Putin Says ‘Several Dozen’ People In His Circle Have COVID-19

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during the opening ceremony of the International Military-Technical Forum “Army-2021” held in the Patriot Park, in Kubinka outside Moscow on August 23, 2021. (Photo by Ramil SITDIKOV / SPUTNIK / AFP)

 

President Vladimir Putin said Thursday that dozens of people in his inner circle at the Kremlin had tested positive for coronavirus, which has affected over seven million people in the badly-hit country.

Earlier this week, the 68-year-old Putin said he was self-isolating after announcing an outbreak among members of his entourage.

“Cases of the coronavirus were detected in my inner circle. Not just one or two but several dozen people,” Putin said, speaking via video link at a meeting of a Moscow-led security alliance.

Putin had been due to attend the meeting of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) in Tajikistan’s capital Dushanbe in person but said Tuesday he would instead join remotely.

News of the extent of the outbreak at the Kremlin comes a day before staggered three-day parliamentary elections open in Russia to limit the spread of the virus.

Authorities have gone to great lengths to protect Putin — who has been vaccinated with Russia’s homegrown Sputnik V jab — since the start of the pandemic.

Foreign leaders, journalists and officials have all had to self-isolate before meeting the longtime Russian leader.

Putin this week met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and athletes returning from the Tokyo Paralympic Games, just before the Kremlin said he was self-isolating.

Highest European Death Toll

Russia has the fifth-highest number of recorded Covid cases, according to an AFP tally, and has struggled to rein in infections despite easy access to vaccines.

According to the latest figures, the country has recorded more than 7 million cases and 195,041 deaths, the highest death toll in Europe.

Infections have been falling in recent days after a spike this summer, but health officials still reported 18,841 new cases and 792 new deaths on Wednesday.

Authorities have struggled with a vaccine-skeptic population, with independent polls showing that a majority of Russians do not plan to be inoculated.

As of Tuesday, about 40.2 million of Russia’s 146 million people had been fully vaccinated, according to the Gogov website, which tallies Covid data from the regions.

Russia has several homegrown vaccines freely available to the public but does not distribute any Western-made jabs.

Moscow, the epicentre of Russia’s outbreak, and a host of regions have introduced mandatory vaccination measures to speed up the inoculation drive, and Putin has repeatedly called on Russians to get vaccinated.

The Kremlin initially set a goal of fully inoculating 60 percent of Russia’s population by September, but later dropped that target even though free jabs have been available since early December.

Russian authorities have been accused of vastly downplaying the effects of the pandemic and, after a tight first lockdown in 2020, have refrained from introducing new restrictive measures.

The country instead pinned its hopes of curtailing the pandemic on its four homegrown vaccines — Sputnik V, EpiVacCorona, CoviVac and the one-dose Sputnik Light.

COVID-19: Nigeria Records 387 New Cases, 21 More Deaths

A health worker holding the COVID-19 vaccine.

 

Nigeria has recorded 387 new cases of the COVID-19 with 21 more deaths across the country.

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) disclosed this in an update on Monday night.

Lagos had the highest number of infections with (114), followed by Rivers (91), and the FCT (32).

Others are Edo (31), Delta (28), Kwara (20), Bayelsa (18), Akwa Ibom (15), Oyo (10), Osun (8), Gombe (5), Plateau (5), Ekiti (4), Ogun (3), Kano (2) and Kaduna (1).

Till date, 199,538 cases have been confirmed, 188,427 patients have been discharged and 2,619 deaths have been recorded in 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory.

Globally, the coronavirus has killed at least 4,630,215 people since the outbreak emerged in China in December 2019.

The United States remains the worst-hit country with 660,177 deaths, followed by Brazil with 586,851, India with 442,874, Mexico with 267,748 and Peru with 198,764.

Below is a breakdown of the COVID-19 cases across Nigeria.

