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SA outraged by AU decision to ‘reward’ Israel with observer status

SA outraged by AU decision to ‘reward’ Israel with observer status

Citizen Reporter

Dirco says the decision was more shocking following the Israel-Palestine conflict.

More than a 100 ANC members protested in solidarity with people of Palestine at the Israeli Embassy on 25 May 2021 in Pretoria. Picture: Gallo Images/Alet Pretorius

The South African government has expressed its shock over the African Union (AU) Commission’s decision to grant Israel observer status within the continental union.

In a statement released on Wednesday, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) said government was “appalled” at the “unjust and unwarranted” decision of the AU Commission.

“The African Union Commission has taken this decision unilaterally without consultations with its members,” Dirco said.

READ MORE: Israel-Palestine conflict: We won’t pick sides in our reporting

The department pointed out that the decision was more shocking following the conflict between Israel and Palestine.

“The decision to grant Israel observer status is even more shocking in a year in which the oppressed people of Palestine were hounded by destructive bombardments and continued illegal settlements of the land.

“The African Union strenuously objected to the deaths of Palestinians and the destruction of civilian infrastructure. The decision by the AU Commission in this context is inexplicable.”

The department said it believed the unjust actions committed by Israel “offend the letter and spirit of the Charter of the AU”.

“The AU embodies the aspirations of all Africans and reflects their confidence that it can lead the continent through the practical expression of the goals of the Charter, especially on issues relating to self-determination and decolonisation.

“Israel continues to illegally occupy Palestine in complete defiance of its international obligations and relevant UN resolutions. It is therefore incomprehensible that the AU Commission chooses to reward Israel at a time when its oppression of Palestinians has been demonstrably more brutal.”

WATCHTrevor Noah – Israel, Palestine conflict ‘not a fair fight’

It further said the government would request the chairperson of the AU Commission to provide a briefing to all member states on the decision, “which we hope will be discussed by the executive council and the assembly of heads of states and government”.

“South Africa firmly believes that as long as Israel is not willing to negotiate a peace plan without preconditions, it should not have observer status in the AU. The AU cannot be a party in any way to plans and actions that would see the ideal of Palestinian statehood reduced into balkanised entities devoid of true sovereignty, without territorial contiguity and with no economic viability.”

What is observer status?

Israel is reported to have obtained observer status at the AU last Thursday, since the Jewish state has been demanding it for years.

According to United Nations (UN) Economic and Social Commission for West Asia (ECWA), observer status is a privilege granted by some organisations to non-members to give them an ability to participate in the organisation’s activities.

Observer status is often granted by intergovernmental organisations (IGO) to non-member states and international non-governmental organisations (INGO) that have an interest in the IGO’s activities.

Observers generally have a limited ability to participate in the IGO, lacking the ability to vote or propose resolutions.

Protests

An 11-day conflict with Israel saw hundreds killed, most of whom were Palestinians, many of them children.

Despite a ceasefire being declared at the end of May, thousands in Gaza are now homeless. 

Protests took place across South Africa and the world.

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Zimbabwe approves J&J COVID-19 vaccine for…

Zimbabwe approves J&J COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use


 28 Jul 2021 – 14:27

Zimbabwe approves J&J COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use

Vials labelled “COVID-19 Coronavirus Vaccine” and syringe are seen in front of displayed Johnson&Johnson logo in this illustration taken, February 9, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

HARARE: Zimbabwe has authorised the emergency use of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine, the first Western-made shot to be approved by the southern African nation, its medicines regulator said on Wednesday.

Like many African countries, Zimbabwe is in the grips of a third wave of infections, with nearly half of its 101,711 cumulative cases and 3,280 deaths recorded this month alone, according to official data.

Until now, the Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe (MCAZ) had only registered vaccines from India, Russia and China.

“MCAZ reviewed the technical documentation that was submitted by the manufacturer, and emergency use authorisation was granted and communicated to (the Ministry of Health),” MCAZ spokesman Shingai Gwatidzo said.

He declined to say when Zimbabwe would receive its first J&J shots, adding that the health ministry would confirm the deployment of the vaccines after reviewing requirements for cold chain storage.

So far, more than 1.5 million Zimbabweans have received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Most were given China’s Sinovac and Sinopharm shots.

Zimbabwe has so far received more than five million doses from China, including both purchases and donations.

Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube said on Sunday the government had fully paid for a total of 12 million vaccine doses from China.

He said Zimbabwe expected 5 million shots under an African Union vaccine procurement facility after making a $7.5 million deposit, while another 1.15 million doses would be delivered under the COVAX global vaccine distribution programme.
 

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The U.S. is to ship nearly 10 million shots to Nigeria and South Africa.

Travelers at Heathrow airport in London last month.
Credit…Andy Rain/EPA, via Shutterstock

Fully vaccinated travelers from the United States and the European Union will be allowed to enter England without quarantining upon arrival starting Aug. 2, the British authorities said on Wednesday as they seek to attract tourists after months of restrictions.

“We’re helping reunite people living in the U.S. and European countries with their family and friends in U.K.,” Transport Secretary Grant Shapps wrote on Twitter.

New coronavirus cases have been declining in Britain lately, a shift that is baffling scientists, many of whom predicted a powerful surge in cases after the government relaxed all but a handful of restrictions in England last week.

Under the current rules, a person who has been vaccinated in Britain doesn’t have to self-isolate when returning from most “amber list” countries, but that exemption doesn’t apply to those who have been inoculated outside Britain.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Wednesday that he wanted American travelers to come to England “freely,” and airline and airport operators have urged the authorities to lift restrictions in the hope of reopening travel.

Most European countries have been open to American tourists after the European Union recommended lifting a ban on nonessential travel last month. Yet E.U. and British residents are still mostly banned from traveling to the United States, unless they are U.S. citizens.

Few experts are willing to draw definitive conclusions from the downward trend in cases in Britain, which could reflect transient factors like the school summer break, the end of the European soccer championships or fewer people getting tested for the virus.

But if the trend is sustained, the case numbers raise a tantalizing prospect that Prime Minister Boris Johnson may have bet correctly that the country could withstand a return to normalcy, even with the rapidly transmissible Delta variant widely circulating in the population. His own health secretary, Sajid Javid, who is vaccinated and nonetheless tested positive on July 19, predicted the opposite — that cases could skyrocket to 100,000 a day before the country’s third wave of the pandemic ebbed.

The Biden administration said on Monday that it would continue to restrict the entry of Britons and others into the United States, citing concerns that infected travelers may contribute to further spread of the contagious Delta variant across the country.

Mark Landler contributed reporting.

A protest against potential mask mandates in Tampa, Fla., on Tuesday.
Credit…Octavio Jones/Getty Images

In urging Americans to return to wearing masks indoors, at least in areas where the coronavirus is surging, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday issued only a guideline, not a legally binding mandate.

How and whether the new mask guidance is implemented depends entirely on state and local authorities, which in turn depends greatly on local politics.

As in the early days of the pandemic, the C.D.C.’s recommendation, which applies to the vaccinated and unvaccinated alike, was met with a sharp backlash, especially from political leaders in Republican-leaning states where mask mandates have been banned.

