Sydney choked by hazardous haze from Australia bush fires

Sydney choked by hazardous haze from Australia bush fires
Thick smoke from wildfires shroud the Harbor Bridge in Sydney, Australia on Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2019. (AP)
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Updated 11 December 2019

Sydney choked by hazardous haze from Australia bush fires

Sydney choked by hazardous haze from Australia bush fires
  • City cancels ferries and some offices in the downtown area were evacuated
  • Winds expected to clear the air but also fan the brush fires

SYDNEY: Wildfires engulfed the Australian city of Sydney on Tuesday in haze so thick in some places it was 11 times worse than the level considered “hazardous,” and was apt to trigger fire alarms.
The city canceled ferries and some offices in the downtown area were evacuated.
Local health officials advised people to stay indoors as much as possible and those with heart and lung problems were told to avoid all outdoor activity.
“The smoke here in Sydney is extremely bad today, it is some of the worst air quality we’ve seen,” Richard Broome of New South Wales Health told reporters.
“We are just urging people once again to take these (conditions) seriously,” Broome said.
Ambulances have been answering dozens of respiratory-related calls a day, said the head of NSW Ambulance, Brent Armitage.
Sydney Trains warned that fire alarms at train stations might be set off by the thick smoke drifting into the city from fires ringing Sydney.
The regional environmental department said the air quality index, or AQI, in some parts of the city was more than 11 times the 200 reading considered hazardous.
Given the dire air quality, workers should not be forced to toil on outdoor job sites while the haze persists, said Unions NSW’s assistant secretary, Thomas Costa.
“Toxicity is very, very high,” Costa said.
Winds were expected that could clear the air but also fan the brush fires, weather forecasts showed.


Blow to global vaccine drive as Pfizer delays deliveries

Blow to global vaccine drive as Pfizer delays deliveries
Updated 15 January 2021

Blow to global vaccine drive as Pfizer delays deliveries

Blow to global vaccine drive as Pfizer delays deliveries
  • Pfizer said the modifications at the Puurs factory were necessary in order to ramp up its production capacity from mid-February of the vaccine
  • There will be “a significant increase” in deliveries in late February and March, the US group promised

BERLIN: A global coronavirus vaccine rollout suffered a major blow Friday as Pfizer said it would delay shipments of the jabs in the next three to four weeks due to works at its key plant in Belgium.
Pfizer said the modifications at the Puurs factory were necessary in order to ramp up its production capacity from mid-February of the vaccine developed with Germany’s BioNTech.
There will be “a significant increase” in deliveries in late February and March, the US group promised. The European Commission also confirmed that promised doses for the first quarter will arrive within the period.
But European Union nations, which are desperately waiting for more doses to immunize their populations against the virus that has already claimed almost two million lives worldwide, expressed frustration.
Germany, the EU’s biggest economy, voiced regret over the “last minute and unexpected” delay.
It urged the European Commission — which undertook joint procurement for the bloc — to “seek clarity and certainty” for upcoming shipments.
Six northern EU nations also warned in a letter to the Commission that the “unacceptable” situation “decreases the credibility of the vaccination process.”
The letter signed by ministers from Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania and Sweden further asked the Commission to “demand a public explanation of the situation” from the pharmaceutical companies.
Across the Atlantic, Canada also said it was impacted by the delays, calling it “unfortunate.”
“However, such delays and issues are to be expected when global supply chains are stretched well beyond their limits,” said Canada’s Procurement Minister Anita Anand.
Pfizer/BioNTech’s vaccine, which was developed at record-breaking speed, became the first to be approved for general use by a Western country on December 2 when Britain gave it the go ahead.
After Britain rolled out its immunization drive, the EU followed from December 27.
The latest shipment delay will likely add fuel to anger over the bloc’s vaccination campaign, which has already been criticized for being too slow compared to the United States or former EU member Britain.
The European Commission has also been accused of not securing enough doses early enough.
Just last week, the EU struck a deal to double its supply of the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine to 600 million doses.
The urgency of immunizing the population has grown over fears of virus variants first seen in South Africa and Britain, which officials warn are more infectious.
But vaccine makers had repeatedly warned that production capacity was limited.
While Pfizer is augmenting capacity at Puurs, its partner BioNTech on Friday secured authorization to begin production at Germany’s Marburg.
The challenges of getting millions of vaccines around the world are also huge as the BioNTech/Pfizer jabs must be stored at ultra-low temperatures of about minus 70 degrees Celsius (-94 Fahrenheit) before being shipped to distribution centers in specially-designed cool boxes filled with dry ice.
Once out of ultra-cold storage, the vaccine must be kept at two Celsius to eight Celsius to remain effective for up to five days.