Philippines to vaccinate 15m against COVID-19 in three-day drive

A teenager receives the BioNtech-Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine during the innoculation of young people aged 12 to 17, at a school in Taguig City on Wednesday. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 11 November 2021

Philippines to vaccinate 15m against COVID-19 in three-day drive

  • Mass vaccination to coincide with birth anniversary of Andres Bonifacio

MANILA: The Philippine government said on Wednesday it aims to vaccinate 15 million people against coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in a three-day immunization drive, which will run from Nov. 29-Dec. 1.

Manila is ramping up vaccination efforts to reach its target of immunizing 50 million people before the year ends. The Southeast Asian nation with a population of 110 million has so far fully vaccinated only about 30 million people.

“The objective is to mobilize all stakeholders, people and logistics to facilitate the vaccination … of at least 15 million individuals in three days,” the country’s vaccine czar, Secretary Carlito Galvez, said in a televised meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte.

He added that some 5,000 vaccination sites will be established at schools, colleges, gymnasiums, fast food chains, malls and workplaces across the country, with local officials, military and police mobilized to support the effort. 

“This is also one way to help those areas where vaccination rate is low because of some challenges and logistical limitations,” Galvez said.

Health organizations such as the Philippine Medical Association and the Philippine Pediatric Society will be involved as well, as the country last month began vaccinating children aged 12-17. 

Duterte urged the public to participate in the mass immunization campaign, which will coincide with the anniversary of the birth of one of the country’s national heroes, 19th-century revolutionary leader Andres Bonifacio.

“With this, we want to convey the message that all vaccinated Filipinos … are heroes,” Duterte said. “Those who haven’t been vaccinated are the ugly ones.”

COVID-19 cases in the Philippines continue to decline after reaching over 26,000 new infections daily in mid-September, when the delta variant of the virus swept the country.

On Wednesday, authorities reported 2,646 new infections. The total tally now stands at slightly over 2.8 million, with 44,665 deaths.

“We cannot lose our focus, especially now that cases are down,” Duterte said. “And this is further reason to speed up vaccination to prevent another surge.”


Quake-hit Afghan village struggles back to life as aid trickles in

Updated 14 sec ago

Quake-hit Afghan village struggles back to life as aid trickles in

  • Many of village dwellings, workshops and stores were destroyed by Wednesday's earthquake
  • Almost every family lost at least one member — and most lost many more

WUCHKAI, Afghanistan: A ruined village in eastern Afghanistan, just 10 km from the epicenter of this week's deadly earthquake, is struggling back to life as aid trickles into the isolated region.

Wuchkai, three hours away from the nearest town of any substance, can only be reached by a narrow, rutted dirt road -- with space for just one vehicle in places.
Isolated, without electricity and water, the village sprawls over a large basin surrounded by imposing hills and bisected by an almost-dry river.

Many of the village dwellings, workshops and stores were destroyed by Wednesday's 5.9-magnitude earthquake, whose epicenter was recorded on the other side of the hills that flank it.

More than 1,000 people were killed in the quake -- the country's deadliest in over two decades -- with Wuchkai alone accounting for at least three dozen.

Now the survivors are trying to find shelter in the ruins of their homes, desperately dependent on the aid convoys that have started to arrive.

"I ask and expect the world and the government to provide us with the basic things we need to live," says Raqim Jan, 23.

Jan lost 11 members of his extended family when their single-story dwelling caved in on them as they slept early Wednesday.

Almost every family lost at least one member -- and most lost many more -- so they are coming together to share resources.

Jan now lives with four other families -- including 15 women and about 20 children -- in three large tents set up near their ruined homes.

Help has arrived, but he worries for how long it will last.

"The tents, food and flour that we have received for a few days are not enough," Jan says, as a communal fire for cooking sends smoke spiraling above the makeshift campsite.

Nearby, children are playing -- seemingly oblivious to their plight -- while babies wail for attention.

A cow tied to a pole ruminates as chickens strut around the dusty compound, pecking at nothing in the dust.

