Tag: coronavirus

Sangeet Sandhya zooms into the digital age


By Saurabh Mishra

MELBOURNE, 7 APRIL 2020: As the world including Australia grappled with the corona virus crisis amidst lockdowns and strict social distancing restrictions, the Melbourne Indian community beat the otherwise gloomy atmosphere with songs and music. The Music Evening called the ‘Sangeet Sandhya’ innovated and emerged in its new form laced with technology. People participated or just enjoyed from the comfort of their homes the physical event digitally for the first time with Zoom, the video conferencing software from the Zoom Video Communications, Inc., US.

Faced with the new world of social distancing, the organisers of Sangeet & Swar Sandhya – Sharda Kala Kendra, headed by Mr. Rashid Sultan, felt that rather than take the easy route of cancelling the Sandhyas for the foreseeable future, they should instead, persist, adapt and re-invent. As one of the team eloquently put it, “The patrons of Sangeet Sandhya are no doubt already worried for their health and financial future. We should not add to their woes by taking away this beloved institution too”.

And so it was, that the very first Digital Sangeet Sandhya was held on Saturday 4th April using the Zoom video conferencing facility. About 150 people joined in from their homes to hear over 40 singers perform. Some of the singers performed with musical instruments they had at home (Harmonium, Tabla, Guitar, Keyboard), and others managed to plug in Karaoke tracks. The technology held up very well all night, and the overall experience was magical.

Some highlights included Namrata Trivedi’s soulful and masterful presentation of Thhumri, Hori and Chaiti, and Saurabh Mishra’s use of the Zoom screen-share feature to have the lyrics and meaning of the Ghazal that he presented showing as sub-titles as he sang. What’s more, Radheyshyam Gupta and Ratan Mulchandani also joined from Gurgaon, India and Newcastle, NSW respectively, as did an old Sangeet Sandhya alumnus – Hema Raina from New Jersey, USA.

Sangeet Sandhya is an icon for the Melbourne Indian community. It is a beloved open-mic community music event that was started by Shri Radheyshyam Gupta OAM, Mr.Ratan Mulchandani and Mr. Niranjan Chaudhary in 1997.

For the 23 years since then, it has been held unabated on the first Saturday of every second month, and anyone that turns up and wants to sing or play an instrument is warmly invited to do so.

By popular demand, a Karaoke format called Swar Sandhya was spun off some 10 years ago. Many a talented amateur musician has been “discovered” thanks to these Sandhyas, especially amongst new arrivals into Melbourne. But more than anything else, the Sandhyas have become a bona fide hub around which a vibrant community of music-lovers has been built up.

The team of volunteer organisers, worked very hard in the build-up to the Sandhya, generously helping people figure out how to connect, and indeed how best to perform with the technology. They were also kept busy throughout the evening, troubleshooting, producing the event, and managing the very lively online chat that was also running side-by-side.

Operation Sentinel: Victoria Police starts to enforce regulations to suppress Coronavirus spread

By SAT News Desk

MELBOURNE, 24 March 2020 17:57: The Victoria Police has today started a dedicated operation to enforce containment measures put in place to combat the spread of Coronavirus. Operation Sentinel will see police conduct spot checks on returning travelers who should be in self-isolation and follow up tips received from the general public and other sources.

It will also enforce bans on indoor and outdoor gatherings at non-essential venues and businesses. Police will proactively patrol places of mass gathering such as beaches and shopping centers to ensure restrictions are being complied with.

The operation is being managed out of the State Police Operations Centre and has 500 police from Transit, the Public Order Response Team (PORT), and police across Victoria who will perform these checks and enforce bans.

In a reply to an SAT query about the task force, Victoria Police says, “We will provide everyone with further details around the task force, its operating model and how it will ensure public measures around self-isolation and mass gatherings are adhered to as soon as possible.”

“It’s also important to note that we will not be providing breakdowns of how many police will be working on this task force by specific suburbs, regions or towns. The Taskforce will be cover the entire state and any comments made will be at a state level only at this stage,” the Victoria Police adds.

Deputy Commissioner Nugent said situations will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis, and police have a range of options available to deal with those who refuse to follow the directions of the Chief Health Officer.

“People can be issued with an official warning, directed to return home, or charged on summons where a person repeatedly refuses to obey a direction or blatantly disregards the restrictions. People can also face heavy fines” he said.

“We are urging people to take the restrictions seriously and do the right thing – don’t be selfish is our message,” he said.

“For police, it’s not just about fines or arrests but ensuring everyone in the community understands the serious risks associated with Coronavirus and the importance of complying with the directions from the Chief Health Officer.”

“We know this is a challenging time for everyone and we’ll be asking our officers to use a commonsense approach when dealing with these matters.”

“Already we have seen a degree of ignorance where people think it’s okay to just go out for a breakfast or to see a friend when it’s absolutely not.”

“We also want to take advantage of Operational Sentinel to engage with the community, provide any further education around current requirements, and do everything we can to protect the safety of all Victorians.”

“It gives police the opportunity to check on the health and wellbeing of those in self-isolation, and see if they need any further support such as medical assistance.”

“So far, people are for the most part complying with the restrictions. We want to ensure that continues and people are showing each other the right amount of respect.”

“People who ignore the restrictions are placing others at significant risk, which means more people will become infected. This includes their family, friends, and others in the community.”

