Xinhua Asia-Pacific news summary at 1000 GMT, May 11


MANILA — The Philippines’ Department of Health (DOH) confirmed on Tuesday its first two cases of the new COVID-19 variant first detected in India.

Alethea De Guzman of the DOH Epidemiology Bureau said the B.1.617 variant was detected from samples taken from two seafarers who arrived in the country from Oman on April 10 and the United Arab Emirates on April 19.(Philippines-COVID variant)

– – – –

SEOUL — South Korea’s intelligence agency chief left for Japan Tuesday morning to meet with his Japanese and U.S. counterparts, according to Yonhap news agency.

Park Ji-won, director of the National Intelligence Service (NIS), will reportedly hold a trilateral meeting in Japan with U.S. Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines and Hiroaki Takizawa, director of Japan’s cabinet intelligence.(South Korea-Japan-US-Meeting)

– – – –

MANILA — Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has placed the Southeast Asian country under a state of calamity for one year to address the impact from the outbreak of African swine fever, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said on Tuesday.

“The country will be under a state of calamity for a year unless lifted or extended as circumstances may warrant,” Roque told a televised press conference.(Philippines-African swine fever)

– – – –

SYDNEY — A survey conducted by two Australian universities found three-quarters or 73 percent of Australians would support a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination for work, study, and travel.

The survey was conducted by the University of Western Australia (UWA) and Sydney University and unveiled on Monday. Researchers surveyed 1,200 people and found more people advocating for mandatory vaccination, compared to 66 percent who will take a COVID-19 vaccine voluntarily.(Australia-Survey-Vaccination)

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White-hot housing market has Merseyside suburb at fever pitch


Prices in Wallasey, on the Wirral, are soaring in a nationwide boom fuelled by the stamp duty holiday, but will it last?

Homebuyers are scrambling for houses in Britain’s latest property hotspot – on the tip of the Wirral peninsula.

The Merseyside town of Wallasey has over the past year recorded a bigger rise in asking prices than any town or city in Britain, according to the listings site Rightmove. And it’s family homes with gardens – a popular choice during lockdown – that have become must-have assets.

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Cricket summer reaches fever pitch


They’re not raised to say that when it comes to the off-field rules the tourists have been flagrantly headbutting the line – to coin a now retired term once used by Australian players about the on-field ones.

But they do spell out that the meal enjoyed by five players – Rohit Sharma, Rishabh Pant, Shubman Gill, Navdeep Saini and Prithvi Shaw – at a Chinese noodle and BBQ restaurant in Melbourne on Friday was not the only transgression of the tour, no matter how low the risk.

India players eating at a restaurant in Melbourne on Friday.Credit:Twitter

After months of living in either a bubble of some sort of hard quarantine, the Indians’ unease with COVID-19 restrictions on Sunday manifested itself into objections about travelling to Brisbane for the fourth Test where they and the Australians will have to enter quarantine.

Whether or not they thought they would be left staring at four walls, as they did after arriving in Sydney in November when they weren’t training, wasn’t clear. But Cricket Australia officials were on Sunday night hoping a Queensland government allowance for players to have communal areas set up inside the hotel that has been taken out for the game would lower the temperature and avoid a Brisbane boycott.

It’s effectively the same landscape the teams will face for their week-long stay in Sydney for the third Test, starting on Thursday, the only difference being that in Brisbane it will be state government-determined rules they will be living by inside the hotel while in NSW the protocols have been drawn up by CA.

Whatever the outcome – a fourth Test at the Gabba or a third and fourth at the SCG – a dramatic and fast-moving 24 hours has reinforced the unique quality of bilateral international cricket; that it’s effectively played at the invitation of one national board to another, who can theoretically pull the pin on a host city or a series altogether in the absence of a world governing body that carries any real clout.

Virat Kohli and Hardik Pandya pose for photos at a baby shop last month.

Virat Kohli and Hardik Pandya pose for photos at a baby shop last month.

Add to the picture the visiting team being the one-out financial superpower of the sport and a host board desperate to complete the series for the $300 million or so it generates in television revenue and you have a delicate situation.

The nature of non-tournament international cricket also left the apparent bubble breaches by the five Indian players in the hands of the BCCI, not CA or the International Cricket Council, which only has oversight over the series in that it supplies the umpires and match referees, dishes out on-field penalties and adds up the points for its World Test Championship.

It also means CA, which designed the biosecurity protocols in consultation with infectious diseases experts in an effort not to fall foul of interstate border closures, never really had any say over whether the tourists followed the rules or not.

