UK won’t be participating in EU coronavirus vaccine scheme: Report

UK won’t be participating in EU coronavirus vaccine scheme: Report

The British government has reportedly rejected an opportunity to join the European Union Coronavirus vaccine scheme amid concerns over ‘costly delays’. According to media reports, Business Secretary Alok Sharma appears to have turned down the EU’s scheme for the development of a COVID-19 vaccine expressing concerns over lack of assurance that the vaccines will be delivered to the UK on time.

Over the past few weeks, the UK and Brussels have been in talks over the EU vaccine scheme. At the same time, world governments have intensified their efforts to develop viable vaccines and treatments for the virus. Different pharmaceutical companies across the world are carrying out vaccine trials amid fierce competition.

On behalf of the 27-member bloc, the European Union has planned on spending around €2 billion (£1.8bn) on the advanced purchase of the vaccines which are currently going through trials. An announcement on the matter from the European Commission is expected soon.

According to a report by The Daily Telegraph, sources have suggested the government officials are concerned about the delay in rolling out of the vaccine through the scheme for the UK which could take up to 6 months.

However, it is important to note that the decision to withdraw support to the EU vaccine scheme might not work in favour of the British government in view of the backlash from opposition MPs. Notedly, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been facing the heat from Opposition over his failure to join the EU’s ventilator and PPE procurement schemes in March. Oppositions MPs have been alleging the British government of withdrawing support to EU projects after Brexit.

Meanwhile, London has signed a bilateral deal with Cambridge-based AstraZeneca in partnership with Oxford University for procurement of a vaccine. The UK government’s Vaccines Taskforce is also carrying out efforts of research and development to produce a safe vaccine.

However, there are concerns that initial vaccines might be ineffective for use. One the other hand, the European Commission has maintained that its vaccine scheme is formulated on the basis of solidarity and efficiency in a bid to ensure that all member states and their population have access to the vaccine.

How Merkel won back the love and confidence of Germany

How Merkel won back the love and confidence of Germany

This is the last year in office for Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, and the one that will seal her legacy. The current Covid-19 pandemic has likely been the greatest challenge for Merkel who is closing in to almost 15 years in the position. And it would be safe to say that this pandemic crisis has bridged the gap between Germany and Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Merkel’s final term as Chancellor was proving to be a nightmare before the pandemic hit. She faced quite a backlash during migration crisis in 2015-16. Following that in 2017 Merkel’s party, Christian Democratic Union lost base in elections and started stumbling in polls. Post humiliating defeat in regional elections, Merkel announced in October 2018 not to re-run in 2021 national elections. Soon after that she quit her position as party head. Chancellor’s coalition partner party, the Social Democrats were also struggling with unmatched low numbers in the polls. European Union was struggling hard and treading water but unable to find any settling common ground on important issues such as migration. It seemed Chancellor Angela Merkel had lost her spark and appeared listless and lost – further fraying her away from Germany.

But 2020 was an unpleasant, but a welcome change to Merkel’s legacy. A pandemic that has made Ms. Merkel shining in headlines, and for all the good reasons. Under her unmatched leadership, Germany has notably low mortality rate with high number of tests being done and an excellent contact tracing mechanism, that have contributed to successfully contain virus spread in the country. This success is in high markings attributed to the chancellor. A recent poll stamps the belief indicating over 82% of Germans agreeing that Merkel is doing her “job rather well”. This has also bolstered her party’s faring among competitors.

The pandemic has been a litmus test of chancellor’s leadership and has pumped up her reputation and burnished it as one of Germany’s best leaders. How did Germany fall in love with Ms. Merkel all over again?

The prime decisions, like that of social distancing and schools closures, were being taken by 16 federal states of Germany when the virus struck. But without wasting any precious time, chancellor Merkel took the leading role and coordinated the decisions and communications between state heads, thus facilitating an equal and regularized guidelines to be followed across the country, with required convoking of top scientists.

