risk under what he called a “controlled normalization.”
Cafe and restaurant owners, limited to takeaway service for much of last year, have long urged a reopening of in-house dining after sector revenues dropped 65%. They also want relief from growing debt, and from social security and tax payments.
“We were serving 4,000-5,000 people a week. Now with takeaway services we are serving only 500 people,” Istanbul-based Pideban restaurant owner Yusuf Kaptanoglu said before the easing measures were announced.
“I did not benefit from any support including loan support,” he said.
Across Turkey, pre- and primary schools as well as grades 8-12 resumed partial in-person education.
Yet the moves come as new daily coronavirus cases rose to 9,891 on Monday, the highest since Jan. 11 and up from 8,424 a day earlier, according to official data. Cases were around 6,000 in late January.
“The number of mutant virus cases is increasingly rising. We do not see conditions to return to an old ‘normal’,” the Turkish Medics’ Association said on Twitter, calling for higher rates of testing and inoculation.
“Political and economic interests must not take precedence over human life and science,” it added.
Turkey, with a population of 83 million, has administered 8.96 million vaccines in a campaign that began in mid-January. More than 7 million people have received a first shot and 1.89 million have received a second.


S.Korea says up to medical personnel to extract extra doses of COVID vaccine from vial

Updated 02 March 2021

S.Korea says up to medical personnel to extract extra doses of COVID vaccine from vial

  • South Korea has reported 344 new cases on Monday, adding to the total tally of 90,372, with 1,606 deaths

SEOUL: A decision by South Korean health authorities to allow more doses to be extracted from coronavirus vaccine vials sparked controversy on Tuesday as the country ramped up its vaccinations of health care workers and the elderly.
The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) had allowed health care workers to use the remaining doses if they can squeeze more out of each vial with low dead space syringes, which minimize the amount of vaccine left in the syringe after use.
While offering discretion over the use of remaining doses, KDCA made clear the authorities will not make the extraction of the extra doses a new standard or mandatory as it can burden the health care workers on site.
Experts were divided about the decision for permitting up to seven doses to be extracted from Pfizer vaccine vials which are made to contain only six using the low dead space syringes, and up to 12 doses from AstraZeneca’s vaccine, which would otherwise inoculate 10 people with normal syringes.
Eom Joong-sik, professor of infectious diseases at Gachon University Gil Medical Center, warned of the risk of contamination during inaccurate extraction of the extra seventh dose.
A worker trying to combine leftovers from two vials to make a full dose could lead to such problems, Eom said in a Facebook post.
The government hasn’t made it mandatory to squeeze extra dose out of a vial and there is a designated person in charge of extraction in large medical centers, which makes it easier for them to draw an extra dose safely, said Ki Mo-ran, professor of cancer control and population health at National Cancer Center.
KDCA said 23,086 people were given first doses of AstraZeneca and Pfizer shots by Monday midnight.
South Korea has reported 344 new cases on Monday, adding to the total tally of 90,372, with 1,606 deaths.


Men accused of aiding Ghosn escape arrive in Japan after extradition

Updated 02 March 2021

Men accused of aiding Ghosn escape arrive in Japan after extradition

TOKYO: The American father and son accused of helping former Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. Chairman Carlos Ghosn flee Japan while awaiting trial have arrived in Japan following their extradition from the United States, according to Nippon TV.
A Reuters witness saw the landing of the plane believed to be carrying the two men.