It is up to India, whose board was still investigating the restaurant breach on Sunday, to determine any sanction, be it a fine or a suspension – as unlikely as the latter is – ahead of the start of the third Test on Thursday.

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Australian reports of the slip-up – which initially included a supporter hugging Pant before the fan later tweeted that he did not in fact embrace the wicketkeeper – whipped up some elements of the Indian media, who rubbished the suggestion of an investigation before it was confirmed in a CA media release soon after.

One even invoked the memory of the most damaging episode between the two cricket nations, the Monkeygate scandal at the Sydney Test in 2008, saying “there is a feeling that Indian team might just come together” like then.

Thankfully, the temperature is nowhere near that high no matter how tiresome cricket’s bubble has become. But there will be a few officials at CA breathing a sigh of relief once this series like no other is over.

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Netball Club Exposed With A Major Breach Fined $300,000

Stacey Marinkovich, West Coast Fever coach, has been cleared of any misconduct after her West Coast Fever team was fined $300,000 and docked 12 points for the 2021 Super Netball season.

This was due to the salary cap breaches with worth more than $296,000 over two years.

In addition, the breaches comprise undisclosed contracts with binding agreement of payments exceeding the competition’s Total Player Payment Cap. The Fever, who has been coached by Marinkovich since 2014, breached the cap by $127,954 (19.7 per cent) in 2018 and $168,659 (25.3 per cent) in 2019.

As per Garry Chandler, Acting Netball WA and Fever CEO, “compliance is a whole of club responsibility”. He cited that it is very dark day for the club with everybody involved being devastated over the news.

He then added the investigation was confidential. “We will be united through this and everyone at the club is committed to helping restore the faith of our fans and members and on making sure we give everything in season 2021.” He said.

On the other hand, the Super Netball Commission saw that no Fever players were aware of the breaches and that no current coaches – including Marinkovich – were involved in “signing players or organising payments through undisclosed contracts”.

The Commission revealed how the $300,000 fine will be broken down. Half of it will be suspended for three years, $75,000 will be allocated in the 2020/21 financial year and the other $75,000 will be paid on the following financial year.

Starting with a disadvantage, the year’s beaten grand finalists will start their 2021 season with negative 12 points.

As per Marina Go, Super Netball Commission chair, the matter first came to her attention via “small breaches” in June.

“Then it became evident they were much larger than that. It’s extremely disappointing … but it happens, and we obviously hope it never happens again. This is a very disappointing day for the league.”

Despite the controversies, the Fever board fully co-operated with the investigation once the extent of the breaches was identified. In a separate statement, the Fever revealed: “It’s important to know that we are deeply committed to ensuring this never happens within our club again.

We have already commenced a significant review of our structure as an organization, and we are taking steps to enhance and ensure both operational and board level oversight of all compliance areas across our club moving forward.”

Given that, it is not the first time that breaches were busted. In fact, it is the second time this year a Super Netball team has been punished for breaching the salary cap, as March saw the Adelaide Thunderbirds fined $100,000 for breaching the cap by almost $23,000 in the 2019 season.

West Coast Fever fined $300k, lose 12 premiership points over salary cap breach


The head coach of the Fever in those season was Stacey Marinkovich, who was recently appointed as the new coach of the Australian Diamonds team.

But the investigation found no evidence that any current West Coast Fever players or coaching staff, including Marinkovich, were aware of the breaches.

The club was on Monday handed a $300,000 fine by the commission. Half of the fine – $150,000 – was suspended and will be paid if the salary cap is again breached in the next three years.

Of the remaining sum, $75,000 will be paid in the 2020/21 financial year and $75,000 will be paid in 2021/22 financial year.

The club will also lose 12 competitions points next season and will start on negative points for 2021.

The investigation found no evidence that any current West Coast Fever players or coaching staff, including new Diamonds coach Stacey Marinkovich, were aware of the breaches.

Super Netball Commission chair Marina Go said the breaches were significant.

“There is no room for this behaviour within our sport and the Commission is disappointed to have to hand down these sanctions,” she said.

“We obviously hope it never happens again…this is a very disappointing day for the league.”

In October, Netball WA chief executive and West Coast Fever managing director Simon Taylor resigned but is not believed to be involved in the breach.

West Coast Fever acting chief executive Garry Chandler said the club had meetings with players and staff on Monday morning.

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“Compliance is a whole of club responsibility and as a club, we take full responsibility,” he said.

“It’s a very dark day for the club, everybody involved in and around the club is completely devastated.