Ms. Merkel assessed the severity of looming pandemic as early as in January with just a few cases in world and most in China. She grasped the implications it could have and rushed her way to chalk out a plan of action for possible worse days ahead. When in February number of cases spiked in Germany, chancellor was clear on what had to be done – her agenda was crystal clear. Public proceedings were immediately locked down in Germany. The fact that all 16 federal state heads agreed with Chancellor and followed through the guidelines was the true beauty signifying her leadership. It showcased the respect Ms. Merkel had gained through years of weathering down the crises efficiently. In her term in office as chancellor, Ms. Merkel had seen it all – financial crisis, European debt crisis, Russia’s 2014 invasion in Ukraine, migration crisis and international fallout from Brexit. And Merkel handled all of it with true leadership and poise. It was enough for state heads to fall in line right behind her.

Sigmar Gabriel, an eminent Social Democrat says, “She’s crisis-proof. Germany is lucky to have such an experienced leader in times of corona.”

At the level of European bloc too Merkel didn’t shy away from taking the lead as pandemic widened the drift between north and south Europe, and Italy facing financial and medical crisis, and some countries not too eager to provide aid. Mr. Gabriel adds, “I believe she understood that this could be Europe’s end. She knew that if she didn’t act, member states in need would look for help outside Europe – and China was fired up and ready to step in.”

Ms. Merkel along with French President Emmanuel Macron proposed a recovery fund. She did what she was criticized of not doing – speeding up Europe’s integration. Despite of backlash and opposition from the “frugal four” countries of Austria, Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden regarding the terms of fund, Ms. Merkel is clear on her position.

“It is very much in all the member states’ own interests to maintain a strong European internal market”, Ms. Merkel said in a recent interview.

The best and most surprising development has been the support chancellor has got from the German people, and that too without trying. Her wisdom, reliability, diligence and levelheadedness are the most cherished traits, and the exactly ones that make her distant and impermeable. But when she reached out to people of Germany through a televised speech, it did the trick of striking a cord with the citizens.

The pandemic has brought a fierce leadership in Ms. Merkel, which was always there, but with a sense of overcaution and hesitance. But now these are no longer present, and are instead replaced by a highly capable leader that Germany needed at this time of crisis.

Why Is British Social Media Promoting Anti-Vaccine Propaganda?

Why Is British Social Media Promoting Anti-Vaccine Propaganda?

There is a different kind of mutiny forming in Britain where social media is buzzing with anti-Covid19 vaccination. In a country which is worst hit with the pandemic, the social media giants like Facebook and Twitter and seemingly mute spectators and are not pulling down advertisement propagating and promoting anti-vaccination sentiments.

A recent survey has shown that one in six Britons would actually refuse to take the vaccine, whenever it is made available. Apparently, the anti vaccination sentiment is proving to be a financial gain for social media companies that are running advertisements propagating this thought and sentiment.

“ We reduce vaccine misinformation in News Feed, we don’t show it in search results or recommend it to you on Facebook or Instagram, we don’t allow it in ads, and we connect people with authoritative information from recognised health experts.”


According to a survey carried out by YouGov on behalf of a nonprofit organization, Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), there are 150 or so anti-vaccination social media pages and YouTube channels with huge followership. These have been tracked by CCDH that says that these pages now have about 8 million more followers since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, and the 400 outlets in the sample have a combined 55 million followers.

These pages are also propagating false conspiracy theories like Bill Gates created the pandemic, that vaccines instead cause Covid-19, and that tests for a coronavirus vaccine have caused women to become infertile.

There are categories of pages like anti-vaxx and natural immunity, which have been exploited to create such propaganda that is hampering the control of the disease in the UK. People were recently spotted carrying out anti-vaccination drives in London, out without masks or maintaining any social distance protocols. There is a racket of anti-vaxx entrepreneurs that are doing rounds in social media where they promote their wellness products at the expense of brain washing people using Facebook. This has become a popular method of selling their individual brands. Facebook has finally made a media statement saying that “We are working to stop harmful misinformation from spreading on our platforms and have removed hundreds of thousands of pieces of COVID-19-related misinformation. We reduce vaccine misinformation in News Feed, we don’t show it in search results or recommend it to you on Facebook or Instagram, we don’t allow it in ads, and we connect people with authoritative information from recognised health experts.” Britain has seen a bad case of spread of the virus and has now opened its economy to tourist travel, where it is allowing people from 60 different countries to travel into Britain without having to adhere the 15 day quarantine rule. The 10 Downing Street has been criticized for its arrogance and hasty decision to open up its economy, owing to the fact that the country has seen the worst spread that its medical facilities could not handle well in time. 

