Huawei to invest $100m in Asia-Pacific startup ecosystem over 3 yrs
Huawei Technologies Co on Tuesday announced its plan to invest $100 million to support startups over the next three years, as the Chinese tech heavyweight aims to help build a sustainable startup ecosystem for the Asia-Pacific region.
The plan was unveiled at the inaugural Huawei Cloud Spark Founders Summit, which took place simultaneously in Singapore and Hong Kong.
Huawei said the investment would go toward its Spark Program in the Asia-Pacific region, which aims to build a sustainable startup ecosystem for the region over the next three years.
According to the company, it has been helping Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Thailand build their startup hubs. At the summit, Huawei also announced that this program would focus its efforts on developing four additional startup hubs – in Indonesia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Vietnam – with the overarching aim of recruiting a total of 1,000 startups into the Spark accelerator program and shaping 100 of them into scaled-up businesses.
Catherine Chen, senior vice-president and board member of Huawei, said “Startups and small and medium-sized enterprises are the innovators, disruptors and pioneers of our times. Thirty-four years ago, Huawei was a startup with just $5,000 of registered capital. Recently, we have been thinking: How can we leverage our experience and resources to help more startups address their challenges? Doing so would allow them to seize the opportunities posed by digital transformation, achieve business success, and develop more innovative products and solutions for the world.”
At the summit, Huawei also unveiled a plan to build an HMS (Huawei Mobile Service) Developer Innovation Center. Through this center, Huawei aims to cultivate future talent in cooperation with 210 leading universities across the Asia-Pacific region.
Both had been fully vaccinated with AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine.
Korea on Tuesday reported its first two cases of delta plus, a new variant of COVID-19, both of which were “breakthrough infections” affecting vaccinated people.
Lee Sang-won, the head of the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency’s epidemiological investigations team, told a briefing that both delta plus patients had been fully vaccinated with AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine.
One of them is a man in his 40s who had no recent history of overseas travel, but sought testing after experiencing respiratory symptoms. He was positive in test results that came on out July 26. His son was also positive, but it was unclear whether he was also infected with delta plus.
The other patient returned from the United States on July 23 and had tested positive during an airport screening.
Lee said delta plus “appears to differ only slightly from delta in terms of its transmissibility or virulence.” “Since breakthrough infections are possible, social distancing, masking and practicing personal hygiene remain important even for people who have been vaccinated,” he said.
Delta plus is a sub-lineage of delta with an extra mutation in the spike protein called K417N — the same mutation found in beta and gamma, variants of concern first spotted in South Africa and Brazil, respectively. South Africa stopped using AstraZeneca’s vaccine in February after a study showed it did not work well against the beta variant.
When a mutation occurs in the spike protein on the surface of SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing COVID-19, it likely increases the ability of the virus to bind to receptors on the human cells and infect the host, according to Dr. Paik Soon-young, an emeritus professor of virology at Catholic University of Korea.
“The location of the mutation boosts the binding affinity of the virus to the human ACE2 receptors,” he said. “But we don’t know yet if that leads to increased replication after entering the human cell, which is significant in understanding its transmissibility.”
So far, there is no evidence to suggest delta plus renders the vaccines less effective, according to infectious disease epidemiologist and the Korean Vaccine Society’s vice president Dr. Chun Byung-chul.
“Beta, which carries the same mutation, somewhat weakened AstraZeneca’s vaccine. The mRNA-type vaccines fared better in comparison,” he said. “Korea needs to keep a close eye on the new variant, delta plus, for sure, but a separate analysis is necessary to know if it is capable of evading vaccines.”
Chun added he was worried the recent breakthrough cases might be used as a means to discredit the vaccines. “To be clear, breakthrough infections can happen with any vaccine, not just COVID-19 vaccines.”
Delta is as transmissible as chickenpox, and patients with breakthrough infections of the variant may be able to spread it as readily as unvaccinated patients, according to internal report by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Korea’s national disease control agency says delta is already the dominant strain in Korea. Delta showed up in 61.5 percent of patient samples analyzed last week, according to the agency’s Tuesday report.
There are 1,132 known cases of breakthrough infections in Korea, which translates to 17.8 cases for every 100,000 fully vaccinated people. Breakthrough infections were most common among recipients of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine, at 51.4 cases for every 100,000 people, followed by recipients of AstraZeneca’s, at 24.3 per 100,000, and Pfizer’s, at 7.8 per 100,000.
