Ebola: Profile Of A Prolific Killer

 

A fact file on the Ebola virus that has plunged Guinea into an “epidemic situation” according to a senior health official, and which has killed more than 15,000 people since 1976.

Origins

Ebola was first identified in central Africa in 1976. The tropical virus was named after a river in the Democratic Republic of Congo — then known as Zaire.

Five of the virus species are known to cause disease in humans — Zaire, Sudan, Bundibugyo, Reston and Tai Forest.

The first three species have resulted in serious African outbreaks.

Transmission

The virus’ natural reservoir animal is probably the bat, which does not itself fall ill, but can pass the germ on to humans who hunt it for “bushmeat”.

Other dinnertime favourites in parts of Africa — chimpanzees, gorillas, monkeys, forest antelope and porcupines — are also suspected of transmitting Ebola.

Among humans, the virus is passed on by contact with the blood, body fluids, secretions or organs of an infected or recently deceased person. This can include touching a sick or dead person, and likely also sexual intercourse.

Those infected do not become contagious until symptoms appear. They become more and more contagious until just after their death, which poses great risks during funerals.

Death rates are high, at around 50 per cent on average of those infected, and up to 90 per cent for some epidemics, the World Health Organization (WHO) data shows.

Read Also: Guinea Records Seven Ebola Cases As Health Chief Calls Outbreak An ‘Epidemic’

Symptoms

Following an incubation period of between two and 21 days, Ebola develops into a high fever, weakness, intense muscle and joint pain, headaches and a sore throat.

The initial symptoms are often followed by vomiting and diarrhoea, skin eruptions, kidney and liver failure, and internal and external bleeding.

After-effects have often been observed in survivors, including arthritis, problems with vision, eye inflammation and hearing difficulties.

Treatment

A vaccine developed by the US group Merck Shape and Dohme was found to be very effective in a major study carried out in Guinea in 2015.

It was pre-qualified by the WHO and more than 300,000 doses have been used during a vaccination programme in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo).

A second experimental vaccine developed by the US group Johnson & Johnson was introduced preventively in October 2019 in areas that had not been affected by the virus and more than 20,000 people were inoculated.

Worst epidemic (2013-2016)

The worst-ever Ebola outbreak began in December 2013 in southern Guinea before spreading to two neighbouring West African countries, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

That outbreak killed more than 11,300 people out of nearly 29,000 registered cases, according to WHO estimates.

10th and 11th DR Congo epidemics

The 10th epidemic began on August 1, 2018 in the North Kivu province of DR Congo, and was declared a global health threat in July 2019 by the WHO.

It was declared over in June 2020 by DR Congo authorities after around 2,280 people had died, making it Africa’s second-worst Ebola outbreak ever.

An 11th Ebola epidemic began that month in the Equator province and was declared over on November 18, with 55 deaths.

“Resurgence” in DR Congo and “epidemic situation in Guinea 

On February 7, the DR Congo said a resurgence of the virus had been identified in an eastern part of the country.

A week later, a senior health official in Guinea said that country was in an “epidemic situation” after seven cases were confirmed in the southeast, three of which had resulted in deaths.

They were the first Ebola fatalities in Guinea since 2016.

A local WHO official said the organisation would send vaccines quickly to help keep the virus from spreading.

Lebron Passes Durant For Lead In NBA All-Star Balloting

LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers looks on during the game against the Oklahoma City Thunder on February 10, 2021 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, California. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images/AFP Adam Pantozzi / NBAE / Getty Images / Getty Images via AFP

 

LeBron James says playing an NBA All-Star Game this season would be a “slap in the face” for players but a lot of fans want to see him do it.

Los Angeles Lakers playmaker James overtook Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant for the overall lead in Thursday’s latest voting returns announced by the league for the NBA All-Star Game.

Despite his criticism of the idea, James surged into the lead in worldwide voting totals with 4,369,553 to 4,234,433 for Durant.

In initial voting returns announced last week, Durant set the pace with just over 2.3 million votes to 2.288 million for James.

The league has not yet confirmed there will even be an elite showdown of the Eastern and Western Conference superstars, but multiple reports say the NBA and players union agreed on staging it March 7 in Atlanta during a one-week break in the campaign.

