News, June 2nd

China delayed releasing coronavirus info, frustrating WHO despite public praise

Throughout January, the World Health Organization publicly praised China for what it called a speedy response to the new coronavirus. It repeatedly thanked the Chinese government for sharing the genetic map of the virus “immediately,” and said its work and commitment to transparency were “very impressive, and beyond words.”

But behind the scenes, it was a much different story, one of significant delays by China and considerable frustration among WHO officials over not getting the information they needed to fight the spread of the deadly virus, The Associated Press has found.

Despite the plaudits, China in fact sat on releasing the genetic map, or genome, of the virus for more than a week after three different government labs had fully decoded the information. Tight controls on information and competition within the Chinese public health system were to blame, according to dozens of interviews and internal documents.

Chinese government labs only released the genome after another lab published it ahead of authorities on a virologist website on Jan. 11. Even then, China stalled for at least two weeks more on providing WHO with detailed data on patients and cases, according to recordings of internal meetings held by the U.N. health agency through January — all at a time when the outbreak arguably might have been dramatically slowed.

WHO officials were lauding China in public because they wanted to coax more information out of the government, the recordings obtained by the AP suggest. Privately, they complained in meetings the week of Jan. 6 that China was not sharing enough data to assess how effectively the virus spread between people or what risk it posed to the rest of the world, costing valuable time.

“We’re going on very minimal information,” said American epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove, now WHO’s technical lead for COVID-19, in one internal meeting. “It’s clearly not enough for you to do proper planning.”

“We’re currently at the stage where yes, they’re giving it to us 15 minutes before it appears on CCTV,” said WHO’s top official in China, Dr. Gauden Galea, referring to the state-owned China Central Television, in another meeting.

The story behind the early response to the virus comes at a time when the U.N. health agency is under siege and has agreed to an independent probe of how the pandemic was handled globally. After repeatedly praising the Chinese response early on, U.S. President Donald Trump has blasted WHO in recent weeks for allegedly colluding with China to hide the extent of the coronavirus crisis. He cut ties with the organization on Friday, jeopardizing the approximately $450 million the U.S. gives every year as WHO’s biggest single donor.

In the meantime, Chinese President Xi Jinping has vowed to pitch in $2 billion over the next two years to fight the coronavirus, saying China has always provided information to WHO and the world “in a most timely fashion.”

Consumer Prices, OECD – Updated:  2 June 2020

02/06/2020 – Annual inflation in the OECD area continued to slow sharply to 0.9% in April 2020, compared with 1.7% in March and 2.3% in February. Energy prices plunged by 12.2% in April, following the 3.7% drop in March; the largest fall since September 2015. By contrast, food price inflation climbed sharply to 4.2% in April, from 2.4% in March, the largest annual increase since January 2012.

Excluding food and energy, OECD inflation also slowed sharply to 1.6% compared with 2.1% in March. This is the lowest rate of inflation excluding food and energy in the OECD area since February 2014.

Estimates for the OECD area in May are not currently available but Eurostat’s flash estimate1 for the Euro area points to inflation continuing to slow (to 0.1% compared to 0.3% in April) on the back of further falls in energy prices.

Countries Can Take Steps Now to Rebuild from COVID-19

WASHINGTON, June 2, 2020 – The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the economic shutdowns are dealing a severe blow to the global economy and especially poorer countries. Developing countries and the international community can take steps now to speed recovery after the worst of the health crisis has passed and blunt long-term adverse effects, according to analytical chapters released today from the World Bank Group’s Global Economic Prospects report.

Short-term response measures to address the health emergency and secure core public services will need to be accompanied by comprehensive policies to boost long-term growth, including by improving governance and business environments, and expanding and improving the results of investment in education and public health. To make future economies more resilient, many countries will need systems that can build and retain more human and physical capital during the recovery – using policies that reflect and encourage the post-pandemic need for new types of jobs, businesses and governance systems.

