China, dollar take toll on prices

After a bumpy 2020, Australian meat producers and exporters face headwinds in 2021.

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Japan Suicide Rates Reveal COVID-19’s Mental Health Toll

AsianScientist (Jan. 19, 2021) – In a wide-ranging study covering the entire Japanese population, researchers found that suicide rates among women, children and adolescents surged during COVID-19’s second wave. Their results were published in Nature Human Behaviour.

While COVID-19’s varied list of symptoms (or even lack thereof) is well-documented, the disease’s psychological toll has received less attention. Referred to as a ‘hidden epidemic,’ mental health issues have spiked during the pandemic—likely due to anxiety caused by the threat of catching COVID-19 as well as loneliness resulting from social distancing measures.

To investigate COVID-19’s impact on mental health, Dr. Shohei Okamoto from the Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Gerontology and Mr. Takanao Tanaka from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology examined changes in Japan’s suicide rates before and after the pandemic’s onset.

The researchers analyzed city-level data covering the entire Japanese population—more than 120 million people—from November 2016 to October 2020. They found that monthly suicide rates dwindled by 14 percent during the pandemic’s first five months, covering a period of February to June 2020.

Suicides among adults saw the greatest decline during Japan’s state of emergency from March to April 2020, in both women (27 percent) and men (21 percent). This decline was likely linked to lower economic stress resulting from the provision of government subsidies along with reduced working hours and commuting time, leading to improved quality of life and mental health. Likewise, the closure of schools during the first wave may have lessened COVID-19’s mental toll on children and adolescents.

In contrast, during the pandemic’s second wave from July to October 2020, monthly suicide rates grew by 16 percent overall, with a respective increase of 37 percent and 49 percent observed among females and adolescents. Meanwhile, suicide mortality rates increased by only about 7 percent in Japanese males.

Considering that the suicide rate among males in Japan is typically 2.3 times higher compared to females, their findings represent a marked difference from historical suicide patterns. Across both waves of the pandemic, suicides among married and unemployed women also increased. These results are consistent with recent studies that show the outsized impact of COVID-19 on industries dominated by women, as well as the greater burden of stay-at-home orders on mothers.

In summary, the pandemic may have disproportionately affected the mental health of women, children and adolescents. Suicide prevention strategies should therefore consider the factors that may have contributed to reduced suicide rates during the first wave, with these strategies tailored towards specific population groups.

“Our results offer a number of important insights on suicide mortality during the pandemic that may be relevant even after normal life resumes,” wrote the paper’s authors. “Overall suicide trends must be monitored, so that immediate policy responses can be considered.”

The article can be found at: Tanaka & Okamoto (2021) Increase in Suicide Following an Initial Decline During the COVID-19 Pandemic in Japan.


Source: Nature; Photo: Shutterstock.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.

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Global COVID-19 death toll tops 2 million

FILE PHOTO: Health workers carry the body of a man who died due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) for his cremation at a crematorium in New Delhi, India, June 4, 2020. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi/File Photo

January 15, 2021

By Shaina Ahluwalia and Kavya B

(Reuters) – The worldwide coronavirus death toll surpassed 2 million on Friday, according to a Reuters tally, as nations around the world are trying to procure multiple vaccines and detect new COVID-19 variants.

It took nine months for the world to record the first 1 million deaths from the novel coronavirus but only three months to go from 1 million to 2 million deaths, illustrating an accelerating rate of fatalities. (Graphic:

So far in 2021, deaths have averaged over 11,900 per day or one life lost every eight seconds, according to a Reuters tally.

“Our world has reached a heart-wrenching milestone ,” United Nations chief Antonio Guterres said in a video statement.

“Behind this staggering number are names and faces: the smile now only a memory, the seat forever empty at the dinner table, the room that echoes with the silence of a loved one,” he said, calling for more global coordination and funding for the vaccination effort.

By April 1, the global death toll could approach 2.9 million, according to a forecast from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. (

Given how fast the virus is spreading due to more infectious variants, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned the worst could be ahead.

“We are going into a second year of this. It could even be tougher given the transmission dynamics and some of the issues that we are seeing,” Mike Ryan, the WHO’s top emergencies official, said during a Wednesday event.

