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China rejects WHO proposal to return to Wuhan

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China has pushed back against the World Health Organization’s call for another probe into the origins of COVID-19

China says there’s no evidence for the theory that the virus leaked from a lab and has discouraged another investigation from the WHO.

Chinese scientists say the virus most likely arose in an animal that transmitted it to humans via a host animal. They praised an earlier report from the WHO that pointed primarily to animals while finding that the lab leak hypothesis was “extremely impossible.”

Wuhan lab under the spotlight

The Wuhan laboratory at the center of the controversy “never had the virus,” according to an epidemiologist who headed the team of Chinese experts working with the WHO.

Epidemic scientist, Liang Wannian stated to “there’s no need for us to put more resources into a lab leak probe.”

The head of the WHO acknowledged last week that it was premature to rule out a potential link between the pandemic and a leak of the coronavirus from a Chinese lab.

“China has made repeated clarifications and does not accept the WHO plan”

Speaking at a news conference at the State Information Council, China’s National Health Commission Vice Minister Zeng Yixin said that the lab in the city of Wuhan has no virus that can directly infect humans.

A mtoedical worker takes a swab sample from a resident to be tested for the COVID-19 coronavirus in Wuhan in China’s central Hubei province on May 14, 2020. – Nervous residents of China’s pandemic epicentre of Wuhan queued up across the city to be tested for the coronavirus on May 14 after a new cluster of cases sparked a mass screening campaign. (Photo by STR / AFP) / China OUT

World Health Organisation proposes second investigation

In a closed-door meeting last week, the boss of the World Health Organisation Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus proposed the second stage of the agency’s investigation into the origins of coronavirus should include further studies in China as well as lab “audits”.

“we expect China to support this next phase of the scientific process by sharing all relevant data in a spirit of transparency.”

The WHO chief says “Finding the origins of this virus is a scientific exercise that must be kept free from politics.”

The hypothesis of a lab leak was once dismissed as a conspiracy theory by opponents of former U.S. President Donald Trump – whose administration raised the possibility ahead of the 2020 election.

The premise subsequently gained traction after scientists questioned China’s reluctance to provide access to the primary source material.

The WHO has been under growing pressure to step up its investigation into the origin of the pandemic, which originated in Wuhan and has now killed more than 4.1 million people globally.

WHO boss calls for a second investigation into the origins of coronavirus.

Author

  • Anthony Lucas is reporter, presenter and social media producer with ticker News. Anthony holds a Bachelor of Professional Communication, with a major in Journalism from RMIT University as well as a Diploma of Arts and Entertainment journalism from Collarts. He’s previously worked for 9 News, ONE FM Radio and Southern Cross Austerio’s Hit Radio Network. 

Anthony Lucas is reporter, presenter and social media producer with ticker News. Anthony holds a Bachelor of Professional Communication, with a major in Journalism from RMIT University as well as a Diploma of Arts and Entertainment journalism from Collarts. He’s previously worked for 9 News, ONE FM Radio and Southern Cross Austerio’s Hit Radio Network. 

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Global Politics

Melbourne enters sixth lockdown as new cases emerge

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Melbourne has entered a snap- lockdown for the sixth time amid three new cases of community transmission

Melbourne entered lockdown number six as authorities continue to scramble to contact trace three new cases of community transmission.

Authorities are considering a three-day snap lockdown to throw a ring around Victoria’s latest Covid outbreak.

Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley says he expects more than 10,000 primary close contacts linked to new outbreak.

The government and health authorities are locked in discussions about whether a lockdown is required in Melbourne.

This comes less than two weeks since Melbourne’s last lockdown came to an end

There are seven people with Covid-19 in Victorian hospitals. This includes two people in intensive care, who are both on ventilators.

Victorian Covid-19 response commander Jeroen Weimar says authorities have identified two more cases linked to a Hobsons Bay couple in Melbourne’s west.

This brings the state’s daily total to seven cases.

Al-Taqwa College cluster

Health officials are concerned that a teacher at Al-Taqwa College may have infected several people in the community.

The teacher, a woman in her 20s, lives in the Hobsons Bay local government area.

Authorities believe was was infectious in the community for three days last week.

One of her household contacts has also tested positive.

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Authors

  • Keira is the front-page editor at Ticker NEWS. She's previously worked at Reuters in Jakarta, and ABC in Australia. She has a Bachelor of Journalism, specialising in international politics. Keira is particularly interested in writing about politics, technology and human rights.

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Global Politics

Researchers reveal China’s huge network of fake social media profiles

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A new study has revealed that China is using a network of fake social media profiles to push pro-China rhetoric and discredit opponents

Researchers have uncovered a sprawling network of over 350 fake social media profiles China’s using to push a pro-China rhetoric.

