Singapore to stop paying medical bills for the ‘unvaccinated by choice’

Singapore to stop paying medical bills for the ‘unvaccinated by choice’
Singapore is reporting around 2,000-3,000 cases a day and a handful of deaths, its worst COVID-19 wave since the pandemic hit. (AFP)
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Updated 09 November 2021

Singapore to stop paying medical bills for the ‘unvaccinated by choice’

Singapore to stop paying medical bills for the ‘unvaccinated by choice’
  • The tiny country is experiencing its worst COVID-19 wave since the start of the pandemic
  • Singapore has one of the world’s highest vaccination rates, with 85 percent of its 5.5 million population fully inoculated

SINGAPORE: Singapore will from next month stop paying coronavirus medical bills of those who are unvaccinated by choice, officials have said, as a fierce outbreak put the city-state’s health care system under strain.
The tiny country is experiencing its worst COVID-19 wave since the start of the pandemic, reporting around 2,000-3,000 cases a day and a handful of deaths.
The government had always covered the medical bills of all Singaporeans and other residents in certain categories infected with the virus, except for those who tested positive soon after returning from overseas.
But from December 8, authorities will begin charging COVID-19 patients who are unvaccinated by choice, the ministry of health said Monday.
“Unvaccinated persons make up a sizeable majority of those who require intensive inpatient care, and disproportionately contribute to the strain on our health care resources,” the ministry said in a statement.
Those affected will still be able to use regular financing arrangements to cover the cost, such as private insurance.
Bills for those who are ineligible for vaccination — such as children under 12 or those with certain medical conditions — will still be fully paid.
Singapore has one of the world’s highest vaccination rates, with 85 percent of its 5.5 million population fully inoculated.
It has had a mild outbreak by global standards, and only faced a substantial virus wave in recent months after being hit by the Delta variant.


Co-owner of Golden State Warriors comes under fire for comments on Uyghur Muslims

Co-owner of Golden State Warriors comes under fire for comments on Uyghur Muslims
Updated 31 min 59 sec ago

Co-owner of Golden State Warriors comes under fire for comments on Uyghur Muslims

Co-owner of Golden State Warriors comes under fire for comments on Uyghur Muslims
  • Chamath Palihapitiya said in the podcast that no one cared about the genocide against Uyghur Muslims

Chamath Palihapitiya, a 10-percent minority owner of the Golden State Warriors, said during his podcast "All-in" that he doesn't care about the genocide against Uyghur Muslims in Northwest China and that there are other more important issues for the public to address.

Palihapitiya’s remarks ignited an avalanche of criticism on social media for his insensitivity towards the Uyghurs, a Muslim and ethnic minority group the Biden administration says are the victims of Chinese government sponsored genocide.

When a podcast co-host praises President Joe Biden for expressing concerns for the Uyghurs, Palihapitiya brushes that concern off saying Uyghur genocide is “irrelevant."

 

 

“Nobody cares about what’s happening to the Uyghurs, OK. You bring it up because you really care. I think it is nice that you care but the rest of us don’t care,” Palihapitiya said in response.

“I am just telling you a very hard ugly truth. Of all the things that I care about, yes, it is below my line. Of all the things I care about, it is below my line.”

Palihapitiya continues that there are other issues he is concerned about, mainly in America, including the US economy, climate change, America's crippling and decrepit healthcare infrastructure.

“But if you are asking do I care about a segment of a class of people in another country, not until we can take care of ourselves will I prioritize them over us,” Palihapitiya to that shock of his podcast co-hosts, Jason Calacanis, David Sacks & David Friedberg.

“I think a lot of people believe that. And I’m sorry if that is a hard truth to hear, but every time I say I care about the Uyghurs I am just lying if I don’t really care. So, I would rather not lie than tell you the truth. It's just not a priority for me.”

Calling concern for the Uyghurs a “luxury belief” that all humans have a basic set of human rights, Palihapitiya argues Americans don't do enough domestically to “clean up our own house.”

The comments brought immediate condemnation from Muslim American groups including the Emgage Action, a Muslim advocacy organization, with chapters in Washington, D.C., Michigan, Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and New York.
“These statements are offensive and shocking especially given the well-established body of evidence proving a state-sponsored campaign of cultural and religious extermination against the Uyghur Muslim people,” said Wa’el Alzayat, CEO of Emgage Action.
“It’s why the Biden administration has diplomatically boycotted the Olympics and Congress passed the Uyghur Human Rights Act and Forced Labor Act. We call on Chamath Palihapitiya to issue an immediate apology and for the Warriors and Virgin Galactic to take measures to ensure that their top executives and spokespersons reflect their stated values and commitment to corporate social responsibility.”