Officials in some states took the new guidance from federal experts and swiftly ran with it. Others decided to take a wait-and-see approach. And some stood firmly against it.

Shortly after the C.D.C. announcement, officials in Illinois and Nevada said they would follow the guidance, asking residents to wear masks in indoor public spaces, regardless of vaccination status.

Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, said that despite the effectiveness of current vaccines, including against the highly contagious Delta variant, “We are still seeing the virus rapidly spread among the unvaccinated.”

“The risk is greater for everyone if we do not stop the ongoing spread of the virus and the Delta variant,” she said.

Gov. Steve Sisolak of Nevada went further, reinstating a mask mandate for all residents in indoor public spaces in counties with high rates of transmission. The requirement includes Clark County, home to Las Vegas.

Delaware, the District of Columbia, New York and Washington State were among the jurisdictions that said they would review the C.D.C.’s guidance before making any decisions.

Two Republican governors, Greg Abbott of Texas and Doug Ducey of Arizona, signaled their opposition to the recommendation. Conservative politicians and their supporters in those states have cast public health measures as an attack on freedom.

“Arizona does not allow mask mandates, vaccine mandates, vaccine passports or discrimination in schools based on who is or isn’t vaccinated,” Mr. Ducey said on Tuesday. “This is just another example of the Biden-Harris administration’s inability to effectively confront the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Mr. Ducey added that he was concerned the C.D.C.’s announcement would undermine confidence in the vaccines.

Mr. Abbott, who in May signed an executive order preventing local governments from requiring masks, said that wearing a face covering was a matter of personal responsibility.

“Every Texan has the right to choose whether they will wear a mask or have their children wear masks,” Mr. Abbott said in a tweet.

C.D.C. officials on Tuesday also called for universal masking for teachers, staff, students and visitors in schools, regardless of vaccination status and transmission rates of the virus. Some school districts in Alabama and Georgia did not wait for state governments to weigh in and immediately instituted mask requirements.

In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida issued a statement encouraging parents in his state to decide what’s best for their children when it comes to masking. He said experts had raised concerns that the risks of masking children outweighed the potential benefits, having negative effects on their learning, speech, social development and physical health.

“Fortunately, the data indicate that Covid is not a serious risk to healthy children,” he said. He said that he “trusts parents to weigh the risks and benefits.”

Other jurisdictions, like Los Angeles County and St. Louis County, Mo., had reinstated mask mandates even before the C.D.C.’s announcement.

Kevin McCarthy, the House Minority leader, at the U.S. Capitol in May, before the mask mandate was lifted. The House of Representatives is requiring masks again, following new C.D.C. guidance issued this week.
Credit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times

The House of Representatives will once again require all lawmakers and staff members to wear masks inside, a sharp reversal of policy as growing fears about the Delta variant reach the doorstep of Congress. Senators will be encouraged to mask up, too, but are not required to do so.

In a memo late Tuesday night, Dr. Brian P. Monahan, Congress’s top doctor, said he was recommending the change based on new C.D.C. guidance and the nature of the Capitol, where thousands of people traveling from across the country mix each week.

“For the Congress, representing a collection of individuals traveling weekly from various risk areas (both high and low rates of disease transmission), all individuals should wear a well-fitted, medical-grade filtration mask (for example an ear loop surgical mask or a KN95 mask) when they are in an interior space,” Dr. Monahan wrote to House officials.

In a letter to top Senate leaders, Dr. Monahan dispensed the same advice but stopped short of recommending a mask mandate. The Senate is a smaller body, and for much of the pandemic, its members wore masks voluntarily. Most Senators are vaccinated.

The House triumphantly dropped its longtime mask requirement six weeks ago in a show of optimism that the grip of the pandemic was loosening. Since then, at least one House lawmaker and an aide to Speaker Nancy Pelosi have tested positive for the coronavirus after being fully vaccinated, and others on Capitol Hill have gone into voluntary quarantine after exposure to individuals who were sick with Covid-19. At the same time, new cases have skyrocketed across the country.

Like broader mask guidance from the C.D.C. and aggressive interventions being considered by President Biden to increase the nation’s vaccination rate, the new mask mandate in the House is likely to test the patience of a weary public and the opposition Republican party, which is eager to accuse Democrats of undermining confidence in vaccines and jeopardizing the health of the recovering economy. Republicans in the House immediately protested and raised the prospect that they may refuse to comply.

“Make no mistake — The threat of bringing masks back is not a decision based on science, but a decision conjured up by liberal government officials who want to continue to live in a perpetual pandemic state,” Representative Kevin McCarthy, Republican of California and the minority leader, wrote on Twitter.

House rules say that any lawmaker who does not wear a mask in specified spaces in the Capitol complex can be fined $500 or more. Several Republicans were fined earlier this year for that reason. But it is unclear what Ms. Pelosi and other House leaders would do if many Republican members refuse to go along. Democrats have been far more compliant in the past, and many have begun voluntarily wearing masks again in recent days.

Standing in line for Covid-19 vaccines in Bangalore, India, on Tuesday. The situation has improved lately in the country, which was the epicenter of the pandemic a few months ago. 
Credit…Jagadeesh Nv/EPA, via Shutterstock

On a global scale, the latest wave of the pandemic appears to be cresting at a lower level than those of the winter and spring, but the pattern differs markedly from place to place, as each nation endures its own particular drama.

The patchwork reflects the radically different paths the coronavirus takes from nation to nation, depending not only on vaccines, but on geographic isolation, the spread of the highly infectious Delta and other variants, social and economic restrictions, public compliance and an element of luck.

Conditions have improved substantially in places like India and South America that a few months ago were among the hardest-hit in the world, according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

In May, India reached about 400,000 new infections and 4,000 Covid-19 deaths officially reported per day, though experts said the true toll was much higher. On Monday, the daily tally of new cases in India dipped below 30,000 for the first time in more than four months, and the country is now reporting fewer than 1,000 deaths a day.

The most troubled countries now are a scattered assortment, not concentrated in any one region. Botswana, Kazakhstan, Malaysia and Spain have among the highest infection rates in the world, with numbers still climbing. Indonesia, which was recording more cases than any other country this month, remains badly affected, but the pace there has eased somewhat.

In many countries, rates of new cases are relatively low but have risen sharply in recent days. They include countries with some of the highest inoculation rates, like Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Israel and the United States.

Vaccination rates range from more than 80 percent of adults in some countries to less than 1 percent in others, including in many of the world’s poorest nations, according to data from the Our World in Data project at the University of Oxford.

Britain has become an outlier: One of the most-vaccinated parts of the world, it has a high (though declining) infection rate.

Globally, more than 500,000 new cases are being recorded daily, compared with more than 800,000 three months ago. But comparisons like that are fraught, because official reporting practices vary widely from region to region. The picture is especially difficult to gauge across most of Africa, where both testing and vaccines remain scarce.

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Biden Administration May Require Vaccinations for Federal Workers

President Biden said a mandate requiring all federal employees to be vaccinated against the coronavirus was under consideration, reflecting concern over the spread of the Delta variant.

