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Brazil to lock second contract with Pfizer for 100 million vaccine doses
Americas

Brazil to lock second contract with Pfizer for 100 million vaccine doses

Brazil is about to sign a second contract with Pfizer Inc for a further stock of 100 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine, 35 million shots of which are due to be delivered in October said Brazil’s Health Minister Marcelo Queiroga on Monday.

That makes it up to 200 million doses of the Pfizer shots for Brazil this year. The second deal is aimed at relieving the shortage of vaccines so that the world’s second-deadliest outbreak, after the United States, could be encountered.

Brazil’s second-largest city, Rio de Janeiro announced, a few days back, that it was delaying second doses of CoronaVac as it was running out of shots.

As per the announcement, the vaccine made by China’s Sinovac Biotech will see the application of its second dose only after more supplies arrive from the Butantan biomedical center in Sao Paulo.

Most COVID-19 shots given so far in Brazil have been CoronaVac. Due to the delayed shipments of its active ingredients from China, the Butantan finishing line halted two weeks ago.

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A new load of the ingredient that would be enough for 5 million doses of CoronaVac, reached Brazil on April 19.

So far, Butantan has given about 42 million jabs of CoronaVac to the national immunization program.

Brazil’s Health Ministry, last week, got its first 1 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

Talking to industry leaders in Sao Paulo, Queiroga said the signing of the second contract with Pfizer would multiply the 100 million doses already signed by two. They are due for delivery by the end of September, this year.

On the other hand, a parliamentary inquiry has begun to hear testimony in a Senate probe into the handling of the coronavirus crisis by the administration of President Jair Bolsonaro. He has constantly denied the gravity of the virus, spoken against lockdowns, and was slow to register for vaccine supplies last year.

USA, shooting in a parking in Indianapolis kills at least eight
Americas

USA, shooting in a parking in Indianapolis kills at least eight

A night of blood and fear in Indianapolis. At least eight people died in the shooting that took place around 11 pm yesterday, local time, in the capital of the American state of Indiana, south of Chicago. The shooting, whose motive and details are not yet known, took place in a FedEx warehouse in the southwestern area of ​​the city, near the Indiana International Airport. According to preliminary reports, an as yet unidentified gunman opened fire, killing several people, then, as confirmed in a press conference by police department spokesman Genae Cook, took his own life. It is not yet clear the motive or whether the episode is linked to a demonstration or an act of terrorism.

At least ten shots were discharged during the incident. The number of people injured in the shooting has risen to at least nine, according to local media. The spokesperson for the local police specified that seven injured, including one in critical condition, were transported to the hospital, while two others were treated on the spot. However, the number of injured is destined to rise as some people have reached the nearby hospitals on foot. A reception center has been set up in a nearby hotel for the family members of people who are not reachable. According to the reconstruction published by the local Indianapolis Star newspaper, shortly after 11 pm, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department responded to a report of gunshots in the FedEx logistics center. Arriving at the scene, the agents found the shooting in progress.

In a statement, the company said: “We have learned of the tragic shooting at our FedEx Ground facility near the Indianapolis airport. The safety of the people is one of our top priorities and our thoughts are with the people who have been affected. We are working to gather more information and we are collaborating with the investigative authorities.” More than 4,500 people work at the FedEx sorting center in Indianapolis, the group’s second-largest hub.

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Jeremiah Miller, one of the company’s employees, told local broadcaster WISH-TV that he saw a man holding a kind of ‘automatic rifle’ and heard at least 10 shots: “I immediately got down and tried very scary,” he added. Timothy Boillat, another employee, told reporters that he saw about 30 police cars arriving at the scene. “Fortunately, I was far enough away not to be seen by that man.” This is the third shooting in Indianapolis only this year. The first dates back to January, with the killing of five people including a pregnant woman, while the second occurred in March, with four victims, including a child.

Explosive volcano eruption: St Vincent rocked as La Soufriere eruption forces thousands to flee
Americas

Explosive volcano eruption: St Vincent rocked as La Soufriere eruption forces thousands to flee

La Soufriere volcano, which had remained dormant for decades now, erupted with an ‘explosion’ leading to thousands evacuating their homes.The volcanic eruption on Caribbean island of St Vincent led to the blanketing of island with ash and smoke.