Korea posted 1,202 additional cases on Tuesday, bringing the cumulative tally to 202,203. In the last seven days, the number of new cases found each day has averaged 1,526.
More than five months into rollout, the country has vaccinated 20 million people, or 39 percent of its population, with at least one dose of a vaccine as of Tuesday, while 14 percent have been fully vaccinated.
Vietnam cuts quarantine for fully vaccinated arrivals to 7 days: Health ministry
HÀ NỘI — Fully vaccinated arrivals to Việt Nam with negative COVID-19 tests will only have to undergo seven days of centralised quarantine and another seven days for medical observation, according to a new instruction from the health ministry.
The decision, signed by deputy health minister Đỗ Xuân Tuyên, is made based on data from the World Health Organization (WHO) in Việt Nam, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the National Steering Committee for COVID-19 Prevention and Control.
Specifically, the reduced quarantine period – compared to previous 14 days of centralised quarantine and seven days of follow-up medical observation – is applicable to those having certified (by relevant authorities of the home country) proof of negative RT-PCR tests for SARS-CoV-2 72 hours prior to departure, having been fully vaccinated with the last dose at least 14 days but no more than 12 months before the entry time (with vaccination certificates); or in place of vaccination records, those having been infected with coronavirus (with documents proving the positive status using RT-PCR method no more than six months prior to the entry date), or proof showing they have recovered from the disease or hospital discharge or equivalent documents issued by competent authorities in the country where they have been treated.
All entries will have to be tested for COVID-19 on the first and the seventh day of the quarantine period (counting from the entry date). The first test could use either rapid antigen tests or RT-PCR tests, but the second test would have to be single-sample RT-PCR tests.
Relevant authorities will handle cases with positive tests in line with existing instructions and guidelines.
Those completing centralised quarantine and travelling to their residences/hotels/accommodation for further observation must wear masks, keep a distance, and use the contact tracing app Bluezone, according to the health ministry’s document.
The Bluezone app is required to be active during the seven days of follow-up observation.
The foreign ministry is asked to provide guidelines on verifying and approving COVID-19 vaccination certificates or COVID-19 recovery proof or the equivalent documents by foreign authorities.
The local authorities must strictly abide by the instructions from the health ministry in the management of quarantined persons and handover and reception of those completing centralised quarantine period to ensure no cross infections and spread of the virus to the community.
Those eligible for reduced quarantine could be arranged to pay for quarantine at hotels depending on their requests.
Previously, the northern province of Quảng Ninh has been selected by the health ministry to carry out pilot implementation of the seven-day quarantine in July. — VNS
Mainland imposes massive travel curbs to combat Delta outbreak
BEIJING – The Chinese mainland has imposed massive travel restrictions, including temporary closure of airports and travel alerts for citizens to other places across the country, to contain the spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19.
All 31 provincial-level regions on the mainland have urged citizens not to go to medium and high-risk areas for COVID-19 or leave the provinces where they live unless it is necessary.
Twenty-three railway stations have halted ticket sales for Beijing-bound passengers departing from these stations, said Cui Wei, an official with China Railway Beijing Group Co. Ltd. on Tuesday.
The Chinese capital has suspended 13 pairs of trains to Nanjing and Yangzhou in Jiangsu province, Zhengzhou in Henan province and Zhangjiajie in Hunan province.
Travel agencies online and offline should keep track of epidemic information of destinations and not send groups into or receive groups from areas with medium and high COVID-19 risks, according to a circular issued Tuesday by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.
All flights at the airports in Nanjing, capital of Jiangsu, and Yangzhou have been suspended. Nine long-distance bus stations in Nanjing and public bus services in Yangzhou were also suspended.
The Chinese mainland on Monday reported 61 new locally transmitted COVID-19 cases, the National Health Commission said in its daily report on Tuesday. Forty-five cases were reported in Jiangsu, six in Hunan, three in Hubei, two each in Henan and Yunnan, and one each in Beijing, Shanghai, and Fujian, according to the commission.
As of Monday, 1,157 confirmed COVID-19 cases were in hospital in the mainland, including 698 imported ones, the commission said.
By 3 pm Tuesday, the country had four high-risk areas and 125 medium-risk areas for COVID-19.
Jiangsu, where the recent airport-related cluster infections of Delta variant occurred, had 327 confirmed local cases receiving medical treatment as of Monday, local health authorities said.
