The European Union (EU) will give the green light to a new vaccine contract, said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Tuesday.
Through the purchase of up to 160 million doses of vaccines produced by American pharmaceutical company Moderna, the EU will be able to enrich its COVID-19 vaccine portfolio, reports Xinhua.
"Only a safe and effective vaccine will provide a lasting and sustainable solution to this pandemic," noted von der Leyen.
It needs to be approved by the European Medicines Agency for safety and efficiency before any vaccine is allowed to hit the European market.
Apart from Moderna, the EU's current vaccine portfolio includes purchase agreements with AstraZeneca, Sanofi-GSK, Janssen Pharmaceutica NV, BioNtech-Pfizer and CureVac.
The death toll from Covid-19 reached 1,409,301 globally on Wednesday while the confirmed cases of coronavirus stood at 59,762,055, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University (JHU).
According to the data, COVID-19 is affecting 191 countries and territories around the world.
The wife of Colombian President Ivan Duque, Maria Juliana Ruiz, has tested positive for COVID-19, the president's office confirmed Tuesday.
"Today, Nov. 24, the results of the tests carried out the day before were delivered, and those of the nation's First Lady were positive. At this moment she is asymptomatic and following quarantine protocols established by the Ministry of Health," according to the statement.
"Since the beginning of the pandemic and periodically, both the President of the Republic, Ivan Duque Marquez, and the First Lady of the nation, Maria Juliana Ruiz, have been tested for COVID-19, given the high level of exposure and interaction that they maintain," said the statement.
In recent weeks, Duque's wife visited the islands of San Andres and Providencia, and the northwest department of Choco, attending to the victims of rainy season floods.
So far, Colombia has registered 1,262,494 cases of COVID-19 and 35,677 deaths from the disease.
Competence is making a comeback.
President-elect Joe Biden has prized staying power over star power when making his first wave of Cabinet picks and choices for White House staff, with a premium placed on government experience and proficiency as he looks to rebuild a depleted and demoralized federal bureaucracy.
With an eye in part toward making selections who may have to seek approval from a Republican-controlled Senate, Biden has prioritized choosing qualified professionals while eschewing flashy names. Even the most recognizable pick — John Kerry — lacks the showmanship that has defined the Trump era.
In sharp contrast to President Donald Trump, who openly distrusted the very government he led, Biden has showcased a faith in bureaucracy that was born out of his nearly five decades in Washington. He’s made hires with the deliberate aim of projecting a sense of dutiful and, even boring, competency.
Surrounding himself with longtime aides and veterans of the Obama administration, many of whom have already worked together for years, Biden has so far rolled out a team of careerists with bursting resumes and little need of a learning curve.
“Collectively, this team has secured some of the most defining national security and diplomatic achievements in recent memory — made possible through decades of experience working with our partners,” Biden said Tuesday as he unveiled his national security team.
“Experience” is indeed the coin of the realm on Biden’s burgeoning team.
His pick for secretary of state, Antony Blinken, worked for Biden in the Senate for years, and held the posts of deputy secretary of state and deputy national security adviser. His choice for national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, was the deputy to that post under President Barack Obama. His nominee for treasury secretary, Janet Yellen, was chair of the Federal Reserve and chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers. His incoming White House chief of staff, Ron Klain, was chief of staff to two vice presidents — Al Gore and Biden himself — and was the Obama administration’s Ebola czar.
And Kerry, Biden’s choice to fill the newly created post of presidential climate envoy, was a longtime U.S. senator and his party’s 2004 presidential nominee before serving as secretary of state.
“The team is bringing competency and experience, which are two separate things but deeply interwoven,” said retired Navy Adm. James Stavridis, former NATO supreme allied commander Europe, who has worked with much of Biden’s new team. “There are deputies stepping up into full roles, seasoned hands returning to the job. They tend to be calm and centered and they won’t all fight over the ball.”
“They know their counterparts overseas and they know whom to pick up the phone and call,” said Stavridis. “It’s a completely different approach than what we saw with the Trump team — and I hesitate to call it a team because they didn’t work all that well together.”
Four years ago, contenders for Cabinet posts were marched through the gilded lobby of Trump Tower, the president-elect’s Manhattan skyscraper, in full view of reporters and TV cameras. The candidates publicly jockeyed for posts, Trump aides took turn knifing each other in the media, and the incoming president even took one secretary of state contender, Mitt Romney, out to dinner for a public and ultimately unsuccessful audition.
Conversely, Biden’s transition hiring process has been carried out behind closed doors or, out of concern for the surging pandemic, on Zoom and over the phone. Leaks to reporters have been few. And the public only got its first glimpse of Biden’s choices when they took their spots, spaced apart and wearing masks, on a Delaware stage.
Another change was the distinct lack of tributes from the staffers about their boss, a marked difference from the lengthy, glowing venerations of the president that came to define any Trump Cabinet meeting. Also different: No one who stood with Biden was a family member or an in-law.
“The contrast between Biden’s selections and Trump’s selections are like night and day: Biden’s picks are capable, sensible and play well in the sandbox together,” said Steve Rattner, a former Obama economic adviser. “Biden prefers people he has known for decades. Trump picked Rex Tillerson because he thought he looked like a secretary of state.”
