Saturday, April 10, 2021

Djibouti Says Longtime President on Way to Winning 5th Term

By HASSAN BARISE

Djibouti's President Ismael Omar Guelleh casts his vote in the capital Djibouti city, Djibouti Friday, April 9, 2021. The Horn of Africa country of Djibouti is going to the polls on Friday as President Ismail Omar Guelleh seeks a fifth term in the small but strategically important nation home to military bases for the United States, China and others. (AP Photo)

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — Djibouti’s government says longtime President Ismail Omar Guelleh has overwhelmingly won a fifth term, citing provisional results.

Home Affairs Minister Mumin Ahmed Sheikh told reporters overnight that Guelleh has received more than 98% of the 177,391 votes cast in the Horn of Africa nation, defeating his sole rival, businessman Zakaria Ismail Farah. Other opposition boycotted Friday’s vote.

The final results are expected to be announced later Saturday by the electoral commission.

“Thank you for your confidence!” the president tweeted overnight. “Let’s continue together!”

The minister, in comments carried by state media, said Farah has received 1.59% of votes. Farah, who stopped campaigning early in protest over a lack of security for him, has not commented publicly.

This term should be the 73-year-old Guelleh’s last, according the constitution, which limits the presidency to those under the age of 75.

“This election has not been as vivid as it was supposed to be, because the opposition parties have boycotted the election and the only independent contender, Mr. Zakaria Ismail Farah, is not a known politician among the public,” Adan Omar Abdullahi, the chairman of a political studies think tank in Djibouti, told reporters.

More than 200,000 voters were registered for the election in the small but strategically important country of over 600,000 people. Because of its strategic location on the Red Sea, Djibouti hosts several foreign military bases including those of the United States, France, China and others.

The country’s economy relies heavily on its location on one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.

Critics call the president a heavy-handed dictator, but others in Djibouti see him as a driving force in the country’s development and relative stability. Guelleh has been in power since 1999 after the death of his predecessor, Hassan Guled Aptidon, the country’s first president. Djibouti won independence from France in 1977.

Chadian President Seeks 6th Term After 30 Years in Power

By EDOUARD TAKADJI

Supporters of Chadian President Idriss Deby Itno gather for a rally in N'djamena, Chad, Friday April 9, 2021. Deby is seeking to extend his three-decade long rule, running for a sixth time in this oil-producing Central African nation that is home to nearly half a million refugees and also plays a prominent role in the fight against Islamic extremism in the Sahel. (AP Photo/Joel Kouam)

N’DJAMENA, Chad (AP) — Chadian President Idriss Deby Itno is seeking to extend his three-decade long rule, running for a sixth time in this oil-producing Central African nation that is home to nearly half a million refugees and also plays a prominent role in the fight against Islamic extremism in the Sahel.

Giant portraits of Deby line the streets of the capital, N’Djamena, and the incumbent leader has campaigned on promises of building schools, paving roads and improving living conditions in this country that remains one of the least developed in the world.

Deby is widely expected to win in the first round, in part because two of the leading opposition candidates withdrew from the race as part of a boycott and a third man considered a top contender chose not to run.

The only remaining opposition candidate that has had the resources to campaign outside the capital is Albert Pahimi Padacke, a one-time Deby ally who served as prime minister from 2016 to 2018. Padacke has argued that the opposition boycott only benefits the president.

“Every year, the youth, more and more of whom have only known Idriss Deby Itno, are faced with a more difficult future,” he told Jeune Afrique recently. “Our economy has not benefited from oil resources and has not diversified to create jobs.”

One of the remaining opposition candidates, Bruce Guedimbaye Mbaimon, has accused Deby’s party of using state resources to campaign.

Deby, a former army commander-in-chief, first came to power in 1990 when his rebel forces overthrew then-President Hissene Habre, who was later convicted of human rights abuses at an international tribunal in Senegal. Deby has continued to win re-election over the years, last drawing 61.5% of the vote in the last 2016 election.

In 2018, the country approved a new constitution that allows Deby to run for two more six-year terms.

The landlocked nation of Chad is home to nearly half a million refugees from neighboring Sudan, Nigeria and Central African Republic. Another 330,000 Chadians are internally displaced, the majority in the volatile Lake Chad region where Boko Haram militants are active.

The military base for France’s Operation Barkhane in the Sahel region is also based in Chad, a French colony until 1960. And the country has been a major contributor the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Mali, accounting for many of the casualties because of attacks by Islamic extremists aligned with al-Qaida and the Islamic State group.

Chadian soldiers also have been targeted at home: Last year nearly 100 were killed in an attack that was the deadliest in the country’s history.

Chad has been an oil producing nation since 2003, which has increased standards of living but also have made the country vulnerable to fluctuations in oil prices. The country also has one of the highest rates of maternal mortality in the world, and female literacy is only about 14% according to U.N. statistics.

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Associated Press writer Krista Larson in Dakar, Senegal contributed.

