The Mid-Autumn Festival-GBA gala cheers nation as it emphasizes positive energy, enhances regional cohesion

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Photo: A screenshot from Sina Weibo

Photo: A screenshot from Sina Weibo

The Mid-Autumn Festival holidays, which ended on Tuesday this year, have witnessed a tendency that this traditional Chinese festival was celebrated by galas that focused on sending out positive energy and inviting competent singers, rather than wasting money on idols in a bid for ratings.

One of the most-anticipated galas was the Mid-Autumn Festival Concert in the Greater Bay Area (GBA) 2021, jointly held by the Bauhinia Culture Holdings Limited and China Central Television in Shenzhen,South China’s Guangdong Province,on Tuesday night.

Featuring some 200 top singers from the Chinese mainland, the island of Taiwan and the Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions, such as Jackie Chan, Wang Fei and TFBOYS, the gala was anticipated by many Chinese audience as a rare gathering of top musicians from across the country, given the tough period of the COVID-19 epidemic.

“In my eyes, apart from showing the development of the GBA, the highlight of the gala was the gathering of stars from the mainland, Taiwan island, Hong Kong and Macao. Among those, I most looked forward to their chorus of the songs Pearl of the Orient and Country,” Lin Yumei, 26, a lawyer from Fuzhou, East China’s Fujian Province, told the Global Times.

On July 1, 1997, Hong Kong officially returned to the motherland. That night, Hong Kong hosted its largest-ever “TV karaoke,” with millions of Hong Kong residents singing along to Pearl of the Orient while it played simultaneously on TV.

“Although I was only 2 years old at the time and don’t have many memories of the momentous occasion, I grew up listening to my parents and teachers describe the exhilaration of that time. Today I can finally enjoy and witness a great cast perform this significant song once again,” she added.

Lin noted that Country is a song dedicated to the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, and the original intention of the creation was to reflect on the fate of China and its people standing together after the earthquake, snow disaster and hosting of the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008.

“These songs with strong positive energy, and performed by representative stars from all over the country, are bound to resonate with the feelings of family and country, and the homesickness of our compatriots in different places,” Lin said.

The gala was held as some in Hong Kong were being reported to have helped incite violence in the 2019 anti-extradition bill movement in the city, such as Anthony Wong Yiu-ming.

It also followed recent controversies involving some Taiwan entertainers, for example female host Dee Hsu and singer Jolin Tsai, over their political stances.

It was viewed as a great opportunity to enhance cohesion and convey patriotism amid the controversies.

Five middle-aged entertainers who recently rebranded themselves as the boy band GBA on the latest episode of the variety show Call Me by Fire, were also scheduled to attend the gala.

The five members of GBA, which include 54-year-old Jordan Chan and 49-year-old Julian Cheung, aroused Chinese netizens’ nostalgia for the heydays of the Hong Kong entertainment industry.

Besides the GBA gala, galas held by the Henan provincial TV station and the Bilibili website also attracted much attention.

While galas held by Chinese online platforms and TV stations used to be luxury events that involved heavy spending for popular idols to ensure high audience ratings, these galas focused on restoring traditional Chinese programs and scenes of how people celebrated the festival in ancient times.

Under the “Clear and Bright” campaign led by the relevant departments, those in the Chinese entertainment industry who received invitations to perform at the Mid-Autumn Festival Gala this year were mainly powerful singers and actors with representative works.

There were fewer idols with huge fan bases, and the concept behind the galas was also more exquisite, no longer simply competing with the popularity of the artists, but emphasizing themes and presentation, a senior entertainment industry insider surnamed Sun told the Global Times on Tuesday.

Sun noted that this year’s show also brought more attention to truly talented but relatively unknown artists, and allowed the audiences to enjoy a higher level of performance.

“The performance of the galas highlighted family sentiment and traditional Chinese culture. There was less controversy among netizens on social platforms, and the discussion of the Mid-Autumn Festival Galas was more focused on the festival and the performances.

“This is a pleasing phenomenon for the entire entertainment industry,” Sun said.

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China successfully launches Tianzhou-3 for second space station supply mission; to support upcoming six-month Shenzhou-13 manned mission

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Photo:Hu Xujie

Photo:Hu Xujie

Knock knock. This is your delivery-man Tianzhou-3, and please confirm your package receipt and may you have a happy Mid-Autumn Festival!

Carrying the Tianzhou-3 cargo spacecraft, the Long March-7 Y4 rocket lifted off from Wenchang Space Launch Center located in South China’s Hainan Province on Monday afternoon, one day ahead of this year’s Mid-Autumn Festival – one of the happiest family reunion holidays for the Chinese people.

The lift-off gave the nearby forest of palm trees quite a shake in the Hainan tropical haze, the same way it excited many who came to witness the historic moment at the Wenchang beach on Monday afternoon.

As the fourth of 11 missions scheduled to build China’s three-module space station, Tianzhou-3 mission came shortly after the historic Shenzhou-12 mission in which three taikonauts spent a record 90 days in the China’s space station core module and safely returned to Earth on Friday.

After a flight time of around 597 seconds, the spacecraft separated with the rocket and entered preset orbit. At 3:22 pm, the solar panels onboard the spacecraft smoothly unfolded, with all functions in normal operating condition, marking the success of the third launch of a spaceship to the space station core cabin, according to the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA.)

The Monday mission is tasked to bring supplies, equipment and propellant to get Tianhe ready for the next three-taikonaut Shenzhou-13 mission in October for their six-month stay. It is the Tianzhou spacecraft series second supply delivery run to the orbiting Tianhe module following a first by the Tianzhou-2 mission launched on May 29.

Although the launch of Tianzhou-2 by Long March-7 Y3 rocket was a successful one, it experienced two delays and met problems of leaking of injected fuels.

The Tianzhou-2 cargo spacecraft was originally slated to be launched at around 1:30 am on May 20 and to head to China’s Tianhe space station core cabin, which was launched into orbit on April 29, for a supply run. However, the launch was scrubbed narrowly following an announcement from CMSA on the early morning of May 20 for “technical reasons.”