The village men make occasional forays into the ruins of their houses, looking to salvage whatever valuables can be found in the debris.

But they tread gingerly, as any walls still standing are cracked -- threatening to collapse at any moment -- and aftershocks are still being felt.

A violent tremor killed five people in the same district early Thursday.

In the center of Wuchkai, a steady stream of aid vehicles arrive, kicking up clouds of dust from roads that are finally drying after days of torrential rain.

While the big operators appear organized -- such as the World Food Program and Doctors Without Borders -- smaller Afghan-led distribution is more chaotic.

Tempers flared as dozens of villagers scrambled over the back of a truck Thursday, trying to grab bags of beans that had been donated by a businessman from Kabul.

A platoon of armed Taliban grabbed one particularly exuberant young man and roughed him away in their vehicle.

Not far away, bent double under the weight of the bundle, Kawsar Uddin, 20, and his uncle carry a tent that will become the family's temporary home.

Faced with the influx of aid that is now arriving, Uddin is skeptical of the motivation and accuses aid organizations of staging "photo ops".

"They have distributed food and tents," he said. "But some are doing business on the blood of Afghans."


Beijing to reopen schools, Shanghai declares victory over COVID

Updated 25 June 2022

Beijing to reopen schools, Shanghai declares victory over COVID

  • The two major cities were among several places in China that implemented strict COVID-19 measures

SHANGHAI/BEIJING: Beijing on Saturday said it would allow primary and secondary schools to resume in-person classes and Shanghai’s top party boss declared victory over COVID-19 after the city reported zero new local cases for the first time in two months.
The two major cities were among several places in China that implemented curbs to stop the spread of the omicron wave during March to May, with Shanghai imposing a two month-long city-wide lockdown that lifted on June 1.
The efforts, part of China’s adherence to a zero-COVID policy that aims to eradicate all outbreaks, have brought case numbers down but many of the heavy-handed measures have fueled anger and even rare protests and taken a heavy toll on the economy.
Beijing shut its schools in early May and asked students to move to online learning amid a spike in locally transmitted COVID cases. Senior year students at middle and high schools were allowed to return to classrooms from June 2.
On Saturday, with case numbers trending lower in recent days, the capital’s education commission said all primary and secondary school students in the capital can return to in-person classes from Monday. Kindergartens will be allowed to reopen from July 4.
The Beijing Municipal Bureau of Sports said separately that sports activities for the young can resume at non-school locations on June 27 in areas where no community cases have been reported for seven consecutive days, with the exception of basement venues, which will remain shut.
The Universal Beijing Resort, which had been closed for nearly two months, reopened on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Shanghai reported no new local cases — both symptomatic and asymptomatic — for June 24, the first time the Chinese economic hub had done so since Feb. 23.
Shanghai Communist Party chief Li Qiang said at the opening at the city’s party congress on Saturday that authorities had “won the war to defend Shanghai” against COVID by implementing the instructions of Chinese President Xi Jinping, and that Beijing’s epidemic prevention decisions were “completely correct.” The city, however, remains on edge. Most students have not been allowed to resume in-person classes and dining indoors is still banned. It also plans to continue conducting mass PCR testing for its 25 million residents every weekend until the end of July.


Oslo shooting suspect is Norwegian of Iranian descent: police

Updated 25 June 2022

Oslo shooting suspect is Norwegian of Iranian descent: police

  • Attack is being treated as a possible ‘terrorist act’
  • Motive behind attack remains unclear