Michael Pompeo, the former Secretary of State for President Donald Trump, express shock, saying on Twitter, “If the @NBA truly stands for justice, they will denounce these comments by @chamath and denounce the CCP's genocidal oppression of the Uyghur people in Xinjiang.”

China has been accused of committing ethnic genocide against the Uyghurs putting more than one million members of the Muslim Chinese ethnic minority in “re-education camps.”

In July, Biden accused China of enabling human rights abuses against several ethnic groups in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) including Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and other members of Muslim minority groups in Xinjiang, “where the PRC continues to commit genocide. This action prevents the entities from gaining access to US technology.”

In December, Biden increased sanctions targeting China's Xinjiang Province and military infrastructure because of the alleged genocide.

China on Monday rejected what it called “slanderous attacks” about conditions for Muslim Uighurs living in Xinjiang, as European powers and Turkey voiced concerns and called for UN access to the remote western region.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi told the UN Human Rights Council that it was taking counter-terrorism measures in accordance with the law and that Xinjiang enjoyed “social stability and sound development” after four years without any “terrorist case.”

The Warriors denounced Palihapitiya saying in a statement late Monday, “As a limited investor who has no day-to-day operating functions with the Warriors, Mr. Palihapitiya does not speak on behalf of our franchise, and his views certainly don’t reflect those of our organization.”


Japan ready to expand COVID-19 restrictions as infections surge

Japan ready to expand COVID-19 restrictions as infections surge
Updated 18 January 2022

Japan ready to expand COVID-19 restrictions as infections surge

Japan ready to expand COVID-19 restrictions as infections surge
  • Japan has never had a lockdown during the pandemic but has focused instead on asking restaurants and bars to close early
  • Bars and eateries that abide by the government restrictions are eligible for aid

TOKYO: Japan’s government is preparing social restrictions in Tokyo and other regions as the omicron variant of the coronavirus infects more people.
Japan has never had a lockdown during the pandemic but has focused instead on asking restaurants and bars to close early. Crowds are back in many parts of Japan, with people packing stores and events, while COVID-19 cases jump.
The order will be finalized this week and is likely to take effect Friday for Tokyo and nine other regions, including Chiba, Kanagawa, Aichi and Kumamoto, the government spokesman said Tuesday.
An order was issued earlier this month for Okinawa, Yamaguchi and Hiroshima prefectures. Other areas seeing surging infections, such as Osaka, may be added later.
“The infections are rising at an unprecedented speed,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told reporters.
Worries are growing about infections spreading so quickly that hospital systems may get stretched thin, he said.
He acknowledged additional action may be needed if the numbers of people shoot up, required to undergo quarantine or hospitalization.
About 80 percent of the Japanese population have received two vaccine shots, but only 1 percent the booster. The government has promised to speed up boosters, but most people won’t be getting them until after March or later, under the current schedule.
The third dose is recommended particularly against omicron, which is causing more breakthrough infections than early forms of the virus.
The ruling Liberal Democratic Party is keen on avoiding public discontent of its handling of the coronavirus pandemic, widely seen as behind the ouster of the previous prime minister. Nationwide parliamentary elections will be held in a few months.
Bars and eateries that abide by the government restrictions are eligible for aid. But some say that hasn’t been enough.
More than 20,000 new cases were reported Monday nationwide, showing cases are rising quickly because of omicron. Most experts think the case tally is an undercount because testing is not widespread. Some 134,000 people are now quarantining or hospitalized for COVID-19.
About 18,400 people have died from COVID-19. The recently reported daily cases in Japan are approaching the record numbers hit in August and September last year.


Texas rabbi says he, 2 hostages escaped synagogue standoff

Texas rabbi says he, 2 hostages escaped synagogue standoff
Updated 18 January 2022

Texas rabbi says he, 2 hostages escaped synagogue standoff

Texas rabbi says he, 2 hostages escaped synagogue standoff
  • Hostage-taker Malik Faisal Akram, a 44-year-old British national, was killed Saturday night after the last three hostages ran out of the synagogue in Colleyville