Research teams were dispatched immediately to check system functions, while the command center prepared for an attempt to recover the mission, which had been set to a day later in the early morning of May 21. However, after liquid oxygen was refueled eight hours before the scheduled launch time, abnormal signals once again occurred.

Drawing lessons from the previous launch, the Long March-7 rocket developer with the China Academy of Launch Vehicles have further optimized the quality examination process before and after the lift-off and make detailed emergency plans. This is to ensure the launch mission is on time with zero errors, the academy told the Global Times on Friday.

Photo:Deng Xiaoci/Global Times

Photo:Deng Xiaoci/Global Times

To sustain Taikonauts’ longer stay in space

Global Times learned from the mission insiders that Tianzhou-3 mission will lay ground for the upcoming October Shenzhou-13 mission, just the way Tianzhou-2 mission prepared for the epic Shenzohu-12 manned spaceflight mission. The October mission is expected to last six months, renewing the record of the longest stay in space for a Chinese astronaut in a single mission.

The spacecraft developer China Academy of Space Technology (CAST) told the Global Times in a statement that just like the Tianzhou-2, Tianzhou-3 will carry a range of goods including daily necessities, drinking water, gas supplies, consumables for extravehicular activities [spacewalk,] as well as experiment payloads.

Yang Sheng, Chief designer of the Tianzhou-3 spacecraft system, told the Global Times that “As Tianzhou-3 mission will sustain taikonauts’ 6-month-long stay in space, the density of cargo is greater on Tianzhou-3 than on Tianzhou-2, and Tianzhou-3’s loading capability is also higher than that of Tianzhou-2. The number of packages onboard Tianzhou-3 is 25 percent more than on Tianzhou-2.”

There were 6.8 tons of supplies onboard the Tianzhou-2, including some 160 parcels of goods and two tons of propellants, CAST told the Global Times previously.

One of the most expensive items to be onboard the Tianzhou-3 would be one piece of spacesuit specially designed for spacewalk missions that weighs some 90 kilograms, the CAST highlighted in the Friday statement. Tianzhou-2 had sent two pieces of spacesuits for Taikonauts’ spacewalk with each weighing some 100 kilograms.

Also, onboard Tianzhou-3 is the replacement parts of the urine treatment system to ensure the device is in the best condition for the Shenzhou-13 crew, Global Times learned from the system developer 206 Research Institute of the Second Academy of the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp (CASIC).

“The system has processed some 600 liters of urine into over 500 liters of water which was used to generate oxygen and for clean-up purpose during the Shenzhou-12 crew’s three-month stay. Shenzhou-13 crew will install those parts when moving into the China’s space station core module,” Cui Guangzhi, the project leader, told the Global Times.

The Tianzhou-3 cargo spacecraft is expected to also execute a fast and automatic rendezvous and docking with the Tianhe core module, just like the Tianzhou-2 spacecraft did in May, which took some eight hours after lift-off,according to Deng Kaiwen, assistant of the Tianzhou-3 cargo spacecraft’s chief commander from the spacecraft developer

Compared to the Tianzhou-1’s rendezvous and docking with Tiangong-2 in 2017, which took about two days, Tianzhou-2 took a mere eight hours to achieve the feat in May.

Tianzhou-3 will dock to the Tianhe module from the rear. Before such development, CMSA updated on Saturday, Tianzhou-2 had flown around Tianhe and conducted an automatic docking to the craft’s front, which took four hours.

Shenzhou-13 will later rendezvous with the Tianhe module and conduct a R-Bar or vertical docking with the orbiting craft, which Shenzhou-12 had practiced on Friday before heading back to Earth. 

 Graphic: Wu Tiantong/GT

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AUKUS plans to provide nuclear submarines to Australia seriously endangers nuclear non-proliferation

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The world needs to prepare for the arrival of the coming nuclear submarine craze

 The Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine USS Tennessee returns to Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Georgia, U.S., Feb. 6, 2013. (Xinhua/REUTERS) 
The Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine USS Tennessee returns to Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Georgia, U.S., Feb. 6, 2013. (Xinhua/REUTERS

The US, UK, and Australia have announced the establishment of a security alliance known as AUKUS. One of the key elements of this military alliance is that Washington and London will help Canberra develop nuclear-powered submarines.

It is an act by the US and UK, two nuclear-weapon states, to secretly support and provide carriers of weapons of mass destruction, nuclear technology, and nuclear materials to Australia, a non-nuclear-weapon state, within the Anglosphere. But the move apparently runs counter to the objectives and core obligations set by the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).

First, the AUKUS move will lead to the proliferation of carriers of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the world. Although the nuclear-powered submarine is not a type of nuclear weapon itself, it still has the potential to carry nuclear weapons. It also belongs to an important platform for carrying WMD.

There are only six countries in the world that have nuclear submarines, including China, the US, Russia, the UK, France, and India, all of which possess nuclear weapons as well. It is clear that nuclear-powered submarines and nuclear weapons are inextricably linked with each other.b

Second, AUKUS will spread fissionable material that could be used to make nuclear weapons. The second paragraph of Article III of the NPT states that each member party to the Treaty undertakes not to provide special fissionable material to any non-nuclear-weapon state unless subject to various safeguards.

The International Atomic Energy Agency has no authority to supervise nuclear materials for submarines because of their military implications, which has objectively created conditions for Australia to make nuclear weapons. In history, Australia once planned to build up its own nuclear arsenal, while the UK conducted its first nuclear test in Australia in 1952.

Third, the partnership between the UK, the US and Australia may lead to the proliferation of uranium enrichment technology.

Washington and London’s nuclear-powered submarines run on highly enriched uranium, while Canberra is rich in uranium deposits. If the US and the UK transfer the uranium-enriching technology to Australia to help it become self-sufficient in nuclear fuel, it would be no better than the international nuclear black market reported by the media in the early 2000s.

Fourth, the AUKUS move will negatively impact the international nuclear non-proliferation regime. Since Australia can openly acquire nuclear materials by developing nuclear-powered submarines, other non-nuclear-weapon states may follow suit, resulting in the endless risks of nuclear proliferation on our living planet. Therefore, James Acton, co-director of the nuclear policy program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, called the recent action of the three countries “a terrible precedent.”

And, finally, the trilateral security partnership is almost certain to trigger a regional arms race.

