No long-distance travel till 2022 for Australians – and that’s IF POPULATION-WIDE vaccine is rolled out next year, budget predicts
Australians weary of restrictions are out of luck, as the country’s new budget predicts social distancing will continue for two years and long-distance travel is to remain off-limits until everyone is able to get a Covid-19 jab.
Widespread adoption of a vaccine for the novel coronavirus will be a prerequisite for Australians being able to travel long distances again, according to the country’s new budget that was unveiled on Tuesday. Until that vaccine is rolled out, they can expect social distancing, intermittent lockdowns and a stagnant economy.
“It is assumed that over the forecast period material localised outbreaks of COVID19 occur but are largely contained. A populationwide Australian COVID19 vaccination program is assumed to be fully in place by late 2021. General social distancing restrictions are assumed to continue until a vaccine is fully available,” reads the part of the document titled “Key assumptions.”
The budget papers’ attempt to put a positive spin on travel-loving Australians being confined to the continent is to pour $250 million into encouraging anyone feeling wanderlust to explore “their own backyard” – i.e. the rest of Australia. State borders are expected to be open by Christmas, except for Western Australia, which is projected to remain closed until its election in March.
PM Scott Morrison hinted that while long-distance international travel will remain off-limits for the foreseeable future, “our borders will open up at some point to safe locations whether it be New Zealand or parts of the Pacific or places like South Korea or Japan or countries that have had a much higher rate of success” in containing the virus, speaking to reporters on Tuesday.
Overseas travel of any kind is currently banned until December 17, but there are tentative plans in place to create a “travel bubble” with New Zealand that would allow Aussies to visit the neighboring islands by January or February.
With one in every 13 Australian jobs relying on tourism, the collapse of the industry has hit the nation hard, plunging it into the worst recession since World War II. The budget forecasts a $213.7 billion shortfall – but is nevertheless moving up a pair of tax cuts that were set to take effect in 2022 to July.
Despite optimistic predictions that the vaccine will resurrect the moribund Australian economy, the forecast suggests debt will more than double from last financial year by 2024 – but says this level of red ink is “sustainable” and “low in comparison to most other advanced economies.”
Parts of Australia – particularly the state of Victoria – have adopted the harshest coronavirus control measures seen since China lifted its lockdown of
‘We cannot let fear prevail’: As free speech debates rage after teacher’s beheading, French magazine reprints Mohammed cartoons
France’s L’Express magazine has reprinted cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, some of which were used in a lesson by murdered teacher Samuel Paty. Local authorities want to publish a book of caricatures and distribute it in schools.
The French publication ran a story featuring cartoons of the Islamic prophet, two of which – the drawings taken from satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo – were part of a lesson on freedom of speech given by Paty.
Back in 2015, twelve people were shot and killed after two Islamist extremists stormed Charlie Hebdo’s Paris office, as retribution for the cartoons.
The French magazine argued that Paty, who was beheaded by an 18-year-old Chechen refugee, had been murdered for “doing his job” and promoting France’s secular values. The outlet warned that the country cannot allow itself to self-censor.
The fear is there. Fear is everywhere. But we cannot let it prevail
The decision to run the cartoons comes amid an outpouring of anger over Paty’s murder. On Monday, the presidents of France’s 13 administrative regions announced that they were launching an initiative to publish a book of political and religious caricatures, and they want it to be distributed in schools across the country.
In a statement, one of the leaders behind the initiative said the book was intended to “defend the values of the Republic and the fundamental right of each and every one of our fellow citizens to live in peace and in freedom.”
Paty was attacked and killed last week after the father of one of his students published several videos on social media in which he denounced the instructor as a “thug” and said that he had issued a complaint against him. The videos reportedly spread among the region’s Muslim community, and one of them was even shared by a local mosque, the Grand Mosque of Pantin.
The mosque removed the video after Paty’s murder and expressed “regret” for sharing it, while arguing that the teacher was never identified by name in the
Singapore to introduce pre-event rapid Covid testing to allow weddings and mass gatherings to resume safely
Singapore will pilot antigen rapid tests that can return “fairly accurate” Covid results within 15 minutes. The move aims to reduce the risk of transmission at weddings and large-scale events as the economy opens up.
The Minister for Health Gan Kim Yong announced on Tuesday that the antigen rapid tests (ARTs) pilot runs from mid-October to December. For the duration of the pilot phase, the government will identify selected events such as business-to-business conferences, wedding receptions, live performances, and sports matches for pre-event testing, Gan added.
The antigen-based rapid detection tests which will be used for the pilot are not error-free. But the Ministry of Health (MOH) claims that the ARTs can return “fairly accurate” results within about half an hour. Up to three percent of ARTs may falsely test positive but this was an “inconvenience that had to be weighed against the need to open up society and the economy,” the ministry said.
Participants and wedding goers would either be tested at the event venue or at an offsite testing facility with a negative test certificate giving Singaporeans the ability to attend multiple events over a 24-hour period.
“If you go for a multi-day event, you would then require daily testing, with that cert being valid for 24 hours. However, if you’re attending multiple events within a 24-hour window, that same cert will gain you access to multiple events if you’re negative,” noted an MOH representative.
During the pilot phase, the ARTs will be provided free of charge to the participants. Once the project becomes mainstream, the event organizers are likely to be charged for the tests, the authorities added.
Closest to Earth ‘black hole’ turns out to be rare kind of star, after all
A growing body of research posits that the star system HR 6819 does not contain a black hole, contrary to earlier findings. It may instead boast a unique pair of stars.
The object located some 1,120 light-years from Earth has been preliminarily demoted from a bewildering black hole to a binary star system with a rather unusual orbit.
The system consists of a very hot Be spectral type star which spins at approximately 200km per second, shooting out a disc of hydrogen gas which surrounds it.
Previously, it was found to be accompanied by a B3 III star, measuring approximately six solar masses, with a roughly 40-day orbit. The Be star, also measuring in at about six solar masses, seemed to be spinning on the spot, which made no sense as two objects of similar mass should spin about a mutual center of gravity.
Following a serious amount of number crunching, researchers earlier this year concluded that the pair must be orbiting a third, massive object that wasn’t visible which would explain why the spinning top star was essentially locked in place – a black hole.
However, as is often the case in science, there was a competing theory: that the B3 III star was actually a low mass star that had been worn down by its companion, and that the initial calculations were off.
If this were the case, the almost imperceptible movement of the larger Be star would be visible via wobbles and shifts in the hydrogen gas disc emanating from it.
Sure enough, astronomers Douglas Gies and Luqian Wang of Georgia State University discovered variations in the disc which aligned with the B3 III star’s orbit.
“This indicates,” they wrote, “that HR 6819 is a binary system consisting of a massive Be star and a low-mass companion that is the stripped down remnant of a former mass donor star in a mass transfer binary.”
In other words, the Be star took a huge chunk out of its companion and, according to the recalculations, the B3 III star would be between 0.4 and 0.8 solar masses.
By coincidence, a second paper, produced by researchers at KU Leuven in Belgium, conducted an independent analysis of the hydrogen disc emitted by the star and reached almost exactly the same conclusion as Gies and Wang.
In their analysis, they found the pair to have solar masses of 0.4 and 6 respectively.
“This indicates that the primary might be a stripped star rather than a B-type giant,” they wrote. “In the framework of this interpretation, HR 6819 does not contain a BH.”
By yet more happenstance, a third paper, currently in preprint, produced by astronomers Kareem El-Badry and Eliot Quataert of UC Berkeley also found 0.47 and 6.7 solar masses for the B3 III and Be stars respectively, providing yet more evidence of an unusual bi
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