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72-Year-Old UK Man Tested Covid Positive For 10 Straight Months


Daev Smith had a history of lung disease and had recently recovered from leukaemia. (Representational)

London: A 72-year-old British man tested positive for coronavirus for 10 months in what is thought to be the longest recorded case of continuous infection, researchers said on Thursday.

Dave Smith, a retired driving instructor from Bristol in western England, said he tested positive 43 times, was hospitalised seven times and had made plans for his funeral.

“I’d resigned myself, I’d called the family in, made my peace with everybody, said goodbye,”, he told BBC television.

His wife, Linda, who quarantined with him at home, said: “There was a lot of times when we didn’t think he was going to pull through. It’s been a hell of a year”.

Ed Moran, a consultant in infectious diseases at the University of Bristol and North Bristol NHS Trust, said Smith “had active virus in his body” throughout.

“We were able to prove that by sending a sample of his virus to university partners who managed to grow it, proving that it was not just left-over products that were triggering a PCR test but actually active, viable virus.”

Smith recovered after treatment with a cocktail of synthetic antibodies developed by the US biotech firm Regeneron.

This was allowed on compassionate grounds in his case but the treatment regime is not clinically approved for use in Britain.

Results of a clinical trial published this month showed the treatment reduced deaths among severe Covid patients who are unable to mount a strong immune response.

“It’s like you’ve been given your life back”, Smith told the BBC.

He and his wife cracked open a bottle of champagne when he finally tested negative, 45 days after receiving the Regeneron drug and some 305 days after his first infection.

Smith’s treatment was not part of an official medical trial but his case is now being studied by virologist Andrew Davidson at the University of Bristol.

A paper on his case will be presented at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases in July, saying that his is thought to be “the longest infection recorded in the literature”.

“Where does the virus hide away in the body? How can it stay just persistently infecting people? We don’t know that,” Davidson said.

Smith had a history of lung disease and had recently recovered from leukaemia when he caught the virus in March 2020.

He told The Guardian daily that since his recovery, he still gets breathless but has travelled in Britain and is teaching his granddaughter to drive.

“I’ve been down to the bottom and everything’s brilliant now,” he said.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)



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Russia Accuses Britain Of Barefaced Lies Over Black Sea Warship Incident


Black Sea Warship: Russia accused Britain of spreading lies on the warship incident.

London/Moscow: Russia accused Britain on Thursday of spreading barefaced lies over an incident in the Black Sea in which Moscow said it had fired warning shots and dropped bombs in the path of a British destroyer off the coast of Russia-annexed Crimea.

Russia summoned the British ambassador in Moscow for a formal diplomatic scolding after the warship breached what the Kremlin says are its territorial waters but which Britain and most of the world say belong to Ukraine.

Britain said Russia was sowing inaccuracies and disputed Russia’s account, saying no warning shots had been fired and that no bombs had been dropped in the path of the Royal Navy destroyer Defender.

Russia’s foreign ministry summoned ambassador Deborah Bronnert to deliver a “tough demarche” – diplomatic jargon for a telling off – and spokeswoman Maria Zakharova accused London of “barefaced lies”.

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told reporters during a visit to Singapore: “No shots were fired at HMS Defender.”

“The Royal Navy ship was conducting innocent passage through Ukrainian territorial waters. We were doing so in accordance with international law and the Russian characterisation is predictably inaccurate.”

Under international law of the sea, innocent passage permits a vessel to pass through another state’s territorial waters so long as this does not affect its security.

Russia seized and annexed the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine in 2014 and considers areas around its coast to be Russian waters. Western countries deem the Crimea to be part of Ukraine and reject Russia’s claim to the seas around it.

The Black Sea, which Russia uses to project its power in the Mediterranean, has for centuries been a flashpoint between Russia and its competitors such as Turkey, France, Britain and the United States.

Black Sea Row

During the 2008 Georgian war, Russia bristled at US warships operating in the Black Sea, and in April the United States cancelled the deployment of two warships to the area.

Both Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Joe Biden say ties between the two former Cold War foes are at a low point after disputes over spying, hacking, election meddling, Ukraine, Belarus and human rights.

Ties between London and Moscow have been on ice since the 2018 poisoning with a Soviet-developed nerve agent known as Novichok of double agent Sergei Skripal, a mole who betrayed hundreds of Russian agents to Britain’s MI6 foreign spy service.

Russia said the British ship had ventured as far as 3 km (2 miles) into Russian waters near Cape Fiolent, a landmark on Crimea’s southern coast near the port of Sevastopol, headquarters of the Russian Navy’s Black Sea fleet.

