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COVID-19

China’s Beijing to maintain COVID emergency status as Winter Olympics loom

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(Last Updated On: January 22, 2022)

China’s capital Beijing urged all its local districts on Saturday to maintain “full emergency mode” as the city continued to report new local coronavirus cases, less than two weeks before the start of the Winter Olympic Games.

A total of 27 domestically transmitted cases with confirmed symptoms and five local asymptomatic carriers have been found in Beijing since Jan. 15, Pang Xinghuo, an official at Beijing city’s disease control authority told a news conference on Saturday.

Elsewhere, the northeastern city of Harbin will conduct a city-wide exercise to test its roughly 10 million people for COVID19 from Monday, although it has had no recent cases, calling it a pre-emptive move ahead of the long Lunar New Year holiday.

The city government said on its official WeChat account it had made the decision in view of how the week-long holiday, which officially starts on Jan. 31, was a peak travel period for the country.

Cities across China have in recent weeks imposed tougher restrictions to try to control new outbreaks of COVID19, a task that has also taken on extra urgency as Beijing prepares to host the Winter Olympics at the start of next month.

Many cities have advised residents to stay put or required travelers to report their trips days before their arrival.

Still, some state media outlets are warning against being too harsh, after a county-level government official in Henan province was quoted as saying that some people had ignored the advice to “maliciously return” to their hometown and that they would quarantine and detain such cases.

“It is human nature to return home during the Spring Festival for reunions, so why is it malicious?,” the official People’s Daily newspaper said on its Weibo account on Saturday after the comments triggered a heavy discussion on social media.

“Preventing and controlling the epidemic is a big task, but we cannot take a one size fits all approach…(it) must be done in a scientific and legal way, and every desire to return home must be treated compassionately.”

Mainland China reported 63 new COVID19 cases on Jan. 21, down from 73 cases a day earlier, the country’s national health authority said on Saturday.

The National Health Commission said in a statement that 23 of the new cases were locally transmitted, the same as a day earlier, and the rest imported.

The number of new asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed cases, rose to 43 from 31 a day earlier.

There were no new deaths, leaving the death toll at 4,636.

As of Jan. 21, mainland China had 105,547 confirmed cases.

COVID-19

WHO to roll out COVID-19 vaccine campaign in June

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(Last Updated On: May 27, 2022)

The World Health Organization (WHO) says another COVID-19 vaccine campaign will be launched across Afghanistan in June and that over five million people over the age of 18 will be targeted.

On Thursday, WHO said: “The campaign will be carried out through 473 mobile vaccination teams in addition to 559 fixed sites (including regional, provincial and district hospitals) and some comprehensive health centers.”

The vaccines to be used will be Johnson & Johnson vaccines and Chinese Sinofarm.

The World Health Organization says there are more than seven million doses of the vaccine in Afghanistan already.

Already, more than 6.1 million across Afghanistan were vaccinated in May – of which 53 percent were men and the rest women.

Earlier this year, the Afghan Ministry of Public Health said more than 600 centers in Kabul and the provinces were working to vaccinate people.

According to WHO, since the beginning of the outbreak in Afghanistan, about 180,000 positive cases have been reported, with 7,700 deaths.

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COVID-19

COVID creates new billionaire every 30 hours while millions fall into extreme poverty: Oxfam

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(Last Updated On: May 26, 2022)

As the cost of essential goods rises faster than it has in decades, billionaires in the food and energy sectors are increasing their fortunes by $1 billion every two days, Oxfam reported Thursday.

For every new billionaire created during the pandemic — one every 30 hours — nearly a million people could be pushed into extreme poverty in 2022 at nearly the same rate, the new report “Profiting from Pain” reveals.

The report has been published as the World Economic Forum gathers in Davos.

“Billionaires are arriving in Davos to celebrate an incredible surge in their fortunes. The pandemic and now the steep increases in food and energy prices have, simply put, been a bonanza for them,” said Gabriela Bucher, Executive Director of Oxfam International.

“Meanwhile, decades of progress on extreme poverty are now in reverse and millions of people are facing impossible rises in the cost of simply staying alive,” she said.

The brief shows that 573 people became new billionaires during the pandemic, at the rate of one every 30 hours but that this year 263 million more people will crash into extreme poverty, at a rate of a million people every 33 hours.

Billionaires’ wealth increased more in the first 24 months of COVID-19 than in 23 years combined.

“Billionaires’ fortunes have not increased because they are now smarter or working harder. Workers are working harder, for less pay and in worse conditions. The super-rich have rigged the system with impunity for decades and they are now reaping the benefits. They have seized a shocking amount of the world’s wealth as a result of privatization and monopolies, gutting regulation and workers’ rights while stashing their cash in tax havens — all with the complicity of governments,” said Bucher.

“Meanwhile, millions of others are skipping meals, turning off the heating, falling behind on bills and wondering what they can possibly do next to survive. Across East Africa, one person is likely dying every minute from hunger. This grotesque inequality is breaking the bonds that hold us together as humanity. It is divisive, corrosive and dangerous. This is inequality that literally kills,” she said.

Oxfam’s new research also reveals that corporations in the energy, food and pharmaceutical sectors — where monopolies are especially common — are posting record-high profits, even as wages have barely budged and workers struggle with decades-high prices amid COVID-19.

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Covid-19 pandemic ‘most certainly not over’, warns WHO chief

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(Last Updated On: May 23, 2022)

The Covid-19 pandemic is “most certainly not over”, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director general of the World Health Organization (WHO) warned on Sunday (May 22) during the opening session of the U.N agency’s annual assembly.

More than 100 world health ministers meet in Geneva this week for the WHO’s first in-person World Health Assembly in three years.

As the delegates meet, COVID-19 infections were still rising and and efforts to vaccinate the world remained incomplete, Tedros told the assembly.

“It’s not over anywhere until it’s over everywhere. Reported cases are increasing in almost 70 countries in all regions – and this in a world in which testing rates have plummeted,” he said.

As the U.N. agency seeks to define its future role in global health policy, the agenda is the most packed in the WHO’s 75-year history and is seen as an historic opportunity to move on from the COVID-19 pandemic, which has led to 15 million deaths, and prepare for the next global outbreak.

The WHO’s Europe region passed a resolution against Russia this month and asked Tedros to prepare a report on Ukraine’s health emergency.

Members are also preparing a resolution to be submitted to the assembly, although diplomats say it will stop short of suspending Russia’s voting rights, as some initially sought.

The WHO’s Ethiopian Director-General Tedros is all but certain to be re-elected via a secret ballot on Tuesday (May 24), having overcome criticism from his own government and a crisis last year following sexual abuse reports against WHO staff in Congo.

The biggest outcome from the assembly itself is expected to be a funding deal seen as necessary to ensure WHO’s survival, with an agreement set to be approved by members which would help cut its reliance on donations with strings attached.

WHO is currently funded mostly by voluntary contributions from governments and private donors, a set-up that the U.N. agency and independent panels of experts have said is unsustainable as the organisation faces new challenges, including higher risks of pandemics as well as other health issues from breastfeeding to Ebola.

A deal that would raise mandatory fees for member states and reduce its reliance on donations – as long as WHO makes much-needed changes to improve efficiency and transparency – is likely to be approved.

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