 

States AffectedNo. of Cases (Lab Confirmed)No. of Cases (on admission)No. DischargedNo. of Deaths
Lagos75,2042,19072,350664
FCT20,95468120,094179
Rivers11,48383610,509138
Kaduna9,366819,21966
Plateau9,252989,09361
Oyo8,5407047,649187
Edo5,9455635,168214
Ogun5,332685,18579
Ondo4,2363013,85778
Akwa Ibom4,2366403,55442
Kano4,131673,952112
Kwara3,7084423,20759
Delta3,2015602,55685
Osun2,818342,69985
Enugu2,6751122,53429
Nasarawa2,426422,34539
Gombe2,333522,23645
Katsina2,214502,12935
Anambra2,173972,05719
Ebonyi2,059242,00332
Abia1,880501,80525
Imo1,784951,65039
Ekiti1,6583011,33225
Bauchi1,568131,53817
Benue1,512701,41824
Borno1,34401,30638
Adamawa1,153231,09832
Bayelsa1,1501161,00727
Taraba1,074361,01424
Niger1,0016791420
Sokoto796276628
Jigawa5731254516
Cross River5425246921
Yobe50124909
Kebbi458943316
Zamfara25322438
Kogi5032

Coronavirus: Latest Global Developments

In this file photo taken on August 9, 2021, a health worker administers a first dose of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine to a woman in Suva.
Leon LORD / AFP

 

 

Here are the latest developments in the coronavirus crisis:

– Eviction moratorium ends -The US Supreme Court blocks the extension of a federal moratorium on evictions, ending a protection granted to millions who have struggled to afford rent during the pandemic.

– NZ extends lockdown -New Zealand extends into next week a national lockdown sparked by a Delta virus outbreak, but warns restrictions will last longer in the infection epicentre of Auckland.

– Year-long symptoms -Fatigue and shortness of breath still afflict many patients a year after their hospitalisation for Covid-19, according to a new Chinese study calling for a better understanding of the pandemic’s long-term health effects.

– Rotating presence -The best way to keep cases out of businesses and schools while maintaining some in-person presence is to create two rotating groups, a French study shows.

– Thailand on the red list -The British government says it will add Thailand and Montenegro to its travel “red list” on Monday, with foreigners banned from travelling to England from those countries, and nationals required to quarantine.

– More than 4.4 million dead -The coronavirus has killed at least 4,472,486 people since the outbreak emerged in China in December 2019, according to an AFP compilation of official data.

The US is the worst-affected country with 633,564 deaths, followed by Brazil with 577,565, India with 436,861, Mexico 256,287 and Peru 198,064.

Based on the latest reports, the countries with the most new daily deaths were the US with 1,238, followed by Brazil with 920 and Mexico with 835.

COVID-19: White House Says 50% Of Americans Fully Vaccinated

A health care worker administers a Covid-19 vaccine to a young woman during a vaccination event hosted by Miami Heat at FTX Arena in Miami, on August 5, 2021. CHANDAN KHANNA / AFP

 

Half of the US population is now fully vaccinated against COVID-19, the White House said Friday, as inoculations rise in response to the surging Delta variant of the novel coronavirus.

“50% of Americans (all ages) are now fully vaccinated. Keep going!,” Cyrus Shahpar, White House COVID-19 data director, said in a tweet.

That means more than 165 million people have received either the two-dose Moderna or Pfizer vaccine or the one-and-done Johnson & Johnson shot.

The threshold of half of all adult Americans fully vaccinated was reached in late May.

Shahpar said the seven-day average of newly vaccinated people is up 11 percent from last week and up 44 per cent over the past two weeks.

For four straight weeks, the average number of people getting vaccinated each day has risen, White House Covid coordinator Jeff Zients said Thursday.

The United States is the nation hardest hit by the pandemic with 615,000 deaths.

Biden has been pressing hard for Americans to get vaccinated ever since he took office in January.

The aggressive vaccination program had raised hopes of a return to some semblance of normal life this summer, but the plan did not pan out because of the Delta variant.

After peaking in April, the rate of new inoculations fell off sharply.

Daily new cases, deaths and hospitalisations are up sharply in recent weeks, and cities like New York and Los Angeles are imposing new restrictions such as demanding proof of vaccination for entering indoor venues like restaurants and gyms.

Last week there was an average of 90,000 new coronavirus cases per day. Florida and Texas accounted for a third of them, the White House said.

That figure marks a 43 per cent rise from the previous week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday.

The level of community transmission of the virus is “high” or “substantial” in 85 percent of the country, the CDC says.