Explosions in Two Somalia Cities Kill at Least 5

By HASSAN BARISE

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — A suicide bomber detonated his explosives outside a cafe in Somalia’s city of Baidoa on Saturday, killing at least four people and wounding more than six others, police said.

The bomber was targeting the Bay region governor, Ali Wardhere, who was outside the Suez Cafeteria, officials reported. The governor escaped the explosion unharmed, according to the official government news agency, SONNA, which reported that at least two of his bodyguards, who were also policemen, were among the wounded.

“The explosion which was heard all around the town of Baidoa has terrorized the people and had created a momentary confusion,” said Amin Maddey, who witnessed the explosion and spoke to The Associated Press by telephone.

The al-Qaida linked group al-Shabab has claimed the responsibility through a report they published on their website and radio Andalus which advocates for their jihadist campaigns.

“The target was a convoy accompanying Mr. Ali Wardhere, the governor of Bay region, which was hit hard,” the al-Shabab statement said, “three of Ali Wardhere’s bodyguards have died in the attack and the target which was Ali Wardhere himself got wounded,” added the statement.

The police have cordoned off the area for investigation as many bystanders gathered around to check whether their family members or friends are among the victims.

Meanwhile, another explosion went off in the Huriwa district of Mogadishu Saturday, killing one government soldier and wounding a bystander, police said.

It is not known whether the two explosions in Baidoa and Mogadishu are related. No one has yet claimed responsibility for the bombing in Mogadishu.

The people of Somalia are seeing major security lapses as leaders remain in deadlock over the political situation after elections were delayed earlier this year.

“The meeting between the federal government and the federal member states has ended in total failure,” said the Minister of Information, Osman Abokor Dubbe, who blamed the two leaders of Puntland and Jubbaland for that failure.

However, both leaders of Puntland and Jubbaland have denied reports of a failed meeting.

There have been fears that the al-Qaida-linked group would be emboldened by Somalia’s current political crisis as President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed is under pressure to step aside.

Stalled at First Jab: Vaccine Shortages Hit Poor Countries

By LORI HINNANT and MARIA CHENG

FILE - In this April 8, 2021, file photo, a woman at Kenyatta National Hospital in Nairobi, Kenya, receives a dose of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India and provided through the global COVAX initiative. COVAX is providing vaccines to countries lacking the clout to negotiate on their own for scarce supplies, but in the past two weeks only 2 million doses have been cleared for shipment to 92 countries. (AP Photo/Brian Inganga, File)

LONDON (AP) — As many as 60 countries, including some of the world’s poorest, might be stalled at the first shots of their coronavirus vaccinations because nearly all deliveries through the global program intended to help them are blocked until as late as June.

COVAX, the global initiative to provide vaccines to countries lacking the clout to negotiate for scarce supplies on their own, has in the past week shipped more than 25,000 doses to low-income countries only twice on any given day. Deliveries have all but halted since Monday.

During the past two weeks, according to data compiled daily by UNICEF, fewer than 2 million COVAX doses in total were cleared for shipment to 92 countries in the developing world — the same amount injected in Britain alone.

On Friday, the head of the World Health Organization slammed the “shocking imbalance” in global COVID-19 vaccination. WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreysus said that while one in four people in rich countries had received a vaccine, only one in 500 people in poorer countries had gotten a dose.

The vaccine shortage stems mostly from India’s decision to stop exporting vaccines from its Serum Institute factory, which produces the overwhelming majority of the AstraZeneca doses that COVAX counted on to supply around a third of the global population at a time coronavirus is spiking worldwide.

COVAX will only ship vaccines cleared by WHO, and countries are increasingly impatient. Supplies are dwindling in some of the first countries to receive COVAX shipments, and the expected delivery of second doses in the 12-week window currently recommended is now in doubt. In a statement, the vaccine alliance known as GAVI told The Associated Press that 60 countries are affected by the delays.

In vaccination tents set up at Kenyatta National Hospital in Nairobi, many of those who arrived for their first jabs were uneasy about when the second would arrive.

“My fear if I don’t get the second dose, my immune system is going to be weak, hence I might die,” said Oscar Odinga, a civil servant.

Internal WHO documents obtained by the AP show the uncertainty about deliveries “is causing some countries to lose faith in the COVAX (effort).” That is prompting WHO to consider speeding up its endorsement of vaccines from China and Russia, which have not been authorized by any regulators in Europe or North America.

The WHO documents show the U.N. agency is facing questions from COVAX participants about allotments in addition to “uncertainty about whether all those who were vaccinated in round 1 are guaranteed a second dose.”

WHO declined to respond specifically to the issues raised in the internal materials but has previously said countries are “very keen” to get vaccines as soon as possible and insisted it hasn’t heard any complaints about the process.

Concern over the link between the AstraZeneca shot and rare blood clots has also “created nervousness both around its safety and efficacy,” WHO noted. Among its proposed solutions is a decision to “expedite review of additional products” from China and Russia.

WHO said last month it might be possible to greenlight the Chinese vaccines by the end of April.