According to the Centre for Information Resilience (CIR) report, the network’s goal is to delegitimise the West and improve China’s international perception.

Fake users in the network shared large amounts of content about issues like gun laws and race politics. The fake users also used the accounts to criticise opponents to the regime.

The study found a network of fake profiles circulating political cartoons

The cartoons negatively depict critics such as exiled Chinese tycoon Guo Wengui, whistleblower scientist Li-Meng Yang, and Steve Bannon, former political strategist for Donald Trump.

China has accused all of them for spreading disinformation including incorrect information about Covid-19.

The network also used the accounts to highlight human rights concerns in the US. Some of the posts cited the murder of George Floyd and hate crimes against Asians.

Cartoon depicting Steve Bannon as a demon, 'Yan Limeng' with a forked tongue and Guo Wengui with a tail and holding an American flag.

China’s multi-platform fake social network

The accounts are across Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Youtube.

Some of the accounts use entirely fake AI-generated profile pictures, whereas bots appear to have hijacked some other accounts.

There’s not concrete evidence that links the network to the Chinese government other than speculation from experts. The CIR says the network resembles other networks Twitter and Facebook have taken down previously.

Who are the fake users?

The researchers found most of the fake profiles use AI-generated faces. A reverse image source cannot search for these images.

The CIR says fake profile pictures in disinformation campaigns are becoming more common. It was able to identify fake images by lining up the position of their eyes.

They say that fake images always tend to put eyes in the same location of an image. Other signs of a synthetic image include blurred hair edges, strangely-angled teeth, and blurred objects around the face.

China responds with campaign against misinformation

This comes as China launches a campaign against fake news to ‘cleanse the cyberspace’ of ‘fake or harmful’ information and unlicensed citizen journalists.

The campaign is a joint effort with ten regulatory agencies, which plan on hitting Chinese social media platforms like WeChat and Douyin.

Some of the accounts denied human right abuses in Xinjiang

Some of the fake profiles also denied any human rights abuses against Muslim people in the Xinjiang region. One post called the allegations, “lies fabricated by the United States and the West”.

Many of the Facebook accounts appear to have Turkish names. The researchers believe these accounts once belonged to real people before being hijacked or sold.

The network also appears to have hijacked some dormant accounts on Youtube which previously posted in English or German. After being dormant for years, these accounts suddenly started posting Chinese content from official state broadcasters.

Author

  • Keira is the front-page editor at Ticker NEWS. She's previously worked at Reuters in Jakarta, and ABC in Australia. She has a Bachelor of Journalism, specialising in international politics. Keira is particularly interested in writing about politics, technology and human rights.

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Global Politics

Why does the WHO think we shouldn’t be getting Covid-19 booster shots?

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The World Health Organisation has called for a suspension on COVID-19 booster shots until at least the end of September

The World Health Organisation has called for an end of Covid-19 vaccine booster shots. It is advising that all countries pause the rollout of booster shots until at least September. This would allow for at least 10 percent every country’s population to get a jab.

“We cannot accept countries that have already used most of the global supply of vaccines using even more of it, while the world’s most vulnerable people remain unprotected,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO.

This follows some countries announcing plans to administer a third dose. Both Israel and Germany have announced such plans amid growing concerns about the Delta variant.

The WHO believes poorer nations are falling behind

However, Dr Tedros believes poorer nations are falling behind. Many countries are struggling to administer their populations a first dose, while wealthier nations are able to dispense booster shots.

“We need an urgent reversal, from the majority of vaccines going to high-income countries, to the majority going to low-income countries,” he said.

This comes amid the release of new data showing that low-income countries have only been able to administer 1.5 doses for every 100 people due to a lack of supply.

The “sprint to September”

This comes as the WHO calls for a moratorium on booster shots until at least the end of September.

In some countries like Haiti and the Democratic Republic of Congo, none of the population has received two doses of any vaccine.

Meanwhile, Indonesia has only fully vaccinated 7.9 percent of its population. This comes as the Delta variant continues to run rampant across the nation.

Author

  • Costa is a news producer at ticker NEWS. He has previously worked as a regional journalist at the Southern Highlands Express newspaper. He also has several years' experience in the fire and emergency services sector, where he has worked with researchers, policymakers and local communities. He has also worked at the Seven Network during their Olympic Games coverage and in the ABC Melbourne newsroom. He also holds a Bachelor of Arts (Professional), with expertise in journalism, politics and international relations. His other interests include colonial legacies in the Pacific, counter-terrorism, aviation and travel.

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