After months of pandemic struggle, here’s how Europe has evolved

After months of pandemic struggle, here’s how Europe has evolved

It has been more than six months since the Coronavirus outbreak hit the world starting from China’s Wuhan city. The rapidly spreading COVID-19 outbreak was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization in early March, following which it has infected more than 11.4 million people globally and over 534,000 people have died from the disease. From businesses to governments, COVID-19 has impacted billions of people across several countries in the world.

The epicenter of the virus moved from China to Europe, particularly in Italy and Spain, in the first half of Marsh itself, making the lives of more than 440 million citizens across the 27-nation bloc difficult. The EU entered into a crisis mode – lockdown was imposed, free movement of people and goods was restricted, medical supplies were stockpiled and internal and external borders were closed by the government. With businesses shut down, European economy faced the worst recession since the Second World War.

However, after weeks of shut down and intensive efforts of the medical professionals to combat the virus infected patients, Europe is emerging from the severe socio-economic impact of the pandemic. After battling the Coronavirus outbreak, several European countries including Germany, Italy, Space, Greece, and Portugal have relaxed their restrictions in a bid to resume their economic activities. While the virus is here to stay, Europe is trying to settle down in a new normal. Evidently, returning to normal life is slow and less dynamic with some restrictions still in place. People are wearing face masks and maintaining social distancing in public spaces to ensure health safety.

Significantly, European leaders are also taking all precautionary measures while reopening the economy amid concerns of a fresh wave of transmission.

Notedly, European Union countries initially failed to establish a collective preventive response against the pandemic in a bid to ensure an effective domestic response. But, with continuous efforts, European Union leaders pledged to join hands in response to the novel Coronavirus while addressing issues of regional and international interest. From providing essential medical supplies to handling economic crisis, EU leaders have announced close cooperation in tackling the crises.

The seriousness of the pandemic has changed the way governments will respond to a crisis in the future. Better preparedness and effective decision-making in the public interest will lead the way for administrations in handling complex situations such as pandemics and climate-induces disasters like floods, cyclones, and earthquakes.

As governments have started easing their lockdown restrictions, WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has also warned that the pandemic is “speeding up” and the “worst is yet to come”. Noting that the virus to control the COVID-19 infections is a long way to go, he suggested five priorities for governments to focus on to ensure public health and safety amid the ongoing pandemic. From regular washing of hands to ensuring wearing masks in public places, he called on the government to improve surveillance to find infected cases and accelerate research to find ways to suppress the transmission. Finally, he laid emphasis on the need for global solidarity in political leadership to combat the pandemic.

Coronavirus: Europe reopens but not to the USA, in Italy quarantine for all as cases restart to rise

Coronavirus: Europe reopens but not to the USA, in Italy quarantine for all as cases restart to rise

Arriving yesterday from Tunisia to the Italian airport of Fiumicino, one understands how much the fear for the coronavirus is far from past. Various activities both inside the airport and near the central Termini Station remain closed, including currency exchange shops. Police and volunteers are committed to enforcing the new procedures decided by the Government, including collecting data from travellers who will have to comply with a two-week quarantine if they arrive from non-European countries.

Since the Brussels summit on 29 June, Europe has reopened its borders for fifteen countries extra-UE since July 1st, excluding Russia, Brazil and the United States. The rules will be reviewed every two weeks. At the last moment, Europe managed to approve the list with the 15 non-EU countries to which the doors of the continent reopened from yesterday. But doubts and problems remain, so much so that Italy prudently decides to maintain the mandatory 14-day quarantine for citizens of these nations. A prudential measure suggested by the Italian Minister of Health, Roberto Speranza, which will probably also find space in other European partners.