Britain sought to play down the warship incident while accusing Moscow of disinformation.

“These are things that come and go with Russia; disinformation, misinformation is something that we have seen regularly,” Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said. “We are not surprised by it, we plan for it.”

Britain’s BBC released footage from the ship showing a Russian officer warning that he would shoot if the British ship did not change course. Russia released footage filmed from a Russian SU-24 bomber flying close to the British ship.

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)



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Massive Raids In Pakistan After Blast Outside Hafiz Saeed’s House: Report


Hafiz Saeed is the mastermind of the Mumbai terror attack that killed 166 people, including 6 Americans

Lahore: Pakistani authorities today conducted raids across different cities of Pakistan’s Punjab province and took into custody several suspects in connection with the explosion outside the house of the 2008 Mumbai terror attack mastermind and head of banned terror outfit Jamat-ud-Dawa (JuD) Hafiz Saeed in Lahore.

At least three people were killed and 21 injured in the blast that took place at a police picket outside terrorist Hafiz Saeed’s house at the BOR Society in Lahore’s Johar Town at around 11 am on Wednesday. Some police officers guarding the terrorist’s house suffered serious injuries. The windows and walls of Hafiz Saeed’s house were damaged from the impact of the blast.

No group has claimed responsibility for the blast.

According to a report on Pakistan’s Geo TV, the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) of Pakistan’s Punjab Police today conducted raids across different cities in connection with the blast.

According to news agency Press Trust of India, the local report quoted sources saying that the Counter-Terrorism Department has taken into custody several suspicious persons.

Pakistan’s Counter-Terrorism Department and intelligence agencies have collected the evidence from the crime scene, the sources told the local news channel, adding that ball bearings, pieces of iron and the vehicle’s parts have been preserved.

Investigative agencies have also started geo-fencing the area to help with the blast probe, the report said.

In geo-fencing, a virtual geographic boundary around an area is created by means of Global Positioning System (GPS) or Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology, enabling software to trigger a response when a mobile device enters or leaves the area.

Hafiz Saeed has been serving a jail sentence at the high-security Kot Lakhpat Jail in Lahore for his conviction in terror financing cases. The blast sparked rumours in Pakistan that Hafiz Saeed may have been present in the house.

Condemning the attack on the terrorist, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari warned that Pakistan could see an increase in such attacks due to the flawed Afghan policy of the current government led by Pak Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Addressing the media at the Parliament House in Islamabad on Wednesday, Bilawal Bhutto said such incidents could increase as Pakistan’s policy in Afghan peace process is not correct and added that some terrorist organisations are also active across the border, Pakistan’s Express Tribune newspaper reported.

“I had demanded on the floor of the (National) Assembly that whatever the Pakistani government is doing covertly and through the backdoor should be brought before the representatives of the people. The government should tell us what its policy is,” he said, referring to Pakistan’s role in the deal between Afghan Taliban and the United States.

Hafiz Saeed, a UN designated terrorist whom the US has placed a USD 10 million bounty on, has been convicted for 36 years imprisonment in five terror financing cases. His punishment is running concurrently.

Hafiz Saeed-led JuD is the front organisation for the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) which is responsible for carrying out the 2008 Mumbai attack that killed 166 people, including six Americans.

The US Department of the Treasury has designated Hafiz Saeed as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist. He was listed under the UN Security Council Resolution 1267 in December 2008.

The global terror financing watchdog Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is instrumental in pushing Pakistan to take measures against terrorists roaming freely in Pakistan and using territory in its control to carry out attacks in India.
 

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)



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Sri Lanka Releases 93 Prisoners, Including 16 LTTE Terror Suspects


100 Tamil political prisoners are reportedly being held without charges. (Representational)

Colombo: Sri Lanka on Thursday released 93 prisoners, including 16 LTTE terror suspects held without charges, after they were pardoned by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

The prisoners were released on the presidential pardon on the occasion of Poson Poya, an annual festival celebrated by Sri Lanka’s Buddhist majority to mark the arrival of Buddhism in the country.

Prison spokesman Thushara Upuldeniya said the suspects belonging to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) were among the 93 who had received the presidential pardon.

They have been released from the prison in the northern town of Jaffna and the north-central town of Anuradhapura. They were arrested under the provisions of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA).

Sri Lankan presidents on significant Buddhist days use their executive authority to release prisoners after necessary recommendations from authorities.

The main Tamil party, the TNA, has been pressing along with rights groups to seek the release of Tamil political prisoners, who have been held without charges for over 10-20 years.

The European Parliament early this month adopted a resolution calling for the repealing of Sri Lanka’s PTA.