Reporter: “Will you require all federal employees to get vaccinated?” “That’s under consideration right now, but if you’re not vaccinated, you’re not nearly as smart as I thought you were.” Reporter: “Are you concerned that the C.D.C.’s new mask guidance could sow confusion?” “We have a pandemic because of the unvaccinated, an they’re sowing enormous confusion, and the more we learn, the more we learn about this virus and the Delta variation, the more we have to be worried and concerned. And there’s only one thing we know for sure: If those other 100 million people got vaccinated, we’d be in a very different world. So get vaccinated and if you haven’t, you’re not nearly as smart as I said you were — thanks.”

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President Biden said a mandate requiring all federal employees to be vaccinated against the coronavirus was under consideration, reflecting concern over the spread of the Delta variant.CreditCredit…T.J. Kirkpatrick for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration is considering requiring all federal employees to be vaccinated against the coronavirus or be forced to submit to regular testing, social distancing, mask requirements and restrictions on most travel, officials said Tuesday — a major shift in approach by President Biden that reflects the government’s growing concern about the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant.

Mr. Biden said on Tuesday that a vaccine mandate for all federal workers was under consideration, but did not provide details. Administration officials said the idea being debated was similar to a plan announced by New York City, which would require any of the city’s 300,000 employees who refuse to be vaccinated to submit to weekly testing.

Officials said there was no consideration of simply firing employees who refuse to get vaccinated, but that the government could add additional burdens or restrictions on those who do not get the protections in an effort to convince more people to get the shot in the first place. They said there was evidence that making life inconvenient for those who refuse the vaccine works reasonably well to increase vaccination rates.

Around the country, mayors, business leaders, hospital administrators and college presidents are requiring Covid-19 vaccinations, even for those who have refused to voluntarily roll up their sleeves. So far, Mr. Biden has resisted. He has not yet required all federal workers to be vaccinated. He has not ordered members of the military to get shots. And he has not used his bully pulpit to call for a broader use of vaccine mandates.

But the president’s stance may be shifting quickly.

Inside the West Wing, his top public health experts are furiously debating the right path forward, according to administration officials, as the Delta variant surges in places where there are high numbers of unvaccinated Americans, posing a special threat to children, older people, cancer patients and others with weakened immune systems.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revised its mask guidance for vaccinated Americans on Tuesday.
Credit…Benjamin Norman for The New York Times

Two months after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it was OK for vaccinated people to forgo masks indoors, the agency reversed course on Tuesday, saying that Americans should put masks on again — at least in areas where the coronavirus infection rate is high.

The official guidance — swayed by research on the Delta variant, which is causing rising case counts and “breakthrough” infections of vaccinated people — is aimed at places where the virus is surging. At the moment, that covers nearly two-thirds of U.S. counties. Per the guidance, all residents of Florida, vaccinated or not, should wear masks indoors.

The announcement complicates return-to-office plans for many companies at a time the Delta variant is already forced some of them to push back their start dates. Asana, a software company, told employees last week that it was pushing its return-to-office date for all employees in San Francisco and New York to no earlier than Feb. 1, a person familiar with the situation said. The company is also mandating vaccines for all employees coming into the office.

Companies that have already opened their doors must decide whether to retrench on masking policies. When the C.D.C. lifted its masking guidance in May, many companies issued new guidelines allowing fully vaccinated employees and customers to return without masks. The move served as an important incentive for workers, as well as a signal that the pandemic was winding down. For employees, it provided a sense of safety and normality in returning to offices.

Walmart, which began to allow fully vaccinated employees to go mask-free in May, did not respond to a request for comment. Neither did a spokeswoman for Kroger, which has likewise reduced its masking restrictions.

In New York City, finance firms have already begun to call back workers. Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase, which allow fully vaccinated employees to go mask-free, had no comment about the C.D.C.’s announcement. A spokeswoman for American Express said the company had “no updates to share,” as the company is not back in the office yet.

“People are enjoying their freedom, so I don’t know if we’re going to go back or not,” said Alana Ackels, a labor lawyer at Bell Nunnally. She added that after the C.D.C.’s guidance in May, her phone “was ringing off the hook because everyone wanted to get rid of the mask. On Tuesday evening, after the agency’s reversal, “I haven’t gotten a single call about it,” she said.

MGM Resorts International, the casino and hotel giant, said Tuesday it would require all guests and visitors to wear masks indoors in public areas, “based on the latest information and guidance from health experts and public officials.”

The National Retail Federation, which represents businesses on the front lines of managing and enforcing public masking policies, said in a statement that “retailers will continue to follow the guidance of the C.D.C.” It added, “It is truly unfortunate that mask recommendations have returned when the surest known way to reduce the threat of the virus is widespread vaccination.”

The C.D.C.’s move may spur more corporate vaccine mandates, said David Schwartz, who runs the labor group at the law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. This might be a preferable alternative to “requiring employees and customers to wear masks and not being able to maintain a consistent policy,” he said. The Washington Post on Tuesday joined a short but growing list of private companies requiring vaccination as a condition of employment.

If businesses think vaccine mandates are beneficial, “we encourage them to do so,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the C.D.C.’s director.

Government officials have been imposing vaccine mandates at the state, local and federal levels recently, and encouraging private companies to follow suit. President Biden is weighing a vaccine mandate for all two million federal employees, and is expected to deliver a speech on Thursday about it.

Kellen Browning and Sarah Kessler contributed reporting.

Gabriel Montoya, a Kaiser EMT and Statewide Committee Exec Member at the SEIU-UHW Union, saw skepticism toward Covid-19 vaccines from his colleagues, many of whom are now required to be vaccinated under California’s new mandates. 
Credit…Damon Casarez for The New York Times

Confronted with surging infections, California this week became the first state to mandate coronavirus vaccines or regular testing for state employees and health care workers.

No state has vaccinated more people against Covid-19, but infections in California have risen sharply, largely because unvaccinated people are spreading the highly contagious Delta variant.

Most of the state’s labor groups and hospital systems have been publicly supportive of the new rules announced by Gov. Gavin Newsom, including the California Medical Association, the California Nurses Association and Kaiser Permanente, which said it would require all of its employees nationwide to get vaccinated or tested regularly.

But pockets of vaccine resistance have been stubborn, even in liberal-leaning California, where the vaccination rate is relatively high, and even among health care workers.

Like the state as a whole, where about 52 percent of the population is fully vaccinated, the government and health care work forces and their unions include a striking number of vaccine resisters.

Starting next month, all public- and private-sector health care workers — two million people — along with some 246,000 state government employees, will have to show proof of vaccination. If they cannot, they will be required to wear face masks at all indoor work locations and to be tested at least weekly, and in some cases several times a week.

Sophia Perkins, 58, an unvaccinated state employee who processes death certificates for the Department of Health Care Services in Sacramento and is a union member, said she would be “forced into retirement” rather than adhere to the new rules.

“Nobody should mandate somebody else to inject poison into their body,” Ms. Perkins said. “There’s not enough research on this vaccine.”

Some state employees may pose more of a challenge than others.

Only about half of the thousands of unionized prison guards working in California’s vast correctional system have received a vaccine dose, according to Donald Specter, the executive director of the Prison Law Office, a nonprofit public interest law firm based in Berkeley, Calif.