James said last week he didn’t want to lose his mid-season break after leading the Lakers to the NBA crown on October 11 following the longest campaign in NBA history due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

NBA clubs then started pre-season training camps on November 10 and began the 2020-21 season December 22, a much shorter off-season than usual.

“I have zero energy and zero excitement about an All-Star Game this year,” James said last week. “I am not happy about it. If I am selected I will be there physically but not mentally.”

James, 36, noted players were told there would not be an All-Star contest when they agreed to start the season so soon after deciding the title in an Orlando Covid-19 quarantine bubble.

“It is pretty much a slap in the face,” he said.

Among other players who criticized the idea of staging an NBA All-Star Game were James Harden, Kawhi Leonard and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

James is averaging 25.5 points, 7.9 rebounds and 7.9 assists a game for the Lakers while Durant is averaging 29.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 5.2 assists a contest.

James set the pace for Western Conference forwards followed by Denver’s Nikola Jokic, a Serbian center, with 3,006,981 votes and Leonard of the Los Angeles Clippers on 2,462,621 with Anthony Davis of the Lakers a close fourth on 2,329,371.

Among Eastern Conference forwards, Durant was followed by Greek big man Antetokounmpo on 3,282,478 and Cameroon star Joel Embiid of Philadelphia on 3,022,105.

Curry Leads All Guards

Among guards, NBA scoring leader Bradley Beal set the pace for Eastern Conference guards on 2,528,719 with Brooklyn’s Kyrie Irving second on 2,104,130 and his backcourt partner on the Nets, Harden, third on 1,829,504.

In Western Conference backcourt voting, Golden State’s Stephen Curry led with the third-most total votes on 4,033,050 with Slovenian Luka Doncic of Dallas second on 2,484,552. Portland’s Damian Lillard was third on 2,095,157.

All top-three players remained in the same order at their positions as they enjoyed last week.

Worldwide fan voting will conclude on Tuesday. Starting lineup selections will be announced next Thursday and All-Star reserves chosen by NBA coaches will be named on February 23.

Fan balloting will count for 50% of a player’s total with current player voting and a media panel each contributing 25% to decide a final ranking for each individual.

UK Pubs Urge Timeline To Reopen From Lockdown

The front page of the Evening Standard newspaper leads with the story that the government is contemplating making it compulsory that all visitors to the UK will have to quarantine in a hotel, after arriving here, outside Victoria train station in central London on January 25, 2021. (Photo by Hollie Adams / AFP)

 

Britain’s shuttered pubs urgently need the government to decide when they can reopen from coronavirus lockdown to help them survive, the British Beer and Pub Association said on Wednesday.

Pub beer sales slumped by 56 percent or £7.8 billion ($10.8 billion, 8.9 billion euros) last year on the deadly Covid-19 pandemic, which sparked a series of lockdowns, the industry body added in a statement.

“This is not sustainable for our sector. We cannot continue to hold out under these circumstances,” noted BBPA Chairman Philip Whitehead.

“We urge the government to provide clarity to our sector on when it can expect to fully reopen.”

Much of the UK re-entered lockdown in early January to curb a variant Covid-19 strain that was deemed more transmissible, with restrictions similar to initial curbs imposed in the second quarter of 2020 — when pub beer sales collapsed to almost zero.

However, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson plans to outline plans for lifting widespread restrictions in England on February 22, as vaccinations gather pace.

READ ALSO: Prince Charles Receives First Dose Of COVID-19 Vaccine

The BBPA, which represents 20,000 drinking establishments across the UK, also published its own “recovery roadmap” on Tuesday which it said should be implemented after the vulnerable have been vaccinated.

“The roadmap states that post vaccination of the most vulnerable, pubs must reopen when non-essential retail and other parts of the hospitality sector reopen,” it said.

“It also says that mandatory trading restrictions — such as alcoholic drinks served only with a substantial meal, no mixed households and the 10 pm (2200 GMT) curfew — must be removed when pubs reopen in a timely way.”

Sales had collapsed in 2020 from the previous year, despite a third-quarter boost from lower taxation and the government’s temporary “Eat Out to Help Out” discount scheme.

“As a sector we have invested hundreds of millions in ensuring that we provide places for people to safely socialise in,” added Whitehead.

“When pubs reopened in July we did so safely and successfully to world leading standards.

“When pubs can reopen, the restrictions they face… must be removed. They simply destroy the ability to operate as viable businesses.”