The analysis has been released ahead of the June 8 issuance of the full report, which will include the Bank Group’s latest forecasts for the global economy.

“The scope and speed with which the COVID-19 pandemic and economic shutdowns have devastated the poor around the world are unprecedented in modern times. Current estimates show that 60 million people could be pushed into extreme poverty in 2020. These estimates are likely to rise further, with the reopening of advanced economies the primary determinant,” said World Bank Group President David Malpass. “Policy choices made today – including greater debt transparency to invite new investment, faster advances in digital connectivity, and a major expansion of cash safety nets for the poor – will help limit the damage and build a stronger recovery. The financing and building of productive infrastructure are among the hardest-to-solve development challenges in the post-pandemic recovery. We need to see measures to speed litigation and the resolution of bankruptcies and reform the costly subsidies, monopolies and protected state-owned enterprises that have slowed development.”

How the Great Lockdown Saved Lives

Since the COVID-19 outbreak was first reported in Wuhan, China in late December 2019, the disease has spread to more than 200 countries and territories. In the absence of a vaccine or effective treatment, governments worldwide have responded by implementing unprecedented containment and mitigation measures—the Great Lockdown. This in turn has resulted in large short-term economic losses, and a decline in global economic activity not seen since the Great Depression. Did it work?

The Great Lockdown, despite its enormous short-term economic costs, has saved hundreds of thousands of lives.

Our analysis, based on a global sample, suggests that containment measures, by reducing mobility, have been very effective in flattening the “pandemic curve.” For example, the stringent containment measures put in place in New Zealand—restrictions on gatherings and public events implemented when cases were in single digits, followed by school and workplace closings as well as stay-at-home orders just a few days later—are likely to have reduced the number of fatalities by over 90 percent relative to a baseline with no containment measures. In other words, the results suggest that, in a country like New Zealand, the number of confirmed COVID-19 deaths would have been at least ten times larger than in the absence of stringent containment measures.

India evacuates 10,000 from homes, virus hospital ahead of cyclone

MUMBAI: More than 10,000 people, including some coronavirus patients, were moved to safer locations Tuesday as India’s west coast braced for a cyclone, the first such storm to threaten Mumbai in more than 70 years.

Authorities in India’s financial capital, which is struggling to contain the pandemic, evacuated nearly 150 COVID-19 patients from a recently built field hospital to a facility with a concrete roof as a precautionary measure, officials said.

The chief minister of Maharashtra state, of which Mumbai is the capital, said people living in flimsy homes near the shore were being moved to safer places before Cyclone Nisarga makes its scheduled landfall on Wednesday afternoon or evening.

“Slum-dwellers… in low-lying areas have been instructed to evacuate,” Uddhav Thackeray said in a message posted by his office on Twitter.

Mumbai has rarely faced the brunt of cyclones — the last severe storm to hit the city struck in 1948, killing 12 people and injuring more than 100.

Kenyans protest as police accused of killing homeless man

Rights activist Boniface Mwangi asserted that 19 Kenyans have died from police actions in enforcing the COVID-19 curfew, all from low-income neighborhoods.

He said the Kenyan deaths and the global protests over the killing of George Floyd in the U.S. show that “struggles against police brutality are the same everywhere.”

People are more afraid of the police than COVID-19, Mwangi said.

He said activists are planning demonstrations and had hesitated before because they feared arrest that could lead to six months in jail for illegal assembly — or 14 days in a quarantine facility.

A statement Tuesday by the Independent Policing Oversight Authority, established by Parliament, said 15 deaths and 31 incidents where people sustained injuries have been directly linked to actions of police officers during curfew enforcement.

The authority said it has dispatched teams to investigate another six deaths allegedly linked to the police since May 29, including that of Mureithi.

Also Tuesday, Kenya’s director of public prosecution ordered the arrest and prosecution of a police officer in the death of 13-year-old Yasin Hussein Moyo, who was shot dead while standing on his family’s balcony in March as police moved through his crowded neighborhood enforcing the curfew. Police at first said he was hit by a stray bullet.

