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Australia’s COVID-safe states urged to open domestic borders

The premier of South Australia (SA) has urged the nation’s COVID-safe states to open their borders and reunite families.

Premier of SA Steven Marshall said it was wrong that states with no community transmission of COVID-19 such as Western Australia (WA) and Tasmania were keeping their borders closed to SA, describing the closures as an impediment to economic growth and detrimental to mental health.

“We have opened up to Queensland, the Northern Territory, Western Australia and Tasmania,” said Marshall, according to the report form News Corp Australia on Friday.

“We are disappointed that Western Australians and Tasmanians can come into South Australia but, to date, we have not been able to go into their states. Many South Australians are dislocated from their families due to those states’ border restrictions. It would be great to see those borders lifted for SA.”

“Many people could live with it for weeks or months but now some states are saying they’re not going to be open to South Australians until December and that is a body blow for many South Australians and I really feel for them at this time.”

South Australia has had 462 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, which is fewer than every state except Tasmania which has had 230.

Its borders remain closed to Victoria and New South Wales (NSW) — both of which have ongoing community transmission of the virus — and the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) because of the territory sitting within NSW.

Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Simon Birmingham has repeatedly called for travel between states and territories to restart. He recently urged states and territories to consider adopting a similar approach in SA where there has been a willingness to open up to other states who have had similar success in suppressing the spread of COVID-19.

Bannon’s Chinese host an irritant to Communist Party

The self-exiled Chinese tycoon on whose 150-foot (45-meter) yacht President Donald Trump’s former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, was arrested is a high-profile irritant to the ruling Communist Party.

Guo Wengui left China in 2014 during an anti-corruption crackdown led by President Xi Jinping that ensnared people close to Guo, including a top intelligence official. Chinese authorities have accused Guo of rape, kidnapping, bribery, and other offenses.

A former civil servant turned real estate developer; Guo has rankled the ruling party by launching accusations of corruption on social media. From his base in a Manhattan luxury apartment, he has been especially critical of Vice President Wang Qishan, an Xi ally and key figure in the party’s anti-corruption drive.

Bannon, who was arrested on Thursday, was charged along with three others with defrauding online donors in the name of helping build Trump’s southern border wall. Bannon pleaded not guilty at a hearing Thursday in Manhattan.

In June, Guo and Bannon announced the founding of the “Federal State of New China,” an initiative to “overthrow the Chinese government.”

Guo, also known as Miles Kwok, was one of China’s richest businesspeople, with a fortune estimated by Forbes magazine at $1.1 billion in 2015. His most prominent asset was Pangu Plaza, an office-and-hotel complex overlooking Beijing’s Olympic Stadium.

Guo paid $67.5 million in 2015 for his 9,000-square foot (850-square meter) apartment above Central Park and joined Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

The status of Guo’s fortune is unclear. Assets in China have been frozen or confiscated. He is trying to sell his Manhattan apartment; the asking price was cut this year to $55 million. His yacht, the Lady May, is for sale for nearly $28 million.

Guo told The Associated Press in 2017 his goal was to win the release of family members, employees, and assets in China, not to undermine the Communist Party.

Also, in 2017, however, his lawyer said Guo had applied for political asylum in the United States. Even if the claim is ultimately rejected, that might let Guo stay in the country for years while it is reviewed and during possible appeals.

That came after Beijing asked the international police agency Interpol to issue a “red notice” asking other governments to arrest Guo.

In the first criminal proceeding stemming from accusations against Guo and his companies, three employees were sentenced to prison in 2017 on charges they carried out Guo’s orders to falsify financial documents in order to obtain loans from a state bank.

The official Xinhua News Agency said other Guo-related businesses were suspected of bribery, embezzlement, illegal detention and forced transactions.

The former deputy chief of the Chinese intelligence agency, Ma Jian, was convicted in December 2018 of taking bribes to help Guo. The charges included conspiring to blackmail a Beijing city official who blocked a Guo development project.

In 2017, Chinese developer SOHO sued Guo in New York after he accused the company of improperly obtaining regulatory changes to boost the value of its properties. Guo countersued. SOHO dropped its complaint in 2018. A judge dismissed Guo’s suit the following year.