“It’s no secret that many of the staff who work in prisons are not progressive liberals,” Mr. Specter said.

Kellen Browning and Matt Craig contributed reporting.

New York City’s municipal workers will be required to get vaccinated or succumb to strict COVID measures.
Credit…Benjamin Norman for The New York Times

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s declaration on Monday that more than 300,000 municipal workers in New York City must get vaccinated against the coronavirus or agree to weekly testing was an unwelcome surprise to many of the city’s municipal unions.

“The unions are really, really aggravated that the mayor sprung this on everybody,” said Harry Nespoli, the president of the sanitation workers’ union.

Since the announcement, unions representing a diverse city work force of firefighters and paramedics have come out against the mayor’s mandate. Some have made demands, like exemptions for workers who have antibodies after recovering from Covid-19.

And just about every major union has argued that the mayor cannot unilaterally impose the mandate without first negotiating with labor leaders.

But Mr. de Blasio, a Democrat in his final year in office, expressed confidence on Tuesday that the city could legally require vaccination or testing for its workers, and that his administration would sort out how to implement the mandate with union leadership.

Mr. de Blasio said the mandate — starting Sept. 13, when schools reopen — was necessary to combat a troubling rise of cases as the contagious Delta variant spreads in the city. Officials in California and at the Department of Veterans Affairs also moved to vaccinate government workers.

The opposition from unions is based in part in a general reluctance to force members, many of whom are Black and Latino, to get the vaccine. It is largely focused on the logistics of offering vaccines or weekly tests and the form of discipline for those who do not comply. For now, it seems unlikely that it could lead to lawsuits or strikes.

The threat to public workers who are not vaccinated was reinforced on Tuesday when the city’s police commissioner, Dermot Shea, said that five unvaccinated employees of the Police Department were in the hospital with the virus. The Police Department appears to have one of the lowest vaccination rates among city agencies.

The Japanese softball team practicing at Yokohama Baseball Stadium on Tuesday. A total of 20 athletes are confirmed to have tested positive since arriving in Tokyo.
Credit…James Hill for The New York Times

Tokyo 2020 organizers on Wednesday reported 16 new coronavirus infections among Olympic personnel, bringing to 174 the total number of people connected to the Games who have tested positive since July 1.

No new infections were reported among athletes. Organizers also removed two earlier cases from their tally, including of one athlete, but did not offer details.

A total of 20 athletes are confirmed to have tested positive since arriving in Tokyo, derailing many of their Olympic hopes, but so far Covid-19 has mostly been a sidelight to the Games.

That is far from the case outside the Olympic bubble, where the virus is surging. Tokyo officials said on Tuesday that 2,848 people had tested positive for the virus, the city’s highest total in one day since the pandemic began. Government data also showed that 14.5 percent of coronavirus tests in the city were turning up positive, suggesting that many cases may be going unrecorded.

Tokyo is currently under its fourth state of emergency since early 2020, with bars and restaurants closing early and sales of alcohol tightly restricted. But health experts said that the continuing surge in cases suggests that the measures, which had helped subdue earlier outbreaks, may no longer be as effective as the more contagious Delta variant accounts for a larger proportion of new cases.



Athletes who have tested positive for the coronavirus

Scientists say that positive tests are expected with daily testing programs, even among the vaccinated. Little information on severity has been released, though public reports suggest that cases among athletes have generally been mild or asymptomatic. Some athletes who have tested positive have not been publicly identified.


July 25

Jon Rahm

Golf

Spain

July 24

Bryson DeChambeau

United States

Golf

United States

July 23

Jelle Geens

Triathlon

Belgium

Simon Geschke

Road cycling

Germany

Frederico Morais

Surfing

Portugal

July 22

Taylor Crabb

United States

Beach volleyball

United States

Reshmie Oogink

Netherlands

Taekwondo

Netherlands

Michal Schlegel

Czech Republic

Road cycling

Czech Republic

Marketa Slukova

Czech Republic

Beach volleyball

Czech Republic

July 21

Fernanda Aguirre

Taekwondo

Chile

Ilya Borodin

Russian Olympic Committee

Swimming

Russian Olympic Committee

Amber Hill

Shooting

Britain

Candy Jacobs

Netherlands

Skateboarding

Netherlands

Pavel Sirucek

Czech Republic

Table tennis

Czech Republic

July 20

Sammy Solis

Baseball

Mexico

Sonja Vasic

Basketball

Serbia

Hector Velazquez

Baseball

Mexico

July 19

Kara Eaker

United States

Gymnastics

United States

Ondrej Perusic

Czech Republic

Beach volleyball

Czech Republic

Katie Lou Samuelson

United States

Three-on-three basketball

United States

July 18

Coco Gauff

United States

Tennis

United States

Kamohelo Mahlatsi

South Africa

Soccer

South Africa

Thabiso Monyane

South Africa

Soccer

South Africa

July 16

Dan Craven

Road cycling

Namibia

Alex de Minaur

Tennis

Australia

July 14

Dan Evans

Tennis

Britain

July 13

Johanna Konta

Tennis

Britain

July 3

Milos Vasic

Rowing

Serbia


Administering vaccines in Hammanskraal, South Africa, this month. The U.S. is sending 5.6 million shots to the country as part of a pledge to share 80 million doses globally.
Credit…Alet Pretorius/Associated Press

The United States is ramping up vaccine deliveries to Africa as a third wave of the pandemic continues to accelerate across the continent.

On Wednesday, Washington will ship almost 10 million Covid-19 vaccines to two of Africa’s most populous nations, with 5.6 million Pfizer doses going to South Africa and four million Moderna doses to Nigeria. The deliveries are part of a pledge President Biden made in June to share 80 million doses globally — with about 25 million doses expected to arrive in 49 African states.

Over the past two weeks, Covax, the global vaccine partnership, has, in collaboration with the African Union, delivered millions of Johnson & Johnson doses from the United States to countries including Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Djibouti, Gambia, Lesotho, Niger, Tunisia, and Zambia. The latest shipments to Nigeria and South Africa brings the total number of vaccines donated to 16.4 million doses.

The donations from the United States come as Africa continues to lag behind the rest of the world in vaccination. Only about 21 million of the continent’s 1.3 billion people have been fully vaccinated, according to the World Health Organization, with 77 percent of all the doses received already administered. With the current inoculation rates, almost two-thirds of African countries will not reach a W.H.O. target of vaccinating 10 percent of their populations by the end of September.

Vaccine availability in Africa has been hampered because wealthy nations have bought excess doses and was set back further with India’s decision in March to cut back on vaccine exports, particularly the supplies from the Serum Institute of India that Covax had been relying on. Because of those issues, the African continent will most likely not be able to meet the slightly longer-term goal of vaccinating 20 percent of the population by the end of 2022.

The continent is experiencing vaccine shortages even as the severe third wave overwhelms health care systems and pushes countries to institute lockdowns and extend overnight curfews. The current surge in cases has been attributed to a lack of inoculation; loose compliance with public health measures, such as mask wearing and social distancing; and the spread of more contagious variants. More than 20 African countries have seen cases rise by more than 20 percent for at least two weeks, according to the W.H.O., with the Delta variant reported in 26 countries.

