Nuclear powers modernising, arms control outlook 'bleak': Report

News Network
June 15,2020

Stockholm, Jun 15: Nuclear powers continue to modernise their arsenals, researchers said Monday, warning that tensions were rising and the outlook for arms control was "bleak".

"The loss of key channels of communication between Russia and the USA... could potentially lead to a new nuclear arms race," said Shannon Kile, director of the nuclear arms control programme at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) and co-author of the report.

Russia and the US account for more than 90 percent of the world's nuclear weapons.

Kile was referring to the future of the New START treaty between the US and Russia, which is set to expire in February 2021.

It is the final nuclear deal still in force between the two superpowers, aimed at maintaining their nuclear arsenals below Cold War levels.

"Discussions to extend New START or to negotiate a new treaty made no progress in 2019," the SIPRI researchers noted.

At the same time, nuclear powers continue to modernise their weapons while China and India are increasing the size of their arsenals.

"China is in the middle of a significant modernisation of its nuclear arsenal. It is developing a so-called nuclear triad for the first time, made up of new land- and sea-based missiles and nuclear-capable aircraft," SIPRI said.

The country has repeatedly rejected Washington's insistence that it join any future nuclear arms reduction talks.

The number of nuclear warheads declined in the past year.

At the start of 2020, the United States, Russia, Britain, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea together had 13,400 nuclear arms, according to SIPRI's estimates, 465 fewer than at the start of 2019.

The decline was attributed mainly to the United States and Russia.

While the future of the New START treaty remains uncertain, Washington and Moscow have continued to respect their obligations under the accord.

"In 2019, the forces of both countries remained below the limits specified by the treaty," the report said. But both nations "have extensive and expensive programmes underway to replace and modernise their nuclear warheads, missile and aircraft delivery systems, and nuclear weapon production facilities," it added.

"Both countries have also given new or expanded roles to nuclear weapons in their military plans and doctrines, which marks a significant reversal of the post-Cold War trend towards the gradual marginalisation of nuclear weapons."

The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), a cornerstone of the global nuclear non-proliferation regime, celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.

The number of nuclear arms worldwide has declined since hitting a peak of almost 70,000 in the mid-1980s.

The five original nuclear powers -- Washington, Beijing, Moscow, Paris and London -- in March reiterated their commitment to the treaty.

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Will Russia approve world’s first covid-19 vaccine for public use by August 10?

Agencies
July 29,2020

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If everything goes as Russia’s expectation, it will be world’s first country to approve a coronavirus vaccine for widespread in the second week of August despite safety and efficacy concerns, according to a report. The adenoviral vector-based vaccine developed by Russian military and government researchers is currently in phase 2 trials.

According to a report from CNN, Russian officials are hoping to get approval for the COVID-19 vaccine developed by the Moscow-based Gamaleya Institute on Agust 10 or even before that. The officials told the outlet that the vaccine will be approved for public use with frontline healthcare workers receiving it first.

“It’s a Sputnik moment,” said Kirill Dmitriev, head of Russia’s sovereign wealth fund, which is financing Russian vaccine research, referring to the successful 1957 launch of the world’s first satellite by the Soviet Union, according to CNN.

“Americans were surprised when they heard Sputnik’s beeping. It’s the same with this vaccine. Russia will have got there first,” he was quoted as saying.

However, Russia is yet to release the scientific data on its coronavirus vaccine trials, hence, questions remain about the safety and efficacy of the vaccine, said the report. The vaccine is in the second phase of testing with developers planning to launch the phase 3 trials sometime after August 3.

Earlier, Interfax reported, citing Health Minister Mikhail Murashko, that the vaccine will be widely used in parallel with phase 3 trials. He said the country plans to vaccinate medics who are at high-risk for COVID-19 next month before clinical trials are completed.

Murashko added that individuals at higher risk of getting infected with the coronavirus such as older people or those with health conditions will also be prioritised for the vaccine, although he did not estimate or reveal when that would happen. The minister added 800 people will be recruited for the phase 3 trials.

Meanwhile, health officials were more cautious considering the fact that human testing of the vaccine is incomplete, and the state registration is expected to begin after August 3, reported The Moscow Times.

On Monday, Moderna and Pfizer announced the commencement of the final phase 3 trials of their candidate vaccines against the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which has so far claimed at least 654,477 lives and infected 16,514,500 people worldwide. 

Researchers will recruit up to 30,000 volunteers in separate trials both backed by the US government. India's first indigenous coronavirus vaccine, COVAXIN, is undergoing phase 1 human clinical trials across the country. More than 150 COVID-19 vaccines are being developed all over the world with at least six candidates already in late-stage clinical trials.

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Global COVID-19 cases top 15.4 million: Johns Hopkins

Agencies
July 24,2020

The total number of global coronavirus cases has topped 15.4 million, while the deaths have increased to over 631,000, according to the Johns Hopkins University.

As of Friday morning, the total number of cases stood at 15,439,456, while the fatalities rose to 631,926, the University's Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) revealed in its latest update.

The US accounted for the world's highest number of infections and fatalities at 4,034,831 and 144,242, respectively, according to the CSSE.

Brazil came in the second place with 2,287,475 infections and 84,082 deaths.

In terms of cases, India ranks third (1,238,798), and is followed by Russia (793,720), South Africa (408,052), Peru (371,096), Mexico (370,712), Chile (334,683), the UK (298,721), Iran (284,034), Spain (270,166), Pakistan (269,191), Saudi Arabia (260,394), Italy (245,338), Turkey (223,315), Colombia (218,428), France (216,667), Bangladesh (216,110), Germany (204,881), Argentina (148,027), Canada (114,398), Qatar (108,244) and Iraq (102,226), the CSSE figures showed.

The other countries with over 10,000 deaths are the UK (45,639), Mexico (41,908), Italy (35,092), France (30,185), India (29,861), Spain (28,429), Iran (15,074), Peru (17,654) and Russia (12,873).

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Russia to register first covid-19 vaccine on Aug 12

Agencies
August 7,2020

Moscow, Aug 7: Russia will register its first vaccine against the coronavirus on August 12, Deputy Health Minister Oleg Gridnev said on Friday.

The vaccine has been developed jointly by the Gamaleya Research Institute and the Russian Defence Ministry.

"The vaccine developed by the Gamaleya centre will be registered on August 12. At the moment, the last, third, stage is underway. The trials are extremely important. We have to understand that the vaccine must be safe. Medical professionals and senior citizens will be the first to get vaccinated," Gridnev told reporters at the opening of a cancer centre building in the city of Ufa.

According to the minister, the effectiveness of the vaccine will be judged when the population immunity has formed.

Clinical trials of the vaccine began on June 18 and included 38 volunteers. All of the participants developed immunity. 

The first group was discharged on July 15 and the second group on July 20.

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