• English,  Tin thế giới

    Chinese county goes into coronavirus lockdown

    Chinese county goes into coronavirus lockdown as country tries to get back to work amid fear of second wave

    • Authorities order residents of Jia county to stay home after reports of cases linked to the area’s hospital
    • All but a few essential businesses and services shut temporarily, according to government notice
    Curfew-like measures have come into effect in Jia county, near the city of Pingdingshan, in Henan province. Photo: Handout

    Henan province in central China has taken the drastic measure of putting a mid-sized county in total lockdown as authorities try to fend off a second coronavirus wave in the midst of a push to revive the economy.

    Curfew-like measures came into effect on Tuesday in Jia county, near the city of Pingdingshan, with the area’s roughly 600,000 residents told to stay home, according to a notice on the country’s official microblog account.

    Special approval was required for all movement outside the home, it said.

    After months of restrictions to contain the spread of the coronavirus, China has reported a decline in domestic cases of Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus. On Wednesday, the National Health Commission reported 36 new infections – all but one imported cases.

    Chinese leaders are eager to restart the economy but have stressed that it must be balanced with containment measures.

    Coronavirus could cause global food shortages by April as export curbs worsen supply chain problemsDuring his recent inspection trip to Zhejiang province, President Xi Jinping emphasised that China must take careful steps to get life back to normal and warned officials to ensure “no loopholes” to prevent a return of the epidemic that has sickened more than 82,000 and killed over 3,300 people in mainland China alone.

    According to the Jia county notice, residents must have special permits to leave their home and must have their temperature taken and wear face masks for those trips.CORONAVIRUS UPDATEGet updates direct to your inboxSUBSCRIBEBy registering, you agree to our T&C and Privacy Policy

    All businesses have been shut down, except utilities, medical suppliers, logistics companies and food processing firms. All shops except supermarkets, hospitals, food markets, petrol stations, pharmacies and hotels have been closed.

    In addition, only people with special permits can go to work and cars can only be used on alternate days, depending on their plate number.

    China imposed draconian measures in Wuhan – the initial epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic – in January, sealing off the city of 11 million people to prevent the disease from spreading.

    An official of the county’s transport office confirmed the county had been put in virtual isolation.

    “It’s better not to come to Jia county now,” the official said. “Nobody can enter or leave.”

    Local residents contacted on Wednesday said they were notified by the government about the lockdown.

    Wang Xiao, 23, said she was told by her village on Tuesday afternoon.

    She said the authorities urged residents to stock up on vegetables and daily necessities to prepare for the isolation, adding that each family could also assign one member to go out for groceries once every two days.

    Wuhan residents shop across tall barriers as the city lifts restrictions

    “I’m worried because it’s so close to me,” she said. “The hospital is only about 2km [1.2 miles] from my home. I had no idea that there were confirmed cases [of infection].”

    Wang was referring to news reports that the county reported three infection cases on Sunday. According to the reports, a doctor surnamed Liu who worked at the county’s hospital tested positive for the coronavirus on Saturday.

    Liu returned to the county from Wuhan in January and resumed work at the hospital after completing two weeks of self-isolation, the report said.

    However, Liu apparently passed the virus on to two colleagues at the hospital as well as a former classmate, with all of them testing positive on Sunday.

    Police, public clash as border reopens between coronavirus epicentre Hubei and Jiangxi province

    Although Henan is just north of Hubei province, where the coronavirus outbreak was first reported, it had only about a dozen confirmed infected patients as of Wednesday.

    Wang Jun, a businessman in the county, said he had felt relieved because they could resume production and get back to work. But now he was very nervous about the lockdown.

    “Previously no one knew what happened as there were rumours flying around of people have been infected and no one dared to go out,” Wang said.

    “Now, we know that the doctors were sick but our daily life has been affected.”

    Guo Rui and Echo Xie in Beijing

    This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: County put under total lockdown

  • English,  Tin VN

    Coronavirus lockdown: top Hanoi hospital linked to Vietnam’s biggest cluster

    Coronavirus lockdown: top Hanoi hospital linked to Vietnam’s biggest cluster

    • Vietnam officials order one of the nation’s largest medical centres to be locked down
    • Thousands of employees and people who recently visited Hanoi’s Bach Mai Hospital to be tested

    Agencies

    Published: 3:59pm, 29 Mar, 2020

    A health worker at one of Vietnam's largest hospitals, Bach Mai, in Hanoi. Photo: Reuters

    A health worker at one of Vietnam’s largest hospitals, Bach Mai, in Hanoi. Photo: Reuters

    Vietnam has locked down one of its largest hospitals and main treatment centres for Covid-19 after the nation’s biggest cluster of cases was linked to the facility, the government said.

    Hanoi’s Bach Mai Hospital, which is home to the capital’s centre for treating tropical diseases, has been officially isolated. As of Sunday morning, 16 virus cases have been linked to the facility, with both patients and staff among those infected, according to a government statement.

    Vietnam’s Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam has ordered the city to mobilise all available forces to contain the outbreak, state media said Sunday.

    On March 25, Vietnamese officials announced they would test 4,000 staff and 1,000 patients in Bach Mai Hospital after three Covid-19 cases were linked to the facility. Since then, the number of confirmed cases in the cluster has been steadily increasing.

    The Southeast Asian country, which has 179 confirmed cases and no reported deaths from the virus, has tied most recent infections to people arriving from Europe and other countries. The government, which is aggressively isolating foreigners and Vietnamese citizens entering the country from abroad, has quarantined or placed under monitoring 75,085 people, according to the Ministry of Health. It has also suspended most international flights, restricted domestic travel and closed most businesses across the country.

    Health workers check temperatures of visitors at the entrance of Bach Mai hospital in Hanoi last Tuesday. Photo; AFP

    Health workers check temperatures of visitors at the entrance of Bach Mai hospital in Hanoi last Tuesday. Photo; AFP

    Authorities are now working to avert an outbreak that would threaten the lives of many critically ill patients at the hospital as well as a sudden domestic spread of the virus. In the past 10 days, 14,000 people made outpatient visits to the hospital, Dan Tri news website reported, citing information from the Hanoi Centre for Disease Control. The health ministry is asking those who visited Bach Mai since March 12 to contact local authorities and self-quarantine at home for 14 days.