Panama Defends Hiring Cuban Doctors To Fight Pandemic

 

Panama’s health minister on Monday defended the deployment of more than 200 Cuban doctors to help the Central American country battle the coronavirus, despite criticism of the island government’s human rights record at home.

“We are eternally grateful” to the Cuban doctors because “they came here to save the lives of Panamanians,” Luis Francisco Sucre said during an appearance before the National Assembly to answer questions about the management of the pandemic.

Several deputies criticized the Panamanian government’s decision to hire the 220 Cuban doctors, calling it “a violation of human rights.”

But Sucre defended the agreement between his ministry and its Cuban counterpart, which he said “complies with all due legal processes.”

He said his government would not hesitate to “sign it again.”

“The same people who today criticize the agreement signed with the Cuban Health Ministry would have been criticizing if there were dead in the streets, or if people were dying in the corridors of hospitals because we had no doctors to treat them,” Sucre said.

The Cubans arrived in Panama on December 24, at a time when Panama was facing a crisis that had completely overwhelmed its health system and exhausted local doctors.

The decision to bring Cuban doctors produced controversy in some sectors because in Panama, medical practice is restricted to local professionals.

The announcement also met with resistance from Washington.

“Governments that hire Cuban medical workers must ensure their fair and humane treatment — in tark contrast to the Castro regime, which traffics in, and exploits, the workers’ bravery for its own gains,” tweeted Michael Kozak, Washington’s acting assistant secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs.

“Make contracts transparent and pay workers directly,” he said.

Washington and some human rights organizations consider the sale of Cuban medical services a form of “forced labor” that “violates human rights” and only serves as propaganda for the Communist government of the island.

During his speech, Sucre said that in addition to Cuba, the Panamanian government also requested medical support from other countries, such as the United States, Costa Rica, Colombia, Venezuela, Italy, Israel, China and Russia, but had been unsuccessful.

“The criticisms are easy, the difficult thing is to be here directing a pandemic that nobody asked for,” Sucre said.

Panama, with 4.2 million inhabitants, has the highest number of Covid-19 cases in Central America, with more than 327,000 cases and 5,506 deaths.

Telemedicine Takes Off In Germany During Pandemic

Senior consultant Andreas Bootsveld (C R) and colleagues speak with intensive care physician at the University hospital in Aachen Judith Ibba (on display C L) during an online conference about a COVID-19 case while using telemedicine on January 26, 2021. (Photo by Ina FASSBENDER / AFP)

 

When doctor Andreas Bootsveld has to make life-or-death decisions about Covid-19 patients, he is not alone — as well as consulting his colleagues, he can draw on the advice of a team of specialists.

These experts are not with him in the intensive care unit, but at a bigger hospital 20 kilometres (12 miles) away, linked up via videoconference as part of a project to connect medics in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

The project dubbed the Virtual Hospital has been running since March and aims to help smaller hospitals take in and care for Covid-19 patients, preventing major hospitals from becoming overwhelmed.

So-called telemedicine has become increasingly popular during the pandemic and could also be used in the future to help improve access to specialist care in areas outside of big cities.

“Patients suffering from respiratory failure are normally cases for large, multi-disciplinary and very well-equipped hospitals,” said Gernot Marx, director of the intensive care unit at Aachen University Hospital, one of the centres of expertise for the project.

“Local and regional hospitals would not normally do that,” he told AFP.

Thanks to the virtual consultations, “we can do things that would have absolutely required a transfer before,” said Bootsveld.

The doctor oversees 14 intensive care beds in the small hospital in the town of Stolberg — a fifth of the number overseen by Marx.

Telemedicine has made it possible to “safeguard intensive care capacity” during the pandemic, said project manager Sandra Dohmen.

“So far, 90 percent of our patients have been able to stay in hospitals close to where they live,” she said.

– Virtual advice network –

North Rhine-Westphalia had already been connecting 17 local hospitals with the region’s two big university hospitals through a virtual advice network since 2012.

But “the coronavirus in March was an opportunity to extend the offer” to all hospitals in the region, Dohmen said.

“There was a great fear that the situation in Germany would be comparable to that in Italy,” Marx said.

Participants in the scheme have so far carried out more than 1,800 videoconferences, helping to treat 300 patients.

A similar EU-backed scheme called ICU4Covid is planned to help doctors monitor some 30,000 patients a year across several countries.

