France’s coronavirus death toll jumps as nursing homes included

first_imgIt was the first region in France to be overwhelmed by a wave of infections that has rapidly moved west to engulf greater Paris, where hospitals are desperately trying to add intensive care beds to cope with the influx of critically ill patients.The care sector has called for blanket testing for all staff, with the virus often entering nursing homes through employees. More than 1 million people live in France’s care homes.”We have to limit the impact on old people as we know that they are the most fragile,” said Romain Gizolme, head of an association for the care of the elderly.Click in a separate browser for GRAPHIC tracking the global spread of coronavirus.On the frontline In early March, health authorities asked nursing home staff to toughen entry protocols, wear gloves and masks and isolate suspected cases.However, one worker in the Lyon region said that as of last week in her nursing home, residents were still dining together and staff were not wearing masks. Since then two workers had tested positive and four residents had fallen sick, she said.It is still not clear when the epidemic will reach its peak in France and hospitals in Paris are still scrambling to add more intensive care beds. France has already boosted their number to 9,000, from about 5,000 before the start of the crisis.Salomon said the number of coronavirus patients requiring life support rose by 6% on the previous day to 6,399.With France now in its third week of lockdown, the number of patients going into intensive care should in the next few days show how effective the government’s unprecedented measure is proving in slowing the rate of spread.In the Paris region, intensive care units are more or less saturated. Health authorities in the capital are trying to add 200 beds. Philippe said authorities would open a new ward at a hospital just outside Paris ahead of schedule so that it can take in an extra 86 patients there by mid-April.In Neuilly, a wealthy Paris suburb, one intensive care nurse told Reuters TV wild swings in the conditions of some patients were among the most difficult aspects to deal with.”You can go from a state wherein he’s doing well one minute and the next he’s not,” the nurse at the Ambroise Pare clinic, who gave his name as Martin, said.About 100 patients are being transferred from the capital to other less-affected regions to ease congestion in the wards, while medics are being relocated in the opposite direction.Respirators are also being put into people’s homes to save space at hospitals with patients monitored remotely.”We really now are on the frontline of the battle,” said an official at the Paris region’s health authority. Topics : “We are in France confronting an exceptional epidemic with an unprecedented impact on public health,” Salomon told a news conference.The country’s broad lockdown is likely to be extended beyond April 15, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said on Thursday, extending a confinement order to try and deal with the crisis that began on March 17.The government was racing to try to ensure it can produce or procure itself certain medications needed to treat coronavirus patients as stocks were running low, Philippe told TF1 TV, echoing concerns across Europe as the pandemic places a huge strain on hospitals in Italy, Spain and elsewhere.More than two-thirds of all the known nursing home deaths have been registered in France’s Grand Est region, which abuts the border with Germany.center_img The coronavirus death count in France surged to nearly 5,400 people on Thursday after the health ministry began including nursing home fatalities in its data.The pandemic had claimed the lives of 4,503 patients in hospitals by Thursday, up 12% on the previous day’s 4,032, said Jerome Salomon, head of the health authority. A provisional tally showed the coronavirus had killed a further 884 people in nursing homes and other care facilities, he added.This makes for a total of 5,387 lives lost to coronavirus in France – an increase of 1,355 over Wednesday’s cumulative total – although data has not yet been collected from all of the country’s 7,400 nursing homes.last_img read more