    DPA and Bloomberg

  • English,  Tin VN

    U.S. says completes second aircraft carrier visit to Vietnam

    U.S. says completes second aircraft carrier visit to Vietnam

    FILE PHOTO: The USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) is seen near Vietnamese fishing boats at a port in Da Nang city, Vietnam, March 6, 2020. REUTERS/Kham

    HANOI (Reuters) – The United States has completed its second aircraft carrier visit to Vietnam, the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi said on Wednesday, as the former foes mark 25 years of normalized diplomatic relations.

    The USS Theodore Roosevelt and its escorts completed a five-day visit to the central Vietnamese city of Danang on March 9, the embassy said in a statement.

    “Visits like these not only strengthen the United States’ partnership with Vietnam, but they also continue to ensure peace and stability and freedom of commerce across the region,” Ambassador Daniel Kritenbrink said, according to the statement.

    The port call follows a stop by the USS Carl Vinson in Vietnam in March 2018, in what was the first such visit since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975, underscoring growing strategic ties between Hanoi and Washington at a time when China’s regional influence is rising.

    U.S. carriers frequently cross the disputed South China Sea and are routinely shadowed by Chinese navy vessels, naval officers in the region say.

    The United States accuses China of militarizing the South China Sea and trying to intimidate Asian neighbors who also have claims to parts of it and might want to exploit its extensive oil and gas reserves.

    Vietnam has emerged as the most vocal opponent of China’s extensive territorial claims to the sea and has been buying U.S. military hardware, such as a Hamilton-class coastguard cutter.

    Last year, Vietnam and China became embroiled in a months-long standoff over incursions by Chinese survey vessels into Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

    The United States and Vietnam normalized relations in July 1995.

    Reporting by James Pearson; Editing by Robert Birsel

  • English,  Tin VN

    Life inside Vietnam’s army-run quarantine camps

    Life inside Vietnam’s army-run quarantine camps

    • Vietnam has over 22,000 people in government-run Covid-19 quarantine facilities, and over 30,000 in home quarantine
    • A woman in a quarantine camp described sleeping on a bamboo mat on a bed and getting toiletries and three meals a day, but is happy with the conditions
    Sen Nguyen

    Sen Nguyen

    Published: 6:30pm, 24 Mar, 2020

    British tourist Gavin Wheeldon raises a thumbs-up with two medical staff in his room at Son Tay Military School quarantine camp in Hanoi. Photo: Gavin Wheeldon

    British tourist Gavin Wheeldon raises a thumbs-up with two medical staff in his room at Son Tay Military School quarantine camp in Hanoi. Photo: Gavin WheeldonBefore returning home to Vietnam from the UK last week, Phuong Chinh already knew she would be sent to a government-run mandatory coronavirus quarantine camp. She flinched at the idea at first, but decided it was safer to be back home.“I think staying in Britain is not safe because the government there does not have any clear measures when it comes to disease prevention or treating the infected,” said 24-year-old Chinh, a master’s student in marketing in London.

    Chinh also faced racial discrimination in the UK, saying people pointed at her and called her “corona” because she was Asian.

    She was among the thousands of overseas Vietnamese who rushed to secure flights home after the government announced that all travellers from the United States, Europe and Asean countries would face a 14-day quarantine in government-run facilities upon their arrival from March 17. This was in addition to quarantine measures already in place for travellers from mainland China and countries that had seen a surge in cases, such as Iran, Italy and South Korea.

    People play sports in groups on the courtyard at Son Tay Military School quarantine camp in Hanoi. Photo: Gavin Wheeldon

    People play sports in groups on the courtyard at Son Tay Military School quarantine camp in Hanoi. Photo: Gavin Wheeldon

    By the time Chinh flew home, the quarantine measures were already in place.

    As of Monday, Vietnam had quarantined some 22,490 people, while over 30,000 others are being supervised under home quarantines, according to the Ministry of Health’s public portal.

    Vietnam has also doubled down on its entry restrictions. Since Sunday, all foreign travellers except diplomats and those with special approval are banned until further notice – similar to measures taken by Singapore, Malaysia, and now Hong Kong.Coronavirus Updates NewsletterGet updates direct to your inboxBy registering, you agree to our T&C and Privacy PolicyThe country has reported 123 Covid-19 cases and no deaths, but this is a surge from mid-February when it reported that all 16 cases at the time had recovered. In the weeks that followed, there was a sharp rise in imported cases from Europe and the US, including a Hanoi woman who returned from London and tested positive on March 6.

    Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc on Monday said the next 10-15 days would be decisive in the country’s fight against the coronavirus, according to a government statement.

    Chinh has been in a quarantine camp near Can Tho City in the Mekong Delta province of Dong Thap, run by soldiers and medical staff, since last Friday. She is awaiting the results of her coronavirus test but has shown no symptoms.

    She described the conditions at the camp, saying there is no curfew or ban on communications but participants cannot leave for 14 days, even if they test negative.

    There are six people in her room. They each get their own bed with a bamboo mat instead of mattress, a blanket, a pillow, and a mosquito net. Drinking water, three meals a day, and personal items like towels, shampoo, toothbrushes, toothpaste, and mouthwash are provided for free.

    “The conditions can’t be like home, but this is OK for me. Yesterday we asked the soldiers for morning glory [a popular Vietnamese vegetable dish] because we had a huge craving. They made it for us on the same day.”

    Staff in protective clothing deliver food in a quarantine camp in Dong Thap Province in Vietnam's Mekong Delta. Photo: Phuong Chinh

    Staff in protective clothing deliver food in a quarantine camp in Dong Thap Province in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta. Photo: Phuong Chinh

    A British citizen who did not want to be named said he and his wife have been in a quarantine camp in Saigon since last Friday, after having returned from a “low-risk foreign country”.

    Conditions appear to be similar to Chinh’s camp and are the same for both foreigners and Vietnamese quarantined there, photos and videos provided to This Week in Asia show.

    But unlike Chinh, the British man and his wife have not received any guidance or been tested since their arrival. He has kept himself up to date with developments at the camp thanks to information passed on to him by a Vietnamese-Australian, who is also in quarantine.

    We are very scared about being infected in the camp … Who knows who has it?