OSLO: An overnight shooting in the Norwegian capital, Oslo, that killed two people and wounded more than a dozen is being investigated as a possible terrorist attack, Norwegian police said Saturday.
In a news conference Saturday, police officials said the man arrested after the shooting was a Norwegian citizen of Iranian origin who was previously known to police but not for major crimes.
They said they had seized two firearms in connection with the attack: a handgun and an automatic weapon.
The events occurred outside a nightclub and in nearby streets in central Oslo.
Police spokesman Tore Barstad said 14 people were receiving medical treatment, eight of whom have been hospitalized.
Olav Roenneberg, a journalist from Norwegian public broadcaster NRK, said he witnessed the shooting.
“I saw a man arrive at the site with a bag. He picked up a weapon and started shooting,” Roenneberg told NRK. “First I thought it was an air gun. Then the glass of the bar next door was shattered and I understood I had to run for cover.”
Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere said in a Facebook post that “the shooting outside London Pub in Oslo tonight was a cruel and deeply shocking attack on innocent people.”
He said that while the motive was unclear, the shooting had caused fear and grief in the community.
Christian Bredeli, who was at the bar, told Norwegian newspaper VG that he hid on the fourth floor with a group of about 10 people until he was told it was safe to come out.
“Many were fearing for their lives,” he said. “On our way out we saw several injured people, so we understood that something serious had happened.”
Norwegian broadcaster TV2 showed footage of people running down Oslo streets in panic as shots rang out in the background.
Norway is a relatively safe country but has experienced violent attacks by right-wing extremists, including one of the worst mass shootings in Europe in 2011, when a gunman killed 69 people on the island of Utoya after setting off a bomb in Oslo that left eight dead.
In 2019, another right-wing extremist killed his stepsister and then opened fire in a mosque but was overpowered before anyone there was injured.

Related


What is causing record floods and heatwaves in China?

Rescuers evacuate stranded residents in flood water in Tuojiang Township in central China's Hunan Province on June 22, 2022. (Xi
Updated 25 June 2022

What is causing record floods and heatwaves in China?

  • More than half a million people were evacuated this month because of the flood threat
  • The floods in China last year cost $25 billion — the world’s second-worst flood-related loss after Europe

BEIJING: Record floods in southern China this month displaced more than half a million people, while searing heat buckled roads in other parts of the country.
Authorities have issued extreme weather warnings in multiple regions, while experts warned that these phenomena were more evidence of the impact of climate change.

Summer floods are common in China, especially in the low-lying Pearl River delta region in the south.
This year, however, the National Climate Center forecast that flooding will be “relatively worse” and “more extreme” than before.
Water levels at one location in Guangdong province “surpassed historical records” this week, according to the ministry of water resources, while parts of neighboring Fujian province and Guangxi region also reported record rainfall.
More than half a million people were evacuated this month because of the flood threat.
In the cities of Guangzhou and Shaoguan in Guangdong province, heavy rainfall turned roads into rivers and people had to be taken to safety in lifeboats.
Authorities in the province estimated the economic damage from the floods to be more than a quarter of a billion dollars.

Seven provinces in northern and central China Wednesday warned millions of residents not to go outdoors as temperatures hit 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit).
State broadcaster CCTV this week showed footage of cement roads cracked under extreme heat in central Henan province.
Meanwhile, power demand surged to record levels in several cities in the north this week as residents cranked up the air conditioning to beat the heat.
In China’s second-most populous province Shandong, home to more than 100 million people, electricity use topped 93 million kilowatts on Tuesday, beating the 2020 high of 90 million kilowatts, CCTV said.

China’s central economic planner estimates that extreme weather will shave off one to three percent of the country’s GDP every year.
The floods in China last year cost $25 billion — the world’s second-worst flood-related loss after Europe, a study published in April by reinsurer Swiss Re showed.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang warned Wednesday that floods and heatwaves will affect the production of staple grains, vegetables and pork and push up inflation.

“Extreme weather and climate events in the country have become more frequent, severe and widespread,” China Meteorological Administration said Wednesday.
It followed a warning in March from Xiao Chan, deputy director of the National Climate Center: “Global warming and La Nina events are contributing to abnormally high temperatures and extreme rain in China.”
As the Earth’s atmosphere gets warmer, it holds more moisture, making downpours more intense.
La Nina refers to the large-scale cooling of surface temperatures in the central and eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean, causing devastating floods in South China, India and Bangladesh.