Canberra’s peace record in the Indo-Pacific region is not unblemished. There were Australian troops participating in unjust wars in countries such as Korea, Vietnam, and Afghanistan. Thus, Australia’s enhanced underwater attack capability is no good news for its neighbors that may be forced into a vicious circle of the arms race to protect their own national security.

Looking at the latest changes in nuclear policies of the US and the UK, it is needless to say that what these countries have done has disappointed the world. US President Joe Biden once campaigned in his election campaign to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in the US security policy. However, less than eight months after entering the White House, he is eating his campaign pledge.

The same is also true with the UK. In March this year, the country adjusted its nuclear strategy drastically and took a significant step backward in its nuclear arms control. It not only increased its nuclear weapon stockpile cap from 180 to 260 warheads, but moved to lowered the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons.

Peace, development, and nuclear non-proliferation are what most countries in the world yearn for. The actions of the US, the UK, and Australia to challenge the bottom line of nuclear non-proliferation, won’t bode well for our living world.

The author is director of Arms Control Studies Center, China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.

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Renovating democracy and the China challenge

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To break out of its paralysis, the West needs to take a hard look and address three key challenges


The rise of the populist variant in the West and the rapid ascent of China in the East have prompted a rethinking of how democratic systems work – or don’t. The creation of new classes of winners and losers as a consequence of globalisation and digital capitalism is also challenging how we think about the social contract and how wealth is shared. –  Nathan Gardels and Nicolas Berggruen


Police officers watch as protesters take part in a rally against Covid-19 vaccine mandates, in Santa Monica, California, on Aug 29, 2021.PHOTO: AFP


Rethinking Democracy, the Social Contract, and Globalization 



The rise of populism in the West, the rise of China in the East and the spread of peer-driven social media everywhere have stirred a rethinking of how democratic systems work—or don’t. The creation of new classes of winners and losers as a result of globalization and digital capitalism is also challenging how we think about the social contract and how wealth is shared.

The worst fear of America’s Founders—that democracy would empower demagogues—was realized in the 2016 US presidential election, when the ballot box unleashed some of the darkest forces in the body politic. Similarly, in Europe an anti-establishment political awakening of both populism and right-wing neonationalism is consigning the mainstream centrist political parties that once dominated the post–World War II political order to the margins.

Donald Trump’s election and the populist surge in Europe did not cause this crisis of governance. They are symptoms of the decay of democratic institutions across the West that, captured by the organized special interests of an insider establishment have failed to address the dislocations of globalization and the disruptions of rapid technological change. To add danger to decay, the fevered partisans of populism are throwing out the baby with the bathwater, assaulting the very integrity of institutional checks and balances that guarantee the enduring survival of republics. The revolt against a moribund political class has transmuted into a revolt against governance itself.

Because neither the stakeholders of the waning status quo nor the upstarts of populism have offered any effective, systemic solutions to what ails the West, protracted polarization and paralysis have set in. 

The Paradoxes of Governance in the Digital Age

These trials of the West are bound up with, and to a significant extent driven by, two related developments: the growing fragmentation of mass society into diverse tribes fortified by the participatory power of social media, and the advent of digital capitalism, which is divorcing productivity and wealth creation from employment and income.

We argue that these shifts present twin paradoxical challenges for governance.

First, the paradox of democracy in the age of peer-driven social networks is that, because there is more participation than ever before, never has the need been greater for countervailing practices and institutions to impartially establish facts, deliberate wise choices, mediate fair trade-offs, and forge consensus that can sustain long-term implementation of policies. Despite expectations that the Internet Age would create an informed public more capable of self-government than ever before in history, fake news, hate speech, and “alternative facts” have seriously degraded the civic discourse.

Second, the paradox of the political economy in the age of digital capitalism is that the more dynamic a perpetually innovating knowledge-driven economy is, the more robust a redefined safety net and opportunity web must be to cope with the steady disruption and gaps in wealth and power that will result.

To meet these challenges, we propose a novel approach to renovating democratic institutions that integrates new forms of direct participation into present practices of representative government while restoring to popular sovereignty the kind of deliberative ballast the American Founding Fathers thought so crucial to avoiding the suicide of republics. We further propose ways to spread wealth and opportunity fairly in a future in which intelligent machines are on track to displace labor, depress wages, and transform the nature of work to an unprecedented degree.

Where China Comes In


When populists rail against globalization that has undermined their standard of living through trade agreements, they mostly have China in mind. Few reflect that China was able to take maximum advantage of the post–Cold War US-led world order that promoted open trade and free markets precisely because of its consensus-driven and long-term-oriented one-party political system. China has shown the path to prosperity is not incompatible with authoritarian rule.

In this sense, China’s tenacious rise over the past three decades holds up a harsh mirror to an increasingly dysfunctional West. The current US president, who rode an anti-globalization wave to power, relishes battling his way through every twenty-four-hour news cycle by firing off barbed tweets at sundry foes. By contrast, China’s near-dictatorial leader has used his amassed clout to lay out a roadmap for the next thirty years.

If the price of political freedom is division and polarization, it comes at a steep opportunity cost. As the West—including Europe, riven now by populist and separatist movements—stalls in internal acrimony, China is boldly striding ahead. It has proactively set its sights on conquering the latest artificial intelligence technology, reviving the ancient Silk Road as “the next phase of globalization,” taking the lead on climate change, and shaping the next world order in its image. If the West does not hear this wake-up call loud and clear, it is destined to somnambulate into second-class status on the world stage.

This is not, of course, to suggest in any way that the West turn toward autocracy and authoritarianism. Rather, it is to say that unless democracies look beyond the short-term horizon of the next election cycle and find ways to reach a governing consensus, they will be left in the dust by the oncoming future. If the discourse continues to deteriorate into a contest over who dominates the viral memes of the moment, and if democracy comes to mean sanctifying the splintering of society into a plethora of special interests, partisan tribes, and endless acronymic identities instead of seeking common ground, there is little hope of competing successfully with a unified juggernaut like China. Waiting for China to stumble is a foolish fallback.

Unlike the Soviet Union at the time of the Sputnik challenge in the late 1950s and early 1960s, China today possesses an economic and technological prowess the Soviet Union never remotely approached. Whether in conflict or cooperation, China will be a large presence in our future.