The volcano started showing some volcanic activity from December and it picked up this week. After being dormant since 1979, from December Soufriere began disgorging smoke and steam, along with some rumblings.

The first sign that an eruption is imminent was evident on Thursday evening after a lava dome was visible on the volcano. On same night Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves urged over 16,000 residents to evacuate the ‘red zones’.

On Friday just before 9:00, seismologists from University of West Indies said that an “explosive eruption” of volcano is any time possible now. People evacuated were then taken on cruise ships and to safer parts of the island.

Since then the volcano has spewed dark ash plumes 6 km high into the air. The ash fall has been recorded at least up to Argyle International Airport which is around 20 km from the volcano, informed St Vincent’s National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO).

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A resident shared that he could see “a huge ball of smoke” after which there was panic all around. A volunteer, Lavern King said, “People are still being evacuated from the red zone, it started yesterday evening and into last night. The place in general is in a frenzy.”

Another explosion was recorded later on Friday night by UWI Seismic Research Centre.

Issuing an advisory to people, NEMO wrote on Facebook, “Now that the La Soufrière volcano has begun erupting explosively, ash falls will soon overwhelm us. Be sure to get rid of or clean up the ash, soon after it falls. If rain falls, the ash could harden and pose a danger to you.”

Biden for countering China’s BRI through similar initiatives
Americas

Biden for countering China’s BRI through similar initiatives

US President Joe Biden has suggested that the western nations develop an effective plan to counter China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), as he spoke on a phone conversation, on Friday, with the U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

“I suggest we should have, essentially, a very similar initiative, coming from the democratic states, helping the communities in the world that, in reality, are in need of help,” Biden spoke to reporters before his departure for Delaware.

Chinese President Xi Jinping had launched the BRI back in 2013, intended to create the world’s largest infrastructure program worth multi-trillion dollars for investment and international development.

The program was intended originally to unite the Asian spearhead with its neighboring countries, known in China as a “One Belt, One Road” in tribute to the famous Silk Road, but has now garnered agreements and investments in nearly 139 countries, accounting for the worlds’ 40% GDP.

A majority of the countries that have come under the umbrella of the BRI plan are underdeveloped now rely in part on China for their development that includes 5G networks, power plants, roads and railways. The multi-nation agreement has caused the officials in the U.S. along with their western allies to worry that China is actually using the initiative to further its influence around the world.

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China, last year, said that nearly 20 percent of BRI projects had got “seriously affected” by the coronavirus pandemic.

There has been pushback against BRI from countries that have termed the projects as costly and unnecessary. Beijing has scaled back some plans after numerous countries sought to review, scale down or cancel commitments, citing worries of costs, corruption and erosion of sovereignty.

Biden is said to introduce a multi-trillion-dollar infrastructure bill by next week that is aimed at improving roads, bridges, and addressing climate change initiatives.

Boulder supermarket shooting in Colorado leaves 10 killed, suspect in custody
Americas

Boulder supermarket shooting in Colorado leaves 10 killed, suspect in custody

Monday proved to be a day for survival for many shoppers in Colorado who had come for a simple grocery trip to King Soopers Supermarket in Boulder, home to the University of Colorado and situated about 25 miles north-west of Denver.  

A white person came into the grocery store located in south Boulder in the state of Colorado and opened fire killing 10 people. This included a Boulder police officer Eric Tally, 51, who was one of the first to respond to the active location. The suspect has been taken into custody by Boulder police and is in hospital for treatment of injuries encountered during the whole unfolding. 

The death toll was announced by Boulder police chief Maris Herold during the Monday night news conference, clearly fighting back tears. The investigation is said to be in the early stages. Victims’ families are still being notified, hence their names weren’t disclosed, said Michael Dougherty, District Attorney Boulder county. “This is a tragedy and a nightmare for Boulder county, and in response, we have cooperation and assistance from local, state, and federal authorities,” Dougherty said.