Some experts have noted that Sinopharm and Sinovac, two Chinese-made vaccines, lack published data, and there are reports of people needing a third dose to be protected.

“If there is something that we miss from not having thoroughly evaluated the risks of serious adverse events from these vaccines, that would undermine the confidence in all the good products that we’re using that we know are safe,” said Dora Curry, director of health equity and rights at CARE International.

Other experts worried that delays could erode faith in governments that were particularly efficient in their vaccination programs and were counting on second doses soon.

“In the absence of high vaccination coverage globally, we risk dragging out the pandemic for several more years,” said Lavanya Vasudevan, an assistant professor at Duke University’s Global Health Institute. “Every day that the virus is in circulation is an opportunity for it to mutate into a more deadly variant.”

Earlier this month, the WHO appealed to rich countries to urgently share 10 million doses to meet the U.N. target of starting COVID-19 vaccinations in every country within the first 100 days of the year. So far, countries have pledged hundreds of millions of dollars to COVAX. But there are simply no doses to buy, and no country has agreed to immediately share what it has.

Bilateral donations of doses tend to go along political lines, rather than to countries with the most infections, and they aren’t nearly enough to compensate for the goals that COVAX has set out. Think Global Health, a data site managed by the Council on Foreign Relations, identified 19 countries that have donated a total of 27.5 million doses to 102 nations as of Thursday.

“You can make a strong argument that we’re better off making donations in crisis and getting the pandemic under control than vaccinating low-risk groups at home,” said Thomas Bollyky, director of the Global Health Program at the Council on Foreign Relations. Bollyky said COVAX was both a great disappointment and the only available option for most the world.

According to the International Rescue Committee, COVID-19 cases and deaths last month surged in numerous crisis-hit countries: by 322% in Kenya, 379% in Yemen and 529% in northeast Syria.

On Thursday, the agencies behind COVAX — WHO, vaccines alliance GAVI and CEPI, a coalition for epidemic preparedness — celebrated their delivery of 38 million lifesaving vaccines to more than 100 countries.

Brook Baker, a vaccines expert at Northeastern University, said the laudatory message was misplaced.

“Celebrating doses sufficient for only 19 million people, or 0.25% of global population, is tone deaf,” he said, adding it was time for WHO and partners to be more honest with countries.

“WHO and GAVI have repeatedly overpromised and underdelivered, so why should we believe that they will suddenly be able to ramp up production and deliveries in a couple of months?” he said.

Outside the vaccination tents in Nairobi on Thursday, Dr. Duncan Nyukuri, an infectious disease physician, tried to reassure people getting their first dose.

“If you receive the first dose and you fail to receive the second dose, this does not mean that your body will be any weaker or you will be at an increased risk of getting any infection,” he said. “What it means is your body will have developed some immunity against the coronavirus infection. But this immunity is not as good as somebody who has received both doses.”

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Hinnant reported from Paris. Khaled Kazziha in Nairobi, Kenya, contributed.

Famed Egyptian Archaeologist Reveals Details of Ancient City

By SAMY MAGDY

A man cover a skeleton in a 3,000-year-old lost city in Luxor province, Egypt, Saturday, April 10, 2021. The newly unearthed city is located between the temple of King Rameses III and the colossi of Amenhotep III on the west bank of the Nile in Luxor. The city continued to be used by Amenhotep III's grandson Tutankhamun, and then his successor King Ay. (AP Photo/Mohamed Elshahed)

CAIRO (AP) — Egypt’s best-known archaeologist on Saturday revealed further details on a Pharaonic city recently found in the southern province of Luxor.

Zahi Hawass said that archaeologists found brick houses, artifacts, and tools from pharaonic times at the site of the 3,000-year-old lost city. It dates back to Amenhotep III of the 18th dynasty, whose reign is considered a golden era for ancient Egypt.

“This is really a large city that was lost... The inscription that found inside here says that this city was called: ‘The dazzling Aten’,” Hawass told reporters at the site.

Archeologists started excavating in the area last year, searching for the mortuary temple of boy King Tutankhamun. However, within weeks they found mud brick formations that eventually turned out to be a well-preserved large city.

City walls and even rooms filled with ovens, storage pottery, and utensils used in daily life are said to be present. Archeologists also found human remains that were visible to reporters and visitors on Saturday.

“We found three major districts, one for administration, one for the workmen to sleep, one for the industry and (an) area for dried meat,” said Hawass, who spoke to reporters at the site while wearing his iconic Indiana Jones hat.

He said he believes that the city was “the most important discovery” since the tomb of Tutankhamun was unearthed in the Valley of the Kings in Luxor nearly fully intact in 1922.

Hawass also rejected the notion that the city’s remains had already been discovered previously, as has been suggested in posts circulating on social media. “It’s impossible... that I discover something that was previously discovered,” he said.

Betsy Brian, professor of Egyptology at John Hopkins University, agreed that the find was new, calling it “exceptional in scale and organization.”