It is in that context that we examine the strengths and weakness of China’s system as a spur to thinking through our own challenges. To turn the old Chinese saying toward ourselves, “The stones from hills yonder can polish jade at home.”

Taking Back Control


To set the frame for rethinking democracy and the political economy, we argue that the anxiety behind the populist reaction is rooted in the uncertainties posed by the great transformations under way, from the intrusions of globalization on how sovereign communities govern their affairs, to such rapid advances in technology as social media and robotics, to the increasingly multicultural composition of all societies. Change is so enormous that individuals and communities alike feel they are drowning in the swell of seemingly anonymous forces and want to “take back control” of their lives at a scale and stride they can manage. They crave the dignity of living in a society in which their identity matters and that attends to their concerns. Effectively aligning political practices and institutions so as to confront these challenges head-on will make the difference between a world falling apart and a world coming together.

Critics of globalization argue that nation-states and communities must retrieve the capacity to make decisions that reflect their way of life and maintain the integrity of their norms and institutions, decisions the maligned cosmopolitan caste has handed over to distant trade tribunals or other global institutions managed by strangers. Those decisions, they rightly say, ought to be made through “democratic deliberation” by sovereign peoples. Yet that neat logic ignores the reality of decay and dysfunction we have already noted. Therefore, “taking back control” must, first and foremost, mean renovating democratic practices and institutions themselves.

The Politics of Renovation


The most responsible course of change in modern societies is renovation.

Renovation is the point of equilibrium between creation and destruction, whereby what is valuable is saved and what is outmoded or dysfunctional is discarded. It entails a long march through society’s institutions at a pace of change our incremental natures can absorb. Renovation shepherds the new into the old, buffering the damage of dislocation that at first outweighs longer-term benefits. In the new age of perpetual disruption, renovation is the constant of governance. Its aim is transition through evolutionary stability, within societies and in relations among nation-states and global networks.

In this book, we propose three ways to think about how to renovate democracy, the social contract, and global interconnectivity in order to take back control:

  • Empowering participation without populism by integrating social networks and direct democracy into the system through the establishment of new mediating institutions that complement representative government


  • Reconfiguring the social contract to protect workers instead of jobs while spreading the wealth of digital capitalism by providing all citizens not only with the skills of the future but also with an equity share in “owning the robots.” We call this universal basic capital. The aim here is to enhance the skills and asserts of the less well-off in the first place – predistribution – as a complement to redistribution of wealth for public higher education or other public goods. The best way to fight inequality in the digital age is to spread the equity around.


  • Harnessing globalization through “positive nationalism,” which means an allegiance to the values of an inclusive society instead of nationalistic incantation, albeit tempered by an understanding that open societies need defined borders. It also means dialing back the hyper-globalization of “one size fits all” global trade agreements to leave room for industrial policies that compensate for the dislocations of integrated global markets. To temper the deepening rivalry, even economic decoupling underway between the US and China, we call for a “partnership of rivals” on climate action. If there is not some area of common intents, all else will dwell in the shadow of distrust and lead to a new Cold War, the breakup of the world into geopolitical blocs and worse.


These proposals, of course, do not exhaust the answers to the panoply of daunting challenges we have raised. But they do suggest ways we might think about how to change present social and political arrangements for addressing those challenges. We do not insist that we are somehow the font of all wisdom but regard our endeavor as a point of departure that deepens and expands the debate. Without concrete propositions to criticize and amend, the discourse about change is only an airy exchange that fails to move the needle.

  Nicolas Berggruen and Nathan Gardels are the founders of the Berggruen Institute and the authors of Intelligent Governance for the 21st Century: A Middle Way between West and East (2012). Their latest work, Renovating Democracy: Governing in the Age of Globalization and Digital Capitalism (2019), is the first in a Berggruen Institute series on the “Great Transformations” published by the University of California Press (UC

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RM500mil Grant to revive SMEs to be given out from Sept 21, ensure no delays in aid rollout to B40, says PM

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Help at hand: The Prime Minister joins in via video conferencing as Tengku Zafrul (second from right) witnesses the first day of BKC payments to recipients at the BSN Putrajaya branch. — Bernama


PETALING JAYA: The government will channel RM500mil of assistance to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) through the Prihatin Special Grant (GKP) 4.0 beginning Sept 21, says Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob.

“With this aid, it is hoped that small businesses such as food stalls, barbers, workshops and cake shops will be able to reduce their burden and help in their cash flow,” he said.

Each payment of RM500 will be given out in September and November.

Ismail Sabri said the aid will be channelled directly into the bank accounts registered with the GKP system and that the status of the GKP 4.0 can be checked at

The Prime Minister said the grant, which is a component of the Economic Recovery Package (Pemulih), will benefit more than one million recipients.

In a statement yesterday, he said the aid would be transferred directly into bank accounts registered with the GKP system.

The status of the GKP 4.0 can be checked at

So far, he said RM6.08bil had been channelled to SMEs under the GKP since the pandemic began.

“I hope this aid will be able to revive the SME sector, which is the engine of economic growth for the Malaysian family.”

The government, he said, would give priority to industry players who were among those most affected during the pandemic.

Meanwhile, Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz said the status of those who applied and then appealed for the Bantuan Prihatin Rakyat (BPR) can be checked at starting today.

This will involve almost 200,000 BPR recipients with an estimated allocation of RM240mil, said Tengku Zafrul, adding that the payments would be credited at the end of this month into accounts registered with the BPR.

The payments, he said, would be credited into bank accounts registered during the BPR appeals at the end of this month, together with the recipients of the third phase of the BPR.

He said in a statement the payout would also be given to recipients of the third phase of the BPR.

Tengku Zafrul said the government had updated the data of the B40 group eligible to receive the BPR after their appeals were submitted from June 15 to June 30.

The appeals were verified by the Inland Revenue Board to ensure that the aid would benefit those who qualified for it.

“The government hopes that this cash assistance totalling RM17.1bil until the end of the year can assist Malaysian families in managing their expenses,” he said.