Efforts to cut virus transmission
Beijing on July 27 saw the first resurgence of COVID-19 in months, prompting the municipal government to upgrade the capital’s epidemic prevention and control measures.
Pang Xinghuo, deputy director of the Beijing center for disease control and prevention, said at a press briefing on Monday that the epidemic prevention and control is again at a critical stage, as cluster infections have been reported in many areas on the mainland.
Beijing on Sunday imposed strict entry and exit controls, asking all residents to minimize their travels and avoid gatherings.
Changping and Fangshan districts of the city, where four confirmed cases have been reported, have carried out environment disinfection in residential communities.
A fifth case was reported on Monday in a residential community in Haidian district. The community and its surrounding areas, involving more than 10,000 people, have been put under closed-off management, and nucleic acid testing is being carried out.
The city has capped personnel flow under 60 percent in all parks, scenic spots, performance venues, and other sites that witness gatherings.
Zhengzhou, capital of Henan province that saw devastating floods last month, launched an emergency measure on Sunday to deliver daily necessities after the city reported an asymptomatic case on Friday.
Food items such as noodles, flour and vegetables were delivered to communities in the city’s Erqi District, where confirmed cases were reported.
The city reported 13 locally transmitted confirmed COVID-19 cases and 50 asymptomatic cases as of 6 pm Monday.
Zhengzhou, a city with more than 10 million people, launched a citywide nucleic acid testing on Sunday, and upgraded its COVID-19 control level, requiring all people leaving the city to show proof of negative results of nucleic acid tests taken within 48 hours.
Inspection teams have been deployed at the airport, railway stations and expressway toll gates for checking the COVID-19 negative certificates.
Most of the infections were linked to the sixth people’s hospital of Zhengzhou, which has been closed for environmental disinfection. All patients and asymptomatic carriers have been transferred to a designated COVID-19 treatment hospital.
Meanwhile, Jiangsu has ramped up measures to contain the virus spread in crowded indoor places.
Of the total 45 confirmed local cases reported in the province on Monday, Yangzhou, a popular tourist destination, registered 40 cases, pushing the total number of confirmed local cases in the city to 94 since July 20.
A total of 1.7 million people in the main districts of Yangzhou have completed their second round of nucleic acid testing.
Starting from July 28, indoor entertainment venues, indoor cultural and sports centers, training institutions, and childcare centers in the city have been temporarily closed to contain the further spread of the virus.
Wuhan, capital of Hubei province, once hard-hit by the COVID-19 epidemic, is also battling a fresh resurgence of infections.
The city has mobilized all forces after it reported confirmed cases linked to the highly infectious Delta variant last week, ending a streak of more than a year with zero locally transmitted cases.
Hubei reported three new locally transmitted confirmed COVID-19 cases on Monday, all in Wuhan, the provincial health commission said Tuesday.
Wuhan on Tuesday launched mass nucleic acid testing covering all its residents.
The testing will be completed as soon as possible to screen nucleic acid positive and asymptomatic infections, said Li Tao, deputy secretary general of Wuhan municipal government, at a press briefing on Tuesday.
As of July 20, over 17.1 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in Wuhan, and the inoculation rate of people aged 18 and above has reached 77.63 percent, according to the Wuhan municipal health commission.
Vaccination effective in virus prevention
A staffer working with international cargo flights at the Shanghai Pudong International Airport tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday, local health authorities said.
The metropolis immediately carried out the investigation, disinfection, sampling, and laboratory testing on relevant personnel and places, according to the municipal COVID-19 prevention and control leading group office.
“Vaccination has been proved effective in COVID-19 prevention,” said Zhang Wenhong, head of the Center for Infectious Diseases at the city’s Huashan Hospital, Fudan University, on Tuesday.
Nearly 1.69 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines had been administered on the mainland by Monday, the National Health Commission said Tuesday.
“If residents are fully vaccinated, the speed of the coronavirus transmission will greatly reduce. All staff members of airports in Shanghai have been vaccinated, so we are fully confident to slow down the transmission,” he said.
By 9 am Tuesday, 27,174 of 64,860 screened individuals had completed nucleic acid testing with negative results, while the remaining samples are undergoing examination.
Zhang suggested that all residents should check whether their intended tourist destinations are medium or high-risk areas before traveling. He also encouraged tourists to follow personal protection measures, including wearing masks, washing hands frequently, and avoiding gatherings.