Deep connection: Virus takes India’s spiritual retreats online

first_imgAt a remote hillside retreat in northern India, Tibetan Buddhist nun Tenzin Drolma usually holds intimate, face-to-face classes — but since the coronavirus pandemic forced them online, her lessons have been packed with people seeking inner peace under lockdown.Drolma had expected around 100 students to join her free video course, the usual size of drop-in sessions at the meditation center that is closed because of the pandemic.So she was surprised when more than 1,000 people from 57 countries signed up, a fifth of whom had no experience with Buddhism. Topics : Calm in anxious timesReligious rituals are being performed behind closed doors worldwide, with mosques, churches and other spiritual sites closed and the Pope even live-streaming his Easter blessing.Along the sacred River Ganges, as a light breeze blows and birds fly past in the background, instructors from Parmarth Niketan ashram lead yogis around the world in sun salutations and other postures.The center in Rishikesh, a city in the Himalayan foothills renowned as the world center of yoga, is also closed and is holding live sessions online.Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati, who lives at the ashram, is hopeful its spiritual practices will help people feel “grounded”.”We realized that we need to give as much as we can to our global community to keep them healthy physically, stress-free, anxiety-free,” Saraswati, a Californian who settled in Rishikesh 25 years ago, told AFP from the ashram.Despite the severe economic threat of India’s lockdown, both Parmarth Niketan and Tushita are confident they can weather the financial storm, while providing spiritual guidance to their followers old and new.For Indian actor Akkshay Dogra, who has attended a retreat at Tushita, taking part in the classes from his home in Mumbai has compelled him to immediately apply the teachings.”Whatever I am learning, I am living it right now… these skills are given to you and then you go out and deal with the world,” he said.”I really hope they are able to do this course online for as long as they can… It’s a great service to humanity.” The Chicago-born teacher told AFP she tries to set up her laptop in the prayer hall at Tushita Meditation Centre to be as similar as possible to a real-life lesson.”I think that makes it as real as when I have actual people there,” she said from the retreat in Dharamsala, the home of the exiled Dalai Lama.India, the world’s second-most populous nation with 1.3 billion people, is under a nationwide lockdown until at least May 3 to combat the spread of the COVID-19.Some 6,000 kilometers away in Norfolk in eastern England — also under lockdown — one student is sitting on the floor with her eyes closed. “It really helps me to sort of get out of my own head a little bit,” said Emma Roache, who calls herself a transformational coach.”Just to find that peace and breathe and know that I’m not alone,” said Roache, who had to cancel a trip to India in March after the pandemic hit.last_img read more

Dozens of Indonesian migrant workers caught returning from Malaysia via illegal routes