TNA sources said nearly 100 Tamil political prisoners are being held without charges. The Sri Lankan government maintains there are no political prisoners in jail.

The LTTE ran a military campaign for a separate Tamil homeland in the northern and eastern provinces of the island nation for nearly 30 years before its collapse in 2009 after the Sri Lankan Army killed its supreme leader Velupillai Prabhakaran.



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Ex-Soldier Opens Fire In Thai Coronavirus Field Hospital, Kills 1


Patients are seen behind a broken glass door after a shooting in a coronavirus field hospital.

Bangkok: A former soldier fired gunshots in a coronavirus field hospital in Thailand on Thursday, killing a 54-year-old patient after earlier shooting dead a convenience store employee, police said.

The suspect, 23, believed that the patients in the hospital in Pathum Thani near Bangkok were drug addicts and that he hated drug addicts, regional police chief Amphol Buarabporn told Reuters, after an initial investigation.

The field hospital was once a drug rehabilitation centre and was reorganised to treat COVID-19 patients.

Closed-circuit camera footage that circulated online showed the a man walking into a hospital in combat uniform and red beret brandishing a firearm.

Hours earlier, the suspect shot and killed a convenience store employee in Bangkok over a dispute, Amphol said.

The suspect was later arrested.

Pictures of the scene at the field hospital showed broken glass in front of an area where patients were sat in their beds.

In February last year, a soldier killed 29 people in a rare shooting spree at a Thai shopping mall while, which drew attention to treatment of junior military staff in Thailand.

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)



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Philippines Grounds Entire Black Hawk Fleet After Deadly Crash


All 6 passengers were killed in the Black Hawk crash on Wednesday (Representational)

Manila: The Philippines grounded its entire fleet of Black Hawk helicopters Thursday after one of the new aircraft crashed during a night-time training flight, killing all six on board.

Three pilots and three airmen died when their S70-i went down near the Crow Valley training range north of Manila on Wednesday, Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said.

“The entire Black Hawk fleet are grounded while the incident is being investigated,” Lorenzana said.

The country ordered 16 of the multi-role aircraft from a Polish firm that made them under licence from the Sikorsky division of US defence manufacturer Lockheed Martin.

Eleven have been delivered since late 2020.

The government bought the Black Hawks to replace the air force’s ageing fleet of Bell UH-1H helicopters, commonly known as the Huey. Many of them were acquired as surplus from the United States, Manila’s longtime military ally.

Lorenzana said the Black Hawk fleet has been used for humanitarian assistance and disaster response, including flying Covid-19 vaccines to remote areas of the archipelago nation.

The Philippine military is also fighting a long-running communist insurgency across the country and Islamic State-linked militants in the south.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)



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China Challenges Australia’s Anti-Dumping Measures At World Trade Body


China filed a lawsuit at the World Trade Organization challenging Australia.

Beijing: China said on Thursday it had filed a lawsuit at the World Trade Organization challenging Australia’s anti-dumping measures on a range of goods, marking further escalation in tensions between the two countries.

The suit — regarding Chinese exports of train wheels, wind turbines and stainless steel sinks — comes a week after Canberra challenged Beijing’s crippling tariffs on Australian wine exports.

 

It aims to “safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese companies”, Chinese commerce ministry spokesman Gao Feng said at a regular briefing Thursday.

“We hope that Australia will take concrete actions to correct its wrong practices, avoid distortions in the trade of related products, and bring such trade back to the normal track as soon as possible.”

Australia has imposed tariffs on Chinese-built train wheels and wind turbines since 2019.

Trade Minister Dan Tehan told reporters in Canberra that Australia will “vigorously defend the duties that we have put in place”.

He said although Canberra wanted a “constructive engagement with the Chinese government” the measures were implemented “after a rigorous analysis.”

“Why they’ve taken this action now is a question that you would have to ask China,” he added.

China in November announced tariffs of up to 218 percent on Australian wines, which it said were being “dumped” into the Chinese market at subsidised prices.

The crackdown virtually closed what had been Australia’s biggest overseas wine market, with sales falling from Aus$1.1 billion (US$ 840 million) to just Aus$20 million, according to official figures.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has warned that his government would respond forcefully to countries trying to use “economic coercion” against Australia.

The decision last week “to defend Australia’s winemakers” came six months after Canberra lodged a separate protest at the WTO over tariffs on Australian barley, exports of which to China had been worth around US$1 billion a year.

Beijing has imposed tough economic sanctions on a range of Australian products in recent months, ranging from high tariffs to disruptive practices across several agricultural sectors and tourism.