    British man in quarantine

    Since they have not been tested, the British man is afraid he and his wife may be asymptomatic and he has kept his distance from everyone at the camp, including his wife.

    “We are very scared about being infected in the camp because there are so many people here from all over the world. Who knows who has it?

    “The people here are working very hard in very difficult conditions and we have nothing but respect for what they are doing,” he said.

    They have received care packages from friends since sharing their story on social media, getting mostly snacks and toilet paper.

    Englishman Gavin Wheeldon, who flew from Britain to Hanoi on March 14, only heard about the quarantine requirements when he landed. The 27-year-old was among the few foreigners on the flight who agreed to the measure instead of finding an outbound flight.

    “Mostly we felt afraid. We didn’t know where we were going and what was waiting for us,” Wheeldon said.

    But these fears dissipated after spending time at Son Tay Military School quarantine camp in Hanoi.

    Foreigners like him receive communication support from a volunteer interpreter who lives in the camp.

    A medical staff member and security guards wearing face masks stand at the entrance of a private hospital under quarantine following a visit by a Vietnamese woman who arrived from London and later tested positive for coronavirus. Photo: AFP

    A medical staff member and security guards wearing face masks stand at the entrance of a private hospital under quarantine following a visit by a Vietnamese woman who arrived from London and later tested positive for coronavirus. Photo: AFP

    Although basic needs are covered, there is no Wi-fi. A soldier who works at the camp helped him get a SIM card with internet data to stay connected with his loved ones.

    He has been recording life inside the camp using his phone and camera, which is not prohibited.

    “Many staff have waved when I was taking footage. They don’t discourage it because it’s been good news I think. It obviously paints them in a good light, which they deserve,” he said.

    In one of the videos he sent to This Week in Asia, camp officials are heard over a loudspeaker telling people to open the windows so sunlight can enter to help disinfect their rooms.

    Participants can have packages sent to them, as long as they do not include money or alcohol. “Many people here have been sent badminton rackets and footballs so there’s a lot of sports here every day,” he said.

    There seems to be a clear sense of boundaries within the camp, with fences erected in the hallway to separate rooms and an understanding not to enter other people’s rooms.

    Wheeldon has tested negative for Covid-19 but he is still afraid of contracting the virus when he gets out as he does not want to accidentally spread it.

    “For the elderly and the vulnerable, it could mean the difference between life and death. I wouldn’t want to be the reason someone doesn’t see their grandparents again,” he said.

  • English,  Tin tức

    U.S. Navy Hospital Ships To Deploy To New York, West Coast

    U.S. Navy Hospital Ships To Deploy To New York, West Coast

    March 18, 20203:07 PM ET

    Colin Dwyer 2018 square

    COLIN DWYER Twitter

    USNS Comfort, seen in 2017, is one of two U.S. Navy hospital ships — along with the USNS Mercy — that are preparing to deploy to assist medical workers expecting to grapple with an influx of patients in the weeks to come.Alex Wong/Getty Images

    A pair of U.S. Navy hospital ships will be deployed to New York and on the West Coast, where medical workers are anxiously expecting a major influx of patients as the coronavirus spreads.

    President Trump announced the plans for deployment during a news conference Wednesday, and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo confirmed that he expects one of those ships — the USNS Comfort — to take up a position in New York Harbor, adjacent to New York City.

    The USNS Mercy, meanwhile, is based on the West Coast and expected to deploy to coastal regions on that side of the country.

    The Comfort “has about 1,000 rooms on it. It has operating rooms,” Cuomo told reporters at a news conference Wednesday.

    He said the ship’s presence will help take pressure off facilities and staff in New York state, which is expecting to need more than 50,000 new hospital beds and more than 30,000 new intensive care units as the coronavirus spreads. New York has reported more than 2,300 confirmed cases across the state and expects that number to spike significantly in the coming days.

    By subscribing, you agree to NPR’s terms of use and privacy policy. NPR may share your name and email address with your NPR station. See Details. This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Serviceapply.

    “It’s an extraordinary step, obviously,” he added, referring to the Comfort’s expected deployment. “It’s literally a floating hospital, which will add capacity.”

    A U.S. defense official, who was not authorized to speak on the matter, told NPR’s Tom Bowman that the Mercy will need several days to deploy, while the Comfort — based in Norfolk, Va. — could take weeks to prepare for its assignment.

    “Both ships are currently working to complete scheduled maintenance cycles and identify necessary medical staffing to deploy as soon as possible,” the official said.

    “The Comfort and Mercy will not deploy to treat COVID patients, but will be made available to assist with treatment of other patients in coastal locations where local health professionals are necessarily focused on a large number of COVID cases.”

  • English

    How notorious NYC hotel owner escaped Vietnam with suitcases full of gold

    Amid the chaos of the fall of Saigon, no one noticed the young man dressed in rags making his way to the port, carrying suitcases.

    He was, after all, one of many trying to flee the South Vietnamese capital as their communist neighbors to the north took over the city on April 30, 1975.

    The secret of the suitcases — stuffed with $7 million in cash and gold — became a uniquely New York story: the money belonged to Truong Dinh Tran, a shipbuilder who ended up one of Manhattan’s most notorious hoteliers, whose violent, drug-ridden Hotel Carter in Times Square was the filthiest in the city, three years running.

    The man carrying the bags wasn’t Tran. It was James Dau, who was “adopted” by Tran in 1960, when he was just 11. By the time they fled Saigon, the 25-year-old had lived a life by Tran’s side.

    Over the next four decades, Tran turned the money into a $100 million fortune that his 14 children and four wives have squabbled over for years since the 80-year-old died in 2012 without a will. They each stand to inherit between $2.5 million and $3.3 million.

    Dau wants his fair share.

    Dau was born to a Catholic Vietnamese family that escaped to the south part of the simmering nation in the 1950s, and first encountered Tran at a seminary, where Dau’s father worked as a cook.

    The two men came from neighboring villages in the north and by 1960, Dau’s father asked Tran to adopt his son to give the boy “a better chance in life,” Dau explained in Manhattan Surrogate Court papers.

    “I then moved in with Mr. Tran and never lived with my natural parents again,” Dau recalled in the legal filing.

    Tran’s Vishipco Lines by 1975 owned 16 ships. Tran paid for Dau’s private school, clothes, food and had maids to tend to the boy’s needs.

