Tag Archives: Asia

Delta Variant Drives New Lockdowns in Asia and Australia

A drive-through coronavirus testing site in Brisbane, Australia, on Tuesday.
Credit…Darren England/EPA, via Shutterstock

Countries across the Asia-Pacific region are scrambling to slow the spread of the more infectious Delta variant, reimposing restrictions and stay-at-home orders in a jarring reminder — for societies that had just begun to reopen — that the pandemic is far from over.

In Australia, outbreaks of the variant have forced four major cities — Sydney, Brisbane, Perth and Darwin — into strict lockdowns. On Monday, the Malaysian government said nationwide stay-at-home orders would be extended indefinitely. And Hong Kong officials banned flights from Britain, where cases of the Delta variant, which was first identified in India, are rising fast.

In Bangladesh, soldiers are preparing to patrol the streets to enforce stay-at-home orders, with new cases rapidly approaching their early April peak. “The Delta variant of Covid-19 is dominating,” said Robed Amin, a health ministry spokesman, adding that testing suggested the strain was responsible for more than 60 percent of new cases.

The lockdowns and restrictions have deflated hopes across the region, where many countries avoided the worst of the pandemic’s initial spread last year. Now, weary residents are frustrated by what some describe as their countries’ pandemic regression, as other parts of the world edge toward normalcy.

Outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s largest city, a restaurant owner, Marcus Low, bemoaned the fourth lockdown of the pandemic. Daily infections in Malaysia peaked in early June, but even after weeks of lockdown, new cases have dipped by only 5 percent over the past two weeks, according to New York Times data. Only 6 percent of the country’s 33 million people are fully vaccinated.

“My restaurant is known for its hospitality and shared dishes, the antithesis of social distancing,” Mr. Low said. For his and other small businesses struggling to survive, this lockdown “might be the last straw,” he said.

Others blamed slow vaccination drives for a return to restrictions.

Credit…Loren Elliott/Reuters

“If we were able to get a really high vaccination rate, that changes the game completely,” said Hassan Vally, an associate professor in epidemiology at La Trobe University in Melbourne. With less than 5 percent of Australia’s population fully vaccinated, he said, “in some ways, where we’re at now is no surprise.”

The Delta strain is one of several “variants of concern” identified by the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Though estimates of its infectiousness differ, the variant could be 50 percent more contagious than the already faster-spreading Alpha variant, which emerged in Britain last year, health officials say.

Studies have shown that Covid-19 vaccines are still largely effective against the Delta variant, though protection is significantly lower for those who are partially vaccinated. But the experiences of several countries show that the Delta variant can spread rapidly through the unvaccinated, including children.

“Anywhere you carry out vaccination, the disease will be pushed into the unvaccinated population,” said Raina MacIntyre, a professor of global biosecurity at the University of New South Wales in Sydney.

Countries that have vaccinated relatively high percentages of their populations are moving ahead with reopening plans. In Britain, where the Delta variant now accounts for almost all new cases, officials say they still plan to lift most remaining pandemic restrictions on July 19. New cases there have more than doubled in the past two weeks, but officials believe that the country remains well protected, with nearly half the population fully vaccinated.

“While cases are now ticking up, the number of deaths remains mercifully low,” the country’s health secretary, Sajid Javid, said on Monday

Experts say that as long as the virus continues to circulate, it can acquire mutations that may present new challenges. In India, where a devastating second wave this spring caused thousands of deaths daily, Maharashtra state has reimposed partial stay-at-home orders in response to the emergence of what has become known locally as “Delta Plus,” described by scientists as a sub-lineage of the Delta variant.

Indian health officials have expressed concern that Delta Plus could spread even more easily. “There is the possibility of the third wave,” said Maharashtra’s chief minister, Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray.

The World Health Organization’s headquarters in Geneva. The W.H.O. is the world’s largest public health body.
Credit…Salvatore Di Nolfi/EPA, via Shutterstock

World Health Organization officials, concerned about the Delta variant, have urged even fully vaccinated people to continue wearing masks and taking other precautions.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on the other hand, told fully vaccinated Americans in May that they no longer needed to wear masks indoors or to stay six feet from other people. The agency also eased advice about testing and quarantine after suspected exposure.

Asked on Monday about the W.H.O.’s cautions, a C.D.C. spokesman pointed to the existing guidance and gave no indication it would change.

The Delta variant, a highly infectious form of the virus that has spread to at least 85 countries since it was first identified in India, is now responsible for one in every five Covid-19 cases across the United States. Its prevalence here has doubled in the past two weeks, and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease doctor, has called it “the greatest threat” to eliminating the virus in the United States.