On Monday, Gao said China “opposes the abuse of trade remedy measures, which not only damages the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese companies, but also hurts the solemnness and authority of WTO rules”.

But the tit-for-tat measures are widely seen in Canberra as punishment for pushing back against Beijing’s operations to impose influence in Australia, rejecting Chinese investment in sensitive areas and publicly calling for an investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.

Earlier this month a summit of the G7 advanced economies echoed Australia’s call for a tougher stand against China’s trade practices and its more assertive stance globally.

The leaders’ meeting ended with the announcement of US-led plans to counter China’s trillion-dollar “Belt and Road Initiative”, the hallmark of its efforts to extend economic influence around the world.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)



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Britain Plays Down Black Sea Warship Incident With Russia


Britain plays down the Black Sea incident off the Crimea peninsula.

London: Britain on Thursday played down an incident in the Black Sea off the Crimea peninsula in which Russia said it fired warning shots at a British destroyer.

Such gunnery exercises were not particularly abnormal, Environment Secretary George Eustice told Sky.

Russia, one of the world’s biggest military powers, said the British warship had breached its territorial waters – which Britain and most of the world says belong to Ukraine – and cast Britain’s actions as a blatant provocation.

Britain disputed Russia’s account, saying no warning shots had been fired and that no bombs had been dropped in the path of HMS Defender.

“I don’t think there is anything in this particular event that people should get too carried away by,” Eustice said.

“I don’t think there were warning shots, there was a gunnery exercise that was taking place, and it’s not uncommon for the Russians to do this in this area. The incident is not particularly abnormal in that sense.”

Russia seized and annexed the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine in 2014 and considers areas around the peninsula’s coast to be Russian waters. Western countries deem Crimea part of Ukraine and reject Russia’s claim to the seas around it.

Britain’s BBC released footage from the ship showing a Russian officer warning that he would shoot if the British ship did not change course. Russia released footage filmed from a Russian SU-24 bomber flying close to the British ship.

Russia said the British ship had ventured as far as 3 km (2 miles) into Russian waters near Cape Fiolent, a landmark on Crimea’s southern coast near the port of Sevastopol, headquarters of the Russian Navy’s Black Sea fleet.

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)



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Luxury In The Clouds: Shanghai Opens World’s Highest Hotel


View of the reception of the J Hotel, Shanghai.

Shanghai: The world’s highest luxury hotel, boasting a restaurant on the 120th floor and 24-hour personal butler service, has opened in Shanghai to guests with deep pockets and a head for heights.

Elevators whizz guests up the intimidating spiral-like skyscraper at ear-popping speeds of 18 metres per second to the J Hotel’s 165 opulent rooms.

The hotel occupies the top floors of the 632-metre (more than 2,000 feet) Shanghai Tower in the city’s financial district, the second-tallest building in the world after Dubai’s Burj Khalifa.

Its opening was delayed partly by the coronavirus pandemic but the hotel has now started receiving well-heeled guests who can call on the services of a dedicated butler at any hour, day or night.

Patrons can also enjoy one of the hotel’s seven restaurants, bars, spa, 84th-floor swimming pool, and all the other usual trappings of a top-notch hotel.

It does not come cheap. To celebrate its opening J Hotel is offering a “special experience rate” of 3,088 yuan ($450) a night, but prices for its 34 suites sky-rocket.

A night in a “J Suite”, complete with crystal chandeliers and sauna, this Saturday costs over 67,000 yuan.

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An employee in the “J Suite” of the J Hotel, Shanghai

The hotel is part of Jin Jiang International Hotels, a major Chinese state-owned group, and officially opened on Saturday.

“On the day of our opening even the web page was overloaded with so many visitors with strong interest and they have such (a) strong will to come and experience our hotel,” said Renee Wu, sales and marketing director.

“Of course this is very encouraging to all of us, but at the same time, we are committed to making sure that all our guests are well taken care of.”

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)



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Bezos’ 2021 Space Odyssey A Risk Too Far For Insurers


Jeff Bezos unveils his company Blue Origin’s lunar lander rocket (File)

Launching one of the richest individuals on earth into orbit has proved a leap too far for insurers, who are not ready to price the risk of losing Jeff Bezos or his fellow space travelers.

Amazon CEO Bezos, a lifelong space enthusiast, has been vying with Elon Musk and Richard Branson to become the first billionaire to fly beyond the earth’s atmosphere.

And while insurers are well known for offering cover for even the most outlandish of risks, at a price, potential accidents in space are not yet among them.

