China coronavirus death toll mounts to 25

A new coronavirus has killed 25 people in China and infected more than 800, the government says.

China’s health authorities issued the update on Friday, after the World Health Organisation declared it an emergency but stopped short of declaring the epidemic of international concern.

China’s National Health Commission said 830 cases had been confirmed so far and 25 people had died as of Thursday. Most of the cases are in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, where the virus is believed to have originated late last year.

Non-fatal cases have been found in at least seven other countries.

Health officials fear the transmission rate could accelerate as hundreds of millions of Chinese travel at home and abroad during week-long holidays for the Lunar New Year, which begins on Saturday.

Nonetheless, it was a “bit too early” to consider the outbreak a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern,” WHO Emergency Committee panel chair Didier Houssin said after the body met in Geneva. Such a designation would have required countries to step up the international response.

“Make no mistake, though, this is an emergency in China,” said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

“It has not yet become a global health emergency. It may yet become one,” he said.

Scrambling to contain the outbreak, the local government in Wuhan, a city of 11 million people in Hubei province, suspended most transport on Thursday, including outgoing flights, and people were told not to leave. Hours later, neighbouring Huanggang, a city of about seven million people, announced similar measures.

“The lockdown of 11 million people is unprecedented in public health history,” said Gauden Galea, the WHO’s representative in Beijing.

The organisation said, however, that it was not yet recommending any broader restrictions on travel or trade.

The previously unknown virus strain is believed to have emerged from illegally traded wildlife at an animal market in Wuhan.

It has created alarm because there are a number of unknowns surrounding it. It is too early to know just how dangerous it is and how easily it spreads between people.

There is no vaccine for the virus, which can spread through respiratory transmission. Symptoms include fever, difficulty breathing and coughing.

© RAW 2020

Hero US firefighters killed in NSW air tanker crash identified

The three US firefighters who were killed in a tragic aircraft tanker crash in the Snowy Mountains have been identified.

First Officer Paul Hudson, flight engineer Rick DeMorgan jnr and Captain Ian McBeth all died when the C-130 Hercules aircraft they were travelling in crashed while battling bushfires near Cooma on Thursday.

A major search was launched after contact with the aircraft was lost around 1.30pm, with helicopters spotting the wreckage a couple of hours later.

Coulson Aviation, the Canada-based operators of the firefighting aircraft, confirmed the sad news in a statement.

“Yesterday we lost three members of our Coulson Aviation Family in Australia onboard one of our C-130 aircraft,” Coulson Aviation said.

Paul Hudson, 43, was from Arizona and is survived by his wife Noreen.

He graduated from the Naval Academy in 1999 and spent the next twenty years serving in the United States Marine Corp in a number of positions including C-130 pilot.

Ian McBeth, 45, lived in Great Falls, Montana and is survived by his wife and three children, along with his parents, brother and two sisters.

He spent his entire career flying C-130’s and was a qualified Instructor and Evaluator pilot.

“Ian’s love for his wife and children was evident for anyone who spent time around him. Ian was a highly qualified and respected C-130 pilot with many years fighting fire, both in the military and with Coulson Aviation,” they said.

Rick DeMorgan, 43, lived in Florida and served in the United States Air Force with eighteen years as a Flight Engineer on the C-130.

He had over 4,000 hours as a Flight Engineer with nearly 2,000 hours in a combat environment. In a statement, Coulson Aviation said Rick’s passion was flying and his children.

He is survived by his wife and two children.

Coulson Aviation said crews will be returning to work “in the very near future” as they are “dedicated to the job we are required to do.”

“At Coulson Aviation, we have the incredible job of fighting fires around the world and we take pride in this responsibility.”

“Right now, our hearts are with the crew’s family and friends and our Coulson Family suffering in the loss of these three remarkable and well-respected crew-members.

“We must continue to work with emergency services to protect local communities. The aviation industry and emergency service sector is a small community both in Australia and around the world.

“We are incredibly moved by the outpouring and support from those in Australia and around the world. Thank you for recognizing the work that our crews do and for expressing your condolences and grief for the families of our fallen heroes.”

Wuhan stops flights, trains to halt coronavirus

China’s city of Wuhan is shutting down outbound flights and trains as the country battles the spread of a new coronavirus virus that has infected hundreds and killed 17.

China’s official Xinhua news agency said people have been asked not to leave the city of 11 million people without specific reasons.

Chinese health authorities have urged people in Wuhan to avoid crowds and public gatherings, after warning the new viral illness could spread further.

The appeal came as the World Health Organisation decided not to label the outbreak a “public health emergency of international concern” for the time being.

A committee of experts who advise the WHO saw no reason to for such a declaration on Wednesday but still wants to meet on Thursday.

The number of new cases has risen sharply in China, the centre of the outbreak.

Seventeen people have died, all in Hubei province, since the outbreak emerged in the provincial capital Wuhan late last month, officials announced on Wednesday night.

They said the province has confirmed 540 cases there.

National Health Commission deputy director Li Bin said there has been human-to-human transmission and infection of medical workers.

“Evidence has shown that the disease has been transmitted through the respiratory tract and there is the possibility of viral mutation,” Li told a news conference.

Several countries increased border health checks to guard against the disease’s spread, including Australia, the US, the UK and Russia.

The illness comes from a newly identified type of coronavirus, a family of viruses that can cause the common cold as well as more serious illnesses such as the SARS outbreak that spread from China to more than a dozen countries in 2002-2003 and killed about 800 people.