The municipal government has strengthened closed-loop management including beefing up inspection of entry and exit as well as key personnel. It is also promoting vaccination and encouraging citizens to follow COVID-19 preventative measures.
Similar to the recent resurgence of coronavirus in Guangzhou, south China’s Guangdong province, which was also triggered by the highly contagious Delta variant, most patients in this outbreak have shown mild symptoms, said China’s top epidemiologist Zhong Nanshan.
Preliminary studies on Guangzhou’s latest COVID-19 outbreak show that China’s domestic vaccines are effective against the Delta variant, Zhong said during a summit in Guangzhou on Saturday.
The protective effect of China’s domestic vaccines is 100 percent effective against severe cases, 76.9 percent against moderate cases, 67.2 percent against mild ones, and 63.2 percent against asymptomatic carriers accordingly.
ASEAN foreign ministers yesterday picked Brunei’s Minister of Foreign Affairs II Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Erywan bin Pehin Datu Pekerma Jaya Haji Mohd Yusof as their special envoy to Myanmar.
In a joint communique issued after their annual meeting held via video conference, foreign ministers of the ASEAN said yesterday, “We welcomed the appointment by the ASEAN Chair for the Minister of Foreign Affairs II of Brunei Darussalam to be the Special Envoy of the ASEAN Chair on Myanmar, who will start his work in Myanmar, including building trust and confidence with full access to all parties concerned and providing a clear timeline on the implementation of the Five-Point Consensus before the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting.”
The ministers also “expressed concern over the situation” in Myanmar, “heard calls for the release of political detainees including foreigners” and welcomed the junta’s “acceptance for the timely and complete implementation of the Five-Point Consensus”.
The foreign ministers discussed the matter on Monday, but no appointment was made pending the Myanmar side’s approval. As Myanmar confirmed its acceptance in yesterday’s meeting, the ministers adopted the joint communique yesterday.
Brunei is the current chair country of the 10-member bloc.
The Five-Point Consensus refers to the agreement by ASEAN leaders during a special ASEAN summit on April 24 in Jakarta which called for an immediate cessation of violence in Myanmar, constructive dialogue among all parties, the appointment of a special ASEAN envoy to facilitate dialogue, the provision of humanitarian assistance, and a visit by the envoy to Myanmar.
The 28-page communique also said that “we also heard calls for the release of political detainees including foreigners”.
The bloc also noted the continued support from external partners for ASEAN’s efforts in the swift and complete implementation of the Five-Point Consensus, particularly on humanitarian assistance. “We reaffirmed the role of ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management (AHA Centre) to provide humanitarian assistance in Myanmar as mandated in the Five-Point Consensus of the ASEAN Leaders’ Meeting. We encourage the Governing Board of the AHA Centre to immediately start the work on the policy guidance to implement the Five-Point Consensus.”
Kim Jong-un reached out first to reopen hotlines: spy agency
It was North Korean leader Kim Jong-un who first reached out to reopen the severed hotlines between the two Koreas after a hiatus of almost 14 months, according to Seoul’s spy agency on Tuesday.
As for Kim’s health condition, the officials said there is no sign of abnormality, citing his light manner of walking and other gestures. His younger sister, Kim Yo-jong, also seems to maintain her No. 2 status in the regime as a top diplomatic strategist, they added.
Officials of the National Intelligence Service made the remarks during a parliamentary intelligence committee’s regular audit session into the agency.
The closed-door session came after South and North Korea reopened military and other diplomatic communication channels on July 27, which both governments touted as the outcome of months of exchanges between President Moon Jae-in and the North Korean leader.
“The two leaders have exchanged personal letters twice since April,” one of the officials was quoted as saying by Rep. Kim Byung-ki of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea, a senior member of the intelligence committee.
“The North appears to be figuring out whether the South has any intention to carry out the Panmunjeom Declaration,” he said referring to the inter-Korean agreements made following the 2018 summit talks between Moon and Kim, under which the two Koreas agreed to stop hostile activities against each other for the ultimate goal of denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula.
Based on the spy agency’s analysis, he also noted that the hotline restoration reflects Pyongyang’s expectations about Seoul’s mediator role in resuming its stalled talks with Washington.
“But during months of exchanges between the two leaders, no discussions had been made on issues like the North’s killing of a public servant in the West Sea or its wrecking of the inter-Korean liaison office,” Rep. Ha Tae-keung of the main opposition People Power Party, another senior member of the committee, criticized the South for not raising those sensitive issues.