A separate lawsuit filed by a Chinese woman in New York accused Guo of raping her and holding her prisoner for three years after hiring her as his assistant. Guo denied the allegations.

Eviction crisis looms in Portland, Or.

With talks between Democrats and the White house having collapsed, lawmakers have been unable and unwilling to extend the national eviction moratorium, supplemental unemployment relief, and CARES Act money that has helped families scrape by through the pandemic and recession. As Portland, the biggest city in Oregon, heads towards its third month of nightly protests against racist police brutality, its residents stand on the brink of a devastating eviction crisis.

Even before the pandemic hit, Portland was one of the most rent-burdened cities in the United States, with almost half of renters spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing. While Oregon has an eviction moratorium in place until the end of September, its residents who decide to take advantage of it have only until March 2021 to pay back all past-due rent. At the end of next month, all tenants are expected to pay rent or face eviction.

The moratorium is merely a band aid for the larger problem, given that many Portlanders cannot afford their rent following mass layoffs and unemployment caused by the pandemic situation, and do not know how soon they will be able to get back to work. As calculated in June, Oregon’s unemployment rate was a staggering 11.2 percent, while the 1.43 million unemployment claims the week of July 19 are up from the earlier 1.3 million the week of July 5. The Oregon Housing Alliance has pointed to recent research showing that one in five renters in Oregon don’t feel confident they will be able to pay next month’s rent. Additionally, Portlanders who use the moratorium will need to be employed soon to save up for the cumulative check to send their landlords come March, something that will be extremely difficult in the current employment market.

Though the city announced that it will be using $29 million in combined funds to provide rent assistance to around 4,300 households, local leaders and activists say that the number of those unable to pay rent in the area in a given month exceeds 21,000. This is an astonishing discrepancy between the few resources that are available and the sheer number of financially besieged families. Portlanders can’t rely on federal aid to bail them out either: the Senate has left Washington, D.C. until September without agreeing on a coronavirus relief bill.

In 2017, Portland was named the fourth fastest gentrifying city in the United States, based on the drastic rate of displacement of people of color due to rising costs of housing and real estate racism. It has also been well-documented that the COVID pandemic infections fall disproportionately along class and racial lines. A local Portland newspaper noted that in the area east of 82nd Street, whose residents are poorer and more diverse, infections were far more rampant. Without rent cancellations and other sweeping relief measures, Portlanders in poorer neighborhoods such as these are at the risk of eviction and homelessness at a time when they are already at an increased risk for contracting the virus.

Oregon, especially Portland, already are home to a disproportionately large population of unhoused and unsheltered people. Sweeps of homeless encampments, the city’s typical way of dealing with its horrific housing crisis, are temporarily halted amidst the crisis. However, as businesses begin to reopen under Governor Brown’s orders, sweeps are likely to begin anew and with increased fervor. A 2019 report shows that while Oregon’s population represents only 1.3 percent of the total United States population, its homeless population represents 2.6 percent of the total homeless population. The factors pointed to in this report are the deadly convergence of an inadequate housing supply and rising rents, which leave tens of thousands at risk of eviction and homelessness. Now a third factor has entered into the equation: a deadly pandemic and financial crisis, which is exacerbates the suffering even further, threatening to plunge already struggling people into further danger.

As the pressure doubles down on tenants with the ending of state and federal benefits with only vague and unlikely promises of new relief, Portlanders are presented with the dual problem of facing evictions during a pandemic and an ineffective local and national government that has been all too happy to teargas the nightly anti-racism protests. They are unsafe both in the homes they risk losing to predatory landlords, as well as in the street where they daily confront the violent arm of the state. These problems are not unrelated, in fact they rely intimately upon one another. The police exist to protect the private property of the elite, including prized real estate and gated neighborhoods, which corporate landlords and banks work hard to keep “undesired” populations out of.

What is happening in Portland is of course not an isolated phenomenon, and people around the country are standing up to proclaim their discontent. Activists have already staged actions around the country in 40 cities including Portland to “Cancel the Rents and End Racist Policing.” As the U.S. dives headfirst into another financial crisis caused by the instability of capitalism and its ever-mounting crises and contradictions, we must stand up together, united by our shared struggle.

