Tag: COVID-19

Covid-19 Under Trial Vaccines Out In Chinese Black Market
Asia Pacific Focus

Covid-19 Under Trial Vaccines Out In Chinese Black Market

There is a black market around Covid-19 vaccines is already doing its magic in China, even before the efficacy of any of the trail vaccines could be proven. People are desperate and are looking for ways to get a hold of even vaccines in trail through employees at various laboratories. 

China apparently has allowed local developed vaccine shots since the mid of the year. There is no way of knowing whether they are effective or not. Pfizer and AstraZeneca are already on their way to developing the vaccines. But China somehow has let such dubious medication go unnoticed. 

According to the UN led Covax initiative, the vaccine will be disseminated in a phased manner, giving preference to medical aid workers, elderly, ailing patients and then the general population at large. But the paucity of doses worldwide has led a black market to thrive in China. 

Bribing your way through medical aid and services is a known practice in China. The trend has continued with vaccine doses too. Despite the fact that the vaccines have not received final regulatory approval, hundreds of thousands of people in China have been jabbed under the emergency-use program. That has heightened concern among scientists over potential safety risks.

China National Biotec Group Co., the arm of Sinopharm is still in the process of developing two leading Covid vaccines. They have widely tested the doses on more than 50,000 people in countries from Argentina to Egypt. But the company’s working has been seen as dubious. Sinopharm is known to have signed up with Canada for vaccine delivery but never kept it side of the deal and seemed to have diverted its doses to military personnel who were in the month of August stationed at the Indo-China border. 

According to the company, trials have been progressing smoothly, and it has not received any reports of serious adverse events in participants. Sinopharm was caught is cross firing between Canada and Chinese government, after which it withdrew shipment to Canada. 

COVID-19 and geopolitics over a global superpower

COVID-19 and geopolitics over a global superpower

Amid the ongoing fight against COVID-19 pandemic, geopolitics over a global superpower is changing 

At a time when countries across the world is struggling to contain the spread of COVID-19 pandemic, the Chinese economy is growing in a bid to help the country attain the status of a superpower over the United States. While the US and Eurozone economies are projected to face declining growth, China is among those countries projected to grow at 1.9 percent. With US’ influence gradually fading away, China is taking over a strategic superpower after transforming its economy and bolstering its political structure. 

Countries across the world are expressing concerns over China’s increased influence and participation in various regions and sectors such as information and communication. As per a recent survey by Nikkei, China’s cross-border data flow in 2019 outstripped that of 10 countries examined including the United States. As of now, China accounts for 23% of cross-border data flows, while the US ranks at second with 12%.

Over the last six years, China’s Belt and Road Initiative has expanded exponentially. As of April 2020, around 138 countries and 30 international institutions are a part of the initiative. As per the World Bank, China has the world’s largest economy and is the world’s largest exporter. It is one of the biggest infrastructural giants in the world. 

The United States is finding itself in the middle of changing global forces where it sees China as a peer competitor and Russia as its main key adversary. Both China and Russia are in direct contest in the international order to wield greater influence across the world. However, as Beijing’s influence and economic grows, Russia is also grappling with increased competition. Burdened by the COVID-19 pandemic, Russia is likely to remain financially stable due to several reasons including its National Wealth Fund. However, the economic shock is likely to put millions into extreme poverty and hamper Moscow’s plan to improve people’s welfare. At the same time, China is overtaking Russia in terms of development and mobilisation of high technology. 

Taking note of these developments, Efforts are being made to rethink economic interactions with Beijing and reduce Chinese-dominated supply chains. European Union is accelerating efforts to cut Chinese takeovers and technology and pharmaceutical dependence on Beijing. A number of countries including Australia, Japan and India are investing in projects to support local manufacturing and reduce their reliance on global supply chains. 

With the changing equation of global superpower, the COVID-19 pandemic has started a new era of geopolitics.

Canada Plans To Share Vaccines With Poor Nations

Canada Plans To Share Vaccines With Poor Nations

Canada Plans To Share Vaccines: Despite its own challenges with acquiring doses for Covid-19 virus, Canada is reaching out to help donating doses to some lower income nations. Canada had a bad experience dealing with China that backed out at the last minute to deliver doses it had promised. 

It is one of the few countries that has been struggling to control the escalating number of infection cases. It is therefore probably forced to make deals to buy more doses per capita than any other nation, according to researchers at the Duke Global Health Innovation Center in North Carolina.

Post the experience with China, Canada is putting its wealth to good use. It has gone out of its way to reserve billions of doses between them before late-stage trial data came in, ensuring they would get access even if only one or two vaccines worked.

Canada will be planning to donate extra doses through the World Health Organization (WHO)-backed COVAX facility, which would distribute them among recipient countries, according to a trusted Canadian government source.

WHO organized COVAX is a facility created to ensure equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines and will be extremely helpful for needy foreign countries. Undeniably, the demand is exceeding supply across the world. With only Pfizer and Moderna having released late-stage trial data, Canada already has deals in place to buy at least 20 million doses from each of the two companies.

But there is a feeling that the doses might not reach low income nations in the right form. Organized by GAVI vaccine group, the COVAX initiative was created to buy vaccines and share them among countries, not to distribute donated leftovers. Quality is of paramount importance here. 

