Airplane Seats

NZ travel bubble still at least six months away

Bad news for anyone hoping to get across the ditch before Christmas, with officials shooting down the idea of a travel bubble with New Zealand.

The boss of Air New Zealand says at the very earliest a bubble could occur in March 2021, but it’s highly unlikely it would be any sooner.

It comes after earlier plans to have a travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand operating by September this year.

That was seriously put in doubt when the second wave rolled into Melbourne.

And again when new cases begun popping up in New Zealand.

Air New Zealand CEO Greg Foran has told Newscorp it’ll at least be another six months before Aussies and Kiwis can go between without exemptions and quarantine periods.

“I certainly do not believe we will see anything across the Tasman this calendar year,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald.

“It’s hard to believe it would be before March next year and could well be longer.

“If it comes back quicker, we’re going to pop some champagne,” he said.

Donald Trump

FBI investigating poisoned letter sent to Donald Trump

Authorities in the US have thwarted an attempt to poison President Donald Trump.

The FBI has confirmed a letter addressed to the President tested positive for ricin last week.

“The FBI and our U.S. Secret Service and U.S. Postal Inspection Service partners are investigating a suspicious letter received at a U.S. government mail facility,” The FBI said in a statement.

“At this time, there is no known threat to public safety.”

Officials are now trying to determine where the package came from, with unconfirmed reports it was sent from Canada.

Ricin is a chemical poison found in castor beans and can be deadly if inhaled in even small doses.

Those who are exposed are likely to suffer breathing difficulty, fever, cough, nausea followed by a build up of fluid in the lungs, low blood pressure and respiratory failure.

More to come.

Coronavirus Australia

French virus cases hit new daily record

France has reported 13,215 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 over the past 24 hours – a new daily record.

The health ministry also said on Friday that the total number of deaths from coronavirus increased by 123 to 31,249.

That would make the daily toll the highest in three months.

Based on Thursday’s reported toll of 31,095, the increase would amount to 154, a four-month high.

As the infection rate increases daily, the most affected regions and cities in France have tightened regulations.

The city of Nice on the French Riviera will ban gatherings of more than 10 people in public spaces and force bars to close early after Marseille and Bordeaux introduced similar measures on Monday.

Paris, where the virus has also been circulating more quickly than elsewhere, has not banned gatherings of more than 10 people but the police prefecture said on Friday that it strongly advised against private gatherings of more than 10 people.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Friday he had tested positive for coronavirus but had no symptoms and would continue to carry out his duties.

Le Maire said in a statement on Twitter that he would remain in self-isolation at home.

“I will remain in isolation for seven days,” Le Maire said.

© RAW 2020

Vaccine Elderly

Oxford, AstraZeneca resume vaccine trial

Oxford University has announced it is resuming a trial for a coronavirus vaccine it is developing with pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, a move that comes days after the study was suspended following a reported side-effect in a UK patient.

In a statement on Saturday, the university confirmed the restart across all of its UK clinical trial sites after regulators gave the go-ahead following the pause on Sunday.

“The independent review process has concluded and following the recommendations of both the independent safety review committee and the UK regulator, the MHRA, the trials will recommence in the UK,” it said.

The vaccine being developed by Oxford and AstraZeneca is widely perceived to be one of the strongest contenders among the dozens of coronavirus vaccines in various stages of testing around the world.

British Health Secretary Matt Hancock welcomed the restart, saying in a tweet that it was “good news for everyone” that the trial is “back up and running.”

The university said in large trials such as this “it is expected that some participants will become unwell and every case must be carefully evaluated to ensure careful assessment of safety.”

It said globally some 18,000 people have received its vaccine so far. Volunteers from some of the worst affected countries – Britain, Brazil, South Africa and the US – are taking part in the trial.

Although Oxford would not disclose information about the patient’s illness due to participant confidentiality, an AstraZeneca spokesman said earlier this week that a woman had developed severe neurological symptoms that prompted the pause.

Specifically, the woman is said to have developed symptoms consistent with transverse myelitis, a rare inflammation of the spinal cord.

The university insisted that it is “committed to the safety of our participants and the highest standards of conduct in our studies and will continue to monitor safety closely.”

Pauses in drug trials are commonplace and the temporary hold led to a sharp fall in AstraZeneca’s share price following the announcement on Tuesday.

The Oxford-AstraZeneca study had been previously stopped in July for several days after a participant developed neurological symptoms that turned out to be an undiagnosed case of multiple sclerosis that researchers said was unrelated to the vaccine.

© AP 2020

Bushfire Roof

Half a million evacuated in US fires

Around half a million people in Oregon are under evacuation alerts, with residents of its largest city told to be ready to leave as wildfires that have taken at least 24 lives since erupting in August tore through three US West Coast states.

About 100 wildfires have belched out smoke that poses a health threat and giving California, Oregon and Washington some of the worst air quality levels anywhere around the globe.

In hard-hit Oregon, search teams on Friday entered areas where fires burned through small communities, the head of the state’s office of emergency management said, adding that authorities were prepared for possible “mass casualty incidents.”

Molalla, a community about 40km south of downtown Portland, was an ash-covered ghost town after its more than 9000 residents were told to evacuate, with only 30 refusing to leave, the city’s fire department said.

The logging town was on the front line of a vast evacuation zone stretching north to within 5km of downtown Portland, with Clackamas County police setting a 10pm curfew to deter “possible increased criminal activity.”

State Governor Kate Brown told a press conference that 40,000 people were under mandatory evacuation alerts.

Some 500,000 residents were under evacuation advisories of either red “GO!” warnings to leave homes immediately, yellow “BE SET” warnings to leave at a moment’s notice, or green “BE READY” alerts, she said

A drop in winds, higher moisture levels and forecast rain were expected to help firefighters going into the weekend in towns like Molalla, at the mercy of wind strength and direction after two of Oregon’s largest wildfires merged into one.

Blazes jumped from wildfires burning through scrub and forest, exploding into suburban firestorms as flames leaped from house to house.

In neighbouring Washington state to the north, online video from the Tacoma area showed fires starting in a residential area and setting homes ablaze. People were seen running from house to house to warn neighbours.

The death toll from the siege of West Coast fires that began in August jumped to 24 after seven people were reported killed in a fire burning in mountains around 140km north of Sacramento, California.

More than 3900 homes and others structures have burned in California alone.

More than 68,000 people were under evacuation orders in California where the largest fire in state history has burned over 299,500 hectares in the Mendocino National Forest around 190km northwest of Sacramento.

Police opened an arson investigation into the fire that destroyed much of Phoenix and Talent in Oregon.

Scientists say climate change has contributed to greater extremes in wet and dry seasons, causing vegetation to flourish then dry out, leaving more abundant, volatile fuel for fires.

© RAW 2020