Hollow on Health, Jobs and Economic Revival

THE prime minister’s speech on Independence Day was watched with anticipation to see if he would announce any new initiatives to deal with the health crisis caused by the pandemic and the related economic crisis which has resulted in large-scale loss of jobs and livelihoods.

On both counts, the speech disappointed.  In the past six months, the coronavirus pandemic has exposed the pathetic state of public health care in India.  Over the decades, successive governments have neglected public health and government expenditure on health is barely one per cent of GDP.  With the pandemic still raging in India, one would have thought that the Modi government would have learnt a salutary lesson and, at least at this late stage, announced a major public health initiative with adequate funding.

But what was announced by the prime minister was a digital health card ID for all, that will link up medical records of each person. This bypasses the real problem which is the lack of medical facilities and personnel from the primary health level to the tertiary sector in the public health system. What the prime minister should have announced was a health infrastructure plan of at least Rs 1 lakh crore for the states and center with the aim of expanding and upgrading the public health system.  However, the BJP government cannot think outside the framework of privatized health care – a dogma to which it is bound.

The economy, which had considerably slowed down before the pandemic struck, has now gone into a tailspin ever since the lockdown was imposed. Experts are predicting that the GDP will contract ranging from 5 to 10 per cent for 2020-21. The effect of the deep recession has been large-scale loss of jobs, shutting down of small businesses and substantial parts the services sector.

The plummeting of demand and consumption is going to further deepen the crisis.  The loss of incomes is going to lead to the erosion of savings.  The only way out of this is for the government to step up public expenditure and investment in a big way.

Modi’s speech from the Red Fort gave no such signal. The government has doggedly refused to increase public spending by transferring cash benefits to the people.  Except for the Rs 1,500 given to women Jan Dhan account holders over a period of three months, the government has refused the demand of the opposition parties to transfer Rs 7,500 to all non-income tax payees.

There was no mention in the speech about the lakhs of people who lost their jobs, of people who have lost their livelihoods, or those whose incomes have been severely daunted.

The only announcement made was of the Rs 1.10 lakh crore National Infrastructure Pipeline (NIP). This NIP, which is to give an overall thrust to infrastructure development, was actually announced by Modi in the 2019 Independence Day speech. This is a five-year plan which is more of a long-term character. There were no announcements of any investment expenditure in immediate terms.  Though the speech harped on atmanirbhar Bharat repeatedly, it is clear that the government is banking on more FDI and private investment.

In fact, the pandemic period has been used to push through more concessions for foreign capital and big corporates. Steps for outright privatization of public sector enterprises across the board have been announced. The draft Environmental Impact Assessment will result in a dilution of regulatory norms to facilitate the loot of national resources by the foreign and domestic corporates causing great harm to the forests and the environment.

The speech showed no awareness whatsoever of the social impact of the pandemic.  A whole generation of school students from deprived socio-economic backgrounds face a future with no prospects for education and many will drop-out.  The New Education Policy touted by the prime minister as a new beginning has no answer for this.

Since the last Independence Day, the policies of the Modi government have taken a more regressive turn.  Modi, in his speech, lauded the dismemberment of Jammu & Kashmir as ushering in new rights for different sections of the people of J&K; he hailed the process of delimitation for a truncated assembly. There was no mention of the Citizenship Amendment Act and the NRC process which has undermined the secular definition of citizenship.  His reference to the Ram temple construction at Ayodhya was cast in hypocritical terms of how it testified to the maturity of all sections of the people.  Reading between the lines, it expressed satisfaction that the Muslim minorities have reconciled to this display of Hindutva triumphalism.

The prime minister struck a positive note regarding the need for peace and harmony in South Asia. This was in contrast to the usual diatribe against Pakistan.  He stated that it is the responsibility of the leaders of the countries of South Asia to build an atmosphere of peace and harmony.  Considering how relations with our neighbors have been soured in the past one year, the injunction would apply first and foremost to Modi and his government.  While India has joined the Indo-Pacific strategy of the United States, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Pakistan have joined the Belt and Road Initiative.

Prime Ministers’ speeches on Independence Day have become somewhat like a state of the nation address. This year, the 86-minute speech of Modi hardly touched upon the real issues and challenges faced by the people and the country and as is his wont, was more of a campaign-style speech.