Through the initiative, as many as 2 billion Covid vaccine doses will be made available by the end of 2021. GAVI has already raised more than $2 billion in funding, but needs $5 billion more to meet its goal.

Rich countries are being expected to close the funding gap. They are also expected to get their own residents vaccinated before sharing doses, where millions of frontline workers and vulnerable people in poorer countries could be serviced after that. To avoid this, funding is the best way to buy vaccines for such needy nations. 

Taiwan not invited to WHO meet due to Chinese intervention
Asia Pacific Focus

Taiwan not invited to WHO meet due to Chinese intervention

Taiwan not invited to WHO meet: Taiwan has blamed China’s obstruction for not being invited to WHO’s annual assembly on COVID-19

Taiwan has yet not received an invite to a key meeting of the World Health Organisation (WHO) this week that focuses on the global implications of the Coronavirus pandemic. On Monday, the island’s foreign ministry released a statement alleging that Chinese “obstruction” prevented it from participating in the 73rd WHO annual assembly on November 9-14. 

This development came even as the United States Mission in Geneva had urged WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to invite Taiwan to the World Health Assembly (WHA), the decision-making body of WHO. 

“In view of Taiwan’s resounding success in responding to COVID-19, Director-General Tedros must allow Taiwan to share its best practices at the WHA,” the US Mission had said in its statement.

While the US has backed the participation of the island, the 83-page list of delegations for WHO’s assembly meeting does not include any members from Taiwan. The island is yet to be invited to join the virtual meeting of 194 member states, the foreign ministry said in its statement. Taiwan’s foreign ministry also expressed regret and dissatisfaction with WHO’s continuous neglect of the health and human rights of 23.5 million people of the island. 

Reportedly, Taiwan has been blocked out of a number of key international organisations including the WHO due to Beijing’s objections as it claims the island within its territory.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation has asserted that the decision to invite Taiwan for the WHA meeting lies with the member states. 

As per a Reuters report, China’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva Chen Xu on Monday had told the WHO ministerial meeting that Taiwan’s inclusion in the meeting as an observer will be “illegal and invalid”. Earlier on Friday, China’s mission to the UN in Geneva had condemned US “distorted” remarks on Taiwan’s participation, adding that the island will be allowed to join the assembly session only after it admits to being a part of China. However, the Taipei government has always maintained that Taiwan is a separate nation whether or not independence is declared officially.

Last week, as many as 650 members of parliament from 25 European nations had also sent an open letter to WHO Director-General Tedros, demanding Taiwan to be invited as an observer to the WHA meeting. In addition, the World Medical Association had also written to the WHO chief, calling for inviting Taiwan in an observer capacity. 

While Taiwan joined the WHA as an observer between 2009 and 2016, China has intensified its efforts to exclude from participating in the WHO global actions. After Beijing took its seat in the WHO, Taiwan was forced out of the international organisation in 1972.

This has come at a time when the Taiwanese government has achieved astounding success in combating the COVID-19 pandemic on the island. It is been more than 200 days since the island reported any virus transmission.

MENA region to attract increasing foreign capital inflows
Middle East & Africa

MENA region to attract increasing foreign capital inflows

IIF projects GCC nations to drive external capital inflows in MENA region amid demand for hard bonds

COVID-19 has presented multiple shocks for emerging markets with collapsing capital inflows and domestic and external demand. Amid ongoing efforts to recover from pandemic repercussions, the Institute of International Finance (IIF) has stated that capital inflows in the Middle East region are anticipated to remain high. Speaking to Gulf News, IIF Chief Economist for MENA region Garbis Iradian said that the institution is expecting non-resident capital inflows to the MENA countries to increase up to $177 billion in 2021, which is significantly equivalent to 6.6 percent of the GDP of the region. 

As per the report, hard currency bond issuance of GCC countries is playing a significant role in increasing the capital inflows, adding that countries like the UAE, Saudi Arabi, Oman, Bahrain and Qatar have issued hard currency bond worth $91 billion so far in 2020, as compared to a total of $99 billion in 2019. 

At the same time, GCC’s funding needs are also projected to increase in 2021 even as fiscal deficits have narrowed. Gulf countries are driving the requirements for high-quality assets which will result in the growth of gross public external financing of the region to approximately $100 billion by next year.

Meanwhile, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) continues to remain low in MENA countries in the backdrop of economic repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is prominently concentrated in the oil and gas sectors in the region, with the UAE and Egypt standing high as the highest FDI recipient in the MENA region.

As per an IMF report in January 2020, the Middle East and North Africa region has been witnessing high and stable gross capital inflows in the last years compared to other emerging markets, providing a boost to investment and job creation in the countries. 

After MENA countries integrated into the global capital markets, their capital inflows surged to over $155 during 2016-2018.

However, the UN organization has also raised concerns about the increasing global economic risks that would put MENA countries in a vulnerable position due to shifts in fiscal deficits, debt burdens and financial buffers. The IMF had recommended MENA countries to improve their policy framework in a bid to strengthen their resilience to volatile capital flows and mitigate the risk of outflows. 

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