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S.Korea urges more testing over fear of holiday COVID-19 surge

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South Korean authorities warned people returning from a holiday to get tested even for the mildest COVID-19 type symptoms, especially before clocking in for work amid a new surge in coronavirus cases in and around the capital.

The country, which has been grappling with a fourth wave of infections since early July, will on Friday roll back the allowance gatherings during the Chuseok holiday week to two people after 6 p.m. in the greater Seoul area.

Seoul saw 1,400 daily confirmed cases on average last week, up 11% from a record high of 1,268 the prior week, Vice Health Minister Kang Do-tae said on Wednesday.

Kang urged those returning from the three-day holiday, which started on Monday, to get tested to prevent transmission.

South Korea’s popular tourist island of Jeju saw an average of more than 41,000 visitors a day during the holiday, up from about 32,000 in the same period last year, the Jeju Tourism Association told Reuters. More than 258,000 people have visited the island in six days.

Despite the high daily case numbers, the mortality rate and severe cases have remained relatively low and steady at 0.83% and 312 respectively as of Wednesday, Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) data showed.

The KDCA reported 1,716 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, raising the total to 292,699 infections, with 2,427 deaths.

South Korea struggled to get vaccine supplies initially, but has supercharged its campaign in recent months, administering 71.2% of the 52 million population with at least one dose through Wednesday and fully inoculated 43.2%.

Source: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/international/20210923/skorea-urges-more-testing-over-fear-of-holiday-covid19-surge/63237.html

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Plastics to outpace coal’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2030: report

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The carbon-intensive production of plastics is on pace to emit more greenhouse gases than coal-fired power plants within this decade, undercutting global efforts to tackle climate change, a report released on Thursday said.

The report by Bennington College and Beyond Plastics projected that the plastic industry releases at least 232 million tons of greenhouse gases each year throughout its lifecycle from the drilling for oil and gas to fuel its facilities to incineration of plastic waste. That is the equivalent of 116 coal-fired power plants.

“The scale of the plastics industry’s greenhouse gas emissions is staggering, but it’s equally concerning that few people in government or in the business community are even talking about it,” said Judith Enck, a former Environmental Protection Agency regional administrator and president of Beyond Plastics.

Also, the report found that petrochemical facilities tend to be clustered in just 18 largely low-income and minority communities, where 90% of the pollution occurs.

With at least a dozen more plastic production plants under construction and 15 more planned, resulting emissions would undercut any gains made by phasing out coal power and shifting toward more renewable energy, Enck said.

The report also said authorities probably have undercounted emissions and air pollution related to different stages of the production of plastics and export of plastic waste. That is because U.S. regulations do not require the plastic industry to report them and no federal agency tracks them, said report author Jim Vallette of research group Material Research.

Plastics Industry Association spokesman George O’Connor said in a statement that the report “cherry picks data” and pointed to other studies that found that plastic actually results in lower carbon emissions due to its lighter weight and durability compared to alternatives like glass and paper.

Enck said the report is based on data from federal agencies including the Environmental Protection Agency and Commerce Department, which are based on plastic industry reporting. She conceded that plastic was lightweight and durable but added that the industry’s calculations neglect other factors that increase emissions.

Source: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/international/20211022/plastics-to-outpace-coal-s-greenhouse-gas-emissions-by-2030-report/63713.html

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India celebrates 1 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses with song and dance

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NEW DELHI — India celebrated the milestone of administering 1 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses on Thursday, with the government promoting the achievement in song and video even as a recent drop in inoculations worries healthcare providers.

After a slow beginning in the middle of January, India’s immunisation campaign has covered three-quarters of its 944 million adults with at least one dose but only 31% with two. The government wants all adults to get vaccinated this year.

“India scripts history,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Twitter. “We are witnessing the triumph of Indian science, enterprise and collective spirit of (1.3 billion) Indians.”

Modi marked the occasion by interacting with healthcare workers and a security guard at a government hospital in New Delhi. The health ministry announced musical and other programmes across the country, and special illuminations of national monuments including a colonial-era jail.

Nearly 90% of the vaccines administered in India have come from the Serum Institute of India (SII), which produces a licensed version of the AstraZeneca drug. SII has more than tripled its capacity since April and can now produce 220 million vaccine doses a month.