Indonesia Covid-19 death toll hits 6,500

Indonesia reported 82 new Covid-19 deaths yesterday, raising its tally of fatalities from the coronavirus to 6,500.

Meanwhile, the republic notched 2,197 new cases in 24 hours, bringing its total number of infections to 149,408.

According to the Indonesian government’s official Covid-19 website, 78,877 people are being monitored for the virus.

Bernama reported that Jakarta province now has the highest number of infections with 32,267 cases, followed by East Java at 29,715.

East Java has the highest number of deaths with 2,128 fatalities, followed by Jakarta (1,063), Central Java (818) and South Sulawesi (347).

Tilsen case heading to trial after judge finds probable cause

A leader of the July 3 protest near Mount Rushmore says he’s taking his case to trial after a judge found probable cause for his felony charges on Friday.

“We’re going to trial, we’re not taking any plea deals, these charges are all unfounded,” Nick Tilsen said after his preliminary hearing at the Pennington County Court.

Magistrate Judge Todd Hyronimus said he found probable cause and the case would move forward after he watched police body camera footage and heard from four witnesses.

Evidence included a video that showed Tilsen taking a shield from a Guardsman and testimony from two Pennington County sheriff’s deputies who admitted the National Guard was called in for a disruptive but non-violent protest.

Tilsen is charged with second-degree robbery and grand theft in the alternative, meaning Tilsen could only be convicted of one — not both — of those charges in relation to the shield.

He’s also charged with two counts of simple assault against law enforcement. Tilsen is not accused of physically assaulting the officials but attempting “by physical menace or credible threat” to put them “in fear of imminent body harm, with or without the actual ability to harm” them.

Pennington County State’s Attorney Mark Vargo said he recently dropped a misdemeanor count so Tilsen is now charged with three misdemeanors: impeding a highway, unlawful assembly, and disorderly conduct.

A conviction on the robbery and all other charges would mean Tilsen could be sentenced to up to 16 years in prison. A conviction on the theft and all other charges means he faces up to eight years in prison.

Hyronimus said there is a “low burden” for finding probable cause and that a jury should decide if Tilsen is guilty of the charges. He did not set a time for arraignment, which is when Tilsen will enter pleas on the felony counts. He’s already pleaded not guilty to the misdemeanors.

Tilsen’s charges stem from the July 3 Indigenous-led civil disobedience action near Mount Rushmore where President Donald Trump spoke at an Independence Day fireworks celebration. About 150 demonstrators used vans and their bodies to block a checkpoint in order to protest the president and monument while calling for the Black Hills to be returned to the Lakota people.

Tilsen, a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe and CEO of the Rapid City-based NDN Collective, was one of about 15 people who remained in the street knowing they would be arrested after a warning to vacate.

Tilsen, his family and supporters met for a prayer at NDN Collective — a nonprofit dedicated to buying Indigenous power — before walking over to the courthouse.

Multiple deputies met the group of about 25 people outside the courthouse to explain that the court set up an overflow room since not everyone would fit in the main courtroom.

Like usual, people had to walk through a metal detector and put their bags through a scanning device. But deputies also searched people’s bags by hand. A deputy said they were given instructions to take this extra step.

Eighteen people — including two federal prosecutors who would not comment on why they were there — sat in the courtroom while others watched a live video feed of the hearing in the overflow room.

Tilsen sat next to his two defense lawyers: local attorney Bruce Ellison and Brendan Johnson, a former U.S. Attorney for South Dakota. Johnson was one of the lawyers who represented Tilsen and others in their successful 2019 lawsuit against the “riot-boosting” bill.

Vargo and Deputy State’s Attorney Kelsey Weber sat on the prosecution side.

Cameron Ducheneaux, an investigator with the sheriff’s office, said he was monitoring traffic near the Iron Mountain Road checkpoint on July 3. At 1:26 p.m., he said, he saw two white vans try to cut in line by driving along the side of Highway 244.

Ducheneaux’s body camera footage showed him approach one of the vans and tell Tilsen, the driver, that he needs to wait in line like everyone else. Tilsen explained that he was trying to reach the free speech zone on the side of the road that the sheriff’s office designated for the protest.