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Govt to channel RM500mil aid to SMEs from Sept 21, says PM  


SMEs in dire need of assistance | The Star

 PM: Ensure no delays in aid rollout 

More assistance coming after BKC next month, says Ismail Sabri

Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob. – Bernama filepic


PUTRAJAYA: The Special Covid-19 Aid (BKC) cash vouchers prepared by the Finance Ministry must reach the recipients without any delay, says Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob.

Having witnessed the Phase One payments of the BKC being credited into the accounts of 10 million recipients from yesterday, the Prime Minister also urged the ministry to ensure the smooth running of the BKC payments, especially for recipients residing in rural areas with limited banking access or those without bank accounts.

Data from the ministry shows there are 708,223 eligible BKC recipients who do not have bank accounts.

Ismail Sabri also said the government would be channelling more assistance to the people starting next month.

In a video conference from his residence in Petaling Jaya with Bank Simpanan Nasional (BSN) staffers to check on the BKC payment process, Ismail Sabri said BKC was among the assistance given to help ease the burden of the people affected by Covid-19.

“Hopefully, nothing untoward happens that can cause delays and so on,” he said.

Ismail Sabri, who initiated the video conference call because he is still undergoing self-quarantine, also advised BSN staffers to ensure BKC recipients who come to collect the aid complied with standard operating procedure (SOP) to prevent Covid-19 transmission.

Joining the video conference call were Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz, who was at BSN Putrajaya here, and Deputy Finance Minister Mohd Shahar Abdullah, who was at the BSN branch in Bera, Pahang.

“Hopefully, what the government is giving today (yesterday) – although not much – can at least help reduce the people’s burden,” said Ismail Sabri, who also referred to information from Tengku Zafrul that more assistance was forthcoming for the people.

On Sept 1, Ismail Sabri announced that the BKC would be paid in stages with Phase One payments being credited from Sept 6 to 10.

Funds amounting to RM3.1bil have already been channelled to the relevant banking institutions for BKC payments.

The BKC is paid out to assist the hardcore poor, B40 households with total monthly income of RM5,000 and below and senior citizens as well as singles with a monthly income of RM2,500 and below, based on the eligibility criteria under the Bantuan Prihatin Rakyat (BPR 2021) aid package.

Those in the M40 group who report income tax with a total household income of RM5,001 to RM9,000 and RM2,501 to RM5,000 for singles are also eligible to receive BKC.

Under the BKC, hardcore poor category households will receive RM1,300; eligible senior citizens and singles (RM500).

For the B40 category, households will receive RM800, eligible senior citizens and singles (RM200); while in the M40 category, households will receive RM250 and qualified senior citizens and singles (RM100).

Details on the BKC, including payment status, can be viewed at, Tengku Zafrul said the government would distribute various forms of assistance that have been planned until the end of this year.

Among the assistance that will be distributed is Bantuan Prihatin Rakyat phase three amounting to RM2.32bil, which will be channelled at the end of this month, and assistance for the loss of income in October.

In a post on his official Facebook page, Ismail Sabri said he had the opportunity to virtually review the Phase One payment process of BKC which would be implemented in stages through selected financial institutions involving the RM3.1bil allocation.

He also said that he was informed that the Finance Ministry would facilitate distribution to the rural community by paying cash to BKC recipients who did not have bank accounts.

“I hope this assistance can alleviate the burden of the ‘Malaysian Family’ affected by the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said. — Bernama

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Taikonauts’ mission accomplished, safely back on earth from Chinese home in space

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Safety prioritized, inclusiveness stressed in China’s manned space missions 




Having extended the record of Chinese Taikonauts’ longest stay in space in a single flight mission to 90 days, the Shenzhou-12 mission crew returned to Earth at the designated Dongfeng landing site in the Gobi Desert, North China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region on Friday, marking a successful conclusion of the first crewed mission at the country’s space station building stage.

The Shenzhou-12 return module has separated from the orbiting module at 12:43 pm on Friday, and was then followed by a smooth separation from the propellant, according to the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA).

Carrying the three taikonauts – mission commander Nie Haisheng, and his fellow crew members Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo – the return capsule touched down at the landing site as of 1:34 pm.


The homecoming heroes did not have to wait too long before the search and rescue squad with the Dongfeng landing site reached them after their landing.

They were confirmed in good condition after they touched down safely at the Dongfeng landing site.

The whole process was so smooth that Tang Hongbo was seen playing with a pen during the process of returning Earth.

“Real gold fears no fire,” Nie Haisheng joked with his fellow crew, citing a Chinese proverb as they re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere.

It also marked the first time the Dongfeng site has received a returning Shenzhou mission, taking the place of the Siziwang Banner site, the traditional go-to landing site for China’s manned space flights.

Photo:Deng Xiaoci/GT
Photo:Deng Xiaoci/GT

The choice of landing site was based on a number of factors, including climate, topography, returning options, and rescue and search equipment, Pang Zhihao, a Beijing-based space expert and retired researcher from the China Academy of Space Technology, told the Global Times on Friday.

This return was more difficult than previous missions, Pang noted, as the previous ones all had fixed returning points in orbit, while that of Shenzhou-12, which was attached to the space station, had a changing orbital altitude. What’s more, Shenzhou-12 was to return to a different spot from previous times in order to test the search and rescue capabilities of the Dongfeng landing site.

The site is partly surrounded by desert, with a dry desert climate and little rainfall. “As there are mountains and pitted terrain in the area, the search and rescue work was much more challenging,” Pang noted.

The safe landing of the return capsule also marked the successful completion of the Shenzhou-12 mission.

“Shenzhou-12 has demonstrated China’s capability to perform prolonged human spaceflight missions, including lengthy and challenging operations like extravehicular activities and providing necessary ground support,” Andrew Jones, a Finland-based correspondent for and who closely follows China’s space industry, told the Global Times.

Photo:Deng Xiaoci/GT
Photo:Deng Xiaoci/GT

Upcoming missions

China will carry out two more space launches for the building of its own space station this year – the Tianzhou-3 cargo spacecraft via a Long March-7 carrier rocket from Wenchang spaceport in Hainan and another manned flight on a Shenzhou-13 spacecraft via a Long March-2F rocket from Jiuquan center.

