US is now the new epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic with active cases over 85,505 patients!


 Coronavirus death toll, infections and recoveries 

WHO Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) -Get the latest information from the World Health Organization about coronavirus.

Donald Trump again struggled to reassure a fearful nation on Thursday as it emerged the US now has the highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the world. News that America had surpassed virus hotspots China and Italy with 82,404 cases of infection, according to a tracker run by Johns Hopkins University, broke as the president was holding a press conference at the White House.

His instinctive response was to question other countries’ statistics. “It’s a tribute to the amount of testing that we’re doing,” Trump told reporters. “We’re doing tremendous testing, and I’m sure you’re not able to tell what China is testing or not testing. I think that’s a little hard.”

Trump later spoke to the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, by telephone and had what he described on Twitter as a “very good conversation”. The two leaders discussed the coronavirus in “great detail”, adding that: “China has been through much & has developed a strong understanding of the Virus. We are working closely together. Much respect!”

 

 

Covid-19, Sri Petaling tabligh is the Epicentre in Malaysia


Covid-19 https://youtu.be/LBDAd1IZrc4

The hosts, the Islamic missionary movement Tablighi Jama’at, which traces its roots back to India a century ago, on Monday suspended missionary activities but did not comment directly on the Malaysian
event. – NSTP/ASWADI ALIAS.

Sri Petaling tabligh the epicentre of Malaysia’s second wave of Covid-19:

WORSHIPPERS slept in packed tents outside the golden-domed mosque, waking before dawn to kneel on rows of prayer mats laid out in its cavernous central hall. All the while, the coronavirus was passing unnoticed among the guests.

The gathering held at the end of last month at the sprawling Sri Petaling mosque complex on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur has emerged as a source of hundreds of new Covid-19 infections spanning South-East Asia.

It was attended by 16,000 people, including 1,500 foreigners.

While more than 10,000 of those who attended the event have been screened, the authorities are still trying to identify another 4,000 attendees, said Health Minister Adham Baba.

Out of Malaysia’s over 1,180 confirmed coronavirus cases as of Saturday, most of them were linked to the four-day meeting, he added. It is not clear who brought the virus there in the first place.

The hosts, the Islamic missionary movement Tablighi Jama’at, on Monday suspended missionary activities but did not comment directly on the event.

Malaysia has shut its borders, restricting internal movement and closing schools, universities and most businesses as it seeks to control the outbreak. All mosques have been closed for two weeks.

“I was actually very surprised that it went ahead,” said Surachet Wae-asae, a former Thai lawmaker who attended the event but has since tested negative for the coronavirus after returning home.

“But in Malaysia, God is very important. The belief is strong.”

The Prime Minister’s Office and the Health Ministry declined to comment further about the event.

The packed gathering, where guests had to take shuttle buses to sleep at other venues, was attended by nationals from dozens of countries, including Canada, Nigeria, India and Australia, according to an attendee list posted on social media. There were also citizens of China and South Korea – two countries with high rates of coronavirus infections.

“We sat close to each other,” a 30-year-old Cambodian man who attended the event told Reuters from a hospital in Cambodia’s Battambang province, where he was being treated after testing positive for Covid-19 recently.

“Holding hands at the religious ceremony was done with people from many countries. When I met people, I held hands, it was normal. I don’t know who I was infected by,” he said, asking not to be named due to fears of discrimination.

None of the event leaders talked about washing hands, the coronavirus or health precautions during the event, but most guests washed their hands regularly, two guests said. Washing hands, among other parts of the body, is part of the wuduk (ablution before prayers).

Another attendee from Cambodia said guests from different countries shared plates when meals were served.

That a large religious pilgrimage went ahead, at a time when the epidemic had killed 2,700 people and was spreading from Italy to Iran, has drawn criticism.

“That Tablighi event in KL … could also cause a regional spike and it was irresponsible of the authorities to have allowed it to be held,” Singapore diplomat Bilahari Kausikan said on his Facebook page.

At the time of the event, Malaysia was in political turmoil after the power struggle between former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and his successor-inwaiting Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim. The country had a one-man government in the 94-year-old interim prime minister, who had quit and was re-appointed on the same day. His resignation led to the dissolution of the former government.

Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin was sworn in as the new premier on March 1 and banned mass gatherings on March 13. Prior to that, there was only advice from the Health Ministry to minimise public exposure.

Some attendees defended the event, saying that at the time, the situation in Malaysia – which had 25 known cases by Feb 28 – was not yet severe.

“We were not worried then as the Covid-19 situation at the time appeared under control,” said Khuzaifah Kamazlan, a 34-year-old religious teacher based in Kuala Lumpur who attended the event but has tested negative for the coronavirus.

He said some worshippers who attended the event have since refused to be tested.

Karim, a 44-year-old Malaysian who attended the gathering and later tested positive for Covid-19, says the government should have cancelled the event.

“We are disappointed that this outbreak has been blamed on us. That view is unfair.

“There was no ban on our gathering,” said Karim, who gave only his first name.

“Now I am concerned because I am positive. Please pray for me.” — Reuters

How Sri Petaling tabligh became Southeast Asia’s Covid-19 hotspot

KUALA LUMPUR: Worshippers slept in packed tents outside the golden-domed mosque, waking before dawn to kneel on rows of prayer mats laid out in its cavernous central hall. All the while, the Covid-19 coronavirus was passing unnoticed among the guests.

The Muslim gathering held at the end of last month at the sprawling Sri Petaling mosque complex here has emerged as a source of hundreds of new coronavirus infections spanning Southeast Asia.

A 34-year-old Malaysian man who attended the event died on Tuesday, Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba said, the first death linked to the Feb 27-March 1 event.

It was attended by 16,000 people, including 1,500 foreigners.

Out of Malaysia’s 673 confirmed coronavirus cases, nearly two-thirds are linked to the four-day meeting, Dr Adham said. It is not clear who brought the virus there in the first place.

Reuters spoke to six attendees and reviewed pictures and posts on social media, and the accounts and evidence showed several ways in which the outbreak could have spread.

The hosts, the Islamic missionary movement Tablighi Jama’at, which traces its roots back to India a century ago, on Monday suspended missionary activities but did not comment directly on the Malaysian event.

Tablighi Jama’at did not respond to a request for further comment. The mosque where the event was held was closed on Tuesday and a guest said he was one of dozens of worshippers still there under quarantine. Calls to the mosque went unanswered.

Malaysia will shut its borders, restrict internal movement and close schools, universities and most businesses, as it seeks to control its coronavirus outbreak. All mosques will be closed for two weeks.

“I was very surprised actually that it went ahead,” said Surachet Wae-asae, a former Thai lawmaker who attended the event but has since tested negative for the coronavirus after returning home.

“But in Malaysia God is very important. The belief is strong.”

The prime minister’s office and the health ministry declined to comment further about the event.

The Muslim gathering held at the end of last month at the sprawling Sri Petaling mosque complex here has emerged as a source of hundreds of new coronavirus infections spanning Southeast Asia. – NSTP pic
The Muslim gathering held at the end of last month at the sprawling Sri Petaling mosque complex here has emerged as a source of hundreds of new coronavirus infections spanning Southeast Asia. – NSTP pic

HOLDING HANDS, SHARING PLATES

The packed gathering, where guests had to take shuttle buses to sleep at other venues, was attended by nationals from dozens of countries, including Canada, Nigeria, India and Australia, according to an attendee list posted on social media.

There were also citizens of China and South Korea – two countries with high rates of coronavirus infections.

Social media posts show hundreds of worshippers praying shoulder-to-shoulder inside the mosque, while some guests posted selfies as they shared food.

It was not clear how many guests were residents of Malaysia, but cases linked to the gathering are popping up daily across Southeast Asia.