Ducheneaux testified that Tilsen drove toward him, so he put his hand out, touched the front of the van, and then moved off to the side to a safer spot to continue the conversation.

“I thought I was going to be hit by the van,” he tried to assault me, Ducheneaux said.

The video was played only once, and it was difficult to tell exactly what happened. But the van did not accelerate fast or move far forward, and Ducheneaux appeared calm during the interaction.

Ducheneaux told Johnson the car was moving less than 10 miles per hour. He said he didn’t arrest Tilsen right then but suggested an assault charge be brought when he wrote up his report three or four days later.

Maria Gonzalez, who’s served 18 years with the Air National Guard in Sioux Falls, said her security forces squadron was notified July 1 that Gov. Kristi Noem was putting them on standby near Keystone for the July 3 events.

She said the squadron — which has about 30 other members — were asked to arrive at the protest site after demonstrators parked three white vans across the road, preventing ticket holders from reaching the fireworks event through the Iron Mountain Road checkpoint.

Gonzalez said the group formed a line and walked toward the protesters with shields, and the goal was to move the protesters behind the vans so the vehicles could be towed away.

She said some protesters were calm; others yelled at them; and some made threats, hit sticks against their shields, and used makeshift shields to push against the Guardsmen’s shields. Gonzalez said some counter-protesters used racist slurs and held Confederate flags.

Body camera footage from a deputy — who was standing behind Gonzalez at this time — shows Tilsen quickly lunge toward Gonzalez, grab her shield, and pull it away from her. He’s then seen holding the shield while standing in front of the row of Guardsmen.

Gonzalez said Tilsen told her he would use the shield the same way the Guardsmen were using them against the protesters. A deputy described a similar statement in a police report.

“I thought I was going to go into the crowd of protesters” which made me afraid since some were being aggressive, Gonzalez said. “I was scared.”

Gonzalez said she received a bruise from Tilsen ripping the shield away, which attaches to her hand with a bar and Velcro. She said the Guard didn’t take photos of the bruise or interview her about the incident. She said she was only interviewed by a deputy, not the FBI.

Deputy Jake Tweeten, who was standing behind Gonzalez, also described how Tilsen took the shield from her. Deputy Shawn Stalder testified about seeing the van barricade go into place.

Stalder’s body camera footage showed Tilsen announcing that “we decided to expand” the free speech zone since the Black Hills belong to the Lakota people. “We have blocked this road,” Tilsen said.

Tweeten’s footage showed deputies using a loudspeaker to twice tell the protesters that they were an unlawful assembly and would be arrested if they didn’t disperse.

Both Tweeten and Stalder told the defense lawyers that they witnessed no violence or threats from protesters before the Guard arrived, and the only law they were breaking at that point was the misdemeanor of impeding a highway. They said deputies did not try to arrest the protesters themselves.

“I do not recall why the National Guard was requested,” Tweeten said while Stalder said he believes he and fellow deputies could have safely arrested the protesters.

“We did not have full control of the situation, and we needed the additional resources to take control of the situation before we could start making arrests” in a safe way, Thom previously told the Journal when asked why the Guard was needed for non-violent protesters.

The defense did not call any witnesses.

Vargo said in his closing statements that Tilsen and the other protesters were blocking fireworks attendees from their right to assemble and law enforcement was “required to make a path” for them to get through.

“We can’t take sides in the expression of free speech,” Vargo said.

He said if a right-wing or racist group tried to block Tilsen and his supporters during their walk to the courthouse, that law enforcement would also be required to clear the way so they could get through.

“This was a situation that we don’t believe needed to escalate in the manner in which it did,” Johnson said after the hearing when asked about his questions to the deputies about the peaceful nature of the protest before the Guard arrived. “We’re going to want a jury to see the entire picture here, and that is what we will be emphasizing.”

“There was a group of other protesters there that was behaving inappropriately, including behaving inappropriately toward law enforcement,” he said in reference to the counter-protesters.

Tilsen said white supremacy and colonialism — the systems being protested on July 3 — are the same forces behind his court case.

