Typhoon stranded 17,000 at Tokyo airport: operator

A police officer ispects a fallen utility pole downed by winds caused by Typhoon Faxai in Kamakura, Kanagawa prefecture on September 9, 2019. (AFP / JIJI PRESS)
Updated 10 September 2019

Typhoon stranded 17,000 at Tokyo airport: operator

  • Narita Airport was right in the line of fire of Typhoon Faxai, which brought winds of up to 207 kilometers per hour

TOKYO: Around 17,000 passengers were stranded overnight at Tokyo’s Narita Airport, an official said Tuesday, after it took a direct hit from a powerful typhoon that caused transport chaos throughout the capital.
The typhoon caused more than 100 flights to be scrapped and road and rail links to the airport were also badly affected, leaving many with no transport options to the city — 70 kilometers (45 miles) to the west.
Airport spokesman Kei Miyahara told AFP that a total of 16,900 were stuck at the airport at midnight.
“Passengers are now beginning to go home or to their final destinations as buses and trains have resumed operations,” Miyahara said early Tuesday.
Narita Airport, located in Chiba to the east of Tokyo, was right in the line of fire of Typhoon Faxai, which brought winds of up to 207 kilometers (129 miles) per hour.
Suburban trains throughout the huge Tokyo metropolitan area were not reopened until 8 am on Monday as officials checked for debris and damage. This sparked pandemonium during the notoriously busy morning commute.
The chaos came as Japan is preparing to host the Rugby World Cup later this month and with the 2020 Tokyo Olympics just around the corner.
There was “minor” disruption to some teams’ schedules, admitted a Rugby World Cup spokesman, with Australia’s arrival delayed and the England team stuck for hours at the airport.
They passed the time in a particularly English way by playing cricket.
The airport said it delivered 2,000 bottles of water, 19,000 bags of crackers and 18,000 bed rolls to stranded passengers.
“We delivered information in English and Japanese on digital signs, and made announcements in four languages” including Chinese and Korean, said Miyahara.
However, there was mass frustration and passengers complained about a lack of information and long queues for taxis.
The airport operator will review their experiences and draw lessons later, Miyahara said.


UK to host ‘human challenge’ trials for COVID-19 vaccines

Updated 43 min 8 sec ago

UK to host ‘human challenge’ trials for COVID-19 vaccines

  • So-called “challenge trials” are expected to begin in January at a quarantine facility in London
  • About 2,000 participants had signed up through a US-based advocacy group, 1Day Sooner

LONDON: Britain is planning to host clinical trials where volunteers are deliberately infected with the new coronavirus to test the effectiveness of vaccine candidates, the Financial Times reported on Wednesday, citing people involved in the project.
So-called “challenge trials” are expected to begin in January at a quarantine facility in London, the report said, adding that about 2,000 participants had signed up through a US-based advocacy group, 1Day Sooner.
Britain said it was working with partners on the potential for human challenge trials without commenting on a specific plan.
“We are working with partners to understand how we might collaborate on the potential development of a COVID-19 vaccine through human challenge studies,” a government spokeswoman said.
“These discussions are part of our work to research ways of treating, limiting and hopefully preventing the virus so we can end the pandemic sooner.”
The FT reported that the studies will be government funded, although 1Day Sooner said it would also launch a petition for public funding of a biocontainment facility big enough to quarantine 100 to 200 participants.
Open Orphan, a pharmaceutical services company cited in the FT report, confirmed in a statement early on Thursday that it is in “advanced negotiation with the UK Government and other partners for a coronavirus challenge study in the UK.”
“There can be no certainty that these discussions will lead to a new contract,” it added.
Imperial College London, cited by the FT as the academic lead on the trials, did not confirm the report.
“Imperial continues to engage in a wide range of exploratory discussions relating to COVID-19 research, with a variety of partners,” a spokeswoman said, asked about the possibility of challenge trials.
Any trials conducted in the United Kingdom would have to be approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), the health care regulator which looks into safety and protocol.
The MHRA did not respond to Reuters’ requests for comment, but 1Day Sooner, which lobbies for challenge trials to accelerate vaccine development, welcomed the report.
“1Day Sooner congratulates the British government on their plans to conduct challenge trials to test vaccines,” it said in a statement, confirming it would petition the government to house the trial participants.
The industry has seen discussions in recent months about potentially having to inject healthy volunteers with the novel coronavirus if drugmakers struggled to find enough patients for final trials.
The FT report did not name the vaccines that would be assessed in the project. British drugmaker AstraZeneca, and French firm Sanofi both told Reuters that their vaccine candidates were not involved in the program.