Indonesians scramble for oxygen as COVID-19 cases hit record highs

Indonesians scramble for oxygen as COVID-19 cases hit record highs
Residents queue up to get oxygen tanks refilled at a refilling station in Indonesia's second-biggest city Surabaya on July 15, 2021. (AFP)
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Updated 15 July 2021

Indonesians scramble for oxygen as COVID-19 cases hit record highs

Indonesians scramble for oxygen as COVID-19 cases hit record highs
  • The country reported 56,750 new confirmed infections on Thursday, nearly seven times as many as the daily total from a month ago
  • The devastating outbreak, blamed on the more-contagious Delta variant, is mainly affecting the islands of Java and Bali

JAKARTA: Authorities in Indonesia are doing all they can to meet surging demand for medical oxygen, a minister said on Thursday. The country is battling a devastating COVID-19 outbreak amid record increases in the number of infections.

Indonesia has become Asia’s new coronavirus hot spot. The country reported more than 56,750 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, nearly seven times as many as the daily figure just a month ago. The total number of confirmed infections in the country now stands at more than 2.7 million.

More than 70,190 people have died of conditions related to the disease, and the official daily death toll in the nation of 276 million people has been close to or higher than 1,000 since last week.

The outbreak, blamed on the highly contagious Delta variant of virus, is mainly affecting the islands of Java and Bali, despite emergency restrictions imposed early this month. There are increasingly common reports of people dying at home because they were turned away by overwhelmed hospitals, and of long queues of people waiting to have oxygen tanks refilled.

Chief Maritime Affairs and Investment Minister Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, who is leading the emergency response in Java and Bali, said the government is making every effort to ensure health facilities have adequate supplies of oxygen.

“We have re-allocated all oxygen production for hospitals, from previously 80 percent allocated for hospitals and 20 percent for industry,” he said. “We never thought we would face such conditions."

He added that Indonesia is also facing a shortage of oxygen concentrators and is seeking help help from the UAE, China, and neighboring Singapore.

“We have placed orders (to buy) 40,000 oxygen concentrators,” Pandjaitan said. “We have received international assistance, including from the UAE.”

The government is also converting additional buildings to serve as emergency isolation wards, and will deploy newly graduated doctors and 20,000 nursing students to staff field hospitals, he added.

With health facilities overwhelmed, online demand for oxygen canisters is surging. Internet searches for “tabung oksigen” (oxygen tank) have risen sharply since the beginning of July, especially in East Java province.

“In Java and Bali, the use of ‘oxygen tank’ keywords rose by 56 percent from July 3 to July 10,” Rizki Ardinanta, a researcher at the Institute for Policy Development at Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta, told Arab News. “The most significant rise was in East Java, where the use of the words on Google Trends rose by 66 percent.”

Media Wahyudi Askar, another researcher at the institute, said there is a clear connection between the increase in online searches for oxygen tanks and the rising numbers of COVID-19 deaths.


UK could be powered by giant Moroccan renewable energy farm

UK could be powered by giant Moroccan renewable energy farm
Updated 57 sec ago

UK could be powered by giant Moroccan renewable energy farm

UK could be powered by giant Moroccan renewable energy farm
  • Xlinks proposal would see solar, wind farm the size of London attached to national grid
  • $22bn scheme would include 3,200 km undersea cable linking Britain to North Africa

LONDON: A plan has emerged to import renewable electricity to the UK from a giant wind and solar farm in Morocco, connected to the British mainland via a giant undersea cable.

Dave Lewis, former CEO of retail giant Tesco, is heading a bid by energy startup Xlinks to provide up to 8 percent of the UK’s power needs from a site in southern Morocco.

The proposed location, in Guelmim-Oued Noun, would cover an area the size of Greater London, and hosts consistently sunny and windy weather, making it optimal to install wind and solar farms.

It would be linked to the UK via a power cable over 3,800 km in length, installed off the coasts of Portugal, Spain and France, with the whole project estimated to cost around £16 billion ($22 billion).

However, Lewis said the plan would only become viable with a guarantee from the British government, which has not yet been forthcoming.

“It’s completely consistent with (Prime Minister) Boris Johnson’s energy strategy,” he told The Times. “It’s renewables, but it’s renewables at a lower cost and more reliable (than current options), so what’s not to like?

“But it will require the government to step forward in a leadership role and engage with an innovative project, because they’ve not seen one like this before.”

The emergence of the plan comes as the UK faces an energy crisis, with prices increasing, difficulties in fuel supply chains, and talks ongoing about approving construction of new nuclear power plants to meet demand.

The UK is also struggling to keep pace with its own commitments to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

On Friday, Johnson addressed the UN in New York where, ahead of the UK’s hosting of the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, he said it is “time for humanity to grow up” on energy production and climate change.

The UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy told The Times it is “aware” of the Xlinks proposal and is “keeping the project under review.”