“The legal and financial system in this country that was created to steal our land in the first place, it’s the same exact system that is over-prosecuting Indigenous people, and black people today,” he said.

He pointed to a Vera Institute study that found Native Americans were jailed at more than 10 times the rate of white South Dakotans in 2015.

Tilsen said his goal is to end white supremacy and colonialism, return land to Indigenous people, and “one day make sure we have court system in this country, a community safety system in this country that’s actually a reflection of our values and how to treat people with dignity and respect.”

Tilsen and his supporters later walked over to Vargo’s office where Tilsen’s father delivered a petition with nearly 15,000 signatures asking Vargo to drop the charges against his son and the 20 other protesters arrested on July 3.

Mark Tilsen told Vargo that his son is a father of four who created the Thunder Valley CDC and has worked on an array of social justice causes. He said the young people who were arrested are “community builders” and “land defenders” that the community should be supporting.

“For our government to spend money to try to imprison community leaders like this, it’s a real crime,” Mark Tilsen told Vargo. “The outrage that will come forward in the community and the division this is going to create is not going to solve anything.”

Vargo said his policy is not to discuss the facts of ongoing cases so he can’t explain his thinking behind the charges.

“But I will certainly take this seriously, and I will review both these petitions and other outreach that we’ve received,” he said.

The two shook hands before Vargo and the group parted ways.

WHO leader says he hopes coronavirus pandemic will be over in 2 years

The World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus described the coronavirus as a “once-in-a-century health crisis” that has been able to spread rapidly, similar to the 1918 flu pandemic, and said he hopes it’ll be over in 2 years.

But he also said that because of technological advances in medicine during the last century, there is a greater possibility it can be stopped before reaching that level of devastation.

“We hope to finish this pandemic (in) less than two years, especially if we can pool our efforts,” Tedros said Friday during a press briefing.

The coronavirus has infected 22.7 million people globally and killed nearly 800,000 people, according to John Hopkins University data Friday.

The 1918 influenza infected 500 million people and killed around 50 million worldwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

WHO’s chief of Health Emergencies, Dr. Michael Ryan, also pointed to the differences between the coronavirus and 1918 flu.

Ryan noted that there were three distinct waves that occurred with the 1918 pandemic, the second wave being the most devastating to the population.

“This virus is not displaying a similar wave-like pattern,” Ryan said. “When the virus is not under control, it jumps straight back up.”

The flu also operates seasonally and that has not been the case for the coronavirus, which has stayed strong well into the summer in some parts of the globe, including the U.S.

“That means every person and family has a responsibility to know the level of transmission locally, and to understand what they can do to protect themselves and others,” Tedros said Friday.

“Throughout history, outbreaks and pandemics have changed economies and societies. This one will be no different,” he added.

Tedros explained that the lack of pollution from a world put on pause due to the pandemic, has created a new “impetus” in countries worldwide to maintain the healthier environmental living standards that have arisen.

“The pandemic has given us a glimpse of our world as it could be: cleaner skies and rivers,” Tedros said, before using a catchphrase that has come to have a political meaning in the U.S. “Building back better means building back greener.”

The WHO could not be reached to confirm whether Tedros intended to use a phrase that the Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has coined his campaign slogan, “Building Back Better.”

The Trump administration has been highly critical of the WHO, accusing them of China-centric policies, and pulled the U.S. out of the organization in July.

The director-general said that the global community needs to use the pandemic recovery as an opportunity to start making changes that will address climate change and environmental discrimination.

“Forty million health professionals from 90 countries have sent a letter to G20 leaders to call for a Healthy Recovery from COVID-19,” he said. “And we have seen many examples of countries acting to protect lives, livelihoods and the planet on which they depend.”

Tedros explained that the U.K. had its lowest coal emissions, the most polluting form of energy, in 250 years in 2020, after the pandemic.

Pakistan has set up a “green stimulus” scheme, which pays people who have lost their jobs as a result of the coronavirus, to plant trees.

Spain has become one of the fastest decarbonizing nations in the world, shutting down seven of the country’s 15 coal-fired power stations.

And Portugal will be coal-free by next year.

Hardship is an opportunity to learn, grow and change, Tedros said.

