The leader of the coup in Myanmar has made his first TV address, seeking to justify the action amid mass protests. A protester holds a photo of detained Myanmar civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi during a demonstration against the military coup. Photo: AFP Min Aung Hlaing said November's election, won in a landslide by the party of detained elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi, had been unfair. The military has begun to impose restrictions in some areas, including curfews and limits to gatherings. Huge protests were held on Monday for a third straight day, along with a nationwide strike, to oppose the coup. One demonstrating doctor - who did not want to be named - told the BBC: "Today, we, professionals - especially civil servant professionals such as doctors, engineers and teachers - came out to show that we are all together in this. Our objective is the same - to make the dictatorship fall." The general's speech drew angry opposition, with images on social media showing people banging pots and pans in protest in front of television screens. The military seized power last week and declared a year-long state of emergency in Myanmar, also known as Burma, with power handed over to General Min Aung Hlaing. Suu Kyi and senior leaders of her National League for Democracy Party (NLD), including President Win Myint, have been put under house arrest. An Australian economic adviser to Suu Kyi, Sean Turnell, has also been detained and on Monday his family posted a statement on Facebook calling for his immediate release. What did the general say? Min Aung Hlaing's speech focused more on the reasons for the coup and less on threats to protesters. He said the electoral commission had failed to investigate irregularities over voter lists in the November election and had not allowed fair campaigning. The commission had said there was no evidence to support claims of widespread fraud. Min Aung Hlaing, wearing green military uniform, promised new elections and to hand power to the winner. A new "reformed" election commission would oversee it. He also said his rule would be "different" from what was effectively a 49-year military grip on power that ended in 2011 and which saw brutal crackdowns in 1988 and 2007. He spoke of achieving a "true and disciplined democracy", a phrase that drew scorn from some opponents of the coup on social media. Myanmar military chief General Min Aung Hlaing makes an announcement on the nationwide demonstrations being held in protest over the military coup. Photo: AFP He also told citizens to "go with the true facts and not to follow feelings of your own". The general did not issue direct threats to protesters, saying only that no-one was above the law. But some areas have seen clampdowns, with parts of Yangon and second city Mandalay, along with other areas, under a 20:00 to 04:00 curfew and with gatherings limited to groups of five or less. Earlier, a broadcast on state TV warned "action must be taken, according to the law... against offences that disturb, prevent and destroy state stability, public safety and the rule of law". Phil Robertson, the deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch, said: "For a military coup government that has trampled all over democracy and the rule of law, it's absurd for them to claim they have any right to 'legal action' against peaceful protesters." Who has been on the streets? Tens of thousands gathered on Monday in the capital, Nay Pyi Taw, for the strike, with other cities such as Mandalay and Yangon also reporting significant numbers, according to BBC Burmese. The protesters include teachers, lawyers, bank officers and government workers. Online there had been calls asking workers to skip work to protest. "This is a work day, but we aren't going to work even if our salary will be cut," one protester, 28-year-old garment factory worker, Hnin Thazin, told news agency AFP. People holding placards shout slogans of anti-coup as they protest against the military coup. Photo: AFP Another protester, Hnin Hayman Soe, told the BBC she had joined the protest alongside her children, nieces and nephews. "We can see many young people can't accept the military junta. We can even see teenagers here," she said. A few injuries have been reported, but no violence. However, a water cannon was activated in Nay Pyi Taw to disperse crowds. A video appears to show protesters rubbing their eyes and helping one another after being soaked. Kyaw Zeyar Oo, who took the video, told the BBC two vehicles had sprayed protesters with "no prior warning", while "the crowd was peacefully protesting in front of [the police]". The BBC's Nyein Chan Aye, in Yangon, says Buddhist monks, members of the minority Muslim community, top footballers and film and music stars have all been joining the anti-coup protests, which he says are expected to become more organised in the coming days. - BBC
Moderna’s Covid vaccine appears to work against new, more infectious variants of the pandemic virus found in the UK and South Africa, say scientists from the US pharmaceutical company.
Early laboratory tests suggest antibodies triggered by the vaccine can recognise and fight the new variants.
More studies are needed to confirm this is true for people that have been vaccinated.
The new variants have been spreading fast in a number of nations.
They have undergone changes or mutations that mean they can infect human cells more easily than the original version of coronavirus that started the pandemic.
Experts think the UK strain, which emerged in September, may be up to 70 percent more transmissible.
How worrying are the South Africa and UK variants?
Current vaccines were designed around earlier variants, but scientists believe they should still work against the new ones, although perhaps not quite as well. There are already some early results that suggest the Pfizer vaccine protects against the new UK variant.
For the Moderna study, researchers looked at blood samples taken from eight people who had received the recommended two doses of the Moderna vaccine.
The findings are yet to be peer reviewed, but suggest immunity from the vaccine recognises the new variants.
Neutralising antibodies, made by the body’s immune system, stop the virus from entering cells.
Blood samples exposed to the new variants appeared to have sufficient antibodies to achieve this neutralising effect, although it was not as strong for the South Africa variant as for the UK one.
Moderna says this could mean that protection against the South Africa variant might disappear more quickly.
Prof Lawrence Young, a virus expert at Warwick Medical School in the UK, said this would be concerning.
Moderna is currently testing whether giving a third booster shot might be beneficial.
Like other scientists, the company is also investigating whether redesigning the vaccine to be a better match for the new variants will be beneficial.
Stephane Bancel, chief executive officer of Moderna, said the company believed it was “imperative to be proactive as the virus evolves”.
UK regulators have already approved Moderna’s vaccine for rollout on the NHS, but the 17m pre-ordered doses are not expected to arrive until Spring.
The vaccine works in a similar way to the Pfizer one already being used in the UK.
More than 6.3 million people in the UK have already received a first dose of either the Pfizer or the AstraZeneca vaccine.