Los Angeles County said on Monday that it strongly recommended that everyone wear masks indoors as a precaution against the Delta variant, adding that it accounted for nearly half of all cases sequenced in the county.

“Until we better understand how and to who the Delta variant is spreading, everyone should focus on maximum protection with minimum interruption to routine as all businesses operate without other restrictions,” county officials said in a statement.

The rise of new variants “makes it even more urgent that we use all the tools at our disposal,” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the W.H.O., said at a news briefing on Friday.

Credit…Patricia De Melo Moreira/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Though fully vaccinated people are largely protected, studies suggest the Pfizer vaccine’s efficacy against the Delta variant is slightly lower than against other variants, and significantly lower for individuals who have received only one dose.

Britain — where some two-thirds of the population have received at least one dose of the Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccine and just under half have received two — has seen a sharp rise in cases driven by the variant. And Israel, with one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, has partially reimposed mask mandates in response to an uptick in cases.

Given how fast-moving the variant is, “the vaccine approach is not enough,” said Eric Feigl-Ding, senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists in Washington. “We’re not at the level of vaccinations where we can release the brakes on everything else.”

Other scientists disagreed, saying guidance has to be tailored to local conditions.

“The W.H.O. is looking at a world that is largely unvaccinated, so this makes sense,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, the dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, adding that parts of the United States might also need different advice.

“If I were living in Missouri or Wyoming or Mississippi, places with low vaccination rates,” he said, “I would not be excited about going indoors without wearing a mask — even though I’m vaccinated.”

Bruce Springsteen in “Springsteen on Broadway” at New York’s St. James Theater on Saturday night.
Credit…Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

In a city whose cultural soul had been closed for more than a year, with boarded-up windows and empty streets, Bruce Springsteen called it back to life on Saturday night. His gruff and guttural rasp was the first to echo across a Broadway stage to a paying audience in 471 days.

Of course, “Springsteen on Broadway” is no traditional Broadway production. The show consists of a man alone onstage. His ensemble: a microphone, a harmonica, a piano and six steel strings stretched across a select slab of spruce wood.

“I am here tonight to provide proof of life,” Springsteen called out early on. It was a line from the monologue of his original show — which ran for 236 performances, in 2017 and 2018 — and now it carried extra weight. That proof, he continued, was “to that ever elusive, never completely believable, particularly these days, us.”

For the “us” that packed inside the St. James Theater — 1,721 filled seats, very few masked people, all vaccinated — that first chord from “Growin’ Up” was indeed proof that the rhythms that moved New York City were emerging from behind a heavy, dark and weighty curtain.

The 15 months that Broadway had been closed were its longest silence in history. In years past, strikes, hurricanes, blizzards and blackouts had managed to tamp down the lights on Broadway only for a few days, weeks or a month.

But the pandemic forced the Theater District into an extensive darkness on March 12 of last year, as New York became the epicenter of the epidemic in the United States.

Logs ready to be processed at a saw mill in Arkansas. The price of lumber has come down 47 percent since early May.
Credit…Karen E. Segrave for The New York Times

The cure for high prices is high prices.

That’s an old line used in commodity markets, and it helps explain why the great inflation scare of 2021 has eased some in recent weeks. When the price of something soars because demand outstrips supply, it has a way of self-correcting. Buyers, scared off by high prices, find other options, and sellers crank up production to take advantage of a profit opportunity.

It is an idea simple enough to be taught in the first few weeks of any introductory economics class, but one with powerful implications for the American economy as it aims for a postpandemic reboot.

Several of the key products whose prices soared in the spring have grown less expensive, as producers have increased output and buyers have held tight. This is particularly evident with lumber; as of Friday, its price was down 47 percent from its early-May peak (though still well above historical norms). Sawmills responded to soaring prices by pushing the limits of their capacity.

The prices of corn, copper and a variety of other economically important commodities are also down by double-digit percentages since early May. This supports the notion that the inflation the world has been experiencing is transitory — set to ease in the months ahead as the laws of supply and demand take hold.

Markets have plenty of flaws and imperfections, but when it comes to allocating scarce goods and sending signals to sellers to make more and buyers to buy less, they work quite well.

But just because markets work doesn’t mean they will work instantly. The complexity of the way many of the goods still in short supply are produced, transported and sold means that people in those markets are reluctant to predict the kind of snapback evident in lumber prices.