“We sat close to each other,” a 30-year-old Cambodian man who attended the event told Reuters from a hospital in Cambodia’s Battambang province, where he was being treated after testing positive for the coronavirus on Monday.

“Holding hands at the religious ceremony was done with people of many countries. When I met people, I held hands, it was normal. I don’t know who I was infected by,” he said, asking not to be named due to fears of discrimination at his mosque.

None of the event leaders talked about washing hands, the coronavirus or health precautions during the event, but most guests washed their hands regularly, two guests said. Washing hands among other parts of the body is part of Muslim worship.

Another attendee from Cambodia said guests from different countries shared plates when meals were served.

Only half of the Malaysian participants who attended have come forward for testing, the health minister has said, raising fears that the outbreak from the mosque could be more far-reaching.

Brunei has confirmed 50 cases linked to the mosque gathering, out of a total of 56 cases. Singapore has announced five linked to the event, Cambodia 13 and Thailand at least two.

Vietnam, the Philippines and Indonesia, which had nearly 700 of its citizens attend, are all investigating.

That a large religious pilgrimage should have gone ahead, at a time when the epidemic had killed 2,700 people and was spreading from Italy to Iran, has drawn criticism.

More than 182,000 people have now been infected by the coronavirus globally and 7,165 have died.


‘IRRESPONSIBLE’

“That Tablighi event in KL (Kuala Lumpur) … could also cause a regional spike and it was irresponsible for the authorities to have allowed it to be held,” Singapore diplomat Bilahari Kausikan said on his Facebook page.

It is not the only religious event to spread the virus on a mass scale. Thousands of cases in South Korea are linked to services of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus in the city of Daegu.

At the time of the event in Malaysia, the country was in political turmoil. The country had a one-man government in the 94-year-old interim prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who had quit and was temporarily re-appointed the same day.

Prime Tan Sri Minister Muhyiddin Yassin was sworn in as the new premier on March 1 and banned mass gatherings on March 13. Prior to that, there was only advice from the health ministry to minimise public exposure.

Some attendees defended the event, saying that at the time the situation in Malaysia – which had announced 25 known cases by Feb 28 – was not severe.

“We were not worried then as the Covid-19 situation at the time appeared under control,” said Khuzaifah Kamazlan, a 34-year-old religious teacher based in Kuala Lumpur who attended the event but has tested negative for the coronavirus.

Khuzaifah said some of the worshippers who attended the event have since refused to be tested for coronavirus, preferring to rely on God to protect them.

Karim, a 44-year-old Malaysian who attended the gathering and later tested positive for coronavirus, says the government should have cancelled the event.

“We are a bit disappointed that this outbreak has been blamed entirely on us. That view is unfair. There was no ban on our gathering,” said Karim, who gave only his first name.

“Now I am concerned because I am positive. Please pray for me.” – REUTERS

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‘Tabligh event attendees 12k, not 16k’ | New Straits Times …

 

Covid-19: Cases up by 212 in biggest daily jump, death toll at 14

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Malaysia’s PM, a one-man show as Cabinet list jigsaw puzzle


PUTRAJAYA: Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin will be in charge of all ministries and government departments until the appointment of Cabinet ministers, says the latest Federal Government gazette.

The gazette signed on Tuesday by the Chief Secretary to the Government Datuk Seri Mohd Zuki Ali, also stated that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, pursuant to Article 43 of the Federal Constitution, has appointed Muhyiddin as Prime Minister.

“This Order is deemed to have come into operation on March 1,2020, ” said the notice that was uploaded on the Attorney General’s Chambers website.

“It is notified that the Prime Minister, (Tan Sri) Muhyiddin (Yassin) shall be charged with the responsibility in respect of all departments of the Federal Government and the subjects for which the departments are responsible until the appointment of other ministers in the Cabinet.”

Muhyiddin, who was sworn in as Prime Minister on March 1, met chief secretaries from the Education and Foreign Ministries yesterday.

The newly minted Prime Minister posted pictures on Facebook of him meeting the duo in his office that featured empty shelves and empty tables, a sign of someone who has just moved in.

In the Facebook post, Muhyiddin said Education Ministry secretary-general Datuk Dr Mohd Gazali Abas briefed him on developments and suggestions to upgrade the education sector.

Foreign Ministry chief secretary Datuk Seri Muhammad Shahrul Ikram Yaakob was also seen explaining Malaysia’s current diplomatic relationships and pending international conferences.

“Mohd Gazali gave explanations on developments in the education sector as well as statistics of achievements, and gave suggestions on how to build up the education sector.

“Shahrul of the Foreign Affairs Ministry briefed the prime minister on the current relationship between Malaysia and other countries, as well as collaborations and important conferences which will take place this year, ” said the post.

It is believed that one of the main subjects discussed was the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) inter-governmental forum that will be held in November in Kuala Lumpur.

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The Cabinet list jigsaw puzzle


Muhyiddin Yassin

GPS, having played the kingmaker in the political saga, expects to be well rewarded. Thus, drawing up the Cabinet list will be a more complicated task this time around, as there are just so many variables that need to be considered.


AS Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin thinks about the composition of his Cabinet list, he will certainly need to take heed as to how Sarawak should be rewarded.

There is no doubt that the 18 Members of Parliament from Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) were the ones who made the critical difference in the numbers game last week.

The GPS consists of Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB), Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP), Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) and Progressive Democratic Party (PDP).

It was game over when these lawmakers chose Muhyiddin instead of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to be prime minister.

Sarawak Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Openg put it aptly when he told the media that “now you know the value of GPS votes.”

He said the ruling state coalition initially supported Dr Mahathir to continue leading the country.

“After that, he resigned. Then he resigned from Bersatu. After that, he was back again. So left, right, left, right, what else to expect?

“That’s why we supported Muhyiddin. At the same time, our Sarawak interest is uppermost, ” he added.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim had hoped that GPS would remain neutral at least but the political reality was that GPS had to make a stand.

If there was one big factor that had made up the final decision of the GPS, it has to be the DAP.

Outspoken Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri James Masing has consistently said that GPS would not support a coalition that included DAP in the ongoing political crisis.

He blamed DAP’s “administrative arrogance” for this, adding that the party did whatever it pleased without listening to others, citing Lim Guan Eng as an example.

He pointed out that the former Finance Minister had announced that Sarawak would go bankrupt within three years when the DAP leader came to the state last year.

The reality is actually the opposite.

In 2019, S&P Global Ratings has affirmed its ‘A-’ rating on Sarawak with stable earnings outlook and said the state’s exceptional budgetary performance and liquidity will likely mitigate its elevated debt, supporting its creditworthiness.

The state’s healthy financial standing and its stable socio-political environment have earned Sarawak commendable investment-grade credit ratings of A-, A3 and AAA by reputable international and domestic rating houses.

A Google search of the financial standing of the country’s largest state is sufficient to show that.

Lim’s hurtful remark, and other past disputes with the DAP, seem to have left a deep-rooted resentment of the party among GPS members, and last week, was payback time.

While it has been said that there are no permanent friends or foes in politics, this doesn’t seem to apply in the case of the GPS in this regard.

At one point, Masing even said the GPS was “more comfortable working with PAS than DAP.”

As the situation turned desperate, Sarawak DAP chief Chong Chieng Jen said the party was willing to make concessions with GPS to keep the Pakatan Harapan government intact, appealing to GPS “to put aside all past political differences and work together with Pakatan to save our country.”

Many interpreted the offer to mean the DAP’s readiness in not contesting in the upcoming Sarawak state elections.

But it came too late as the GPS had already made up its mind after having huddled together for two days at the Ritz Carlton hotel in Kuala Lumpur.

It remains to be seen what the GPS had asked for and what Muyhiddin has to offer.