New IAEA Spent Fuel and Radioactive Waste Database Facilitates National Data Reporting and Sharing

In close cooperation with the European Commission and the OECD/NEA, the IAEA has launched a new database for spent fuel and radioactive waste that facilitates information sharing and simplifies national reporting in a single easy-to-use platform.

The Spent Fuel and Radioactive Waste Information System (SRIS) will provide an authoritative and integrated view of national and global spent fuel and radioactive waste inventories as well as relevant laws, regulations, policies, plans and activities. The IAEA is encouraging national authorities to take advantage of this important new tool by nominating representatives responsible for submitting data to SRIS, part of which will be available to the public and other countries using the system. So far, 38 countries have done so.

“In SRIS, countries can produce tables and reports and submit them to various organizations, including for their report to the Joint Convention, the IAEA’s Status and Trends report, to the Nuclear Energy Agency of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD/NEA) or to the European Commission for European Union members,” said Merle Lust, Waste Management Information Specialist at the IAEA. “SRIS offers a sort of ‘one-stop shop’ for countries to store, monitor and export data for various purposes, including to fulfill reporting obligations at international organizations.”

Radioactive waste is the byproduct of millions of medical procedures each year, as well as of industrial and agricultural applications that use radiation, and nuclear reactors that generate around 10% of the world’s electricity. Safely and carefully managing it is key to the sustainable use of nuclear technologies.

Oil industry faces great challenge

NDO – After big fluctuations caused by the complicated situation of the COVID-19 pandemic, analysts have said that the oil industry will find it very difficult to return to the “golden age” as the cheap oil price period will likely continue; while it will also not be easy for large oil corporations to attract investors again in the context of the gloomy world economy.

In recent months, the world oil industry has witnessed unprecedented difficulties when major economies closed down to prevent the epidemic. In the first quarter of this year, many times the price of a European Brent oil barrel lost more than 50% compared to the same period in 2019 and more than 40% compared to the previous quarter.

Challenges have arisen was the dispute between the world’s two largest “black gold” suppliers, Saudi Arabia, and Russia, raged at a summit of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its partners (known as OPEC+).

Disagreement between the two countries has “poured fuel on the fire”, leading to the collapse of oil prices across international markets. The resonance between the COVID-19 epidemic and the “oil price war” of oil-exporting countries pushed the market into historically dark days. WTI oil price in the US market actually fell into a negative level at the end of April.

After OPEC and its partners reached an agreement on output cuts and this agreement took effect, oil prices recently recovered to US$30-35 per barrel as at the beginning of the year. Oil producing countries have reduced production from 42-43 million barrels a day to 34 million barrels a day. In addition, a number of shale oil and gas producers in the US stopped production while Kazakhstan had to stop production at Tengiz oil field due to COVID-19.

However, these factors could not make the global oil market prosper. Analysts are still concerned that cheap oil prices will continue in the context of the COVID-19 epidemic is crippling the global economy.

PM chairs 1st Cabinet Meeting of second year in office; Historic decisions taken

The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi met on 01 June 2020. This was the first meeting of the Union Cabinet after the Central Government entered into its second year in office.

During the meeting, historic decisions were taken that will have a transformative impact on the lives of India’s hardworking farmers, MSME sector and those working as street vendors.

Special Micro Credit Facility Scheme ‘PM SVANidhi’ for providing affordable loans to street vendors launched.

For Kharif season 2020-21, government keeps its promise of fixing MSP at a level of at least 1.5 times of the cost of production.

Definition of medium units enhanced further to Rs 50 crore investment and Rs 250 crore turnover.

Repayment dates for short-term loans for agriculture and allied activities extended

Farmers to also get benefit of interest subvention and prompt repayment incentive.

Caring for the poor is the top focus of the government

Published by jim

Curator of things...

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