Hospitalizations are up to a nationwide daily average of around 7,300 per day in the seven days. Deaths are up sharply at around 380 per day.

Breakout cases of infection among vaccinated people are still rare but preliminary research shows that when they do happen, the risk of contagion is greater than with previous strains of the virus.

And this poses a higher risk for the non-vaccinated who come into contact with infected vaccinated people.

In light of all these numbers the CDC changed course recently and recommended the wearing of masks indoors in high-risk areas, even for people who are vaccinated.

New Coronavirus Scare Causes Jitters On Eve Of Tokyo Olympics Athletics

A health worker prepares a dose to inoculate a woman with the Covaxin Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine at a school-turned-vaccination centre in New Delhi on May 5, 2021.
Tauseef MUSTAFA / AFP

 

 

Australia’s track and field team was briefly placed in isolation on Thursday as a coronavirus scare caused fresh jitters on the eve of the Tokyo Olympics athletics programme.

Nearly 60 athletes and staff were confined to their rooms for more than two hours after US pole vault world champion Sam Kendricks tested positive for Covid-19.

All were later released apart from three close contacts of Kendricks, who have tested negative but remain in isolation and will be tested daily.

The incident was a jolting reminder of the perils facing athletes at the Tokyo Games, where their Olympic dreams are at risk of being dashed at any moment.

“Members of the Australian track and field team in the Tokyo Olympic Village have been cleared to return to their regular routines,” the Australian Olympic Committee said in a statement.

“The all-clear comes after three members of the team underwent PCR testing following a brief casual contact with a US track and field athlete who had tested positive for Covid-19.”

Kendricks earlier became the latest high-profile withdrawal from the Olympics after testing positive for the virus.

“We are saddened to confirm that Sam Kendricks tested positive for Covid-19 and will not compete in the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020,” the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee said on Twitter.

Argentine pole vaulter German Chiaraviglio later revealed he had also tested positive and would not take part in the Games.

Organisers announced a daily record of 24 new Games-related cases on Thursday, three of whom are athletes, taking the overall number of positive cases to 193.

The figures do not include all cases at airports and in training camps.

– Dressel gold chase –
In Olympics action, US swim star Caeleb Dressel notched his second triumph of the Games to stay on track for a potential six golds.

Dressel arrived at the Olympics tipped to push for a Michael Phelps-style medal haul and already has two wins under his belt, with a potential four to come.

The 24-year-old powered to the wall in the men’s 100m freestyle in a new Olympic record time of 47.02sec to dethrone Australia’s Kyle Chalmers.

Dressel, who spearheaded the United States to the 4x100m relay title earlier this week, will also race the 50m freestyle and 100m butterfly and could feature in two other relays.

The swimmer, who won two relay golds in Rio, said he was proud to claim his first individual title.

“I didn’t want to admit it but now I did it I can admit it, it’s a lot different,” he said.

Dressel’s 13 world titles have prompted inevitable comparisons with Phelps — winner of eight Olympic golds at the 2008 Beijing Games and 23 in total.

Only Phelps, Mark Spitz and Kristin Otto have won six or more golds at a single Olympic Games in swimming.

Robert Finke won another gold for the United States in the men’s 800m freestyle while Australia’s Zac Stubblety-Cook claimed the men’s 200m breaststroke gold in a new Olympic record time of 2min 06.38sec.

China’s Zhang Yufei won the women’s 200m butterfly and China rounded off the morning session by smashing the world record in the 4x200m women’s freestyle relay, finishing ahead of the United States and Australia.

The Olympic golf tournament has also lost stars to coronavirus but started at Kasumisageki Country Club with a number of top players still involved.

Austria’s Sepp Straka carded an eight-under-par 63 to lead by one stroke from Thailand’s Jazz Janewattananond.

In the women’s tennis, Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic beat Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan 7-6 (7/2), 4-6, 6-3 to set up a final against Elina Svitolina or Marketa Vondrousova.

World number one Novak Djokovic was in action against Kei Nishikori in the men’s quarter-finals.

The women’s all-around gymnastics is due to take place on Thursday evening without Simone Biles, who has pulled out of two events in Tokyo so far citing mental health concerns.