“COVID-19 is a once-in-a-century health crisis,” he reiterated. “But it also gives us a once-in-a-century opportunity to shape the world our children will inherit — the world we want.”

WHO stresses need for quick action amid reports of fresh COVID-19 outbreaks

With several countries experiencing fresh COVID-19 outbreaks after periods of little or no transmission, the UN World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday highlighted the need for authorities to be able to move quickly to prevent further spread of the disease.

These nations provide a cautionary tale because they show how “progress does not mean victory”, said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in his latest update on the crisis.

“That’s why it’s vital that countries are able to quickly identify and prevent clusters, to prevent community transmission and the possibility of new restrictions,” he told journalists.

Globally, there are now more than 22 million cases of COVID-19, and 780,000 deaths. Meanwhile, the number of people requiring hospitalization remains high, the WHO chief reported.

“No country can just ride this out until we have a vaccine,” he warned.

“A vaccine will be a vital tool, and we hope that we will have one as soon as possible. But there’s no guarantee that we will, and even if we do have a vaccine, it won’t end the pandemic on its own.”

Mr. Tedros underlined WHO’s commitment to countries as they work towards the safe re-opening of their economies, societies, schools, and businesses.

The WHO chief also expressed hope that the COVID-19 pandemic will be defeated in under two years, or less time than it took to end the Spanish Flu pandemic, through global solidarity and the use of vaccines.

Mr. Tedros was responding to a journalist’s question about similarities between the two crises.

The 1918 influenza pandemic lasted from February 1918 to April 2020.

Mr. Tedros pointed out that while the “disadvantage” of globalization means the new coronavirus can spread faster, people today have the “advantage” of technology and knowledge. 

“So, we hope to finish this pandemic before less than two years, especially if we can pool our efforts together, and with national unity, global solidarity – that’s really key – with utilizing the available tools to the maximum and hoping that we can have additional tools like vaccines, I think we can finish it in a shorter time than the 1918 flu,” he said.

Corruption that deprives frontline health workers of personal protective equipment (PPE) is “murder”, Dr. Tedros unequivocally stated on Friday.

He was responding to a journalist’s question about health professionals in some nations going on strike because they lack appropriate PPE, amid reports of government corruption related to COVID-19 funds.

“Any level of corruption is unacceptable, or any type of corruption is unacceptable. However, corruption related to PPE, lifesaving, for me it’s actually murders,” he said.  

“Because if health workers work without PPE, we are risking their lives. And that also risks the lives of the people they serve. So, it’s criminal, and it’s a murder, and it has to stop if it is happening anywhere.”

Speaking earlier in the briefing, WHO’s Dr. Michael Ryan highlighted how the pandemic has shown both the best and worst of humanity.

“Certainly, corruption is something that is not new to this world. And at this point, it’s really, really, important that governments govern and that we see very clear, transparent action by governments,” he said.

While authorities must ensure that health workers are properly equipped and receive their salaries, protests should not occur at the expense of the health and wellbeing of patients, said Dr. Ryan, Executive Director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Program.

WHO and the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, are set to issue guidance on the use of masks by children.

The UN agencies will provide advice for public health officials, child health professionals, educators, and others about making the decision on where and when masks should be worn.

Dr. Maria van Kerkhove, an epidemiologist and WHO lead on COVID-19, said research continues into how the disease affects children as understanding about virus transmission among this population is limited.

Although children of all ages can be infected, the majority tend to develop mild disease. However, children have developed severe disease, and some have died.

WHO is urging support for the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where the Government is seeking $40 million to fight an Ebola outbreak which emerged in Equateur province in early June.

Ebola has spread to 11 of the 17 health zones of the province, located in the west of the country.  As of Thursday, there were 100 cases and 43 deaths.

“With 100 Ebola cases in less than 100 days, the outbreak in Equateur Province is evolving in a concerning way,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. 

“The virus is spreading across a wide and rugged terrain which requires costly interventions and with COVID-19 draining resources and attention, it is hard to scale-up operations.”

WHO said a strike by health workers has further complicated the situation, as it has affected vaccinations, safe burials, and other activities.

The UN agency and its partners continue to support the DRC Government, including by helping to screen more than 640,000 people for the disease.

Published by jim

Curator of things...

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