    “Occasionally, Mr. Tran took me to movies with him … and afterwards would explain to me the moral lessons embedded in each movie we watched,” Dau said.

    Dau claims Tran gave him a hefty position in Vishipco, “watching over the funds of the company,” and, when it came time for Dau to serve in the military, secured him a cushy gig as an air traffic controller               

    Tran didn’t want to leave Saigon. “But when he started seeing people trampling on each other to scale the [American] embassy’s gate to force themselves inside, he realized that South Vietnam would collapse quickly into communist hands,” Dau said in court papers.

    Tran told Dau to be ready. They filled the suitcases with cash and gold.

    “He told me to dress in torn clothing and pretend I was deaf and dumb, which I did to avoid being robbed,” Dau said.

    Tran gave Dau a new name, to hide his Air Force service, and the pair set off for the port with one of Tran’s mistresses and her sister, passing crowds begging for a way out on Tran’s ship.

    “We left the port in Saigon immediately before the North Vietnamese army arrived,” Dau said.

    “I hid and guarded the two suitcases inside the exhaust of the ship,” he continued.

    They went to the Philippines, then Guam, then Arkansas, where the cash and gold was put in a bank. Tran sent Dau back to Guam to oversee his ship, and moved on, buying hotels in Buffalo and New York.

    Drugs and prostitutes were so rampant at Tran’s Kenmore Hotel on East 23rd Street, the FBI seized the 620-room building in 1994.

    Back in 2007, a prostitute was found murdered on the sixth floor of Hotel Carter, which sold for $190 million in 2014. Tran lived in his hotels, apparently rotating between the mothers of his kids and their offspring.

    Dau last saw Tran during a 1982 New York visit, when, he says, he declined a request to stay and help with the business because “his other children were there and I didn’t want to further burden him.”

    Now whittled down by taxes to just $60 million, the estate is awaiting a judge’s decision on whether to include Dau among Tran’s nearly two dozen heirs.

    The rest of the family has already acknowledged Dau as a member of the extended clan who deserves his piece of the financial pie, according to court records. Dau, now 70, only needs a Manhattan Surrogate Court judge’s final approval.

    By Kathianne Boniello

    March 7, 2020 | 5:35pm           

    Source

    Obituary

    TRAN–Truong Dinh. Vietnamese businessman Tran Dinh Truong passed away at his home and business, Hotel Carter, on Sunday, May 6, 2012. He was 80 years old. The son of Mr. Tran Toi Lac and Mrs. Le Thi Tu, Mr. Tran was born and raised in Vietnam and was the principal owner of Vishipco Line, the largest shipping company in South Vietnam during the 1970s. He left Vietnam with his families on April 30, 1975, the day Saigon fell to the Communists, boarding one of his eleven ships with only two gold filled suitcases and an American dream. The journey was long, but the Tran families eventually landed in New York City, where Mr. Tran began his new career in hospitality, first with the Hotel Opera on the Upper West Side, and then Hotel Carter in Midtown Manhattan, a purchase which also included Hotel Lafayette, in Buffalo, New York and Hotel Kenmore in Manhattan. Through the years, there were many other real estate holdings, but his greatest accomplishment was his humanitarian work, which included a personal contribution of $2 million dollars to The American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. In May 2004, Mr. Tran was awarded a Golden Torch Award by the Vietnamese American National Gala in Washington, D.C. Mr. Tran was also on the Board of Directors of The United Way of New York City. He is survived by sixteen children: Nam Tran, Bac Tran, Thu Tran, Suzen Tran, Caroline Tran, Stephanie Tran, Teresa Yokoi, Monica Tran, Joseph Tran, Victoria Tran, Trang Tran, Margaret Tran, Christine Tran, Madalena Tran, Anthony Tran, Laura Tran, their mothers, and 15 grandchildren. A mass will be held at Holy Cross Church, 329 West 42nd Street on May 14, 2012 at 10am. The funeral will be at Trinity Cemetery, 770 Riverside Drive on May 16, 2012 at 10am.

    Published in The New York Times on May 13, 2012

  • English

    Book – “The Eyes of Darkness”

    A virus called Wuhan-400 makes people terribly ill … in a Dean Koontz thriller from 1981. How is it that some books appear to prophesy events?

    • “The Eyes of Darkness” features a Chinese military lab in Wuhan that creates a virus as a bioweapon; civilians soon become sick after accidentally contracting it
    • In fact, the one lab in China able to handle the deadliest viruses is in Wuhan and helped sequence the novel coronavirus the world is currently battling

    Kate Whitehead

    In bestselling suspense author Dean Koontz’s 1981 thriller The Eyes of Darkness, a virus to be used as a biological weapon is developed in Wuhan, China, but humans end up contracting it. Photo: Shutterstock
    In bestselling suspense author Dean Koontz’s 1981 thriller The Eyes of Darkness, a virus to be used as a biological weapon is developed in Wuhan, China, but humans end up contracting it.

    The Eyes of Darkness, a 1981 thriller by bestselling suspense author Dean Koontz, tells of a Chinese military lab that creates a virus as part of its biological weapons programme. The lab is located in Wuhan, which lends the virus its name, Wuhan-400. A chilling literary coincidence or a case of writer as unwitting prophet?

    In The Eyes of Darkness, a grieving mother, Christina Evans, sets out to discover whether her son Danny died on a camping trip or if – as suspicious messages suggest – he is still alive. She eventually tracks him down to a military facility where he is being held after being accidentally contaminated with man-made microorganisms created at the research centre in Wuhan.

    If that made the hair on the back of your neck stand up, read this passage from the book: “It was around that time that a Chinese scientist named Li Chen moved to the United States while carrying a floppy disk of data from China’s most important and dangerous new biological weapon of the past decade. They call it Wuhan-400 because it was developed in their RDNA laboratory just outside the city of Wuhan.”In another strange coincidence, the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which houses China’s only level four biosafety laboratory, the highest-level classification of labs that study the deadliest viruses, is just 32km from the epicentre of the current coronavirus outbreak. The opening of the maximum-security lab was covered in a 2017 story in the journal Nature, which warned of safety risks in a culture where hierarchy trumps an open culture.