READ ALSO: Thousands Rally In Yangon Against Myanmar Coup

In Stolberg, virtual consultations are carried out with the help of a trolley, equipped with a computer and a camera, that can be wheeled from bed to bed.

But in the interests of speed in the pandemic, doctors can now also request a meeting at the click of a button with just a laptop and a webcam.

Among those joining the virtual meetings has been a pharmacist specialising in intensive care — one of only about 50 such specialists in Germany.

– ‘Added value’

“Faced with Covid-19 and the many unknowns, the Virtual Hospital makes it possible to create a network for sharing expertise to help patients on site,” said Dohmen, who sees it as “great added value”.

This virtual link has also helped reassure relatives who may have been worried about their loved ones not being treated in a university hospital.

And it can be reassuring for the staff, too, “when they confirm that we have thought of everything” — although “it has to remain a consultation, it must not become remote treatment”, Bootsfeld said.

“It clearly doesn’t mean that we were doing a bad job before,” but “we have access to specialist knowledge that we would not normally have in a local hospital,” said the doctor.

But some things have not changed in a country famously lagging behind in the digital revolution: participants of a meeting still have to take notes by hand, and lists of medicines are sent by fax.

The next step for the project will be to devise ways of transferring health data such as vital signs automatically during the calls.

Global Economy On Stronger Footing, But Uncertainty High – IMF

In this file photo an exterior view of the building of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), with the IMG logo, is seen on March 27, 2020 in Washington, DC. Olivier DOULIERY / AFP
In this file photo an exterior view of the building of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), with the IMG logo, is seen on March 27, 2020 in Washington, DC. Olivier DOULIERY / AFP

 

Optimism that new vaccines will bring the pandemic under control and allow economic activity to resume, coupled with stimulus in major economies, has boosted the growth forecast this year to 5.5 percent, the IMF said Tuesday.

However, the Washington-based crisis lender warned the outlook is beset by “extraordinary uncertainty,” and governments will need to continue to act to prevent lasting damage after Covid-19 caused the worst peacetime economic crisis since the Great Depression.

The upgrade in growth after the 3.5 percent worldwide contraction in 2020 reflects “expectations of a vaccine-powered strengthening of activity later in the year and additional policy support in a few large economies,” including the United States and Japan, the IMF said in its latest World Economic Outlook (WEO).

Those developments create “a stronger starting point for the 2021-22 global outlook than envisaged in the previous forecast.”

However, “much remains to be done on the health and economic policy fronts to limit persistent damage from the severe contraction of 2020 and ensure a sustained recovery.”

READ ALSO: UK Unemployment Hits 5.0% On COVID-19 Fallout

Surging infections in some countries — including new Covid-19 variants — that led to renewed lockdowns, as well as logistical problems with vaccine distribution, pose “important counterpoints to the favorable news,” the report said.

And even with the growth, many economies will not recover to their pre-pandemic levels this year, the IMF said.

– Stronger growth –

The fund urged governments to continue to provide support “until the recovery is firmly underway.”

In the United States, which approved another large stimulus package at the end of December, the fund expects growth to be a full two points higher than previously projected at 5.5 percent, which would be the strongest rate since 1984.

And newly installed President Joe Biden is pushing for a massive $1.9 trillion rescue plan that would provide support to families, businesses and struggling state and local governments.

Japan, too, benefits from another aid package approved in December, and the IMF raised the 2021 growth forecast by eight tenths to 3.1 percent.

Those stimulus measures also provide “favorable spillovers to trading partners,” the report said.

The IMF expects China’s economy to grow 8.8 percent, slightly slower than the October forecast, while India will surge 11.5 percent, fully 2.7 points higher than previously expected.

– Recovery setbacks –

In Europe, however, where governments have ordered new lockdowns and even curfews amid surging cases — as well as a new, more infectious variant — the IMF slashed growth forecasts.

The euro area growth estimate was cut a full point to 4.2 percent, with significant downgrades for Germany, France, Spain and Italy.

While the IMF noted that London’s last-minute deal on its exit from the European Union prevented a key risk to the outlook, the fund cut the forecast for Britain as well.

COVID-19, Economic Impact Are Top Global Threats – WEF

 

Business and government leaders currently see the loss of life from Covid-19 and related economic effects as the world’s greatest short-term threats, the World Economic Forum said Tuesday.