The W.H.O. has said that political crises in several countries threaten to undermine efforts to vaccinate people and curb the virus. That includes Ethiopia, where the conflict in Tigray is set to intensify, and Eswatini, where deadly antigovernment protests broke out this month. In South Africa, the looting and killings that followed the imprisonment of former President Jacob Zuma have had a negative impact on vaccination efforts in the eastern province of KwaZulu-Natal, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the health organization’s Africa director, has said.

Both the W.H.O. and the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have said that vaccine deliveries will continue to ramp up. Besides the United States, millions of doses from the European Union are expected to arrive in the coming weeks. And Britain said it would start delivering nine million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine this week to countries including Kenya. China also raised its vaccine pledges to Africa this month, sending Sinovac doses to nations including Tanzania and Uganda. Covax has said that it will deliver over 500 million vaccines to Africa by the end of the year.

Vaccines are now reaching countries like Tanzania, which previously made no effort to secure doses and whose former president played down the pandemic and pronounced that God helped eliminate the virus.

On Saturday, Tanzania received over one million Johnson & Johnson doses from the United States. On Wednesday morning, President Samia Suluhu Hassan received her Covid-19 vaccine, beginning the country’s vaccination campaign.

During the ceremony, Ms. Hassan assured the public of the safety of the shots and urged those vaccinated to continue following public health measures.

“I have agreed to be vaccinated today,” Ms. Hassan said, “just as my body has been vaccinated a lot since childhood.”

global round up

Lining up for shots at a hospital in Madrid on Tuesday. Spain took until mid-February to fully vaccinate its first million residents; since then, the effort has gathered pace.
Credit…Olmo Calvo/Associated Press

After a slow start, Spain’s vaccination program has accelerated to near the forefront in Europe, with just over 55 percent of its population fully vaccinated, according to figures released Tuesday by the country’s health ministry.

But for all its recent success with vaccines, Spain is also experiencing one of the worst surges in new Covid-19 cases on the continent, forcing several of its regions to reintroduce nighttime curfews and other restrictions. The country is now averaging more than 25,000 new cases a day, a sixfold increase from late June.

The State Department warned Americans on Monday to avoid traveling to Spain because of its recent rise in Covid-19 infections, a setback for a country where tourism is an important industry. Germany took a similar step last week, classifying Spain as a high-incidence country and requiring unvaccinated travelers arriving from there to quarantine for five days.

Spain started administering vaccines in late December, and took until mid-February to fully vaccinate its first million residents; since then, the effort has gathered pace, and as of Tuesday, just over 26 million people had been fully vaccinated. The latest data suggests that Spain is now on track to fulfill a pledge made early this year by Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez that 70 percent of Spaniards would be vaccinated by late August.

Nearly two-thirds of new infections in recent weeks have been among people under 40, the deputy health minister, Silvia Calzón, told reporters on Friday, according to Reuters. Spain has prioritized vaccination by age.

The country has been using all of the main vaccines acquired by the European Union, including the two-dose vaccines developed by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca-University of Oxford, as well as the one-shot vaccine from Janssen, a European subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson. But the vast majority of Spaniards have received the Pfizer shot.

Unlike some other European nations, which have delayed second shots in order to administer first shots sooner to more people, Spain is administering second doses of the Pfizer vaccine at the recommended time, 21 days after the initial dose. As a result, it has relatively few partly vaccinated people at any given time.

In other developments around the globe:

  • Unvaccinated middle and high school students in France will be forced out of classrooms and into remote learning in the fall if a Covid-19 case is detected in their class, the French education minister said on Wednesday. The minister, Jean-Michel Blanquer, told the news outlet Franceinfo, “If there is an infection, it is the nonvaccinated students who will be removed, but not the vaccinated ones,” adding, “It is obviously a strong incentive to get vaccinated,” as well as a way to avoid imposing so-called health passes in schools. The announcement follows a strategy by President Emmanuel Macron that aims to make life increasingly uncomfortable for the unvaccinated.

  • Norway on Wednesday postponed for a second time a planned final step in the reopening of its economy, Reuters reported. The delay is because of the continued spread of the Delta variant, the government said. Measures that will be kept in place include allowing only table service in bars and restaurants and limiting gatherings in private homes to 20 people. The government in April introduced a four-step plan to gradually remove most pandemic restrictions, and had completed the first three of those steps by mid-June. “A new assessment will be made in mid-August,” the country’s health minister, Bent Hoie, said at a news conference.

Aurelien Breeden contributed reporting.

A vaccination center in Seoul on Wednesday. South Korea is among the least vaccinated in the Group of 20 nations, with ​only 34.9 percent of its 5​2 million people having received at least one dose.
Credit…Ahn Young-Joon/Associated Press

When South Koreans logged on to a government website this month to book Covid-19 vaccine appointments, a pop-up window told them there was “just a bit” of a delay.

“There are 401,032 people waiting in front of you,” read one of the messages that exasperated South Koreans captured in screenshots and shared online. “Your expected waiting time: 111 hours, 23 minutes and 52 seconds.”

Most people in the country are still waiting for shots.

Once held up as a model in fighting the pandemic, South Korea has stumbled for months with its vaccination program. The country is among the least vaccinated in the Group of 20 nations, with ​only 34.9 percent of its 5​2 million people having received at least one dose as of Wednesday, well below the 55 to 70 percent in other advanced nations​. And now South Koreans are more desperate than ever for shots.

The country is in the throes of its worst wave of infections, with 1,896 new cases reported on Wednesday, its highest daily count. Critics say that the government, resting on its early success in the pandemic, miscalculated how urgently South Korea needed to secure shots, and that those mistakes are being amplified at a time when the country appears to be most vulnerable against the disease.

Just weeks ago, the government considered relaxing restrictions ahead of summer vacation. It announced that up to six people would be allowed to dine together starting July 1, up from the previous cap of four. Nightclubs would reopen. Restaurants, cafes and gyms would be allowed to stay open until later in the night.

Epidemiologists warned against easing restrictions while inoculations remained low and the more contagious Delta variant appeared to be spreading.

“The government was sending a wrong signal to the people,” said Kim Woo-joo, an infectious disease specialist at Korea University in Seoul.

Renters demonstrated against evictions at the California Apartment Association headquarters in Sacramento last month.
Credit…Paul Kitagaki Jr./The Sacramento Bee, via Associated Press

The country’s biggest trade group for residential landlords is suing the federal government for imposing a national moratorium on evictions during the pandemic, claiming that the freeze cost owners around $27 billion not covered by existing aid programs.

The suit by the group, the National Apartment Association, comes less than a week before the moratorium, imposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last November and extended twice under President Biden, is set to expire.

Industry analysts cited in the landlords’ suit estimate that 10 million delinquent tenants owed $57 billion in back rent by the end of 2020, and that $17 billion more had gone unpaid since then.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, in D.C., is meant in part to press the Biden administration to speed up disbursement of $47 billion in emergency rental relief that was included in the two coronavirus relief packages. Landlords also hope to prod the White House to loosen the application requirements for the relief, which many owners say are too onerous.