“The outpouring love & support I’ve received has made me realise I’m more than my accomplishments and gymnastics which I never truly believed before,” the 24-year-old tweeted.

Ten Nigerian athletes were among 18 competitors from “high-risk” nations barred from competing after failing to meet minimum standards for out-of-competition drug testing.

Nigeria Records COVID-19 Spike With 161 New Cases

PHOTOS: Sodiq Adelakun/Channels TV

 

Nigeria has recorded a fresh spike of COVID-19 cases.

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) in its report on Monday night, disclosed that the country has recorded 161 new cases.

Lagos State, which still remains the epicenter of the virus in Nigeria, recorded 153 new cases, while Gombe recorded two, Oyo and Rivers one each and the FCT four cases respectively.

This now brings the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 168,713.

164,476 have recovered, while 2,124 have unfortunately died.

This comes days after the NCDC said it had detected the Delta COVID-19 variant in the country.

Read Also: COVID-19 Delta Variant Leading To High Hospitalisations, Deaths – WHO

“The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has detected a confirmed case with the SARS-CoV-2 Delta variant, also known as lineage B.1.617.2,” the health agency said in a statement last Thursday.

“The variant was detected in a traveler to Nigeria, following the routine travel test required of all international travelers and genomic sequencing at the NCDC National Reference Laboratory, Abuja.”

The NCDC, however, assured Nigerians that the federal government has put measures in place to combat the disease, asking them to adhere to the recommended safety protocols.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Delta variant has an increased transmissibility, and has raised concerns across the globe.

It has also been detected in over 90 countries and is expected to spread to more nations.

“The variant has also been linked to a surge in cases in countries where it is the dominant strain in circulation,” the NCDC explained. “There are ongoing studies to understand the impact of the variant on existing vaccines and therapeutics.”

Fans Urged To Stay Away From Olympic Marathon Over COVID-19 Fears

A woman stands in front of the Olympic Rings at dusk in Yokohama on July 2, 2021. (Photo by Philip FONG / AFP)

 

The public will be urged not to line the route of the Olympic marathon over fears that crowds of fans could spread the coronavirus, Tokyo 2020 organisers said Tuesday.

With less than three weeks before the pandemic-postponed Games begin, concern is growing over a rebound in virus cases in Japan.

“In view of the current Covid-19 situation, it will be necessary to reduce the risk of infection by restricting the movement of members of the public,” organisers said in a statement about the marathon and race walk events.

“It has therefore been decided to ask the public to refrain from spectating along the course.”

The marathon was at the centre of controversy in the original build-up to the 2020 Games, when it was moved to northern Sapporo from Tokyo to avoid the capital’s punishing summer heat.

The women’s and men’s marathon finals are among the last events at this summer’s Games and will take place on August 7 and 8.

At a marathon rehearsal event in Sapporo in May, security guards stood with signs around their necks asking people to “please refrain from watching the race” to prevent infections.

That event had unfolded in a muted atmosphere, with scattered onlookers in facemasks clapping but refraining from cheering, to avoid spreading droplets.

READ ALSO: Philippines Retrieves Crashed Military Plane’s Black Boxes

Organisers on Tuesday vowed to work with local authorities “to ensure a safe and secure Tokyo 2020 Games for all participants and for the citizens of Sapporo and Hokkaido”.

But with Covid-19 cases on the rise and fears over the spread of new coronavirus variants, Japan’s government is this week expected to extend virus restrictions in several parts of the country.

The current measures, in place in Tokyo and Sapporo, cap spectators at sports events at 5,000 and limit the opening hours of bars and restaurants.

Japan’s Covid-19 outbreak has not been as severe as in some countries, with around 14,800 deaths, but experts say another wave could stretch medical services as the Olympics begin.

For ticketed Olympic events, Games organisers last month set a limit of 10,000 domestic fans, or half of each venue’s capacity. Overseas fans have already been barred.

But a rise in infections has forced a rethink — with Games president Seiko Hashimoto recently warning that a closed-door Olympics remains an option.

Participants have already begun arriving in Japan, with 11,000 Olympic athletes from around 200 countries set to take part.

