Connect with us

World

Japan prepares beds, booster shots in COVID-19 lull before winter

Published

on

November 14, 2021

By Rocky Swift

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida outlined on Friday an urgent plan to increase hospital beds and medical resources in preparation for a possible resurgence of COVID-19 infections this winter.

After a deadly fifth wave of infections almost overwhelmed the medical system during the summer, infections and deaths have fallen dramatically as vaccinations have increased to cover more than 70% of the population.

Advertisement

Emergency measures covering most of the country were lifted last month, but health experts warn that cases will likely rebound, as they did in Japan last winter. Ahead of that, the government plans to boost hospital bed capacity by about 30%, bolster in-home care, and collect data to predict which hospitals will come under pressure.

“In parallel with strengthening the medical system, from December we will use IT systems to make public the number of hospital beds and conditions at each hospital,” Kishida told reporters.

Kishida said earlier this week that the “trump card” in the government’s pandemic fight was the procurement of oral treatments that could prevent the need for hospitalisation.

Japan will pay about $1.2 billion for 1.6 million courses of the COVID-19 antiviral pill molnupiravir developed by Merck & Co Inc and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, according to terms announced on Wednesday.

That’s about half the supply that has been secured by the United States and compares with a total of 1.7 million coronavirus cases seen in Japan since the start of the pandemic.

Advertisement

Meanwhile, vaccine booster shots are due to start from next month, and the government is considering expanding inoculations to children as young as five.

Japan has weathered the pandemic better than many countries, with just over 18,000 deaths so far and without the imposition of stringent lockdowns.

But the government faced heavy criticism over a spate of deaths at home among patients due to hospitals’ inability to handle the rash of cases during the summer. Former Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga resigned in September over his handling of the crisis.

To stave off the bed shortage, the health ministry has adopted a system that uses past and present infection data to predict when and where medical resources will come under strain.

“A sixth wave is a question of when rather than if,” said Yuki Furuse, a Kyoto University professor who developed the predictive tool.

Advertisement

“Because the current situation in Japan is calm, it seems okay to lift some restrictions now. However, I am concerned about whether people can go back to a ‘voluntary self-restraint state’ again when needed,” he added.

(Reporting by Rocky Swift; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

Continue Reading
Advertisement

World

China top representative in Macau to advise govt on national security-state media

Published

on

December 3, 2021

HONG KONG (Reuters) – China’s top representative in the semiautonomous gambling hub of Macau will begin advising the former Portuguese colony’s government on national security matters, state news agency Xinhua reported on Friday.

The move highlights increased scrutiny from Beijing over Macau affairs after the central government declared outflows of Chinese gambling-related funds into Macau and other gaming hubs a national security risk.

Last week Macau authorities arrested Alvin Chau https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/gambling-group-suncitys-shares-set-rise-61-after-arrested-chairman-resigns-2021-12-02, the founder of Macau’s biggest junket operator, which brings in high rollers to play at casinos, along with 10 others, for allegedly using Macau as a base for an illegal “live web betting platform.”

Advertisement

A warrant for Chau’s arrest has also been issued by the mainland Chinese city of Wenzhou, accusing him of forming an extensive junket agent network that helps citizens engage in gambling activities and of setting up a company that helps gamblers make cross-border fund transfers.

The move was seen as a warning that Macau and mainland Chinese authorities were adopting a zero-tolerance approach to the promotion of gambling in mainland China where it is illegal.

Xinhua said Macau asked Beijing to appoint a national security affairs adviser in the city and that Beijing tasked the head of its Liaison Office Fu Ziying to “supervise, guide, coordinate, and support” the government on the matter.

Beijing will also appoint three national security technical advisers from within the Liaison Office, which is Beijing’s main representative institution in Macau.

(Writing by Marius Zaharia; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)

Advertisement

Continue Reading

World

S.Korea makes vaccine pass mandatory for many more venues as Omicron fears rise

Published

on

December 3, 2021

By Sangmi Cha

SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea announced on Friday that people visiting restaurants and cinemas and other public spaces will have to show vaccine passes, amid a surge in COVID-19 infections and five confirmed cases of the Omicron variant.

The government also re-imposed limits on private gatherings, which had been recently relaxed, as the country posted record numbers of new cases this week.

Advertisement

Desperate to fend off the Omicron variant, authorities halted quarantine exemptions on Thursday for fully vaccinated inbound travellers and made a 10-day quarantine mandatory.

From next Monday, people visiting 14 designated public spaces, including hospitality and entertainment venues, will have to show their vaccines passes, Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum told a coronavirus response meeting, setting out the plan to reduce the risk of community spread. The public will have a grace period of a week to get used to the new rules.

While people have been required to show their vaccine pass at high-risk venues such as gyms, saunas and bars, it is the first time that the requirement has been extended to restaurants and cafes.

From February, anyone aged 12 years or older will have to show a vaccination pass. The government decided to lower the exemption age, currently set at 17 years, to encourage teenagers to get vaccinated as the under-18 age group accounts for 20% of all infections, Health Minister Kwon Deok-cheol told a briefing.

The limit on private gatherings was cut to six people in the greater Seoul area, and eight outside, from the current limit of 10 in Seoul and 12 outside, Kwon said.

Advertisement

South Korea has so far confirmed a total of five Omicron cases after a fully vaccinated couple tested positive for the variant after arriving last week from Nigeria. The patients are either asymptomatic or have mild symptoms such as headache, low-grade fever, dizziness and sore throat, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said.

KDCA reported 4,944 COVID-19 cases for Thursday, a slight decline from record high 5,266 cases on Wednesday. It has reported a total of 462,555, with 3,739 deaths overall.

South Korea has fully vaccinated 91.6% of its adult population aged 18 and over, yet the booster dose uptake remains at 8.1%.

(Reporting by Sangmi Cha; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

Advertisement
Continue Reading

World

U.S. House to consider bill to clamp down on products from China’s Xinjiang

Published

on

December 3, 2021

By Michael Martina and Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. House of Representatives is set to consider a bill as soon as next week that would ban imports from China’s Xinjiang region over concerns about forced labor, Representative Jim McGovern, the bill’s sponsor, told reporters on Thursday.

“Next week is an important week for human rights,” McGovern said. “… We think it’s important to move some China legislation, hopefully much of it focused on human rights. The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act we want to see that get over the finish line in some form.”

Advertisement

President Joe Biden is hosting a summit of democracies next week, seen as an effort to push back against China’s growing influence.

Republicans and Democrats have been arguing over the Uyghur legislation for months. Most recently, Republican Senator Marco Rubio has been demanding that the measure be included as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, delaying the Senate’s consideration of the massive annual bill setting policy for the Pentagon.

Rubio’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether House passage of McGovern’s bill would change his stance on the defense bill.

If the Uyghur measure becomes law, it would create a “rebuttable presumption” that all goods from Xinjiang, where the Chinese government has set up a vast network of detention camps for Uyghurs and other Muslim groups, were made with forced labor.

China denies abuses in Xinjiang, which supplies much of the world’s materials for solar panels, but the U.S. government and many rights groups say Beijing is carrying out genocide there.

Advertisement

Republicans have accused Biden’s Democrats of slow-walking the legislation because it would complicate the president’s renewable energy agenda. Democrats deny that.

“I just want to see a strong, a much stronger, approach when it comes to forced labor in Xinjiang,” Democratic Representative Dan Kildee told Reuters in a telephone interview, arguing that domestic production of solar panels could be ramped up.

(Reporting by Michael Martina and Patricia Zengerle; Additional reporting by David Brunnstrom; Editing by Sam Holmes)

Advertisement
Continue Reading
Advertisement

Trending