Tag: expert

Expert panel faults Austrian government on botched ski resort quarantines

VIENNA (Reuters) – Crowds of possibly infected people fleeing ski resorts during Austria’s worst coronavirus outbreak was the result of poor preparation by Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s government before he announced a quarantine there, a panel of experts said on Monday.

In an attempt to contain Austria’s biggest cluster to date, at the ski resort of Ischgl, and another at the resort of St Anton, Kurz announced an immediate quarantine at both on March 13, but his government had not informed the local authorities that had to implement the measures.

“The Austrian chancellor announced the imposition of the quarantines unexpectedly, without immediate authority and without substantive preparations,” Ronald Rohrer, head of a panel of experts appointed by the province of Tyrol to look into its handling of the epidemic, told a news conference.

The panel’s report, published on Monday, said the federal government had failed to communicate properly with the authorities in Tyrol, the province that includes both resorts.

In his announcement Kurz said foreign tourists would be allowed to leave but, instead of an orderly departure, there was a panicked rush.

“Guests virtually ran to their cars in ski boots, rental skis were simply thrown into shop entrances, hotel rooms were hastily abandoned with personal items left inside,” said Rohrer, a former Supreme Court judge, citing witnesses’ statements.

It was not clear where the decision to impose quarantines originated but it appeared to be in Vienna, Rohrer said. Kurz said it came from ministerial coronavirus crisis cells and he assumed preparations were made, said Rohrer, adding that he did not have the authority to investigate the federal government.


The Ischgl outbreak has caused fury in Germany, Austria’s biggest source of foreign tourists, many of whose nationals were infected.

A private consumer rights group that is bringing lawsuits over Ischgl says the chaotic quarantines worsened the outbreak.

The panel found there was no evidence, however, of another allegation – that vested economic interests pressured the local authorities to delay their response.

The first confirmed case in Ischgl – an employee in an apres-ski bar called Kitzloch – tested positive on March 7. Austria’s public health agency believes the virus actually arrived in Ischgl a month earlier.

The panel found the district authorities reacted promptly to the first indications of infections in early March but then made various mistakes, including allowing Kitzloch to reopen.

(Reporting by Francois Murphy; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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Vaccine expert and whistleblower Rick Bright resigns from federal government

Vaccine expert and whistleblower Rick Bright on Tuesday resigned from the federal government, his attorneys announced in a statement. Earlier this year, Bright was removed from a top position at the Department of Health and Human Services. 

Bright, a high-ranking scientist, has said the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic has been slow and chaotic, prioritizing politics over science. Bright earlier this year filed a whistleblower complaint running over 300 pages.

Now, Bright has submitted his resignation to the National Institutes of Health effective immediately and has filed an updated complaint with the Office of Special Counsel alleging constructive discharge based on the failure of NIH leadership to assign him meaningful work, according to Bright’s lawyers.

“Dr. Bright was forced to leave his position at NIH because he can no longer sit idly by and work for an administration that ignores scientific expertise, overrules public health guidance and disrespects career scientists, resulting the in the sickness and death of hundreds of thousands of Americans,” his attorneys, Debra Katz and Lisa Banks, said in a statement.

“After having his work suppressed for political reasons to the detriment of public health and safety, Dr. Bright was sidelined from doing any further work to combat this deadly virus,” their statement continued. “This was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. He can no longer countenance working for an administration that puts politics over science to the great detriment of the American people.”

Before his transfer, Bright led the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, which oversees vaccine development. Bright told CBS News earlier this year that his sense of urgency in the early days of coronavirus was not shared by all.

“I believe my concerns were shared by other scientists in the government. And I believe the NIH was also moving very quickly to start some research in developing a vaccine and starting a clinical trial for an antiviral drug,” he said. “What struck me though was my sense of urgency didn’t seem to prevail across all of HHS.”

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Global efforts required to realise low carbon society: energy expert

The current energy saving goals and renewable energy policy in EAS (East Asia Summit) countries will contribute to reducing fossil fuel consumption as well as CO2 emissions mitigation, a senior official from the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA) said.

At the recent GECF Monthly Lecture Series on “EAS Energy Outlook”, special adviser (Energy Affairs) to ERIA President, Shigeru Kimura said unless the US and China take the lead on this transformation, any shift towards the low carbon society will be inadequate.
Special adviser (Energy Affairs) to ERIA President, Shigeru Kimura was speaking at the recent GECF Monthly Lecture Series on ‘EAS Energy Outlook’

“Further, seeing the ASEAN transition from 2017 to 2050 … the region is actually increasing coal, increasing natural gas, and increasing oil, but the renewables only get a little bit rise. That is the ASEAN reality,” Kimura noted during the online lecture.
EAS is a regional grouping of 18 countries, which brings together the Asean nations and countries in the Pacific Ocean, including Australia, China, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Russia, and the US.
The Jakarta-based ERIA has worked extensively with the EAS, particularly with its Energy Cooperation Task Force (ECTF) in driving its three major streams of promotion of energy efficiency and conservation (EEC), penetration of biofuels, and renewable and alternative power generation with research and data.
ERIA also compiles the biennial energy outlook of the EAS.
Appreciating the detailed presentation on the mechanics of the EAS Energy Outlook, GECF secretary general Yury Sentyurin said, “The suggestions you have made regarding the low carbon society are important for the GECF because we recognise the vital and crucial role that natural gas will play in energy transition and sustainable development, as well as in post-pandemic recovery.
“ERIA’s own projections (2015-2050) show that energy consumption in this important region of the world will increase by 2.5 times, while power generation demand will increase by three times during the same period. Here, I see potential for fuel substitution, especially in the power generation and transport sectors, if gas-based infrastructure affordability grows and more favourable policy measures are undertaken,” noted Sentyurin, while highlighting that these recommended steps are in line with the 2019 Malabo Declaration of the 5th GECF Gas Summit of Heads of State and Government, which also emphasises the importance of cooperation amongst various stakeholders.
The latest edition of the EAS Energy Outlook (2019-2020) estimates that the East Asia Summit countries will witness 3.1% increase in economic growth annually between 2017 and 2050, while its population will increase from 3.89bn in 2017 to 4.43bn in 2050.
At the same time until 2050, the share of fossil fuels in the EAS will be more than 80% in the business-as-usual scenario and 70% in the case of alternative-policy-scenario.
The EAS Energy Outlook also forecasts that between 2017 and 2050 the share of natural gas in the final energy consumption of the EAS region will increase from 12% to 14%.
According to Kimura, policymakers make informed decisions

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