On Monday, a Japanese newspaper reported that fans would likely be banned from the July 23 opening ceremony over virus fears, but a reduced number of VIPs and Olympic officials would be able to attend.

AFP

Myanmar Orders 2 Million To Stay Home As COVID-19 Cases Spike

This handout photo from local media group Tedim Post taken and released on June 29, 2021, shows health workers carrying a coffin bearing the remains of a Covid-19 coronavirus victim who died at home in Tedim, western Chin state, as more than two million people in Myanmar were placed under new stay-at-home measures July 2 as infections in the coup-wracked country surge. Handout / TEDIM POST / AFP

 

Myanmar authorities imposed stay-at-home-measures on the country’s second city Friday as coronavirus cases in the coup-wracked country surge, with many health workers striking to protest against the junta.

Inhabitants of Mandalay, as well as two townships in the southern Bago region, woke up to new restrictions banning more than one person leaving home for non-medical reasons.

There was no timeframe given for the new rules, announced by the health and sports ministry of the State Administration Council –- as the junta calls itself.

Those travelling to government jobs are exempted.

The affected areas are home to more than two million people, according to a 2014 census, and join towns in western Chin state near the Indian border that have been locked down since May.

Authorities reported more than 1,500 new cases on Thursday, up from around 100 per day in early June.

Myanmar’s creaking healthcare system had struggled to respond to Covid-19 even before the February coup that ousted Aung San Suu Kyi.

Swathes of the country were put under partial lockdown last year, although enforcement was often lax in the developing nation where many face a stark choice between following regulations and feeding their families.

Since the coup, thousands of doctors, volunteers and civil servants have joined a mass civil disobedience campaign to protest against the military regime.

Myanmar has reported 3,347 virus-related deaths, although true figures are likely to be higher.

A shipment of 1.5 million vaccines arrived from India earlier this year.

On Thursday state media reported junta leader Min Aung Hlaing had agreed to buy two million vaccines from Russia, without specifying which shot.

A spokeswoman from the health ministry said last week that authorities were also negotiating with China to buy more vaccines.

Myanmar has been in turmoil since the February putsch, with more than 880 civilians killed in a crackdown and almost 6,500 arrested, according to a local monitoring group.

Rising Food Prices Deepen The Woes Of World’s Poorest

People buy and sell food at the Illaje market, in Bariga, Lagos, on June 29, 2021. Since the start of the pandemic in 2019, food prices have risen by an average of more than 22%, according to official statistics, and feeding a family properly has become a daily challenge. Benson Ibeabuchi / AFP

 

Global food prices are rising at their fastest rate in a decade, exacerbating the troubles of the world’s most vulnerable nations as they struggle with the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is worried that soaring prices could foment further social unrest in countries already mired in political turmoil.

Here is a look at the situation worldwide:

Where Are Food Prices Headed?

According to the FAO, food prices were nearly 40 percent higher in May than a year ago, the sharpest increase since September 2011.

On a 12-month basis, the price of corn has skyrocketed by 88 percent, soybean by 73 percent, grain and dairy products by 38 percent, sugar by 34 per cent and meat by 10 percent.

“Obviously, it’s very concerning,” said Arif Husain, chief economist of the World Food Programme.

In 2007-2008, brutal increases in the price of basic foodstuffs sparked riots in a number of cities around the world. Peaking in 2010-2011, the price rises acted as a harbinger for the Arab Spring uprisings.

What is driving the phenomenon?

The global economy is rebounding but inflation is also rising as governments have spent huge sums on stimulus programmes after the pandemic brought economic activity to a standstill last year.

China, which the World Bank projects will notch up growth of 8.5 percent in 2021, is gobbling up basic foodstuffs such as oilseed, cereals and meat.

“It really is China which is currently fuelling the surge in food prices,” said economist Philippe Chalmin.

The US economy is also expected to bounce back strongly, with the World Bank projecting a growth of 6.8 per cent this year.

But the economic recovery is “very uneven” across the world, with developing nations facing higher import bills while their income is not growing, said Josef Schmidhuber, deputy director of the FAO’s trade and markets division.

Other factors behind the surge in prices include a drought in Brazil, which is driving up corn prices, rebounding oil prices and an explosion in sea freight costs.