    Koontz has written more than 80 novels and 74 works of short fiction. Photo: Douglas Sonders

    Koontz has written more than 80 novels and 74 works of short fiction. Photo: Douglas Sonders

    Fringe conspiracy theories that the coronavirus involved in the current outbreak appears to be man-made and likely escaped from the Wuhan virology lab have been circulated, but have been widely debunked. In fact the lab was one of the first to sequence the coronavirus.

    In Koontz’s thriller, the virus is considered the “perfect weapon” because it only affects humans and, since it cannot survive outside the human body for longer than a minute, it does not demand expensive decontamination once a population is wiped out, allowing the victors to roll in and claim a conquered territory.

    It’s no exaggeration to call Koontz a prolific writer. His first book, Star Quest, was published in 1968 and he has been churning out suspense fiction at a phenomenal rate since with more than 80 novels and 74 works of short fiction under his belt. The 74-year-old, a devout Catholic, lives in California with his wife. But what are the odds of him so closely predicting the future?Post Magazine NewsletterGet updates direct to your inboxBy registering, you agree to our T&C and Privacy Policy

    Albert Wan, who runs the Bleak House Books store in San Po Kong, says Wuhan has historically been the site of numerous scientific research facilities, including ones dealing with microbiology and virology. “Smart, savvy writers like Koontz would have known all this and used this bit of factual information to craft a story that is both convincing and unsettling. Hence the Wuhan-400,” says Wan.

    British writer Paul French, who specialises in books about China, says many of the elements around viruses in China relate back to the second world war, which may have been a factor in Koontz’s thinking.

    The Eyes of Darkness, by Koontz.
    The Eyes of Darkness, by Koontz.

    “The Japanese definitely did do chemical weapons research in China, which we mostly associate with Unit 731 in Harbin and northern China. But they also stored chemical weapons in Wuhan – which Japan admitted,” says French.

    Publisher Pete Spurrier, who runs Hong Kong publishing house Blacksmith Books, muses that for a fiction writer mapping out a thriller about a virus outbreak set in China, Wuhan is a good choice.

    “It’s on the Yangtze River that goes east-west; it’s on the high-speed rail

    that goes north-south; it’s right at the crossroads of transport networks in the centre of the country. Where better to start a fictional epidemic, or indeed a real one?” says Spurrier. (Spurrier works part-time as a subeditor for the Post.)

    Albert Wan runs the Bleak House Books store in San Po Kong, Hong Kong.
    Albert Wan runs the Bleak House Books store in San Po Kong, Hong Kong.

    Hong Kong crime author Chan Ho-kei believes that this kind of “fiction-prophecy” is not uncommon.

    “If you look really hard, I bet you can spot prophecies for almost all events. It makes me think about the ‘infinite monkey’ theorem,” he says, referring to the theory that a monkey hitting keys at random on a typewriter keyboard for an infinite amount of time will almost surely type any given text.

    “The probability is low, but not impossible.”

    British writer Paul French.
    British writer Paul French.

    Chan points to the 1898 novella Futility, which told the story of a huge ocean liner that sank in the North Atlantic after striking an iceberg. Many uncanny similarities were noted between the fictional ship – called Titan – and the real-life passenger ship RMS Titanic, which sank 14 years later. Following the sinking of the Titanic, the book was reissued with some changes, particularly in the ship’s gross tonnage.

    “Fiction writers always try to imagine what the reality would be, so it’s very likely to write something like a prediction. Of course, it’s bizarre when the details collide, but I think it’s just a matter of mathematics,” says Chan.

    Many of Koontz’s books have been adapted for television or the big screen, but The Eyes of Darkness never achieved such glory. This bizarre coincidence will thrust it into the spotlight and may see sales of this otherwise forgotten thriller jump.

    Hong Kong crime author Chan Ho-kei.
    Hong Kong crime author Chan Ho-kei.

    Amazon is currently offering it on Kindle for just US$1. Perhaps, like Futility, it will also be reissued with some updates to make it really echo the current outbreak.

    Source Internet

  • English

    This Is Where 5 Million Wuhan Residents Have Gone For Lunar New Year

    This Is Where 5 Million Wuhan Residents Have Gone For Lunar New Year

    Based on this – should we expect to start seeing significant outbreaks in Europe and the United States shortly?  The whole world could be in complete lock down by the end of February!

    British researchers have published a terrifying new map predicting the global spread of the deadly coronavirus over the next three months.

    The gobsmacking graphic is based on the mobile phone and flight data of 60,000 of an estimated five million Wuhan residents who fled during the critical two weeks before the outbreak city was placed under lockdown.

    The study, by researchers from Southampton University’s World Pop Project research group, used map location data from Chinese tech giant Baidu and international flight itineraries to make a predictive global risk map for the likely spread of the virus from Wuhan.

    It revealed an estimated 59,912 air passengers — including 834 infected with 2019-nCoV — flew from Wuhan to no less than 382 cities outside of mainland China in the days leading up to January 23, when the city was placed in quarantine.

    This map shows staggering potential reach of the new coronavirus based on flight data of thousands who fled Wuhan in two weeks before lockdown. 

    Scientists are racing to find a vaccine for the novel coronavirus, named for its crown-like spikes, which has killed more than 900 people, most of them in China. 

    “The majority of these cities were in Asia, but major hubs in Europe, the US and Australia were also prominent, with strong correlation seen between predicted importation risks and reported cases seen,” the authors wrote.

    “Because significant spread has already occurred, a large number of airline travellers (3.3 million under the scenario of 75 per cent travel reduction from normal volumes) may be required to be screened at origin high-risk cities in China and destinations across the globe for the following three months of February to April, 2020 to effectively limit spread beyond its current extent.”

    Our updated analyses on @MedArXiv : ‘Assessing spread risk of Wuhan novel coronavirus within and beyond China, January-April 2020: a travel network-based modelling study’ with Chinese CDC and Bluedot: https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.02.04.20020479v1 …

    The top 10 global destinations for travellers from high-risk Chinese cities around Lunar New Year were Thailand, Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, the United States, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam and Australia.

    Within Africa, Egypt, South Africa, Ethiopia, Mauritius, Morocco, Nigeria and Kenya topped the list.

    “Further spread of 2019-nCoV within China and international exportation is likely to occur,” the authors concluded.

