EU leaders have voiced frustration over a massive shortfall in contracted deliveries of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines, as a third wave of infections surged across Europe.
With inoculation programmes running far behind those of Britain and the United States, the bloc's executive warned that vaccine exports by the British-Swedish company would be blocked until it delivers the shots it promised to the EU.
"We have to and want to explain to our European citizens that they get their fair share," European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told a news conference after a video-conference summit of the European Union's leaders.
"The company has to catch up, has to honour the contract it has with the European member states, before it can engage again in exporting vaccines," she said.
Of 300 million doses due to be delivered to EU countries by the end of June, Astrazeneca aims to deliver only 100 million.
That has contributed to a stuttering start to vaccination rollouts. As of March 23, Britain had administered nearly 46 shots for every 100 people, compared with under 14 per 100 in the 27-nation bloc it left last year, according to figures compiled by website Our World In Data.
This week, the European Commission unveiled plans to tighten oversight of vaccine exports. This would allow greater scope to block shipments to countries with higher inoculation rates.
The EU is divided over whether to take a tougher line on vaccine exports by companies that do not meet contractual commitments. French President Emmanuel Macron made it clear he was fully behind it.
"It's the end of naivety," he told a news conference after the summit. "I support the fact that we must block all exports for as long as some drug companies don't respect their commitments with Europeans."
The Philippines will reimpose stricter quarantine measures in the capital Manila and nearby provinces, a senior official said on Saturday, as the country battles to contain a surge in COVID-19 cases that put a bigger strain on hospitals.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the measures would be in effect from March 29 to April 4.
The health ministry on Saturday reported 9,595 new coronavirus cases, marking the second straight day the daily jump in infections remained above 9,000. The country posted a record rise in three of the past five days.
Spain is to require people arriving by land from France to present a negative COVID-19 test, the Health Ministry said on Saturday, amid rising numbers of French arrivals and an uptick in Spain's coronavirus rate.
Anyone arriving by land from risk areas will have to present a negative PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test that was taken within 72 hours prior to their arrival.
"The order will take effect three days after its publication in the Official State Gazette and until the government declares the end of the health crisis situation caused by COVID-19," the Health Ministry said in a statement.
The new requirement will not apply to truck drivers, cross-border workers, and people who live within 30 kilometres of the border.
Many French people, weary of their own lockdown, have been flocking over the border to enjoy open bars and restaurants in areas such as Madrid.
But Spain's coronavirus infection rate has continued to climb steadily over the past week, suggesting a long decline could be in danger of reversing.
The rate, which is measured over the preceding 14 days, rose on Friday to 138.6 per 100,000 people from 134 on Thursday, the Health Ministry said. It reported 7,586 new cases, bringing Spain's overall tally to 3.26 million. The death toll rose by 590 to 75,010.
Tanzania has given a hero's burial to President John Magufuli, who died earlier this month after denying that COVID-19 was a danger to the East African country.
Magufuli's coffin was lowered into the ground Friday by military generals followed by a 21-gun salute in Chato, his hometown in the country's northwest.
Magufuli was one of Africa’s most prominent COVID-19 skeptics. Even though his government announced on March 17 that he had died of heart failure, opposition leaders charge that he died of complications from COVID-19.
Magufuli claimed last year that three days of national prayer had eradicated COVID-19 from Tanzania and discouraged residents from wearing face masks and getting vaccines.
An estimated 3,500 mourners gathered, many of them unmasked and standing close together, on a soccer field for a Catholic mass for Magufuli that was presided over by Archbishop Gervas Nyaisonga and more than 20 priests.
Former President Jakaya Kikwete delivered a eulogy in Swahili, remembering Magufuli as a longtime friend and confidante. “I nominated him for the presidency and I had no doubt,” he said, describing Magufuli as “an honest, hardworking, attentive leader who does not tolerate negligence.”
Also attending the burial was President Samia Suluhu Hassan, the former vice president who succeeded Magufuli to become Tanzania's first woman president.
Many Tanzanians followed the proceedings on live TV and radio in the country of 60 million where the populist leader was admired by many for his pugnacious style of leadership and action against corruption.
Others, however, are critical of his legacy, saying his rule reduced fundamental freedoms of expression and assembly.
Opposition leader Tundu Lissu, who came in second in elections in October that were marred by violence, widespread allegations of rigging, maintains that Magufuli died of COVID-19.