“Italy chooses the line of prudence,” says the note in Rome, announcing the mandatory quarantine for those arriving from Algeria, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, Serbia , Republic of Korea, Thailand, Tunisia and Uruguay. There are 201 new coronavirus infections today in Italy, an increase compared to the 187 of Wednesday. Of these, 98 cases are in Lombardy, 48.7% of the total in the country. The total number of cases rises to 240,961. There are also 30 new victims in the last 24 hours, following the 21 on Wednesday. Coronavirus death tollin the country so far is 34,818, according to data from the Ministry of Health.

The moment when Europe reopens its borders is also that of budgets. The European data journalism network analysed data on excess deaths in five hundred provinces of Europe (the continent that recorded one-third of the world’s deaths) to study how the virus spread. Since March, some areas have experienced triple mortality than usual, while the grand part of the continent has managed to overcome this pandemic wave without all-cause mortality rates deviating too far from the average. At the top of the list is the Italian province of Bergamo, with a mortality increase of 347 percent, and other provinces of Lombardy, the first epicenter of the pandemic. But also, in other countries, such as Spain and Sweden, there have been regions hit hardest by the virus. In Scandinavia, the Stockholm region where people returned from holidays in the Alps, recorded plus 71 percent excess mortality. Similar percentages were recorded in Catalonia and Brussels. The only country where excess mortality has been uniform is the United Kingdom.The World Health Organization recalls that the worst is yet to come, especially for the “lack of national unity and global solidarity”. The pandemic continues to accelerate and has so far infected more than 11 million people worldwide, killing 524 thousand of them

Britain Retail Loosens Staff Jobs To Digress To 80s Era Of Unemployment Numbers

Britain Retail Loosens Staff Jobs To Digress To 80s Era Of Unemployment Numbers

The retail industry has taken the worst hit since the world economy went into pandemic led lockdown and came out of it after almost a gap of 60 days.

It has been mayhem for Britain as the high street has sacked more than 5000 working professionals from the various outlets.

For starters, Harrods and Arcadia has got rid-off 1200 jobs and John Lewis has already warned its staff of bonus cuts.

According to Harrods, the social distancing protocol is making it difficult to carry out trade. This is one reason that they have had to reduce numbers in staff. There is pressure from the wind-down of the government furlough scheme as well.

Including Philip Green’s Arcadia group and SSP, the company behind hundreds of railway and airport eateries, the total number of jobs lost comes to more than 10,000.

John Lewis is going to change its own work culture due to the pandemic. It will not be able to pay an equal bonus to all its employees. It is also not going to be able to open all its stores that were closed down at the time of lockdown. Profitability is nowhere to be seen and most top end retail companies are letting staff go.  As of SSP, it will let go off more than 50percent of its workforce of 9000 staffers.  Most of the jobs have been cut down in the UK only as the company says that the UK retail and travel market has been worst hit by the pandemic.

The furlough scheme has further put a lot of pressure on the retail giants. From the beginning of August, these employers will have to start contributing towards the cost of the furlough scheme, which has supported more than 9 million workers with 80% of their salaries, up to £2,500 per month, through the lockdown.

Apparently, The Bank of England has already warned the UK of going back to the 1980s in its unemployment levels. The chancellor Rishi Sunak, is expected to set out substantial jobs creation plans in his summer statement next week to help offset the growing wave of redundancies.

Germany Cannot Afford To Accommodate Wave Of Refugees Post Pandemic: Gerd Müller

Germany Cannot Afford To Accommodate Wave Of Refugees Post Pandemic: Gerd Müller

Germany is expecting a new wave of refugees. They are not prepared for it and fearful of the strain on their economy. Despite the fact that the number of Covid-19 cases have been reducing in many countries, the nations that face fragility, conflict and violence are more prone to be affected by long term affects of the pandemic.

There are chances of mass movement from such nations into Europe. Germany has raised its hands. German Development Minister Gerd Müller has sounded the warning bugle saying that refugees might move towards Germany especially from poorer countries because of the coronavirus pandemic. He is asking the European Commission to rethink its humanitarian budgets. While Germany has earmarked €3 billion for aid to developing countries, the poorer nations that need help includes Africa, Iraq, Yemen to name a few.

