China study warns of ‘colossal’ COVID outbreak if it opens up like US, France

A nurse takes swab samples in the new rounds of Covid-19 testing in Nanjing in eastern China's Jiangsu province Monday, Aug. 2, 2021. (AP)
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Updated 28 November 2021

China study warns of ‘colossal’ COVID outbreak if it opens up like US, France

  • China’s daily new cases would reach at least 637,155 if it adopted the United States’ pandemic strategy, the report said

BEIJING: China could face more than 630,000 COVID-19 infections a day if it dropped its zero-tolerance policies by lifting travel curbs, according to a study by Peking University mathematicians.
In the report published in China CDC Weekly by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the mathematicians said China could not afford to lift travel restrictions without more efficient vaccinations or specific treatments.
Using data for August from the United States, Britain, Spain, France and Israel, the mathematicians assessed the potential results if China adopted the same pandemic control tactics as those countries.
China’s daily new cases would reach at least 637,155 if it adopted the United States’ pandemic strategy, the report said.
And daily cases would hit 275,793 if China took the same approach as Britain and 454,198 if it imitated France, it said.
“The estimates revealed the real possibility of a colossal outbreak which would almost certainly induce an unaffordable burden on the medical system,” the report said.
“Our findings have raised a clear warning that, for the time being, we are not ready to embrace ‘open-up’ strategies resting solely on the hypothesis of herd immunity induced by vaccination advocated by certain western countries.”
The mathematicians cautioned that their estimates were based on basic arithmetic calculations and that more sophisticated models were needed to study the evolution of the pandemic if travel restrictions were lifted.
China has maintained a zero-tolerance policy toward COVID-19, saying the importance of containing local cases when they are found outweighs the disruptions caused by efforts to trace, isolate and treat the infected. China reported 23 new confirmed coronavirus cases for Nov. 27, down from 25 a day earlier, its health authority said on Sunday.
The World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday designated a new COVID-19 variant detected in South Africa with a large number of mutations as being “of concern,” prompting some countries to impose travel curbs.


‘Appalled’ US suspects Uyghur abuse approved at Beijing ‘highest levels’

Updated 35 min 31 sec ago

‘Appalled’ US suspects Uyghur abuse approved at Beijing ‘highest levels’

  • "We are appalled by the reports and the jarring images," State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters
  • The United States accuses Beijing of carrying out genocide against the Uyghurs

WASHINGTON: The United States voiced horror Tuesday at new files on the incarceration of China’s Uyghur minority and said they showed that abuse was likely approved at the highest levels in Beijing.
“We are appalled by the reports and the jarring images,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters.
“It would be very difficult to imagine that a systemic effort to suppress, to detain, to conduct a campaign of genocide and crimes against humanity would not have the blessing — would not have the approval — of the highest levels of the PRC government,” he said, referring to the People’s Republic of China.
The United States accuses Beijing of carrying out genocide against the Uyghurs and other mostly Muslim, Turkic-speaking people in the western region of Xinjiang, where rights groups say more than one million people have been rounded up.
“We have and we continue to call on the PRC to immediately release all those arbitrarily detained people, to abolish the internment camps, to end mass detention, torture, forced sterilization, and the use of forced labor,” Price said.
Adrian Zenz, an academic who has probed the treatment of the Uyghurs, published a leak of thousands of photos and official documents that shed new light on violent methods to enforce mass internment.
The files, parts of which have been verified by multiple news organizations including the BBC and Le Monde, also provide a window into life in detention facilities.
Photos appear to show officers restraining hooded and shackled inmates with batons, while other guards wearing camouflage stand by with firearms.
The release comes just as UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet started a visit to China that was criticized by the United States, which says that she had not secured sufficient access.
The US ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said in a tweet that Bachelet “must take a hard look at these faces and press Chinese officials for full, unfettered access — and answers.”


Boat carrying Rohingya fleeing Myanmar capsizes, killing 16

Updated 24 May 2022

Boat carrying Rohingya fleeing Myanmar capsizes, killing 16

  • There were 35 survivors of Saturday's accident that took place Saturday off Myanmar’s southwestern coast
  • UNHCR said at least 17 Rohingya, including children, had died

