Time is called on six pub freeholds

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Talk of the towns

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BT chooses Gazeley as JV partner for Rugby scheme

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Eastern promise

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West Coast view: Roger Vincent

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Rains could help end Australia bushfire crisis

first_imgHeavy rain was raising hopes Friday for an end to Australia’s unprecedented bushfire crisis, as downpours douse blazes that have burned out of control for months.  The devastating fires, fuelled by prolonged drought and record-high temperatures, have raged since September, burning more than 10 million hectares (25 million acres) and killing 33 people. An estimated billion animals have perished in the fires that destroyed more than 2,500 homes.  The rains in New South Wales (NSW), which began earlier in the week in some areas and are forecast to extend into next week, are expected to drench a number of the remaining fires and help contain others.”It’s breaking the back of this bushfire season, there’s no doubt about it,” said Shane Fitzsimmons, the head of rural firefighters in NSW, the state worst hit by the crisis.By Friday afternoon there were no bushfires burning in NSW at the most dangerous emergency or “watch and act” levels — a situation virtually unseen in almost half a year.Beleaguered volunteer firefighters who have fought the blazes day-in-day-out declared themselves “over the moon” at the rain.  Even Fitzsimmons — who became the public face of the crisis through stoic daily TV briefings and consoling children who, like him, lost their firefighting fathers in bushfires — expressed joy at listening to the rain fall overnight and driving with windscreen wipers on.”Obviously we don’t want to see lots of widespread damage and destruction from flooding, but it is certainly a welcome change to the relentless campaign of hot, dry weather” he told public broadcaster ABC.As the bushfire crisis abates, authorities are now bracing for possible flooding.The Bureau of Meteorology issued a string of flood warnings and said some parts of NSW will see their highest rainfall totals in four years.Bushfires are an annual problem during the southern summer, but flared far more widely and earlier than usual following months of severe drought and high temperatures linked to climate change. “Even if we get a return to hot, dry weather, which has the potential as we go through the balance of February and into March, of course, we’re certainly not going to have the underlying conditions of such profound moisture deficit and drought” of past months, Fitzsimmons said. Topics :last_img read more

Nuclear agency finds radioactive substances in South Tangerang house

first_imgA joint team from the Nuclear Energy Regulatory Agency (Bapeten) and the National Police has discovered illegally owned radioactive substances in a house in the Batan Indah housing complex in South Tangerang, Banten.“The radioactive sources contain caesium-137 and other radioactive isotopes,” Bapeten spokesperson Indra Gunawan said in a press release on Monday.Indra said the team would further investigate the matter to ascertain whether the illegally owned substances were linked to the recent discovery of caesium-137 radioactive waste in the complex. Bapeten first detected high levels of radiation in the Batan Indah complex during a routine check at the end of January. Between Feb. 7 and Feb. 8, a joint Bapeten and National Nuclear Energy Agency (Batan) team discovered several radioactive fragments in a vacant lot next to a volleyball court in the housing complex.The fragments contained caesium-137, which is commonly used for industrial purposes. “It could be a bright spot for the case [..]. Bapeten is committed to ensuring the safety and security of the community and the environment in this incident,” Indra said.He added that the police’s crime investigation unit had secured evidence found in the house and put up police tape to support the further investigation. Police were also interviewing the owners of the house. (syk)Topics :last_img read more

Asymptomatic patient tests positive for COVID-19 in West Java

first_imgAccording to labmanager.com, biosafety level two would cover work with agents associated with human disease: in other words, pathogenic or infectious organisms posing a moderate hazard. Meanwhile, the West Java Health Laboratory, which is the nation’s referral center for tuberculosis, was certified at biosafety level 2+.The West Java administration previously planned to allocate two waves of funding for coronavirus response from the regional disaster management fund, one of Rp 24 billion (US$1.6 million) and the other of Rp 50 billion.Ridwan said the first allocation was increased to Rp 47 billion under the approval of the West Java Council. He said the budget would be used for purchasing more test kits.Indonesia has recorded 227 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with 19 deaths and 11 recovered cases as of Wednesday.West Java Information and Coordination Center for COVID-19 reported the province had 11 confirmed cases, while the number of people under monitoring was 1,004 and of patients under surveillance in isolation rooms was 101 people as of Wednesday. (syk) West Java has taken proactive steps to conduct sample examinations to test residents who are suspected of having the coronavirus, but do not display symptoms, and to accelerate receiving the test results to within hours.West Java Health Agency head Berli Hamdani Gelung Sakti said the tests they applied required two samples using nose and throat swabs, which would be brought to the health laboratory for polymerase chain reaction examinations.“[The test kits] are in support of the Medical School of Padjadjaran University and the Bandung Institute of Technology,” Berli said.Ridwan said the universities’ laboratories were at “biosafety level two”.  West Java Governor Ridwan Kamil says the West Java Health Laboratory has detected one positive COVID-19 case who showed no symptoms at all among the hundreds of independent sample examinations the province conducted.“From 230 tests, it turned out there was one positive case. [The person is] now being treated at Hasan Sadikin Hospital,” Ridwan said at Gedung Sate in Bandung on Wednesday. “That person looked healthy. We must be careful and not wait for the symptoms [to show].”Ridwan did not specify how the patient had been infected but he said the person had been isolated so as not to infect others.center_img Topics :last_img read more