According to the lawmakers, the spy agency confirmed that the South had offered holding working-level talks via video links but it did not elaborate on the North’s response to the offer. But the agency reportedly denied any discussions had been made on a possible summit between Moon and Kim.
Restoring the communication links may signal a thaw in the almost collapsed diplomacy between the two Koreas, but fresh tensions seem to be looming surrounding the upcoming Seoul-Washing military drills later this month, with rival parties clashing over the timing and size here.
On Sunday, Kim Yo-jong issued a warning, saying the drills could rekindle tensions between the two Koreas and hinting at possible countermeasures if the two allies push ahead with the plans.
“I understand the importance of the joint drills, but a flexible approach needs to be considered in order to continue the current momentum for inter-Korean talks and ultimately for North Korea’s denuclearization,” NIS chief Park Jie-won said during the session.
His remarks immediately faced a backlash from the opposition bloc.
Ha, the PPP lawmaker, urged Park to withdraw his words and to apologize to the public, saying: “The NIS, responsible for national security, has been degraded to an institution taking command from Kim Yo-jong.”
MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Health (DOH) assumes a community transmission of the highly infectious Delta variant is already happening in the country despite the lack of enough sequenced samples it can show as proof and allow officials to make a formal declaration.
“We assume there is community transmission already…. [We] are going to [take] actions toward this direction that there is already community transmission,” Health
Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a television interview on Tuesday.
She noted an “exponential rise” in the weekly average of COVID-19 cases in the past 14 days: from 7,000 to 8,000 compared to 5,000 to 6,000 in the previous week. Based on this, the government projected a range of 18,000 to 30,000 active cases by the end of September, although Vergeire said they would release a revised projection due to changes in the current trend.
“We’re trying to plan [for] and anticipate the worst case scenario… [to] ensure at the very least [that we] manage those severe and critical cases,” she added.
The representative to the Philippines of the World Health Organization (WHO) said that hospital authorities should start stocking up on oxygen supplies.
“We need to see how we can mobilize additional oxygen sources because we’ve seen the Delta variant cause a significant demand in many countries, initially India, now Indonesia and Myanmar. We’ve seen that hospitals are running short of oxygen supplies,” Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe said at the Laging Handa briefing.
As of May, the suggested retail price, as issued by the DOH, for oxygen tanks was between P2,465 and P2,532.50 for 5 lbs and P4,030 to P5,500 for 15 lbs.
When sought for comment, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said that the current industry capacity was around three times the current demand.
“I have asked DOH before to procure and stockpile oxygen cylinder tanks and regulators in case the Delta variant will cause a surge. We have also encouraged oxygen manufacturers to expand their current capacities, noting that current industry capacity is about three times more the current demand,” he said in a Viber message on Tuesday.
“There is a surplus. The current capacity surplus includes the industrial oxygen capacity that can also be allocated to produce medical oxygen if and when necessary,” he added.
Abeyasinghe said the number of coronavirus cases attributed to the Delta variant went up by as much as 80 percent globally in the last four weeks, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region. A number of countries also reported an “unprecedented” number of daily cases in the last week with many of these driven by the variant, he added.
Asked if he thought the higher number of cases in the Philippines pointed to a surge and a community transmission, Abeyasinghe said it was a possibility.
“I cannot exclude the fact that there is limited community transmission in some places because we have very limited capacity for whole-genome sequencing. So there may be, there is community transmission,” he said.
But he added that the question of whether there was a surge or community transmission was not important.
“We need to recognize that we are facing a risk because of a highly transmissible variant of the disease. We need to implement measures now, that [is] what is most important,” Abeyasinghe said.
Higher bed capacity
According to Vergeire, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III has ordered a 50-percent expansion in bed capacity for public hospitals and 30 percent for private facilities.
Four major government hospitals in Metro Manila—Lung Center of the Philippines, National Center for Mental Health, Quirino Memorial Medical Center and East Avenue Medical Center—were also expected to allocate 200 beds each for their intensive care units.
The average daily reported cases in the capital region have gone up to 1,535, a hike of 65 percent over the previous week, Vergeire said. Metro Manila, which is one of the areas classified as high risk, will undergo a two-week strict lockdown from Aug. 6 to 20.
