China has announced new restrictions on the activities of U.S. diplomats working in mainland China and Hong Kong, in what it called a justified response to similar measures imposed on Chinese diplomats in the U.S. last year, reports Ap.
In a statement posted online late Friday, a foreign ministry spokesperson said the rules would apply to senior diplomats and all other personnel at the American Embassy in Beijing and consulates throughout China.
However, the spokesperson said China supported “normal exchanges and cooperation between all sectors of the two countries" and said the restrictions could be lifted if the U.S. were to revoke the measures it imposed last October.
“Once again we urge the U.S. side to immediately correct its mistakes and lift the unreasonable restrictions imposed on the Chinese Embassy and consulates and their staff. China will make reciprocal responses to U.S. actions,” the spokesperson, who wasn't identified, said.
No details were given about the new restrictions. U.S. diplomats already face limits on what parts of the country they can visit and even access to college campuses. The U.S. rules require Chinese diplomats to report travel and meetings in what was seen as an attempt to prevent interference within the overseas Chinese community and foreign students.
Washington has also complained about a lack of reciprocity in access to media, saying Chinese diplomats are able to put their views across U.S. outlets while America's representatives are shunned by Chinese state media.
Most recently, the State Department protested over the refusal by the Communist Party's flagship newspaper People's Daily to publish an op-ed by Ambassador Terry Branstad. The paper responded that the piece did not meet its editorial standards.
China-U.S. tensions over trade, technology and a multitude of other issues have increasingly spilled over into the areas of diplomacy and media, with the U.S. ordering the closure of the Chinese Consulate in Houston in July. China responded by ordering the closure of the U.S. Consulate in the southwestern city of Chengdu, a double blow because of the mission's key role in monitoring activities in the restive Himalayan region of Tibet.
The U.S. also capped the number of Chinese citizens working for state media outlets in the U.S., leading to the effective expulsion of 60 reporters, and has reduced the length of visas for others from one year to three months. That has brought renewed pressure on U.S. outlets in China, and Beijing has delayed renewing credentials for several of their journalists pending a positive response from Washington.
The General Assembly has adopted an "omnibus" resolution to encourage international cooperation in response to COVID-19, reports Xinhua.
The resolution, which was adopted 169-2 with two abstentions, identifies international cooperation, multilateralism and solidarity as the only way for the world to effectively respond to global crises such as COVID-19.
It acknowledges the key leadership role of the World Health Organization and the fundamental role of the UN system in catalyzing and coordinating the comprehensive global response to COVID-19 and the central efforts of member states.
It supports the UN secretary-general's appeal for an immediate global cease-fire, notes with concern the impact of the pandemic on conflict-affected states and those at risk of conflict, and supports the continued work of UN peacekeeping operations.
It calls on member states and all relevant actors to promote inclusion and unity in response to COVID-19 and to prevent, speak out and take strong action against racism, xenophobia, hate speech, violence and discrimination.
It calls on states to ensure that all human rights are respected, protected and fulfilled while combating the pandemic and that their responses to the COVID-19 pandemic are in full compliance with their human rights obligations and commitments.
The resolution calls on member states to put in place a whole-of-government and whole-of-society response with a view to strengthening their health system and social care and support systems, and preparedness and response capacities.
It calls on states to ensure the right of women and girls to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health, including sexual and reproductive health, and reproductive rights.
It urges member states to enable all countries to have unhindered, timely access to quality, safe, efficacious and affordable diagnosis, therapeutics, medicines and vaccines, and essential health technologies and their components, as well as equipment, for the COVID-19 response.
It recognizes the role of extensive immunization against COVID-19 as a global public good once safe, effective, accessible and affordable vaccines are available.
It encourages member states to work in partnership with all relevant stakeholders to increase research and development funding for vaccines and medicines, leverage digital technologies, and strengthen scientific international cooperation necessary to combat COVID-19 and to bolster coordination toward rapid development, manufacturing and distribution of diagnostics, therapeutics, medicines and vaccines.
It reaffirms the need to ensure the safe, timely and unhindered access of humanitarian and medical personnel responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It strongly urges states to refrain from promulgating and applying any unilateral economic, financial or trade measures not in accordance with international law and the UN Charter that impede the full achievement of economic and social development, particularly in developing countries.
It calls on member states to ensure protection for those most affected, women, children, youth, persons with disabilities, people living with HIV/AIDS, older persons, indigenous peoples, refugees and internally displaced persons and migrants, and the poor, vulnerable and marginalized segments of the population, and prevent all forms of discrimination.
It calls on member states to counter the increase of sexual and gender-based violence, and harmful practices such as child, early and forced marriage.
The resolution calls on member states and other relevant stakeholders to advance bold and concerted actions to address the immediate social and economic impacts of COVID-19, while striving to get back on track to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
It welcomes the steps taken by the Group of 20 and the Paris Club to provide a time-bound suspension of debt service payments for the poorest countries and by international financial institutions to provide liquidity and other support measures to ease the debt burden of developing countries, and encourages all relevant actors to address risks of debt vulnerabilities.