Müller felt that a substantial amount of €50 billion should be earmarked under s special ‘Recovery and Stabilization program’ from the EU. “Anything less than this will be grossly inadequate,” he said speaking to a prominent European media outlet.

“The EU has only assigned €1 billion per year to Africa,” Müller pointed out. “That is blatantly inadequate.” Unless proper aid reaches the developing and poor nations, there is a chance of huge refugee movement towards Europe. This would also mean chances of another wave of the pandemic hitting various European countries. Economies are gradually trying to come back to the normal rhythm. The worst effected has been the travel and tourism industry worldwide, but Europe is facing huge backlash due to close down in business for more than 60 days since March 2020. According to Müller, African nations are also grappling with the downward spiral that has hit their travel and tourism. It is one of their major sources of employment and GDP.

EU and Venezuela engage in diplomatic spat

EU and Venezuela engage in diplomatic spat

The European Union on Tuesday condemned Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s decision to expel the bloc’s envoy Isabel Brilhante Pedrosa, calling the Maduro government to reverse the move. Responding to the move by Caracas, the bloc further summoned Venezuela’s ambassador to the EU headquarters in Brussels.

Releasing a statement on June 29, the EU further warned the South American country of international isolation.

“The EU firmly condemns this decision and profoundly regrets the further international isolation that will result. We call for this decision to be reversed,” the statement by the EU bloc read.

In the statement, the EU further asserted that the ongoing deep political and socio-economic crisis in Venezuela can only be addressed through a peaceful and negotiated solution among Venezuelans.

“The EU reaffirms its commitments to support the Venezuelan people and contribute to resolve the political crisis and alleviate the suffering of the population through its humanitarian assistance,” the EU added.

Taking to Twitter, Josep Borrell, the EU high representative for foreign affairs, also condemned Maduro’s actions and said that Europe will respond reciprocally.

On Monday, Venezuelan President Maduro ordered the EU envoy to leave the South American country within 72 hours in the wake of fresh financial sanctions imposed by the 27-nations bloc on 11 Venezuela officials including Juan Guaido who is the head of Venezuela’s National Assembly.

“Enough, enough. This is why I have decided to give 72 hours to the European Union ambassador in Caracas to leave our country, and we demand respect from the European Union,” the Venezuelan President said in a televised address on Monday.

Meanwhile, the EU maintained that the sanctions have been imposed on the Venezuelan officials over their “role in acts and decisions undermining democracy and the rule of law in Venezuela”. This move by the bloc brought the total number of Venezuelan officials under European sanctions to 36 wherein their assets will be frozen and they will be banned from travelling to Europe.

These recent turn of events have sparked a diplomatic war of words between Caracas and Brussels. The United States, with support from leaders in Europe and Canada, has been pushing for Maduro’s removal. However, Maduro has been in power with control over the Venezuelan military with support from China, Russia, and Iran. Venezuela has been facing a political and economic crisis amid increasing inflation, deteriorated public healthcare structure, and soaring food insecurity.

France elects its mayors, Paris chooses hope

France elects its mayors, Paris chooses hope

France records a peak turnout for the second round of municipal elections. As in the first round, the abstention is high. It was 55.7% in March; it is estimated today at 59%. French voters began voting at 8 am this morning for the 2nd municipal round, amid unprecedented precaution for the Coronavirus epidemic.The first round had taken place amid a thousand controversies on March 15, for the determination of the government – recommended by the scientific committee – to respect the electoral calendar. The ballot should have been on March 22, but France began its anti-COVID lockdown that week and president Emmanuel Macron postponed the vote.

Participation marked an all-time low, with 44.3% of voters in polling stations. This figure remains the main unknown factor of the ballot, to which the candidates of “La Republique en Marche”, the party of Emmanuel Macron, who risk losing in all the big cities, are in great difficulty.French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe is the new mayor of Le Havre, having obtained almost 59% of the votes against the communist candidate Jean-Paul Lecoq. “The Parisians have chosen hope”: Anne Hidalgo, dressed in white, came out on the big stage prepared in front of the town hall of the French capital, to thank the voters who confirmed her at the helm of the Municipality after six difficult years.