An official update by the CMSA on Thursday said that the combo of Tianzhou-3 and Long March 7 Y4 rocket has rolled out to the launch pad in Wenchang and will take off at a suitable time. The Tianzhou-3 mission will be the second supply shipping mission to the Tianhe core module following the first by the Tianzhou-2 on May 29.

Following the Tianzhou-3 mission, the Shenzhou-13 manned spacecraft is expected to send another crew of three taikonauts to China’s space station complex, which may include the first female taikonaut in the space station building stage. They will live and work in orbit for an even longer stay of six months.

Wang Yaping, who beamed down live from space to 330 elementary and middle school students in Beijing when she was in space onboard the nation’s Tiangong-1 space lab module in 2013 and served as the back-up astronaut for the Shenzhou-12 crew, is widely believed to be among the most likely candidates for the mission.

According to mission insiders, the Shenzhou-13 manned space mission will also conduct an R-Bar, also known as vertical docking, with the space station complex, a first at the space station building stage.

Yao Yuanfu, the chief designer of the rendezvous and docking microwave radar system onboard the Shenzhou-13 spacecraft, told the Global Times in an exclusive interview that the spacecraft will face a much more complicated electromagnetic environment than the Shenzhou-12 in its docking mission, as by then the space station complex will have more spacecraft docked than it did before Shenzhou-12’s docking and the new docking direction adds to the complexity of the mission.

The institute’s radar project has participated in China’s heavyweight space programs such as the Chang’e lunar probe as well as Tianwen-1 Mars exploration, and the success of the missions have been a source of confidence for Yao and his team for the Shenzhou-13’s successful docking down the road.

The Shenzhou-12 spacecraft also pulled off a vertical docking experiment shortly after separating from the Tianhe core module on Thursday to verify the capability.

Although there has been no official announcement, Shenzhou-13 is expected to be launched in a few weeks given that the Tianhe core cabin cannot be left unattended for a long time, observers noted.

Open, inclusive

Space agencies around the world have put more faith in China becoming a strong space power and they hope to collaborate with China on the space station in terms of manned spaceflights and scientific experimental loads, as the space station may be the only operational one in orbit if the International Space Station (ISS) retires after 2024.

“The construction of the space station is a complex and intensive project. Its completion would be a demonstration of China’s ability to execute complex, long-term space projects. It will also bring opportunities for science and international collaboration,” Jones commented, “while also posing challenges to some space agencies in terms of determining their priorities and resources for space activities.”

China has been engaged in exchange and cooperation with international space agencies including Russia’s Roscosmos and the European Space Agency (ESA), which played a positive role in the construction of China’s space station. “We are willing to work with any space institutes that are peace-loving and devoted to the peaceful use of space,” said Hao Chun, director of the China Manned Space Agency.

Hao also disclosed that “there will be foreign astronauts participating in China’s manned space flights, and working and staying in China’s space station.”

“Many of them have been learning Chinese for this purpose. And China will carry out work to select foreign astronauts for joint flight missions as our construction of the space station proceeds,” he said.

Compared to the US-dominated ISS, which has been more of a party of powers, China’s space station will be more inclusive in getting developing countries involved, and will provide a platform for anyone on the basis of equality, win-win cooperation and mutual respect, space observers noted.

The first batch of a total of nine international scientific experiments from 17 countries and 23 research bodies have been selected to be carried onboard China’s space station, which is expected to be operational by 2022. The first batch includes Gamma-ray burst polarimetry jointly proposed by Switzerland, Poland, Germany and China and a spectroscopic investigation of nebular gas by India and Russia.



 Mission review of Taikonauts' 3-month space life Graphic: Wu Tiantong/GT

Mission review of Taikonauts’ 3-month space life Graphic: Wu Tiantong/GT

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Doctor’s orders: Take a hike, you’ll feel better

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Bukit Jambul, Penang



 While more doctors are looking at using time outside as a medical strategy, park prescription programmes face issues of access. Photo: Unsplash/Jon Flobrant 

 When Annette Coen went for a health check-up last summer in Washington state, she and her doctor discussed concerns around her weight and asthma. Then her doctor offered a novel prescription: regular hikes in the woods.

He gave Coen a one-year pass to Washington’s state park system and told her to “go for walks, go camping, do what you need to do,” Coen, now 53, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

A year on, she said the park prescription was a “great experience” for her and her whole family. “I have lost 13.6 kg since April this year… just being out and about,” she said.

With the Covid-19 pandemic highlighting the health benefits of spending more time outdoors, a growing faction of the US medical community is prescribing time outside the same way they would traditional medication.

The idea of writing out park or nature prescriptions has taken hold particularly among pediatricians.

“It all came together” during the pandemic, said Maya Moody, president-elect of the Missouri chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), pointing to spikes in childhood anxiety and pediatric obesity since the coronavirus outbreak started.

With lockdowns keeping children indoors, “we were seeing 30-, 50-, 60-pound weight gains,” said Moody, who attends to around 3,000 low-income children in the St. Louis area.

This April, she became one of about a dozen pediatricians across the state who have started offering nature prescriptions.

“When I give a prescription, it’s

specific, just like an antibiotic. They use it for this many days, and I say go to this park,” she explained.

Buy-in has differed with different age groups, Moody noted, with younger children and their parents being more open to the approach but teenagers expressing skepticism.

“Sixteen- and 17-year-olds look at me and say, ‘You want me to get off TikTok and get an actual tick in the woods?'” she said.

But Moody said the fact that doctors and health experts are now seriously looking at how something as simple as a walk in the park can help patients is exciting.

A spokesperson for the AAP said the group is forming a committee on the issue of nature prescriptions but declined to offer additional details.

Take a walk

Nature prescriptions are still new, so there is little data on their effectiveness, but one 2018 analysis by researchers from Britain’s University of East Anglia did find they “may have substantial benefits”.

There has been much more research done on the general benefits of being outdoors – in one example, starting next month, a study supported by the Welsh government will look at the benefits of treating hospital patients outside.

In more than 500 scientific studies in recent years, researchers have linked time spent in nature with decreased anxiety, reduced risk of obesity and even reduced overall mortality, said Maryland-based pediatrician Stacy Beller Stryer.

