Tag: COVID-19

Vietnam to get a new leadership as CPV Congress kicks off
Asia Pacific Focus

Vietnam to get a new leadership as CPV Congress kicks off

Community Party of Vietnam has begun the 13th National Congress to finalise its new leadership

Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party has gathered on Monday with the aim of selecting its new leadership which will guide the country’s future policy over the next five years.

Amid the ongoing fight against COVID-19 and recovery efforts, around 1,600 leading members of the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) have come together from all parts of the country to Hanoi for the 13th National Congress. 

The conclave takes place every five years to choose the new leadership and set key diplomatic and economic policies that will lead the way for the country in the world order. This year’s gathering is being dubbed as the most crucial conclave since its introduction in 1935, noting that it is taking place at a time when Vietnam is grappling with the repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

During the 13th Congress, nationwide delegates of the Communist Party will be holding multiple meetings over the next nine days to decide the new leadership team for Vietnam, formulate socio-economic policies for the next five years, and set the course for the country’s international diplomacy. Beginning on Monday, the conclave will come to an end on February 2 when Vietnam’s new leadership will be announced. 

Another focus will be on the fate of Vietnamese President Nguyen Phu Trong, who has been keeping unwell for some time now. As the Communist Party’s general secretary, 76-year-old Nguyen Phu Trong took charge of the country’s presidency in October 2018 and is currently in his second term. Over the past two years, Trong has gained massive popularity owing to his record on Vietnam’s economic growth and fight against corruption.

The new leadership of the Communist-ruled nation will be facing major challenges in reviving its economy in the wake of the pandemic crisis and stabilize strategic and diplomatic relations with countries across the world, particularly with China and the US.

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Reportedly, there is intense competition among leading members of the party for the top posts, including the “four pillars” – the Party chief; State president; Prime Minister; and National Assembly Chair. The Communist party’s general secretary holds the most power in Vietnam, followed by the president, who is regarded as the head of government. 

Interestingly, as Vietnam’s largest trade partners, the US and China are expected to keep a close eye on the selection process for the new leadership. Vietnam is targeting to become a developed nation before 2045 by targeting its average annual growth between 6.5% and 7.0% in the next five years. 

Sweden Retracts Vaccine Stored Under Wrong Temperatures
Europe

Sweden Retracts Vaccine Stored Under Wrong Temperatures

The country that was boasting about combating the Corona Virus through herd immunity has failed yet again, in mitigating the virus spread, as it administered vaccines to its Swedes stored at the wrong temperature while being transported. 

Swedish medical facilities have landed up giving some 1000 patients the Covid-19 vaccine stored in the wrong temperature. All those administered the doses were medical professionals. A total of 2100 such doses were stored in wrong temperature.  They amount to 20percent of what Sweden had to receive and were (unfortunately) stored in rather low temperature.

Apparently, there was a problem with delivery itself.  As of now, there have been so side effects, but those administered are being observed for any adverse reactions. The other doses have been withheld for further investigation to ascertain whether their efficacy remains effective even after they were stored on low temperatures while being transported. 

Before this, Sweden has made use of the Pfizer vaccine candidate and has inoculated more than 1.4 million of its population.  

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The currently authorized mRNA vaccines have been found to provide up to 95% immunity against COVID-19. Further, vaccine research specialists have also ascertained that both the Pfizer and Morderna vaccines are so similar that both can be used interchangeably in order a patient gets two jobs in the interval of 28 days. This has been confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention while they are still trying to decipher if the efficacy of the medication is affected if used interchangeably. 

Both have made use of the messenger RNA technology. 

AS the scare around the mutated virus increases, there will be the need to either tweak the vaccine or to ensure that the existing one can fight the possibly resilient Corona virus. According to vaccine researchers, tweaking the recipe wouldn’t be difficult for vaccines made with newer technologies. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are made with a piece of the virus genetic code that is simple to switch. 