    “All countries, especially vulnerable regions, should be prepared for efforts to contain the 2019-nCoV infection.”

    The researchers noted an ominous statistic confirmed by Wuhan authorities: five million of the city’s 11 million population had already left by the time it was placed into lockdown just two days before Lunar New Year Day.

    “Where these travelers went and how high the risk of further spread of the virus within and beyond China remains an open question,” they wrote.

    Before: A packed Wuhan Railway Station before the city — which is the epicentre of coronavirus outbreak — was placed under lockdown on January 23. 

    After: A lone passenger stands outside the deserted Wuhan Railway Station on January 23, the day the lockdown came into effect. 

    “It’s definitely too late,” Jin Dong-Yan, a molecular virologist at Hong Kong University’s School of Biomedical Sciences, told AP.

    “Five million out. That’s a big challenge. Many of them may not come back to Wuhan but hang around somewhere else.

    “To control this outbreak, we have to deal with this. On one hand, we need to identify them. On the other hand, we need to address the issue of stigma and discrimination.”

    Last week, multiple countries, including Australia and the US, banned non-Australian visitors from China and warned citizens against travelling to the mainland.

    The latest figures show the virus continues to spread at an alarming rate, with more than 40,500 cases confirmed worldwide, 40,146 of them on mainland China.

    The death toll rose to 910 while another 6000 remain in a “severe” condition in hospital.

    All but two deaths have occurred on mainland China, with Hong Kong and the Philippines recording one each.

    Of the 15 diagnosed with the virus in Australia, two have fully recovered and the rest remain in hospital.

    The number of cases outside China are expected to explode in the next couple of weeks as the incubation period of asymptomatic carriers come to an end.

    A Japanese flag scrawled with a message about medicine shortages, dangles from the cruise ship Diamond Princess, where 70 have tested positive for the coronavirus. 

    @livecrisisnews-5 of the 6 newest virus cases on the Japan cruise ship are crew members
    – The 6 new cases came out of a batch of 57 people tested
    – 70 cases total out of 336 people tested
    #coronavirus#coronavirusoutbreak#wuhancoronavirus#japan#DiamondPrincess

    The biggest single cluster of infections outside China is aboard cruise ship Diamond Princess, which remains quarantined off Japan after 135 people, including four Australians, tested positive for the virus. There are around 3700 passengers and crew on the ship.

    “Our guests and crew on board Diamond Princess are the focus of our entire global organisation right now and all of our hearts are with each of them,” Princess Cruises president Jan Swartz said in a statement.

    “In this unprecedented situation, the Japanese Ministry of Health authorities are working with us collaboratively on additional enhancements, approving new procedures as we adapt our process to the unique challenges of this situation.”

    Like its cousins SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome), 2019-nCoV — also known as novel coronavirus — is a zoonotic commonly found in bats which mutated to enable human to human transmission.

    The latest strain is believed to have originated from Wuhan’s Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, where a perfect storm of domestic and exotic animals — both live and dead — kept in cramped, unhygienic conditions, facilitated the species jump.

    In the case of both SARS and MERS, the virus was transmitted from bats to humans via an intermediate reservoir, or host. With SARS it was palm civets, with MERS it was camels.

    The intermediate remains unknown for 2019-nCoV but suspects include the pangolin — the world’s most trafficked animal — and the snake, although direct bat to human transmission has not been ruled out.

    Theo Internet

  • English,  Tin tức

    Sydney is battered by heavy rain

    Sydney is battered by TWO MONTHS of rain in two days and cyclonic wind forcing mass evacuations and 10,000 calls for help as the city wakes to mansions on the edge of being washed away, yachts sunk, 150,000 homes without power and 38 schools closed

    • Sydney was deluged with 400mm of rain – two months’ worth – over the weekend, the most in 22 years
    • 40 schools located across NSW are closed on Monday as a result of the floods following record rainfall 
    •  Commuters urged to stay home as public transport is thrown into chaos with multiple delays to trains
    • SES issued on Sunday evening a warning for the Narrabeen Lagoon area in the city’s northern beaches
    • Residents in Moorebank, Chipping Norton, and Milperra were evacuated as the Georges River flooded
    • Six metre swells are battering the beaches and trees and power has been knocked out all over city and coast 
    • Better news came for state’s dams – with previously parched Warragamba Dam reaching highest level in years

    Sydney has been thrown into chaos by a devastating storm which saw two months of rain fall in just two days – forcing mass evacuations, leaving 150,000 homes without power, and prompted warnings not to drive to work.

    The storm dumped 400mm of rain on the city over the weekend, causing mayhem for commuters on Monday morning with roads blocked, ferries cancelled and trains suffering major delays across the network.

    Residents in flood-affected areas from the city’s west to the Northern Beaches and the New South Wales Central Coast have been warned not to drive to work as rivers and lagoons overflow.

    ‘We are trying to ask people to reconsider their travel, a number of roads are closed,’ a State Emergency Service said on Monday morning.

    ‘And we are still seeing people driving into flood water.’ 

    New South Wales Emergency Services Minister David Elliott urged motorists to heed flood warnings and stay off the roads if possible.

    ‘We have 400 SES volunteers trying to complete the backlog this morning and unfortunately this has included 150 flood rescues,’ he said.

    ‘The message to the motorists of Sydney and indeed the wider metropolitan area is if you can avoid being on the roads do so.’ 

    The warning comes as police respond to reports a car was swept off a causeway in Galston, in Sydney’s Hornsby District on Sunday, with fears a passenger was inside the vehicle at the time.

    The silver Mercedes was reported to have been washed away by floodwaters on Sallaway Road at Galston between 4.30pm and 5pm on Sunday.

    Schools across New South Wales – from Penrith in the far west of Sydney to Wyong on the Central Coast and Narrabeen on the northern beaches – were also forced to close after the record-breaking deluge.

    Sydneysiders woke to the aftermath of the chaos brought on by a weekend of strong winds and heavy rain, with many streets turned into rivers and mansions on the verge of being washed away. 