Herold and Dougherty both said of Tally, the slain police officer, “He was by all accounts one of the outstanding officers of the Boulder police department, and his life was cut too short”.

Boulder police responded to the ‘active’ shooting site around 3 pm local time and immediately surrounded the King Soopers supermarket. SWAT teams and at least three choppers were on the store’s roof. A witness who had just left the shop said he could see three people face down, two in the parking lot and one near the entry of the shop, after gunshot sounds. He said he “couldn’t tell if they were breathing.”

Eye witnesses share scenes of total chaos, panic and stampede inside the supermarket as soon as the shooter opened fire on people inside. 

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In a tweet, Colorado’s governor, Jared Polis, said “closely watching unfolding events at King Soopers in Boulder. My prayers are with our fellow Coloradans in this time of sadness and grief as we learn more about the extent of the tragedy.”

Asian Americans are bleeding in US: Violence on surge against the community, note House legislators
Americas

Asian Americans are bleeding in US: Violence on surge against the community, note House legislators

It took three decades and wave of extreme violence against Asian-Americans in the US in form of Atlanta shooting to hold a hearing to examine discrimination against the Asians.

The hearing that had been scheduled for weeks now, finally took place at the Capitol Hill on Thursday after shootings in Atlanta led to killing of eight people, including six Asian women. The Asian American lawmakers warmed that this recent violence marks “crisis point” of violence and discrimination against the people of Asian ascent. The rise in violence and harassment of both verbal and physical nature reached a dramatic peak during Covid-19 pandemic. The hate crime incidents were fueled by former President Donald Trump’s constant labelling of the coronavirus as “China Virus”, “China plague” and “kung flu”.

On Thursday, Judy Chu, chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, told a subcommittee of the House judiciary committee, “What we know is that this day was coming. The Asian American community has reached a crisis point that cannot be ignored.”

“Our community is bleeding. We are in pain. And for the last year, we’ve been screaming out for help,” said Grace Meng, a Democrat of New York.

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Meanwhile, Robert Aaron Long, 21 year old suspect of Atlanta shootings targeting spas, has been charged with eight murder counts. Charles Hampton, Atlanta police deputy chief said, “We are looking at everything to make sure that we discover and determine what the motive of our homicides were.” Hampton further revealed that Long was a sex addicted and was a frequent at two of the spas where four Asian women were killed.

In response, President Joe Biden and VP Kamala Harris have canceled a political event that was scheduled for Friday in Atlanta. The event was a part of “Help Is Here” campaign to promote administration’s $1.9tn Covid relief package. Instead, the leaders would be meeting local leaders and Atlanta’s elected officials from Asian American and Pacific Islander communities, the White House relayed. Furthermore, to honor the victims of Atlanta spa shootings, Biden had ordered flags at White House and all federal buildings to be flown at half-staff on Thursday.

During the hearing, subcommittee noted that Covid-19 pandemic had recorded almost 3800 hate crimes against Asian Americans across US ranging from verbal harassment to physical assault. Subcommittee chairman Steve Cohen said, “All the pandemic did was exacerbate latent anti-Asian prejudices that have a long, long and ugly history in America.”  

Amid human rights crisis & COVID disaster Nicaragua faces criticism over space agency launch
Americas

Amid human rights crisis & COVID disaster Nicaragua faces criticism over space agency launch

Nicaragua is at the center of global criticism over the formation of a national space agency even as the country is in midst of human rights crisis and poor response and handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. The National Ministry for Extraterrestrial Space Affairs, The Moon, and Other Celestial Bodies has sparked scornful criticism as Nicaragua is having a steady human rights erosion after a brutal crackdown three years back over anti-government protests that rocked the country. 

Critics say that this agency formation is an attempt by President Daniel Ortega to distract the attention from crisis and wretched state of affairs in the Central American country. 

New agency formation was approved on Wednesday by 76 legislators in Congress that is led by Ortega’s Sandinista party. Fifteen legislators had voted against it. This is especially despicable as Nicaragua’s leadership is unable to provide food, essential resources, and Covid-19 vaccines to its people. 