There are risks. Many progressive Democrats aren’t looking for simply a return to the Obama years, which ended with many on the left frustrated at the slow pace of change.
Republicans are also unimpressed with Biden’s hires.
“Biden’s cabinet picks went to Ivy League schools, have strong resumes, attend all the right conferences & will be polite & orderly caretakers of America’s decline,” tweeted Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who may seek the White House again in 2024.
Trump’s own hiring process was besieged with chaos of his own making. He jettisoned the man in charge of his transition — former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie — and over 30 binders Christie had prepared in favor of a staffing plan based on his gut, family recommendations and, yes, by his own admission, who looked straight out of central casting.
The tumult didn’t end once he took office.
While a few of his picks were establishment choices, like Marine Gen. James Mattis to run the Pentagon, most were plucked from the corporate world — like Tillerson at State and Steve Mnuchin at Treasury — while his senior adviser Steve Bannon declared he wanted to oversee “the destruction of the administrative state.”
Trump had more senior staff and Cabinet turnover than any modern predecessor — his first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, didn’t last a month — and he declared an informal war on the federal bureaucracy once the investigation began into whether his campaign had any ties to Russia.
Deeply suspicious of what he deemed the “deep state,” Trump allowed scores of vacancies to remain unfilled across federal agencies, fired officials he deemed insufficiently loyal, encouraged in-fighting on his staff and, with relentless public attacks, attempted to undermine Americans’ faith in the institutions of their own government.
India has registered 44,376 new confirmed coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours.
The latest increase has taken the total number of cases to 9.22 million, the Health Ministry said Wednesday. Deaths rose by 481, driving the total fatalities to 134,699.
India’s confirmed daily toll has remained below 50,000 for a few weeks, after peaking in September. But several cities have witnessed a surge in cases, prompting some state governments to clamp additional restrictions to contain the spread of the virus.
In Mumbai in southern India, travelers from New Delhi, Rajasthan and Gujarat will have to undergo mandatory coronavirus tests before entering the city. The three northern states are witnessing the latest surge in infections.
The situation remains grim in New Delhi, which is recording the highest number of cases in the country. The capital is reporting nearly 100 deaths on average every day for the last two weeks.
China says it has detected the coronavirus on packages of imported frozen food, but how valid are its claims and how serious is the threat to public health?
Frozen shrimp imported from an Ecuadorian company was banned for one week on Tuesday in a continuing series of such temporary bans.
While experts say the virus can survive for a time on cardboard and plastic containers, it remains unclear how serious a risk that poses. Like so many issues surrounding the pandemic, the matter has swiftly become politicized.
China has rejected complaints from the U.S. and others, saying it is putting people’s lives first. Experts say they generally don’t consider the presence of the virus on packaging to be a significant health risk.
A look at the issue and some of the conclusions so far:
Packaging first became a major issue with outbreaks in China linked to wholesale food markets, including one in June on the outskirts of Beijing. That prompted the removal of smoked salmon from supermarket shelves and has snowballed into multiple cases nationwide involving chicken, beef and seafood from nearly two dozen countries. At some supermarkets, imported meat now comes with a sticker declaring it to be virus-free.
Infections among freight handlers have also placed suspicion on packaging. Person-to-person transmission hasn’t been ruled out, however, and China has yet to release evidence that packaging was indeed the route of infection.
Trading partners, including the U.S., New Zealand, Canada and the EU, say they’re unclear on China’s methodology and have seen no solid evidence that their products carried the virus. The U.S. has questioned whether China’s crackdown is scientifically based and suggested the bans may amount to an unfair trade barrier.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian called the U.S. accusations “totally groundless and unreasonable.” China’s measures are “necessary following the spirit of putting people’s lives first and protecting people’s health,” he said last week.
In a statement to The Associated Press, the World Health Organization said cases of live viruses being found on packaging appear to be “rare and isolated.” While the virus can “survive a long time under cold storage conditions,” there is no evidence of people contracting COVID-19 from consuming food, it said.
The virus SARS-CoV-2 that causes COVID-19 is overwhelmingly transmitted through respiratory droplets and smaller sized particles passed through the air, underscoring the importance of mask-wearing.
Yet the virus can also be present on surfaces, and public health officials have urged people to wash their hands carefully and avoid physical contact with others. In general, the colder and dryer that conditions are, the longer the virus can survive on surfaces.
Wiping down countertops, handrails and other surfaces is a common way to ensure safety. Some people have also gone to the extreme of disinfecting packages brought into their homes, both by themselves or by delivery services.
WHAT EXPERTS SAY
Virus traces found on packaging can be infectious or non-infectious. The extremely sensitive tests being used can detect both active viruses and their remnants, without being able to distinguish between them, said Timothy Newsome, a virologist at the University of Sydney.
“It is possible and may represent some risk, but it’s certainly at the lower end of risk for transmission,” he said. “We know low temperatures do stabilize the virus. Nonetheless, I think things which have been transported and surface transmission — there’s a low risk of it.”
A positive test “doesn’t indicate infectious virus, just that some signal from the virus is present on that surface,” said Andrew Pekosz of Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health.
“I’ve seen no convincing data that SARS-CoV-2 on food packaging poses a significant risk for infection,” he said.