COLLEYVILLE, US: The rabbi of a Texas synagogue where a gunman took hostages during livestreamed services said Monday that he threw a chair at his captor before escaping with two others after an hourslong standoff, crediting past security training for getting himself and his congregants out safely.
Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker told “CBS Mornings” that he let the gunman inside the suburban Fort Worth synagogue Saturday because he appeared to need shelter. He said the man was not threatening or suspicious at first. Later, he heard a gun click as he was praying.
Another man held hostage, Jeffrey R. Cohen, described the ordeal on Facebook on Monday.
“First of all, we escaped. We weren’t released or freed,” said Cohen, who was one of four people in the synagogue for services that many other Congregation Beth Israel members were watching online.
Cohen said the men worked to keep the gunman engaged. They talked to the gunman, he lectured them. At one point as the situation devolved, Cohen said the gunman told them to get on their knees. Cohen recalled rearing up in his chair and slowly moving his head and mouthing “no.” As the gunman moved to sit back down, Cohen said Cytron-Walker yelled to run.
“The exit wasn’t too far away,” Cytron-Walker said. “I told them to go. I threw a chair at the gunman, and I headed for the door. And all three of us were able to get out without even a shot being fired.”
Authorities identified the hostage-taker as 44-year-old British national Malik Faisal Akram, who was killed Saturday night after the last three hostages ran out of the synagogue in Colleyville around 9 p.m. The first hostage was released shortly after 5 p.m.
The FBI on Sunday night issued a statement calling the ordeal “a terrorism-related matter, in which the Jewish community was targeted” and said the Joint Terrorism Task Force is investigating. The agency noted that Akram spoke repeatedly during negotiations about a prisoner who is serving an 86-year sentence in the US The statement followed comments Saturday from the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Dallas field office that the hostage-taker was focused on an issue “not specifically related to the Jewish community.”
Akram could be heard ranting on a Facebook livestream of the services and demanding the release of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist suspected of having ties to Al-Qaeda who was convicted of trying to kill US Army officers in Afghanistan.
“The last hour or so of the standoff, he wasn’t getting what he wanted. It didn’t look good. It didn’t sound good. We were terrified,” Cytron-Walker told “CBS Mornings.”
At a service held Monday evening at a nearby Methodist church, Cytron-Walker said the amount of “well-wishes and kindness and compassion” has been been overwhelming.
“Thank you for all of the compassion, from the bottom of my heart,” Cytron-Walker said.
“While very few of us are doing OK right now, we’ll get through this,” he said.
Video of the standoff’s end from Dallas TV station WFAA showed people running out a door of the synagogue, and then a man holding a gun opening the same door just seconds later before he turned around and closed it. Moments later, several shots and then an explosion could be heard.
Authorities have declined to say who shot Akram, saying it was still under investigation.
The investigation stretched to England, where late Sunday police in Manchester announced that two teenagers were in custody in connection with the standoff. Greater Manchester Police tweeted that counter-terrorism officers had made the arrests but did not say whether the pair faced any charges.
President Joe Biden called the episode an act of terror. Speaking to reporters in Philadelphia on Sunday, Biden said Akram allegedly purchased a weapon on the streets.
Federal investigators believe Akram purchased the handgun used in the hostage-taking in a private sale, according to a person familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing. Akram arrived in the US at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York about two weeks ago, a law enforcement official said.
Akram arrived in the US on a tourist visa from Great Britain, according to a US official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the information was not intended to be public. London’s Metropolitan Police said in a statement that its counter-terrorism police were liaising with US authorities about the incident.
UK Home Secretary Priti Patel told the House of Commons on Monday that she had spoken to her US counterpart, Alejandro Mayorkas, and offered “the full support” of the police and security services in Britain in the investigation.
Akram used his phone during the course of negotiations to communicate with people other than law enforcement, according to a law enforcement official who was not authorized to discuss an ongoing investigation by name and spoke on condition of anonymity.
It wasn’t clear why Akram chose the synagogue, though the prison where Siddiqui is serving her sentence is in Fort Worth.
An attorney in Texas who represents Siddiqui said Monday that Siddiqui had no connections to Akram.
“She said from the beginning when she was sentenced that she does not want any violence done in her name and she doesn’t condone any type of violence being done,” said attorney Marwa Elbially.
Akram, who was called Faisal by his family, was from Blackburn, an industrial city in northwest England. His family said he’d been “suffering from mental health issues.”
“We would also like to add that any attack on any human being, be it a Jew, Christian or Muslim, etc. is wrong and should always be condemned,” his brother, Gulbar Akram, wrote.
Community organizer Asif Mahmud, who has known the family for 30 years and attends the same mosque, said the family was devastated by what happened in Texas.
He “had mental health issues for a number of years,” Mahmud said. “The family obviously were aware of that … but nobody envisaged he would potentially go and do something like this.”
Mohammed Khan, leader of the local government council in Blackburn, said the community promotes peace across all faiths.
“Ours is a town where people from different backgrounds, cultures and faiths are welcomed, and it is a place where people get along and support one another,’’ Khan said in a statement.
 