Authorities in Thailand on Wednesday confirmed four cases, a Thai national and three Chinese visitors.

Japan, South Korea, the US and Taiwan have all reported one case each. All of the illnesses struck people from Wuhan or those who recently travelled there.

Macao, a former Portuguese colony that is a semi-autonomous Chinese city, reported one case on Wednesday.

Some experts said they believe the threshold for the outbreak to be declared an international emergency had been reached.

Oxford University professor of emerging infectious diseases Peter Horby said there were three criteria for such a determination: the outbreak must be an extraordinary event, there must be a risk of international spread and a globally co-ordinated response is required.

“In my opinion, those three criteria have been met,” he said.

US President Donald Trump said his country was prepared to deal with any outbreak.

“We do have a plan, and we think it’s going to be handled very well. We’ve already handled it very well. … we’re in very good shape, and I think China’s in very good shape also.”

Travel agencies that organise trips to North Korea said the country has banned foreign tourists because of the outbreak.

Other countries have stepped up screening measures for travellers from China, especially those arriving from Wuhan.

Worries have been heightened by the Lunar New Year holiday rush, when millions of Chinese travel at home and abroad.

© DPA 2020

Great White Shark

Australia second on global shark attack list

The US has trumped Australia for the most shark attacks the past year.

America easily led the world in unprovoked attacks in 2019 with 41 bites, up from 32 the previous year, but significantly lower than the nation’s five-year average of 61 bites annually.

Australia had the second-most shark attacks globally with 11, down from its five-year annual average of 16 bites.

The University of Florida keeps track of attacks around the globe and releases the figures in its annual International Shark Attack File.

The 64 unprovoked bites worldwide in 2019 was a 22 per cent drop on the most recent five-year average and only two, one in Reunion and the other in the Bahamas, were fatal.

That was a drop from the average of four deaths from unprovoked attacks a year.

“We’ve had back-to-back years with unusual decreases in shark attacks, and we know that people aren’t spending less time in the water,” Gavin Naylor, director of the Florida Museum of Natural History’s shark research program, said.

“This suggests sharks aren’t frequenting the same places they have in the past.”

NSW had six of Australia’s 11 unprovoked attacks.

Queensland had four and Western Australia one.

Florida was the world’s shark attack hotspot with 21, representing 51 per cent of the US total and 33 per cent of unprovoked attacks worldwide.

Florida, however, experienced a significant drop from its most recent five-year annual average of 32 incidents.

Naylor said the decline may reflect changes in the migration patterns of blacktip sharks, the species most often implicated in Florida bites.

Hawaii had nine and California and North Carolina both had three.

South Africa, once a hotspot for shark attacks, only had one.

“The news coming out of South Africa is that they’re not seeing as many sharks,” Tyler Bowling, ISAF manager, said.

“White sharks have been moving out of some areas as pods of orcas move in, and there are reports that sharks are disappearing along the whole Cape.”

Surfers and others in board sports accounted for 53 per cent of the attacks, swimmers and waders 25 per cent snorkelers/free divers (11 per cent ), body-surfers (eight per cent) and scuba divers (3 per cent).

© AAP 2020

Prince Harry

WATCH: “I want you to hear the truth from me” Prince Harry breaks silence on Royal split

An emotional Prince Harry has broken his silence about his decision to split from the Royal family to start a more independent life.

During a speech at the Sentebale fundraiser in the UK, the Duke of Sussex said he wanted people to “hear the truth from me”.

“I can only imagine what you may have heard or perhaps read over the last few weeks,” Prince Harry began.

“I want you to hear the truth from me, as much as I can share – not as a Prince, or a Duke, but as Harry, the same person that many of you have watched grow up over the last 35 years – but with a clearer perspective.”

He continued by saying that his love for the UK will never change, and that it will always remain his home.

Harry then went on to reveal that his and Meghan’s decision to step back from their royal roles “brings him great sadness”, adding it is not a decision he made lightly.

“Once Meghan and I were married, we were excited, we were hopeful, and we were here to serve,” he explained.

“For those reasons, it brings me great sadness that it has come to this.

“The decision that I have made for my wife and I to step back, is not one I made lightly. It was so many months of talks after so many years of challenges. And I know I haven’t always gotten it right, but as far as this goes, there really was no other option.”

During the speech, the Duke of Sussex said he hopes everyone will “trust that the woman I chose as my wife upholds the same values as I do”.

“I have grown up feeling support from so many of you, and I watched as you welcomed Meghan with open arms as you saw me find the love and happiness that I had hoped for all my life. Finally, the second son of Diana got hitched, hurrah!” he joked.

“I also know you’ve come to know me well enough over all these years to trust that the woman I chose as my wife upholds the same values as I do. And she does, and she’s the same woman I fell in love with.

“We both do everything we can to fly the flag and carry out our roles for this country with pride.”

He finished by thanking everyone for “giving him the courage to take this next step.”

“What I want to make clear is we’re not walking away… Our hope was to continue serving the Queen, the commonwealth, and my military associations, but without public funding. Unfortunately, this wasn’t possible,” he explained.

“I’ve accepted this, knowing that it doesn’t change who I am or how committed I am. But I hope that helps you understand what it had to come to, that I had to step my family back from all I have ever known, to take a step forward into what I hope can be a more peaceful life.

“We are taking a leap of faith…. thank you for giving me the courage to take this next step.”

WATCH:

 

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