first_imgThe Navy would continue patrolling the sea, as well as a number of routes that were found to have been used as illegal entry points by migrants, he said.“This is the umpteenth time that we have detained migrant workers who returned from Malaysia. It has become a major concern for us amid the COVID-19 pandemic,” Abdul said on Monday.Belawan 1 Naval Base spokesperson Second Lt. Mega Patijurjana said the authorities had conducted medical tests on passengers of the all-male fishing vessel to determine whether they posed any public health risks.“All migrant workers are currently isolated at a hospital to curb the spread of COVID-19,” Patinurjana said. Batubara regency, located along North Sumatra’s eastern shoreline, also saw an influx of migrant workers returning from Malaysia via illegal routes, with 94 people recently caught entering the area.“Seventeen migrant workers managed to escape, while the 77 others were immediately placed under quarantine at a hospital to stem the spread of COVID-19,” Batubara Regent Zahir said on Monday.Read also: COVID-19 pandemic forces Indonesian mothers to do it allHe said the migrant workers originated from various provinces across the country, including Riau, Jambi, East Java and Central Java.The North Sumatra provincial administration previously repatriated some 513 Indonesian migrant workers from Malaysia after they were cleared following COVID-19 testing. Many of them had police records in Malaysia for overstaying their visas.All recently repatriated migrant workers had been put in isolation for 14 days at a special facility in Cadika Lubuk Pakam Park in the province’s Deli Serdang regency or at Suwondo Air Base in the provincial capital Medan.North Sumatra had 84 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of Tuesday afternoon, with at least nine deaths linked to the disease.Authorities also previously caught Indonesian migrant workers returning via illegal routes from Malaysia in other provinces, including Riau Islands.Last week, the Maritime Security Agency (Bakamla) apprehended 47 migrant workers returning from Malaysia via illegal routes in the Nongsa waters of Batam, Riau Islands, on April 15.None of them had shown any COVID-19 symptoms when authorities screened them, Bakamla chief Vice Adm. Aan Kurnia said.Indonesian migrant workers began returning home after Malaysia extended until April 28 its “movement control order”, which is technically a lockdown. The coronavirus has infected more than 5,400 people and killed at least 89 there.Read also: Indonesia to evaluate partial lockdown as companies, factories continue business as usualOther provinces, including Riau and Aceh, have also seen an influx of Indonesian migrant workers returning from Malaysia since earlier this month.The Riau administration’s communications and information agency head, Chairul Riski, said 4,444 migrant workers from the neighboring country had returned home through the province.“The figure accounts for arrivals from the fourth week of March to April 1,” Chairul said on April 2 as quoted by Antara.He went on to say that the migrant workers had largely entered the province through Tanjung Harapan Port in Meranti Islands regency, Sri Junjungan Port in Dumai city and Sri Laksamana Port in Bengkalis regency.Meanwhile, the East Aceh Police have stepped up monitoring after some 500 migrant workers returned to the province from Malaysia last week.East Aceh Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Eko Widiantoro said the returnees had been placed in isolation and were required to comply with a 14-day quarantine rule.He said the authorities in East Aceh had also been tracking the arrival of domestic workers from other regions that were considered hot spots for COVID-19 contagion, such as North Sumatra and the capital Jakarta.“We’ll keep compiling data to keep track of their locations in our region. This emergency health protocol has to be done in concert [with related stakeholders] to maximize our mitigation efforts,” Eko said on April 15.As of Tuesday afternoon, the number of people infected by the coronavirus had reached 7,135, with 616 fatalities, according to the government’s official count. Of the figure, Riau has recorded at least 35 confirmed cases with four fatalities, while Aceh has seven confirmed COVID-19 cases and one death linked to the disease. (rfa)Topics : Dozens of Indonesian migrant workers returning from Malaysia have been caught attempting to sneak past border authorities via illegal routes.The Indonesian Navy spotted and secured a fishing vessel carrying 22 undocumented Indonesian migrant workers from Malaysia in Tanjung Tumpul in Asahan regency, North Sumatra, on Monday.Belawan I Naval Base commander Adm. Abdul Rasyid said the authorities were keeping a close watch on the country’s borders with Malaysia because there were concerns that illegal migrants might enter Indonesia and spread the coronavirus disease upon arrival.last_img read more

COVID-19: Indonesia records highest daily death toll as restrictions eased

first_imgThe Health Ministry announced 64 more deaths from COVID-19, making it the highest daily spike in fatalities so far as the government has started to ease restrictions in a bid to embrace the so-called “new normal” phase.Speaking in Monday’s press conference, the ministry’s disease control and prevention director general, Achmad Yurianto, also reported 1,017 new cases of COVID-19.“We have found 1,017 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total to 39,294 people. The number of fatalities has increased by 64 people to 2,198,” Yurianto said.Read also: Experts warn of turbulent ‘new normal’ amid COVID-19 data, testing issuesHe also said that 592 people had recovered from the disease. “The total number of recoveries as of now is 15,123 people.”Central Java and East Java reported the highest number of COVID-19 fatalities with 17 and 16 cases respectively. East Java recorded the highest number of new cases with 270 followed by Jakarta with 142 new cases and Central Java with 116 new cases.Jakarta and several regions in East Java have begun easing restrictions as they are stepping into a transition period following a previous announcement that the large-scale social restrictions (PSBB) would end in the near future.Topics :last_img read more