Major US airline CEOs warn 5G could ground some planes, wreak havoc

Major US airline CEOs warn 5G could ground some planes, wreak havoc
Updated 18 January 2022

Major US airline CEOs warn 5G could ground some planes, wreak havoc

Major US airline CEOs warn 5G could ground some planes, wreak havoc
  • FAA warned that potential interference could affect sensitive airplane instruments such as altimeters and significantly hamper low-visibility operations
  • AT&T and Verizon on Jan. 3 agreed to buffer zones around 50 airports to reduce interference risks

WASHINGTON: The chief executives of major US passenger and cargo carriers on Monday warned of an impending “catastrophic” aviation crisis in less than 36 hours, when AT&T and Verizon are set to deploy new 5G service.
The airlines warned the new C-Band 5G service set to begin on Wednesday could render a significant number of widebody aircraft unusable, “could potentially strand tens of thousands of Americans overseas” and cause “chaos” for US flights.
“Unless our major hubs are cleared to fly, the vast majority of the traveling and shipping public will essentially be grounded,” wrote the chief executives of American Airlines , Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, Southwest Airlines and others in a letter first reported by Reuters.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has warned that potential interference could affect sensitive airplane instruments such as altimeters and significantly hamper low-visibility operations.
“This means that on a day like yesterday, more than 1,100 flights and 100,000 passengers would be subjected to cancelations, diversions or delays,” the letter https://twitter.com/davidshepardson/status/1483148794690740224?s=20 cautioned.
Airlines late on Monday were considering whether to begin canceling some international flights that are scheduled to arrive in the United States on Wednesday.
“With the proposed restrictions at selected airports, the transportation industry is preparing for some service disruption. We are optimistic that we can work across industries and with government to finalize solutions that safely mitigate as many schedule impacts as possible,” plane maker Boeing said on Monday.

Workers install 5G telecommunications equipment on a T-Mobile tower in Seabrook, Texas,on May 6, 2020. (REUTERS/File Photo)

Action is urgent, the airlines added in the letter also signed by UPS Airlines, Alaska Air, Atlas Air , JetBlue Airways and FedEx Express. “To be blunt, the nation’s commerce will grind to a halt.”
The letter went to White House National Economic Council director Brian Deese, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, FAA Administrator Steve Dickson and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel.
Airlines for America, the group that organized the letter, declined to comment. The government agencies did not immediately comment.

’Intervention is needed’
AT&T and Verizon, which won nearly all of the C-Band spectrum in an $80 billion auction last year, on Jan. 3 agreed to buffer zones around 50 airports to reduce interference risks and take other steps to cut potential interference for six months. They also agreed to delay deployment for two weeks until Wednesday, temporarily averting an aviation safety standoff, after previously delaying service by 30 days.
Verizon and AT&T declined comment on Monday.
The CEOs of major airlines and Boeing Chief Executive Dave Calhoun held a lengthy call with Buttigieg and Dickson on Sunday to warn of the looming crisis, officials told Reuters.
The airlines ask “that 5G be implemented everywhere in the country except within the approximate 2 miles (3.2 km) of airport runways” at some key airports.
“Immediate intervention is needed to avoid significant operational disruption to air passengers, shippers, supply chain and delivery of needed medical supplies,” they said.
The airlines added that flight restrictions will not be limited to poor weather operations.
“Multiple modern safety systems on aircraft will be deemed unusable causing a much larger problem than what we knew... Airplane manufacturers have informed us that there are huge swaths of the operating fleet that may need to be indefinitely grounded.”
One area of concern is whether some Boeing 777s will be unable to land at some key US airports after 5G service starts, as well as some Boeing cargo planes, airline officials told Reuters. The airlines urged action to ensure “5G is deployed except when towers are too close to airport runways until the FAA can determine how that can be safely accomplished without catastrophic disruption.”
The FAA said on Sunday it had cleared an estimated 45 percent of the US commercial airplane fleet to perform low-visibility landings at many airports where 5G C-band will be deployed and they expect to issue more approvals before Wednesday. The airlines noted on Monday that the list did not include many large airports. 