It will be Sarawak’s gain over neighbouring Sabah as Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal opted to stay with Pakatan.

A statement from the Sarawak Chief Minister’s Office on Feb 29 said GPS supported Muhyiddin to restore political stability in the country without sacrificing Sarawak’s interest.

It also said that GPS would be friendly to the new Federal Government but was not a member of the Perikatan Nasional coalition.

Some senior leaders of the GPS said privately that they wanted to see what would be on the table but expected to be rewarded accordingly.

Others said that they were prepared to wait till the state elections were over – as these veteran politicians were aware that Pakatan would most certainly use the alliance with Perikatan Nasional as a rallying call against the GPS in the state polls.

Unlike Peninsular Malaysia, Sarawakian leaders are more interested in protecting and keeping their state positions rather than federal posts.

“The interest of Sarawak is more important than the interest of lawmakers, ” Masing told this writer.

But the immediate priority would be to demand a higher oil royalty from the current 5% and if this was a sticky point under Pakatan, it will likely remain so for the new Perikatan Nasional government.

The other is the Malaysia Agreement 1963, or more popularly known as MA63.

The agreement – an 18-point pact for Sarawak and 20-point for Sabah – was signed on July 9,1963, before the formation of Malaysia.

It is an important document safeguarding the rights and autonomy of the two states.

The 18-point and 20-point agreement covers religion, language, constitution, immigration, the position of the indigenous people, finance, tariffs and citizenship.

Sabahans and Sarawakians are understandably annoyed when they hear “orang Malaya” remark that these two states “joined Malaysia”, pointing out that they had, in fact, helped to form Malaysia.

In the peninsula, the governing state leaders are known as state executive councillors but over in Sabah and Sarawak, they are known as state ministers.

That also explains why Malaysians from the peninsula side need their identity card or passport when entering these two states, and state immigration have the right to deny anyone entry.

“Orang Semenanjung” who want to work in these two states have to apply for a work permit.

The same goes for lawyers who wish to appear in the courts of either state – they have to get approval beforehand.

Most Malaysians may not understand fully what MA63 is all about, even if they have become contentious political issues.

But most believe that the Federal Government has not given due recognition to the MA63 or that these safeguards have not been honoured or taken away.

Sarawakians want a greater degree of financial and political autonomy as compared to other states in the peninsula and not end up being merely one of the 13 states in Malaysia.

It remains to be seen how or what posts would be given to the GPS MPs, and whether this state coalition wishes to wait till the state polls are over before moving in but what is certain is that the new Prime Minister certainly cannot ignore the Land of the Hornbill.

Abang Jo’s words (now you know the value of the GPS) would surely ring continuously in the ears of the Prime Minister.

And now, this explains why a tiny country like Malaysia, with a population of over 32 million people, has a big Cabinet – it is simply because the Prime Minister has to accommodate so many geographical and ethnic interests.

It is also very possible that the Prime Minister may announce the appointments in batches, starting with the crucial ones. This will allow him time to tinker.

Drawing up the Cabinet list will be a more complicated task this time, unlike previously, as there are just so many variables that need to be considered.

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US seeks selfish gains as China goes all out to curtail coronavirus spread


Fear of the unknown  

 

Battling epidemic of ignorance

 

Fight the virus, not China:

https://youtu.be/uDdYT1yTQdw

While China marshals a collective effort to combat the outbreak of novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), some Western countries, led by the US, are seizing the opportunity to stir up trouble and attack China’s system.

The truth is, US system is not nearly as efficient as the Chinese system. The US method of resolving problems is to procrastinate. For example, US President Donald Trump’s administration simply chooses to build a border wall to resolve illegal immigration issues.

Trump wanted to build the wall, but Democrats in the US Congress oppose it. Such a situation leads to procrastination and public complaints. Various interest groups often have different demands and goals on major issues. Thus, the US is often inefficient in resolving problems, including the spread of influenza in the US.

The US always calculates economic cost when responding to public health issues and emergencies. For example, when the wildfires swept across California in 2018, the local government paid inmates only $1 an hour to fight the fires. In many parts of the US, even firefighting has been privatized and handed to profit-seeking corporations. This basic service now depends on how much people can pay. For the Chinese government, people’s safety is top priority. Only by completely eliminating the spread of the virus can the Chinese government fulfill its responsibilities.

The US also tends to hype the human rights issue. The New York Times claimed that China’s lockdown of the city of Wuhan, in Central China’s Hubei Province “would almost certainly lead to human rights violations.”

The statement is immoral and distorts the truth. Essentially, public health issues are not an issue of human rights. There must be efficient prevention and control.

During the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, the US did not conduct inspections at airports and borders as soon as it could, which failed to contain the spread of the disease. During Hurricane Katrina in 2005, people’s houses were damaged by floods and robberies were rampant.

Why didn’t the US talk about human rights then? When facing the challenge of survival, the rights of individuals must be subordinated to the needs of majority. This is the same in both Eastern and Western ethics. When it comes to life and death, we must first solve the problem of survival before considering how to live more comfortably.

Although the US claims to be tolerant of diverse opinions, criticizing China is mainstream political discourse. Whenever something goes wrong in China, many US media outlets and politicians consistently attribute the problem to China’s system.

China is fighting the 2019-nCoV with confidence. However, some remarks emanating from the US are quite negative, a result of Washington’s prejudice, double standards, and binary opposition mind-set.

Some US politicians tend to interpret non-political issues with a political thinking. They are unaware that such problems require global efforts. Certain US accusations against China are morally indecent, which may negatively influence the world’s efforts to jointly address the 2019-nCoV and other similar public health issues.

Attacking China’s system clearly deviates from the general trend in which all countries around the world join hands to cope with public health issues. Such a move reflects that some US politicians lack a conscience and a spirit of self-reflection, especially so when considering the US itself has failed to properly handling similar problems.

While the 2019-nCoV remains so far unchecked, all countries and regions should coordinate and cooperate to cope with the challenges of bringing it under control. The US should pay more attention to exchanging experiences with China to avoid similar outbreaks, rather than politicizing the issue and placing blame.

Tackling the 2019-nCoV requires a systematic approach, and internal and external efforts must be jointly made. China should first handle its internal affairs. In the course of dealing with the epidemic, despite some twists and turns, the country’s general direction is very clear – to defeat the virus and restore public confidence.

This crisis needs a national effort. Relevant policies and resources should be made and allocated step by step, leading to a sustainable and virtuous cycle. This is the fundamental direction we need to respond to outside doubt.

Meanwhile, we should also publicize our fruitful work in an effective way, and inject the international community with more confidence in China’s actions.

China should work with other countries and regions to cope with the 2019-nCoV and make timely and prompt counterattacks against forces with evil intentions. In this way, the world will see which countries are really working on public health issues, and which have ulterior motives. This is also an efficient way to respond to some US politicians’ groundless attacks against China, so that their accusations collapse onto themselves.

The article was compiled by Global Times reporters Li Qingqing and Yan Yunming based on an interview with Li Haidong, a professor at the Institute of International Relations, China Foreign Affairs University. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn

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WHO decision makes little effect in curbing China; New strategies needed for Malaysian tourism


US travel alert an overreaction, shows unilateralism: experts 

 A staff member, wearing a facemask, waits for customers near the Forbidden City in Beijing on Friday. The Chinese people have just experienced an unforgettable Spring Festival as the whole country has been forced to endure the spread of the novel coronavirus.Photo: AFP

 

‘There is no reason to panic’  

 

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Drones creatively used in rural areas in battle against coronavirus

 Using Drones to warn it’s people to go home & wear masks….China is putting every effort to fight the Coronavirus

万万没想到!武汉告急!最先对中国动手的竟是这7国!3大无耻行为暴露真实面目!这笔帐中国人永不忘记!