World Bank Extends Financial Help To Lebanon Covid-19 Vaccine Plan
Middle East & Africa

World Bank Extends Financial Help To Lebanon Covid-19 Vaccine Plan

One of the poorer nations of the world, Lebanon is now getting a medical financial stimulus from the World Bank, official reports have confirmed. The World Bank has approved $34million to back the Lebanese Covid-19 vaccination drive. 

This is the first such huge outlay of funds by the bank. Previously, Lebanon has taken several loans from the bank to keep its economy from sinking. Since the pandemic broke out, the country has been struggling with the constant outbreaks and an unfortunate burn of a strategic port that led to a major scare and distrust amongst common people over the administration of the government. 

Funds have been reallocated from an existing Lebanon Health Resilient Project.  The Lebanese government has signed up for receiving the American Pfizer vaccine for 2.1 million doses. Lebanon already has a fractured medical system that has been losing its back over a surge in infection rates. 

According to the Lebanon Health Ministry, the vaccines will arrive by February.  These doses will be priced at $18 looking at Lebanon’s financial condition and the whole cost is covered under the World Bank financial assistance. 

Additionally, Lebanon would also receive another 2.7 million doses from the UN-led Covax program that caters to poorer countries like Lebanon, Yemen, Syria and Libya. These doses are expected to arrive no sooner than the mid of the year. These work on the mechanism of richer countries donating a percentage of their doses stocks to the poorer nations, once their own people are inoculated. 

Once known for its advanced medical services in the Middle East, Lebanon today stands to manage its falling bricks. There is a convergence of stresses on the health care system. There are many reasons for this. But the major reasons that stand out include lack of up-to-date infrastructure; lack of medical personnel due to high emigration rates among doctors; and difficulties in obtaining medical supplies due to the devaluation of the Lebanese currency and reduced imports. 

Biden Promise Shows Shift Towards Quick Economic Recovery Road
Americas

Biden Promise Shows Shift Towards Quick Economic Recovery Road

As Joe Biden was sworn in as the new American dream for a better tomorrow, discussions around his stimulus package are already doing rounds in the political circuit. 

The bottom line drawn is that the seriousness and vow of delivery will entirely depend on the effectiveness of his stimulus package.  According to a former economic advisor to Obama, Biden indeed has a tough task at hand as he is “inheriting among the worst crises a president has stepped into.”

An old saying goes that ‘the first 100 days tests the effectiveness of someone’s leadership’. Indeed, Biden will have all the opportunity to test his from the beginning.  He would need to move in lightening speed, to repair damage and create some immediate buttressing of the fractured economy. Critics feel he has the right experience having worked under Obama as Vice President. 

Reversing the damage course, as soon as he was sworn, he quickly signed off 17 executive orders. They included extending a pause on student loan payments, renewing an eviction moratorium, and rejoining the Paris climate accords.

There is hope when Biden makes announcements about collective strength and desire to bring together the bipartisanship and unite Americans after almost four years of divided chaos under Donald Trump.  According to economists, there is a need for robust input of finances to help the economy to get back on its feet. 

Biden has already introduced a $1.9 trillion pandemic relief plan last week building on an earlier federal rescue package. The plan includes relief provisions like enhanced unemployment insurance through September, aid to state and local governments, vaccine funds, and new stimulus checks.

Biden has also said he would unveil a second major plan during a joint session of Congress next month to unleash new federal investments into infrastructure, childcare and manufacturing.

Currently, the infection numbers in America have out past those even killed in the World War II, amounting to 4.5 million. Around 10 million less Americans have jobs due to the ongoing corona virus strain on the economy. Much of the economic burden has fallen squarely on women and minority communities, who have suffered larger job losses. Last week, employers have said to have shed 140,000 jobs, not making things any further pleasant that they already are. 

Indian Vaccine Variant To Steer Clear-Off Immunity Compromised Patients
Asia Pacific Focus

Indian Vaccine Variant To Steer Clear-Off Immunity Compromised Patients

Bharat Biotech has warned against severe side effects of their Covaxin, especially for those who are immuno compromised or are taking medication that can effect their immune system. 