First death in Tonga volcano blast as nation remains cut off

A plume rises over Tonga after the underwater volcano Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai erupted in this satellite image taken by Himawari-8, a Japanese weather satellite operated by Japan Meteorological Agency on January 15, 2022. (REUTERS)
A plume rises over Tonga after the underwater volcano Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai erupted in this satellite image taken by Himawari-8, a Japanese weather satellite operated by Japan Meteorological Agency on January 15, 2022. (REUTERS)
Updated 18 January 2022

First death in Tonga volcano blast as nation remains cut off

A plume rises over Tonga after the underwater volcano Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai erupted in this satellite image taken by Himawari-8, a Japanese weather satellite operated by Japan Meteorological Agency on January 15, 2022. (REUTERS)
  • The first known death in Tonga itself was confirmed: that of a British woman swept away by the tsunami

SYDNEY: The first death from a massive underwater volcanic blast near the Pacific island nation of Tonga has been confirmed, as the extent of the damage remained unknown Monday.
Tonga remained virtually cut off from the rest of the world, after the eruption crippled communications and stalled emergency relief efforts.
It is two days since the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano exploded, cloaking Tonga in a film of ash, triggering a Pacific-wide tsunami and releasing shock waves that wrapped around the entire Earth.
But with phone lines still down and an undersea Internet cable cut — and not expected to be repaired for weeks — the true toll of the dual eruption-tsunami disaster is not yet known.
The first known death in Tonga itself was confirmed: that of a British woman swept away by the tsunami. She was identified as Angela Glover, 50, who lived in the Tonga capital with her husband James, Glover’s brother Nick Eleini told British media.
Two women also drowned Saturday in northern Peru in big waves recorded after the volcanic blast, authorities there said.
Only fragments of information have filtered out via a handful of satellite phones on the islands, home to just over 100,000 people.
In one of the few communications with the outside world, two stranded Mexican marine biologists made a plea for help from their government, using a satellite phone provided by the British embassy to call their family.
“They said they were sheltering in a hotel near the airport and they asked us for help to leave the island,” Amelia Nava, the sister of 34-year-old Leslie Nava, told AFP in Mexico.
Tonga’s worried neighbors are still scrambling to grasp the scale of the damage, which New Zealand’s leader Jacinda Ardern said was believed to be “significant.”
Both Wellington and Canberra scrambled reconnaissance planes Monday in an attempt to get a sense of the damage from the air.
And both have put C-130 military transport aircraft on standby to drop emergency supplies or to land if runways are deemed operational and ash clouds allow.
There are initial reports that areas of Tonga’s west coast may have been badly hit.
Australia’s international development minister, Zed Seselja, said a small contingent of Australian police stationed in Tonga had delivered a “pretty concerning” initial evaluation.
They were “able to do an assessment of some of the Western beaches area and there was some pretty significant damage to things like roads and some houses,” Seselja said.
“One of the good pieces of news is that I understand the airport has not suffered any significant damage,” he added.
“That will be very, very important as the ash cloud clears and we are able to have flights coming into Tonga for humanitarian purposes.”
Major aid agencies, who would usually rush in to provide emergency humanitarian relief, said they were stuck in a holding pattern, unable to contact local staff.
“From what little updates we have, the scale of the devastation could be immense — especially for outlying islands,” said Katie Greenwood, IFRC’s Pacific Head of Delegation.
Even when relief efforts get under way, they may be complicated by Covid-19 entry restrictions. Tonga only recently reported its first-ever coronavirus case.

France, which has territories in the South Pacific, pledged to help the people of Tonga.
“France is willing to respond to the population’s most urgent needs,” the foreign ministry said. This assistance would be provided through a humanitarian aid mechanism with Australia and New Zealand that is known as FRANZ, the ministry added.
What is known is that Saturday’s volcanic blast was one the largest recorded in decades, erupting 30 kilometers (about 19 miles) into the air and depositing ash, gas and acid rain across a swathe of the Pacific.
The eruption was recorded around the world and heard as far away as Alaska, triggering a tsunami that flooded Pacific coastlines from Japan to the United States.
The Tongan capital Nuku’alofa was estimated to be cloaked in 1-2 centimeters of ash, potentially poisoning water supplies and causing breathing difficulties.
“We know water is an immediate need,” Ardern told reporters.
After speaking to the New Zealand embassy in Tonga, she described how boats and “large boulders” washed ashore.
Wellington’s defense minister said he understood the island nation had managed to restore power in “large parts” of the city.
But communications were still cut. The eruption severed an undersea communications cable between Tonga and Fiji that operators said would take weeks to repair.
“We’re getting sketchy information, but it looks like the cable has been cut,” Southern Cross Cable Network’s networks director Dean Veverka told AFP.
“It could take up to two weeks to get it repaired. The nearest cable-laying vessel is in Port Moresby,” he added, referring to the Papua New Guinea capital more than 4,000 kilometers from Tonga.
Tonga was isolated for two weeks in 2019 when a ship’s anchor cut the cable. A small, locally operated satellite service was set up to allow minimal contact with the outside world until the cable could be repaired.