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared on Thursday (local time) in Geneva the novel coronavirus outbreak a global public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC), putting pressure on China amid the deadly virus battle, as more countries are likely to issue travel advisories and impose trade restrictions.

 

Chinese analysts said although there is no need to exaggerate the impact of the declaration, the country needs to focus on containing the spread of the pneumonia as its top priority, as countries would adjust travel and trade policies based on the changing situation, and a complete recovery also depends on progress made during China’s nationwide fight against the virus.

The WHO emphasized that the declaration was not a vote of no confidence on China. Over the past few weeks, the WHO has witnessed the emergence of a previously unknown pathogen, which has escalated into an unprecedented outbreak, and which has been met by an unprecedented response, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a press conference on Thursday.

After considering multiple factors, WHO designated the coronavirus as a PHEIC. However, WHO continues to have confidence in China’s ability to control the outbreak.

Following the PHEIC declaration, the US State Department warned Americans not to go to China, becoming the first country of issuing travel alert to its citizens, despite the WHO emphasized on Thursday that it did not suggest other countries impose travel and trade restrictions on China.

A US State Department notice said travelers should be prepared for travel restrictions with little or no advance notice. Commercial carriers have reduced or suspended flights to and from China.

Those currently in China should consider leaving using commercial means, it said, noting that the department has requested all non-essential US government personnel to defer travel to China because of the novel coronavirus. The travel warning is the highest Level 4 – Do Not Travel – in the US.

At least 98 novel coronavirus cases have been reported in 18 countries outside of China, including eight human-to-human transmissions in Germany, Japan, Vietnam and the US. The majority of the cases outside of China involved people who had traveled to Wuhan, or were in contact with someone who had visited the city, according to the WHO.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the WHO. Photo: VCG

Damage to both sides

The US travel warning may cause other nations to follow, considering its geopolitical influence, some Chinese analysts forecast, reminding other countries to heed the WHO advise.

The US is overreacting and the warning would greatly hurt global tourism and hinder people-to-people exchanges, Ni Feng, deputy director of the Institute of American Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times.

Ni predicted that other Western countries may follow the US in issuing travel restrictions to China.

Zeng Guang, chief epidemiologist of the China Center for Disease Control and Prevention, noted that the US government’s move shows its unilateralism, which is unsurprising.

The WHO clarified that they did not suggest other countries impose travel and trade restrictions on China. The advise was made based on multidimensional considerations and global public health interests, which the US ignored, Zeng told the Global Times.

The US government had ordered the departure of all non-urgent US personnel and their family members from Wuhan, Central China’s Hubei Province, the coronavirus’ epicenter, on January 23.

Some foreign airlines have suspended flights to China including Air Canada, United Airlines, British Airlines and IndiGo.

Imposing restrictions on personal exchanges between the US and China would significantly weigh on US interests in China, considering the huge presence of American companies in China, said Li Haidong, a professor at the Institute of International Relations of the China Foreign Affairs University.

“It may also trigger a humanitarian crisis, as American citizens have married Chinese people, and if they are forced to leave, many families would be separated,” Li said.

Many US companies are becoming increasingly entrenched in China, including major US-listed firms such as Tesla, Starbucks, Apple and Boeing, therefore restricting personnel exchanges between China and the US would also have an impact on the US stock market, according to analysts.

The US government had also issued travel alerts on previous public health incidents declared by the WHO, including the H1N1 virus that caused an influenza pandemic in 2009, Ebola outbreak in West Africa and polio in 2014, media reported. During the Ebola outbreak, the State Department alerted US citizens to follow screening procedures and travel restrictions, and reduce air travel to countries including Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Mali.

People make protective suits at a medical company in Hefei, east China’s Anhui Province, Thursday. To help fight the outbreak of pneumonia caused by the novel coronavirus, workers of some medical material companies rushed to work ahead of schedule to make protective equipment. Photo: Xinhua


Top priority

According to the International Health Regulations (IHR), if the WHO declares a PHEIC, the director-general shall issue temporary recommendations, including health measures regarding people, baggage, cargo, containers, conveyances, goods and parcels to prevent or reduce the spread of the disease and avoid unnecessary interference to international traffic.

However, temporary recommendations are non-binding advisories issued by the WHO and are on a time-limited, risk-specific basis, according to IHR.

When WHO declared the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo as a PHEIC, the organization emphasized it was essential to avoid the punitive economic consequences of travel and trade restrictions on affected communities, in a statement published on its website in July 2019.

Under the IHR, countries implementing additional health measures going beyond what WHO recommends will be required to provide a public health rationale and justification within 48 hours of implementation for WHO to review, WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic told the Global Times on Thursday.

The WHO is obliged to share information about measures and the justification received with other countries involved, Jasarevic said, noting that countries are asked to provide public health justification for any travel or trade measures that are not scientifically based, such as refusal of entry based on suspected cases or unaffected persons to affected areas.

Chinese analysts said it was not necessary to overreact or interpret the news as a hostile attitude toward China from the global community. The shared priority is to prevent the deadly virus from spreading across the globe.

“Indeed, it may place extra pressure to China, with both economic and political implications,” said Shen Yi, director at the Research Center for Cyberspace Governance of Fudan University.

“But it depends on how China continues fighting the epidemic in order to help its economy recover,” Shen said, noting that the WHO decision has little influence on how other countries handle economic ties with China amid the pneumonia outbreak.

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New strategies needed for Malaysian tourism


Cautious visitors: Tourists seen wearing face masks as they enter Malaysia through the Johor Baru Custom, Immigration and Quarantine Complex recently.

IT’S an unfortunate start to Visit Malaysia Year 2020 with the outbreak of the coronavirus putting a tumble to travelling, and it’s a tad more ominous that mainland China tourists have been our key market.

The Chinese government has already placed its faith in Malaysia by launching the Malaysia-China Year of Culture and Tourism 2020 to boost bilateral ties and friendship between the Asian nations.

However, the World Health Organisation’s declaration of a global health emergency has further dented the promotional efforts of Tourism Malaysia. To suggest minimal impact on Malaysia is a fallacy, to put it mildly.

Tourism revenue has always been regarded low hanging fruit, and with the improved performances of 2019, this year was supposed to kick off with more tourist arrivals.

Malaysia reported its half-year tourism results, until Aug 2019, declaring that tourist arrivals reached 13.35 million, up 4.9%, while tourist receipts improved 6.8% over the same period in 2018.

Tourism Malaysia’s data summary indicates the travel industry had contributed RM41.69bil in revenue to the country’s economy from January to June in 2019.

Apparently, the performance also saw growth in terms of per capita expenditure, rising by 1.9% to RM3,121.6, while the average length of stay climbed by 0.4 nights to 6.2 nights.

The top 10 source markets for arrivals were Singapore (5,381,566), Indonesia (1,857,864), China (1,558,782), Thailand (990,565), Brunei (627,112), India (354,486), South Korea (323,952), the Philippines (210,974), Vietnam (200,314) and Japan (196,561).

There are plenty of day trippers from Singapore and Indonesia, given our close proximity.

So, the numbers from China are significant. It’s glaring that East Asian and Asean arrivals continued to dominate the share of tourist arrivals to Malaysia with a 70% contribution.

The medium-haul market and long-haul market represented 20.8% and 9.2% share, respectively.

Tourism Malaysia reported that the top five countries with highest receipts were Singapore (RM11.56bil), China (RM7.09bil), Indonesia (RM5.71bil), Thailand (RM1.70bil) and Brunei (RM1.52bil).

The five countries with the highest average length of stay were those from Saudi Arabia (10.5 nights), France (8.7 nights), Germany (8.3 nights), Netherlands (8.1 nights) and Canada (7.7 nights).