How long will it last? That is difficult to say.

For the moment, harvests are projected to be very good.

The US Department of Agriculture is forecasting record crop production for 2021-2022 and also record harvests of Brazilian soybean and American corn. If these materialise, that will help ease the price situation.

But climate conditions could be a wild card in such projections.

The FAO’s Schmidhuber believes that prices will remain relatively high this year, notably if oil prices go up as the agriculture sector consumes a lot of energy.

“If they rise, food prices will remain high for a long period of time”.

For FAO economist Abdolreza Abbassian, “the only thing we know is that the food market is going to be even more volatile in the future than it was in the past”.

What is the impact for poor countries?

In a range of countries currently facing other “shocks”, such as Covid-19, food price inflation currently stands at more than 20 percent, said WFP’s Arif Husain.

Lebanon is facing a grave financial and economic crisis that has sent its currency into tailspin and brought the country close to default. There, the rate of food price inflation stood at 226 percent on a 12-month basis in May, according to the website Trading Economics.

In Argentina, the government suspended beef imports for a month in mid-May as food price inflation skyrocketed.

According to the World Bank, high inflation in Nigeria, fuelled by sharp increases in foodstuff prices, has plunged another seven million people into poverty.

“Prices are going up, but at the same time people’s incomes are decimated because of Covid,” said WFP’s Husain.

“A poor person gets squeezed because prices go up and at the same time they have no money,” he said, pointing out that conflicts were the main cause of food insecurity.

Will it trigger social unrest?

FAO economist Abbassian said there was “no evidence that countries are any better prepared than they were 10 years ago” for such price volatility.

“More or less the same countries which were in the forefront of the riots and political instability 10 years ago, today can easily find themselves in exactly the same situation: waking up in the morning and find prices have gone up very rapidly,” the economist said.

However, unlike a decade ago, when rocketing food prices were clearly the main cause of social discontent, now they were “one along many other issues”.

Rich countries, Abbassian said, have to be “prepared for upheavals” in Africa, Latin America and Asia.

“Discontent is so widely spread now”.

For social unrest to erupt, “all you need is a little spark. It can be food prices, or energy prices, or simply bad rain.”

Canada Extends Shelf Life Of AstraZeneca Jab By One Month

Files: Miguel MEDINA / AFP

 

Canadian health authorities announced Saturday they were pushing back the expiration date on nearly 50,000 doses of AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine by one month.

Health Canada said in a statement its approval to extend the shelf life of two lots of vaccine from May 31 to July 1 was supported by “scientific evidence.”

“This change will ensure that provinces and territories are able to use up their existing inventory and provide Canadians access to much needed doses of the vaccine,” the agency said.

A spokesperson for Health Canada said that as of May 22, there were about 49,000 doses of AstraZeneca in the country with an expiration date of May 31. CBC reported that most were in Ontario province.

Canadian health authorities had previously approved a six-month shelf life for AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine.

READ ALSO: France Threatens To Pull Troops Out Of Mali

But they said they received information from the company on May 27 including “product stability and mathematical modelling data” that showed the two lots could be safely and effectively used for an extra month.

Several provinces announced this month their decision to suspend use of the AstraZeneca vaccine for people receiving their first shot, due to rare instances of blood clots.

But Canadians who had received a first AstraZeneca dose were able to get their scheduled second dose.

Just over 55 percent of Canada’s 38 million people have received one dose of Covid-19 vaccine, and 5 percent have received two doses.

In addition to AstraZeneca, vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson are approved for use in Canada.

AFP

Taiwan Blames China For Latest WHO Meeting Snub

A community park, closed due to social distancing measures following a spike in Covid-19 coronavirus cases, is seen in Taipei’s Wenshan district on May 22, 2021. (Photo by Sam Yeh / AFP)

 

Taiwan hit out at China on Monday over its continued exclusion from a crucial annual gathering of World Health Organization members this week focused on averting the next pandemic catastrophe.

On the first day of the 74th World Health Assembly (WHA), the UN health agency’s 194 member states decided once again not to even discuss whether or not Taiwan should be allowed to participate.