“There’s no indication that I am aware of that this town section had been found before, although clearly it represents a new part of an enormous royal city, that we can appreciate far more now,” she said.

The newly unearthed city is located between the temple of King Rameses III and the colossi of Amenhotep III on the west bank of the Nile in Luxor. The city continued to be used by Amenhotep III’s grandson Tutankhamun, and then his successor King Ay.

Some mud bricks bear the seal of King Amenhotep III’s cartouche, or name insignia.

Amenhotep III, who ruled ancient Egypt between 1391 B.C. and 1353 B.C., built the main portions of the Luxor and Karnak temples in the ancient town of Thebes.

Egypt has sought publicity for its archaeological discoveries in the hopes of reviving its tourism sector, which was badly hit by the turmoil following the 2011 uprising, and now the coronavirus pandemic.

The announcement came a few days after Egypt moved 22 of its prized royal mummies in a gala parade to their new resting place — the newly opened National Museum of Egyptian Civilization in Cairo.

China Has Three ‘Weapons’ to Deal with US Provocation: Global Times Editorial

By Global Times

Apr 09, 2021 09:13 PM

China-US relations Photo: GT

A number of US senators on Thursday introduced a draft measure, titled the Strategic Competition Act of 2021, which is to be reviewed by the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee next week. The act proposes sanctions on more Chinese officials over Xinjiang, cancelling restrictions on mutual visits between US and Taiwan island officials, providing military assistance worth billions of dollars to Indo-Pacific allies, and monitoring China's ballistic missiles.

Also on Thursday, the US Department of Commerce added seven Chinese supercomputing entities to a US economic blacklist. This is the first time since US President Joe Biden took office that it expanded the scale of the list to crack down on Chinese companies. It is the incumbent administration's continuation of policies of the previous administration to suppress China's high-tech companies.

The US is completing its nationwide mobilization for its strategy to contain China. Those senators drafted and pushed forward an act to carry out full-fledged competition with China, showing their strong hostility toward China, which has become one of the few bipartisan consensuses in US politics. 

There is no lack of political conditions in the US under which the latest act will get the green light. If it gets approved, it will further strengthen the US policy orientation to suppress China. Of course, the Biden government has huge room to maneuver. For instance, the act calls for cancelling the restrictions on the mutual visits between US and Taiwan officials. Former secretary of state Mike Pompeo announced the cancellation upon his departure from the post, but what the new government will do is still in the hands of Biden's core team.

The Trump administration almost destroyed the original framework of China-US relations with a piecemeal approach. Biden is inheriting the destructive results of his predecessor and systematizing the China containment policy. The Biden team does not exclude the possibility of cooperating with China that could benefit the US, in a bid to reduce the counter-effect of confronting China. It emphasizes aligning with allies to balance China and tries to create an iron curtain of the whole of the West to contain China, with the ultimate motive of crushing China.

This is the fundamental overthrow of the world's peaceful development after the Cold War. Over the years, China has not fired a shot or overthrown any regime. It realized development via hard work and eliminated poverty. It also played a pivotal role in withstanding several major global crises. Only because China's political system is different from the US' and China managed to narrow its gap of strength with the US in a short period of time, the US views China as a foe and carried out an overall containment of China. These actions are extreme and go against human civilization.

However, it is not the right time to reason with Washington. China has three "weapons" to counterattack US offensives. One is the internal driver of China's development. The fundamental reason for China's progress over the years is that it has found its development path. China is yet to bring all of its potential into full play. China must unleash its potential to ensure the Chinese economy grows the fastest among major economies in the years to come and keep narrowing the gap of strength between China and the US.

Second, China has become the biggest trader of goods in the world and has huge attractiveness for economic cooperation. China's business partners are all over the world. The US can woo the EU to attack China's human rights, but can hardly deal a blow to China-Europe economic cooperation. Economic cooperation is a good card in the hands of China from which China can maintain and develop normal relations with most Western countries. It is difficult for the US to organize a real anti-China alliance among Western countries, and China should try to add to this difficulty. 

The third weapon is China's firm stance. Since the trade war, China has been level-headed during struggles with the US - it does not retreat or make impulsive actions. China's political system, traditional culture and a balanced power structure shape its strategic steadiness. The US wants to defeat China in a sprint with its comprehensive advantages, but China is eyeing a marathon. China has the ability and qualifications to extend the race, and it will be the final winner.

GT Voice: US Further Isolates Itself in Tech Rivalry with China

By Global Times

Apr 08, 2021 08:03 PM

Photo taken on Sept. 5, 2020 shows a view of the 5G communication services exhibition area of the 2020 China International Fair for Trade in Services (CIFTIS) in Beijing, capital of China. (Xinhua/Zhang Chenlin)

Following a multi-year crackdown campaign, the US is seeking to further escalate its rivalry against China in the technological field. Among a series of recent action plans, the US Senate Commerce Committee is set to hold a hearing on a bipartisan bill, titled the Endless Frontier Act, which is aimed at bolstering US technological research and development, Reuters reported on Thursday. 