In 2018, Malaysia registered 25.8 million tourist arrivals and RM84.1bil in tourist receipts. For 2019, tourist arrivals reached 28.1 million with tourist receipts of RM92.2bil.

While Malaysia, like most countries, has understandably become concerned with China’s continuing struggle with the virus, it’s crucial we maintain our renowned hospitality when interacting with Chinese tourists.

Chinese travellers have heeded caution by staying home, and for those travelling, the last thing they’d want is to feel unwelcome, or even discriminated.

News reports have already filtered in that Chinese tourists – and in some cases, even Singaporeans – have been asked to leave restaurants and tourist spots in some countries.

Our Prime Minister has made the right move by announcing that the decision to close mosques and tourist attractions to travellers, given the novel coronavirus outbreak, is not government policy.

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad went so far as to describe such moves as irresponsible, saying the government never declared that mosques or museums were closed to tourists because they could be infected by the coronavirus.

“This is not a government policy and it is an irresponsible act, ” he told a press conference after chairing the weekly Cabinet meeting last week.

Among the mosques that have closed temporarily to tourists are the Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin mosque and the Putra Mosque in Putrajaya, as well as the Federal Territory mosque in Kuala Lumpur. They have since been opened.

Dr Mahathir also warned the public against spreading fake news meant to stir ill feelings between races.

Closing mosques to non-Muslims also doesn’t make sense when there are many Chinese citizens who are Muslims. The fact is there are more Muslims in China than Malaysia. However, unlike people, this virus doesn’t discriminate and will make victims of any race or religion.

Thermal detectors

So, it will be more effective and sensible to install thermal detectors at these popular mosques, and place medical personnel there to monitor the situation.

Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Mohamaddin Ketapi has rightly said that tourists, particularly Chinese nationals, should not be discriminated and said tourists coming into the country would have been screened at the entry points, including airports.

Recently, West Sumatra Governor Irwan Prayitno drew flak from netizens after amateur video recordings of him welcoming Chinese visitors in a well-attended parade at the Minangkabau International Airport in Padang went viral on Twitter, amid concerns over a domestic coronavirus outbreak.

A video uploaded on Sunday by Twitter user @dedetsaugia, in which Irwan could be seen addressing the tourists, has been viewed over 2.1 million times and retweeted over 6,000 times at the time of writing. As reported by kompas.com, Irwan welcomed the foreign visitors after they were declared healthy in a medical examination conducted with thermal scanners installed at the airport.

“The arrival of these tourists is expected to increase the number of foreign tourists visiting West Sumatra in the future, ” Irwan was quoted by Antara news agency.

“We cannot reject foreign arrivals when they have prepared all the required documentation. We have taken anticipatory measures by conducting a detailed check-up.”

The reaction of these netizens is in bad taste, and reeks of xenophobia. Credit to the West Sumatra authorities for showing much greater grace.

Asean and East Asian tourists will continue to dominate our tourist arrivals.

Like SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, which hit Hong Kong and southern parts of China in 2003, the coronavirus appears to be a winter phenomenon. Over 700 people died then. China is now still in a cold season, although it’s already spring.

But this time, unlike 2003, it has happened during the Lunar New Year festival when millions travel home, across China, to be with their families. The CNY season is also a time for many Chinese to holiday abroad.

According to Wuhan officials, there are still over 4,000 Wuhan tourists overseas as of Jan 27, and certainly, this can’t be comforting for many.

China has adopted a more transparent approach this time, unlike in 2003, when it didn’t reveal the health threat until five months after the SARS outbreak.

This time around, it has done things differently by updating the world on developments with the epidemic.

Last week, the Chinese Embassy here even started a Whatsapp group – with a long list of media people – where everyone is kept informed, and the channel is used to share information, verify reports and keep the local media in the loop.

While China is fighting against time to battle the virus, it isn’t likely that this will drag on until the summer season.

Although this is very much a Wuhan problem, many travellers have postponed plans to fly and even going as far as avoiding crowds.

Malaysia is a country with a hot climate and open spaces, but that hasn’t stopped many of us from wearing masks as a precaution. Never mind that our streets and MRT aren’t congested unlike how it is in Japan, China or Hong Kong.

My relatives from Singapore called to say they were no longer coming to Kuala Lumpur for a CNY reunion! Talk about over-reaction!

For sure our tourist numbers will be hit, but Malaysia can’t afford to wait.

It must work on the right markets for us to meet the numbers and ensure the success of Visit Malaysia Year.

Mohamaddin has downplayed the fear that tourism numbers will decline, saying the loss in tourism revenue from the ban will be minimal, and added that the ministry will not revise its campaign target of getting 30 million visitors this year.

“The travel ban will only cause a small impact as it is only for those from Wuhan. But people from other countries such as Australia and England are still able to visit Malaysia. So, the target remains as it is, ” he said.

Of course, Malaysia will be affected. Australians, Britons and Americans may stay longer when they visit Malaysia, but their numbers are negligible, and they are certainly not the biggest spenders.

In fact, for 2017, the East Asia market showed a 6.3% growth, while other markets saw a decline, i.e., Asean markets dropped by -3.9%, Europe (-1.7%), Americas (-4.3%), Oceania (-5.4%) Central Asia (-6.4%), Africa (-7%), West Asia (-12.3%) and South Asia (-13.3%).

Asean, or the short-haul market, dominated with a 75.1% share of total tourist arrivals and brought a total of 19,478,575 tourists to Malaysia. The medium-haul market share was 19.1%, with 4,948,123 tourists, while the long-haul market share was 5.9%, with a total of 1,520,389 tourists.

For 2017, the top 10 tourist source markets for Malaysia were Singapore with 12,441,713 tourist arrivals, Indonesia (2,796,570), China (2,281,666), Thailand (1,836,522), Brunei (1,660,506), India (552,739), South Korea (484,528), Japan (392,777), the Philippines (370,559), and Britain (358,818).

For China, the market surpassed the target for this region with an increase of 7.45% to 2.28 million arrivals, while an increase of flight frequency by AIRASIA X made Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu choice destinations for Koreans.

Arrivals from Indonesia and China, which made up Malaysia’s second and third largest respectively, have been increasing. In 2018, the number of Chinese tourists visiting Malaysia climbed by 29% year-on-year, while the number of tourists from Indonesia increased by 17%.

This is a good time to re-design our strategies and engage with stakeholders – including tour operators, food and beverage outlet owners, hoteliers, mall operators and media – to see how we can support Visit Malaysia Year 2020.

We should also seek the support of famous Malaysians like Tan Sri Michelle Yeoh, Datuk Lee Chong Wei, Datuk Jimmy Choo, Henry Golding and others to be our Tourism Ambassadors since they have millions of fans worldwide.

We are all rooting for a resounding success.

The views expressed here are the writer’s own.

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Countdown to the Chinese New Year around the world for the year of the mouse


A live countdown to the Lunar New Year (also known as Chinese New Year) for Hong Kong, Hanoi, Vietnam, and New York on January 25, 2020.

While most of the world celebrates the New Year on January 1, many people also celebrate the traditional new year based on the lunar calendar. Celebrate as the clock strikes midnight and the new year arrives. Happy New Year from the Youtube Battles community! 🙂

At the beginning of this year we did a live countdown to 2020 with coverage for all 35 time zones in the world so that everyone could celebrate the moment as the clock struck midnight in their time zone on New Years Eve and the new year began. As the day progressed, the countdown was updated to show the next time zones to hit the year 2020.