Deadly under-the-radar heatwaves ravaging Africa

first_imgAfrican voices not heard “The problem is not the absence of weather data per se,” senior author Friederike Otto, director of the Environmental Change Institute, told AFP. “It is the lack of impact data, such as records from hospitals on mortality, or power and infrastructure impacts.”Climate models show that sub-Saharan Africa is going to be disproportionately affected by worsening heatwaves due to climate change, and the current lack of data hampers the region’s ability to prepare, she said.”Is five days above 40 degree Celsius (104 degree Fahrenheit) the threshold for serious impacts on mortality? Does one extremely hot day lead to infrastructure failure?,” Otto asked.  “Without assessing impact data and weather data together, you don’t know how an early warning system should be designed.”In Europe — where extreme hot spells rarely last more than a couple of weeks — emergency response measures are usually triggered after three days.A rare “heat dome” settling this week over much of the United States is on track to produce scorching temperatures for weeks. In tropical and sub-tropical Africa, heatwaves can last longer. One in 1992 went on for four months, compounding a record drought. It was never recorded in the EM-DAT registry.”People in Africa are certainly aware of the growing number of heatwaves on the continent,” said Mohamed Adow, director of Power Shift Africa and former climate lead for Christian Aid, where he saw firsthand the impact of extreme weather on the continent.”But if they are not being recorded by scientists, it will be much harder for African voices to be heard in the climate debate,” said Adow, who was not involved in the new research.  The impacts of extreme heatwaves amplified by climate change are going unrecorded in sub-Saharan Africa, making it nearly impossible to detect patterns and set up early warning systems, researchers said Monday.While detailed records of hot spells and their aftermath exist for the world’s wealthier regions, in Africa scientists and governments are mostly flying blind in assessing the damage to human health and economies, the researchers reported in the journal Nature Climate Change.”Both real-world observations and climate modeling show Sub-Saharan Africa as a hotspot for heatwave activity,” said lead author Luke Harrington, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Oxford’s Environmental Change Institute.  There is also an absence of data for other types of extreme weather in Africa, such as drought, heavy rains and major storms. Global warming is expected to increase the number of “deadly heat days” — beyond the threshold of human tolerance — in coming decades, especially in the tropics, earlier research has shown.But gathering data on the location, duration and intensity of heatwaves is only part of what is needed to plan ahead, the researchers said. “But the consequences of these heatwaves are not being recorded,” he told AFP. “It is as if they haven’t happened, but we know they have.”Only two heatwaves in sub-Saharan Africa have been listed over the last 120 years in the Emergency Events Database (EM-DAT), the most complete registry of extreme weather event impacts in the world.By contrast, 83 European heatwaves — resulting in more than 140,000 deaths and $12 billion in damages — have been logged since 1980 alone.”There is an urgent need to address this discrepancy,” said Harrington. Topics :last_img read more

Quarantines or not, Americans descend on summer vacation spots

first_imgIn the New Mexico mountain resort of Red River, tourists from Texas stroll along Main Street, most disregarding Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s orders they quarantine and wear masks.It’s the same in other New Mexican tourist towns such as Taos and Santa Fe, except nearly all their visitors wear face coverings – surrounded by signs warning of fines if they don’t.Like governors in at least 15 states, Lujan Grisham has ordered out-of-state tourists to self-isolate, citing data that about one in 10 of New Mexico’s spiking COVID-19 cases comes from visitors. ‘Taking away our liberty’New Mexico published newspaper ads in neighboring Arizona and Texas, states respectively reporting 27% and 18% positive coronavirus test rates, urging their residents not to visit. Health experts consider a 5% rate to be worrisome.But tourists keep coming.”I think it’s bullshit. They’re saying the masks should work, so why should you be quarantined?” said Chris Fry, 59, a feed company manager from Dimmitt, Texas, staying in his cabin near Red River and stopping in town for ice before going fishing.A 45-minute drive south in Taos plaza, Louisiana tourist Christy Brasiel was frustrated the historic Native American Pueblo was closed to visitors and compared Lujan Grisham’s rules to “communism or socialism.””They’re taking away our liberty,” said Brasiel, 49, staying in an Airbnb rental to avoid her voluntary quarantine order enforced by local hotels that turn away out-of-state visitors.As in cities across New Mexico, police in Red River have yet to issue citations for non-compliance to COVID-19 rules, said Mayor Linda Calhoun, a Republican, adding that she is encouraging businesses to require masks.”We live off of tourists, that’s all we have, so it’s very difficult for us to enforce the order,” Calhoun said of the quarantine rule in her town nicknamed “Little Texas” for the number of visitors from that state.Many locals in Taos County, where COVID-19 cases have doubled in the last month, are dismayed by the rule breaking.”It doesn’t make any sense to be so selfish,” said lawyer Maureen Moore, 67.”We don’t want you here”Only three weeks ago, as outbreaks raged across the US Sunbelt, New Mexico reported stable or declining daily cases.A poor state with limited hospital capacity, New Mexico used early, tough restrictions to curb the pandemic.But with its positive test rate rising above 4%, Lujan Grisham has scolded New Mexicans for letting down their guard since she eased restrictions on June 1, and on Monday reclosed indoor restaurant dining.On a shortlist as a running mate to presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, Lujan Grisham has also rounded on tourism, the state’s second-largest industry.”We don’t want you here now,” she told potential visitors in a July 9 press briefing, taking special aim at Texans. “I want you to stay in Texas.”Lujan Grisham said New Mexico State Police would “aggressively” enforce her quarantine and mask orders. The force has handed out 13 verbal warnings for mask violations but none for quarantine non-compliance, a spokeswoman said on Monday.The rules are piling pandemic pain on businesses in the state. Standing outside his Red River supermarket, business owner Ted Calhoun said Lujan Grisham had gone too far. “Ordering visitors to do a 14-day quarantine is killing the tourist industry of New Mexico,” said Calhoun, the mayor’s husband.Topics : Enforcing the orders is proving difficult, given the lack of a national plan, police reluctance to take on the massive task, and Americans’ penchant for driving hundreds or thousands of miles to vacation, even in a pandemic.A US road trip this summer means navigating through a patchwork of quarantine regulations across various states, most of them voluntary.New York, New Jersey and Connecticut require travelers from 19 states with high COVID-19 infection rates to self-quarantine for two weeks upon arrival. New York imposes fines. Hard-hit Florida requires travelers from those three states to self-isolate for 14 days whether arriving by plane or car, or face a $500 fine.Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Vermont all have varying self-isolation rules.last_img read more