The group which organises an annual get together of leading industrial and political voices at the Swiss Alpine resort of Davos carries out a survey of its members beforehand to determine what they consider as the greatest global threats.

Unsurprisingly, this year the Covid-19 pandemic is at the top of the list for short-term threats, though climate change remains among the top long-term concerns.

“The immediate human and economic cost of Covid-19 is severe,” said the WEF’s Global Risks Report (GRPS) 2021.

“It threatens to scale back years of progress on reducing poverty and inequality and to further weaken social cohesion and global cooperation,” it added.

Most of those who replied to the GRPS identified “infectious diseases” and “livelihood crises” as the top short-term threats worldwide.

READ ALSO: UN Seeks $76 million In Emergency Aid For Madagascar

The risk of “social cohesion erosion” due to the pandemic and joblessness was deemed another critical short-term threat.

The report noted that young adults are experiencing their second major global crisis in a decade, having lived through the disruption of the financial crisis and the economic inequality it aggravated.

“This generation faces serious challenges to their education, economic prospects and mental health,” the report said, warning of “an age of lost opportunity” as well as social unrest and political fragmentation.

WEF’s leaders also noted that its Global Risks Report has been warning of the threat of a pandemic since 2006, which it said highlighted the need find more effective ways to identify and communicate risk to decision-makers.

The World Economic Forum itself has been disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic, shifting its usual January summit in Davos to May in Singapore.

Nevertheless, next week the WEF will be holding a virtual Davos: a week of events dedicated to helping leaders choose innovative and bold solutions to stem the pandemic and drive a robust recovery over the next year.

The report is based on a survey of 841 people who are part of WEF’s stakeholder communities including business, academia, government and NGOs.

They were questioned in September and October.

Pandemic Cuts Into December US Service Sector Recovery

Ducey/Getty Images/AFP

 

The US service sector continued to regain its footing in December after being hammered by Covid-19, but there were signs renewed business restrictions were exacting a toll, according to a survey published Thursday.

The Institute for Supply Management’s (ISM) services index rose to 57.2 percent in December, a better-than-anticipated result that was above the key 50-percent level indicating expansion for the seventh straight month.

The gain was fueled by climbing production and orders, however, employment returned to contractionary territory with a 48.2 percent reading.

And survey respondents gave mixed reports on how skyrocketing Covid-19 cases in December were affecting their businesses.

“Deliveries as a whole are slowing down considerably. Between Covid-19, the holidays, and inclement weather of late, the remainder of (2020) stands to be very challenging regarding maintaining adequate materials for operations,” a professional, scientific and technical services company told ISM.

The services sector was one of the hardest hit by business restrictions ordered across the United States starting in March to stop the spread of Covid-19, but has since posted a recovery.

New orders rose 58.5 percent last month, while production increased to 59.4 percent, according to the report.

Meanwhile, supplier deliveries index rose 5.8 points to 62.8 percent, indicating deliveries slowed at a faster rate than in November.

Oren Klachkin of Oxford Economics said the rise in supplier deliveries gave “artificial support” to the overall index in December, and though the sector is set to see its recovery accelerate, that will not happen right away.

“We expect the pace of the services recovery to be fairly tepid in the very near term, but growth will accelerate as we move further into 2021,” he said.

ISM services survey chair Anthony Nieves said businesses were overall mixed about the impact of the nationwide surge in virus infections, but generally saw better days ahead.

“Most respondents are cautiously optimistic about business conditions with the recent approval and impending distribution of vaccines,” he said.

Actress Ini Dima-Okojie Undergoes Surgery For Fibroid

 

The year 2020 was a year of many twists and turns and many world-over battled with not just the effects of the pandemic but so many issues as they struggled to survive.

Nollywood actress, Ini Dima-Okojie is one of those who had struggled with her health and although all is well now, she shared details of her struggle with her fans as a message of hope to others.

The actress last Wednesday revealed that she had been battling with fibroid since 2017, finally had a successful surgery in November and is now recuperating.

According to her, she decided to share her story not only as a way of showing gratitude to God for life but also because she realized that fibroid is something that many women tend to battle with, in silence.

She captured her experience in a video post with the following caption.


Hey Guys, I know it’s been a minute! I want to share something quite personal with you… but I think it’s important.

Cos this is something that apparently affects about 6-8 in every 10 black women but no one talks about It.