The United States has the highest total number of deaths at over 386,000 and accounts for one in every four deaths reported worldwide each day. The next worst-affected countries are Brazil, India, Mexico and the United Kingdom. Combined, the five countries contribute to almost 50% of all COVID-19 deaths in the world but represent only 27% of the global population. (Graphic:

Europe, the worst-affected region in the world, has reported over 615,000 deaths so far and accounts for nearly 31% of all COVID-related deaths globally.

In India, which recently surpassed 151,000 deaths, vaccinations are set to begin on Saturday in an effort that authorities hope will see 300 million high-risk people inoculated over the next six to eight months.

(Reportintg by Shaina Ahluwalia and Kavya B in Bengalaru; Additional reporting by Chaithra J in Bengaluru; Editing by Lisa Shumaker, Frances Kerry and Jonathan Oatis)

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2021 Australian Open COVID crisis deepens, Pfizer vaccine deaths in Norway spark concern, worldwide COVID-19 death toll tops 2 million

Three mystery cases of the same strain of COVID-19 that erupted within hours of each other at opposite ends of Sydney’s northern beaches are at the centre of the hunt for the outbreak’s patient zero.

However, the popular theory that Sydney’s latest wave of cases was spawned by a celebrity or a business identity self-isolating on the beaches’ affluent northern peninsula appears to have been debunked by authorities.

NSW Health has revealed it did not grant any exemptions to isolate outside of hotel quarantine to any local residents in the month leading up to the outbreak.

Find out what else health authorities know so far about “patient zero”.

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Coronavirus updates live: Global COVID-19 death toll hits 2 million; anger over Victoria's borders as tennis players arrive; NSW considers vaccine phone 'ticks'

Global COVID-19 death toll hits two million as Victorian anger grows over border restrictions while tennis players enter the state. NSW considers vaccine phone ‘ticks’.

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Global Covid-19 Death Toll Passes Two Million

The global death toll from Covid-19 passed two million on Friday, with the World Health Organization (WHO) urging mass vaccinations as the pandemic progresses at a record rate.

As of 1825 GMT on Friday, at least 2,000,066 people worldwide had been confirmed dead of the virus that first emerged in Wuhan, central China, in late 2019, according to an AFP tally.

As Germany’s Meissen crematorium struggles to cope with an explosion in deaths from the coronavirus pandemic in the region, coffins are stacked up to three high or even stored in hallways awaiting cremation. Largely spared in the first wave of the outbreak, the eastern state of Saxony has topped Germany’s worst-hit zone for weeks in the second wave.
 AFPTV / Raphaelle LOGEROT

The grim milestone came as US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer said shipments of its vaccines would slow for a period in late January — a blow to fledgling campaigns to immunise people against the virus.

The WHO on Friday called for a worldwide acceleration in vaccine rollouts — as well as a ramp-up in efforts to study the sequencing of the virus, to tackle troubling new strains emerging around the world.

At Germany's Meissen crematorium, in the state of Saxony, coffins are stacked up three high, or even stored in hallways, awaiting cremation

At Germany’s Meissen crematorium, in the state of Saxony, coffins are stacked up three high, or even stored in hallways, awaiting cremation

“I want to see vaccination under way in every country in the next 100 days so that health workers and those at high risk are protected first,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a press conference in Geneva.

His call came as infections snowballed, with 724,000 new cases recorded on average per day globally over the past week, according to AFP’s tally — a record 10 percent increase on a week earlier.

Britain now requires negative Covid tests for entry

Britain now requires negative Covid tests for entry

While countries from Spain to Lebanon have announced record caseloads, the surge has been most marked in Latin America and the Caribbean, where confirmed cases leapt 26 percent this week.

World map showing the number of Covid-19 deaths by country, as of November 13 at 1100 GMT

World map showing the number of Covid-19 deaths by country, as of November 13 at 1100 GMT

In Europe, which has suffered more than 650,000 coronavirus deaths, there are concerns that delays to the Pfizer jabs could further slow a vaccine rollout that has already faced heavy criticism.

China is pushing ahead with an massive inoculation campaign

China is pushing ahead with an massive inoculation campaign
 AFP / Noel Celis

Pfizer, which jointly developed its vaccine with German company BioNTech, said EU countries could expect delayed deliveries in the coming weeks due to works at its plant in Belgium.

It promised that there would be “a significant increase” in shipments in March, and the European Commission said all vaccines ordered by the bloc for the first quarter would be delivered on time.