Lissu, in exile in Belgium fearing for his life after refusing to accept the election results, was among the first to note Magufuli's absence from public view before his death. Magufuli had not been seen in public since Feb. 27, when he swore in a new chief secretary after his predecessor died with what many speculate was COVID-19. For days government officials denied Magufuli was ill, claiming he was simply busy.
“President Magufuli defied the world, defied science, defied common sense in his approach to COVID-19 and it finally brought him down,” Lissu told The Associated Press last week.
Felix Maluma, a trader in the largest city, Dar es Salaam, said he was shocked by the death of Magufuli.
“I don’t think we will have such a good leader," he said. "I pray that the next leader (President Samia Suluhu Hassan) gets the courage to fulfill the promises made by President Magufuli.”
Source: Associated Press
A southern Indiana nurse has been charged with practicing medicine without a license for allegedly removing a nursing home resident's oxygen mask hours before he died from COVID-19 last year.
Connie Sneed, 52, was charged Thursday with the felony, which in Indiana carries a potential penalty of one to six years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
Authorities began investigating the man's April 2020 death at a nursing home in Clarksville, Indiana, after learning that Sneed wrote in a social media post that she had asked the man if he wanted her to remove his oxygen mask so he could “fly with the angels."
In that Facebook post, Sneed called her alleged actions, “the hardest thing I’ve ever done in 28 years," according to an inspection report from the Indiana Department of Health.
The man, who was a resident at Wedgewood Healthcare Center, had been struggling after days of aggressive oxygen treatment for COVID-19, according to investigators. Sneed wrote in her Facebook post that she saw him repeatedly try to take off his oxygen mask when she approached him and asked if he wanted her to remove it, according to the report.
“I asked him on day 4 if he’s tired he said yes I said do you want me to take all this off for you and let you go and fly with the angels and he said yes," she wrote. “I took it all off for him I went in the hallway and cried and I let him go he passed away 1 hour and 45 minutes after I left.”
The man received no additional treatment and died nearly eight hours later, the report states.
Reached by telephone on Friday morning, Sneed told The Indianapolis Star, “I have no comment.” She said she has an attorney but would not provide a name. Online court records do not list an attorney representing her.
Sneed is a licensed practical nurse with an active license, according to the state’s online licensing database.
In a May 2020 interview with state inspectors, Sneed confirmed that she had removed the man’s oxygen. She said she’d had a “terrible” week and was caring for more than 40 COVID-19 patients at the nursing home when she forgot to notify the resident’s physician of the man's decline.
Sneed also told inspectors that the man’s daughter had told her “if it was her father’s wishes she could remove the mask.”
Sneed, who had worked at the nursing home for 15 years, was terminated May 6, 2020, when it was determined she had violated the nursing home's policy and standard nursing practice by both administering and then removing the oxygen.
Clark County Prosecutor Jeremy Mull said he received a report from the Indiana Attorney General’s office last week that resulted in the charge being filed Thursday against Sneed.
“After reviewing the results of the investigation it was my conclusion that this nurse was not justified in removing this man’s oxygen without consulting with and getting the permission of the supervising physician,” Mull told the News and Tribune.
Source: Associated Press
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi arrived in Iran on Friday for a visit that Iranian state media said would see the signing of a 25-year cooperation agreement between the two countries, which are both under U.S sanctions.
The accord, final details of which are yet to be announced, is expected to include Chinese investments in Iran’s energy and infrastructure sectors.
In 2016, China, Iran’s largest trading partner and long-time ally, agreed to boost bilateral trade by more than 10 times to $600 billion in the next decade.
"The signing of the comprehensive cooperation programme of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the People's Republic of China by the foreign ministers of the two countries is another programme of this two-day trip," state news agency IRNA said.
Iran is hardening its stance towards the United States and the European parties to Tehran's 2015 nuclear accord with world powers.
"This document is a complete roadmap with strategic political and economic clauses covering trade, economic and transportation cooperation ... with a special focus on the private sectors of the two sides," Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh told state TV.
On Thursday, China's commerce ministry said Beijing will make efforts to safeguard the Iran nuclear deal and defend the legitimate interests of Sino-Iranian relations.
China made the comments after Reuters reported that Iran has" indirectly" moved record volumes of oil into China in recent months, marked as supplies from other countries, even as China customs data showed that no Iranian oil was imported in the first two months of this year.
U.S. President Joe Biden has sought to revive talks with Iran on the nuclear deal abandoned by former President Donald Trump in 2018, although harsh economic measures remain in place that Tehran insists be lifted before any negotiations resume.