I found out I had fibroids in 2017, I remember freaking out so much. The first gynecologist I saw said if it wasn’t really bordering me he would advise I leave it alone but that I had better go and quickly get married (🙄 no jokes)

Anyways, fast forward to March 2020, the bulge on my lower belly had gotten bigger & my new gynecologist advised I take out the fibroids. Then Covid happened and we had to put the surgery on hold. In the meantime I tried other things… herbs, clean diet, exercise.

Now fast forward to November, the bulge in my tummy had now increased significantly so I decided to go do another pelvic scan & was told I had to get an MRI cos the fibroids were now bigger than what the ultrasound machine could adequately measure. Bottom line I had to have the surgery as soon as possible.

I had the surgery, it was successful and I’m now healing slowly but surely. I just want to thank God Almighty for showing up and showing out for me!!!!

I want to thank my family and friends especially my mum and my Aunty Biola who moved in to the hospital and never left my side. I want to thank Dr Esue & all the Drs & Nurses at Cedarcrest hospital for taking such good care of me.

And finally, I want to thank you guys who have been sending me messages/Dms, wondering if I’m okay & praying for me anyway. 💞

To the women out there dealing with fibroids. I know what a lonely road it can be.. not to talk of the pain and discomfort and then there are the ignorant ‘congrats on your pregnancy’ comments to deal with 🙄 It’s okay they don’t know any better.

I want you to know that my Dms are opened to you. If you want to ask questions, talk or even just rant. (I’ll respond once I get stronger)

I know 2020 has been a tough year, but we are tougher!!! we’re still here… we survived!!! That alone is a huge feat. Let’s remember to be kind to ourselves and to others. I pray 2021 is better to us all!.

Lots of Love, Ini


We wish her a quick recovery!

China’s Sinopharm Says Vaccine ‘79% Effective’ Against COVID-19

A medical worker waits for the next individual to take a swab test for the COVID-19 coronavirus at a hospital in Beijing in December 30, 2020. Noel Celis / AFP

 

Phase 3 trials of a Sinopharm coronavirus vaccine found it was 79 percent effective, the Chinese pharma giant said Wednesday, lower than rival jabs developed by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna but a potential breakthrough in the battle to stem the pandemic in Asia.

China has been racing against the West to develop its own Covid-19 vaccines, with five already in large-scale Phase 3 clinical trials.

But Wednesday’s announced was the first data released regarding the efficacy of a Chinese vaccine candidate.

“The protective effect of the (Sinopharm CNBG Beijing) vaccine against Covid-19 is 79.34 percent,” said the Beijing Institute of Biological Products, a Sinopharm subsidiary.

Sinopharm has applied to China’s drug regulator for approval of the inactivated coronavirus vaccine, the statement said, a type of inoculation using particles of the pathogen.

But China has struggled to gain international trust for its vaccine candidates, hindered by a lack of transparency on test results.

It has also been slow to complete Phase 3 trials, which had to be conducted abroad due to China’s success at curbing the spread of Covid-19 within its own borders.

Chinese officials have repeatedly assured the public of the vaccines’ safety, claiming that there have been no serious adverse reactions.

More than one million people have already been vaccinated with unapproved vaccines in China under its emergency use programme, including frontline health workers, state-owned enterprise employees and workers planning to travel abroad.

The United Arab Emirates approved a Sinopharm vaccine earlier this month, becoming the first foreign country to approve a China-developed Covid-19 vaccine. It said the vaccine was 86 percent effective, according to interim results of a Phase 3 trial.

Beijing has pledged to share the vaccine at a fair cost — a potential boost for poorer Asian countries who are otherwise reliant on limited distribution offered by the COVAX scheme.

“China has made the firm commitment that after China’s new coronavirus vaccines are completed and put into use, they will serve as a global public product and be supplied to the world at a fair and reasonable price,” foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Friday.

“We will also give priority to developing countries for vaccines. This will be made through a variety of ways, including through donations and aid.”

Dubai Cuts 2021 Budget As Pandemic Impacts Economy

A picture taken on March 28, 2020 shows a deserted street in the Emirate city of Dubai amid the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak. KARIM SAHIB / AFP

 

Dubai said Sunday it expects to cut its budget to $15.5 billion in 2021 after its economy was impacted by a plunge in tourism and other sectors amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The emirate, one of the seven that make up the United Arab Emirates, had posted a record $18.1 billion budget for 2020.