But ministers from Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania and Sweden said in a joint letter that the situation was “unacceptable” and “decreases the credibility of the vaccination process”.

India will begin its huge vaccination programme on Saturday

India will begin its huge vaccination programme on Saturday
 AFP / Gagan NAYAR

not expected before the end of the year.

Many countries have meanwhile doubled down on restrictions as the cases mount.

The healthcare system in Manaus, Brazil, is under huge strain because of surging virus numbers

The healthcare system in Manaus, Brazil, is under huge strain because of surging virus numbers
 AFP / Michael DANTAS

Portugal entered a fresh lockdown Friday, and new curbs on populations were announced from Italy to Brazil.

At the Meissen crematorium in Germany’s Saxony state, coffins were stacked up to three high, awaiting cremation.

Scientists see large-scale vaccination as the way out of the crisis

Scientists see large-scale vaccination as the way out of the crisis

Manager Joerg Schaldach said that anyone still questioning the severity of the pandemic should take a look at the bodies piling up.

“This is heavy work, so why don’t the Covid-19 deniers come and do it,” he said. “We have a disastrous situation here.”

Brazil’s northern Amazonas state announced a curfew from 7.00 pm to 6.00 am, with the health system in state capital Manaus at breaking point.

The city’s hospital intensive care units have been at 100 percent capacity for the past two weeks, while medical workers are battling a shortage of oxygen and other essential equipment.

“This is a situation where your whole system begins to implode,” said WHO emergency director Michael Ryan.

Fear has been growing that a new strain of the virus found in Brazil could be more contagious, just like the variants recently found in Britain and South Africa.

Britain has banned all arrivals from South America and Portugal in a bid to prevent the new variant arriving, while also announcing Friday that all arrivals to the UK must show negative test results and quarantine.

Warnings from cash-strapped companies and governments about the economic fallout of the crisis are also piling up.

Italy said it was seeking to borrow an extra 32 billion euros, while senior French rail executive Christophe Fanichet said Eurostar was in “a very critical” state as the pandemic has reduced its service to just one London-Paris connection per day.

The UN aviation agency on Friday predicted “prolonged depressed demand” for air travel and more financial woes for airlines, following a year of fewer flights and big losses blamed on the pandemic.

Air travel plunged 60 percent in 2020 as nations closed borders and restricted travel to slow the spread of Covid-19, the International Civil Aviation Organization said in a report.

In the United States, President-elect Joe Biden unveiled a proposal for a $1.9 trillion relief package aimed at revitalising the world’s largest economy.

“In this moment of crisis… we cannot afford inaction,” Biden said.

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Global death toll from COVID-19 passes two million

“As a country, as a society, as citizens we haven’t understood,” lamented Israel Gomez, a Mexico City paramedic who spent months shuttling COVID-19 patients around by ambulance, desperately looking for vacant hospital beds. “We have not understood that this is not a game, that this really exists.”

Mexico, a country of 130 million people, has received just 500,000 doses of vaccine and has put barely half of those into the arms of healthcare workers.

That’s in sharp contrast to the situation for its wealthier northern neighbour. Despite early delays, hundreds of thousands of people are rolling up their sleeves every day in the United States, where the virus has killed about 390,000, by far the highest toll of any country.

All told, more than 35 million doses of various COVID-19 vaccines have been administered around the world, according to the University of Oxford.

While vaccination drives in rich countries have been hamstrung by long lines, inadequate budgets and a patchwork of state and local approaches, the obstacles are far greater in poorer nations, which can have weak health systems, crumbling transportation networks, entrenched corruption and a lack of reliable electricity to keep vaccines cold enough.

Also, the majority of the world’s COVID-19 vaccine doses have already been snapped up by wealthy countries. COVAX, a UN-backed project to supply shots to developing parts of the world, has found itself short of vaccine, money and logistical help.

As a result, the World Health Organisation’s chief scientist warned it is highly unlikely that herd immunity – which would require at least 70% of the globe to be vaccinated – will be achieved this year. As the disaster has demonstrated, it is not enough to snuff out the virus in a few places.

“Even if it happens in a couple of pockets, in a few countries, it’s not going to protect people across the world,” Dr Soumya Swaminathan said this week.