BANGKOK: At least 16 people from Myanmar’s Rohingya minority have died after a storm capsized the boat they were traveling on to seek refuge in another country, officials and a recovery team member said Tuesday.
There were 35 survivors of Saturday’s accident that took place Saturday off Myanmar’s southwestern coast and four people were missing, the officials said.
UNHCR, the UN’s refugee agency, expressed shock and sadness about the accident in a statement and said at least 17 Rohingya, including children, had died.
The boat left the western state of Rakhine last Thursday and encountered bad weather two days later off Ayeyarwaddy Region on Myanmar’s southwestern coast, causing it to capsize, the statement said.
The Rohingya, a Muslim minority, have long been persecuted in Myanmar. More than 700,000 Rohingya have fled the country to neighboring Bangladesh since August 2017 to escape the brutal counterinsurgency campaign of Myanmar’s military following an attack by a Rohingya insurgent group in Rakhine State.
Myanmar’s government has denied accusations that security forces committed mass rapes and killings and burned thousands of homes, but the US government recently labeled actions by the country’s military as genocide.
There are more than 100,000 Rohingya left in Myanmar, confined in squalid displacement camps, along with those living in crowded refugee camps in Bangladesh.
Groups of Rohingya from camps in both countries embark on hazardous voyages to the Muslim-majority countries of Malaysia and Indonesia to seek a better living.
“Some 630 Rohingya have attempted sea journeys across the Bay of Bengal from January to May 2022,” the UNHCR statement said, with women and children making up 60 percent of those trying to flee.
The statement added: “The risk of abuse at the hands of smugglers and the peril of the sea journey itself are both exacerbated during prolonged journeys, when a safe harbor for disembarkation cannot be found.”
An Ayeyarwaddy Region resident said the 16 bodies, including those of two young boys, were recovered near Pathein township, about 300 kilometers (180 miles) west of Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city. He spoke on condition of anonymity because Myanmar’s military government seeks to tightly control the flow of information.
A local official, who also requested anonymity for the same reason, said most of the 50 people on board the boat were men under 30 years old. He said the bodies were buried and that the 35 survivors were taken away by the security forces.
Maung Maung Than, a spokesperson for the Ayeyarwaddy Region government, confirmed that the accident happened but did not give further details.
“The latest tragedy shows once again the sense of desperation being felt by Rohingya in Myanmar and in the region,” Indrika Ratwatte, UNHCR’s director for Asia and the Pacific said in the agency’s statement. “It is shocking to see increasing numbers of children, women and men embarking on these dangerous journeys and eventually losing their lives.”


Dutch arrest Syrian-born man suspected of war crimes

Updated 24 May 2022

Dutch arrest Syrian-born man suspected of war crimes

  • Man was taken into custody in the town of Kerkrade after applying for asylum in the Netherlands in 2020
  • The suspect is said to have been a member of the Liwa al-Quds militia who are loyal to the regime of Syria's president

THE HAGUE: Dutch police arrested a Syrian-born man suspected of committing war crimes in 2013 while fighting as a member of pro-Damascus militia forces in Syria’s ongoing civil war, prosecutors said Tuesday.
The 34-year-old man was taken into custody in the southern town of Kerkrade after applying for asylum in the Netherlands in 2020.
He is suspected of war crimes and crimes against humanity, Brechtje van de Moosdijk, spokeswoman for the public prosecution service said.
“He is also accused of participating in an organization whose aim is to commit international crimes,” she said in a statement.
The suspect will go before a judge in a first closed-door appearance on Friday.
The suspect, who was not identified, is said to have been a member of the Liwa Al-Quds militia who are loyal to the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
In January 2013, he and militia members, as well as Syrian intelligence forces allegedly arrested a civilian man at his home in the Al-Nayrab Palestinian refugee camp near the northwestern city of Aleppo.
“The civilian was mistreated during the arrest and later taken to a Syrian Air Force intelligence prison, where he is said to have been tortured,” Van de Moosdijk said.
Syria’s war is estimated to have killed nearly half a million people and displaced millions since it began with a brutal crackdown of anti-government protests in 2011.
It escalated to pull in foreign powers and global extremists.
Militia forces “were an important link in a widespread and systematic attack on the civilian population,” Van de Moosdijk said.
“They were used, for example, in the crackdown on demonstrations of civilians, and to arrest civilians.”
Dutch prosecutors regard Liwa Al-Quds as a criminal organization, similar to the Daesh group, she said.
A German court in January sentenced a former Syrian colonel to life in jail for crimes against humanity in the first global trial over state-sponsored torture in Syria.
Anwar Raslan, 58, was found guilty of overseeing the murder of 27 people and the torture of 4,000 others at the Al-Khatib detention center in Damascus, also known as “Branch 251,” in 2011 and 2012.
He had sought refuge in Germany after deserting the Syrian regime in 2012.