China has built a network of massive dams and “sponge cities” with permeable pavements to try and limit the devastation during the annual flood season.
“But the most damaging recent floods have occurred in areas historically less at risk,” said Scott Moore, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania focusing on China’s environmental policy.
“This is a classic climate change effect: increased extreme weather in different regions and at different times of year than the historical average.”
China is the world’s biggest coal-burning nation and top emitter of greenhouse gases that lead to climate change.
It aims to become carbon neutral by 2060, but local governments have pushed up investments in both renewables and coal in recent months.
Beijing has also not yet outlined precisely how it intends to achieve its emissions targets.
Environmentalists have warned that without specifying the size of the peak or setting an absolute cap, China can essentially keep increasing emissions until 2030.

A new roadmap for climate change adaptation published by the Chinese government last week says the focus should now shift to predicting extreme weather more accurately using sensors and satellites.
“The usefulness of weather forecasts caps out around 10 days, beyond which their accuracy rapidly drops to that of a coin flip,” think tank Trivium China said in a research note.
“Climate monitoring and forecasting is a whole different ballgame,” helping to predict severe floods and droughts at least a month in advance.
 

Related


Sweltering streets: Hundreds of homeless die in extreme heat

Updated 25 June 2022

Sweltering streets: Hundreds of homeless die in extreme heat

  • Temperatures are rising nearly everywhere because of global warming, combining with brutal drought in some places to create more intense, frequent and longer heat waves
  • In the US, excessive heat causes more weather-related deaths than hurricanes, flooding and tornadoes combined

PHOENIX: Hundreds of blue, green and grey tents are pitched under the sun’s searing rays in downtown Phoenix, a jumble of flimsy canvas and plastic along dusty sidewalks. Here, in the hottest big city in America, thousands of homeless people swelter as the summer’s triple digit temperatures arrive.
The stifling tent city has ballooned amid pandemic-era evictions and surging rents that have dumped hundreds more people onto the sizzling streets that grow eerily quiet when temperatures peak in the midafternoon. A heat wave earlier this month brought temperatures of up to 114 degrees (45.5 Celsius) — and it’s only June. Highs reached 118 degrees (47.7 Celsius) last year.
“During the summer, it’s pretty hard to find a place at night that’s cool enough to sleep without the police running you off,” said Chris Medlock, a homeless Phoenix man known on the streets as “T-Bone” who carries everything he owns in a small backpack and often beds down in a park or a nearby desert preserve to avoid the crowds.
“If a kind soul could just offer a place on their couch indoors maybe more people would live,” Medlock said at a dining room where homeless people can get some shade and a free meal.
Excessive heat causes more weather-related deaths in the United States than hurricanes, flooding and tornadoes combined.

Around the country, heat contributes to some 1,500 deaths annually, and advocates estimate about half of those people are homeless.
Temperatures are rising nearly everywhere because of global warming, combining with brutal drought in some places to create more intense, frequent and longer heat waves. The past few summers have been some of the hottest on record.
Just in the county that includes Phoenix, at least 130 homeless people were among the 339 individuals who died from heat-associated causes in 2021.
“If 130 homeless people were dying in any other way it would be considered a mass casualty event,” said Kristie L. Ebi, a professor of global health at the University of Washington.
It’s a problem that stretches across the United States, and now, with rising global temperatures, heat is no longer a danger just in places like Phoenix.
This summer will likely bring above-normal temperatures over most land areas worldwide, according to the latest seasonal forecast map produced by the International Research Institute for Climate and Society at Columbia University.
Last summer, a heat wave blasted the normally temperate US Northwest and had Seattle residents sleeping in their yards and on roofs, or fleeing to hotels with air conditioning. Across the state, several people presumed to be homeless died outdoors, including a man slumped behind a gas station.
In Oregon, officials opened 24-hour cooling centers for the first time. Volunteer teams fanned out with water and popsicles to homeless encampments on Portland’s outskirts.
A quick scientific analysis concluded last year’s Pacific Northwest heat wave was virtually impossible without human-caused climate change adding several degrees and toppling previous records.