Underprivileged students in focus after Jakarta wraps up state school enrollment

first_imgThe Jakarta administration ended its public school enrollment period last week, but its effects are still felt among underprivileged students and their financially-strapped parents.Titin Suwanti, 52, still feels bewilderment every time she thinks about her child’s tuition. She has had to enroll her 15-year-old son, Kamali Ridhlo, at a private vocational school in South Jakarta, because she was not able to secure a spot for him at a local public school.Titin makes ends meet by doing odd jobs, mostly as a cook for catering services. But the COVID-19 outbreak has affected the business and she is unable to find another source of income. Titin has two school-aged children and a husband who suffered a stroke under her wing. For her son’s private school, she has to pay a Rp 2.6 million (US$177.82) admission fee and Rp 310,000 monthly tuition.At the very least, Titin was grateful that the city administration would be paying for some of the fees – her son is an eligible recipient of the Jakarta Smart Card Plus (KJP Plus) program, which aims to provide financial aid for students from lower-middle-income households.The administration will pay Rp 240,000 for monthly tuition and another Rp 450,000 for other school purposes for vocational high school students studying in private schools, according to provisions on state assistance is not always enough. Titin said she had asked the school to allow her to make payment in arrears, especially for the admission fee.“I said that if I have the money, God willing, I will pay for it. Alhamdulillah [thank God], the school understands,” she told The Jakarta Post this week.“I really hope the fees can be paid off by the administration because in private schools, we still have to buy books and other things that will cost us more money.”Titin said her son wanted to go to a public senior high school (SMA) located near his old junior high school (SMP) but he was pushed out of the registration list by kids who were older but had lower academic scores.Read also: Jakarta parents protest age ‘discrimination’ in school enrollmentKamali is not alone. There are about 300 hundred students – KJP Plus recipients – who are unable to continue studying at public schools this year, according to Syah Dinihari, chairman of the Indonesian Education Advocacy Volunteers (RAPI) group.Some among them have enrolled in private schools while others have not, mostly because they cannot afford the admission fees, Syah told the Post recently.The parents of those students staged a protest in front of City Hall on Monday. They demanded the administration evaluate this year’s selection criteria and to help KJP Plus recipients continue their studies.This year’s public school enrollment procedure in Jakarta uses a combination of zoning and preferential systems. Both systems use age as a determining factor in the selection process, replacing the system based on national exam scores from last year.This change has sparked anger among parents whose children are unduly affected, even though the Education and Culture Ministry has said the policy does not violate regulations.The relevant ministerial decree stipulates that age could be used as a determining factor if the quota was already filled but there were students on the waiting list who lived a similar distance away from a particular school.It would be difficult to monitor distance as it was something that could be easily “circumvented”, city education agency head Nahdiana said, citing instances where parents purchased property close to a school to secure enrollment.From this year’s enrollment process, there were 7,758 vacant seats at all public school levels, which comprise 6.71 percent at elementary schools (SD), 0.79 percent at SMP, 0.7 percent at SMA and 1.72 percent at vocational high schools (SMK).Most vacant seats in elementary schools were located around commercial office buildings – further away from residential areas – and in Thousand Islands province. However, Nahdiana insisted there would be no further enrollment to fill the vacant seats.Under the current circumstances, she said the agency had been collecting data on prospective students held back by an economic burden.“We are collecting data on children who were not accepted into states schools, specifically KJP Plus recipients. We are also coordinating with the Religious Affairs Ministry so that [potential students] are accepted at schools under the ministry’s authority,” the official said, referring to madrasah (Islamic schools), on Tuesday.Nahdiana also said the agency was communicating with private schools on accepting potential applicants who were unable to pay admission fees.Imam Parikesit, chairman of the Private Education Consultative Body’s Jakarta chapter, said the city education agency had asked to be given six months to come up with a solution for payment in arrears for school admission fees borne from students under financial distress.Satriawan Salim, the deputy secretary-general of the Federation of Indonesian Teachers Associations, said the education agency should fulfill its commitment to providing financial assistance for formal education to students from lower-to-middle-income households.Topics :last_img read more