Health experts fear, too, that if shots are not distributed widely and fast enough, it could give the virus time to mutate and defeat the vaccine – “my nightmare scenario,” as Jha put it.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the 2 million milestone “has been made worse by the absence of a global co-ordinated effort.” He added: “Science has succeeded, but solidarity has failed.”

A COVID-19 patient is treated in the intensive care unit of a hospital in Madrid, Spain.Credit:AP

Meanwhile, in Wuhan, where the scourge was discovered in late 2019, a global team of researchers led by WHO arrived on Thursday on a politically sensitive mission to investigate the origins of the virus, which is believed to have spread to humans from wild animals.

The Chinese city of 11 million people is bustling again, with few signs it was once the epicentre of the catastrophe, locked down for 76 days, with more than 3800 dead.

“We are not fearful or worried as we were in the past,” said Qin Qiong, a noodle shop owner. “We now live a normal life. I take the subway every day to come to work in the shop … Except for our customers, who have to wear masks, everything else is the same.”

It took eight months to hit 1 million dead but less than four months after that to reach the next million.


While the death toll is based on figures supplied by government agencies around the world, the real number of lives lost to is believed to be significantly higher, in part because of inadequate testing and the many fatalities inaccurately attributed to other causes, especially early in the outbreak.

“What was never on the horizon is that so many of the deaths would be in the richest countries in the world,” said Dr Bharat Pankhania, an infectious diseases expert at Britain’s University of Exeter. “That the world’s richest countries would mismanage so badly is just shocking.”

In rich and poor countries alike, the crisis has devastated economies, thrown multitudes out of work and plunged many into poverty.

In Europe, where more than a quarter of the world’s deaths have taken place, strict lockdowns and curfews have been reimposed to beat back a resurgence of the virus, and a new variant that is believed to be more contagious is circulating in Britain and other countries, as well as the US.

Even in some of the wealthiest countries, the vaccination drives have been slower than expected. France, with the second-largest economy in Europe and more than 69,000 known virus deaths, will need years, not months, to vaccinate its 53 million adults unless it sharply speeds up its rollout, hampered by shortages, red tape and considerable suspicion of the vaccines.

Still, in places like Poissy, a blue-collar town west of Paris, the first shots of the Pfizer formula were met with relief and a sense that there is light at the end of the pandemic tunnel.

“We have been living inside for nearly a year. It’s not a life,” said Maurice Lachkar, a retired 78-year-old acupuncturist who was put on the priority list for vaccination because of his diabetes and his age. “If I catch the virus I am done.”

Maurice and his wife, Nicole, who also got vaccinated, said they might even allow themselves hugs with their two children and four grandchildren, whom they have seen from a socially safe distance only once or twice since the pandemic hit.

“It is going to be liberating,” he said.

Throughout the developing world, the images are strikingly similar: rows and rows of graves being dug, hospitals pushed to the limit and medical workers dying for lack of protective gear.


In Peru, which has the highest COVID-19 fatality rate in Latin America, hundreds of healthcare workers went on strike this week to demand better pay and working conditions in a country where 230 doctors have died of the disease. In Brazil, authorities in the Amazon rainforest’s biggest city planned to transfer hundreds of patients out because of a dwindling supply of oxygen tanks that has resulted in some people dying at home.

In Honduras, anesthesiologist Dr Cesar Umaña is treating 25 patients in their homes by phone because hospitals lack the capacity and equipment.

“This is complete chaos,” he said.


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Coronavirus death toll tops 2 million worldwide

Coronavirus death toll tops 2 million worldwide

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Niger: Death toll from suspected militant attacks rises to 100, PM says | World News

At least 100 people are now known to have been killed in attacks by suspected jihadists on two villages in Niger, the country’s prime minister has said.

Brigi Rafini said 70 people were killed in the village of Tchombangou and 30 others in Zaroumdareye, both near Niger’s western border with Mali, on Saturday.

During remarks aired on national television during a visit to the area, Mr Rafini did not say who was behind one of the deadliest days in recent memory for a country ravaged by ethnic violence and Islamist militancy.

Niger’s prime minister, Brigi Rafini, announced the rise in the number of dead as he visited the area

Niger has suffered repeated attacks by militants linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State near its borders with Mali and Burkina Faso.

The violence is part of a wider security crisis in West Africa’s Sahel region that has unnerved Western allies like France, which has poured troops and resources into the region.