The United States and the other Western powers that joined the 2015 deal appear at odds with Tehran over which side should return to the accord first, making it unlikely that U.S. sanctions which have crippled Iran's economy can be quickly removed.
However, the OPEC member's oil exports climbed in January after a boost in the fourth quarter, despite U.S. sanctions, ina sign that the end of Trump's term may be changing buyer behaviour. Since late 2018 there was a sharp drop in Iranian exports to China and other Asian customers.
Brazil's daily Covid-19 death toll has passed 3,000 for the first time as the virus continues its rapid spread, pushing hospitals close to collapse.
The country has reported 298,676 deaths linked to the virus since the start of the pandemic, with experts saying the situation is virtually out of control.
President Jair Bolsonaro, who has opposed lockdowns and criticised face masks, defended his actions on Tuesday.
Pot-banging protests were held in major cities during his televised address.
The far-right president - who repeatedly played down the virus, raised doubts about vaccines and defended unproven drugs as treatment - said he would make 2021 the year of vaccinations.
"Very soon we'll resume our normal lives," said the president, who has been under heavy criticism at home and abroad. Shortly before his four-minute speech, the health ministry reported that 3,251 people had died with the virus in the previous 24 hours.
Brazil has been struggling with the rollout of its vaccination programme, with 6.64 doses administered per 100 people, according to the Our World in Data tracker. Critics say the Bolsonaro government was slow in negotiating supplies amid a worldwide run, leaving Brazil facing delays in receiving jabs.
The worsening of the Brazilian outbreak is also attributed to the spread of highly contagious variants of the virus. States and cities have announced a number of measures in recent weeks to limit the movement of people in an attempt to slow contagion.
The president has argued that the collateral damage to the economy brought by restrictions would be worse than the effects of the virus itself, a view shared by many of his supporters. But his attempt to stop local authorities from imposing them was blocked by the Supreme Court on Tuesday.
Many hospitals are running out of ICU beds and drugs needed to treat critically ill patients are in short supply. Six states also reported "worrying" levels of medical oxygen supplies, the prosecutor general's office said.
On Tuesday, the leading health institute Fiocruz urged authorities to co-ordinate a national response and close non-essential businesses in all but two states for 14 days. "Partial and isolated measures will only prolong this health crisis," the institute's researchers said.
To date, Brazil has reported more than 12.1 million cases, according to the health ministry.
The director of the Pan American Health Organization, Carissa Etienne, said the virus continued "to surge dangerously across Brazil", urging all Brazilians to adopt preventive measures.
"Unfortunately, the dire situation in Brazil is also affecting neighbouring countries," she added, saying that cases had risen in border regions of Venezuela, Peru and Bolivia.
Also on Tuesday, President Bolsonaro swore in cardiologist Marcelo Queiroga as his fourth health minister since the pandemic began. He replaces Eduardo Pazuello, an active-duty army general who is under investigation at the Supreme Court over alleged negligence.
Analysts say it is not yet clear how much freedom Mr Queiroga will have to implement policies aimed at curbing the virus. Mr Pazuello's two predecessors both left government after clashing with President Bolsonaro's positions on Covid-19.
Source: BBC News
Two cruise lines are heading to the Mediterranean this summer.
On Thursday, Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises both announced they will be launching 7-night sailings around Greece and Cyprus.
Both operators are requiring all passengers and crew members over 18 to be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. Passengers younger than 18 will be allowed to board if they have a negative test result.
Celebrity Cruises -- which is owned by Royal Caribbean -- will launch its Mediterranean cruise first.
The operator’s newest ship, Celebrity Apex, will start sailing on June 19 and will offer 7-night journeys round trip from Athens, Greece, according to Celebrity Cruises’ announcement.
The ship will have two itineraries. The Greek Islands and Cyprus journey will include stops on the islands of Rhodes, Mykonos, Santorini, as well as along the southern coast of Cyprus.
The Greek Islands and Israel itinerary will stop on Rhodes and Santorini, as well as in Haifa, Israel and Jerusalem.
Celebrity Apex’s cruises will run through September. Passengers will be able to start booking the operator’s Mediterranean sailings starting March 30, the announcement said.
Meanwhile, Royal Caribbean will be launching its Jewel of the Seas on July 10. The ship will depart from Limassol, Cyprus, and will be able to visit Athens, Greece and the Greek islands of Rhodes, Crete, Mykonos and Santorini, according to the cruise line’s announcement.
