North Korea Locks Down City Over 1st Suspected Case Of COVID-19: Reports

News Network
July 26, 2020

Seoul, Jul 26: North Korean authorities have imposed a lockdown on the border city of Kaesong after discovering what they called the country's first suspected case of the novel coronavirus, state media reported Sunday.

Leader Kim Jong Un convened an emergency politburo meeting on Saturday to implement a "maximum emergency system and issue a top-class alert" to contain the virus, official news agency KCNA said.

If confirmed, it would be the first officially recognised COVID-19 case in the North where medical infrastructure is seen as woefully inadequate for dealing with any epidemic.

KCNA said a defector who had left for the South three years ago returned on July 19 after "illegally crossing" the heavily fortified border dividing the countries.

But there have been no reports in the South of anyone leaving through what is one of the world's most secure borders, replete with minefields and guard posts.

Pyongyang has previously insisted not a single case of the coronavirus had been seen in the North despite the illness having swept the globe, and the country's borders remain closed.

The patient was found in Kaesong City, which borders the South, and "was put under strict quarantine", as would anybody who had come in close contact, state media said.

It was a "dangerous situation... that may lead to a deadly and destructive disaster", the media outlet added.

Kim was quoted as saying "the vicious virus could be said to have entered the country", and officials on Friday took the "preemptive measure of totally blocking Kaesong City".

The nuclear-armed North closed its borders in late January as the virus spread in neighbouring China and imposed tough restrictions that put thousands of its people into isolation, but analysts say the North is unlikely to have avoided the contagion.

South Korea is currently recording around 40 to 60 cases a day.

Earlier this month Kim warned against any "hasty" relaxation of anti-coronavirus measures, indicating the country will keep its borders closed for the foreseeable future.

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News Network
September 16,2020

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Moscow, Sept 16: Russia's sovereign wealth fund has agreed to supply 100 million doses of its coronavirus vaccine, Sputnik-V, to Indian drug company Dr Reddy's Laboratories, the fund said on Wednesday, as Moscow speeds up plans to distribute its shot abroad.

The deal comes after the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) reached agreements with Indian manufacturers to produce 300 million doses of the vaccine in India, which is a major consumer of Russian oil and arms.

Dr Reddy's, one of India's top pharmaceutical companies, will carry out Phase III clinical trials of the vaccine in India, pending regulatory approval, RDIF said in a statement.

Deliveries to India could begin in late 2020, it said, adding this was subject to the completion of trials and the vaccine's registration by regulatory authorities in India.

Russia was the first country to license a novel coronavirus vaccine before large-scale Phase III trials were complete, stirring concern among scientists and doctors about the safety and efficacy of the shot.

The Phase I and II results had shown promise, G V Prasad, co-chairman of Dr Reddy's, was cited in the RDIF statement as saying.

"Sputnik V vaccine could provide a credible option in our fight against COVID-19 in India," he said.

There was no detail about the price of the vaccine but RDIF has said previously it was not aiming at making a profit, just covering costs.

The agreement comes as India's coronavirus cases surged past 5 million on Wednesday, piling pressure on hospitals grappling with unreliable supplies of oxygen that they need to treat tens of thousands of critical patients.

India is only the second country in the world to cross the grim milestone and said this week it is considering granting an emergency authorisation for a vaccine, particularly for the elderly and people in high-risk workplaces.

The RDIF has already reached vaccine supply deals with Kazakhstan, Brazil and Mexico. It has also signed a memorandum with the Saudi Chemical company.

Russia has billed Sputnik-V as the first vaccine against the coronavirus to be registered in the world. Phase III trials, involving at least 40,000 people, were launched in Russia on Aug. 26 but have yet to be completed.

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News Network
September 16,2020

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Paris, Sept 16: The world has lost nearly 100 million hectares of forests in two decades, marking a steady decline though at a slower pace than before, a UN agency reported Tuesday.