Stryer is also associate medical director with Park Rx America, an online platform that helps medical professionals write nature prescriptions.

Using its database of thousands of parks and public lands, prescribers can filter by activity, distance from a patient’s home and amenities such as playgrounds.

“Once (the patient) decides on where to go, the prescriber talks about what they should do – maybe walk a dog? And how often – maybe every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for 30 minutes?” she said.

Writing out an actual prescription for time in nature gives patients a useful extra push, said Brent A. Bauer, research director of integrative medicine and health at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.

“More than half of my patients who receive a ‘prescription’ for time in nature go ahead and do so successfully,” he said.

A census of park prescription programmes last year estimated that there were more than 100 nationwide.

The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy began a pilot programme in collaboration with the UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh in 2016, after a pediatric resident was leading patients in a weight management clinic, said Kathryn Hunninen, a senior manager with the conservancy.

“He wanted to encourage patients to get outside but didn’t know where to send them,” she said.

“This started with an inquiry from him to the parks system and has blossomed from there.”

In a 2018 survey, more than 80% of personnel at participating Pittsburgh clinics said they were frequently recommending that patients visit parks.

Last year, Salt Lake County in Utah offered park prescriptions to its employees “to improve or maintain physical and mental health while building sustainable health behaviors,” Sarah Kinnison, who oversaw the programme, said in an email.

That first year, 335 employees participated, and the county is running the program again this fall.

Financial stability

While more doctors are looking at using time outside as a medical strategy, park prescription programmes face issues of access.

In low-income neighborhoods, parks are four times smaller and more crowded on average than parks in high-income areas, said a study released last year by the Trust for Public Land, a nonprofit that analysed government data from 14,000 US towns and cities.

It also remains unclear how to keep the programmes financially sustainable. Currently they have to rely on ad hoc funding, often cobbled together from grants, philanthropy or as publicly funded pilot projects.

The costs involved are not particularly high, but they do exist, said Bradford S. Gentry, co-director of the Center for Business and the Environment at Yale University.

They could include the costs of park passes, the salaries of community health workers and park workers to coordinate and lead programmes, and transportation to and from the green space, he said.

“If there are all of these (health) benefits, how do we move from grant funding or public funding to health systems funding?” asked Gentry, who focuses on the intersection of health and land conservation. “I haven’t found an answer yet.”

The US Department of Health and Human Services did not respond to a request for comment.

Gentry pointed to Oregon, where work is underway to try to address the funding issue by requesting that certain federal rules be waived involving Medicaid, the US government’s health care programme for low-income people.

Every five years states have the opportunity to request such a waiver, if they can show it will result in better care and cost no extra money, said Lori Coyner, who was the state’s Medicaid director until July and is now senior Medicaid policy adviser at the Oregon Health Authority.

The state’s waiver request is due in December, when it plans to ask for more flexibility in how local organisations address health issues.

“We believe there is real opportunity to use some of these Medicaid dollars… to promote spending more time outdoors,” Coyner said. – Thomson Reuters Foundation

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A great Malaysian tragedy

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THIS is one article that I didn’t want to write. I put off writing it for two years. Writing 900 words about this subject was more painful than taking three years to write a 100,000-word thesis. I would do three more theses if I could avoid writing these next 900 words.

This article is about a tragedy that concerns us as a people and a nation. The tragedy should have sparked a national debate, but it was ignored despite being repeated four times.

What is this great tragedy, you might ask? Is it the May 13 race riots in 1969? Is it the Bukit Kepong incident in 1950? Is it the first riot in 1964 in Singapore before it left the federation? Is it the fall of a government? Or is it the dismal state of our institutions of education, justice and administration?

To me, all of these things combined fail to measure up to the tragedy I am about to describe.

Two years ago I happened to read a news article about an Indian-Malaysian family whose father killed all of his children. The report related how the mother died of cancer a few days before and the father, who was jobless and also in poor health, had become distraught. He ended up killing his 15-year-old son and three other children by strangling them all. After that horrifying deed, he hanged himself.

I could not sleep well for several days after reading about that, wondering why a father would kill his children. What drove him to do that? The police and other authorities dismissed it as the act of a crazy man. I did not think so.

Two weeks later, there was a report of another destitute Indian-Malaysian family whose parent, also suffering from an illness, killed the children. Again, the authorities dismissed it as “orang gila punya kerja” (a mad person’s act).

Several months later, I read of Chinese-Malaysian parents who poisoned their four little children and then themselves. At the last minute, an ambulance was called, but all the children died; the parents survived.

And just last week, a penniless father, whose race was not stated, smothered his three children after his wife died.

After each of these cases, our nation went on with business as usual. No professors from our 200 universities raised the issue. No religious clerics from any religion made it into a social and political issue. No NGO stood up and demonstrated or wrote press statements about the tragedies.

Was I the only one who cringed at the news of parents killing their children? Was I the only one to ask questions?

Firstly, why did these parents not seek help from other family members? All of us have wider family circles and if we begged several of them to care for one child each, surely they would respond? I have no issue whatsoever if adults decide to take their own lives, but I am aghast and crushed when children are killed just because one cannot figure out how to feed and care for them.

All children in this country – and the world – should be cared for and given a minimum chance to survive until they can make their own way. Is that not a social, political and spiritual right? What happened to the larger family system if parents think that it would burden other family members?

Then I asked the question: why did the parents not seek help from the leaders of their own race or religion? We have political leaders of all races and houses of worship worth millions. What is the purpose of religion and these splendid displays of architectural feats if parents had no faith that they could get help from going to a church, a mosque, a temple or a gurdwara to ask congregants to help their children?

If I were the parent, I would have taken them to the mosque and begged for help and asked to stay at the mosque. I would help sweep the floor of the mosque or scrub its toilets and then ask restaurants for leftovers so I could feed my children and myself. There is no shame in that. But, of course, I would ask for help from my own family and wife’s family first before going that far.

Finally, I asked: what should our government do for such families? Why did the four families not go to a zakat office or the Welfare Department for help? Why did they have no confidence in our institutions, orphanages and other forms of welfare? What are these zakat or welfare officers doing? Why are they not proactively walking the streets and looking under bridges for the homeless or talking to people in low-cost flats to see if there are families facing destitution?