The space program will be under the control of the Nicaraguan army. According to the law, the ministry of space “will promote the development of space activities, with the aim of broadening the country’s capacities in the fields of education, industry, science, and technology.” 

Geologist Jaime Incer Barquero, president of Nicaragua’s Academy of Geography and History, said, “Nicaragua does not have a scientific capacity or tradition, does not have a serious (space) observatory. We are not scientifically able as a country to undertake this type of research.”

Ortega is being criticized for always disregarding the country’s development and faring poorly in handling pandemics and doing nothing to procure any vaccines against coronavirus yet. Nicaragua has been in a deep humanitarian, social and economic crisis since 2018 after a government crackdown slashed mass protests brutally. 

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In response, human rights organizations are planning to demand Nicaragua’s leadership of “strong resolution” over its human rights crisis in the UN Human Rights Council opening session on February 22, 2021.

Fake Vaccines Doing Rounds In Countries
Americas

Fake Vaccines Doing Rounds In Countries

Earlier it was a rush for the right vaccine candidate, but now there are fake vaccines also doing rounds. In Mexico, six people were recently arrested for dealing with the sale of fake vaccines. 

The arrest, the federal Public Safety Department said was made in the northern border state of Nuevo León. They declined to confirm the nature of the fake shots or whether they had been offered for sale.

But according to Health Secretary Hugo López-Gatell, the fakes were presented as Pfizer vaccines. These have been doing rounds only in Mexico. Original vaccines are available only through government vaccination teams. It has been confirmed that the suspects have offered the vaccines for sale for the equivalent of around $2,000 per dose.

Due to the nature of levels of poverty and economic hardship in Mexico, cases of theft of medical equipment are common. But the theft of vaccines and duplication has come to light for the first time. 

Fake Covid-19 vaccine scam has been recently busted in the country where the virus originated. The leader of a multi-million dollar scam known as Kong was passing off the saline solution and mineral water as Covid-19 vaccines. He was recently arrested in China. Since August 2020, Kong and his team made a profit of 18 million yuan ($2.78 million) by putting saline solution or mineral water in syringes and hawking them as Covid vaccines.

The European Union has also set of a warning against fake vaccine doses. The European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) said it was aware of reports of fraudsters seeking to sell vaccines in the EU, including the fake ones. 

Since its investigation from March 2020, OLAF has identified over 1,000 suspicious operations and seize over 14 million items, including faulty facemasks and fake test kits. The fact that nations are running desperately to get their populations inoculated, there is a chance that fraudulent vaccine doses might start doing rounds through vendors, if not in the open market. India has tackled a unique case of data theft through a fraudulent website claiming to be the right one for inoculation registration. 

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It is a hotbed for fakes and would have to work doubly harder to prevent its eager and uneducated population from not getting caught in the web of fake vaccines. 

Boris Johnson moved out intensive care but remains in hospital for COVID treatment
Europe

Boris Johnson moved out intensive care but remains in hospital for COVID treatment

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson late Thursday was moved out of an intensive care unit as he recovers from COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus.

Downing Street said in a statement that Johnson would move to London’s St. Thomas Hospital ward, “where he will receive close monitoring during the early phase of his recovery.”

“He is in extremely good spirits,” Downing Street said.

Johnson was admitted to the hospital on Sunday after reportedly displaying “persistent” symptoms from the novel coronavirus for more than 10 day. The prime minister announced on March 27 that he had tested positive for the virus.
Johnson was moved to an intensive care unit because his condition continued to “worsen,”.

Rishi Sunak, the United Kingdom’s top finance minister, said that Johnson had been “sitting up in bed and engaging positively with the clinical team.”

The news about the Prime Minister reminds us how indiscriminate this virus is.

After Johnson was moved out of intensive care, President Trump tweeted that it was “great news.”

The U.K. has reported more than 61,500 confirmed COVID-19 cases and roughly 7,100 deaths caused by it, according to a Johns Hopkins University database. On March 23, Johnson imposed a nationwide lockdown that bars people from gatherings of more than two people and prohibits nonessential travel.

Top British officials have said that the restrictions will need to remain in effect until the U.K. sees a consistent regression in the number of cases being reported.

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