Chinese New Year 2020 falls on January 25 | Human World …

春晚合家欢系列之同一种乡愁 | 订阅CCTV春晚

北京时间1月24日20:00,2020年中央广播电视总台春节联欢晚会将如约而至!锁定CCTV春晚频道,春晚直播等你来看,我们不见不散!
2020年中央广播电视总台春节联欢晚会直播地址:https://bit.ly/2R6DIOK

Celebrating Spring Festival with KOLs at the CGTN office 四位外国网红齐聚央视大楼喜迎春节

 

 

Moderate gains for year of the rat – StarProperty



Chinese people around the world prepare for the year of the mouse

People in Qingdao, East China’s Shandong Province pick hangings with Chinese character “Fu (fortune)” at a market on Monday. Photo: cnsphoto

The Chinese Lunar New Year will arrive on Saturday. Chinese people across the country and around the world are preparing to welcome the year of mouse with various traditions.

Chinese people value celebrating the New Year with families.

As of Monday, the national railway has served 12.24 million trips within 11 days since the peak travel season started, a 19.8 percent year-on-year increase. A total of 1,370 temporary trains have been added, China National Radio reported Tuesday.

Traditional conventions in Spring Festival vary across China.

In Chaozhou, South China’s Guangdong Province, people march with god sculptures from temples. “The gong and drum band would follow the firecrackers in the march,” Chen Aijing, a Chaozhou resident, told the Global Times.

“Each village would have different dates to celebrate. There would be performance for Chaozhou operas and traditional puppet play,” she said.

Several days before the New Year day, people in Guangzhou, Guangdong’s capital city go shopping in “Flower Street” where one can buy almost anything. On December 28 of the Lunar Calendar, families clean their houses. On the New Year Day, they make rice cakes, according to Zhao Shi, a local resident.

In Wuhan, Central China’s Hubei Province, there used to be dragon and lion dances, but the convention has been replaced by a lighting show. “Dried fish, meat and sausages are a must for Spring Festival,” a local university student Wu Han said.

Wu interns in Chongli, North China’s Hebei Province. Due to the spread of pneumonia in his home city, Wu hesitated whether he would return home.

In the northeastern provinces, people usually stay indoors during the festival due to cold temperatures.

“Watching the Spring Festival gala is a must for us,” Lun Yu, a resident from Da-

qing, Northeast China’s Heilongjiang Province, told the Global Times on Tuesday. Her big family gathers together on the New Year eve and makes dumplings with fillings of sauerkraut and pork. The dumplings are served on the table right at midnight.

For Chinese living overseas, it is often difficult for them to go home at Spring Festival. Tina Ma, who lives in Melbourne, Australia, decided to visit a friend in Brisbane. “We plan to have a big meal and watch the gala on the internet,” she told the Global Times.

Police officers perform traditional dance at a Spring Festival gala in Du’an Yao autonomous county, South China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region on Sunday. Photo: cnsphoto

Colored lanterns featuring the Red Army displayed in Zunyi, Southwest China’s Guizhou Province. Photo: cnsphoto

A child is attracted by holiday decorations at a Spring Festival market in San Francisco. Photo: cnsphoto

A child tries the head decoration of Chakhar clan in Hohhot, North China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region at an event to celebrate Spring Festival. Photo: cnsphoto

A man is writing couplets at the National Library of China in Beijing on Tuesday. An Exhibition on folk arts and intangible cultural heritage about Spring Festival kicks off here. Photo: Li Hao/GT

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Spring Festival dinner tables underscore digital advantage

From Norwegian salmon, Bostonian lobsters to Chilean cherries, the dinner tables of Chinese people have never been more globalized in the run-up to the Lunar New Year, the most important reunion time for Chinese families.

What’s behind the most important feast for Chinese points to the key to China’s economic appeal – the government’s opening-up efforts, growing consumer demand for diversified choices and better quality, and a digital economy that helps accelerate the country’s consumption upgrading.

As China is shifting toward a consumption-based economy, its rising household consumption and enhanced opening-up to the outside world indicate the great potential of the Chinese market, which attracts attention from foreign companies and exporters.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics, China’s retail sales rose 8 percent year-on-year to some 41.16 trillion yuan ($6 trillion) in 2019, with the contribution of consumption to GDP expansion reaching 57.8 percent and remaining the top growth engine for the economy. Moreover, the country’s per capita GDP exceeded the $10,000-mark last year. By any measure, there is still plenty of room for China’s consumption to grow.

But most importantly, a large-scale digital market has taken shape in China, offering a significant boost to consumption, which may be the biggest difference between China’s consumer market and those in other countries. With the upgrading of internet services, the popularization of e-commerce and the change of consumption habits, China’s internet generation of consumers have become accustomed to buying all their daily necessities online. Such efficiency and simplicity have greatly encouraged consumption innovations, providing more and better goods and services options for consumers.

In the process of promoting its consumption upgrading, China’s digital economy has not just boosted its foreign trade but also offered a lift to the rural economy. According to information from Tmall, it sold 190 million kilograms of agricultural commodities during a shopping campaign in early January this year, with income for each participating farmer increasing by 1,037 yuan.

With the rise of the digital economy, Chinese farmers are also using the tool to expand marketing channels for their output so as to improve the living standards. That’s a big difference between China and India. While rural Chinese are embracing the internet and making use of it, Indians in rural regions are resisting the shifts e-commerce will bring, which somehow explains the great vitality in the Chinese economy.

In short, China’s economic prowess lies largely in its digital economy, which sees all parts of society connect with one another to generate continuous momentum for the country to maintain strong growth.

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Chinese people to celebrate festival despite disease impact

The specter of the Wuhan novel coronavirus hovers over China with at least 544 confirmed cases across the country, and most provinces have reportedly had suspected cases, but due to the approach of the most important festival in Chinese tradition – Chinese New Year – many people across the nation maintained optimistic and will go ahead to celebrate the festival.

 

Celebration for Chinese Lunar New Year held in Chinatown of Yangon
Celebration for Chinese Lunar New Year held in Chinatown of Yangon

S.Korea’s real GDP growth hits 10-year low in 2019

South Korea’s real gross domestic product (GDP), adjusted for inflation, posted the lowest growth in 10 years last year, central bank data showed Wednesday.

S.Korea posts lowest growth in a decade

South Korea’s economy expanded at its slowest pace for a decade last year, the central bank said Wednesday.

Chinese economy in good position for future growth: US economist

The Chinese economy is in a good position for future growth as the country is making headway in further reform and opening-up at an appropriate pace, a senior US economist has said.

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When US President Donald Trump announced he would be attending this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, many expected a toned-down version of the free trade-bashing Trump, whose tariff …

The usually staid Japanese media lambasted the “cowardly” Carlos Ghosn on Wednesday, after the tycoon jumped bail and fled to Lebanon to avoid trial in Japan.

 

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Daxing International Airport opens in Beijing, Awards to celebrate PRC 70th anniversary


Beijing’s new mega airport opens today. Daxing International Airport is the second airport in the capital and will likely ease congestion at Beijing Capital International Airport

Building China’s $12BN Mega Airport

No stranger to record-breaking projects, China has now completed one of
the largest airports ever conceived – the USD $12BN Daxing International
in Beijing.

 

China opens new Beijing airport ahead of 70th PRC’s anniversary

In this image made from CCTV video taken Sept. 17, 2019, an aerial view is seen of the new Beijing Daxing International Airport. The Chinese capital, Beijing, has opened a second international airport with a  terminal billed as the world’s biggest. (CCTV via AP)

BEIJING (AP) — President Xi Jinping on Wednesday inaugurated a second international airport for the Chinese capital with the world’s biggest terminal ahead of celebrations of the founding of the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

Beijing Daxing International Airport is designed to handle 72 million passengers a year. Located on the capital’s south side, it was built in less than five years at a cost of 120 billion yuan ($17 billion).

The airline’s first commercial flight, a China Southern Airlines plane bound for the southern province of Guangdong, took off Wednesday afternoon, state broadcaster CCTV reported. Six more flights took off later for Shanghai and other destinations.