It emphasizes that COVID-19 has disrupted the normal functioning of open markets, global supply chain connectivity and the flow of essential goods, and reaffirms that emergency measures must be targeted, proportionate, transparent and temporary, that they must not create unnecessary barriers to trade or disruption to global supply chains.
It asks member states to prevent and combat illicit financial flows and strengthen international cooperation and good practices on assets return and recovery, and to implement effective measures to prevent and combat corruption.
It calls on member states and international financial institutions to provide more liquidity in the financial system, especially in all developing countries, and supports the continued examination of the broader use of special drawing rights to enhance the resilience of the international monetary system.
The resolution reaffirms its full commitment to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as the blueprint for building back better after the pandemic.
It urges member states to adopt a climate- and environment-sensitive approach to COVID-19 recovery efforts, and emphasizes that mitigation of and adaptation to climate change represent an immediate and urgent global priority.
Bahrain on Friday agreed to normalise relations with Israel, becoming the fourth Arab nation to recognise Israel, a Middle Eastern country on the Mediterranean Sea. reports AP.
Bahrain has agreed to do so as part of a broader diplomatic push by President Donald Trump and his administration to further ease the Jewish state's relative isolation in the Middle East and find a common ground with nations that share U.S. wariness of Iran.
The agreement makes Bahrain the fourth Arab country, after Egypt, Jordan and the UAE, to have full diplomatic ties with Israel.
Other Arab nations believed to be on the cusp of fully recognising Israel include Oman and Sudan. The region's power player, Saudi Arabia may also be close to a deal.
Trump announced the agreement on the 19th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks following a phone call he had with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa.
The three leaders also issued a brief joint statement marking the second such Arab normalisation agreement with Israel in the past two months.
The announcement came less than a week before Trump hosts a White House ceremony to mark the establishment of full relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, something that Trump and his Middle East team brokered in August. Bahrain’s foreign minister will attend that event and sign a separate agreement with Netanyahu.
“There’s no more powerful response to the hatred that spawned 9/11 than this agreement,” Trump told reporters at the White House.
Friday's agreement is another diplomatic win for Trump less than two months before the presidential election and an opportunity to shore up support among pro-Israel evangelical Christians.
In addition to the UAE deal, Trump just last week announced agreements in principle for Kosovo to recognise Israel and for Serbia to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
But it is a setback for Palestinian leaders, who have urged Arab nations to withhold recognition until they have secured an independent state.
In their joint statement, Trump, Netanyahu and King Hamad called the agreement "a historic breakthrough to further peace in the Middle East.”
“Opening direct dialogue and ties between these two dynamic societies and advanced economies will continue the positive transformation of the Middle East and increase stability, security, and prosperity in the region," the statement said.
Like the UAE agreement, the Bahrain-Israel deal will normalise diplomatic, commercial, security and other relations between the two countries.
Bahrain, along with Saudi Arabia, had already dropped a prohibition on Israeli flights using its airspace.
Saudi acquiescence to the agreements has been considered key to the deals.
Netanyahu thanked Trump. “It took us 26 years between the second peace agreement with an Arab country and the third, but only 29 days between the third and the fourth, and there will be more,” he said, referring to the 1994 peace treaty with Jordan and the more recent agreements.
Bahrain's Foreign Ministry welcomed the deal and said Hamad had praised US efforts to establish security and stability in the Middle East, according to the official news agency.
Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) said Convalescent Plasma (CP) therapy did not help in reducing death due to COVID-19.
"CP was not associated with reduction in mortality or progression to severe COVID-19," said the study, published in Medrxiv, a pre-print server for health sciences, reports Xinhua.
The study has not been peer-reviewed yet.
The top medical research body has made these revelations to investigate the effectiveness of plasma therapy for the treatment of COVID-19 after conducting a study in 39 hospitals across India.
For this, the ICMR researchers did an open-label, parallel-arm, phase II, multicenter, and randomized controlled trial from April 22 to July 14 this year. The trial was registered with the Clinical Trial Registry of India (CTRI) for the purpose, it said.
For the study 1,210 patients (moderately ill, confirmed COVID-19 cases) admitted across 39 trial sites were screened.
The participants were divided into two groups - the intervention arm of 235 participants received two doses of plasma at a 24-hour interval, while the control arm with 229 participants received "best standard of care" (BSC) without plasma. All participants were hospitalised with moderate disease.
The primary outcome was measured on the basis of progression to severe disease or possible death, 28 days after enrolment.
Mortality among participants in the intervention and control arms was 13.6 percent and 14.6 percent, respectively. In both categories, the disease progressed to severe illness in 7.2 percent of the patients in the intervention arm and 7.4 percent of the patients in the control arm.
"The PLACID trial results indicate that there was no difference in 28-day mortality or progression to severe disease among moderately ill COVID-19 patients treated with CP along with BSC (best standard of care) compared to BSC alone," the report said.