The proportion of forest to total land area fell from 31.9 per cent in 2000 to 31.2 per cent in 2020, now some 4.1 billion hectares, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization.

It marks "a net loss of almost 100 million hectares of the world's forests," the FAO said.

Deforestation has hit particularly hard sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia, where it has accelerated in the last decade, but also Latin and Central America, where it has nonetheless slowed down.

Forests are being cut down mainly to make way for crops or farm animals, especially in less developed countries.

In southeast Asia, the forest now covers 47.8 per cent of the land compared to 49 per cent in 2015. In sub-Saharan Africa, it covers 27.8 per cent compared to 28.7 per cent five years ago.

In Indonesia, it is 50.9 per cent, down from 52.5 per cent. In Malaysia, it is 58.2 per cent, down from 59.2 per cent five years ago.

A country strongly focused on agriculture like the Ivory Coast has seen forests reduced to 8.9 per cent of the total land area from 10.7 per cent in 2015. Kenya, Mali and Rwanda have largely held firm against forest loss.

In Latin and Central America, forest covers only 46.7 per cent of the total land, compared to 47.4 per cent five years ago.

In Brazil, forests declined to 59.4 per cent of the country's territory in 2020 from 60.3 per cent in 2015. In Haiti, deforestation has continued apace -- falling to 12.6 per cent of the total land area from 13.2 per cent in 2015.

In contrast, in many parts of Asia, Europe and North America forest area has increased or stayed the same in the last five years with policies to restore woodland and allow forests to expand naturally.

In China, forests make up 23.3 per cent, up from 22.3 per cent in 2015. In Japan, they account for 68.4 per cent, the same as it was five years ago.

In France, forests cover 31.5 per cent of the land in 2020, up from 30.7 per cent in 2015. In Italy, they make up 32.5 per cent of the national territory, up from 31.6 five years ago.

In Britain, they make up 13.2 per cent, up from 13 per cent five years ago.

In Canada, it is unchanged at 38.2 per cent, and in the United States, unchanged at 33.9 per cent.

In Australia, the figure rose from 17.3 to 17.4 per cent and in New Zealand from 37.4 per cent to 37.6 per cent over the five years.

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Agencies
September 21,2020

Moscow, Sept 21: The rush to find a vaccine for the deadly COVID-19 is still underway, and many have volunteered to participate in the clinical trials in the hope to find one. In Russia, for example, over 60,000 people have reportedly applied to volunteer for the Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine trials in Moscow. Meanwhile, more than 700 people have been administered the vaccine.

Sputnik V, an adenovirus vector-based vaccine, was developed by the Gamaleya Scientific Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology, along with the Russian Direct Investment Fund and registered on August 11.

"Over 60,000 people have signed up as volunteers, several thousand people have passed the required medical tests to be registered as potential candidates for carrying out the tests," Mayor Sergei Sobyanin was quoted as saying in reports on Sunday.

According to Russian Tass news agency, more than 700 people have been injected with the coronavirus vaccine. "All of them are feeling good," Sobyanin said.

The vaccine was developed on a platform that had been used for a number of other vaccines.

On August 15, the Russian Health Ministry announced the launch of the vaccine production.

The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) and Dr Reddy's Laboratories Limited, a global pharmaceutical company headquartered in India, have also agreed to cooperate on clinical trials and distribution of Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine in India.

"On regulatory approval in India, RDIF shall supply to Dr Reddy's 100 million doses of the vaccine. The Sputnik V vaccine, which is based on well-studied human adenoviral vector platform with proven safety, is undergoing clinical trials for the coronavirus pandemic," said a statement from the fund.

The Russian Direct Investment Fund said that the deliveries could potentially begin in late 2020 subject to completion of successful trials and registration of the vaccine by regulatory authorities in India.

Earlier this month, a study published in the peer-reviewed journal The Lancet said a Russian COVID-19 vaccine has shown no serious side effects and elicited an immune response in early human trials.

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