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Vehicles pass through the streets in the city of Minamisanriku, Miyagi Prefecture, northeastern Japan, on Mar 6, 2021, nearly 10 years after the Mar 11, 2011 tsunami. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko) - 



A 6.8-magnitude earthquake struck off Japan's northeastern coast on Saturday (May 1) but no tsunami warning was issued, said Japanese and US authorities, with no immediate reports of damage.

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) said the mid-morning quake hit at a depth of 47km in the Pacific, off Ishinomaki, Miyagi prefecture - near the epicentre of a huge 2011 quake that triggered a towering tsunami and killed more than 18,000 people.

USGS and Japan's meteorological agency said there was no tsunami risk following the jolt, which produced strong shaking along parts of the eastern coast and was also felt in Tokyo.

"We are still collecting information but have not received any reports of injuries or damage," local government spokesman Tomoki Sawata told AFP, calling the quake "fairly strong".

Local railway firms suspended services, including of shinkansen bullet trains, public broadcaster NHK said, while elevators stopped in some buildings in Miyagi.

Fukushima nuclear plant operator TEPCO said the facility, which melted down in the wake of the 2011 tsunami, did not show any abnormalities after the latest jolt.

"Operations are under way as usual," TEPCO spokesman Koichiro Shiraki told AFP.

Japan sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire, an arc of intense seismic activity that stretches through Southeast Asia and across the Pacific basin.

The country is regularly hit by quakes, and has strict construction regulations intended to ensure buildings can withstand strong tremors.

In March, a strong 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck off the northeastern coast. Japan's authorities issued a tsunami advisory but there was no damage on the coastline.

The region was also shaken by another strong quake in February that injured dozens. Meteorologists said it was an aftershock of the 2011 quake//CNA


A US Air Force aircraft carrying relief supplies from the United States in the wake of India's COVID-19 prepares to land at the Indira Gandhi International Airport cargo terminal in New Delhi, India, Friday, Apr 30, 2021. (Photo: Prakash Singh/Pool via AP) - 



US President Joe Biden on Friday (Apr 30) imposed new travel restrictions on India in light of the COVID-19 epidemic, barring most non-US citizens from entering the United States.

The new restrictions, which take effect at 12:01am ET (0401 GMT) on May 4 , are on the advice of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and were imposed because "the magnitude and scope of the COVID-19 pandemic" in India was "surging", the White House said.

Biden on Friday signed a proclamation implementing the restrictions, which were first reported by Reuters.

The proclamation said India "accounts for over one-third of new global cases" and added that "proactive measures are required to protect the nation's public health from travelers entering the United States" from India.

In January, Biden issued a similar ban on most non-US citizens entering the country who have recently been in South Africa. He also reimposed an entry ban on nearly all non-US travellers who have been in Brazil, the United Kingdom, Ireland and 26 countries in Europe that allow travel across open borders. China and Iran are also both covered by the policy.

The policy means most non-US citizens who have been in one of the stated countries within the last 14 days are not eligible to travel to the United States. Permanent US residents and family members and some other non-US citizens, such as students, are exempted.

The decision to impose the latest travel restrictions came about quickly and was only reached in the last 24 hours, sources said.

The Indian Embassy in Washington did not immediately comment.

Second only to the United States in total infections, India has reported more than 300,000 new cases daily for nine days in a row, hitting another global record of 386,452 on Friday.

Total deaths have surpassed 200,000 and cases are nearing 19 million - nearly 8 million since February alone - as virulent new strains have combined with "super-spreader" events such as political rallies and religious festivals.
Medical experts say real numbers may be five to 10 times higher than the official tally.

Other countries have imposed similar travel restrictions on India, including the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy and Singapore, while Canada, Hong Kong and New Zealand have suspended all commercial travel with India.

On Wednesday, the White House said the United States was sending supplies worth more than US$100 million to India to help it fight the COVID-19 surge.

The supplies include oxygen cylinders, N95 masks and rapid diagnostic tests. The United States also has redirected its own order of AstraZeneca manufacturing supplies to India, which will allow it to make over 20 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine, according to the White House.

US international air travel remains down 60 per cent from pre-COVID-19 levels, while US domestic air travel is down 40 per cent, according to industry trade group Airlines for America.