On the surface, the legislature seeks to commit extra funding toward the US innovation ecosystem, but according to its cosponsor Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, it is a core part of a legislative package that is aimed at outcompeting China in key technological areas such as semiconductors.

The talk about confronting and containing China sells well in Washington these days and will probably help the passage of the legislation, which, to a certain extent, is a microcosm of the Biden administration's hard-line stance against China, particularly when it comes to technology. 

While the Biden administration has been saying that it is reviewing the previous administration's China policy, increasing signs suggest that Washington's policy of containing China's development hasn't changed, and even worse it is seeking to further step up the crackdown on China.

Just like any other country, the US has the rights to invest more resources to advance technological innovation and maintain its leading position in cutting-edge technologies. However, that does not mean the US can arbitrarily cut off normal cooperation between Chinese and US high-tech companies. 

What's more wrong is that the US is seeking to threaten China's own development in the name of competition. Last month, the Biden administration amended licenses to further restrict companies from supplying items to Huawei Technologies.

Some anti-China US elites are also seeking to step up pressure on US high-tech companies that are doing business in China. US Tech investor Peter Thiel, who is a staunch supporter of Donald Trump, on Tuesday criticized Google and Apple for being too close to China and urged the US government to put a "lot of pressure" and scrutiny on these companies. 

Such politically motivated pressure on US companies that are conducting normal commercial operations in China would only hurt the US' own interests. This wrong approach to Chinese tech is already increasingly damaging to the US economy.

Some in Washington may think they can hold back China's technological development by cutting off access to their high-tech products and services, which in turn would curtail China's scientific and technological advance and economic growth momentum.

Such a distorted understanding of technology competition is fundamentally wrong. As the past several years of US crackdown have shown, the Chinese market is innovative and large enough to quickly adapt to this type of malicious attempts. Outside pressure has and will only enhance China's resolve in pursuing technological research and development, and further boosting the scientific and technological capabilities of domestic industries.

More broadly, no positive purpose can be served by rejecting cooperation. In today's highly globalized tech sector, extensive international cooperation is increasingly indispensable for scientific and technological progress. By arbitrarily putting obstacles in the way of technological cooperation, the US will only end up isolating itself more.

The bottom line is that competition between China and the US may be inevitable, but suppression and containment are definitely not the answer. It is counterproductive and hurts everyone.

From Hard-hit City to Vaccine Hub: Sinopharm's Wuhan Institute Aim to Increase Vaccine Production to 1b Doses a Year

By Zhang Hui in Wuhan

Apr 09, 2021 10:33 PM

One year after lockdown has been lifted in Wuhan, the Chinese city hardest hit by the coronavirus is speeding up production of its locally produced COVID-19 vaccine and building new facilities to expand capacity, to inject more confidence into the country and the world in the battle against the disease.

The Global Times reporters visited the production facilities of Sinopharm's Wuhan institute on Thursday, the one-year anniversary of the city's reopening, to learn about the complex packaging process the COVID-19 vaccine goes through. 

First, prefilled syringes will be checked for quality flaws, and a machine will automatically remove those substandard in purity. Those that failed quality checks will be destroyed. Only the qualified prefilled syringes will be kept in the packaging line to be printed with production dates and validity periods and then sealed for packaging. 

Finally, workers will place the vaccines into box strapping machines and put the boxes on a trailer before shipping them to other Chinese cities or foreign countries. 

The packaging plant packs around 2 million doses of vaccine every week, and in the near future mechanic arms will replace workers to carry the vaccine boxes so that the entire packaging line will be mechanized, the Global Times learned from Sinopharm's Wuhan institute. 

The Wuhan institute is also expanding its annual production capacity with the first-phase construction of an expansion project located in Jingang industrial park, expected to be finished by May. After the project is complete, the annual production capacity of Wuhan-produced COVID-19 vaccines is expected to increase to 1 billion doses.

The inactivated COVID-19 vaccine produced by Sinopharm's Wuhan institute was granted conditional market approval in February, and the annual production capacity of the vaccine is currently up to 100 million doses. 

So far, Sinopharm's Beijing and Wuhan institutes have provided a total of 100 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to the whole country, and they have also provided 100 million doses to 196 other countries and regions around the world. Since April, Sinopharm has increased its production capacity to 100 million doses per month, according to the company. 

China is ramping up efforts to vaccinate 560 million people, or 40 percent of China's population, by the end of June, and another 330 million people will be vaccinated by the end of the year, covering 64 percent of the total population, the Global Times has previously learned. 

Beijing May Reach 70% Inoculation Rate by May; Uses Signs, Thank-you Notes to Encourage Vaccination

By Lou Kang

Apr 08, 2021 11:20 PM

Medical workers check out people's health condition before vaccination at a temporary vaccination site in Chaoyang district, Beijing, on Monday. Photo: Li Hao/GT

As China is speeding up the pace of COVID-19 inoculation, Beijing is encouraging its residents, especially the elderly, to get vaccinated by posting inoculation data signs and "thank you notes." Experts expect Beijing to reach a 70 percent inoculation rate, the threshold for herd immunity, by May.  