Brazil, hotbed for COVID-19 vaccine testing, may struggle to produce its own

first_imgBrazilian officials say they can start making COVID-19 vaccines developed by British and Chinese researchers within a year. Experts say it will take at least twice as long, leaving Brazil reliant on imports to slow the world’s second-worst outbreak.If Brazil’s underfunded medical institutions are unable to meet their ambitious goals, it would mark the latest failure by President Jair Bolsonaro’s government to control the virus. It would also leave Brazil vulnerable to a frenzied global scramble for vaccine supplies.Some of the most advanced COVID-19 vaccine candidates – including from AstraZeneca Plc in partnership with Oxford University, and China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd – are undergoing large clinical trials in Brazil, which has more than 2.7 million reported cases and almost 95,000 deaths, second only to the United States. Researchers can get results faster by testing vaccines where active virus spread is rampant. As part of their agreements with Brazilian authorities, AstraZeneca and Sinovac have promised the federal government and the Sao Paulo state government, respectively, tens of millions of doses of their potential vaccines. They also pledged to transfer technology so Brazil can eventually produce them domestically at leading biomedical institutes Fiocruz, in Rio de Janeiro, and Butantan, in Sao Paulo.The institutes say production of new vaccines will begin by the middle of 2021. Brazil’s federal government has said it will invest 1.9 billion reais ($355 million) to process and produce the AstraZeneca vaccine.But three experts told Reuters money alone would not be enough, saying it could take between two and 10 years for Brazil to produce COVID-19 vaccines, due to the difficulty of transferring technology and years of under-investment in the two production facilities.”It’s impossible,” José Gomes Temporão, a former Brazilian health minister, said of the 2021 goal. “This takes a long time. Maybe they can accelerate a bit, but not that much.” A former head of federal health regulator Anvisa, who asked not to be named to avoid professional conflicts, also doubted Brazil could become self sufficient in a timely manner.”A tech transfer process lasts five to 10 years, on average. When Brazil has the complete technology, a COVID-19 vaccine will probably not be necessary anymore,” the ex-Anvisa head said, adding that Brazil is likely to have to purchase vaccines rather than produce them domestically, for the foreseeable future.Brazil’s Health Ministry said such predictions are premature and will depend on vaccine trial results. But officials have admitted the announced timeline may be hard to attain.”Although it seems remote, there is a possibility of delay in the development of the vaccine,” Elcio Franco, Brazil’s No.2 public health official, told reporters on Monday.Sao Paulo’s state government, Fiocruz, Butantan, AstraZeneca and Sinovac did not respond to requests for comment.Expensive gambleBrazil’s state and federal governments are discussing additional late-stage coronavirus vaccine trials with US drugmaker Pfizer Inc, China’s Sinopharm Group and Russian diplomats.But they quickly made big bets on the first two candidates to start testing in the country from AstraZeneca and Sinovac.The Sinovac deal obliges Butantan to invest 85 million reais ($16 million) to conduct trials of the Chinese vaccine. In exchange, the Sao Paulo government, which runs Butantan, will get enough doses to vaccinate 60 million people.The federal government’s memorandum of understanding with AstraZeneca requires it to buy 30 million doses of its still-unproven vaccine at a cost of $97 million, even if it fails in pivotal trials. The deal gives Brazil priority to buy 70 million more doses if the vaccine works.As part of that deal, Brazil pledged to invest 1.9 billion reais to produce the vaccine. About 1.3 billion will go toward technology transfer, and 95 million reais for updating Fiocruz facilities. The rest will be spent on processing the vaccine.The former Anvisa chief questioned Brazil’s big bet.”I really think these agreements are too risky vis-a-vis the investment,” said the source. “What will happen if the Phase III [trial] shows that these vaccines are not effective?”Brazil’s government has hedged its bets by joining the World Health Organization’s COVAX initiative, which intends to guarantee fast and equitable global access to COVID-19 vaccines, and aims to deliver 2 billion doses by the end of 2021.”The idea,” said a Health Ministry source not authorized to speak publicly, “is not to put all our eggs in one basket.”Topics :last_img read more

