Meet the Afri-Vegans: South Africa Slowly Embracing Veganism

Veganism is spreading among South Africa’s young, socially aware residents, who note that their quest to eliminate animal products from their diets has provoked interesting arguments about the role of meat in African culture and spirituality. VOA’s Anita Powell looks at the new wave of Afri-vegans, and brings us this report from Johannesburg.


World Health Experts to Determine if Coronavirus Poses Global Risk

Experts meeting in emergency session at the World Health Organization will look at the spreading Coronavirus to see whether it constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern and decide on recommendations needed to manage it.  The WHO has confirmed 440 cases of the disease, including 17 deaths. Since the new coronavirus was detected in a fish market in Wuhan city, China three weeks ago, the previously unknown virus has moved with frightening speed internally and abroad.  Deaths have been reported in China, Thailand, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.The first case of the disease has been reported in the United States in a man who returned to the West Coast city of Seattle last week from Wuhan.  He is hospitalized in good condition, but the appearance of the case has put officials in the U.S. and other countries on heightened alert.  FILE – Medical staff carry a box as they walk at the Jinyintan hospital, where the patients with pneumonia caused by the new strain of coronavirus are being treated, in Wuhan, Hubei province, China, Jan. 10, 2020.Many airports are screening travelers from China.  U.S. President Donald Trump, who was attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, has told media that he trusts the information coming out of China on coronavirus and that the situation was under control.Nevertheless, the World Health Organization is urging countries to continue preparedness measures to protect themselves from the possibilities of a large-scale outbreak.  WHO spokesman Tarek Jasarevic says WHO experts and health officials in China are conducting investigations into the outbreak.”Much remains to be understood about this novel coronavirus.  Not enough is known to draw definitive conclusions about how it is transmitted, clinical features of the disease, its severity, the extent to which it has spread or its source,” he said.Based on previous experience with respiratory illness, Jasarevic says limited human to human transmission is likely occurring.  But he adds, this is not an airborne disease and people have to be in close contact to get infected.  He says WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has convened the emergency meeting because little is known about the coronavirus and expert advice is needed to calm nerves and to know what protective actions are required.  He notes a Public Health Emergency of International Public Concern has been declared only five times by the WHO.


Death Toll from New Coronavirus in China Rises to Nine

The World Health Organization will hold an emergency meeting Wednesday on the outbreak of a new coronavirus that has now killed nine people and sickened hundreds more across China and beyond its border.The global health agency will consider whether the outbreak, which originated in the central city of Wuhan, should be declared a global health emergency.  The number of confirmed cases has risen to 440, including 15 medical workers, and has spread from Wuhan into Beijing, Shanghai and Guangdong province, as well as Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Taiwan and the United States, which announced its first case Tuesday in the northwest state of Washington.  Health officials there said a man who returned to Seattle from Wuhan last week is hospitalized in good condition with pneumonia.Chinese health experts say they know little about the new strain, dubbed 2019-nCoV. They suspect the outbreak started in a Wuhan seafood market, which also sold other animals such as poultry, bats, marmots, and wild game meat.  China’s National Health Commission announced Monday that the virus, which causes a type of pneumonia, can be transmitted person-to-person and not just from animals to people.  Airports around the world have begun screening travelers from Wuhan for any detection of the virus.  Health experts are especially concerned about the chance of a pandemic as millions of Chinese citizens plan to travel across the country and overseas for the Lunar New Year holiday that starts Saturday.A coronavirus is one of a large family of viruses that can cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to the deadly Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. SARS, which also started in China, killed nearly 800 people globally during an outbreak nearly 20 years ago.


China to Hold Coronavirus Emergency Meeting with WHO

The first case to be diagnosed with the Wuhan coronavirus in the United States (in Seattle) was confirmed Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The outbreak, which originated in China, has so far spread to other countries including Japan, South Korea, Thailand and the Philippines. China says it will attend an emergency World Health Organization summit this week on the coronavirus outbreak, which has infected several hundred and killed at least six. VOA correspondent Mariama Diallo reports.


US Reports First Case of New Coronavirus

The United States is reporting its first case of the new coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, China, and has killed at least six people.Health officials in the northwest U.S. state of Washington said a man who returned to Seattle from Wuhan last week is hospitalized in good condition with pneumonia. They say he poses no threat to doctors or hospital staff members.U.S. authorities are screening travelers from Wuhan at airports in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said they are adding Atlanta and Chicago to the list of airport screenings this week.The United States is the fifth country to report cases of the new coronavirus, joining China, Japan, South Korea and Thailand.A health official watches travelers on a thermographic monitor at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang, Malaysia, Jan. 21, 2020.The number of confirmed cases is approaching 300, and six deaths have been reported in Wuhan. Most of the fatalities are in patients 60 years and older.China’s National Health Commission says it now knows the virus can be transmitted person-to-person and not just from animals to people.Chinese and U.S. health officials are particularly concerned because as many as 1.4 billion Chinese plan to travel across the country and overseas for the Lunar New Year holiday that starts Saturday.  Chinese health experts say they know little about the new strain, dubbed 2019-nCoV. They suspect the outbreak started in a Wuhan seafood market, which also sold other animals such as poultry, bats, marmots, and wild game meat.Pharmacist Liu Zhuzhen stands near a sign reading “face masks are sold out” at her pharmacy in Shanghai, Jan. 21, 2020.The World Health Organization says an animal source seemed to be “the most likely primary source” with “some limited human-to-human transmission occurring between close contacts.” The WHO is to hold an emergency committee Wednesday to discuss the situation.Health officials are urging caution but say there is no reason to panic. The WHO is not recommending against travel to China, and China’s National Health Commission says the current outbreak is “preventable and controllable.”A coronavirus is one of a large family of viruses that can cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to the deadly Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. SARS, which also started in China, killed nearly 800 people globally during an outbreak nearly 20 years ago.
 