Vergeire added that all 16 cities and the lone municipality of Pateros had reported positive two-week growth rates, with Pateros and Malabon at critical risk because of their two-week growth rate and average daily attack rate (Adar), or the proportion of infected cases against the rest of the population.
Aside from Metro Manila, also classified as high risk were Regions 1, 2, 7 and 10, as well as the Cordillera Administrative Region, based on their moderate two-week growth rate and high-risk Adar.
Vergeire said the impact of the Delta variant was now being observed nationally and in select regions and areas.
Half of the country’s provinces, highly urbanized cities and independent component cities had reported an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases and in their health-care utilization, she added.
She advised hospitals to stockpile essential COVID-19 medicines and ensure a 30-day buffer for personal protective equipment, reagents and other medical supplies.
As of Tuesday, the DOH said it had recorded 6,879 additional COVID-19 cases, which brought the country’s total case count to 1,612,541.
There remained 63,137 active cases, of which 94 percent were mild; 13 percent, asymptomatic; 1.2 percent, critical; 2.1 percent, severe and 1.46 percent, moderate.
Tuesday’s case count was the first time in five days that new cases were below 8,000. However, the DOH attributed this to the lower number of samples for testing received on Sunday.
There were 6,337 additional recoveries, which brought the total number of survivors to 1,521,263. But there were 48 fatalities, for a total death toll of 28,141.
—WITH REPORTS FROM LEILA B. SALAVERRIA, JEROME ANING, INQUIRER RESEARCH, PATRICIA DENISE M. CHIU AND ROY STEPHEN C. CANIVEL
Stronger ASEAN+3 collaboration needed in modern times: VN foreign minister
HÀ NỘI — Collaboration between ASEAN member countries and Japan, Republic of Korea and China was the focus of the ASEAN+3 Foreign Ministers Meeting, which was held virtually on Tuesday.
It was part of the 54th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AMM-54), which is taking place from August 1-7 via videoconferences.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Bùi Thanh Sơn attended the meeting with other foreign ministers of ASEAN countries, as well as Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, RoK Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong, and Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi.
Representatives at the meeting praised the positive developments of the ASEAN+3 collaboration during 2018-20. They agreed to prioritise specialised cooperation in response to COVID-19 and reduce the pandemic’s effects on the socio-economic development of the member countries.
The Chinese, RoK and Japanese foreign ministers said they would continue supporting ASEAN initiatives on COVID-19 prevention and control, and help ASEAN member countries increase their medical capabilities in terms of disease control and vaccine production.
They also agreed to maintain close collaboration in terms of trade, investment, regional exchange, as well as in digital transformation, financial technology, e-commerce and sustainable growth.
Speaking at the meeting, Vietnamese Foreign Minister Sơn said the ASEAN+3 collaboration proved to be effective and valuable in times of difficulties, stressing that even stronger cooperation was needed given the rise of new challenges brought about by modern times.
In terms of future collaboration directions, Sơn asked that China, RoK and Japan continue to support the ASEAN member countries in terms of vaccination and vaccine production, as well as economic recovery after the pandemic. -VNS
Countries urged to safeguard peace in S. China Sea
State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi called on Tuesday for China and ASEAN to tackle external interference as well as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and step up consultation on the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea to safeguard peace and stability in the region.
Wang made the remark when participating via video link in the foreign ministers’ meeting between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
Noting that it is the consensus between China and ASEAN members to agree on the Code of Conduct at an early date, Wang said that the second reading of the draft text of the code is taking place online and has made progress.
China insists on the peaceful settlement of disputes through consultations by the countries directly involved, refrains from unilateral actions that intensify contradictions and aggravate differences, and at the same time deepens pragmatic maritime cooperation with relevant countries, Wang said.
He also noted that China’s sovereignty, as well as its rights and interests in the South China Sea, conform with international laws including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. China has never made new claims but will stick to its consistent position, he said.
Thanks to the joint efforts of China and ASEAN, the South China Sea has enjoyed a stable situation, and freedom of navigation and overflight is protected in accordance with law, Wang said.
He called on relevant countries to stay vigilant to actions by certain countries outside the region to openly intervene in territorial and maritime disputes in the region, sow discord between China and ASEAN members, and send a large number of vessels to the region.
They have become the biggest troublemakers, he said, adding that the South China Sea should not be turned into an arena for major countries, and they are not allowed to disrupt peace and stability in the region.
