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Japan slams international border shut as Omicron fears grow

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Japan has closed its international border to foreign travellers

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida confirmed that Japan will close borders to new entries of foreign nationals, including business travellers, foreign students and foreign interns from Tuesday, as fears of the new omicron variant of COVID-19 grows.

“This is a preventive, emergency measure to avoid a worst-case scenario,” Kishida told reporters at the Prime Minister’s Office.

The entry ban does not affect foreign residents re-entering Japan and Japanese nationals. But Japanese citizens and foreign residents re-entering Japan traveling from 14 countries where cases of the omicron variant have been confirmed will be required to quarantine in government-designated facilities, Kishida said.

“This is an extraordinary measure for the time being just until we know more about the omicron variant,”

Kishida said.

Social distancing signs sit on benches at Haneda Airport in Tokyo, Japan, on Tuesday, July 28, 2020. Concern over the virus situation in Japan in growing as cases have surged in recent weeks. An outbreak initially thought confined to nighttime entertainment areas in Tokyo has spread to workplaces and across the country. Photographer: Noriko Hayashi/Bloomberg

Experts say Omicron should not cause panic

Leading infectious disease experts say the new variant may be more infectious than other strains, but relatively little is known about how transmissible and better able to evade the body’s immune responses it is.

According to Japanese media, the prime minister urged the public to remain calm, wear masks and maintain social distancing, stressing that the country has the highest vaccination rate among the Group of Seven countries.

PM Kishida also said that there had been one traveler from Namibia who tested positive for COVID.

It was unclear if the person had been infected with the omicron variant, but the sample had been sent to a lab for genomic testing.

On November 8, Japan started allowing new entries of foreign students and technical interns for the first time in nearly a year, provided they quarantine for 14 days, a span that would be shortened to 10 days if they those arriving are fully vaccinated.

The border closure announcement is especially bad news for foreign students

Foreign students make up the largest chunk of foreign nationals hoping to newly enter Japan — with many having already started paperwork to come after studying remotely from their home countries for up to more than a year.

Japan had been gradually tightening entry restrictions since the new variant began spreading quickly around the globe. Over the weekend, it required travelers from nine hot spots in Africa — Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Malawi and Zambia — to spend 10 days in government-designated quarantine facilities upon arrival.

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. 

Media

Nude Britney Spears post sparks concern among fans

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A nude Britney Spears post has many fans concerned about her wellbeing

Pop sensation Britney Spears is no stranger to a controversial social media post, where she openly flaunts her body.

However, her latest post to Instagram has many of her beloved followers concerned.

The 40-year-old posted an explicit photo of herself in a near-empty bathtub, with a flower emoji the only thing between the world and her private parts.

It was paired with an unusual captions that read, “I like to suck!!! Never professional pics … sucking comes easy for me!!! Keep clapping bitch!!!”

The icon has 41 million followers on the social media app, many of whom were quick to share their concerns.

Some are suggesting Spears’ account is being controlled by someone else, attempting to make her look bad.

While others backed the pop stars post, supporting her desire to be open with her body image because she struggled during her younger years in the spotlight.

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Climate Change

Why ‘zombie viruses’ could be the next biggest public threat

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A new report reveals the world will see an increase in so-called ‘zombie viruses’ that are emerging beneath us

A new report by scientists at the French National Center for Scientific Research has revealed the global threat of ‘zombie viruses.’ As climate change continues to take effect, the earth is undeniably getter hotter.

Global warming essentially means significant areas of permafrost are now melting. Permafrost is a frozen layer on or under the Earth’s surface, holding beneath it millions of ‘zombie viruses’ not seen in millions of years.

The now melting permafrost means it is lifting the veil on potentially dangerous microbes that human kind isn’t prepared for.

In Siberia, the scientists uncovered a ‘zombie virus’ which they believe is 50,000 years old. This would be the oldest age of a frozen virus returning to life and able to infect.

Researchers are concerned about the global health impact if the earth continues to warm at its current rate.

 

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World

Australia lowers its terrorism threat level for the first time in nearly a decade

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Australia’s national terrorism threat level has been lowered but ASIO has warned an attack could still happen

Australia’s national terrorism threat level has been lowered from ‘probable’ to ‘possible’.

However, ASIO has warned a deadly attack could still occur on Australian soil in the next 12 months.

“A decision of this nature is not taken lightly or made casually,” said Mike Burgess, who is the Director General of ASIO.

It is the first time the warning has been lowered since 2014 when radicalised foreign fighters begun travelling to Syria and Iraq to join ISIS and other Islamic terrorist organisations.

Burgess said the threat of terrorism has not been eradicated, and Australia remains a target for terrorist organisations—even within the next 12 months.

“We keep the terrorism threat level under constant review. There can be no set and forget in security intelligence,” he said.

How common is terrorism in Australia?

There have been 11 terrorist attacks on Australian soil since 2014. In addition, 21 plots have been detected and disrupted.

“Thankfully, there have been no attacks or major disruptions this year,” Burgess said.

However, ASIO remains on alert for violent extremists despite “fewer” operating with the intention to conduct an onshore attack.

“Ideologically motivated violent extremism—particularly nationalist and racist violent extremism—remains a threat and its adherents will continue to engage in offensive behaviours.”

MIKE BURGESS, ASIO DIRECTOR GENERAL

ASIO maintains these extremists are likely to focus their attention on recruitment and radicalisation, rather than attacking.

Authorities believe the most likely terrorist attack to occur in Australia will see a lone actor using a basic weapon, like a knife or vehicle.

These attacks can be difficult to detect ahead of time and can occur with little or no warning entirely.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said he has confidence in the nation’s security agencies.

“I won’t second-guess them and I won’t comment on their behalf,” he said.

Mr Albanese’s government has led the repatriation effort of Australian women and children linked to ISIS from Syria.

The women and children were assessed by ASIO before they arrived in Australia. The decision to lower the terrorism threat level also considered the unfolding situation.

ASIO said foreign fighters may return from the Middle Eastern conflict zone and could bring “dangerous ideologies and capabilities with them”.

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