After 73 years, Bordeaux will not have a right-wing mayor but left-wing ecologist Pierre Hurmic, who defeated the candidate of the Républicains Nicolas Florian, although he had taken the lead in the first round and then had the support of the Macron’s candidate Thomas Cazeneuve. It is an extraordinary event for the Atlantic City, which had only two mayors in the post-war period, both right-wingers: Jacques Chaban-Delmas and, from 1995, Alain Juppé.

The socialist Anne Hidalgo, 61 years-old, took the ballot with around 50% of the votes, against 32% for Rachida Dati, Les Repéblicains, and 16% for Agnès Buzyn, La Républiqueen Marche. In Perpignan, the extreme right of Marine le Pen emerges with Louis Aliot, who would be 52.7% against 47.3% of the outgoing mayor Jean-Marc Pujol, Les Républicains party. In Poitiers the environmentalist Léonore Moncond’huy wins, while Nancy goes to the left with Mathieu Klein. The armchair occupied for many years by the socialist Martine Aubry hangs in Lille, which would have a very slight disadvantage on the environmentalist Stephane Baly. The polling stations closed at 18-19 in the small provincial cities and 20 in the largest cities such as Marseille, Nice and Lyon, and in the capital Paris.

“A green wave is rising in France,” Europe Ecologie-Les Verts (EELV) spokeswoman Eva Sas exults on television, adding that “what won tonight is the will for a concrete ecology, in action”.A great disappointment for République en Marche, Macron’s party, with government spokesman Sibeth Ndiaye blaming the internal divisions of a movement that was born just four years ago anyway and Minister Julien Denormandie, noting that“the French are telling us that we have to go faster, much faster on ecology”.

Air Bridges to build a road to Europe for Briton travelers

Air Bridges to build a road to Europe for Briton travelers

Britain is going ahead with their plan of building air bridges in order to take care of its people who are fond of travelling. Under pressure from the tourism and travel lobby, Boris Johnson has committed to create the bridges of help between Britons and some key European countries.

It is now confirmed that United Kingdom ministers are in talks with key European countries to create these air bridges between key airports in United Kingdom and these countries. Some of the core European countries include Spain, Italy, Greece, France, Turkey and Croatia that work very well for holidaymakers to travel abroad coming summer season. With this provision, travelers will not need to be quarantined on their return.

As of now Austria and Germany are amongst the various European countries that are considering the idea floated by Britain. This is going to give more teeth to the travel industry and will give hope to the travel and tourism players who have lost miserably due to the Covid-19 induced lockdown.

At the moment, only those countries are being considered to be a part of this bridging programme that have reported a small enough rate of infection and will therefore allow British people to travel there and back without having to undergo 14 days of self-isolation on their return.

Currently, the European Commission is not sure if this would be a fair practice, when it will not include all European nations and just a few. It could look discriminatory. According to EU, all countries with similar infection levels should be considered for the travel corridors. But travel corridors would mean deep scrutiny and infrastructure and investment understanding between the UK and these countries being considered.

The pressure to go ahead such infrastructural buttressing to the travel and tourism sector of Britain comes after a dozens of MPs, including the former prime minister Theresa May went off criticizing the quarantine rule for in effect shutting off the UK from international travel.

According to researchers, air bubbles and bridges are going to (probably) become the new way of travelling in days to come. With this, Britain is trying to salvage some of what is left of a vacation season, that will cost their travel and tourism industry quite dearly.

The Wikipedia defines an air bridge as a connector suspended between an air plane to the terminal entrance. It eliminates any contact into the airport and is a quick way to get people out of the airport bounds.

Meanwhile, Labour Party is calling for pre-screening arrangements before departure for passengers, temperature scanning in airports, isolation zones and an effective 48-hour or quicker test in the UK alongside a contact-tracing scheme.

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