Things to Note, May 18th

Chinese researchers identify neutralizing antibodies against COVID-19

According to the research team, led by Sunney Xie, director of the Beijing Advanced Innovation Center for Genomics at Peking University, antibody drugs, as a kind of biologics, have been successfully applied to treat viruses like AIDS, Ebola, and MERS.

However, it is often time-consuming to develop neutralizing antibodies suitable for clinical use, taking months or even years.

By using their expertise in single-cell genomics, the team collaborated with researchers at Beijing YouAn Hospital to collect blood samples from over 60 convalescent patients, among which 14 highly potent neutralizing antibodies were selected from 8,558 antigen-binding IgG1+ clonotypes.

Their animal experiments showed that the most potent antibody, BD-368-2, could provide strong therapeutic efficacy and prophylactic protection against COVID-19.

Full text:  Speech by President Xi Jinping at opening of 73rd World Health Assembly

Dear Delegates,

To begin with, I wish to say that it is of significant importance for this World Health Assembly to be held at such a critical moment as the human race battles this novel coronavirus.

What we are facing is the most serious global public health emergency since the end of World War II. Catching the world by surprise, COVID-19 has hit over 210 countries and regions, affected more than seven billion people around the world and claimed over 300,000 precious lives. I mourn for every life lost and express condolences to the bereaved families.

The history of human civilization is one of fighting diseases and tiding over disasters. The virus does not respect borders. Nor is race or nationality relevant in the face of the disease. Confronted by the ravages of COVID-19, the international community has not flinched. The people of all countries have tackled the virus head on. Around the world, people have looked out for each other and pulled together as one. With love and compassion, we have forged extraordinary synergy in the fight against COVID-19.

In China, after making painstaking efforts and enormous sacrifice, we have turned the tide on the virus and protected the life and health of our people. All along, we have acted with openness, transparency, and responsibility. We have provided information to WHO and relevant countries in a most timely fashion. We have released the genome sequence at the earliest possible time. We have shared control and treatment experience with the world without reservation. We have done everything in our power to support and assist countries in need.

IMF Staff Completes Discussions for Emergency Access to the Rapid Financing Instrument on Mongolia

An IMF staff team led by Mr. Geoff Gottlieb conducted discussions with the Mongolian authorities from May 11-13 at the authorities’ request for emergency financing of SDR 72.3 million (about US$ 99 million).

The discussions focused on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Mongolian economy, the authorities’ plan to contain the health risks, and policies needed for debt sustainability, reserve adequacy and a rapid recovery.

More Guatemalans deported from US test positive for virus

Ten more Guatemalans deported from the United States last week have tested positive for COVID-19 upon their return.

A Guatemalan health official who was not authorized to discuss the information publicly and requested anonymity said Sunday they had been aboard a May 13 flight from Alexandria, Louisiana. Last week, health authorities had said three people from that flight had tested positive for the virus.

The remaining 52 deportees aboard that flight will now be tested, the official said.

It is the latest example of an ongoing problem that now accounts for at least 115 infected Guatemalans. The government has suspended the deportation flights on several occasions to pressure the U.S. government to certify that the deportees do not carry the virus.

Pompeo demands China reveal Panchen Lama ‘immediately’

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday demanded that China reveal “immediately” the whereabouts of the Panchen Lama chosen by the Dalai Lama, 25 years after the six-year-old was seized.

The Dalai Lama, who lives in exile in India and enjoys a wide global following, in May 1995 identified Gedhun Choekyi Nyima as the reincarnation of the Panchen Lama, the second most senior figure in Tibetan Buddhism’s largest school.

The boy was taken into custody three days later and has not been seen since, with human rights groups calling him the world’s youngest political prisoner.

“Tibetan Buddhists, like members of all faith communities, must be able to select, educate and venerate their religious leaders according to their traditions and without government interference,” Pompeo said in a statement.

“We call on the PRC government to immediately make public the Panchen Lama’s whereabouts and to uphold its own constitution and international commitments to promote religious freedom for all persons.”

The risk of double crisis

The British government has so far rejected any possibility of extending the Brexit transition period at the end of the year, even when the EU requested it to ease the political heat of the issue in the UK.

Meanwhile, opposition parties have called on Prime Minister B. Johnson to extend the transition period until after December of this year. An EU diplomat added that both the UK and the EU have expressed dissatisfaction about the current negotiation results.

Meanwhile, the transition period is coming to an end and according to the EU, it is necessary to conclude negotiations in October to allow enough time for the European Parliament and the 27 member states of the “big European family” to proceed with a new deal. However, the British Government has insisted that it will not concede to the EU’s requirements in the negotiations.

In addition to disagreements between the UK and the EU, the COVID-2019 pandemic is also a “barrier” to the current post-Brexit negotiation process. Recent meetings have been delayed. In the recent round of negotiations, both UK and EU chief negotiators were “patients” who had just escaped the “death scythe” of the novel coronavirus.

Trump threatens to keep WHO funding freeze in place after WH investigation

President Trump released a blistering letter late Monday to the head of the World Health Organization, stating that his administration conducted an investigation that confirmed the health body’s multiple failures in the early stages of the coronavirus outbreak, and warned that his current funding freeze will become permanent if the organization does not make “substantive” improvements within 30 days.

“It is clear the repeated missteps by you and your organization in responding to the pandemic have been extremely costly for the world,” he wrote in the letter to Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “The only way forward for the World Health Organization is if it can actually demonstrate independence from China.”

The White House has insisted that Beijing downplayed the virus’ threat in December, which led to the subsequent outbreak. China has denied the charge and accused Trump of shirking responsibility to the organization, according to the AFP.

Two World Bank Projects to Increase Access to Affordable Housing in Tamil Nadu, India

The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors today approved two projects to support Tamil Nadu increase its access to affordable housing. The projects will address the needs of the lower-income groups in the state.

The two projects – $200 million First Tamil Nadu Housing Sector Strengthening Program and the $50 million Tamil Nadu Housing and Habitat Development Project – will strengthen the state’s housing sector policies, institutions, and regulations.

The $200 million First Tamil Nadu Housing Sector Strengthening Program is the first of a series of two single-tranche operations. The first operation supports the government’s ongoing efforts to increase the availability of affordable housing by gradually shifting the role of the state from being the main provider to an enabler. It will also aim to unlock regulatory barriers and incentivize private sector participation in affordable housing for low-income families. The second operation will look to deepen these measures to make the affordable housing sector more efficient and inclusive.

The reform program responds to the growing need for housing in Tamil Nadu – a key priority identified in the state’s Vision Tamil Nadu 2023 document. Nearly half of Tamil Nadu’s population is urban, and this is expected to increase to 63 percent by 2030. An estimated 6 million people are currently living in slums (representing 16.6 percent of the state’s urban population). 

Published by jim

Curator of things...

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