“We will be united through this and everyone at the club is committed to helping to restore the faith of our fans and members and on making sure we give everything in season 2021.”

Earlier this year, the Adelaide Thunderbirds were fined $100,000 for breaching the salary cap during the 2019 Super Netball season.

The probe confirmed the Thunderbirds had exceeded their total player payments by $22,698 for the 2019 season.

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Research sheds new light on hay fever symptoms and treatments for young Australians


Young Australians with hay fever are suffering through seasonal sneezes and nose irritations unnecessarily, according to new research from Sydney’s Woolcock Institute of Medical Research.

The study of 800 children with hay fever, published in the prestigious British Medical Journal, found while 90 percent of children take medication to manage their symptoms, 50 per cent still didn’t have the condition under control.

Those children were also more likely to have poorer physical and mental health and fewer happy days compared to their peers.

The study of 800 children with hay fever, published in the prestigious British Medical Journal, found while 90 percent of children take medication to manage their symptoms, 50 per cent still didn’t have the condition under control. (9News)

“There is a lot of children out there who are suffering as a result of their hay fever,” said lead researcher, Professor Sinthia Bosnic-Anticevich.

“Parents have reported that their children have disruption of sleep, they’re more irritable, that they find they are more distractible and they’ve also reported that they have difficulty doing school work and other activities that are part of their day to day life.”

Hay fever, also known as Allergic Rhinitis, affects one in five or 4.6 million Australians. It’s triggered by house dust, animal fur, pollens, fungal spores and air pollutants that irritate the nose, causing sniffles, nasal congestion, sneezing, and watery or itchy eyes.

Chloe Oliver, 11, has had hay fever for as long as she can remember.

The Year 6 student carries over-the-counter medicines in her backpack to take when her symptoms flare.

“When it’s windy and dusty, sometimes in the classroom, there will be heaps of dust and I can feel a sneeze coming on,” Chloe told 9News.

“It’s difficult because in class I have to go and get tissues every day.”

Hay fever research
While over-the-counter antihistamines are a popular choice, Professor Bosnic-Anticevich says nasal sprays are the gold standard overseas. (9News)
Hay fever research
Chloe Oliver, 11 (R), has had hay fever for as long as she can remember. (9News)

While over-the-counter antihistamines are a popular choice, Professor Bosnic-Anticevich says nasal sprays are the gold standard overseas.

She says parents should be on the lookout for symptoms of a runny and itchy nose and if their child seems more tired and irritable than usual and if they suspect hay fever, rather than reaching for over the counter options, speak to a pharmacist or doctor first to make sure they’re getting the right treatment.

“It’s really just knowing what’s best for your child,” Professor Bosnic-Anticevich said.

“We’ve had parents talk to us and tell us they’ve noticed really significant changes in their children, in how happy they are and just their ability to do day-to-day activities.”



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British father bitten by deadly snake while battling coronavirus in India…after contracting malaria and dengue fever


I

 A British father is suffering from blindness and paralysis in a hospital in ndia after being bitten by a snake while battling coronavirus, his family have said.

Ian Jones was in intensive care on Friday after being bitten by a black king cobra in a village in the north west of the country.

His son said the former healthcare worker had already experienced malaria and dengue fever during his few months in the country, where he has been running Sabirian, a charity-backed social enterprise aimed at helping people trade their way out of poverty.  

His family, who live with him on the Isle of Wight, told of their shock at what had happened in Jodhpur, Rajasthan. They described Mr Jones as a “fighter”, saying they hope the blindness and paralysis are temporary.

Mr Jones’s son Seb despite his illnesses he had “remained resolute in his determination to stay in the country and continue his work to help the people that needed his support”. 

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Ian Jones’ family took this picture of the black king cobra which bit him 

/ PA )

He said: “He had not been able to travel home due to the pandemic and as a family we understood his desire to continue to support the many people who relied on him.

“We were naturally concerned about him though and then when we heard he had also suffered what is usually a fatal snakebite on top of all that he had been through, we honestly could not believe it.

“It really has been touch and go, he is stable at the moment although he has paralysis in his legs and blindness, both of which we hope is temporary, but it is clear he is going to need to remain in hospital out there for some time to come. 

“We are extremely grateful to his colleagues there who have been brilliant and rallied around him in his time of need, as indeed he did for them.”

Community Action Isle of Wight, which owns Sabirian, has set up a GoFundMe page to raise funds to cover Mr Jones’s medical costs and in the hope he can eventually be transported home.

