May 30, 2006 (CIDRAP News) – The World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed yesterday six new cases of H5N1 avian flu in geographically widespread areas of the country, but none associated with the Karo, North Sumatra, family cluster that killed at least six people earlier this month.Of the six new cases, three have been fatal, raising the number of cases in Indonesia to 48 and the number of deaths to 36, all in 2005 and 2006, according to WHO statistics.In its report yesterday, the WHO identified a 10-year-old girl and her 18-year-old brother from Bandung, West Java, as among the fatalities. Both siblings, according to the WHO, had close contact with sick and dying chickens at their home the week before symptom onset. They showed symptoms May 16, were hospitalized May 22, and died the next day.”The identical onset dates,” the report says, “strongly suggest that [the patients] acquired their infection following a shared exposure to poultry, and not from each other.”A 39-year-old man from West Jakarta also died, according to the WHO. He developed symptoms May 9, was hospitalized May 16, and died May 19. He had cleaned pigeon droppings from roof gutters shortly before developing symptoms. Pigeons are among the bird species known to transmit H5N1.Among the other cases was an 18-year-old East Java man whose symptoms developed May 6 and who was hospitalized May 17. He had been exposed to dead chickens in his home the week before symptom onset and is now recovering, according to the WHO report. In addition, according to Reuters, he sorted chicken feathers at his job in a factory that makes shuttlecocks.The final two cases involve a 43-year-old man from South Jakarta and a 15-year-old girl from West Sumatra. The man developed symptoms May 6 and is now recovered and no longer hospitalized. The girl developed symptoms May 17 and is still hospitalized. The source of their infections remains under investigation, the WHO reported.Indonesia, which has recorded 31 human cases of avian flu and 25 deaths in this year alone—far more than any other country in 2006—continues to worry scientists, according to the Reuters news story. “Of course I am worried,” the story quotes Leo Poon, a University of Hong Kong microbiologist and H5N1 expert, as saying. “The problem has not improved at all in Indonesia. It’s not a good situation.”Redefining pandemic alert phasesIn other news, the WHO said today that it is refining its guidelines for its six-phase global pandemic alerts to make them clearer and plans to issue them in a few weeks, according to a separate Reuters report.”It was highlighted last week that there is some confusion over these phases—what we mean when we go from phase 3 to phase 4,” said WHO spokesperson Maria Cheng, as quoted by Reuters.The pandemic alert is currently at phase 3 (human infection has occurred, but there is no or rare human-to-human spread). Phase 6 signals a full-blown pandemic.”What we are trying to do is explain [it] in better terminology so that people understand [that] what we are looking for is not necessarily a numerical standard for the number of cases,” said Cheng. “We’re looking to detect any change in how the virus is transmitted.”Avian flu endemic in Africa?Because of lack of funds to combat its spread in birds, avian flu may become endemic in Africa, a senior official with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) told Reuters today.”Africa is the continent where we are really worried to see endemicity becoming established,” FAO’s chief of animal health services, Joseph Domenech, told Reuters. “If this is the case, it will be a new plague for African farmers and will be a permanent reservoir for reinfection to other regions through trade and wild birds.”Domenech, according to Reuters, said that other countries should help Africa eradicate avian influenza.See also:WHO May 29 Indonesia reporthttp://www.who.int/csr/don/2006_05_29/en/index.html
The Indonesian Embassy in Cairo said in a statement on Sunday that the special flight would also be used to repatriate around 80 Egyptian citizens who were now stranded in Bali and Jakarta back to their country.The voluntary repatriation was due to the closure of international flights in Egypt since March 19. The Indonesian Embassy and the Egyptian government agreed to provide the special flight — bound for Bali and Jakarta — and charged US$700 for each ticket.