This year’s assembly will arguably be one of the most important in the WHO’s history amid calls to revamp the organisation and the entire global approach to health in the wake of the

But Taiwan — which had one of the world’s best pandemic responses — remains locked out for the fifth consecutive year.

That is because China, which views the self-governed democracy as part of its own territory and has vowed to one day seize it, has waged an increasingly assertive campaign to keep Taipei isolated on the world stage.

Taiwan continued to plead Monday for access to the assembly, with foreign minister Joseph Wu urging the WHO to “maintain a professional and neutral stance, reject China’s political interference” and allow Taiwan’s participation.

But the WHO’s main decision-making body decided against even discussing the matter.

More than a dozen mainly small island states had proposed including discussion of whether or not to invite Taiwan to participate as an observer on the WHA agenda.

But a committee advised against doing so and the countries agreed to follow it without a vote.

– ‘Politicising’ –

Several Taiwan supporters spoke up, with a representative from Nauru warning that “Taiwan’s exclusion contradicts the fundamental principles and objectives” of WHO.

“The political pressure… from one country should not legitimise the continued exclusion of Taiwan.”

Chen Xu, China’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, meanwhile slammed attempts to include Taiwan, and called on countries “to stop politicising health issues and using the Taiwan issue to interfere in China’s internal affairs.”

Beijing’s block on Taipei attending the WHA as an observer began after the 2016 election of Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen, who has refused to acknowledge the island is part of “one China”.

But the coronavirus pandemic crystallised support for Taiwan’s 23 million inhabitants, especially in the early days of the crisis when it defeated its own outbreak and then began supplying protection equipment around the world.

Taiwan has been hailed as an example in combating the pandemic although clusters in recent weeks have seen infections more than triple to 4,917 cases.

The island has recorded 29 deaths so far.

Health minister Chen Shih-chung said the recent “escalation” of cases showed Taiwan “cannot remain on the sidelines and there should not be a gap in global disease prevention”.

“The WHO should serve the health and welfare of all humanity and not capitulate to the political interests of a certain member,” Chen said in a statement.

International support for Taiwan has been stronger this year, including a communique issued by G7 foreign ministers that backed Taiwan’s “meaningful participation in WHO and the WHA”.

In a separate announcement on Monday, Taiwan’s Central Epidemic Command Centre (CECC) blamed “external forces” for a flood of online disinformation during the latest cluster such as hospitals dumping bodies in rivers and mass cremations.

While officials did not name China, they said much of the disinformation going viral was written in the simplified Chinese used on the mainland, not the traditional characters used in Taiwan.

“Spreading disinformation is a very serious matter, it interferes with our country’s anti-pandemic measures and responses while causing unnecessary panic among the public,” CECC deputy chief Chen Tsung-yen said.

AFP

India Records Over 400,000 COVID-19 Cases In 24 Hours

A health worker wearing a personal protective equipment (PPE) suit attends a patient inside a banquet hall temporarily converted into a Covid-19 coronavirus ward in New Delhi on May 1, 2021. (Photo by Prakash SINGH / AFP)

 

 

India recorded on Saturday over 400,000 new COVID-19 cases in 24 hours for the first time, the first country to do so in the pandemic, official data showed.

According to the health ministry, 401,993 new infections were registered taking the total caseload to 19.1 million. There were 3,523 deaths, bringing the toll to 211,853.

 

A Covid-19 coronavirus patient waits to be admitted to a banquet hall temporarily converted into a Covid-19 coronavirus ward in New Delhi on May 1, 2021. (Photo by Prakash SINGH / AFP)

 

Many experts suspect that because of insufficient testing and inaccurate recording of cause of death, the real numbers are much higher.

Indian authorities lowered their guard in the early part of the year after infections fell below 10,000 per day, lifting restrictions on most activity.

 

A health worker wearing a personal protective equipment (PPE) suit attends a patient inside a banquet hall temporarily converted into a Covid-19 coronavirus ward in New Delhi on May 1, 2021. (Photo by Prakash SINGH / AFP)

 

Mass religious gatherings such as the Kumbh Mela, attracting millions of Hindu pilgrims, and political rallies were allowed to continue even when cases numbers began rising sharply in late March.

In April alone, India recorded around seven million new infections. On a per-capita basis however India’s caseload remains low compared to many other countries.