Passengers will be able to start booking those cruises starting April 7.
"I’m delighted to announce our safe and gradual return to Europe," Michael Bayley, Royal Caribbean International’s president and CEO, said in a statement. "We know how eager our guests are to enjoy a getaway this summer, and these sailings, which include a mix of fantastic destinations and must-visit islands, make for the perfect getaway."
Aside from requiring everyone to be fully vaccinated onboard its ships, both cruise lines said passengers will have to follow the travel requirements of their departing country, which can be found on their respective tourism and government websites.
Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises both also said their health and safety protocols "may evolve" over time.
Last week, Royal Caribbean announced it would begin "fully vaccinated" Bahamas cruises in June, after the success of its three- and four-night "ocean getaway" trips from Singapore with no stops aboard its Quantum of the Seas.
The cruise line is also set to resume journeys aboard its Spectrum of the Seas and Voyager of the Seas out of China next month, as well as "fully vaccinated" cruises aboard its Odyssey of the Seas from Israel to the Greek Isles and Cyprus starting in May, Fox News previously reported.
Source: Fox News
Two trains collided on Friday in southern Egypt apparently after someone activated the emergency brakes, killing at least 32 people and leaving 108 injured.
The collision caused three passenger cars to flip over and videos on local media from the scene showed wagons with passengers trapped inside and surrounded by debris.
Some victims seemed unconscious while others could be seen bleeding. Bystanders carried bodies and laid them out on the ground near the site.
Egypt’s railway authority said the trains collided after emergency brakes were triggered by “unknown individuals” near the city of Sohag, about 500km (260 miles) south of the capital Cairo.
The brakes caused one of the trains to stop and the other to crash into it from behind, and the authority is conducting further investigations, it said.
The public prosecutor’s office said it has also ordered an investigation.
“The trains collided while going at not very high speeds, which led to the destruction of two carriages and a third to overturn,” an unnamed security source told Reuters news agency.
President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi promised to punish those responsible for the deadly wreck.
“Anyone who caused this painful accident through negligence or corruption, or anything similar, must receive a deterrent punishment without exception or delay,” el-Sisi said on Twitter.
El-Sisi told Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly to head to the site of the crash with the ministers of health and social solidarity, state television reported.
Middle East analyst Yehia Ghanem said the punishment for low-level employees, as has occurred in the past, fails to address the structural problems with Egypt’s massive and decaying rail system.
“There is a serious problem when it comes to fundamental services to the Egyptian people, including the railways. These kinds of accidents happen sometimes on a weekly basis. The responsibility falls on the system, on the regime, on the president himself,” Ghanem told Al Jazeera.
Run-down rail systemEgypt has one of the oldest and largest rail networks in North Africa and accidents causing casualties are common.
Official figures show that 1,793 train accidents took place in 2017 across the country.
In 2018, el-Sisi said the government lacks about $14.1bn to overhaul the run-down rail system.
A year earlier, two passenger trains collided just outside the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria, killing 43 people. In 2016, at least 51 people were killed when two commuter trains collided near Cairo.
Egypt’s deadliest train crash took place in 2002, when more than 300 people were killed after a fire broke out on a speeding train travelling from Cairo to southern Egypt.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has reacted to President Joe Biden calling him a "killer" by challenging Biden to take part in a conversation with him broadcast live online.
“I’ve just thought of this now,” Putin told a Russian state television reporter. “I want to propose to President Biden to continue our discussion, but on the condition that we do it basically live, as it’s called. Without any delays and directly in an open, direct discussion. It seems to me that would be interesting for the people of Russia and for the people of the United States.”
Putin’s invitation seemed to amount to a challenge to Biden to a live televised debate, following a day of diplomatic uproar that began when Biden said he thought Putin was a “killer” in an interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos. Russia recalled its ambassador to the United States in response to the remark.
After issuing his invitation, Putin said he didn’t want to delay, proposing he and Biden hold the discussion as early as Friday.
“I don’t want to put this off for long. I want to go the taiga this weekend to relax a little,” Putin said. “So we could do it tomorrow or Monday. We are ready at any time convenient for the American side.
In response to reporters' questions, White House press secretary Jen Psaki suggested the discussion was unlikely to happen and noted that Biden is scheduled to travel to Georgia on Friday.
"I'll have to get back to you if that is something we're entertaining. I would say that the president already had a conversation with President Putin," Psaki said, noting Biden still had other word leaders to talk with. "The president, of course, will be in Georgia tomorrow and quite busy," she said.