A healthcare worker gives a dose of the COVISHIELD vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), manufactured by Serum Institute of India, to a man as others decorate the vaccination centre to celebrate the milestone of administering one billion COVID-19 vaccine doses, in Ahmedabad, India, October 21, 2021. Photo: Reuters

A healthcare worker gives a dose of the COVISHIELD vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), manufactured by Serum Institute of India, to a man as others decorate the vaccination centre to celebrate the milestone of administering one billion COVID-19 vaccine doses, in Ahmedabad, India, October 21, 2021. Photo: Reuters

SII has also slowly resumed exports for the first time since April, when the government stopped all overseas sales to meet domestic demand as infections rose dramatically.

The World Health Organization (WHO), which relies heavily on India for supplies to its global vaccine-sharing platform COVAX, congratulated the country for reaching the landmark.

“India’s progress must be viewed in the context of the country’s commendable commitment and efforts to ensure that these life-saving vaccines are accessible globally,” said Poonam Khetrapal Singh, regional director WHO South-East Asia.

COVAX partner UNICEF also congratulated India and said it looked forward to “hearing details about the expected timeline and volumes of supplies to be made” to the global facility.

Reuters has reported that India has delayed supplies of the AstraZeneca vaccine to COVAX. New Delhi has been annoyed by the WHO’s repeated delay in adding India’s own Covaxin shot to the world body’s emergency-use listing, something both parties discussed this week as well as exports. 

A woman reacts as she receives a dose of the COVISHIELD vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), manufactured by Serum Institute of India, at a vaccination centre in Ahmedabad, India, October 21, 2021. Photo: Reuters

A woman reacts as she receives a dose of the COVISHIELD vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), manufactured by Serum Institute of India, at a vaccination centre in Ahmedabad, India, October 21, 2021. Photo: Reuters

India has so far reported 34.1 million COVID-19 cases and more than 452,000 deaths, most during a second wave of infections of the Delta variant between April and May.

A “sizeable number” of people in India have not taken their second dose by the due date despite adequate supplies, the health ministry said on Tuesday, as new infections fell to their lowest since early March. 

Daily shots have averaged 5 million this month, a fifth of September’s peak, though states are sitting on record stocks of more than 100 million as domestic output of the AstraZeneca vaccine soars.

Despite the current low number of infections, ministry officials have been urging people to get vaccinated fast, especially as the ongoing festival season means family gatherings and mass shopping, raising the risk of a new wave of infections.

Source: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/international/20211022/india-celebrates-1-billion-covid19-vaccine-doses-with-song-and-dance/63712.html

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Flights cancelled, schools closed as China fights virus outbreak

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Authorities in China cancelled hundreds of flights, closed schools and ramped up mass testing on Thursday to try and stamp out a new COVID-19 outbreak linked to a group of tourists.

Beijing has maintained a relentless zero-COVID approach with strict border closures and targeted lockdowns, even as other countries tentatively try to ease restrictions.

Domestic outbreaks have largely been eliminated, but as China logged a fifth straight day of new cases — mostly in northern and northwestern areas — authorities beefed up coronavirus controls.

The latest outbreak was linked to an elderly couple who were in a group of several tourists. They started in Shanghai before flying to Xi’an, Gansu province and Inner Mongolia.

Dozens of cases have since been linked to their travel, with close contacts in at least five provinces and regions, including the capital Beijing.

In response, local governments have rolled out mass testing and closed scenic spots and tourist sites, schools and entertainment venues in affected areas, and also imposed targeted lockdowns of housing compounds.

Some regions including Lanzhou — a city of some four million people in northwestern China — have told residents not to leave unless necessary.

Those who need to leave must present a negative COVID-19 test.

Airports in the affected regions have cancelled hundreds of flights, according to data from aviation tracker VariFlight.

Around 60 percent of flights to the two main airports in Xi’an and Lanzhou have been cancelled.

In a notice published Monday, Erenhot in Inner Mongolia said travel in and out of the city was banned and residents should not leave their housing compounds.

And on Wednesday, state-owned tabloid Global Times cautioned that the new virus cases in Inner Mongolia were likely to affect coal imports from Mongolia because of supply chain disruptions.

There were 13 new domestic cases reported on Thursday, China’s National Health Commission said.

Source: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/international/20211021/flights-cancelled-schools-closed-as-china-fights-virus-outbreak/63707.html

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