” Police are working with the Australian Border Force (ABF) and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to identify those who are failing to self-isolate. Spot checks are already being performed on individuals who have returned from overseas, and on venues and suspected mass gatherings. At this time, no one has been charged with refusing or failing to comply with the direction. Fines for people who do not comply with the direction are $20,000 for individuals or $100,000 for companies or corporations, says a Victoria Police Tweet today.

VIDEO: Containing COVID-19

Source: Newsclick.

VMC: Racism against people of Chinese heritage related to Coronavirus unacceptable


By SAT News Desk

MELBOURNE, 31 January 2020: The Victorian Multicultural Commission (VMC) has expressed grave concern over “the emergence of racism overseas, and now here in Australia, in response to the Coronavirus”. In a strongly-worded statement received by South Asia Times (SAT) by email, the VMC says, “It is not a time to isolate, undermine or discriminate against others.”

“We are disappointed to see overt and subtle racism in media reporting and on social media towards people of Chinese heritage.

Victoria is a proud, strong and successful multicultural society. And when we are faced with a crisis of any kind, we come together and support each other as we have seen with the response to the bushfire crisis.

The Coronavirus poses a serious threat to the health of people across the world, and we fully support the Australian authorities and our Victorian health system to guide us through this crisis.

We commend our scientists for their breakthroughs and collaboration with experts across the globe in endeavoring to develop protections against such threats.

We ask people to show compassion towards individuals, families, and communities here and overseas who are affected by the virus.”

Coronavirus: Why China’s strategy to contain the virus might work

Wuhan City has a population of over 11 million. Credit: Tauno Tõhk/CC by 2.0

By Fei Chen

Jan 30, 2020 (IPS) – On January 23, the authorities of Wuhan City, China, sealed off the motorways and shut down all public transport to stop the coronavirus outbreak from spreading. Shortly afterward, at least ten other cities in China were under quarantine orders, most of them located in the areas surrounding Wuhan.

It sounds unbelievable to quarantine a city of 11 million people, but it may work because movement within and between cities in China relies heavily on public transport infrastructure. Major cities in China are well connected by airports, express railways, motorways, and long-distance buses. Once the entry points of these transport routes are controlled and patrolled, people cannot easily get out.

The transport infrastructure is built by the state and over 90% funded by public money, so control remains in the hands of the authorities. The one-party government in China also helps to effectively implement such a strategy.

Another reason this containment strategy may work is that major Chinese cities are large and dense. Wuhan has an urban area of 1,528km2, which makes it extremely difficult for people to walk out of the city if they are not able to take public transport or travel on the motorways using private cars.

People who live on the periphery of the city may still be able to get out through small local road networks that mainly lead to villages or the countryside. As long as the major roads are closed off, they are not able to reach other major cities with a large, concentrated population and the quarantine remains effective.

Megacity regions

The urbanization process facilitated by the Chinese state results in big cities surrounded by smaller cities, towns, and counties. This form of city cluster, known as megacity regions, is a recent phenomenon in China and their development
has been driven by both political and economic factors. The Yangtze River Delta and Pearl River Delta are the most well-known megacity regions, holding enormous economic power and attracting laborers regionally and nationally.

Wuhan and its surrounding cities, towns, and counties hold similar status in central China thanks to its strategic location on the Yangtze River and national railway network. The local authority’s Great Wuhan Economic Region plan is intended to promote Wuhan in efforts to become comparable to the aforementioned megacity regions.

Megacity regions are connected by transport routes and mostly developed around transport nodes, at both the regional and neighborhood scales. This so-called transit-oriented development means that if the entry points of public transport are closed off in cities of the whole region, to a large extent, people are controlled in the region.

Chinese New Year

For more than three decades, Chinese urbanization has seen large scale domestic migration. People from the countryside and smaller cities and towns move to big cities for more work opportunities and better education and healthcare. Chinese New Year is the most important occasion when people return to their home towns to celebrate the festival with their families.

The coronavirus containment measures coincided with the national movement for the New Year celebration. This massive movement of people, if not controlled, would be a serious threat to containing the virus. People were advised against long-distance travel and the New Year holiday has been extended into February. These measures are to make sure movement within the country is restricted as much as possible. Workers will stay in their home cities as their returns are suspended.

The containment measures in Wuhan and other cities are likely to continue until further studies of the virus suggest other effective solutions. At the current moment, international travelers from China have all been checked at airports and some flights have been canceled.

Cities nowadays rely on complex systems to operate. The concentration of labor and resources may enable efficiency but leaves them vulnerable to attacks. The outbreak put enormous pressure on Wuhan’s healthcare system as people can only seek treatment in the city. A few high-ranked hospitals in Wuhan possess the best resources, but they cannot cope with the healthcare demand from large groups at the same time. Two new hospitals are being built in Wuhan to deal with the coronavirus outbreak. They are expected to be completed on February 3rd and 5th respectively and provide 2,300 beds in total.

In the foreseeable future, digital technologies and smart city measures may also play a role in dealing with pressure on health infrastructure by, for instance, reporting cases and coordinating the allocation of resources. Wuhan has a reputation for the active integration of smart technologies in urban management.

Although effective, sealing off an entire city or region should always be a last resort. It will surely have a negative social impact and damage the economy. The Conversation
Fei Chen is a senior lecturer of architecture, University of Liverpool

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license.