Washington Man is 1st in US to Catch New Virus From China

The U.S. on Tuesday reported its first case of a new and potentially deadly virus circulating in China, saying a Washington state resident who returned last week from the outbreak’s epicenter was hospitalized near Seattle.The man, identified only as a Snohomish County resident is in his 30s, was in good condition and wasn’t considered a threat to medical staff or the public, health officials said.U.S. health officials stressed that they believe the virus’ overall risk to the American public remained low.The newly discovered virus has infected about 300 people, all of whom had been in China, and killed six. The virus can cause coughing, fever, breathing difficulty and pneumonia. The U.S. joins a growing list of places outside mainland China reporting cases, following Thailand, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.A health official watches travelers on a thermographic monitor at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang, Malaysia, Jan. 21, 2020.Airports around the world have stepped up monitoring, checking passengers from China for signs of illness in hopes of containing the virus during the busy Lunar New Year travel season.Late last week, U.S. health officials began screening passengers from Wuhan in central China, where the outbreak began. The screening had been under way at three U.S. airports — New York City’s Kennedy airport and the Los Angeles and San Francisco airports. On Tuesday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced it would add Chicago’s O’Hare airport and Atlanta’s airport to the mix later this week.What’s more, officials will begin forcing all passengers from Wuhan to go to one of those five airports if they wish to enter the U.S.The U.S. resident had no symptoms when he arrived at the Seattle-Tacoma airport last Wednesday, but he contacted doctors on Sunday when he started feeling ill, officials said. Lab testing on Monday confirmed he had the virus”The gentleman right now is very healthy,” said Dr. Nancy Messonnier of the CDC.The hospital, Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett, said in a statement that it expected the man would be monitored there at least until Thursday.CDC officials said they sent a team to Washington to try to track down people who might have come in contact with the man. The hospital also said it was contacting “the small number of staff and patients” who may have been with the man at a clinic.Health officials described the number of possible contacts since he got back to the U.S. as small.China numbersLast month, doctors began seeing the new virus in people who got sick after spending time at a food market in Wuhan. More than 275 cases of the newly identified virus have been confirmed in China, most of them in Wuhan, according to the World Health Organization.Pharmacist Liu Zhuzhen stands near a sign reading “face masks are sold out” at her pharmacy in Shanghai, Jan. 21, 2020.The count includes six deaths — all in China, most of them age 60 or older, including at least some who had a previous medical condition.Officials have said it probably spread from animals to people, but this week Chinese officials said they’ve concluded it also can spread from person to person.Health authorities this month identified the germ behind the outbreak as a new type of coronavirus. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, some of which cause the common cold; others found in bats, camels and other animals have evolved into more severe illnesses.SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, belongs to the coronavirus family, but Chinese state media say the illness in Wuhan is different from coronaviruses that have been identified in the past. Earlier laboratory tests ruled out SARS and MERS — Middle East respiratory syndrome — as well as influenza, bird flu, adenovirus and other common lung-infecting germs.The new virus so far does not appear to be as deadly as SARS and MERS, but viruses can sometimes mutate to become more dangerous.Researcher: Don’t panicUniversity of Washington coronavirus researcher David Veesler said the public “should not be panicking right now.”The response has been “very efficient,” Veesler said. “In a couple of weeks, China was able to identify the virus, isolate it, sequence it and share that information.”Veesler added: “We don’t have enough data to judge how severe the disease is.”The CDC’s Messonnier said health officials expected to see more cases in the U.S. and around the world in the coming days.
 


Spain Declares Climate Emergency, Gets Climate Plan Ready

Spain’s new government declared a national climate emergency on Tuesday, taking a formal first step toward enacting ambitious measures to fight climate change.
    
The declaration approved by the Cabinet says the left-of-center Socialist government will send to parliament within 100 days its proposed climate legislation. The targets coincide with those of the European Union, including a reduction of net carbon emissions to zero by 2050.
    
Spain’s coalition government wants up to 95% of the Mediterranean country’s electricity to come from renewable sources by 2040. The plan also foresees eliminating pollution by buses and trucks and making farming carbon neutral.
    