During the meeting, foreign ministers from ASEAN members said that they would like to enhance mutual trust and avoid increasing tensions in the South China Sea.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the establishment of China-ASEAN dialogue relations. The ministers said they would like to hold a conference with China to commemorate the anniversary.
ASEAN will continue to cooperate with China in fighting the pandemic and promoting development, they said.
According to Wang, China has provided over 190 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines as well as a huge amount of anti-pandemic supplies to ASEAN members.
China and ASEAN have launched a cooperation initiative on public health management, and have been improving the China-ASEAN Vaccine Friend Cooperation platform in order to share information and strengthen communication, he said.
China is willing to work with ASEAN members to oppose the politicization of the pandemic and ensure the smooth and healthy development of international anti-pandemic cooperation, he added.
Despite the pandemic, the trade volume between China and ASEAN exceeded $410 billion in the first half of this year, a year-on-year increase of 38.2 percent, and bilateral mutual investment has exceeded $310 billion, Wang noted. The bloc continues to be China’s largest trading partner.
[Myanmar] Taunggyi, the town facing its record Covid-19 mortality and infections
Taunggyi, the revived capital of Shan State, has been silent since July 26. During the third wave, Taunggyi’s outbreak started in mid-July and has gradually surpassed Lashio. From June to early July, the death toll was less than 20, but by July 30, the death toll had risen to 97. As of July 17, less than 20 patients had died. On July 22, the sound of ambulances wailed along a road leading to a cemetery in Taunggyi as up to 11 people died due to COVID-19 disease.
From that day onwards, the sound of ambulances has been heard daily. The number of deaths per day is calculated by calculating the number of fatalities per vehicle passing by.
During the first wave of COVID-19 in Taunggyi, the roads were cleared in April during the Thingyan period. The scenes were seen again on July 26.
According to lists collected on July 29, most of the cases in Taunggyi are in densely populated areas such as Sein Pan, Shwe Taung and Kyaunggyi Su wards. There are 117 cases in Sein Pan, 153 cases in Kyaunggyi Su, 100 cases in the Thittawv and 93 cases in Shwe Taung.
As I was writing this, I saw a hearse in the neighborhood carrying a dead body, followed by a small number of motorcycles, in the afternoon.
A small town that was peaceful
When the COVID-19 outbreak began in 2020 in Taunggyi, the capital of Shan State, was able to successfully overcome due to public support, but by the third wave of COVID-19, it was not able to cope with surging infections.
From 2020 to January 2021, the number of cases of COVID-19 was 100 in the state, but only three of them died. According to data from January 2, a total of 934 cases had been reported in the state. 226 people are currently being treated at the hospital. 705 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 disease and three people died, according to the Department of Treatment and Public Health for the state.The third wave hit the quiet town in June, and the death toll from COVID-19 disease rose substantially in mid-July.
Taunggyi surpasses Lashio
As of July 23, the number of infected people in Lashio had risen to 1,435 during the third wave of COVID-19, and 796 of them had been discharged. Up to 73 people died of COVID-19 and many more have died in their homes, according to social welfare associations.
As of 6 pm on July 30, 1,747 cases had been reported in Taunggyi, southern Shan State during the third wave of the COVID-19, and 97 patients had died, according to a statement from the Taunggyi Township Administration Department (GAD).
In Taunggyi Township, from June 1 to July 30 at 6 pm, there were 1,747 confirmed cases and 618 hospital discharges. A total of 97 patients died and 1,032 patients are still receiving treatment at hospitals, according to the statement.
The list is officially confirmed from centers and hospitals, but does not include a list of deaths from those being treated at home on their own initiative.
A total of 120 new cases of COVID-19: 59 PCR and 61 RDT tests, have been reported on July 28, and 11 more have died of COVID-19, it said.
On July 28, 81 people from Taunggyi, 17 from Aye Thar Yar, 18 from Shwe Nyaung, one from Kyauktalonegyi and three from a village tract are found infected with the virus.
On July 30, 101 new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed, with 12 more deaths. A total of 45 cases were tested using PCR test and 56 cases were found using RDT test, it said.
“Stay at Home” order was imposed in Taunggyi from July 26 due to the high rate of transmission from the third wave of COVID-19 virus in the town.
A center, which can house 200 patients, at the Sports and Physical Education School in Aye Thayar, has been set up to accommodate the confirmed patients. Currently, the confirmed patients are kept at the medical center in Sao San Tun Hospital, Women and Children’s Hospital, Computer University and College of Education.