US airlines and travel groups have urged the White House to set benchmarks for the eventual loosening of restrictions//CNA


5.3-magnitude earthquake rocks Banda Aceh on Friday night - 



A 5.3-magnitude earthquake on Friday night jolted Banda Aceh, a city in the northernmost tip of Sumatra Island which had ever been hit by a deadly giant tsunami following an undersea megathrust earthquake in 2004.

The quake that occurred at around 11:43 p.m. was located at the coordinates at 5.14 north latitude and 94.46 east longitude, according to the Meteorology, Climatology, and Geophysics Agency (BMKG).

The quake's epicenter was located around 106 kilometers south west of Banda Aceh, the capital of Aceh Province, at a depth of 10 kilometers, the agency revealed.

The earthquake whose tremors could be felt by residents in the city and its outskirts did not potentially trigger tsunami, the BMKG reported.

As of Saturday morning, there were no immediate reports of casualties following the quake.

Earthquakes regularly rock various parts of Indonesia since the country lies on the Circum-Pacific Belt, also known as the Ring of Fire, where several tectonic plates meet and cause frequent volcanic and seismic activities.

On April 17, 2021, a 5.5-magnitude earthquake also struck several areas in Aceh Besar District, Aceh Province.

Aceh had also experienced the deadliest ever earthquake, followed by tsunami, on December 26, 2004.

The catastrophe that also affected certain coastal areas in countries, such as Thailand, Sri Lanka, and India, reportedly killed some 230 thousand people.

The latest deadly earthquake to have rattled Indonesia was in West Sulawesi Province on January 15, 2021.

The 6.2-magnitude earthquake, ensued by several aftershocks, jolted the districts of Mamuju and Majene, claiming more than 100 lives and destroyed several buildings.

Sulawesi Island has repeatedly borne witness to deadly earthquakes. On September 28, 2018, for instance, a 7.4-magnitude earthquake hit several parts of Central Sulawesi Province.

The strong earthquake that was followed by a tsunami and soil liquefaction in Palu, the capital of Central Sulawesi Province, claimed 2,102 lives, injured 4,612, and rendered 680 others missing.

A total of 68,451 homes incurred serious damage, while 78,994 people were displaced.

The authorities and humanitarian workers decided to bury the large number of rotting corpses in mass graves//ANT


Health workers specializing in COVID-19 handling at the Bantul regional health office. The government is incentivizing health service facilities and institutions where health workers are facing a high risk of COVID-19 exposure.  Quote: The letter mentioned that specialized doctors will receive Rp15 million per person per month - 




The Health Ministry has said that the incentives offered by the government to health officers handling COVID-19 cases are based on the parameters set by the Finance Ministry’s letter No.113/2021.

The letter lays down the incentives based on several criteria, such as the ratio of the number of patients, the number of health workers on duty, and working hours, secretary of the development and human resource empowerment board at the Health Ministry, Tisa Wahjuni Putri, said here on Friday.

“The letter mentioned that specialized doctors will receive Rp15 million per person per month,” she disclosed during a talk show on ‘Acceleration effort of Health Ministry on Incentive Payment for Health Workers’.

In addition, the incentive for resident doctors (PPDS) has been set as high as Rp12.5 million, doctors and dentists at Rp10 million, nurses and midwives Rp7.5 million, and other health workers Rp5 million, she said.

“To be recorded, those amounts are the highest numbers (the upper limit), so it (incentives) cannot exceed the numbers,” she added.

Meanwhile, the criteria for health service facilities and institutions for availing the incentives is whether their health workers are at a high risk of being exposed to COVID-19, she informed.

In other words, not all health service facilities will receive the incentives, she said.

“The health service facilities deserving to receive the incentives are state hospitals, military and police hospitals, state-owned enterprise hospitals, private hospitals, and regional hospitals,” she added.

Incentives must also be provided to field hospitals like Wisma Atlet Kemayoran in Jakarta, field hospitals in Surabaya and Ambon, special hospitals for infection, and public health centers, where risk of COVID-19 exposure is high, she said.

“So, those are the criteria, but other health facilities that also can receive the incentives are port health offices,” she added.

Meanwhile, the Indonesian government is providing as much as Rp300 million in compensation to families of health workers dying on duty while handling COVID-19, she informed.

“The incentive will never replace the life of health workers, but at least this hopefully can mirror the government's appreciation,” she remarked//ANT