“Initially, there were 100 [Indonesian] citizens who were interested to participate in the voluntary repatriation,” said Indonesian Ambassador to Egypt Helmy Fauzy.He said the number dropped to 75 after the embassy announced that the repatriation was only for those who had urgent matters at home. Topics : On the same day, 37 Indonesians departed Vietnam’s Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City using Vietjet Airlines flight VJ888.They had been stranded in the country for the past month due to travel restrictions imposed by the Vietnamese government to curb the spread of COVID-19.The special flight cost $278 per seat — a discount from the normal fare of $385 — and carried Indonesian citizens who had visited Vietnam for internships, traveling as well as workers who had been laid off.The Indonesian Embassy in Bangkok, with the help of national flag carrier Garuda Indonesia, repatriated 66 Indonesians on Friday. Most of the Indonesians were embassy interns or exchange students. The embassy previously facilitated the repatriation of 356 Indonesians in Thailand following the Thai government’s decision to ban flights from April 4 to April 30.A day earlier, the Indonesian Embassy in Colombo also facilitated the repatriation of 335 Indonesian migrant workers in Sri Lanka.The embassies said the repatriations were conducted accordingly with standardized health protocols.The government has yet to issue a statement regarding the handling of the returnees upon their arrival in Jakarta or Bali, and whether they will be allowed to return to their hometown after domestic flights and other inter-provincial means of transportation were halted due to a mudik (exodus) ban that will be in place until June 1. With the help of diplomatic missions abroad, dozens of Indonesian citizens have been repatriated in the past week following flight restrictions imposed in some countries because of the COVID-19 pandemic.Although the government has stated there was no policy for structured repatriation, the stranded citizens — most of whom were short-term visitors — were eager to come home at their own expense.On Sunday, at least 75 Indonesians who had been stranded in Egypt arrived in Jakarta via a special Air Cairo flight. The returnees included migrant workers, students as well as those who visited the country for training and traveling.
The search for the missing cash hit a dead end in the Philippines, but the two Philippine banks have said documents purporting to show Wirecard had deposited funds with them were false.“The initial report is that no money entered the Philippines and that there is no loss to both banks,” Diokno said, though he added that the central bank was investigating.“The international financial scandal used the names of two of the country’s biggest banks — BDO and BPI — in an attempt to cover the perpetrators’ track,” he said.BDO and BPI have stated that Wirecard was not their client and that they had no business relationship with the German firm, Diokno said.BPI, however, told Reuters on Saturday that it had suspended an assistant manager whose signature appeared on one of the fraudulent documents.BDO told the central bank that it appeared one of its marketing officers had fabricated a bank certificate.Diokno reiterated the Philippine banking system was in a strong position going into the coronavirus pandemic and well-capitalised.Topics : None of the US$2.1 billion missing from scandal-hit German payments firm Wirecard AG appears to have entered the Philippine financial system, the central bank said on Sunday.Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Benjamin Diokno said in a statement the Southeast Asian country’s biggest lenders, BDO Unibank and Bank of the Philippine Islands, suffered no losses, despite having been named in connection with the missing funds.The chief executive of Wirecard, Markus Braun, who built the company into one of the hottest financial technology investments in Europe and a rare tech champion for Germany, quit on Friday as the company faces a cash crunch after saying it may have been the victim of fraud.
However, Boca Raton Mayor Scott Singer later clarified that there are no plans at this time to issue citations to anyone who does not follow the recommendations.Other municipalities in South Florida, particularly in hard-hit Miami-Dade County, are now requiring everyone to wear face coverings inside businesses like grocery stores, pharmacies and restaurants.Within Palm Beach County, Delray Beach and Boca Raton are among the municipalities with the most COVID-19 cases. Two cities in south Palm Beach County announced Thursday afternoon that they are recommending their residents and visitors wear face masks in public, in an effort to stop the spread of coronavirus.Boca Raton and Delray Beach took the precautionary steps within hours of each other.The actions come after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidelines this week and recommended that people wear “cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies), especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.”The Boca Raton executive order adds that people should not use surgical masks or N95-rated masks, which are “critical supplies for health care workers, police, fire, emergency management, or other persons engaged in life and safety activities.” Chrissy Gibson, the communications and marketing manager Boca Raton, says if people defy an emergency order with a mandate, authorities could issue a “notice to appear” in court.If a judge determines the person was violating the order intentionally, the individual could be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor, Gibson adds.