Thailand confirms 6 more cases of coronavirus, Germany confirms first case

The Department of Disease Control will now scan all passengers from China, said Public Health Permanent Secretary Sukhum Kanchanapimai. (File/AFP)
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Updated 28 January 2020

Thailand confirms 6 more cases of coronavirus, Germany confirms first case

  • Five of the new cases came from Hubei province and are part of the same family
  • The Department of Disease Control will now scan all passengers from China

BANGKOK: Thailand announced plans on Tuesday to screen all arrivals from China for symptoms of a deadly virus and confirmed six more infections among such visitors, taking the southeast Asian nation’s tally to 14, health officials said.

The new strain of coronavirus claimed its first victim in Beijing, the Chinese capital, taking the death toll to 106 as infections reached 4,515, although there have been no deaths outside China.

Five victims among Thailand’s new cases, aged between 6 and 70, came from China’s central province of Hubei, and belonged to the same family, health official Tanarak Plipat, told reporters, and the sixth from southwestern Chongqing province.

One passenger from among the family of seven traveling together was taken to hospital after showing symptoms on arrival, added Tanarak, the deputy director-general of the department of disease control.

The other four of the family were quarantined after showing symptoms following monitoring, he added.

“Now we will expand screening to all Chinese from China and prepare equipment to screen 100%,” said Sukhum Kanchanapimai, the permanent secretary of the public health ministry.

Thailand had earlier screened passengers only from China’s central city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, its southern city of Guangzhou and northeastern Changchun across five airports, from Suvarnabhumi in Bangkok to those at Chiang Mai, Don Mueng, Phuket and Krabi.

Meanwhile, a German man who tested positive for the strain of coronavirus was infected by a work colleague, officials said on Tuesday, in what is believed to be the first human transmission in Europe.

The man had not visited China but a Chinese work colleague who was in Germany last week had “started to feel sick on the flight home on January 23,” said Andreas Zapf, head of the Bavarian State Office for Health and Food Safety.

He had attended a training session given by his Chinese colleague on January 21 at the office of a car parts supplier Webasto in Stockdorf in Bavaria and tested positive for the virus on Monday evening.

Unlike the other patients, the 33-year-old had not recently traveled to China.

He remains in hospital in an isolation ward, but Zapf said he “was doing well.”

Some details on cases confirmed as of late Tuesday morning Beijing time:

- China: 4,515 cases on the mainland, with 1,771 of those newly confirmed in the 24 hours through midnight Monday. In addition, Hong Kong has eight cases and Macao has five. Nearly all of the 106 deaths have been in central Hubei province, but the new total includes the first death in Beijing.

- United States: 5, 2 in southern California and 1 each in Washington state, Chicago, and Arizona.

- Thailand: 14

- Australia: 5

- Singapore: 7

- South Korea: 4

- Japan: 6

- Malaysia: 4

- France: 3

- Taiwan: 3

- Vietnam: 2

- Canada: 2

- Germany: 1

- Nepal: 1

- Cambodia: 1

- Sri Lanka: 1

 

* with AP


Cross-class marriage urged to tackle Indonesia poverty

Updated 21 February 2020

Cross-class marriage urged to tackle Indonesia poverty

  • Country ranks sixth among those with greatest wealth inequality: Oxfam

JAKARTA: A senior Indonesian minister has suggested that poor people should marry someone of higher social status to reduce poverty.

Muhadjir Effendy, the coordinating minister for human development and cultural affairs, told a meeting on the national health program in Jakarta on Wednesday that he would ask Religious Affairs Minister Fachrul Razi — who also attended the meeting — to issue an edict recommending the move.

Effendy said that the edict could prevent the emergence of “new poor households” and provide Indonesia’s majority Muslim community with a new interpretation of the principle that one should marry a person with a compatible socioeconomic background for the sake of equivalence (kaf’ah) between prospective spouses.

The principle, he said, makes poor people marry among themselves and “automatically give birth to a new poor household.”

The minister on Thursday clarified that his intention with the “intermezzo” statement was to kick-start a social movement to break the cycle of poverty in Indonesia.

Indonesia’s poverty rate declined to below 10 percent for the first time in the country’s history, in September 2019, according to the latest data available from the Central Bureau of Statistics (BPS).

The BPS sets the poverty line at $32.13 per person per month, or an average of $1.07 per day.

FASTFACT

President Joko Widodo frequently requests his ministers to come up with ideas to accelerate the anti-poverty programs and close the country’s income inequality gap.

President Joko Widodo frequently requests his ministers to come up with ideas to accelerate the implementation of poverty alleviation programs and close the country’s income inequality gap, which has widened over the past 20 years.

In September, the level of inequality in Indonesia measured by the Gini coefficient stood at 0.380, improving by 0.004 points from the previous year, according to the BPS. The index ranges from 0 to 1, with 0 representing perfect equality and 1 representing perfect inequality.

An Oxfam report in 2017 showed that in the past two decades, the gap between the richest and the rest of the population in Indonesia had grown faster than in any other country in Southeast Asia. Indonesia is ranked sixth among the countries with greatest wealth inequality, according to the UK-based NGO.

Oxfam said that the four richest men in Indonesia have more wealth than the poorest 100 million people. Inequality is slowing down poverty reduction, dampening economic growth and threatening social cohesion, it said.

However, economists said that suggesting the poor pursue a Cinderella story to graduate from their low-socioeconomic status was not the solution that Indonesia needed to reduce poverty and tackle income inequality.

“How would the state manage such domestic affairs? Even parents could not choose for their children,” Enny Sri Hartati, a senior researcher at the Institute for Development of Economics and Finance (Indef), told Arab News on Thursday.

Indef Deputy Director Eko Listiyanto said that there was no guarantee that Effendy’s proposal, if approved, would be effective in tackling poverty. “There is no urgency for such an edict . . . the root of the problem lies with the issuance of economic policies that widen inequality as they only benefit a small group in the society,” he said.

Listiyanto said that the government was unable to drive upward mobility as the majority of its policies revolved around populism rather than empowerment. He called on the government to stop making regulations that served only oligarchs.

“It would be better to improve the national education system to prepare the next generation for their economic leap. That move would be far more sustainable compared with issuing the marriage edict,” he said.

Pieter Abdullah Redjalam, research director of the Center of Reform on Economics (CORE) Indonesia, said that Effendy’s idea of a cross-class marriage edict showed that he was out of touch with reality.

“He seems to forget that there is a very wide gap between the poor and the rich,” Redjalam said. “The poor are generally trapped in the poverty cycle. They cannot go to school, so they stay poor.”

Redjalam echoed Listiyanto’s recommendation of opening access to and improving the quality of Indonesia’s education system to reduce poverty in the long term. “It is a shame if the former education minister does not understand that,” he said, referring to Effendy.