Convalescent plasma therapy for COVID-19 involves the transfusion of a recovered patient's plasma into someone whose body has not been able to mount a strong enough response against the disease. The idea behind plasma therapy is to leverage the antibodies in a recovered patient's plasma to help others beat the disease.
ICMR has previously stated there was no robust evidence to support plasma therapy as COVID-19 treatment.
The number of global under-five deaths dropped to its lowest point on record last year – down to 5.2 million from 12.5 million in 1990 – but COVID-19 could reverse decades of progress toward eliminating preventable child deaths, agencies warn on Wednesday.
The new mortality estimates were released by UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO), the Population Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs and the World Bank Group.
Since then, however, surveys by UNICEF and WHO reveal that the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in major disruptions to health services that threaten to undo decades of hard-won progress.
“The global community has come too far towards eliminating preventable child deaths to allow the COVID-19 pandemic to stop us in our tracks,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director.
“When children are denied access to health services because the system is overrun, and when women are afraid to give birth at the hospital for fear of infection, they, too, may become casualties of COVID-19. Without urgent investments to restart disrupted health systems and services, millions of children under five, especially newborns, could die.”
Over the past 30 years, health services to prevent or treat causes of child death such as preterm, low birthweight, complications during birth, neonatal sepsis, pneumonia, diarrhea and malaria, as well as vaccination, have played a large role in saving millions of lives.
Now countries worldwide are experiencing disruptions in child and maternal health services, such as health checkups, vaccinations and prenatal and post-natal care, due to resource constraints and a general uneasiness with using health services due to a fear of getting COVID-19.
A UNICEF survey conducted over the summer across 77 countries found that almost 68 percent of countries reported at least some disruption in health checks for children and immunisation services. In addition, 63 percent of countries reported disruptions in antenatal checkups and 59 percent in post-natal care.
A recent WHO survey based on responses from 105 countries revealed that 52 percent of countries reported disruptions in health services for sick children and 51 percent in services for management of malnutrition.
Health interventions such as these are critical for stopping preventable newborn and child deaths. For example, women who receive care by professional midwives trained according to internationals standards are 16 percent less likely to lose their baby and 24 percent less likely to experience pre-term birth, according to WHO.
"The fact that today more children live to see their first birthday than any time in history is a true mark of what can be achieved when the world puts health and well-being at the centre of our response,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.
“Now, we must not let the COVID-19 pandemic turn back remarkable progress for our children and future generations. Rather, it’s time to use what we know works to save lives, and keep investing in stronger, resilient health systems.”
Based on the responses from countries that participated in the UNICEF and WHO surveys, the most commonly cited reasons for health service disruptions included parents avoiding health centers for fear of infection; transport restrictions; suspension or closure of services and facilities; fewer healthcare workers due to diversions or fear of infection due to shortages in personal protective equipment such as masks and gloves; and greater financial difficulties.
Afghanistan, Bolivia, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Libya, Madagascar, Pakistan, Sudan and Yemen are among the hardest hit countries.
Seven of the nine countries had high child mortality rates of more than 50 deaths per 1,000 live births among children under five in 2019.
In Afghanistan, where 1 in 17 children died before reaching age 5 in 2019, the Ministry of Health reported a significant reduction in visits to health facilities.
Out of fear of contracting the COVID-19 virus, families are de-prioritising pre- and post-natal care, adding to the risk faced by pregnant women and newborn babies.
Urgent action needed
Even before COVID-19, newborns were at highest risk of death. In 2019, a newborn baby died every 13 seconds.
Moreover, 47 percent of all under-five deaths occurred in the neonatal period, up from 40 percent in 1990. With severe disruptions in essential health services, newborn babies could be at much higher risk of dying. For example, in Cameroon, where 1 out of every 38 newborns died in 2019, the UNICEF survey reported an estimated 75 percent disruptions in services for essential newborn care, antenatal check-ups, obstetric care and post-natal care.
In May, initial modelling by Johns Hopkins University showed that almost 6,000 additional children could die per day due to disruptions due to COVID-19.
These reports and surveys highlight the need for urgent action to restore and improve childbirth services and antenatal and postnatal care for mothers and babies, including having skilled health workers to care for them at birth.
Working with parents to assuage their fears and reassure them is also important.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has put years of global progress to end preventable child deaths in serious jeopardy,” said Muhammad Ali Pate, Global Director for Health, Nutrition and Population at the World Bank.
“It is essential to protect life-saving services which have been key to reducing child mortality. We will continue to work with governments and partners to reinforce healthcare systems to ensure mothers and children get the services they need.”
"The new report demonstrates the ongoing progress worldwide in reducing child mortality,” said John Wilmoth, Director of the Population Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs.
“While the report highlights the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on interventions that are critical for children’s health, it also draws attention to the need to redress the vast inequities in a child's prospects for survival and good health.”