    Scroll down for video 

    New South Wales was thrown into chaos over the weekend with mass evacuations as flood waters threatened homes. The severe storm comes just a month after bushfires caused widespread devastation

    New South Wales was thrown into chaos over the weekend with mass evacuations as flood waters threatened homes. The severe storm comes just a month after bushfires caused widespread devastation 

    Strong winds uprooted trees during the severe storms. A motorist in Concord woke to some heartbreaking news after a massive tree slammed into the front of their

    Strong winds uprooted trees during the severe storms. A motorist in Concord woke to some heartbreaking news after a massive tree slammed into the front of their 

    A motorists makes a risky move by attempting to make their way through murky water after the road began to resemble a river in Sydney

    A motorists makes a risky move by attempting to make their way through murky water after the road began to resemble a river in Sydney

    The heaviest rain to hit Sydney in 22 years caused major flooding across the city. Pictured is a flooded carport in Westmead

    The heaviest rain to hit Sydney in 22 years caused major flooding across the city. Pictured is a flooded carport in Westmead

    SYDNEY BATTERED BY RAIN

    – Sydney has copped over 400mm of rain since Friday 

    – More than 150,000 NSW homes and businesses remain without power

    – Biggest downpour to hit the NSW coast since 1998  

    – 40 schools in Sydney and the Central Coast are closed on Monday 

    – Sydney ferries are cancelled for Monday

    – State Emergency Service received 10,000 calls for help on Sunday 

    – 156 people had to be rescued from floodwaters

    – Evacuation orders issued on Sunday night for residents in Narrabeen, Chipping Norton, Moorebank and Milperra

    – North Richmond and Windsor along the Hawkesbury River flooded

    – Flooding continues along the Nepean River at Menangle and Camde

    – Flood watch for the Upper Cox’s River and Mcdonald River 

    Mass train cancellations: 

     – Metro North West Line – buses replacing services between Chatswood and Macquarie Park [flooding]

     – T4 Eastern Suburbs & Illawarra Line – major delays [signal equipment repairs]

     – T7 Olympic Park Line – closed [flooding]

     – T8 Airport & South Line – major delays [flooding]

    Wahroonga on Sydney’s upper north shore received 164mm of rainfall over the course of Sunday alone. The average rainfall for the entire month of February is 117mm.

    Wild winds, which grew to speeds of 107km/h off the coast of Sydney, added to the mayhem by uprooting trees and damaging power lines, leaving more than 150,000 homes without power on Sunday night and Monday morning.

    Commuters have been warned to expect major delays on Monday morning as public transport has been struggling to cope with the deluge. 

    The State Emergency Service urged motorists to avoid travel if they can while crews work to clear roads that have been covered in debris. 

    Major flooding was inundating Milperra and Liverpool in western Sydney in the early hours of Monday, the NSW State Emergency Service said.

    There are concerns the Georges River at Milperra could reach levels higher than 1988’s flood.

    Commuters have been told to catch buses when travelling between Manly and Circular Quay as ferries have been cancelled due to large swells, Ferries Sydney advised.

    Buses will also be replacing ferries between Parramatta and Rydalmere.

    The closure came as the wharf in Parramatta was overcome by floodwaters, with the level of the suburb’s river surging during the rainstorm. 

    The North Shore Line has also been experiencing major delays due to a landslip at Artarmon. Those travelling on the Sydney Metro between Macquarie Park and Chatswood will have to take replacement buses instead. 

    The downpour marked the biggest the area has seen since 1998.

    The popular Blue Mountains tourist town of Katoomba was estimated to have copped a quarter of the rainfall it normally receives in an entire year.  

    Sea foam whipped up in front of homes along Collaroy on the Northern Beaches on Monday morning

    Sea foam whipped up in front of homes along Collaroy on the Northern Beaches on Monday morning

    A view of houses in Collaroy on the Northern Beaches where water levels threaten to decimate their homes

    A view of houses in Collaroy on the Northern Beaches where water levels threaten to decimate their homes

    A car is seen under floodwater at Marrickville in Sydney on Sunday after the massive downpour over the weekend

    A car is seen under floodwater at Marrickville in Sydney on Sunday after the massive downpour over the weekend

    Emergency crews worked tirelessly over the weekend after heavy rain and wild winds batter most of New South Wales. (pictured: SES workers clearing a tree after it fell in Strathfield)

    Emergency crews worked tirelessly over the weekend after heavy rain and wild winds batter most of New South Wales. (pictured: SES workers clearing a tree after it fell in Strathfield) 

    Many people had to be rescued from flooding after record-breaking heavy rain hammered parts of Sydney on Sunday

    Many people had to be rescued from flooding after record-breaking heavy rain hammered parts of Sydney on Sunday

    ONGOING SYDNEY TRAIN AND FERRY SUSPENSIONS  

    F1 Manly to Circular Quay – no ferries [large swells]

    F3 Parramatta River – buses replacing ferries between Parramatta and Rydalmere [Parramatta Weir overflowing]

    Metro North West Line – buses replacing services between Chatswood and Macquarie Park [flooding]

    T4 Eastern Suburbs & Illawarra Line – major delays [signal equipment repairs]

    T7 Olympic Park Line – closed [flooding]

    T8 Airport & South Line – major delays [flooding]

    The rainfall was so heavy it could break February records in parts of New South Wales. 

    Residents in low-lying areas near the Narrabeen Lagoon in northern Sydney were ordered by the NSW State Emergency Service to evacuate on Sunday night as floodwaters began to threaten homes. 

    Stormy conditions are expected to tail off from Monday, although in Sydney and the Wollongong and Newcastle regions rain is still very likely until Thursday this week. 

    By the weekend, there will be only a 50 per cent chance of rain.

    However, Bureau of Meteorology state manager Jane Golding a king tide and 8m high waves are threatening to cause further damage early this week.

    ‘Monday and Tuesday will be the main danger period because it is really the height of the waves, the power of the waves coming in from the East which erodes the land,’ she said.

    This weekend has also brought heavy flooding to parts of Queensland, with Coolangatta on the Gold Coast receiving more than 100mm of rain just on Saturday. The February average is 138mm. 

    On Sunday evening, the State Emergency Service issued a warning for the Narrabeen Lagoon area in Sydney, telling residents they needed to evacuate by 10.30pm on Sunday.