“The newly-announced budget takes into account the exceptional economic conditions of the fiscal year 2020 and the repercussions of the Covid-19 pandemic on the global economy,” said a statement by the Dubai Media Office.

Dubai foresees a deficit for the fifth year in a row, of $1.3 billion in 2021. In 2019, it had forecast a $700 million deficit for this year.

The emirate, which depends heavily on tourism and retail services, closed its border for several months due to the pandemic, resulting in a 10.8 percent GDP plunge in the first half of the year.

According to government estimates published earlier this week, the economy will likely contract 6.2 percent this year but is expected to see four percent growth in 2021.

READ ALSO: COVID-19: EU Begins Vaccinations To End Pandemic

The new budget “confirms Dubai’s ability to deal with the crisis, restore the pace of economic growth, strengthen social benefits and essential services,” the media office said.

The government was counting on the six-month Dubai Expo 2020 global trade fair — which was scheduled for October but postponed by one year — to attract millions of visitors.

Tourism has long been an economic mainstay of Dubai, which welcomed more than 16 million visitors last year. Before the pandemic, the aim was to reach 20 million this year.

Dubai is renowned for its skyscrapers, including the world’s tallest building, Burj Khalifa, but its key property sector has been hit since 2014 by lower oil prices.

 

Millions Face Power Shortages In China

A tower of the electric power line Kurzeme Circle (Kurzemes Loks) is pictured on June 18, 2020, in Tukums, near Riga, Latvia. – Latvia completed a new high-voltage power line to Estonia on December 21, 2020, in the latest step in aligning electricity grids in the Baltic states with European Union neighbours instead of Russia. (Photo by Gints Ivuskans / AFP)

 

Tens of millions across China are facing power shortages in below-freezing winter temperatures, as three provinces impose curbs on electricity use due to surging demand and a squeezed coal supply.

Residents, factories and businesses in Hunan, Zhejiang and Jiangxi provinces have been ordered to ration electricity with some areas citing a shortfall in coal supplies, according to local media reports and government notices.

China’s rebound from the Covid-19 pandemic has been driven by energy intensive industries such as construction, heaping pressure on the power grid and coal supplies, said Lauri Myllyvirta, lead analyst at the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air.

Earlier this month, Hunan authorities ordered all billboards and outdoor lighting on buildings to power off for long periods each day and a temperature cap on indoor heating at entertainment venues.

READ ALSO: France Rewards Frontline COVID-19 Workers With Citizenship

Hunan faces a shortfall of 3-4 million kilowatts of electricity this winter, local officials admitted last week, as demand soars due to unusually cold weather that will hit as low as -10 degrees Celsius.

Office workers in provincial capital Changsha complained on social media about being forced to climb dozens of flights of stairs and freezing indoor temperatures as a result of frequent power outages.

“My office heating has already been stopped, and there were blackouts on December 1, 3 and 5. Temperatures will drop to minus 8 degrees around New Year’s Day, will I freeze to death in Hunan?” one Weibo user wrote last week.

Meanwhile in Zhejiang province, factories in the manufacturing hub of Yiwu have been told to stop operations and streetlights have been turned off at night as part of an emissions-saving drive by the local government, according to media reports and photos circulated on Weibo.

– Supply ‘largely stable’ –

China’s top economic planner, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), on Monday sought to reassure the public by saying the electricity supply is “largely stable”, and pledged to increase generation capacity and coal procurement.

The power crisis points to the challenges fast-growing China faces in balancing the needs of its vast population with strict carbon emissions targets promised by its leadership.

China — by far the world’s biggest consumer of coal — is pivoting to renewable energy sources to meet a pledge to peak carbon emissions by 2030 and reach carbon neutrality by 2060.

Speculation has swirled online that the power shortages may be self-inflicted wound as a result of China’s embargo of Australian coal, which has left ships stranded at ports, unable to offload large quantities of coal.

However, Australian coal only made up about three per cent of last year’s total coal imports of 265 million tonnes, according to data from the National Bureau of Statistics.

“The Aussie ban only had little impact on China’s thermal coal supply,” said Yan Qin, carbon analyst at financial data service Refinitiv.

“But China-Australia tensions have caused significant worries in the commodities markets, driving up domestic coal prices.”

AFP