Macron promises angry Beirut crowds aid won’t go to ‘corrupt hands’

first_imgMacron was applauded by the crowds in the neighborhood, in a mainly Christian part of the capital, with chants of “Vive la France! Help us! You are our only hope!”.Some also chanted against President Michel Aoun, who is a Maronite Christian under Lebanon’s political arrangement of dividing powerful positions between sects.’Home truths’Macron then headed to the Baabda presidential palace, where he was due to hold talks with Aoun, Prime Minister Hassan Diab, who is a Sunni Muslim, and Nabih Berri, the speaker of parliament who is a Shi’ite.After that, he will meet other political groups and civil society at the French ambassador’s residence.France has long sought to support its former colony and has sent emergency aid since the blast. But it has joined other Western nations in pressing for reforms to root out corruption, cut spiraling budget spending and reduce a mountain of debt.Shortly after landing in Beirut, Macron said France’s solidarity with the Lebanese people was unconditional, but said he wanted to deliver some “home truths” to political figures.”Beyond the blast, we know the crisis here is serious, it involves the historic responsibility of leaders in place,” Macron told reporters after being met at the airport by Aoun.”We can’t do without telling each other some home truths,” he added.”If reforms are not carried out, Lebanon will continue to sink,” he said, citing reforms to the energy sector, as Lebanon suffers acute power shortages, and public tenders, as well as measures to fight corruption.Officials blamed the blast on a huge stockpile of a highly explosive material stored for years in unsafe conditions at Beirut port. The government ordered some port workers arrested.Many Lebanese, who have lost jobs and watched savings evaporate in a financial crisis, say the blast was symptomatic of neglect and corruption in the political system. “I guarantee you, this aid will not go to corrupt hands,” said Macron, who was wearing a black tie in mourning.He promised to send more medical and other aid to Lebanon, while those around him chanted “Revolution” and “The people want the fall of the regime.””I will talk to all political forces to ask them for a new pact. I am here today to propose a new political pact to them,” he said, shaking hands on roads strewn with rubble and flanked by shops with windows blown out.Residents, shop owners and volunteers have led clean-up efforts in the popular street of cafes and restaurants, where the blast ripped out balconies and smashed store facades. French President Emmanuel Macron promised angry Lebanese crowds in shattered Beirut that aid to rebuild the city would not go to “corrupt hands” and he urged the political authorities to carry out reforms or risk plunging Lebanon deeper into crisis.Macron was speaking during the first visit by a foreign leader to the Lebanese capital since the biggest blast in its history tore through the city, killing at least 145 people, injured 5,000 and leaving swathe of the capital in tatters.After visiting the port at the epicenter of the blast, Macron was greeted by crowds in nearby Gemmayze street, one of the most damaged in the city, shouting chants against the political establishment and endemic corruption.center_img Topics :last_img read more