Taliban ask airlines to resume international flights to Afghanistan

Taliban ask airlines to resume international flights to Afghanistan
Updated 3 min 13 sec ago

Taliban ask airlines to resume international flights to Afghanistan

Taliban ask airlines to resume international flights to Afghanistan
  • A limited number of aid and passenger flights have been operating from Kabul airport

The Taliban government in Afghanistan appealed on Sunday for international flights to be resumed, promising full cooperation with airlines and saying that problems at Kabul airport had been resolved.
The statement from the foreign affairs ministry comes as the new administration has stepped up efforts to open up the country and gain international acceptance following the collapse of the Western-backed government last month.
A limited number of aid and passenger flights have been operating from the airport. But normal commercial services have yet to resume since it was closed in the wake of the chaotic evacuation of tens of thousands of foreigners and vulnerable Afghans that followed the Taliban’s seizure of the capital.
The airport, which was damaged during the evacuation, has since been reopened with the assistance of technical teams from Qatar and Turkey.
While some airlines including Pakistan International Airlines have been offering limited services and some people have been able to get places on flights, prices have been reported to be many times higher than normal.
Foreign ministry spokesman Abdul Qahar Balkhi said the suspension of international flights had left many Afghans stranded abroad and also prevented people from traveling for work or study.
“As the problems at Kabul International Airport have been resolved and the airport is fully operational for domestic and international flights, the IEA assures all airlines of its full cooperation,” he said, using an abbreviation for Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the Taliban’s term for their new government.
Since taking power, the Taliban have grappled with a severe economic crisis and have faced pressure on issues ranging from girls’ education to allegations of reprisals against former officials and others associated with the previous government.


UK says it has seen ships breaching North Korea sanctions

UK says it has seen ships breaching North Korea sanctions
Updated 19 min 59 sec ago

UK says it has seen ships breaching North Korea sanctions

UK says it has seen ships breaching North Korea sanctions
  • North Korea is under strict international sanctions imposed over its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs

LONDON: Britain said on Sunday it had collected evidence of multiple ships from various nationalities apparently breaching United Nations sanctions against North Korea which ban the sale of fuel to the country.
British frigate HMS Richmond has been taking part in UN sanctions enforcement operations in the region.
“HMS Richmond’s deployment in the East China Sea identified ships acting in suspected breach of UN sanctions and tracked vessels which had previously not been flagged to the Enforcement Coordination Cell,” defense minister Ben Wallace said in a statement.
The statement did not detail those thought to be in breach of the sanctions, but said “multiple ships of various nationalities” had been identified.
North Korea is under strict international sanctions imposed over its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs. Talks aimed at persuading Pyongyang to give up those weapons in return for lifting sanctions have been stalled.
Earlier this month, a US-based research group said in a report that smugglers suspected of evading sanctions on North Korea have turned to schemes to create fraudulent identities for sanctioned ships.


Caught on camera: Kremlin releases photos of Putin’s Siberian fishing trip

Caught on camera: Kremlin releases photos of Putin’s Siberian fishing trip
Updated 26 September 2021

Caught on camera: Kremlin releases photos of Putin’s Siberian fishing trip

Caught on camera: Kremlin releases photos of Putin’s Siberian fishing trip
  • Vladimir Putin has cultivated a macho image, appealing to many Russians

MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin spent several days hiking and fishing in Siberia in early September, the Kremlin said on Sunday as it published pictures of the president on the holiday.
A caption under one of the 20 pictures published on the Kremlin web site said the president stopped for a few days in Siberia after a working trip to Russia’s Far East in early September.
Several days later, in the middle of September Putin said he would have to spend “a few days” in self-isolation after dozens of people in his entourage fell ill with COVID-19. He had to cancel his trip to Tajikistan for a security summit.
Putin has cultivated a macho image, appealing to many Russians, and has previously been pictured riding a horse barechested and in sun glasses, as well as carrying a hunting rifle and piloting a fighter jet.
This time, his outings were more mundane.
The Kremlin published photos of Putin standing in a river and catching a fish, walking through lush meadows and talking to Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, his usual holiday companion.
Putin, 68, has had two shots of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine. The Kremlin has said he was feeling healthy.


Behave normally, UK transport minister tells Britons queuing for fuel

Behave normally, UK transport minister tells Britons queuing for fuel
Updated 26 September 2021

Behave normally, UK transport minister tells Britons queuing for fuel

Behave normally, UK transport minister tells Britons queuing for fuel
  • Long lines of vehicles formed at petrol stations in recent days as motorists waited in line to fill up with fuel

BRIGHTON, England: Transport Minister Grant Shapps on Sunday called on Britons to behave normally when buying petrol, saying there was no shortage of fuel and the government was stepping in to ease a shortage of drivers bringing it to petrol stations.
In recent days long lines of vehicles formed at petrol stations as motorists waited in line, some for hours, to fill up with fuel after oil firms reported a lack of drivers was causing transport problems from refineries to forecourts, leading some operators to ration supplies and others to close gas stations.
“There’s plenty of fuel, there’s no shortage of the fuel within the country,” he told Sky News.
“So the most important thing is actually that people carry on as they normally would and fill up their cars when they normally would, then you won’t have queues and you won’t have shortages at the pump either.”
The government on Sunday announced a plan to issue temporary visas for 5,000 foreign truck drivers.
But business leaders have warned it is a short-term fix that will not solve an acute labor shortage that risks major disruption beyond fuel deliveries, including for retailers in the run-up to Christmas.
Shapps called the panic over fuel a ‘manufactured situation’ and blamed it on a hauliers’ association.
“They’re desperate to have more European drivers undercutting British salaries,” he said.