At-home rapid Covid tests allow you to swab your own nose and get the results in minutes.
Credit…Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

Got the sniffles? Worried about that night out in a crowded club? Or maybe you just want to visit grandma but are concerned about her risk, even though you’re vaccinated.

At-home rapid Covid-19 tests, which give results in minutes, can be useful and reassuring for both the vaccinated and unvaccinated.

Given the availability of vaccines for all people 12 and older in the United States, it may be hard to imagine why anyone would still need a home test. But the coronavirus isn’t going away anytime soon, and a rise in infections this fall among the unvaccinated appears inevitable.

In most cases, regular home testing isn’t necessary for someone who is fully vaccinated. The vaccines available in the United States have been shown to be effective against the variants, including Delta. But breakthrough infections, although rare, continue to occur.

A home test can offer reassurance to a vaccinated person who has traveled recently or spent time in a crowded bar. It can be used more frequently for families with young children who aren’t yet eligible for vaccination.

Here are some scenarios in which a rapid home test may be useful:

  • For unvaccinated children, who could be tested periodically before going to camp or school or right before a birthday party.

  • To regularly check and protect the health of a babysitter who spends time with your unvaccinated children, or a home-health aide who is caring for a high-risk individual.

  • As an added precaution for a vaccinated person who wants to spend time with a grandparent or someone who is immune compromised. (An unvaccinated person shouldn’t spend time indoors with a person at high risk.)

  • To be sure a cough or sniffle is just allergies or a common cold rather than Covid-19.

  • To test houseguests before a dinner party or overnight stay, if someone in the group is unvaccinated or at high risk.

  • For guests at weddings or other large gatherings if they can’t provide proof of vaccination.

Author: The New York Times
This post originally appeared on NYT > Top Stories

Asia shares alarmed by U.S. inflation scare, count on calm Fed

Asia shares alarmed by U.S. inflation scare, count on calm Fed© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A man works at the Tokyo Stock Exchange after market opens in Tokyo, Japan October 2, 2020. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

By Wayne Cole

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Asian shares slipped to seven-week lows on Thursday after a shocking rise in U.S. inflation bludgeoned Wall Street and sent bond yields surging on worries the Federal Reserve might have to move early on tightening.

“Higher inflation is a definite negative for equities, given the likely rates response,” said Deutsche Bank (DE:) macro strategist Alan Ruskin.

“The more nominal GDP gains are dominated by higher inflation, especially wage inflation, the more the possible squeeze on profit margins. It plays to a more choppy, less bullish equity bias.”

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan lost 0.9%, though trade was thinned by holidays in a number of countries.

fell 2.0% and touched its lowest since early January, while Chinese blue chips lost 0.9%.

Asian markets were already on the backfoot this week amid inflation worries and a tech sell-off on Wall Street, and nerves were further jangled on Wednesday when Taiwan stocks tumbled on fears the island could face a partial lockdown amid an outbreak of the virus.

Nasdaq futures were trying to rally with a gain of 0.4%, while added 0.3%. But EUROSTOXX 50 futures were still catching up with overnight falls and lost 0.7%, while futures shed 0.5%.

Wall Street was blindsided when data showed U.S. consumer prices jumped by the most in nearly 12 years in April as booming demand amid a reopening economy met supply constraints at home and abroad.

The jump was largely due to outsized increases in airfares, used cars and lodging costs, which were all driven by the pandemic and likely transitory.

Fed officials were quick to play down the impact of one month’s numbers, with vice chair Richard Clarida saying stimulus would still be needed for “some time”.

“It likely would take a very strong May jobs report, with sizable upward revisions to March and especially April, to get the Fed to start a discussion about tapering at its June meeting,” said JPMorgan (NYSE:) economist Michael S. Hanson.

“We continue to expect the Fed to begin scaling back its pace of asset purchases early next year.”

BLACK MARK FOR BITCOIN

Investors reacted by pricing in an 80% chance of a Fed rate hike as early as December next year.

Yields on 10-year Treasuries steadied at 1.68%, having climbed 7 basis points overnight in the biggest daily rise in two months. The yield curve also steepened markedly to reflect the risk of rising inflation.

That was a shot in the arm for the dollar, which had been buckling under the weight of rapidly expanding U.S. budget and trade deficits. The euro retreated to $ 1.2078, leaving behind a 10-week peak at $ 1.2180.

The dollar stood at 109.66 yen, having hit a five-week top of 109.78 and well off this week’s low of 108.34. The hovered at 90.737, up from a 10-week trough of 89.979.