A man takes a photo of a sign at El Arroyo restaurant in Austin, Texas, on a hot afternoon, on  June 23, 2022. (Austin American-Statesman via AP)/ 

Even Boston is exploring ways to protect diverse neighborhoods like its Chinatown, where population density and few shade trees help drive temperatures up to 106 degrees (41 Celsius) some summer days. The city plans strategies like increasing tree canopy and other kinds of shade, using cooler materials for roofs, and expanding its network of cooling centers during heat waves.
It’s not just a US problem. An Associated Press analysis last year of a dataset published by the Columbia University’s climate school found exposure to extreme heat has tripled and now affects about a quarter of the world’s population.
This spring, an extreme heat wave gripped much of Pakistan and India, where homelessness is widespread due to discrimination and insufficient housing. The high in Jacobabad, Pakistan near the border with India hit 122 degrees (50 Celsius) in May.
Dr. Dileep Mavalankar, who heads the Indian Institute of Public Health in the western Indian city Gandhinagar, said because of poor reporting it’s unknown how many die in the country from heat exposure.
Summertime cooling centers for homeless, elderly and other vulnerable populations have opened in several European countries each summer since a heat wave killed 70,000 people across Europe in 2003.
Emergency service workers on bicycles patrol Madrid’s streets, distributing ice packs and water in the hot months. Still, some 1,300 people, most of them elderly, continue to die in Spain each summer because of health complications exacerbated by excess heat.
Spain and southern France last week sweltered through unusually hot weather for mid-June, with temperatures hitting 104 degrees (40 Celsius) in some areas.
Climate scientist David Hondula, who heads Phoenix’s new office for heat mitigation, says that with such extreme weather now seen around the world, more solutions are needed to protect the vulnerable, especially homeless people who are about 200 times more likely than sheltered individuals to die from heat-associated causes.
“As temperatures continue to rise across the US and the world, cities like Seattle, Minneapolis, New York or Kansas City that don’t have the experience or infrastructure for dealing with heat have to adjust as well.”
In Phoenix, officials and advocates hope a vacant building recently converted into a 200-bed shelter for homeless people will help save lives this summer.
Mac Mais, 34, was among the first to move in.
“It can be rough. I stay in the shelters or anywhere I can find,” said Mais who has been homeless on and off since he was a teen. “Here, I can stay out actually rest, work on job applications, stay out of the heat.”
In Las Vegas, teams deliver bottled water to homeless people living in encampments around the county and inside a network of underground storm drains under the Las Vegas strip.

People crowd the registration counter at Tej Bahadur Sapru Hospital in Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh state, India, on June 23, 2022. (AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh)

Ahmedabad, India, population 8.4 million, was the first South Asian city to design a heat action plan in 2013.
Through its warning system, nongovernmental groups reach out to vulnerable people and send text messages to mobile phones. Water tankers are dispatched to slums, while bus stops, temples and libraries become shelters for people to escape the blistering rays.
Still, the deaths pile up.
Kimberly Rae Haws, a 62-year-old homeless woman, was severely burned in October 2020 while sprawled for an unknown amount of time on a sizzling Phoenix blacktop. The cause of her subsequent death was never investigated.
A young man nicknamed Twitch died from heat exposure as he sat on a curb near a Phoenix soup kitchen in the hours before it opened one weekend in 2018.
“He was supposed to move into permanent housing the next Monday,” said Jim Baker, who oversees that dining room for the St. Vincent de Paul charity. “His mother was devastated.”
Many such deaths are never confirmed as heat related and aren’t always noticed because of the stigma of homelessness and lack of connection to family.
When a 62-year-old mentally ill woman named Shawna Wright died last summer in a hot alley in Salt Lake City, her death only became known when her family published an obituary saying the system failed to protect her during the hottest July on record, when temperatures reached the triple digits.
Her sister, Tricia Wright, said making it easier for homeless people to get permanent housing would go a long way toward protecting them from extreme summertime temperatures.
“We always thought she was tough, that she could get through it,” Tricia Wright said of her sister. “But no one is tough enough for that kind of heat.”