Those being administered the vaccine should also disclose any underlying allergies and ailments to their officer in-charge, the pharmaceutical company has warned. 

As the vaccine received emergency approval after a battery of trials, it is now admitting that the vaccine actually might not be affective but prove fatal for some. 

As the corona virus develops ability to mutate and effect the human being, while its vaccine is effective on this new strain, it might not be able to stabilize side effects in certain kinds of patients. This will definitely include those with severe allergies or immune compromised medical conditions. 

Additionally, patients on blood thinners ,undergoing pregnancy or even running a mild fever due to other underlying infections should avoid taking the Covid-19 vaccine

The vaccine could create severe allergic reactions but this should be seen as a rare occurrence, according to an official statement issued by the Bharat Biotech spokesperson. 

Side effects could include difficulty in breathing, swelling on the face and throat, fastened heartbeat, body rashes, dizziness and weakness. While most inoculations do show certain level of side effects, doctors are not sure if the vaccine might react differently with certain individuals. 

It is a known fact that the development of a vaccine does take many hits and trials, before it can reach a balanced level where it can cover a huge population. The measles vaccine went through such a process of evolution. But what is also creating a problem is the various variants of the vaccine that is now starting to do rounds worldwide. 

India is depending on its home grown vaccine. Those administered the Covaxin are going to be monitored for a period of three months after being  administered the second dose, post which patients can seek medical help in case there are any adverse reactions  to the vaccination. This has been confirmed by Bharat Biotech. 

Italy’s coalition government on edge, in danger of losing vote of confidence
Europe

Italy’s coalition government on edge, in danger of losing vote of confidence

Italian coalition government has been witnessing political crisis. The country’s prime minister Giuseppe Conte, who won vote of confidence in lower house on Monday, has been under a lot of pressure as the main test of his political prowess depends on the vote in the upper house, the Senate due on Tuesday. The Italy’s ruling government has been on the edge, since former prime minister Matteo Renzi withdrew the support of his party Italia Viva (Italy Alive) from the ruling coalition last week.

Conte‘s lower house win gave him a little hope, where the government escaped defeat by 321 to 259 votes. The coalition won by greater than expected margin, but the danger of losing power continue to loom until the result of the upper house would be out. In his speech, given at the lower house, Conte said that the country was at a precarious turn, when forming a new government would be too risky an affair. Conte said that the need of the hour was to stand together to fight the exiting battles against Covid-19 pandemic and crumbling economy. He added that Italy needed “a cohesive government,” with “an essential European mission, pursuing a clear choice of field against nationalist tendencies.”  

He said, “We risk losing touch with reality … All our energies should be focused on the urgent crisis facing the country,” referring to the pandemic onslaught. The country had been one of the worst impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, which claimed over 82,000 lives and reduced its economy to ruins. Amidst the global health tragedy, Conte defended his government’s efforts in dealing with the situation put forward by the unprecedented disease.

Conte’s center-left coalition government, at present include the left-wing populist Five Star Movement (MS5) and the center-left Democratic Party (PD) as its remaining allies after Renzi’s exit. Critics slammed former premier’s exit from the coalition government, triggering political crisis in the country at the juncture when nation was battling a major health disaster. Renzi orchestrated the resignation of two cabinet ministers and a junior minister following a disagreement with Conte over spending of EU fund as the nation is bound to receive €209 billion ($250 billion) as a recover fund from the bloc.

Evading the global trend China’s economy bounces back, faster & harder than pre-pandemic
Geopolitics

Evading the global trend China’s economy bounces back, faster & harder than pre-pandemic

It’s been a little over a year that coronavirus pandemic clawed China and started spreading across the country and beyond. Apart from the massive heart-wrenching effect on lives, the pandemic tore part global economy and China was no different. Now, China’s economy is steering its way back on track and is bouncing back fast and hard, better than it did pre-Covid. 

On Monday, the published economic data showed China recording growth of 2.3% in 2020. This made the Asian country the only major economy to show growth in a year when coronavirus was taking a toll on global economies. As competing economies, United States of America, Europe, Japan and India, are struggling to tackle ‘winter Covid-19 wave’, China is enjoying its view from the top with buoyant economy, claiming global leadership in the post-Covid-19 era. 