Biden’s remarks in the ABC interview that aired Wednesday has triggered a furious reaction from Russia’s government, which unleashed a barrage of criticism and took the extraordinary step of recalling its ambassador back to Moscow for "consultations" over the comments.
In the interview, Stephanopoulos asked Biden if he thinks Putin “is a killer.”
“Mmm hmm, I do,” Biden responded.
Before issuing the discussion challenge, Putin reacted to Biden’s comment earlier with a playground retort: “I know you are, but what am I.”
“You know, I remember, in childhood, when we were arguing with each other in the courtyard, we would say, ‘I know you are, but what am I,’” Putin said. “And that’s no accident. It’s not just a childish saying. There is a very deep meaning in that.”
Putin suggested Biden was accusing him of what the U.S. itself is guilty of. He referred to the killings of Native Americans people during colonization and the injustice faced by African Americans.
The Russian leader also said he wished Biden "good health."
“I would say to him: 'Be well.' I wish him good health. I say that without any irony, without jokes,” Putin said.
But while Putin has presented himself as responding with good humor, the rest of the Russian government has reacted with a torrent of outrage against Biden, who in the ABC interview also warned Putin would “pay a price” for meddling in American elections.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Thursday that Biden’s words had confirmed for them that Biden has no interest in improving relations with Russia.
"I'll say only that these remarks by the U.S. president are very bad. He definitely doesn't want to normalize relations with our country. And we'll be acting based precisely on this premise," Peskov said.
The move to recall its ambassador is almost unheard of in recent U.S.-Russian relations. The last time Russia recalled its ambassador for consultations was reportedly in 1998 in protest over the bombing of Iraq ordered by then-President Bill Clinton.
The Russian embassy in Washington D.C. said the ambassador, Anatoly Antonov, would leave Saturday. It said Antonov’s would have a meeting with the foreign ministry in Moscow to “discuss ways to rectify Russia-U.S. ties that are in crisis.”
Maria Zakharova, a spokesperson for Russia’s foreign ministry, said in a statement, “We are interested in not allowing the irreversible degradation” of relations with the U.S. “If the American realize the risks connected with that.”
The reaction to Biden’s comments highlighted the tense relations between Russia and the U.S. that appear likely only to worsen in the coming weeks as the Biden administration looks set to respond over a variety of alleged Russian misdeeds.
A U.S. intelligence report declassified this week found that Putin had ordered efforts to try to influence the 2020 presidential election by undermining Biden’s campaign and seeking to boost that of former President Donald Trump. This month, the Biden administration ordered sanctions on Russian officials for the poisoning and jailing of the Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny.
Source: Yahoo News
Italy is facing another lockdown, as the government attempts to contain a recent surge of coronavirus cases, marred by the presence of new variants.
Half of Italy's 20 regions, which include the cities Rome, Milan and Venice, will be entering new coronavirus restrictions from Monday, March 15. The measures will be effective through April 6, according to a decree passed by Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi's cabinet on Friday.
In regions demarcated as "red zones" people will be unable to leave their houses except for work or health reasons, with all non-essential shops closed. In "orange zones," people will also be banned from leaving their town and their region -- except for work or health reasons -- and bars and restaurants will only be able to do delivery and take-away service.
Affected regions will be labelled red or orange, depending on the level of contagion. Regions that report weekly Covid-19 cases of more than 250 per 100,000 residents will also automatically go into lockdown, meaning that other regions could also be affected during this time period.
The health ministry said that the aim of the measures is to get the R rate -- the number of people that one infected person will pass the virus onto -- down to 1.
Additionally, over Easter weekend, the entire country will be considered a "red zone," and will be subject to a national lockdown from April 3 to 5.
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said new coronavirus measures are "necessary" because "we are unfortunately facing a new wave of infections" one year after the start of the pandemic.
The country's R rate is now at 1.6 with coronavirus variants increasing the spread of the virus, according to the health ministry.
The variant B.1.1.7, which was first identified in the United Kingdom, is also now prevalent in the country, according to the health ministry, who also said that they are worried about the presence of small clusters of the Brazilian variant.
The UK variant was originally found to be more easily transmissible -- and new data published in the medical journal, the BMJ, supports claims from UK officials, based on preliminary data, that the variant may be more deadly, as well.
