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The News You May Have Missed: March 2021

A Cone o’ Rona

Don’t lick now, but coronavirus has been found in ice cream. Three samples of the frozen treat submitted for inspection in northeastern China tested positive for traces of the pathogen (Huffington Post, Jan. 15). Tianjin Daqiaodao Food Company, which produced the samples, locked down after the discovery. All goods distributed from the company’s warehouse were tracked, and all 1,662 employees went into quarantine. The infected samples, made from milk and whey powder imported from New Zealand and Ukraine, came from a batch of 4,836 boxes, more than 2,700 of which had already entered China’s food market. Health officials called for locals to avoid purchasing the ice cream. It’s unclear how coronavirus found its way into a frozen dairy product, but University of Leeds virologist Dr. Stephen Griffin said it may have been present in the ice cream’s fat due to its storage temperature. “We probably don’t need to panic that every bit of ice cream is suddenly going to be contaminated with coronavirus,” he said, calling this a likely “one-off” event.

Prioritizing Propagandists

When deciding who should be the first to receive limited coronavirus vaccine doses, health officials in most countries prioritized first responders, essential workers, and the elderly. In Indonesia, however, social-media influencers were among the first in line (Reuters, Jan. 14). The inclusion of influencers alongside almost 1.5 million healthcare workers in the first round of inoculations was part of a deliberate government strategy. Indonesia is struggling with the most severe coronavirus outbreak in Southeast Asia, and there is widespread skepticism regarding the safety and efficacy of the vaccine. Many in the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation wonder whether the vaccine is halal, or allowed under Islam. Ahyani Raksanagara, head of Bandung’s health agency, hoped the influencers would “convey positive influence and messages” about the vaccines to Indonesians, who are among the top global users of social-media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. A December poll showed that only 37 percent of Indonesians were willing to be vaccinated, while 40 percent would consider it, and 17 percent would refuse it.

Paying for Private

A wealthy Indonesian man and his wife were the sole passengers aboard a commercial flight from Jakarta to Bali, for which he had bought all available tickets to prevent possible exposure to coronavirus (United Press International, Jan. 7). Richard Muljadi, a Jakarta-based socialite famous for his extravagant lifestyle, said he bought as many tickets as possible for the flight so he and his wife, Shalvynne Chang, could travel alone because they are “super paranoid” about contracting COVID-19. Muljadi did not disclose how much he paid to keep the Batik Air flight private, but he said it was “still cheaper” than chartering a private plane. The Lion Air Group, which operates Batik Air, confirmed that Muljadi and Chang were the only passengers on the flight, which boasts 12 business-class seats and 150 economy-class seats.

The Longest Layover

Aditya Singh has been charged with felony criminal trespass and misdemeanor theft after living in Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport for three months (Sky News, Jan. 19). The 36-year-old unemployed man from Orange, California, arrived on a flight from Los Angeles on October 19 and survived on food from other passengers. Cook County Judge Susana Ortiz reacted with surprise when a prosecutor set out the allegations. “So if I understand you correctly,” she said, “you’re telling me that an unauthorized non-employee individual was allegedly living within a secure part of the O’Hare airport terminal from 19 October 2020 to 16 January 2021 and was not detected?” A week earlier, two United Airlines employees had approached Singh and asked for his identification. He showed them an airport ID badge, which he had reportedly found, and claimed he was “scared to go home due to COVID.” The Chicago Department of Aviation determined that Singh, who does not have a criminal background, “did not pose a security risk to the airport or to the traveling public.”

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