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US releases 50 million barrels of oil to ease energy costs

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US President Joe Biden has ordered 50 million barrels of oil to be released from the strategic reserve to help bring down the cost of energy

In an announcement by President Joe Biden and the White House on Tuesday, the move was done in coordination with other major energy-consuming nations, including China, India, the United Kingdom, Japan and South Korea.

“This coordinated action will help us deal with the lack of supply, which in turn helps ease prices,”

President Biden said in remarks at the White House on Tuesday.

“Today, we’re launching a major effort to moderate the price of oil, an effort that will span the globe in its reach and ultimately reach your corner gas station, God willing,” Biden said.

President Joe Biden speaks about his administration’s response to the coup in Myanmar in the South Court Auditorium on the White House complex, Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

“Before long, you should see the price of gas drop”

A senior administration official told reporters the releases would start in mid to late December, and that further intervention was possible to steady the market as the US government continues to respond to a “once-in-a-century pandemic”.

“As the president has said, consumers are facing pain at the pump right now,” the official said.

While aimed at global energy markets, the release of the oil also has political implications as US voters prepare to cope with higher inflation and rising prices ahead of US Thanksgiving and winter holiday travel.

Fuel prices reach all-time highs

According to the American Automobile Association, fuel prices are at about $3.40 a gallon, more than double their price a year ago.

Joe Biden has scrambled to reshape much of his economic agenda around the issue of inflation – stating that his recently passed $1 trillion infrastructure package will reduce price pressures by making it more efficient and cheaper to transport goods.

Republican legislators have criticised the administration’s approach, saying the current Biden government is responsible for inflation hitting a 31-year high in October.

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. 

World

Omicron ‘overtaking’ Delta in South Africa

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The new COVID-19 variant Omicron is causing a rise in reinfections in South Africa, a scientist studying the strain has said, though also appears to have less severe symptoms. David Doyle has more.

Omicron is causing an increase in COVID-19 reinfections in South Africa, a scientist studying the new strain has said, and is fast overtaking Delta to become the country’s dominant variant.

Professor Anne von Gottberg, a microbiologist at South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases, was speaking at a World Health Organization press conference on Thursday (December 2).

“Previous infection used to protect against Delta but now with Omicron that doesn’t seem to be the case.”

However, she said she and her colleagues believe new infections and reinfections with Omicron would feature less severe symptoms.

COVID-19 cases are rising dramatically in South Africa – one of the southern African countries that first detected the variant.

Speaking at the same event, the WHO’s regional emergency director for Africa, Dr Salam Gueye, said the organization was working closely with countries to step up the response to the new variant.

“In South Africa, where WHO has already a team working in genomic sequencing, we are deploying a surge team in Gauteng province to support surveillance and contact tracing.”

But Gueye also warned that only 7.5% of Africans have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 – and that 80% haven’t had a single shot.

“This is a dangerously wide gap.”

Many countries have imposed travel bans on passengers from southern Africa.

African leaders have protested – saying they are being punished for their transparency in reporting data on Omicron.

On Thursday Ghana said it had detected the new strain in 34 samples from travelers who returned to the country between November 21 and 25 – but gave no further details about those who were tested.

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Sleepover at IKEA: dozens stranded amid snowstorm in Denmark

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Two dozen staff and six customers were forced to stay the night at IKEA as up to 30 centimetres of snow trapped them inside

A furniture showroom in the department store in Aalborg, Denmark, became the bedroom of several people who were unable to safely make it home in time amidst a strong snowstorm.

Store Manager Peter Elmose told the Ekstra Bladet tabloid that people could “pick the exact bed they always have wanted to try.”

People working in a toy shop next door also took to the department store to join in on the fun.

Michelle Barrett, one of the toy shop staff, told Denmark’s public broadcaster, DR, “it’s much better than sleeping in one’s car. It has been nice and warm and we are just happy that they would let us in.” 

“We just laughed at the situation, because we will probably not experience it again,” she added.

Another approximate 300 people had to stay the night at the Aalborg airport to keep out of the storm. 

According to Euronews, the IKEA sleepover consisted of feasting on chips and Swedish cinnamon rolls in the staff canteen before watching television.

“It was a really nice evening, enjoying each other’s company,” Elmose told AFP. 

“Everyone had a full night’s sleep, our mattresses are good.”

And when the shop reopened for business the next morning, all the bedding and sheets had of course been changed.

Unmade beds following the overnight stay at IKEA amid snowstorm. Source: IKEA Aalborg’s Instagram

This comes after 61 people were trapped in a Yorkshire pub for three nights last week.

The several people trapped in the Tan Hill Inn during the storm slept on makeshift beds on the floor, watched movies, had a quiz night and enjoyed a buffet meal.

Some guests even claimed they didn’t want to leave the the pub after enjoying the 17th century hotel’s hospitality.

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World

Hong Kong to launch China style system

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As Hong Kong and China prepare to resume quarantine-free travel, Hong Kong’s government will introduce a Beijing-style health code from December 10

The Hong Kong Health Code will take note of a user’s real name, address and identification number.

The voluntary app is designed to be compatible with systems in both Macau and Guangdong provinces in southern China.

In mainland China, a mandatory health code dictates where residents and visitors can travel to and from, sharing real-time data with authorities.

The introduction of this health code system in Hong Kong will allow Chinese officials to open back up the nation’s borders with the city-state.

Hong Kong’s chief information officer also says records “won’t be transferred to mainland authorities unless the person is infected or has been a close contact”.

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