Meanwhile, the variant first reported in Brazil, known as P.1, may be up to 2.2 times more transmissible and could evade immunity from previous Covid-19 infection by up to 61%, according to a modeling study, released earlier this month by researchers in Brazil and the UK.
Speaking at a vaccination center at Rome's Fiumicino airport on Friday, the PM said he understands the toll that lockdowns take on society, but the upcoming measures were a necessary step to ensure the situation didn't further deteriorate.
"I am aware that today's measures will have consequences on children's education, on the economy and also on the psychological state of us all," Draghi said.
Italy was under a national lockdown from March to May 2020, however there have been many localized lockdowns in regions across Italy since.
A long road ahead
In the past week, there have been 150,175 new coronavirus infections, up nearly 15% from the previous week, according to Draghi.
On Thursday alone Italy reported more than 25,000 new daily cases. That was its highest record since November -- and it jumped to over 26,000 cases on Friday.
The last two weeks have also seen an additional 5,000 people in hospital with Covid-19, with the number in intensive care increasing by more than 650, he said.
In tandem with the lockdown, the PM also promised to accelerate the country's vaccination program, even as Italy banned the use of vaccines from a specific batch of AstraZeneca doses following the death of a serviceman in Sicily, who had died of cardiac arrest one day after receiving his first dose of the vaccine.
Draghi said the Italian Medicines Agency's (AIFA) suspension of that specific AstraZeneca batch was "a precautionary decision, in line with what has been done in other European countries."
The European Union's medicines regulator, the EMA, is currently investigating whether the shot could be linked to a number of reports of blood clots.
Draghi added that "the opinion of AIFA, shared by scientists, is that there is no evidence that these events are related to the administration of the vaccine," he added.
Meanwhile, some European nations have completely paused their AstraZeneca rollout while the EMA investigation continues. The European drugs regulator said the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine outweigh the risks, and did not recommend suspending use.
"There is currently no indication that vaccination has caused these conditions, which are not listed as side effects with this vaccine," the EMA said in a statement on Thursday.
"Whatever the final decision of the EMA, I can assure you that the vaccination campaign will continue with renewed intensity," Draghi continued.
On Saturday, Italy's new Covid-19 commissioner Paolo Figliuolo said, "By this summer, all Italian adults will be vaccinated," noting that the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, which is expected to be the next coronavirus vaccine authorized by the EU, will be "decisive."
Only 3.08% (1,861,852 people) of Italy's eligible population has been fully vaccinated so far, with 6,219,849 doses administered, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University (JHU).
Italy, once the epicenter of Covid-19 in Europe, has marked 3,149,017 Covid-19 cases in total. The country ranks sixth highest in the world for coronavirus fatalities, with 101,184 deaths recorded, according to JHU.
YouTube Video: France 24 English
The city of Minneapolis on Friday agreed to pay $27 million to settle a lawsuit by the family of George Floyd over his death in police custody, a case that stirred national protests over racial injustice and police brutality.
Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, died in May as Derek Chauvin, a white Minneapolis police officer, kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes. Floyd’s dying pleas for help were captured on widely viewed bystander video, sparking one of the largest protest movements ever seen in the United States.
Benjamin Crump, an attorney for the Floyd family, said the agreement was the largest pre-trial settlement of a wrongful death lawsuit in U.S. history.
The size signifies that a Black person’s death at the hands of police “will no longer be written off as trivial, unimportant or unworthy of consequences,” Crump said at a news conference where he was joined by Floyd’s relatives, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and other officials.
Floyd’s family was “pleased that this part of our tragic journey to justice for my brother George is resolved,” his sister Bridgett Floyd said in a statement.
“While our hearts are broken, we are comforted in knowing that even in death, George Floyd showed the world how to live,” her statement said.
The trial of Chauvin, who was fired by the police force, began earlier this week in Hennepin County’s district court on charges of murder and manslaughter. Chauvin has pleaded not guilty and said he properly followed his police training.
Judge Peter Cahill has set aside about three weeks for jury selection in the high-profile case. Five men and two women had been seated as jurors as of Friday afternoon.
Last year, Floyd’s relatives sued the city, Chauvin and three other police officers involved in federal court, saying police used excessive force against Floyd in violation of his constitutional rights.
Although Frey promised on Friday that the city would be “unrelenting” in reforming its police department, it was not clear if the city was admitting wrongdoing as part of the settlement, and city officials did not immediately respond to queries.
“Every American remembers where they were when they first saw it,” Frey said of the video showing Floyd’s death. “Today’s settlement reflects our shared commitment to advancing racial justice.”