The National Statistics Bureau has highlighted China’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product) recorded a rise of 6.5% during 2020 fourth quarter. This surpassed the growth in 2019 end which was 6%. China’s GDP crossed milestone in 2020, recording over $15 trillion or 100 trillion yuan. 

Bureau’s head Ning Jizhe said, “In an extraordinary year, China’s economy was able to record an extraordinary accomplishment. It’s a performance that is satisfactory to the people, watched by the world, and can be recorded in the annals of history.” He added that crossing GDP milestone by China reflects how “our country’s economic strength, science and technology strength, and overall national strength have jumped to a new level.” 

Spring 2020 saw SARS-CoV-2 virus containment by China, with small scale re-emergence in past few weeks. This has helped China keep on the crucial sectors like construction, heavy industry and export manufacturing working at a time when other nations were grappling the crisis. 

China’s foreign minister Wang Yi recently addressed the world leaders and said that under leadership of President Xi Jinping, China has recorded fast recovery and that China “has brought hope for the world economy to step out of the doldrums.” 

Employment too is picking up with boost in economy. China has successfully created 11.86 million jobs during 2020. 

But some economists highlight the impressive at first glance performance of China’s economy. It is fueled by country returning to old ways causing foundation of economy hollow and fragile – debt fueled infrastructure building, relying on heavy and old industries, including steel production.  

China is still facing global challenges in trade sector, including trade tensions with the US. This also brings in big challenge to incoming President Joe Biden and his administration who will have to deal and work on the strained relationship between US and China under Trump presidency. 

Why Balkan Countries Are Refusing To Be Immunized?
Europe

Why Balkan Countries Are Refusing To Be Immunized?

Balkan Countries: The Southeastern European nations are seemingly skeptical over the vaccine candidates doing round in the markets.  Some critics feel that the pandemic has become an excuse to forward ‘global manipulation’. 

Strangely, a study conducted by the Europe Policy Advisory Group for the Balkan states (it was published before the regional vaccination campaign started in December 2020) concluded shockingly that virus conspiracy theories were actually affecting people’s decisions to receive the vaccination. This amounted to nearly 80 percent of the citizens residing in Western Balkan countries. Apparently, these are the same countries that are also striving to join the European Union. About half of them will refuse to get vaccinated, it said.

We are referring specifically to countries like the Czech Republic, Serbia, Bosnia, Romania and Bulgaria that are also running anti campaigns against Russian and Chinese made Covid19 vaccines. 

The anti skepticism has flown down to ex-presidents, former doctors and sportsmen too. For example Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic has been foolhardy with his and his family’s health, travelling on tennis tours, refusing to be inoculated. 

There is a general buzz that through the vaccine, Russia is trying to insert a microchip into the bloodstream of the users. Serbia does not hold Russia is good esteem and it has historic reasons for that. 

Serbian politicians are going on national television to declare safety of the vaccine. They are getting themselves inoculated there. But this isn’t having the desired effect. But even Siberian politicians are divided between the EU approved or the Russian vaccine- there are reasons to favor one over the other. 

In Bosnia too, there is a huge divide. An amalgamation between Croats, Bosniaks and Serbs, the country is favoring the Russian over other Western options. In Bulgaria too, there is mistrust due to lack of proper information about the vaccine and its effects. They faced major resistance over the spread of measles earlier too. The trend continues with Covid-19. According to the Gallup International Poll, majority of the population is against getting itself inoculated. 

In the Czech Republic, where surveys show some 40% reject vaccination, protesters at a big rally against government virus restrictions in Prague demanded that vaccinations not be mandatory. Former President Vaclav Klaus, a fierce critic of the government’s pandemic response, told the crowd that vaccines are not a solution.

Hungary that had been walking its own pace, going against the EU, has now taken a hard stand against anyone ‘scaremongering’ that is dissuading people to get themselves inoculated. Such trouble makers will be persecuted; but the rate of immunization has not gone up. It dwindles on 30percent. 