Details of the plan are to be made public when the proposed legislation is sent to parliament for approval.
   
More than two dozen countries and scores of local and regional authorities have declared a climate emergency in recent years.
    
Scientists say the decade that just ended was by far the hottest ever measured on Earth, capped off by the second-warmest year on record.
    
Also Tuesday, young climate activists including Greta Thunberg told the elites gathered at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland they are not doing enough to deal with the climate emergency and warned them that time was running out.


WHO: New Coronavirus Expected to Spread in China and Abroad

The World Health Organization says the new coronavirus is likely to spread in China and other countries and is urging governments to implement preventive infection control measures in health facilities.  The WHO confirms 278 cases of the disease, including six deaths, two in China and the other four in Thailand, Japan and South Korea.The WHO calls the coronavirus a fast-moving disease and says the number of cases and deaths is changing quickly.  The agency is stepping up measures to get to the source of the infection as quickly as possible and to provide the public with information it needs to protect itself.  The WHO will be convening an emergency committee meeting Wednesday to see whether the virus constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.  A team of experts is in the city of Wuhan, China where the outbreak occurred.  The experts are working with local health officials to investigate the source of the disease.Travelers pass through a health screening checkpoint at Wuhan Tianhe International Airport in Wuhan in southern China’s Hubei province, Jan. 21, 2020.WHO spokesman Tarek Jasarevic says not much is known about the new coronavirus.  He says how the disease is transmitted, its severity, the extent to which it has spread or its source are unclear.”Based on current information, an animal source seems the most likely primary source of this outbreak, with limited human to human transmission occurring between close contacts,” he said. “Based on previous experience with respiratory illnesses, in particular with other coronavirus outbreaks and our analysis of data shared by China, human to human transmission is occurring.”  Jasarevic says human-to-human transmission appears to be limited and it occurs between people who are in close contact with each other.  He says the coronavirus infection can cause mild to severe symptoms and can be fatal.  But reports of some new cases, he says, have tended to be mild.The coronavirus was discovered at the end of last year in a fish market in Wuhan.  The World Health Organization says it is spreading widely and more cases should be expected in other parts of China and possibly in other countries in the coming days.Fears are growing that the mysterious virus could sicken a great many people during the upcoming lunar holiday, a time when millions of people in China travel within the country and abroad to be with their families.  A number of airports around the world are screening travelers for the infection.  The World Health Organization says that is one of the measures countries can use to identify possible carriers of the disease.  However, it says the current known risks do not justify restrictions on travel or trade.   


Number of New Virus Infections Triples in China

The number of people infected with a new strain of coronavirus in China tripled over the weekend and is spreading from Wuhan to other major cities. The new cases of pneumonia-like illness caused by the virus has been detected in Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen. Scientists have also confirmed that the virus can be spread from human to human, which is bad news for China as it prepares for the Spring Holiday which is the busiest travel season. VOA’s Zlatica Hoke has more.


Unhealthy Levels of Smog Choke Thai Capital for Over Week

Unhealthy levels of smog have choked Bangkok for more than a week, as the Thai capital’s residents fume over the ineffectiveness of government measures to combat the problem.As thick haze blanketed the city Monday, pollution levels soared to 95 micrograms per cubic meter of PM 2.5 particle at noon in some areas, according to the government’s Pollution Control Department, which described that level as very unhealthy. The maximum level considered safe by the government is 50.PM 2.5 particles are small enough to penetrate deeply into the lungs, which can cause both short-term bronchial problems as well as serious long-term health issues.Bangkok’s smog crisis results from still air and an excessive amount of ultrafine dust from vehicle emissions and other activities, Pollution Control Department Director-General Pralong Damrongthai explained in a Monday press release. He said smog is being trapped close to the ground by a blanket of warm air in what meteorologists call an inversion.A thick layer of smog covers central Bangkok, Thailand, Jan. 20, 2020.Bangkok residents have grown frustrated with the lack of progress in improving the situation. A survey by the National Institute for Development Administration released on Sunday showed 81% of the 1,256 local residents questioned agreed the government is ineffective in solving the problem. Only 2.7% of respondents approved of the government’s efforts.The Pollution Control Department issued a 52-page national action plan in October for combating dust pollution problems, but it is unclear how many, if any, of the measures it suggested were implemented. The plan mostly included guidelines for government agencies, but also discussed possible precautions and ways to measure pollutants.Burning of fields is cited as the main reason for smog outside of Bangkok, with provinces in the central and northern regions of Thailand also blanketed in haze.Tara Buakamsri of the environmental group Greenpeace said the current situation shows the government’s strategy is failing.”They probably think that the situation happens just only few days or few weeks and then it’s gone, therefore, no concrete or long-term measures have been launched by the government,” he said.Tara also said the official maximum “safe level” of PM 2.5 of 50 micrograms per cubic meter over 24 hours was set too high.”That level cannot protect people’s health,” he said. He urged the maximum safe level be reduced to 35, as it is in other places such as the United States.