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Wednesday, April 3, 2013

New Bird Flu Strain Infects Four More People in China

A new strain of bird flu that was previously unrecorded in humans has infected another four people in China, according to the country’s health authorities. It had already killed two people and takes the number of known cases of the H7N9 strain to seven. The four patients in China’s Jiangsu province are aged between 32 and 83 years of age and one was known to have worked in a market slaughtering poultry. All were admitted to hospital after complaining of dizziness, fever, coughing and breathlessness. Forty-three people were identified to have been in close contact with the four infected patients and were in close observation by Jiangsu authorities. The two previous deaths were of men in Shanghai who had fallen sick in February. The World Health Organisation said that the cases had no evidence of human-to-human transmission, but that it would investigate the outbreaks as there were questions about the source of the infection and the mode of transmission.

Cyprus Agrees to ‘Challenging’ Measures for Bailout

Cyprus has agreed to a “challenging” set of measures in order to release a US$ 10 billion bailout package. “This is a challenging programme that will require great efforts from the Cypriot population”, said Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). She added that the plan had the ultimate goal of making sure everyone in Cyprus took an equal burden as well as protecting “the most vulnerable groups”. Harris Georgiades, the country’s new finance minister, said he was determined to keep the commitments, which include a doubling of taxes on interest income to 30 percent and a rise in corporation tax to 12.5 percent. “The responsibility is great, and the expectations of our citizens greater. Our promise is that we will make every effort for what is best for the nation. Under your guidance I am sure we will succeed”, said Georgiades. The country will introduce austerity measures equivalent to 5 percent of the country’s GDP between 2013 and 2015 through tax rises and spending cuts.

North Korea Halts Access to Industrial Zone Operated Together With South Korea

North Korea took another belligerent step on Wednesday by closing access to a joint factory zone operated together with South Korea, jeopardising a potential US$ 2 billion in trade between the two neighbours. Seoul demanded immediate access to the Kaeasong Industrial Complex, just inside the northern border. There are approximately 800 South Korean managers and factory workers inside the zone, but only 36 opted to return south after access was closed with the factories still operational. Those remaining stayed behind of their own volition, but could run out of food because all supplies at Kaesong are brought in by land from South Korea. “If this issue is prolonged, the government is aware of such a situation materialising”, said Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Hyung-suk when asked about the food situation. Kaesong, opened in 2000, has never shut operations despite the repeated crises between the two neighbours. It houses 123 companies and employs 50,000 North Koreans who manufacture cheap goods for export.

Pollution Causing an ‘Airpocalypse’ Over Beijing

A report in the Economic Observer, a Chinese newspaper, has shown that two major air pollutants have increased by almost 30 percent in the capital Beijing in comparison to the same period in 2012. This is despite a target of 3 percent reduction set by the city’s municipal government last year. Levels of the two pollutants, nitrous dioxide and particles with a diameter ranging from 2.5 to 10 micrometres, spiked in January, with a 47 percent over the same month in 2012. These levels could be compared with the worse polluted days of industrial London in the mid-20th century, with some foreigners the ever-present smog in Beijing an “airpocalypse”. The data was revealed by Chen Tian, head of the Beijing’s Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau. This is far more air pollution that the city’s environment can handle and the government maintains it has been caused by high levels of humidity and low winds, which trapped pollutants over the capital.

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