Sabirian helps some 70 Indian craftspeople aged between 18-87 by providing training to import and sell their crafts and furniture in the UK in a sustainable and ethical way.



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Record grass pollen in Canberra to blame for hay fever, thunderstorm asthma warnings


Coronavirus has brought months of lockdowns, isolation and staying at home, but for some, the need to shut up the house and isolate due to an invisible health threat isn’t new.

Thunderstorm asthma warnings issued for the ACT yesterday and today have seen many take extra precautions and stay inside.

For Eloise Robertson, who suffers from asthma triggered by pollen, it’s not the first time she’s had to bunker down in her house, and it probably won’t be the last.

“My whole world basically stops,” she said.

“When there’s thunderstorm warnings I will just stay in the house, pretty much stay in my bedroom.

Once, Eloise could manage her allergy symptoms to avoid triggering an asthma flare-up. But after this year’s horror hay fever season in the ACT, her doctor has had to prescribe her a stronger medication.

And she’s not alone.

ACT Pharmacy Guild president Simon Blacker said he had seen a lot more Canberrans with prescriptions for hay fever relief this year.

“Given the seriousness of their symptoms this year, they are looking for the best treatment they can get,” he said.

ANU points finger at grass pollen

Spring in Canberra has brought the highest rates of pollen recorded by the Australian National University’s pollen monitoring program in over five years.

Experts say Canberra is recording high levels of grass pollen.(ABC News: Greg Nelson)

Professor Simon Haberle, from the ANU’s pollen monitoring program, said a wetter than average spring was prolonging the problem.

Imported oaks, birches and other introduced trees in older suburbs that produce large pollen loads wear a lot of the blame for the city’s particularly bad hay fever seasons.

But Mr Haberle said Canberra’s hay fever seasons were made worse because of the region’s grass types, which many people are allergic to.

“We have quite a lot of grass, particularly to the north-west and north and east of us, and people are quite allergic to those different grass types, particularly rye grass, which is the strongest allergy grass we’ve got in our region.”

And while peaks of pollen loads in September were due to introduced trees, Paterson’s Curse and grasses are more likely to be the pollen culprits at this time of year.

High levels of pollen are expected for the rest of the week.



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Election fever has us sweating on result


It has long been predicted this would be Trump’s preferred tactic after election day, should the votes not fall his way – but the fact it has come to fruition has still taken many by surprise. Americans have long proclaimed they live in the oldest and greatest democracy in the world, but the way the nation’s President has reacted to democracy this week only highlights how divided the country is today.

Australia’s interest in Trump and the US election has been borderline obsessive. As we do with all major news events these days, we have helmed a live blog for most of the week – this time continuously, 24 hours a day, since Tuesday morning. On Wednesday, the blog accrued nearly 5 million page views – 420,000 of them were subscribers to the Herald, The Age, the Brisbane Times and WAtoday. The bulk of those – just under 4 million – came from smh.com.au. Thursday wasn’t quite as big but we still had more than 3 million total page views on the blog across all sites; 400,000 of those were subscribers.

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This is an absolutely enormous result, and we believe it could be the highest number of readers we have ever had on a blog.

In a quick exploration of the other numbers, digital editor Alex Rowe said the volume of readers interacting with our Associated Press-fed US election results tracker was also extraordinary. Since Wednesday, it has accrued nearly 2 million page views, 400,000 of which came from our subscribers who engaged with it for more than four-and-a-half minutes each session. This shows how much our readers like to explore the raw data and inform themselves about the facts that underpin events and stories.

The commentary and analysis we provided alongside the rolling developments were also well received. In the early hours of Wednesday morning, as Trump declared the Democrats guilty of trying to “steal” the election, our correspondent Matthew Knott filed a stinging analysis that opened with this chilling line: The foundations of America’s centuries-old democracy are shaking. It was, he wrote, a dark chapter in America’s history for the country’s President to challenge its hard-earned democracy so brazenly – and wrongly.

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Peter Hartcher’s considered commentary followed a similar tone – his first line? Until Donald Trump took to the podium, election day 2020 was a vindication of American democracy. Turnout was high and voting orderly. And the contest was extremely competitive … it could well have been a case study in the durability of the American democratic spirit.

The other major theme of the election was how the published polls once again failed to pick up the large numbers of votes for the Republican President. The polls weren’t “election interference”, as Trump claimed, but it was a sign that the system of tracking voter intention is deeply unreliable. This piece we commissioned, on why the polls were wrong and why they’ll never be right again – is fascinating if you’re interested in this issue.

The 2020 US election is far from over. But stay with us for all the action.



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