The main Beijing airport, located in the city’s northeast, is the world’s second-busiest after Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and is nearing capacity.

Daxing, designed by the late Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid, includes a terminal billed as the world’s biggest at 1 million square meters (11 million square feet).

Despite that, its builders say travelers will need to walk no more than 600 meters (2,000 feet) to reach any boarding gate.

The vast, star-shaped airport is about 45 kilometers (30 miles) south of downtown Beijing. It has four runways, with plans for as many as three more.

Carriers including British Airways and state-owned China Southern, the country’s biggest airline by passengers, plan to move to Daxing from Beijing Capital International Airport.

The capital has a third airport, Nanyuan, for domestic flights, but the government says that will close once Daxing is in operation.

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Jack Ma Ends 20-Year Reign Over Alibaba Wealth Creation Empire


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Planned ‘inclusive education’ endangers our children


I NOTICE the phrase “inclusive education” has become very fashionable these days. From parents to politicians and a fair few of us in the field of early childhood education, everyone seems to be smitten with the idea of achieving equity in education through the supposed magic pill that is mainstreaming “special needs” children.

Let me first state that education is a fundamental human right. The United Nations has codified it as such in its charter, and anyone with an ounce of intellect cannot dispute the starring role of education in raising the quality of life for individuals and society.

Yet I fear that in our missionary zeal to pursue inclusive education, Malaysians specifically and Asians in general risk distorting what constitutes equity and diversity, and grossly underestimate the groundwork and, indeed, sheer grit needed to implement it.

Instead of reducing the discrimination special needs children face at school, such a plan in its present shape and form may in fact backfire and intensify it.

Before I explain why, let us first establish what inclusive education is, since there seems to be much confusion over the definition.

Unesco (UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) describes inclusive education systems as those “removing the barriers limiting the participation and achievement of all learners, respect diverse needs, abilities and characteristics and that eliminate all forms of discrimination in the learning environment”.

The Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025 meanwhile narrows the definition of special needs to students with “visual impairment, hearing impairment, speech difficulties, physical disabilities, multiple disabilities and learning disabilities such as autism, Down’s syndrome, ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), and dyslexia”.

There are two glaring problems here. First, lumping the above variety of physical and mental challenges under one umbrella is in itself discriminatory, as it equalises the learning ability of all within. 

This is ludicrous.

A child with a physical handicap could be on par with his so-called “normal” peers in keeping up with coursework, something that may be impossible for those with ADHD, autism and especially dyslexia.

How will a blanket policy for special needs children address their highly diverse needs? If the popular notions of inclusive education are made real, will there be multiple streams to the “mainstream”? And if learning methodology, timelines and schedules are stratified for those within the special needs domain, then what is “inclusive” about the system?

Second, I am of the opinion that we have a naïve understanding of inclusivity in the educational context, driven perhaps by our feverish desire to mimic the West. What we perceive as “inclusive” is integrative at best, something writ large in the education blueprint that maps out the closure of special needs facilities and merges their students with general bodies.

Besides bringing everyone under one roof, as the “combined classrooms” envision, there will plainly be separate clusters of students that are physically together yet galaxies apart in terms of academic and support requirements.

Nevertheless, there are positives to inclusive education as an ideal that makes it worth fighting for. I recently read a well-argued piece by Dr York Chow Yat-ngok in the South China Morning Post where he wrote that teething pains aside, combined classrooms will promote empathy and acceptance among all children and additionally raise the self-esteem of those with special needs.

While Dr Yat-ngok and similar-minded experts hold admirable positions on inclusive education, their arguments could go both ways. If we agree that young children absorb information like sponges and are in the process of building personalities, there remains the risk that even one distressing episode with a special needs child, say an autistic one, could internalise in them negative stereotypes about that group for life.

As humans, our concept of “normal” is often far removed from the scientific benchmarks that policymakers use to establish educational guidelines. And young children, especially, judge normality through adequate participation in social rituals as minor as sharing toys during playtime or napping together peacefully.

Also, when comparing Malaysia’s preschool system with developed nations, we must keep two very important things in mind: numbers and attitude.

First, the current teacher-to student ratio in Malaysian preschools is very taxing on educators. Here we have one teacher for 15 to 20 children whereas the ratio is six to eight in the West, excluding support staff like medics and mental health professionals.

And given young children can have wildly diverging personalities, it requires an enormous amount of patience and physical energy simply to teach the “normal” ones.

Therefore, before attempting to consolidate special needs and mainstream preschools, the government must first bridge this gap in terms of teacher numbers and skill-sets or risk pandemonium and even class-action lawsuits by parents if the new school environment endangers their children.

Next, the graver problem of attitude: The majority of Malaysian early childhood educators never wanted to enter the profession. I hear this every day at universities and in the field.

Because of the quota system in public universities, many settled on a major that was not even their second or third choice simply to attend a prestigious institution. And as working professionals, many regrettably do not care.

The greater irony here is how the pecking order of public education programmes cheapens early childhood education. Don’t have the grades to become a doctor, engineer or lawyer? Just go teach preschoolers.

The bottom line is the roadmap to inclusive education in preschools must be put away until both state and civil society awaken to their responsibilities. We cannot keep gambling with our children’s future, nor frustrating the few teachers who actually care about them.

** Jerrica Fatima Ann is a Malaysian early childhood educator and editor of www.imageofachild.com.

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Taking a stand for inclusive education

IN my heart of hearts, I believe that we are all special. No individual is the same as another, not even twins.

We all have little quirks that make us unique, whether it is an obsession with having everything in order, a habit of reading out loud or the urge to sanitise one’s hands after touching any little thing.

In spite of our quirks, we all want to be accepted for who we are, and we are lucky when our family, friends and colleagues do so.

If society can accept “normal” people and their eccentricities, why can’t it extend the same courtesy to those with special needs? I believe the answer lies in our education.

Society is a reflection of our education system. If we learn from young to perceive those who are different from us in an unfavourable light, it is natural that we pass this same mindset on to the next generation. Sadly, this creates a nation that lacks values like tolerance, understanding, compassion and kindness.

Taking a stand for inclusion and diversity is more than a special needs agenda; it is about fighting for a better world where everyone is accepted for who he or she is. And it has to start with education.

As an educator, I believe that we need to make a constant and conscious effort to push for inclusion and diversity. This is why we should continue to emphasise the importance of the special needs programmes.

It saddens me when schools turn down special needs children because they can’t handle them. To me, special needs children are just like any other kids, except that they need time and help with learning.

There are countless studies that advocate inclusive classrooms for both normal and special needs children. In an inclusive classroom, children with special needs are known to learn faster by observing their normal peers and being motivated to keep up.

Normal children, on the other hand, learn important values like tolerance, kindness and compassion through interacting with them.

What can be better than this? After all, we want our children to grow up ready for the real world.

The question is what kind of world do we want? I, for one, want a better world for our children, and that starts with embracing diversity and practising inclusion.

PUA CHEE LING, Chief executive, Dika College Puchong, Selangor

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A destiny tied to China – Tackling it the British way


Impractical move: China is generally aware that the Hong Kong people cannot sustain any form of protest because rent and bills need to be paid and protests don’t gain a voice, neither by yellow shirts nor umbrellas. — AFP

The future of the Hong Kong people lies with China but the challenge for Beijing is to make Hong Kongers feel that they are a fundamental part of the Middle Kingdom.

If there is a history lesson that the Chinese can learn from British Malaya in handling the Hong Kong protests, it’s that the British administered their colonies well and without the need for any heavy-handed approaches, even they robbed these colonies of their rich minerals.

YOU’VE got to hand it to the British because they are really the masters at the game. Anyone who has studied basic Malayan history would know that officials during colonial times merely identified themselves as advisers.

They were British civil servants, but they called the shots.