“If the government takes a hard-line approach, renters and rental housing providers will suffer credit damage and economic harm that could follow them for years to come,” Robert Pinnegar, the association’s president, said in an interview. “Alternatively, our nation’s leaders could work alongside the industry to make everyone whole and find a resolution that fully funds the economic impact of the C.D.C. eviction order and swiftly distributes those funds.”

Calls to the White House and the Justice Department for comment were not immediately returned.

The case is also intended to challenge the federal government’s right to impose such restrictions in the future, arguing that the C.D.C.’s actions violated private property rights protected by the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment, which requires the government to compensate private parties when it seizes their assets.

The administration has been stepping up pressure on landlords, local governments and housing court judges to head off a wave of evictions that is expected when the moratorium expires at the end of the month.

Last week, White House officials said that effort was gaining modest momentum, with 290,000 tenants receiving $1.5 billion in pandemic relief in June, according to new Treasury Department statistics.

But the flow of the cash remains sluggish, hampered by confusion at the state level, potentially endangering tenants who have fallen behind in their rent over the past year.

“While more households are getting help, in many states and localities, funds are still not flowing fast enough to renters and landlords,” Treasury officials warned in a statement accompanying the statistics.

Several other challenges to the freeze are already making their way through various federal courts. Last month, the Supreme Court took the unusual step of declining to consider a broad constitutional challenge to the moratorium, buying more time for the relief money to reach tenants and landlords.

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A Four Step Proposal for a Peaceful Resolution of the Conflict Between the Ethiopian Government and the Tigray Regional Government

Yonas Biru, PhD
July 28, 2021

On November 21, 2020, I proposed a way for a peaceful resolution. The article that appeared in the Ethiopian Reporter, stressed three points:

  • “TPLF must honor the constitutional order and give the people of Ethiopia a chance to determine under what constitutional order they want to be governed.”
  • “The Ethiopian government must agree to stop the war, suspend its drive to replace the government in Tigray, provided TPLF agrees to reinstate the legitimate former representatives. Finally, the Ethiopian government must drop its demand for the surrender of TPLF leaders.”
  • “Any negotiation on the future constitutional governance of the country and border disputes between regions must be held between legitimately elected officials or a democratically established constitutional assembly, not by armed parties.”

I still believe these three points are critical for any peace talk. I am sharing this proposal to initiate discussion on a way toward a peaceful resolution, considering a looming humanitarian, political, economic and security crises.

I acknowledge there is a proposal in circulation titled Proposal for Negotiated and Durable Ceasefire to Stop the Ongoing War in Northern Ethiopia.” It is put forth by an anonymous group. The group suggests it will anonymously “assume full responsibilities and be held accountable.” I find the notion of professing responsibility and accountability anonymously difficult to understand.

More importantly, the proposal is inherently flawed in terms of lacking internal consistency. For example, it suggests “the negotiations could be entered bilaterally or in a tripartite manner” between “the Federal Government, the National State of Tigray, and the National State of Amhara.” At the same time, it proposes “the Federal Government and the National State of Tigray could jointly select three mediators for the bilateral dialogue.” This suggests if there is a bilateral dialogue between the State of Tigray and the State of Amhara, the decision on who would be the mediator(s) would be decided by the Federal government and the State of Tigray.

Furthermore, the proposal is overly prescriptive and unduly tilted in favor of the State of Tigray and its governing party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). It elevates TPLF at the same level as the Federal government, and in the meantime reduces the State of Amhara to a second fiddle.

I think it is prudent to propose an independent proposal rather than commenting and building on or critiquing the proposal in circulation.

The approach I take is providing a general framework and drawing grid lines within which the warring parties can negotiate and reach a mutually agreeable resolution. By design I avoid prescriptive recommendations. I believe creating a platform and providing a general framework is what is needed, leaving what needs to be done and who does what and when to the conflicting parties.

Background: Looming Crisis and the Role of the International Community

Ethiopia is at a critical juncture. The choice is between two starkly different options. The first option is finding a peaceful resolution within the parameter of the constitutional limits through a democratic system governed by rule of law without infringing on the fundamental rights of 110 million Ethiopians. The second is putting a hold on the budding democratic process and succumbing to the calculus of the power insurgency.

The conflict is deeply entrenched in thorny issues involving the nation’s constitutional framework (the Federal Government vs. the State of Tigray) and land claims and counterclaims between between the States of Tigray and Amhara.

The ongoing war is unsustainable from humanitarian, social and economic perspectives. The human cost has already past unimaginable proportions. Unless reined in, the war can lead to a point of no return, threatening the nation’s unity and territorial integrity. There is an urgent need to reach a negotiated settlement.

The international community has immutable role to play both on the grounds of averting a national humanitarian crisis and maintaining the political and social stability of one of the most important geopolitical regions – The Horn of Africa.

This said, this must be, too. A myopic international intervention that exclusively focuses on stopping the war entails the risk of institutionalizing violence as a political tool to extort political concession. It distorts the nation’s political calculus and foster persisting durable conflicts. Any effort to end the war must keep in mind its durability. All agreements need to be reached within the constitutional order. The will and wishes of the Ethiopian people as signed, sealed, and delivered via election ballots must be treated as a sacrosanct gride line.

The African Union Must Lead the International Intervention

The African Union (AU) Constitutive Act and the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance and the Lomé Declaration on unconstitutional changes of governments reject all forms of unconstitutional changes of government, including “the replacement of a democratically elected government by armed dissident groups and rebel movements.”

The AU’s policy of “zero tolerance” for military coups, armed insurrections or other means of undemocratic power grab is adopted by the Lomé Declaration of July 2000 on “the Framework for an OAU Response to Unconstitutional Change of Government.” See AU Doc. AHG/Decl. 5(XXXVI).

Regarding the Ethiopian 2021 elections, the AU election observer mission has concluded: “Despite some operational, logistical, security, political and COVID-19 related challenges, overall, the pre-election and Election Day processes were conducted in an orderly, peaceful and credible manner. There was nothing, in the Mission’s estimation, that distracted from the credible conduct of the elections. The Mission, therefore, commends all Ethiopians for the demonstrated commitment to the democratic development of the country.”

The AU’s statement that the election reflected the will of the people is echoed in the Press Release that the US Department of State issued on June 25: “Democracy flourishes when institutions of governance are inclusive, transparent, accountable, and responsive to its people. With that immutable fact in mind, the United States commends those Ethiopians who exercised their right to vote on June 21… We look forward to a continued partnership with the Ethiopian people and to supporting efforts to promote inclusive political participation that moves the country forward on a path to democracy and national unity.”

Prominent international bodies, including the UN, EU and US must follow the lead of the AU in the conflict resolution process in Ethiopia – an AU member country.  The US whose Press Release has commended Ethiopians who exercised their right to vote on June 21, must stand with them to make sure that their votes will not be disenfranchised by instruments of violence or by international political expediency dictated by American and European lobbying powerhouses.