Signs on the walls of several residential communities, mostly in hutong, in Dongcheng and Xicheng districts - two core districts in Beijing - show the inoculation rate that the community has achieved. 

Some of the communities had rates of more than 80 percent and got a green sign and a "thank-you note," while the ones with rates of 40-80 percent got a yellow sign. Those with rates of less than 40 percent got a red sign, according to the Global Times' observations on Thursday. 

The signs featuring different colors raised some concerns on Chinese social media platforms, with some saying that they might put pressure on areas with low inoculation rates and people who were not willing or ready to get a shot.

An employee from the Shichahai Lake street office, Xicheng district, told the Global Times on Wednesday that posting these signs is a part of the efforts to promote vaccination in Beijing's residential communities.  

In a random interview with residents on Thursday, a Global Times reporter found most of them did not mind the signs. 

"It doesn't bother me at all," said a resident in his 20s. "I haven't gotten the shot yet because for me there is no need to rush. COVID-19 seems far way and I believe most of the others who haven't gotten vaccinated feel the same."

A vaccination volunteer in Andingmen told the Global Times that "our country will resume normal communication with the rest of the world sooner or later. That's why the vaccination is necessary and people should get their shots as soon as possible."

The volunteer said that local residents are able to get shots at the inoculation sites. Previously, people who wanted to get vaccinated needed to make appointments online first. 

Other cities are also encouraging COVID-19 inoculation via creative, considerate and non-coercive measures. Choices made by the public will be crucial in achieving the goal of immunizing 40 percent of the population by June, which experts said is likely to be achieved through an accelerated vaccination program.  

Feng Duojia, president of the China Vaccine Industry Association, told the Global Times on Thursday that China is expected to vaccinate 70 percent of its population by the end of 2021 to achieve herd immunity.

Relative to its population of nearly 21 million, Beijing is expected to reach a 70-percent inoculation rate by May, Feng predicted. 

Beijing had vaccinated more than 11 million people as of Saturday, accounting for 50 percent of the population. In early March, the number was 6 million.

As of Wednesday, China had injected nearly 150 million doses. The rate of inoculation in the country is about 5 percent, while the US has reached 33 percent, according to the New York Times. 

Some medical experts have worried about the immunity gap between China and the rest of the world, which would push up the risk of imported cases.

However, Feng said that there was no necessity to compare China with other countries. 

"We are in a different situation in this pandemic, where the US has a smaller population than China, yet it has more COVID-19 cases. While in China, the population is much bigger and yet there are almost no cases."

"What we need is 'absolute population coverage' to make sure that every citizen in the country gets the vaccine by the end of the year," said Feng.

China Tries to Adjust Interval, Dosage, Number of Shots to Boost Vaccine Efficacy: Chinese CDC Director

By Leng Shumei

Apr 10, 2021 09:31 PM

Gao Fu, director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention Photo: China.org.cn

The transmissibility and pathogenicity of the novel coronavirus has been strengthening, leading to challenges regarding the research and development of vaccines, Gao Fu, director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (China’s CDC), said Saturday at the National Vaccines and Health Conference. 

At the conference, scheduled on Saturday and Sunday in Chengdu, Southwest China’s Sichuan Province, Gao called for accelerating COVID-19 vaccine development and optimizing vaccine review procedures to facilitate the implementation of a national vaccination program so that herd immunity can be built as soon as possible among Chinese people. 

China has been studying various measures to increase COVID-19 vaccines’ efficacy while accelerating the mass vaccination program, including adjusting vaccination intervals, the dosage of each shot or the number of shots each person should take, according to Gao. 

The latest advised interval between two injections, announced by China’s CDC on March 28, is three to eight weeks, longer than the 14-day interval followed previously, raising speculation on whether the extended interval could impact the efficacy of the vaccines.

It is reasonable to make such an adjustment, as the 14-day interval, which was designed under an emergency use purpose, is too short, and the longer interval could produce better efficacy, a Beijing-based expert on immunology told the Global Times.

In general, it is better to take two shots with an interval of 4-8 weeks. If the interval is too short, the antibodies produced after the first shot would be neutralized by the antigen, reducing vaccine efficacy, the expert explained.

A research team from Hong Kong University has planned to recruit volunteers to accept mixed vaccine shots produced by different manufactures.

Volunteers would accept Pfizer’s mRNA vaccine as the first shot and Sinovac Biotech’s inactivated vaccines as the second shot. This method could probably lead to a better protection efficacy than accepting one kind of vaccine, according to Hong Kong media. 