Herd immunization did not work well; a robust vaccine immunization drive is the only thing that can save these nations from fighting the more deadly form of mutated Corona virus that is challenging nations like the UK presently. 

Who Is Going To Fit Into Angela Merkel’s Shoes?
Europe

Who Is Going To Fit Into Angela Merkel’s Shoes?

Angela Merkel: It is not going to be easy to step into Angela Merkel’s shoes, who decided in 2018 itself that she would not run for re-elections.  The word is already out that of the three contenders eyeing her the German Chancellor’s role will have to be ‘rookie’. 

A forthcoming virtual voting comprising of 1000 or more delegates will decide the German fate soon. It will also mean new leadership for the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the ruling conservative party that goes into an election mode over the weekend.

As this goes into motion, it will set out a series of events. This will comprise he CDU convention is the opening act to several regional elections in the spring, and the final federal, nationwide, vote in September that will see chancellor Angela Merkel leave office.

The most prominent and promising is millionaire lawyer Friedrich Merz who was shunned by Merkel in 2002, when he exited from the party and his role as she stepped in. Merz is now promising to take the party back to its conservative, neoliberal roots. While the elections for the CDU Convention will not decide the final Chancellor, it set the tones for the nation. 

Also in the race is the 59-year-old Armin Laschet, a state premier of North-Rhine Westphalia, and an establishment CDU figure, who portrays himself as the natural heir to Merkel.

A 55-year-old Norbert Röttgen chairs the Bundestag’s foreign affairs committee, and has run a digitally-savvy campaign, and espouses a more active foreign policy. There is also Bavarian premier Markus Söder from the Christian Social Union, the sister party to the CDU, and health minister Jens Spahn in the race for the Chancellorship, a position Merkel well held and commanded for over a decade.

Mutated Virus Strains NHS Scares EU Bloc Again
Europe

Mutated Virus Strains NHS Scares EU Bloc Again

NHS Scares EU Bloc: As the UK becomes one of the first countries in Europe to undertake a massive Covid-19 immunization drive, its hospitals are still swamped with virus-infected numbers. 

The new virus strain is spreading faster than the previous one. It has only one agenda on its mind- how to wipe out human race. Now, Europe is wearier than ever. The Pfizer- BioNTech vaccine is said to be able to combat the new vaccine strain. But the numbers are consistently piling up in the UK, while the country vigorously immunizes 200,000 people a day.  

According to Arnaud Fontanet, an epidemiologist who sits on the scientific council that advises the French government on Covid, “the new virus strain is an epidemic inside an existing epidemic. It is spreading faster than the earlier one.”

Currently, the strain of the new virus is being seen in 31 countries outside UK. The spread rate is unclear. The way it has put pressure on the National Health Services (NHS), is raising red flags everywhere in Europe. 

In comparison to the UK, Germany and France has way behind schedule to administer the vaccine. The UK has already covered over 2 million people per day since December 08, when it started its immunization drive. It has the goal of covering as many as 15 million people till the mid of the February. 

However, the new strain is coming with its own challenges. The spread rate is faster. According to the British government’s scientific advisers, the mutated Covid-19 is infecting people faster. Numbers of those infected is running to 100,000 a day. This has (probably) exceeded the spread rate of the first wave in the spring of 2019. ICU beds are reportedly filling rapidly and British PM Boris Johnson has said that oxygen supplies are running short in some areas.

Keeping in mind that the rest of the Europe has taken longer to even approve and then secure the requisite vaccine doses, its ability to handle the smarter mutating version of Corona virus is suspect. Worry is spreading to medical services in the rest of Europe already. 

Since December 2020, In Spain, the number of Covid patients in ICUs in Spain has climbed to 24 percent. Italian ICUs are also seeing more Covid patients, after a drop at the end of last month. In Germany too, intensive-care beds had never emptied — and while hospital admissions are down 8% from a peak at the beginning of the year, officials worry the new strain could quickly refill wards.

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