“Space tourism involves significant risk, but is not an issue life insurers specifically ask about as yet because it is so rare for anyone to travel into space,” Insurance Information Institute (III) spokesperson Michael Barry said.

There is a nearly $500 million market to insure satellites, rockets and unmanned space flight, but no legal requirement for an operator such as Blue Origin, which Bezos founded, to insure passengers for injury or death or for space tourists to have life cover, brokers and insurers said.

“We’re not aware of a case where anybody is insured against passenger liability,” Neil Stevens, senior vice president, aviation and space at Marsh, the world’s biggest insurance broker, told Reuters.

Assuming they lift-off as planned next month, Bezos and the other wannabe astronauts on Blue Origin’s New Shepard spacecraft will not only spend several minutes 62 miles (100 km) above the earth in a truck-sized capsule, they also have to get back.

The only group that has regularly flown humans sub-orbitally since the 1960s is Branson’s Virgin Galactic. All have been tests, with one failure in 2014 resulting in a death. Blue Origin has flown 15 unmanned sub-orbital flights with no failures, Seradata SpaceTrak data showed on June 10.

Bezos, Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic did not respond to requests for comment from Reuters on their insurance plans and flight records.

“DIFFERENT RISK PROFILES”

Being uninsured in space is nothing new.

NASA and the U.S., in general, do not buy liability cover, with government launches basically insured by taxpayers, Richard Parker of Assure Space, a unit of insurer AmTrust Financial that provides space insurance, said.

NASA astronauts are eligible for government life insurance programs, a NASA spokesperson said in an emailed response.

Charles Wetton, underwriting manager for space policies at insurer Global Aerospace, said astronauts on government-funded missions are carefully selected for their knowledge, skills and fitness and train for several years before blast off.

“They and their families understand the risks of the work they do, Wetton said.

But commercial space cadets may only get a few days of training for a sub-orbital flight or a few months for a ride to the International Space Station (ISS), Wetton said, adding: “These represent two very different risk profiles that insurers will take into account”.

Blue Origin on its website says the spaceflight passenger will receive training the day before the launch, including mission and vehicle overviews, safety briefings, mission simulation and instruction on in-flight activities.

Virgin Galactic said participants will get three days of training and preparation before the launch.

Insurers expect iron clad waivers and contracts from commercial space travel firms, stating they will bear no burden if a passenger dies during a flight.

NASA has called for responses from the industry for its plans for a liability framework for privately-funded astronaut missions to the ISS. NASA’s plans include requiring private astronauts to buy life insurance.

It is still early days, but cover for space tourists may be the next step, said Tim Rush, senior vice president, U.S. space, at insurance broker Gallagher, adding that the life insurance market currently provides individual cover of $2-5 million for private astronauts.

The only mandatory insurance in place for commercial space operators is third-party liability, mainly to cover property damage on earth or to a flying aircraft, said Akiko Hama, client executive, space and aerospace underwriting at Global Aerospace.

Blue Origin plans for its six-seater spacecraft to take off on July 20 and fly for four minutes beyond the boundary between the earth’s atmosphere and outer space, where passengers will experience total weightlessness.

Safety record of orbital human space flights https://graphics.reuters.com/SPACE-EXPLORATION/INSURANCE/xklpyawokpg/chart.png

MILLION DOLLAR QUESTION

A key question for how the sector develops is whether risks related to tourism fall under space or aviation insurance lines, insurers and brokers told Reuters.

The U.N. Outer Space Treaty and the Liability Convention of 1972 governs all activities in space and very few countries have a legal framework for commercial human spaceflight, they said.

The first-ever aviation insurance policy was written by Lloyd’s of London in 1911. A few years later the market insured Charles Lindbergh and his single-engine plane for $18,000 on its non-stop flight from the United States to Europe.

Space trips are different, said Marsh’s Stevens, because the passengers are returning to the same place as they left, making it technically a domestic trip to which international aviation insurance cannot be applied, meaning there will also be no limitation to liability.

“The aviation, aircraft insurance market, and the like, are less keen to take on risks that involve spacecraft,” he said, adding that whether space tourism trips fall under aviation or space insurance is a “million dollar question”.

While air travel is governed by rules that establish airline liability in the case of death of passengers, Stevens said he was unaware of plans for similar rules for space tourism.

However, Wetton said Global Aerospace had started to receive enquiries from companies for sub-orbital missions.

“In 10 years’ time, maybe the two lines, aviation and spaceflight will look very similar,” said Assure Space’s Parker.

“Some legislative somewhere will say, look, we’re now having average Joes flying on these launch vehicles and need to protect them,” Parker added.

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)



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