People gather to hear the prime minister speak
People gather to hear the prime minister speak

At least 35 civilians, mostly women, were killed in an attack by jihadists in northern Burkina Faso last month, while the country’s army claimed to have killed a dozen militants who were involved in an attack on a military convoy.

Niger has also seen tit-for-tat killings between rival ethnic communities that have been stoked by the jihadist violence and competition for scarce resources.

Saturday’s attacks came on the same day the country’s electoral commission announced the results from the first round of the election to replace President Mahamadou Issoufou, who is stepping down after a decade in power.

Soldiers keepring guard in the area
Soldiers patrolling the area after the attacks

Ruling party candidate Mohamed Bazoum, who came first, expressed his condolences on Sunday to the victims.

The attacks, he said in a video he posted on social media, “remind us that terrorist groups constitute a grave threat to cohesion within communities unlike any other”.

Mr Bazoum will face former president Mahamane Ousmane in a second round run-off expected on 21 February.

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Motorists speeding into 2021 but road toll down | Goulburn Post


Road toll levels are at 100 year low. Read also: Be inspired by Tayla Harris and the other go-getters in the running to be named 2021 Young Australian of the Year While police are relieved to see NSW record it’s lowest road toll in almost 100 years, they are disappointed in the number of motorists caught exceeding the speed limit during the 2020-2021 Christmas and New Year period. The state-wide Christmas and New Year road safety operation commenced at 12.01am on Thursday 24 December 24, 2020 and concluded at 11.59pm Sunday January 3, 2021 with double demerit points in force across the festive season. Minister for Police and Emergency Services, David Elliott, praised motorists across the state who obeyed road rules but urged the community not to become complacent. “The priority every day – not just during the festive season – is to reduce fatalities on the road and for the road safety message to get through to all motorists,” he said. “Compared to this time last year, we saw four fewer fatalities on our roads and only 691 motor vehicle collisions, down 205 from 896 last year. Read also: Highlands beef producer named Woolworths protein supplier of the year “We should be proud of the reduction in these numbers but with summer travel continuing, I urge motorists to do all they can to take care behind the wheel and keep our roads safe.” Police issued a total of 9407 Traffic Infringement Notices for speeding during this year’s Operation – up 650 – compared to the same time last year. This includes 268 fines for P-Plate drivers caught exceeding the limit. Traffic and Highway Patrol Command, Acting Assistant Commissioner Stephen Hegarty, said police will not stop targeting the Four Ds – drink, drug, dangerous and distracted driving. “I know the majority of people were excited to see the back of 2020 and it appears as though we travelled at speed into 2021, which is a concern given that speed is a leading contributor to fatal crashes,” he said. “As a frontline worker, one of the hardest things to do is deliver the news of a loved one’s death – especially as a result of a road crash which could have been avoided by making better choices behind the wheel. “We asked road users to take care over the holiday season and we praise those who did the right thing, but let’s continue to make good choices and ensure we all get home safely.” Read also: Severe thunderstorm warning issued for Southern Tablelands and Southern Highlands During the 2020/2021 operation, which had police out in force each day targeting speeding, drink and drug-driving, seatbelt, mobile phone and motorcycle helmet offences, police conducted 199,493 breath tests, charged 569 people with drink driving and issued over 8700 infringements for restraint, mobile and other offences. Minister for Transport and Roads Andrew Constance said reduced fatalities over the holiday period are a good sign, however the number of people putting lives at risk is too high with speed-related deaths up from 119 in 2019 to 134 in 2020. “In 2020 the road toll was the lowest it has been in almost 100 years with 297 people killed, 56 less than in 2019,” he said. “However, the lower number is no excuse for complacency. Almost half of all fatal crashes last year involved someone who was speeding or driving too fast for the conditions. “Any death on our roads is one death too many. I am asking everyone to take responsibility for road safety in 2021 by giving yourself plenty of time to travel, don’t speed, drive to the conditions, wear your seatbelt, avoid distractions, make sure you’re well rested and if you’ve been drinking or have taken drugs, don’t drive.” Southern Region Figures: Restraint Infringements – 56 Mobile phone infringements – 61 Speed infringements – 2248 Breath Tests – 48,804 PCA charges – 106 Fatal Crashes – 00 Lives Lost – 0 Reported major crashes – 103 People injured – 60 Read also: New disaster dashboards help manage disaster risk


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