The UN has legal obligation to honor and ensure its member countries honor Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Article 21, Section 1 of the UDHR promulgates: “Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives” Section 3 dictates: “The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections…”

Pushing for a resolution that undermines the recent election results that have been given a clean bill of health by the AU as “orderly, peaceful and credible” will not only disenfranchise the democratic and human rights of 110 million Ethiopians, but also violates the nation’s constitutional order. Most importantly, it will undermine the AU’s Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance.

There is still a room for a negotiated settlement that will sustain the budding democratic experiment without undermining the will and referendum of the people of Ethiopia and the Constitutive Act of the AU on the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance.  

 

Suggested Preconditions for a Peaceful Resolution Between the Warring Parties

  1. The Ethiopian Constitution and the recent elections results must be observed as sacrosanct gride lines. There is still wide latitude for a peace talk within those parameters to reach a negotiated settlement.
  2. The war is between the Regional State of Tigray and the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF) supported by regional forces from all other “National States.” Therefore, the negotiation needs to be between the Federal government and the “National State of Tigray.”
  3. In the interest of ending the looming humanitarian crisis, the Federal government needs to withdraw its sanction on the TPLF as a terrorist organization.
  4. The 2021 national and regional elections outside of the Tigray region was conducted within the constitutional order. The original election timeline was postponed by the autonomous National Election Board (NEB). That the NEB’s decision was ruled constitutionally legitimate by the highest constitutional decision-making body, namely the Council of Federation.
  5. The negotiation must be between parties and individuals who have mandate through democratic elections as exercised during the 2020 (Tigray) and 2021 (Ethiopian) elections.
  6. The negotiations should be held under the auspices of a 10-person Peace Commission composed of Ethiopians and people of Ethiopian Origin. The Federal Government and TPLF may pick 3 members each, and the 4 major religions EOTC, Islam, Catholic and Protestant may be represented by one person each. The number and composition of the Peace Commission may be determined by the conflicting parties.
  7. The Africa Union (AU) may serve as the primary observer and each the Federal Government and TPLF will propose one international observer each. The Mandate of the observers follow international practices. As such it will be restricted to observe without any interference. The observers may produce a joint report based strictly on consensus.

Phase One

  1. The most urgent matter is agreeing on an immediate and unconditional ceasefire. To sustain the ceasefire and avoid situations and accidents that can potentially slip the two parties in confrontation, both parties must pull back its fighting forces equal distance to create a no man’s land space between the waring forces. The distance should be determined by international standards.
  2. Cease and desist propaganda warfare, concurrently with the immediate and unconditional ceasefire.
  3. Organize a preliminary meeting to: (a) set the agenda for negotiation, (2) agree a framework for the peace talk, and (c) discuss immediate actions to build on the unconditional ceasefire, following standard international conflict resolution protocols.
  4. Each party may bring to the table urgent and emergency steps that need to be taken to alleviate the crisis and build confidence and move forward to the second and third phases of the negotiation process. Such urgent matters may include, but are not limited to, restoring utility lines, and opening access to humanitarian aid.
  5. Agree on a time frame for phases two, three and four of the negotiation.
  6. Each party agree to take responsibility to keep the peace in the areas under its control and agree to allow unfettered access to international humanitarian organizations.

Phase Two

  1. Agree on the terms and conditions of urgent steps agreed in Phase One.
  2. Agree to have a full and credible investigation by national and international human rights organizations about all atrocities committed by all parties since the beginning of the war and bring the perpetrators to account under Ethiopian and International law.
  3. Agree to have a full, credible, and independent investigation and report about the contested areas between Amhara and Tigray regions. The Amhara and Tigray leaders accuse each other of forcefully displacing people to change the demography of the lands in contention and allege crime against humanity and ethnic cleansing have been committed against each other.  Investigation on the claim and counter claim will go as far back as necessary to shed light to the genesis and evolution of the conflict. Addressing the longstanding claims and counterclaims of the contested lands can be addressed only with informed and rational discourse.

Phase Three

  1. Based on the findings of independent investigators, negotiate on the thorny issues to reach a durable peace.
  2. Produce a joint report of the agreements signed by the warring parties, the Peace Commission, and the observers.

Phase Four: Implementation

  1. The implementation process should be observed by the Peace Commission, and the three international observers as proposed above.

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‘Shocking’: South Africa slams Israel’s AU observer status

South Africa calls the AU’s move ‘unjust and unwarranted’, complaining it was taken without consulting its members.

South Africa’s government says it was “appalled” by the African Union Commission’s decision last week to grant Israel observer status at the African bloc.

In a statement published on Wednesday, the South African government said the “unjust and unwarranted” move was taken “unilaterally without consultations with its members”.

Israel obtained AU observer status on Friday after 20 years of diplomatic efforts. It had previously held the role at the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) but was long thwarted in its attempts to regain it after the OAU was disbanded in 2002 and replaced by the AU.

According to the Israeli foreign ministry, the new status could enable Israel and the AU to forge stronger cooperation on various aspects, including the fight against the coronavirus and the prevention “of the spread of extremist terrorism” on the African continent.

But the South African government said the African Union’s decision “is even more shocking in a year in which the oppressed people of Palestine were hounded by destructive bombardments and continued illegal settlements of the land”.

In May, tensions between Israel and Hamas – the group governing the Gaza Strip – over the forced expulsion of Palestinian families from their homes in occupied East Jerusalem, escalated into an 11-day assault on Gaza. The Israeli offensive killed at least 260 people, including 66 children, in the besieged enclave, while 13 Israeli people died due to rockets fired by Palestinian armed groups.

South Africa backs the Palestinian cause, with formal diplomatic relations established in 1995, a year after the end of apartheid. It downgraded its embassy in Tel Aviv to a liaison office in 2019.

The occupied Palestinian territory already has observer status at the AU and pro-Palestinian language is typically featured in statements delivered at the AU’s annual summits.

South Africa will ask Moussa Faki Mahamat, chairman of the AU Commission, to brief member states on the decision and it hopes the issue will be discussed at the level of heads of states and governments.

“South Africa firmly believes that as long as Israel is not willing to negotiate a peace plan without preconditions it should not have observer status” in the AU, it said.

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News24.com | SA ‘appalled’ by Israel’s African Union observer status

Minister of international relations Naledi Pandor.

Minister of international relations Naledi Pandor.

  • SA slammed the decision to grant Israel observer status at the AU.
  • The AU granted Israel observer status to enable coordination in the battle against Covid-19.
  • South Africa backs the Palestinian cause.

South Africa on Wednesday vehemently objected to last week’s “unilateral” decision by the African Union Commission to grant Israel an official observer status at the continental organisation.

In a strongly worded statement, the continental powerhouse, which last year held the annually rotating AU presidency, said it “is appalled at the unjust and unwarranted decision of the AU Commission to grant Israel observer status in the African Union”.

READ | #UnrestSA: Violence could impact entire region, African Union Commission warns

The AU handed Israel the observer status on Thursday, a move the two parties expected would enable Israel to further help the AU battle the coronavirus pandemic and terrorism on the continent.

“The decision to grant Israel observer status is even more shocking in a year in which the oppressed people of Palestine were hounded by destructive bombardments and continued illegal settlements of the land,” South Africa’s foreign affairs ministry said, blasting the move as “inexplicable” and “incomprehensible”.