Adding insult to injury, the Malay Rulers – as the Sultans were called then – were “led” to believe they still ran the states.

Under British Malaya – a set of states on the Malay peninsula and Singapore under British rule between the 18th and 20th centuries – British colonial officials had the last say on almost everything except religion and customary matters, which they cleverly left to the palaces.

So, in theory, the Rulers held their positions, kept their perks and all royal protocols befitting royalty, but their wings were clipped.

These were the federated states, but in the case of Straits Settlement states, British governors were appointed.

So, the famous Malacca Sultanate, with its rich lineage of Sultans, found itself having a governor, a Caucasian, as did Penang and Singapore.

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad put it aptly when he said last week in his speech in Britain that “Malaysia is a member of the Commonwealth, but there is nothing much in common with the wealth dominated by certain countries”.

“The British acknowledged the Malay Sultans as Rulers, but the Sultans never ruled. Therefore, when they criticised us as dictators, I don’t think they really meant it,” he said.

There was more. Under British rule in the 20th century, the British introduced repressive laws such as the Internal Security Act (ISA), used against communist insurgents.

Under the ISA, a person could be held for 60 days in solitary confinement and up to two years’ extension without trial.

Despite this, the British told the world, with a straight face, that they taught us, the natives, principles of justice, democracy and fairness, and that we all cried when they abandoned us when the Japanese invaded Malaya in 1941, and when we gained independence in 1957.

Our first prime minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, kept the law when the Union Jack was lowered in 1957, which marked our independence.

Not many Malaysians are aware that the British imposed the ISA. Of course, during that era, only the radical left-wingers, with communist tendencies, were detained.

One ISA detainee, who was imprisoned under the British and then under the Malaysian government, said: “With the British guards, they would cheerily come every morning and wished the detainees a good day.” That was the difference.

Fast forward to 2019 and the massive turnout in Hong Kong against the controversial extradition Bill, with proposed amendments allowing for criminal suspects to be sent to China, has made international news.

It has prompted concern in Hong Kong and elsewhere that anyone from the city’s residents to foreign and Chinese nationals living or travelling through the international financial hub could be at risk if they were wanted by Beijing.

Basically, Hong Kong residents would rather face HK courts than be deported to mainland China.

Many have no faith in China’s judicial system compared to the British-style HK courts, which inherited the British legal system, and where most of the judges and lawyers are also British-trained.

The HK people can’t be blamed for their anger and suspicion since the international community has read of Chinese nationals being short-changed, or even neglected by the courts in the pursuit of justice.

And we can even read of income tax defaulters, under investigation, being hauled off to undisclosed locations, while dissidents have been taken away, and disappeared without a trace.

This bad press, verified or otherwise, would have scared many people, even though one wonders how many of these HK protesters believe, in their hearts of hearts, that they would ever get arrested and sent to China.

But the irony is that under British rule in HK, like many governments, the British widely used the law as a tool to consolidate control of Hong Kong in the hands of a privileged minority.

Legal expert Richard Daniel Klien wrote that “the British enacted legislation which in some respects instituted two sets of laws – one for the Europeans and another for the Chinese. Laws were passed to ensure no Chinese would live in the most desirable parts of Hong Kong, which the British wished to preserve as their exclusive enclaves.

“In a land in which ninety-eight per cent of the population were Chinese, English was the official language.

“The Chinese language was not permitted to be used in government offices.

“Laws regulating conduct were written exclusively in English, a language which the vast majority of the population could not understand.

“The astonishing truth of the failure of the Hong Kong Chinese to develop a significant pro-democracy or pro-independence movement, while other British colonies obtained independence long ago, testifies to the success of the British laws in accomplishing the goal of continued colonial rule over this land of six million inhabitants.”

MK Chan wrote in a law review report that “to most people in Hong Kong, the preservation of the existing legal system is of crucial importance to the high degree of autonomy the post-colonial Hong Kong Special Administrative Region is supposed to enjoy under Chinese sovereignty according to the “One Country, Two Systems” formula.

“However, this widely shared perception is flawed for one simple reason: the legal system in Hong Kong today has its own serious defects. It is not only alien in origin,” and “markedly different from the legal system in the People’s Republic of China but also defective and inadequate”.

No protest has gained voice, neither through yellow shirts nor umbrellas. And no protests were staged because the British didn’t allow elections during the colonial rule from over a century and a half.

The 1995 Hong Kong Legislative Council election for members of the Legislative Council of Hong Kong was only finally held that year – it was the first and last fully elected legislative election in the colonial period before the nation was returned to China two years later. So much for democracy and freedom.

No HK resident protested that only the white men could hold top posts in government bodies, places where there were many qualified HK civil servants who could speak and write in English better than their superiors.

To put it bluntly, there was not even a squeak – and we know how corrupt the HK police were in the 1970s – about the force being headed by Britons.

To be fair, the British transformed HK from a barren island to an international hub, with a working administration system that has won the confidence of the international community.

However, the responsibility of the British ended in 1997 when HK was handed over to the Chinese. It has lost its right to tell the Chinese what to do.

But what has brought this resentment towards China, from HK Chinese people, and perhaps, even a yearning, for British rule?

Not long ago, it was reported that some localists had taken to thumbing their nose at “China’s heavy-handed meddling” by waving the British flag at football matches, booing the Chinese anthem and chanting “We are Hong Kong! Hong Kong is not China!” in English.

Reports have also surfaced about a small Hong Kong-United Kingdom Reunification Campaign, which angled for a return to British rule but ultimately dismissed as quirky.

Then there are HK people who talk about the “good times” under British rule.

If there is a history lesson which the Chinese can learn from British Malaya, it’s that the Brits administered their colonies well and without the need for any heavy-handed approaches, even as they robbed these colonies of their rich minerals.

Reports of Beijing’s transgressions in the territory, such as the kidnapping by mainland agents of local booksellers, or the National People’s Congress purportedly stepping into local judicial cases, won’t win the hearts of the HK people.

Beijing must put on a softer face and display plenty of patience in dealing with HK. There is really no rush for China, especially with risking an international black eye at a time when it can ill afford to do so.

Yes, China is concerned about how its billion people will react if they see these hot-headed HK protesters abusing policemen.

The lessons from the breakup of the Soviet Union – and the wounded pride and dignity that follows – are always etched in the minds of Chinese leaders.

When CNN and BBC reporters talk about individual rights, they have no idea what Beijing or even the Chinese diaspora think.

But the people of HK must also accept the harsh reality – HK is now China’s sovereignty, and more and more of its independence, or even importance, will slowly fade away.

China doesn’t need HK as much as it used to as a strategic financial hub, because Chinese cities, including Beijing and Shanghai, have even eclipsed the former island nation. No matter how big or how long these protests run for, China knows the HK people don’t have the stamina, because rent and bills need to be paid, and protest sittings on streets don’t last anyway.

And the other blow is the British government’s refusal to grant citizenship to the 3.5 million Hongkongers born there under the British flag.

China needs to work harder on winning hearts and minds, and to make the HK people feel they are a fundamental part of China, and Chinese culture and pride.

HK people have always been independent because they were brought up differently and under different sets of political and legal systems, and that must be understood. There is no need to ramp through any laws, indicating that the HK people are unhappy.

The destiny of the HK people lies with China, and not Britain, but the challenge for Beijing is to make the people of HK feel those sentiments and be proud of it.

And speaking of extradition, let’s not forget that the US is also seeking to get WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange extradited from the UK for alleged crimes under the Espionage Act 1917, of which remains unclear.

He is the first journalist to have the book thrown at him for whistleblowing.

That’s not all. The US wants Huawei chief financial office Sabrina Meng Wanzhou to be extradited from Canada over charges which smell suspiciously like trumped up accusations. – by wong chun wai

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