In cryptocurrencies, steadied after sliding more than 10% when Elon Musk tweeted that Tesla (NASDAQ:) Inc has suspended the use of bitcoin to purchase its vehicles.

The rise in yields and the dollar pressured gold, which was left at $ 1,818 an ounce and off a multiple-top around $ 1,845. [GOL/]

Oil prices backed away from two-month highs, hit after exports plunged and the International Energy Agency (IEA) said demand was already outstripping supply. [O/R]

was off 68 cents at $ 68.64 a barrel, while U.S. crude lost 68 cents to $ 65.40.

Author: Reuters
This post originally appeared on Stock Market News

US chipmakers begging for government bailout after manufacturing moved to Asia – Max Keiser

RT’s Keiser Report hosts Max Keiser and Stacy Herbert look at how the export of the American manufacturing base by technology companies such as Intel has created a semiconductor chip shortage in the United States.

Stacy quotes an article on Wolfstreet.com that points out that “US semiconductor manufacturing has declined to where it is only 12% of the world’s total.”

In the same article, Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger calls the current supply a problem, “Because relying on one region, especially one as unpredictable as Asia,” where 75% of the chips are now made, “is highly risky.”

READ MORE: Volkswagen expects global chip shortage to further hit output with no chance to recoup existing losses – reports

Stacy points out that, after spending billions of dollars on share buybacks instead of investing in chip manufacturing, Intel is asking the US government for a $ 50 billion bailout and blaming Asia for creating the problem.

According to Max, in order to get their hands on more taxpayer money, companies such as Intel are resorting to xenophobic attacks on China and other Asian nations.

“There’s no end to it. The lies, the deception, the racism, the xenophobia, the class war will never end as long as there’s free money available,” said Keiser.

For more stories on economy & finance visit RT’s business section

Author: RT
This post originally appeared on RT Business News

Facebook, Google investing in 2 new undersea internet cables between US and Southeast Asia

Facebook and Google are investing in new undersea internet cables that will run between California and Southeast Asia in an effort to boost internet speed and reliability, the companies announced Monday. 

Facebook said it will[1] invest in two new subsea cables, Echo and Bifrost, and Google said it will be investing[2] in Echo. The projects are subject to regulatory approvals.

Echo and Bifrost will connect Singapore, Indonesia and North America. 

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The two companies touted the projects as helping to bring reliable internet access around the world. 

“Echo and Bifrost will support further growth for hundreds of millions of people and millions of businesses. We know that economies flourish when there is widely accessible internet for people and businesses,” Facebook said in a blog post. 

Google in a post said the cable will decrease latency for users connecting to applications running the Google Cloud Platform in the area. 

Echo is expected to be ready for service in 2023, Google said. The goal is for Bifrost to be completed by late 2024, CNBC reported[3].

References

  1. ^ said it will (engineering.fb.com)
  2. ^ will be investing (cloud.google.com)
  3. ^ CNBC reported (www.cnbc.com)

[email protected] (Rebecca Klar)

Russia joins global hydrogen race with planned exports to Asia

Russian energy giant Gazprom is planning to start hydrogen exports to China, South Korea and Japan, the company’s First Deputy Oleg Aksyutin wrote in his column in the latest issue of business and science magazine Energy Policy.

According to the senior manager, the shipments of hydrogen could be supplied to Asia by rail, road and water.

“Production of hydrogen in the Russian Far East […] with subsequent export of it to such consumers as Japan, South Korea and China, is of particular interest,” Aksyutin wrote.
Also on rt.com Russian LNG production sees modest jump in 2020
He added that the procedures for transporting the raw material to Asia requires an appropriate legal framework concerning taxation and customs regulation, as well as the development of logistics infrastructure.

“In the short-term, Russia and its Asian partners should develop cooperation on exchange of technologies for hydrogen transportation, and for fixation, storage and usage of carbon dioxide,” Aksyutin said, stressing that, on the medium- and long-term horizon, export supplies of hydrogen are possible if there’s commercial demand among potential importers.
Also on rt.com Russia’s Rostech cooperates with UAE strategic developer to produce new light helicopters
Last year, the government included hydrogen energy in Russia’s energy strategy. According to the document, the country is planning to export 200,000 tons of hydrogen by 2024, and to increase supplies to two million tons by 2035.

Exports of Russian hydrogen to Japan are currently under the control of Russian state-run corporation Rosatom. In September 2019, Rusatom Overseas, the company’s subsidiary, and Japan’s Agency for Natural Resources and Energy, signed an agreement to export hydrogen from Russia to Japan.

For more stories on economy & finance visit RT’s business section

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