The settlement includes a $500,000 contribution from Floyd’s family to the community at the Minneapolis intersection where Floyd died, which has been barricaded against police access by residents and is filled with flowers and other tributes to Floyd.
Chauvin was helping arrest Floyd on the evening of May 25 on suspicion of his using a counterfeit $20 bill to buy cigarettes at the Cup Foods grocery store at the intersection.
The other three officers are due to go on trial later this year on charges of aiding and abetting Chauvin in Floyd’s death, which was ruled a homicide by the medical examiner. The Minneapolis Police Department fired all four officers the day after the deadly arrest.
Britain’s Queen Elizabeth has made her first appearance since a tell-all interview by grandson Prince Harry and his wife Meghan rocked the monarchy, but made no reference to the crisis it had caused her family.
During the Oprah Winfrey interview, Meghan said a member of the royal family had made a racist comment and Harry criticised his relatives for how they dealt with press treatment of his wife, with the fallout dominating the British media since it aired last Sunday.
On Thursday, Harry’s elder brother Prince William told reporters “we’re very much not a racist family”, the day after the 94-year-old monarch herself issued a statement on behalf of the royals in which she said they were saddened by how challenging the couple had found the last few years.
The Sun newspaper, citing an unnamed source, said Harry’s father, heir-to-the-throne Prince Charles, had wanted to issue a point by point rebuttal, but the royal family had decided not to get involved in a ‘tit for tat’ battle.
In a video call with scientists and schoolchildren to mark British Science Week, the queen did not refer to the interview at all, the royals’ usual approach to what they have said was a private, family matter.
Instead she discussed the latest updates from NASA’s Mars Perseverance mission, as well as the discovery of a rare meteorite which landed in Gloucestershire, western England last month, the first to be recovered in the United Kingdom for 30 years.
“I’m glad it didn’t hit anyone,” the queen quipped during the “virtual showcase”, which took place on Wednesday although details were only released by Buckingham Palace on Friday.
When told by space scientist and broadcaster Maggie Aderin-Pocock that she had been inspired to follow her career by the exploits of Russian Yuri Gagarin, the first human in space in 1961, Elizabeth, who has reigned for 69 years, recounted that she had met him shortly afterwards at Buckingham Palace.
Asked what he was like, she replied: “Russian, he didn’t speak English. He was fascinating and I suppose being the first one, it was particularly fascinating.”
Cambodia on Thursday confirmed its first death from COVID-19 since the pandemic began more than a year ago as it battles a new local outbreak that has infected hundreds of people.
The 50-year-old man was confirmed infected last month while working as a driver for a Chinese company in coastal Sihanoukville and died at the Khmer-Soviet friendship hospital Thursday morning, the Health Ministry said in a statement.
Cambodia has confirmed only 1,163 cases of infection with the coronavirus since the pandemic began, but it is battling a new local outbreak that has infected several hundred people.
According to the Health Ministry, the new outbreak was traced to a foreign resident who broke quarantine in a hotel and went to a nightclub in early February. That caused a slew of infections and led the government on Feb. 20 to announce a two-week closure of all public schools, cinemas, bars and entertainment areas in Phnom Penh.
The government has since extended the closures for more two weeks for schools, gyms, concert halls, museums and other entertainment venues in Phnom Penh, nearby Kandal province and the coastal province of Sihanoukville.
On Thursday, the Health Ministry said 39 cases were reported from local transmission.
As the outbreak grows, a defunct luxury hotel in the capital has been converted into a 500-room coronavirus hospital, and authorities are enforcing a new law imposing criminal punishments for violating health rules.
The country began its vaccination campaign in February with 600,000 doses of the Chinese-produced Sinopharm vaccine. It also received 324,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine this month that were donated by and produced in India.
Source : Associated Press
When the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a pandemic one year ago Thursday, it did so only after weeks of resisting the term and maintaining that the highly infectious virus could still be stopped.
A year later, the U.N. agency is still struggling to keep on top of the evolving science of COVID-19, to persuade countries to abandon their nationalistic tendencies and help get vaccines where they’re needed most.
The agency made some costly missteps along the way: It advised people against wearing masks for months and asserted that COVID-19 wasn’t widely spread in the air. It also declined to publicly call out countries — particularly China — for mistakes that senior WHO officials grumbled about privately.
That created some tricky politics that challenged WHO’s credibility and wedged it between two world powers, setting off vociferous Trump administration criticism that the agency is only now emerging from.
