Connect with us

World

WHO, partners seek $23.4 billion for new COVID-19 war chest

Published

on

October 28, 2021

By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA (Reuters) – The World Health Organization (WHO) and other aid groups on Thursday issued a $23.4 billion plan to bring COVID-19 vaccines, tests and drugs to poorer countries in the next year, appealing to leaders of the G20 who are meeting this weekend for funding.

The ambitious plan outlines the strategy of the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) until September 2022, expected to include use of an experimental oral antiviral pill made by Merck & Co for treating mild and moderate cases.

Advertisement

If the pill is approved by regulatory authorities, the cost could be as little as $10 per course, the plan said, in line with a draft document nL1N2RF1BE seen by Reuters earlier this month.

“The request is for $23.4 billion. That’s a fair amount of money, but if you compare with the damage also done to global economy by the pandemic it is not really that much,” Carl Bildt, WHO Special Envoy to the ACT-Accelerator, told a pre-briefing for selected journalists ahead of a press conference by WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Bildt, a former prime minister of Sweden, acknowledged that the ACT-A has struggled to secure previous financing and noted that Norway and South Africa co-chair a fund-raising effort.

“So we do expect a strong signal from (the G20) coming out of the meeting in Rome over the weekend,” he said.

Equal budgets of $7 billion are earmarked for both vaccines and diagnostic tests, with a further $5.9 billion for boosting health systems and $3.5 billion for treatments including antivirals, corticosteroids, and medical oxygen.

Advertisement

COVAX, the vaccines arm of the ACT-A, has delivered some 400 million COVID-19 doses to more than 140 low- and middle-income countries, where vaccination rates remain low, WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan said.

“We know there are about 30 countries that are dependent on COVAX alone, they have no other source of vaccines,” she said.

About 82 countries are likely to miss a WHO global target of 40% vaccination coverage by year-end, but some of them could if supplies start flowing, she said.

Referring to India which resumed “relatively modest” COVID-19 vaccine exports this month after suspending them in April due to its domestic epidemic, Swaminathan said: “I think these volumes coming out of India will go up significantly.”

She added: “One of the things that is now interfering in a big way is the need for boosters, more and more high income countries are going in for the booster doses and this is now sucking up the vaccine doses as well.”

Advertisement

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

Continue Reading
Advertisement

World

Blinken downbeat about nuclear talks as Iran floats proposals

Published

on

December 2, 2021

By Parisa Hafezi and Humeyra Pamuk

VIENNA/STOCKHOLM (Reuters) -The United States said on Thursday it had little cause for optimism about reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and would know in a day or so if Iran would negotiate in good faith as Tehran put forward fresh proposals.

“I think, in the very near future, the next day or so, we’ll be in a position to judge whether Iran actually intends now to engage in good faith,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters in Stockholm.

Advertisement

“I have to tell you, recent moves, recent rhetoric, don’t give us a lot of cause for … optimism. But even though the hour is getting very late, it is not too late for Iran to reverse course and engage meaningfully,” he added.

Iran has provided European powers who are shuttling between U.S. and Iranian officials with drafts on sanctions removal and nuclear commitments, Iran’s top nuclear negotiator said on Thursday, as world powers and Tehran try to reinstate the pact.

The announcement came on the fourth day of indirect talks in Vienna between Iran and the United States on bringing both fully back into the deal, under which Iran limited its nuclear program in return for relief from U.S., European Union and U.N. economic sanctions.

The talks resumed on Monday after a five-month hiatus prompted by Iran’s election of an anti-Western hardliner as president.

The U.N. nuclear watchdog on Wednesday said Iran has started producing enriched uranium with advanced centrifuges at its Fordow plant dug into a mountain, further eroding the nuclear deal during talks with the West on saving it.

Advertisement

“What Iran can’t do is sustain the status quo of building their nuclear program while dragging their feet on talks. That will not happen,” Blinken told reporters in Stockholm in a possible reference to that development.

It was unclear whether Blinken had been briefed on the latest proposals by the Iranians when he made his comments.

“We have delivered two proposed drafts to them … Of course they need to check the texts that we have provided to them. If they are ready to continue the talks, we are in Vienna to continue the talks,” Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani told reporters in the Austrian capital.

A European diplomat in Vienna confirmed draft documents had been handed over.