South Africa backs the Palestinian cause with formal diplomatic relations established in 1995, a year after the end of apartheid, and it downgraded its embassy in Tel Aviv in 2019.

The Palestinian territories already have observer status at the AU and pro-Palestinian language is typically featured in statements delivered at the AU’s annual summits.

The AU Commission took the “decision unilaterally without” consulting its members, according to South Africa.

South Africa will ask Moussa Faki Mahamat, chair of the AU Commission, to brief member states on the decision and it hopes the issue will be discussed at the level of heads of states and governments.

“South Africa firmly believes that as long as Israel is not willing to negotiate a peace plan without preconditions it should not have observer status” in the AU, it said.

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Zimbabwe approves J&J COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use

HARARE (Reuters) – Zimbabwe has authorised the emergency use of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine, the first Western-made shot to be approved by the southern African nation, its medicines regulator said on Wednesday.

Like many African countries, Zimbabwe is in the grips of a third wave of infections, with nearly half of its 101,711 cumulative cases and 3,280 deaths recorded this month alone, according to official data.

Until now, the Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe (MCAZ) had only registered vaccines from India, Russia and China.

“MCAZ reviewed the technical documentation that was submitted by the manufacturer, and emergency use authorisation was granted and communicated to (the Ministry of Health),” MCAZ spokesman Shingai Gwatidzo said.

He declined to say when Zimbabwe would receive its first J&J shots, adding that the health ministry would confirm the deployment of the vaccines after reviewing requirements for cold chain storage.

So far, more than 1.5 million Zimbabweans have received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Most were given China’s Sinovac and Sinopharm shots.

Zimbabwe has so far received more than five million doses from China, including both purchases and donations.

Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube said on Sunday the government had fully paid for a total of 12 million vaccine doses from China.

He said Zimbabwe expected 5 million shots under an African Union vaccine procurement facility after making a $7.5 million deposit, while another 1.15 million doses would be delivered under the COVAX global vaccine distribution programme.

(Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by Joe Bavier)

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South Africa ‘appalled’ by Israel’s African Union observer status

JOHANNESBURG: South Africa on Wednesday vehemently objected to last week’s “unilateral” decision by the African union commission to grant Israel an official observer status at the continental organisation.
In a strongly-worded statement, the continental powerhouse, which last year held the annually rotating AU presidency, said it “is appalled at the unjust and unwarranted decision of the AU commission to grant Israel observer status in the African Union”.
The AU handed Israel the observer status on Thursday, a move the two parties expected would enable Israel to further help the AU battle the coronavirus pandemic and terrorism on the continent.
“The decision to grant Israel observer status is even more shocking in a year in which the oppressed people of Palestine were hounded by destructive bombardments and continued illegal settlements of the land,” South Africa’s foreign affairs ministry said, blasting the move as “inexplicable” and “incomprehensible”.
South Africa backs the Palestinian cause with formal diplomatic relations established in 1995, a year after the end of apartheid, and it downgraded its embassy in Tel Aviv in 2019.
The Palestinian territories already have observer status at the AU and pro-Palestinian language is typically featured in statements delivered at the AU’s annual summits.
The AU Commission took the “decision unilaterally without” consulting its members, according to South Africa.
South Africa will ask Moussa Faki Mahamat, chairman of the AU Commission, to brief member states on the decision and it hopes the issue will be discussed at the level of heads of states and governments.
“South Africa firmly believes that as long as Israel is not willing to negotiate a peace plan without preconditions it should not have observer status” in the AU, it said.
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BioNTech launches Malaria project to develop sustainable vaccine production and supply solutions on African Continent

BioNTech announced the launch of its Malaria project, which aims to develop a well-tolerated and highly effective Malaria vaccine and implement sustainable vaccine supply solutions on the African continent.

First, the development of a safe and highly effective mRNA vaccine with durable protective immunity to prevent Malaria and disease-associated mortality. BioNTech will assess multiple vaccine candidates featuring known Malaria targets such as the circumsporozoite protein (CSP), as well as new antigens discovered in the pre-clinical research phase. The most promising mRNA vaccine candidates will be selected for clinical development.

The start of the clinical trial for the first vaccine candidate is planned for the end of 2022. The Malaria vaccine development programme is an extension of BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine efforts. Building on two decades of mRNA research and its clinical stage mRNA platform, BioNTech has co-developed the first mRNA-based Covid-19 vaccine together with its partner Pfizer.

The second objective is the development of sustainable vaccine production and supply solutions on the African continent. BioNTech is exploring possibilities to set up state-of-the-art mRNA manufacturing facilities, either with partners or on its own. The facilities are expected to manufacture various mRNA-based vaccines upon approval to ensure sustainable supply operations. BioNTech plans to co-locate its African manufacturing capabilities with the technology transfer hubs under development by the WHO, in alignment with the African manufacturing strategy created by the Africa CDC. This strategy aims to expand the capacity of low- and middle-income countries to manufacture contemporary vaccines end-to-end, and scale up production to increase global access.

“The response to the pandemic has shown that science and innovation can transform people’s lives when all key stakeholders work together towards a common goal. We are committed to bringing our innovations to those who need them most,” said Prof. Dr. Ugur Sahin, CEO and co-founder of BioNTech. “We are more than grateful to be part of the joint efforts of the Eradicate Malaria project. Together with our partners, we will do whatever it takes to develop a safe and effective mRNA-based Malaria vaccine that will prevent the disease, reduce mortality and ensure a sustainable solution for the African continent and other regions affected by this disease. Our efforts will include cutting-edge research and innovation, significant investments in vaccine development, the establishment of manufacturing facilities, and the transfer of manufacturing expertise to production sites on the African continent and wherever else it is needed.”

BioNTech has undertaken comprehensive antigen discovery processes to identify antigens for various vaccine candidates. Since 2019, the company has collaborated with the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation to develop Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and tuberculosis programmes and provide affordable access to vaccines to low- and middle-income countries. For Tuberculosis, BioNTech plans to begin clinical trials for testing a vaccine candidate in 2022, just about two years after the program was initiated. The antigen discovery processes for Malaria and tuberculosis are being conducted by specialized teams at BioNTech’s headquarters in Mainz. Currently, BioNTech and its partners are developing vaccines against nine different infectious diseases, and the company continues to develop 15 oncology programs at clinical stage based on four different drug classes, including mRNA.

The World Health Organization (WHO), European Commission and other organizations have been involved in the early planning phase of BioNTech’s Malaria project and have offered their support to identify and set up the necessary infrastructure. Collaboration with the African Union and the Africa CDC under the partnership for African Vaccine Manufacturing programme will ensure that the enabling factors such as regulatory alignment and policy transfer, as well as country coordination are in place to get the vaccines from factories to the citizens of the African Union.

BioNTech’s Malaria project is part of the ‘eradicateMalaria’ initiative, led by the kENUP Foundation, to accelerate the eradication of Malaria. The kENUP Foundation is a non-profit public benefit foundation supporting research-based innovation in the wider health industries for societal benefit.

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