President Joe Biden’s support for WHO may provide some much-needed breathing space, but the organization still faces a monumental task ahead as it tries to project some moral authority amid a universal scramble for vaccines that is leaving billions of people unprotected.
“WHO has been a bit behind, being cautious rather than precautionary,” said Gian Luca Burci, a former WHO legal counsel now at Geneva’s Graduate Institute. “At times of panic, of a crisis and so on, maybe being more out on a limb — taking a risk — would have been better.”
WHO waved its first big warning flag on Jan. 30, 2020, by calling the outbreak an international health emergency. But many countries ignored or overlooked the warning.
Only when WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus declared a “pandemic” six weeks later, on March 11, 2020, did most governments take action, experts said. By then, it was too late, and the virus had reached every continent except Antarctica.
A year later, WHO still appears hamstrung. A WHO-led team that traveled to China in January to investigate the origins of COVID-19 was criticized for failing to dismiss China’s fringe theory that the virus might be spread via tainted frozen seafood.
That came after WHO repeatedly lauded China last year for its speedy, transparent response — even though recordings of private meetings obtained by The Associated Press showed that top officials were frustrated at the country’s lack of cooperation.
“Everybody has been wondering why WHO was so praising of China back in January” 2020, Burci said, adding that the praise has come back “to haunt WHO big-time.”
Some experts say WHO’s blunders came at a high price, and it remains too reliant on iron-clad science instead of taking calculated risks to keep people safer — whether on strategies like mask-wearing or whether COVID-19 is often spread through the air.
“Without a doubt, WHO’s failure to endorse masks earlier cost lives,” said Dr. Trish Greenhalgh, a professor of primary care health sciences at Oxford University who sits on several WHO expert committees. Not until June did WHO advise people to regularly wear masks, long after other health agencies and numerous countries did so.
Greenhalgh said she was less interested in asking WHO to atone for past errors than revising its policies going forward. In October, she wrote to the head of a key WHO committee on infection control, raising concerns about the lack of expertise among some members. She never received a response.
“This scandal is not just in the past. It’s in the present and escalating into the future,” Greenhalgh said.
Raymond Tellier, an associate professor at Canada’s McGill University who specializes in coronaviruses, said WHO’s continued reluctance to acknowledge how often COVID-19 is spread in the air could prove more dangerous with the arrival of new virus variants first identified in Britain and South Africa that are even more transmissible.
“If WHO’s recommendations are not strong enough, we could see the pandemic go on much longer,” he said.
With several licensed vaccines, WHO is now working to ensure that people in the world’s poorest countries receive doses through the COVAX initiative, which is aimed at ensuring poor countries get COVID-19 vaccines.
But COVAX has only a fraction of the 2 billion vaccines it is hoping to deliver by the end of the year. Some countries that have waited months for shots have grown impatient, opting to sign their own private deals for quicker vaccine access.
WHO chief Tedros has responded largely by appealing to countries to act in “solidarity,” warning that the world is on the brink of a “catastrophic moral failure” if vaccines are not distributed fairly. Although he has asked rich countries to share their doses immediately with developing countries and to not strike new deals that would jeopardize the vaccine supply for poorer countries, none have obliged.
“WHO is trying to lead by moral authority, but repeating ‘solidarity’ over and over when it’s being ignored by countries acting in their own self-interest shows they are not recognizing reality,” said Amanda Glassman, executive vice president of the Center for Global Development. “It’s time to call things out for the way they are.”
Yet throughout the pandemic, WHO has repeatedly declined to censure rich countries for their flawed attempts to stop the virus. Internally, WHO officials described some of their biggest member countries’ approaches to stemming COVID-19 as “an unfortunate laboratory to study the virus” and “macabre.”
More recently, Tedros seems to have found a slightly firmer voice — speaking truth to leaders like Germany’s president about the need for wealthy countries to share vaccines or criticizing China for dragging its heels in not quickly granting visas to the WHO-led investigative team.
Irwin Redlener of Columbia University said WHO should be more aggressive in instructing countries what to do, given the extremely unequal way COVID-19 vaccines are being distributed.
“WHO can’t order countries to do things, but they can make very clear and explicit guidance that makes it difficult for countries not to follow,” Redlener said.
WHO’s top officials have said repeatedly it is not the agency’s style to criticize countries.
At a press briefing this month, WHO senior adviser Dr. Bruce Aylward said simply: “We can’t tell individual countries what to do.”