I wish the four families had reached out to the media or someone for help instead of killing their children. What does it say about our nation when parents kill their children instead of trusting our institutions of race, institutions of religion and institutions of governance?

When I was in the United Kingdom, I was given a financial allowance for my four children. When I was in the United States, I was given food stamps when my daughter was born. I also remember watching a report on YouTube about 400,000 unemployed British youngsters given £250 (about RM1,400 at current rates) a month as a benefit back then.

I spent nine years overseas and I never read about parents killing their children because of poverty. What does it say about our country, our people and our faiths when four tragedies like these can happen – and that they raised not one iota of concern? We are, truly and sadly, a nation that is failing its most vulnerable people.


Prof Dr Mohd Tajuddin Mohd RasdiProf Dr Mohd Tajuddin Mohd Rasdi is Professor of Architecture at UCSI University. The views expressed here are entirely the writer’s own.

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Delta variant threatens Asean-5 recovery

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IN the first half of 2021, Asean-5 countries, comprising Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines experienced strong, export-driven growth. However, renewed lockdowns amid significant outbreaks of Covid-19 Delta variant cases have dampened business sentiment and consumer spending in this region.


According to the Institute of International Finance (IIF), recovery will likely slow markedly in the second half of 2021 for Asean5.

“Given the rising number of Covid-19 infections, renewed pandemic containment measures, and the slow pace of vaccinations, authorities in Asean-5 countries have been revising down official growth forecasts,” IIF said.

The IIF said it would likely cut its gross domestic product (GDP) growth forecast for region.

In May, it forecast a GDP growth of 5.2% for 2021 and 5.4% for 2022.

Against the backdrop of current economic challenges, the IIF said it expected Asean-5 central banks to maintain their accommodative monetary policy stances well into 2022.

“Most of the countries are still experiencing inflation within the respective target ranges, except for the Philippines,” the IIF said.

“Fiscal policy will also continue to be supportive. While Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam have announced fiscal consolidation plans, the pace of adjustment will be modest,” it added.

The IIF noted that due to their economic structure, Asean-5 countries benefitted strongly from the global demand recovery, with exports up sharply in the first half of 2021, particularly in the area of electronic appliances (Malaysia, the Philippines, and Thailand) and commodities (Indonesia and Vietnam).

“Looking ahead, the next stage of the global recovery will likely benefit services rather than goods and, thus, provide less of a boost to Asean-5 economies,” it said.

“Furthermore, the recovery in tourism in the five countries has been slower than our already-cautious forecast in the spring, with the Delta variant posing a new challenge to the sector,” it added

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Coronavirus: Singapore cases highest in over a year; South Korea plans to ‘live more normally’ with virus

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Singapore on Wednesday reported 347 new Covid-19 cases, the highest since August 2020, as the first vaccinated German tourists arrived

Singapore’s health ministry reported 347 new local Covid-19 cases, higher than the 328 cases reported the previous day.

Wednesday’s number was the highest since early August 2020.

This came as the first planeload of Germans allowed into Singapore as part of a tentative reopening for coronavirus-vaccinated tourists arrived at Changi Airport on Wednesday afternoon.

Singapore last month said it would accept double-jabbed visitors from Brunei and Germany, starting in September. While the travellers must test negative for the virus, they do not have to quarantine.

Among the passengers on Wednesday’s maiden flight were Germany-based journalists invited by Singapore Airlines (SIA) and the Singapore Tourism Board.

The flight took longer than usual due to it having to avoid Afghan airspace, according to German reporter Andreas Spaeth, who was on board.

After closing its border during the first pandemic wave last year, Singapore began readmitting tourists, with strict quarantine rules, from a handful of countries, including New Zealand, Vietnam and regions in Australia and China, after it ended its sole pandemic lockdown in June 2020. The list has been amended several times in response to fluctuating coronavirus case numbers in countries of origin.

So-called “reciprocal green lanes” for business or official travel between Singapore and several countries were also set up last year, but most have since been suspended, including one for Germany. Singaporeans were again permitted to enter Germany in October last year, after Berlin eased pandemic border curbs.

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South Korea aims to live normally with virus

     People sit at the Cheonggye Stream in Seoul. About 42.6 per cent of South Koreans are fully vaccinated. Photo: AP

People sit at the Cheonggye Stream in Seoul. About 42.6 per cent of South Koreans are fully vaccinated. Photo: AP


Elsewhere, South Korea plans to open up once it reaches its 80 per cent vaccination milestone, and Japan is expected to ease curbs in November

 Meanwhile, South Korea is drawing up a plan on how to live more normally with Covid-19, expecting 80 per cent of adults to be fully vaccinated by late October, health authorities said on Wednesday.


The country is in the middle of its worst wave of infections, but it has kept the number of severely ill cases under control through steadily rising vaccination rates.

“We’ll review measures that will allow us to live more normally, but any such switch will be implemented only when we achieve high vaccination rates and overall (Covid-19) situations stabilise,” Son Young-rae, a senior health ministry official, told a briefing.

The strategy will be implemented in phases to gradually ease restrictions, authorities said. Masks will still be required at least in the initial stage.

The government expects to implement the plan sometime after late October, when 80 per cent of the adult population is likely to have been vaccinated. As of Tuesday, South Korea had given at least one vaccine dose to 70.9 per cent of its adult population, while 42.6 per cent are fully vaccinated.

South Korea extended national social distancing curbs to October 3 this week as the country boosts its vaccination campaign ahead of a thanksgiving holiday that falls later this month. Restrictions in place include limited operating hours for cafes and restaurants and on the number of people allowed at social gatherings.

It reported 2,050 new Covid-19 cases for Tuesday, with 2,014 of those locally acquired. The country has registered 265,423 infections since the pandemic started, with 2,334 deaths.

The country has not seen a significant increase in coronavirus deaths, with a mortality rate of 0.88 per cent, largely due to high vaccination rates among the elderly and vulnerable. Severe or critical cases stood at 387 as of Tuesday.

 Worldwide total, from the most infected countries:  #1 USA,  

#2 INDIA,  #3 BRAZIL,  #4 UK,  #5 RUSSIA


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