Chinese Mass Inoculation Plan Not Hindered by Vaccine Shortage, Fluctuating Supply is Regional, Temporary

By GT staff reporters

Apr 09, 2021 10:38 PM

People line up to get vaccinated in front of a mobile vaccination vehicle in Beijing on Friday. Setting up COVID-19 vaccination sites in areas with heavy traffic will help improve the efficiency of vaccination and also spread vaccination information. Photo: cnsphoto

People line up to get vaccinated in front of a mobile vaccination vehicle in Beijing on Friday. Setting up COVID-19 vaccination sites in areas with heavy traffic will help improve the efficiency of vaccination and also spread vaccination information. Photo: cnsphoto

Through measures like prolonging injection intervals and prioritizing high-risk areas and groups, China is making efforts to maintain a balance in COVID-19 vaccine supply and demand while some places in China are reportedly facing a temporary COVID-19 vaccine shortage during the country's accelerating vaccination drive, which is aimed at guaranteeing the reported goal of the country to vaccinate about 560 million people by the end of June, Chinese experts said.   

Some places in China recently announced measures to adjust their local vaccination programs and the moves have been interpreted by some Western media as indicating that the country is facing a vaccine shortage and has difficulty realizing its vaccination goal. 

The health authority of Haikou, South China's Hainan Province, announced on April 4 that, due to a shortage of vaccine supply, injection of people who should take their second shots would be suspended until the middle or late April.  

Authority of South China's Guangdong Province also citing a vaccine shortage, announced to give priority to people in five local places that face the heaviest pressure of imported cases. 

A staff at a sub-district office in Xi'an of Northwest China's Shaanxi Province told the Global Times that the inoculation at his sub-district has been suspended for about three days as no vaccines are available at the moment. Residents can make an appointment first and wait.

These moves have been interpreted by some foreign media as a sign that China's mass inoculation program is hindered by vaccine shortage.  

The vaccine doses administered every day in China have also been fluctuating recently.

Since March 24, the National Health Commission began to update the public on the COVID-19 vaccine doses administered nationwide. As of Thursday, a total of 155.15 million doses have been administered.

On April 2, China saw 7.18 million doses given, hitting a record high in single-day inoculation. However, the daily inoculation rate plunged to 2.87 million on the second day, and hit a record low of 2.59 million on April 6. 

The pace didn't pick up until Thursday, when 6.08 million doses were completed.

China aims to raise the domestic vaccination target to 40 percent by June, or about 560 million people and 1.12 billion doses. To achieve that target, China has to administer 11.62 million doses per day from now on.

The Global Times learned from some local officials, medical workers and experts that the shortage exists, but it is normal while carrying out such a large-scale inoculation drive and, as mentioned above, Chinese local authorities as well as central authorities are adjusting due to actual situations to guarantee the inoculation goal.  

Local authorities can make quick arrangements for their vaccination plans, but it takes longer to produce and review vaccines before providing them to the residents, which creates an imbalance between demand and supply in some places, said Feng Duojia, president of the China Vaccine Industry Association, in an exclusive interview with the Global Times on Friday. 

Despite such shortage, Feng believes that Chinese authorities at different levels can make adjustments, as what the Haikou and Guangdong authorities have done, to keep a balance between demand and supply. 

"It is alright to delay giving the second shot for around 10 days to guarantee more people get at least one shot, and won't affect the efficacy of the vaccines," Feng explained.   

Normally, residents on the Chinese mainland accept COVID-19 vaccines with an interval of 14 or 21 days. 

In the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, the vaccine produced by Sinovac Biotech is provided with an interval of 28 days as injecting with this interval shows a higher rate of efficacy than an interval of 21 days due to experimental data.

An interval of 59 days is still within a reasonable range, according to Zhuang Shilihe, a Guangzhou-based doctor closely studying the COVID-19 vaccines.

Zhuang told the Global Times that the adjustment of the Haikou authority is reasonable.  

Zeng, a staff at the residential community of Shaoyang in Central China's Hunan Province said they could receive about 200 doses every time, but not every day. "When the vaccines arrive, we will organize the residents for inoculation, when there are no vaccines available, we will just wait," Zeng said.

Zeng is optimistic about the second dose, which has not yet started in his community, and expects a stable supply for the second dose.

A source close to Shanghai's health authorities also told the Global Times that vaccine supply is generally stable in Shanghai and only some areas see tight supply. 

Such shortage is caused by a variety of factors, including the imbalance in reservations, the production capacity of enterprises, the vaccine allocation by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, and transportation, the source said.

Tao Lina, a Shanghai-based vaccine expert, told the Global Times on Friday that Chinese vaccine producers are probably also facing difficulties.

More Chinese producers are joining to help COVID-19 vaccine developers meet the demand.    

Sinopharm has mobilized its institutes in Northeast China's Jilin and Northwest China's Gansu provinces to fill vaccine doses for its Beijing and Wuhan institutes whose COVID-19 vaccines have been approved in China for the market with conditions.

The yearly production capacity of raw materials of the Sinovac Biotech has expanded to two billion. The company said that their capacity to produce finished products would reach a billion by the first half of 2021.   