Germany orders 40,000 vaccine doses as precaution against monkeypox spread

Five cases of monkeypox have been registered in Germany so far. (Shutterstock)
Updated 24 May 2022

Germany orders 40,000 vaccine doses as precaution against monkeypox spread

  • Germany has ordered 40,000 doses of a Bavarian Nordic vaccine to be ready to vaccinate contacts of those infected with monkeypox
  • German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said the outbreak of monkeypox could be contained and did not signal the start of a new pandemic

Germany has ordered 40,000 doses of a Bavarian Nordic vaccine to be ready to vaccinate contacts of those infected with monkeypox if an outbreak in Germany becomes more severe, but officials are banking on other precautionary measures for now.
Speaking at a press conference, German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said on Tuesday that measures such as an isolation period of at least 21 days recommended for infected people would suffice for now to contain the outbreak.
“If infections spread further we will want to be prepared for possible ring vaccinations that are not yet recommended at this point but might become necessary,” said Lauterbach, referring to the strategy of vaccinating contacts of an infected person.
He said the outbreak of monkeypox could be contained and did not signal the start of a new pandemic, adding that early intervention can prevent the pathogen from becoming firmly established in communities.
So far, five cases have been registered in Germany, all men, said Lothar Wieler, the head of Germany’s Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases, also speaking at the press conference.
A World Health Organization official on Monday issued similar guidance, saying the outbreak does not require mass vaccinations because measures like hygiene and safe sexual behavior will help control the spread.
The WHO has registered more than 250 confirmed and suspected monkeypox infections, with a geographic spread that is unusual for the disease which is endemic in parts of west and central Africa but rare elsewhere.
US health officials said this week that there are more than 1,000 doses of the Bavarian Nordic vaccine in the national stockpile and they expect that level to ramp up very quickly in the coming weeks.
The vaccine is branded Jynneos in the United States where it is approved for use against smallpox and monkeypox. It is also approved for smallpox in Europe, where it is called Imvanex, but has been provided for off-label use in response to monkeypox cases.
The Danish company said last week it secured a contract with an undisclosed European country to supply Imvanex in response to new cases of monkeypox.


Pakistan government says it won’t allow ex-PM Khan’s long march to Islamabad

Updated 24 May 2022

Pakistan government says it won’t allow ex-PM Khan’s long march to Islamabad

  • Announcement comes after Khan accused police of detaining hundreds of supporters in raids early Tuesday
  • One policeman killed during raids when a supporter of Imran Khan allegedly opened fire

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah said on Tuesday that the government would not allow former Prime Minister Imran Khan to hold a planned anti-government long march to the federal capital on May 25 on the grounds its aim was to spread “chaos and anarchy” in the country.

Khan, who was ousted from power last month in a no-confidence vote after losing a parliamentary majority, said on Sunday he would march to Islamabad with his party supporters to demand the dissolution of assemblies and a date for fresh elections.

“They want to spread chaos and anarchy through the nation,” the interior minister said, adding that the federal cabinet had decided not to grant permission for the protest march.

The interior minister said Khan was removed through a “constitutional process” and had no justification for launching the planned march.

“Peaceful demonstrations are everyone’s right, but they are not coming for a peaceful protest,” he added.

In a press conference shortly after the government’s announcement, a defiant Khan said he would lead the march to Islamabad as planned.

The government’s decision comes after Khan accused police of detaining hundreds of his supporters in raids that started early Tuesday. A policeman was killed during one of the raids when a supporter of the former premier allegedly opened fire.

Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb said that Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party had “crossed the red line” and would not be allowed to create further political instability.

“Whenever the economy starts to take off, Imran Khan’s mischief becomes an obstacle in its path,” she told the APP news agency. “Today we have started to revive the economy of Pakistan and provide relief to people … No interference will be tolerated.”

Another leader of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party, Attaullah Tarar, told the media that Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif would visit the deceased policeman’s family and announce monetary compensation.

In light of the constable’s killing, Tarar said the government had decided to impose Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure in Lahore, empowering officials to suspend political gatherings in the public interest.

Tarar said the government had information that Khan’s march was likely to become violent and some participants wanted to carry weapons. Khan has repeatedly said the demonstration would be peaceful and its only aim was to call for early elections.

Pakistani Defense Minister Khawaja Mohammed Asif said in a Twitter post that Khan was planning to “attack” Islamabad by utilizing the resources of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province where his PTI party is in power.

“The federal government will fully defend the writ of the state and the personal agenda of (Imran Khan) will not be fulfilled,” Asif said. “Any situation of conflict between the provincial and federal governments threatening the country’s integrity will be handled with an iron fist.”