During the third wave, the number of infected people in Taunggyi increased and volunteers in the area sprayed disinfectants as more people became ill and lost their sense of smell and taste.
Rising mortality rate
The third wave began on June 1 in Taunggyi when a man was found infected with the virus. On June 2, four men were tested positive. On June 26, a total of 42 people: 29 males and 13 females, were found infected with the virus.
No deaths were reported early in the third wave. It started on July 6 with the death of a woman in Thittaw ward. The next day, another man from Aye Thar Yar died of the virus. The next day, on July 8, a man in Nyaung Phyu Sakhan ward also died. On July 9, two men living in Yadanar Thiri and Kan Auk wards died again. As of July 18, up to 20 patients had died.
A total of 11 patients died on July 22 alone. There were five deaths on July 23, six deaths on July 24, seven deaths on July 25, four deaths on July 26, nine deaths on July 27, 11 deaths on July 28, five deaths on July 29 and 12 deaths on July 30. Up to 70 patients have died of the virus in nine day time, it said.
Collection of oxygen cylinders
As soon as the third wave of COVID-19 disease began, Taunggyi locals had to start buying oxygen cylinders for the convenience of the oxygen plants.
Although finding contact persons, spraying disinfectants, and giving assistance to the patients was provided in the first and second waves, priority is given to collecting oxygen, spraying disinfectants and giving treatment to the patients in the third wave.
Two oxygen plants will be built in Taunggyi with donations from local people, and oxygen cylinders have been procured. In Aye Thayar, an oxygen plant is starting to be built with donations from the locals.
“Stay at Home” imposed in Taunggyi
During the development of COVID-19 pandemic in Taunggyi, the Development Affairs Committee in Taunggyi announced no shops are allowed to open except for the shops selling medicines and basic commodities in the markets in Taunggyi. The markets are allowed to open from 7:30 am to 12 pm. The committee has issued a notice to follow the instructions regarding COVID-19 issued by the Ministry of Health and Sports (MOHS).
In addition, vendors selling at the Clock Tower Night Market in Taunggyi Market Quarter and Night-38 Night Market in the Thittaw Quarter will be subject to temporary closure and it they are not followed, they will be taken action against the existing laws.
In Taunggyi, wards’ administrators notified the people to issue out-of-town shopping cards on the morning of July 27, and in some wards, the cards had been issued since July 26. One card for each household will be issued and they will be able to use them for shopping and work. People can only go out if they have a good reason to go out. Failure to comply will result in action being taken in accordance with existing laws.
During the COVID-19 pandemic control, flea and street markets will be open to the public from 6 am to 10 am and are not allowed to open shops selling clothes, cosmetics, plates and pots except for vegetables, meat, fish and medicines. The Taunggyi Township Development Affairs Committee has issued a notice to follow the instructions regarding COVID-19 issued by the MOHS when shopping at street markets.
In addition, The Taunggyi Township Development Affairs Committee has announced restaurants and teashops are allowed to be opened with takeaway system. The shops are allowed to open from 7 am to 6 pm and not after that and to follow the instructions regarding COVID-19 issued by the MOHS.
Parks, gardens, recreation centers, playgrounds and guesthouses opened in Taunggyi Township Development Zone, will be temporarily closed from July 26. Failure to comply with these instructions will result in legal action under the Disaster Management Law.
In addition, street vendors and sellers who are selling food on push carts, vehicles, motorcycles in the wards are not allowed to make business during the Stay at Home period and failure to comply with these instructions will result in legal action under the existing laws.
In addition, shops such as gold shops, electronics shops, cosmetics shops, clothes shops, hairdressings, tyres shops, car accessories shops, mosquito net and mattress shops, traditional shops, phone accessories shops and shoe stores are ordered to close except for pharmacies, grocery stores, department stores, private markets, stores, snacks shops and other shops in Taunggyi Township development area. All grocery stores, convenience stores, department stores, private markets, stores and snacks shops except pharmacies that are allowed to open from 6 am to 12 pm. Failure to comply will result in legal action.
More damages in the third wave
In the third wave of COVID-19, farmers, Business people, labourers, many people were affected economically. There are people who lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 and those who have become depressed and lost.
I am praying that with the rains pouring down in July, the third wave of COVID-19 entered, and with that, the pandemic will be overcome not only in Myanmar but all over the world.