    Trees were uprooted as strong winds tore through New South Wales on Saturday and Sunday

    Trees were uprooted as strong winds tore through New South Wales on Saturday and Sunday 

    Ferries were delayed or cancelled in Sydney over the weekend due large swells

    Ferries were delayed or cancelled in Sydney over the weekend due large swells

    Sydney is bracing the strongest winds in 16 years and the biggest downpour since 1998 which have combined to fell trees, turn roads into rivers, and leave 150,000 without power

    Sydney is bracing the strongest winds in 16 years and the biggest downpour since 1998 which have combined to fell trees, turn roads into rivers, and leave 150,000 without power

    A man wades through ankle deep floodwaters as he leaves his car after it failed to start during record-breaking rainfall in Sydney on Sunday

    A man wades through ankle deep floodwaters as he leaves his car after it failed to start during record-breaking rainfall in Sydney on Sunday

    The State Emergency Service - which ordered residents in the northern beaches suburbs of Narrabeen Lagoon, Moorebank, Chipping Norton and Milperra to leave their homes on Sunday evening Wahroonga on Sydney's upper north shore received 164mm of rainfall over the course of Sunday alone (Narrabeen pictured flooded on Sunday)

    The State Emergency Service – which ordered residents in the northern beaches suburbs of Narrabeen Lagoon, Moorebank, Chipping Norton and Milperra to leave their homes on Sunday evening Wahroonga on Sydney’s upper north shore received 164mm of rainfall over the course of Sunday alone (Narrabeen pictured flooded on Sunday)

    Pedestrians in Sydney are doused with torrential rain battering the city and surrounding areas as far north as Taree, with warnings of dangerous conditions along the coast. Four people were taken to hospital after a falling tree hit a taxi in Sydney

    Pedestrians in Sydney are doused with torrential rain battering the city and surrounding areas as far north as Taree, with warnings of dangerous conditions along the coast. Four people were taken to hospital after a falling tree hit a taxi in Sydney

    Internet Source

  • English,  Tin tức

    The scaly mammal that may have spread the coronavirus to humans

    The scaly mammal that may have spread the coronavirus to humans


    Aria Bendix

    Pangolin
    A pangolin looks for food on a private property in Johannesburg, South Africa, in February 2019. Themba Hadebe/AP Photo

    As a deadly coronavirus spreads across China and ripples through other parts of the world, scientists are trying to pinpoint how humans first got exposed.

    So far, they know that the virus is zoonotic, meaning it jumps from animals to people. And genetic research has all but confirmed that it originated in bats. But scientists believe that another animal likely served as the intermediary between bats and humans.

    That animal could be the pangolin, a scaly, nocturnal mammal with a tongue longer than its body.

    A group of researchers from South China Agricultural University found that samples from coronavirus patients were 99% identical to samples of the virus taken from wild pangolins, according to China’s official Xinhua news agency. Their research hasn’t been published or confirmed by other experts, but scientists say the results make sense, given what we know about the animals.

    Pangolins are often poached for their keratin scales, which used as ingredients in traditional Chinese medicine. Their meat is also considered a delicacy in China and Vietnam.

    If bats drop feces or saliva onto food that’s consumed by a pangolin, the animal can become a carrier of the coronavirus. Humans can then be exposed by consuming pangolins before the virus is transmitted from person to person.

    What we know about pangolins so far

    Despite their forced interactions with humans, pangolins are mostly solitary in the wild. With the exception of one species, the long-tailed African pangolin, the animals spend most of the day sleeping in hollow trees or underground holes. At night, they hunt for insects such as ants and termites with their long, sticky tongues, which can stretch up to 16 inches.

    Pangolins don’t have any teeth, but they rely on other features like their sharp claws to dig through insect mounds or strip away the bark from trees. They also have powerful tails that can support them when hanging upside-down from branches.

    FILE PHOTO: A man holds a pangolin at a wild animal rescue center in Cuc Phuong, outside Hanoi, Vietnam September 12, 2016. REUTERS/Kham/File Photo
    A man holds a pangolin at a wild animal rescue center in Cuc Phuong, outside Hanoi, Vietnam, on September 12, 2016. Kham/Reuters

    Pangolins meet up once per year to mate, but babies are abandoned by their mothers after about two years. As the animals get older, their soft, white scales begin to harden and grow darker. Scientists believe pangolins are the only scaled mammal.

    When a predator approaches, the animals can curl themselves into a ball and tuck their faces underneath their tail to protect themselves. But those defense mechanisms are no match against poachers.

    Pangolins are illegally traded for their meat and scales

    Though a pangolin resembles an anteater or armadillo on the outside, it’s actually more closely related to an order of mammals called “carnivorans,” which include the bobcat and the civet. Civets were responsible for passing SARS from bats to people in 2002.

    Both civets and pangolins are sold in Chinese wet markets, which put people in close contact with live and dead animals. It’s not clear, though, whether pangolins were sold at the seafood market in Wuhan, China, where the new coronavirus likely originated.

    wet market china
    A worker waiting in a seafood stall in the Wanchai wet markets in Hong Kong, China. Isaac Lawrence/AFP/Getty

    Multiple investigations have revealed, however, that pangolins are still traded illegally, despite the practice being banned by the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species in 2016. In fact, they’re often considered the world’s most trafficked mammal — around 100,000 of them are plucked from the wild each year.

    The China Biodiversity and Green Development Foundation, a Beijing-based non-profit, found that more than 200 pharmaceutical companies still use pangolin products for around 60 commercially-produced medicines.

    All eight pangolin species are now threatened with extinction, and at least three species — including the Chinese pangolin — are listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

    As a result, pangolin scales tend to fetch a high price: around $2,200 per pound in the US. But the animals still aren’t widely recognized among the general population.

    “That’s one of the problems with species like pangolins,” Annette Olsson, a technical adviser for Conservation International, told the New York Times in 2016. “It’s not huge and not very charismatic. It’s small and weird and just disappearing.”

    If pangolins do turn out to be the intermediary-species for the new coronavirus, that could make it tough to determine how the animals passed the virus to humans.

    “If the illegal animal trade was at the root of this outbreak, it is going to be really difficult to trace, and I suspect most of the evidence is gone already — destroyed or spread out across the black market,” Benjamin Neuman, a virologist at Texas A&M University, told the Washington Post. “People aren’t going to want to talk, because of the consequences.”

    Theo Internet