Under the pact, Tehran limited its uranium enrichment programme, a potential pathway to nuclear weapons though Iran says it seeks only civilian atomic energy, in exchange for relief from the economic sanctions.

Advertisement

But in 2018, then-U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned the deal, calling it too soft on Iran, and reimposed harsh U.S. sanctions, spurring Tehran to breach nuclear limits in the pact.

“We want all sanctions to be lifted at once,” Bagheri told reporters. He said an Iranian proposal regarding how to verify the removal of sanctions – Tehran’s overriding priority in the talks – would be handed over to the European parties later.

A senior European diplomat estimated on Tuesday that 70-80% of a draft deal on salvaging the 2015 accord was completed when Iran and world powers last met in June, though it remained unclear if Tehran would resume talks where they left off.

(Reporting by Parisa Hafezi in Vienna and Humeyra Pamuk in Stockholm; Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu and Simon Lewis in Washington; Writing by Parisa Hafezi and Arshad Mohammed;Editing by Peter Graff, Mark Heinrich and Marguerita Choy)

Advertisement
Continue Reading

World

Jailed former paralympic athlete Pistorius moved closer to victim’s family

Published

on

December 2, 2021

CAPE TOWN (Reuters) – Former South Africa paralympic superstar, Oscar Pistorius, jailed in 2016 for killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, has been moved closer to her family ahead of reconciliation talks that could help pave the way for his early release from prison.

Pistorius, known as “Blade Runner” for his carbon-fibre prosthetic legs, went from public hero to convicted murderer in a trial that drew worldwide interest. He becomes eligible for parole after serving half of his 13-year sentence.

Pistorius is set to speak to Steenkamp’s parents, June and Barry Steenkamp, in a process known as victim-offender dialogue – an integral part of South Africa’s restorative justice programme in its prison system that brings parties affected by a particular crime together in a bid to achieve closure.

Advertisement

“They are participating in the process because they have committed themselves to being part of the victim-offender dialogue. They feel they have to do this for Reeva,” Tania Koen, lawyer for the Steenkamps, said of the family.

Pistorius’ lawyer did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

‘SENSITIVE PROCESS’

Gold medalist Pistorius, once the darling of the Paralympic movement for pushing for greater recognition and acceptance of disabled athletes, shot dead Steenkamp, a model and law student, in his bathroom in 2013.

Pistorius said he had believed she was an intruder but was jailed in 2016, initially for a six-year term. After an appeal by prosecutors who said this was too lenient the term was increased to 13 years.

Advertisement

He has now been moved from a prison near Johannesburg to one on South Africa’s east coast, near where Steenkamp’s parents live.

Neither their lawyer Koen nor Singabakho Nxumalo, a spokesman for the department of correctional services, could provide Reuters with a timeline for the discussions.

“It is very sensitive process, highly emotional… and we do not force people to participate in it,” Nxumalo said.

“But we are saying at least it does lay a foundation where people can, if possible, forgive each other, find one another and then try to move forward in harmony,” he said.

(Reporting by Wendell Roelf and Siyabonga Sishi; editing by Gareth Jones)

Advertisement

Continue Reading

World

Omicron may soon cause over half of COVID infections in Europe -EU

Published

on

December 2, 2021

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union’s public health agency said on Thursday that the Omicron variant could be responsible for more than half of all COVID-19 infections in Europe within a few months.

The estimate could lend weight to preliminary information about the very high transmissibility of the Omicron variant, above that of the Delta variant, which before Omicron was considered the most contagious of the main coronavirus strains.

“Based on mathematical modelling conducted by ECDC, there are indications that Omicron could cause over half of all SARS-CoV-2 infections in the EU/EEA within the next few months,” the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said in a statement.

Advertisement

There is no conclusive evidence about Omicron’s transmissibility so far but the World Health Organization’s lead person on COVID-19, Maria van Kerkhove, said on Wednesday the agency expected to have data on this within days.

Europe has so far recorded a few dozens of infections with the Omicron variant, which was first detected in southern Africa last month.

The European Union and European Economic Area (EEA) include the 27 EU member states plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

Earlier on Thursday, the French government’s top scientific adviser Jean-Francois Delfraissy said that Omicron could take Delta’s place already by the end of January.

(Reporting by Francesco Guarascio; editing by Mark Heinrich)

Advertisement

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Trending