Mobile app aims to eliminate fraud in disbursement of subsidized housing loans

first_img“With the SiKasep application, it will be easier for the government to oversee the [loan] distribution or housing needs with data directly sourced from the public, which can also be used as guidelines for policy-making,” the agency wrote, adding that it also prevented an oversupply of houses in unwanted locations.The new application is part of efforts to bolster President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s promise of building around 1 million houses a year. The target, in place since 2015, aims to reduce the country’s housing backlog, especially for lower-income families.Read also: State mortgage provider to disburse Rp 1.7t for low-cost housesSome 4.8 million houses have been constructed since then; 699,770 built in 2015, 805,169 houses in 2016, 904,758 houses in 2017, 1.13 million houses in 2018 and more than 1.25 million houses in 2019. The government aims to build 1.25 million houses this year. The FLPP itself was initially established to provide loans to civil servants, military personnel, police officers and private employees with a monthly income no higher than Rp 8 million.It is also in line with the government’s move to disburse Rp 1.5 trillion in subsidies for purchases of houses for low-income Indonesians in February as a part of a Rp 10.3 trillion stimulus package to cushion the impacts of COVID-19. Particularly, Rp 800 billion will be used for interest subsidies for loan installments and Rp 700 billion for down payment subsidies (SBUM).However, property developers expressed concerns in late January over “thinning” funds allocated to the FLPP, as they bank on public housing programs amid a broad-based slowdown in the property sector.The 2020 budget for loans under the FLPP amounts to Rp 11 trillion, which is enough to build only 97,700 houses — much lower than the Rp 29 trillion needed to fund the construction of at least 260,000 houses this year, the group said.But PPDPP president director Arief Sabaruddin refuted the group’s claims in January about a “thinning budget” as he said the allocated budget for the scheme had steadily increased.Read also: Property developers express concern over ‘thinning’ housing loan subsidyThe agency’s data shows that the budget this year had increased to Rp 11 trillion from Rp 7.1 trillion in 2019 and Rp 6.01 trillion in 2018. However, actual spending has declined because of issues to do with “administrative preparedness” and “incomplete documents”, Arief said.“We all have this mindset of increasing [the housing quota], including businesspeople. What we have to consider now is how to solve not only surface-level problems but also their roots, which are limited financing sources,” Arief said.“That’s why we have to think about ways to find other financing sources for a long-term solution.” The government is using an application called SiKasep to prevent fraud in its subsidized housing loans programs by connecting property developers and prospective homebuyers.According to a Housing Financing Management Agency (PPDPP) statement released on Thursday, scammers have been selling substandard houses on behalf of the government’s Housing Financing Liquidity Facility (FLPP) and other subsidized housing programs and misusing applicants’ personal information, among other crimes.The application, launched in Dec. 19, 2019, has so far helped the government disburse loans worth Rp 861.43 billion (US$51.86 million) for the construction of 8,550 houses for low-income families under the FLPP. It now has 42,923 users and another 35,116 users are currently being verified.center_img Topics :last_img read more

COVID-19: Ministry studies plan to use hotels as accommodation for medical staff

first_imgTourism and the creative economy have been hit the hardest by the pandemic. According to the Indonesia Hotel and Restaurant Association (PHRI), the country’s overall occupancy rate has fallen below the low season average of 50 to 60 percent to 30 to 40 percent since the outbreak of the new coronavirus in China in late December.The occupancy rate in Bali has dropped to 20 percent, especially in areas visited by solo travelers such as Kuta, Sanur, Legian, Ubud and Jimbaran.The drop in tourist visits has also affected workers at the grassroots level who rely on tourism for their daily income, such as tour guides, tour drivers and daily hotel staff. The events industry has also taken a significant hit, with projected financial losses incurred as a result of massive cancellations at postponements amounting to between Rp 898.2 billion and Rp 2.65 trillion, according to the Indonesia Event Industry Council (Ivendo).Some 1,200 companies are engaged in the event-organizing business.Meanwhile, the State-Owned Enterprises (SOE) Ministry plans to transform existing buildings into hospitals for treating COVID-19 patients, like what was done with the Wisma Atlet Kemayoran athletes village in Jakarta”What we did in Jakarta is going to be duplicated in some other provinces,” Arya Sinulingga, an aide to SOE Minister Erick Thohir, said on Tuesday.He added that among the regions were Bandung in West Java, Semarang in Central Java and Surabaya in East Java.The ministry also plans to cooperate with the Religious Affairs Ministry to transform haj dormitories into COVID-19 hospitals, he said.The SOE Ministry, with the help of the Public Works and Housing Ministry, converted four apartment towers at Wisma Atlet Kemayoran into a hospital to meet the potentially increasing demand for isolation and treatment wards in the coming days.The facility, previously used to house athletes during the 2018 Asian Games, will be able to accommodate up to 22,000 COVID-19 patients.Scientists have warned that Indonesia could have tens of thousands of cases by April if authorities fail to take drastic measures to slow down the spread of the new coronavirus. Based on their calculations, Indonesia could be grappling with up to 71,000 COVID-19 cases by the end of April.The number of COVID-19 cases in Indonesia tripled within a week, jumping from 172 positive diagnoses on March 17 to 686 on Tuesday. The number of deaths stood at 55, with the disease spreading to at least 22 of the country’s 34 provinces. The Tourism and Creative Economy Ministry is working on a plan to collaborate with business players in the hotel industry to help curb the spread of COVID-29The partnership would have hotel chains across Indonesia provide rooms for medical personnel treating COVID-19 patients, Minister Wishnutama Kusubandio said at an online press conference on Monday. “Medical workers will have a proper place to rest somewhere close to their hospital.”Wishnutama added that he had discussed the plan with the representatives of several hotels and the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB).The ministry is also in talks with transportation providers for another possible collaboration that would transport medical workers to and from hotels and hospitals.Wishnutama called on businesses operating in tourism and the creative economy to actively participate in Indonesia’s fight against COVID-19, including by postponing events that involve mass gatherings during the ongoing emergency period.center_img Topics :last_img read more