Beirut police fire tear gas as protesters regroup and two ministers quit

first_imgTopics : “The resignation of an MP or a minister is not enough … the whole government should resign as it is unable to help the country recover,” he said in his Sunday sermon.Lebanon’s environment minister resigned on Sunday, saying the government had lost a number of opportunities to reform, a statement said.Damianos Kattar’s departure follows the resignation of Information Minister Manal Abdel Samad earlier on Sunday in the wake of the explosion.Anger boiled over into violent scenes in central Beirut on Saturday. Those protests were the biggest since October when thousands of people took to the streets to demand an end to corruption, bad governance and mismanagement.About 10,000 people gathered at Martyrs’ Square, which was transformed into a battle zone in the evening between police and protesters who tried to break down a barrier along a road leading to parliament. Some demonstrators stormed government ministries and the Association of Lebanese Banks.One policeman was killed and the Red Cross said more than 170 people were injured in clashes.’Change the government'”The police fired at me. But that won’t stop us from demonstrating until we change the government from top to bottom,” Younis Flayti, 55, a retired army officer, said on Sunday.Nearby, mechanic Sabir Jamali sat beside a noose attached to a wooden frame in Martyrs’ Square, intended as a symbolic warning to Lebanese leaders to resign or face hanging.”Every leader who oppresses us should be hanged,” he said, adding he will protest again.Lawyer Maya Habli surveyed the demolished port.”People should sleep in the streets and demonstrate against the government until it falls,” she said.The prime minister and presidency have said 2,750 tons of highly explosive ammonium nitrate, which is used in making fertilizers and bombs, had been stored for six years without safety measures at the port warehouse.The government has said it will hold those responsible to account.An emergency donor conference in France raised pledges worth nearly 253 million euros ($298 million) for immediate humanitarian relief, the French presidency said.For many, the blast was a dreadful reminder of the 1975-1990 civil war that tore the nation apart and destroyed swathes of Beirut, much of which has since been rebuilt.”I worked in Kuwait for 15 years in sanitation to save money and build a gift shop in Lebanon and it was destroyed by the explosion,” said Maroun Shehadi.”Nothing will change until our leaders just leave.” Tuesday’s explosion of more than 2,000 tons of ammonium nitrate killed 158 people and injured more than 6,000, compounding months of political and economic collapse and prompting furious calls for the government to quit.Riot police wearing body armor and carrying batons clashed with demonstrators as thousands converged on Parliament Square and nearby Martyrs’ Square, a Reuters correspondent said.”We gave these leaders so many chances to help us and they always failed. We want them all out, especially Hezbollah, because it’s a militia and just intimidates people with its weapons,” Walid Jamal, an unemployed demonstrator, said, referring to the country’s most influential Iran-backed armed grouping that has ministers in the government.The country’s top Christian Maronite cleric, Patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rai, said the cabinet should resign as it cannot “change the way it governs”.center_img Lebanese police fired tear gas to try to disperse rock-throwing protesters blocking a road near parliament in Beirut on Sunday in a second day of anti-government demonstrations triggered by last week’s devastating explosion.Fire broke out at an entrance to Parliament Square as demonstrators tried to break into a cordoned-off area, TV footage showed. Protesters also broke into the housing and transport ministry offices.Two government ministers resigned amid the political fallout of the blast and months of economic crisis, saying the government had failed to reform.last_img read more