Friday, April 09, 2021

‘Sanctions Won’t Stop Economic Turnaround’

10 APR, 2021 - 00:04 

Vice President Chiwenga launches the Zimbabwe Leather Sector Strategy in Bulawayo yesterday.

Prosper Ndlovu Bulawayo Bureau of the Zimbabwe Herald

THE continued imposition of illegal sanctions will not stop Zimbabwe’s economic transformation as the country is building robust internal capacities to create wealth and expand job opportunities for its citizens, Vice President Dr Constantine Chiwenga said yesterday.

The roll out of the National Development Strategy (NDS1 2021-2025), which builds on the milestones achieved under the Transitional Stabilisation Programme (TSP), marks the march towards realisation of this transformation, with the ultimate goal being to achieve an upper middle-income economy by 2030, he said.

Guided by this vision, the Vice President said Zimbabwe has no reason to sit back and cry foul, but must deliver broad-based transformation, create capital and expand the horizon of economic opportunities for all Zimbabweans.

Delivering his keynote address to mark the official launch of the Zimbabwe Leather Sector Strategy (2021-2030) in Bulawayo Dr Chiwenga said the disruptive impact of sanctions could be successfully reversed through revitalising domestic value chains, cutting on imports and expanding prospects for inclusive growth.

Before the imposition of sanctions Zimbabwe used to be one of the most sophisticated leather industry destinations in the region, exporting its shoes and upholstery leather to lucrative markets in the European Union, among others. 

“This (sanctions) is now behind us. We no longer talk of sanctions; the land has been reunited with its people and the people with their land and that is now over. We now move on,” said Dr Chiwenga.

“That period has given us the chance, the time to think outside the box and we now have to rebuild our livestock and leather products. We want all of us, not in the too distant future, to talk about the best leather in Zimbabwe globally. Zimbabwean leather has to be the best and that way we will rebuild our glorious past.”

In that regard, the VP said the Second Republic led by President Mnangagwa was prioritising crafting and implementation of sectoral policies and strategies such as the new Zimbabwe Leather Sector Strategy to achieve renewed industry efficiency and foster inclusive growth.

“When it comes to the leather industry, Zimbabwe is better positioned than its regional peers since the leather value chain is well structured, starting from input suppliers, livestock farmers, abattoirs…and manufacturers of leather products and retailers,” he said.

Cabinet approved the new leather policy last November as part of measures to position the sector for increased domestic value addition and beneficiation under the export-led industrialisation programme. 

The comprehensive document sets out priority programmes and reforms aimed at driving increased output and energizing value chains.

These will be implemented over the next 10 years and reflect the concerns of stakeholders in the leather industry, and are anchored under the country’s Vision 2030.

Despite the frustration being inflicted by sanctions since the turn of the millennium when the country embarked on the successful fast-track land reform programme, Dr Chiwenga said Zimbabweans have exhibited resilience with the productive sector also retaining its vibe. 

He said Zimbabwe remains better positioned ahead of regional peers in terms of opportunity to boost industrial activity, and scaling up capacity towards export-led production is the missing link.

Dr Chiwenga said the beef and leather industry, in particular, which has been heavily crippled by the adverse impact of sanctions in recent years, was among the key sectors earmarked to drive the turnaround of the country’s economy.

The Government, working with the private sector leather players led by the Zimbabwe Leather Development Council and development partners such as the African Development Bank and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) has set the ball rolling through implementing beef and leather value chain projects targeting small to medium enterprises.

Already 10 leather sub-clusters have been set up in Matabeleland North province with the intention of creating 10-mini factories capable of making school shoes and other leather products. Under the project, 10 sets of four different machines have been bought for training and capacitating trainees. More interventions are being worked on to enhance quality and standards.

Dr Chiwenga acknowledged concerns and propositions by the industry players who have identified 26 policies and pieces of legislation to be reviewed by the Government. He said this will ensure the business environment is streamlined and will go a long way in advancing the sector.

The VP urged all economic support agencies to play their part to ensure successful implementation of the leather strategy and paid tribute to development partners for supporting the Government. 

In her remarks Industry and Commerce Minister, Dr Sekai Nzenza, said the synergy between industry and commerce and the agriculture sector was critical as these need each other to ensure a successful turnaround of the leather industry value chain. She said leather producers must strive for efficiency and competitiveness that will be felt by consumers who buy their products.

Chairman of the Zimbabwe Leather Development Council, Mr Clement Shoko, gave a synopsis of the state of the leather value chain in the country and highlighted numerous challenges it faces. 

These include inadequate financing, poor marketing intelligence, absence of sector specific policies, poor infrastructure and lack of technology and skills, which he hoped will be addressed by the new strategy.

Bulawayo Provincial Minister of State and Devolution Judith Ncube said the implementation of the new leather strategy would transform the city’s economy through increased industrial output going forward.

Lands, Agriculture, Water, Fisheries and Rural Resettlement Minister Dr Anxious Masuka, emphasised strengthening of linkages between farmers and industry saying Vision 2030 must be anchored on households.

Industry and Commerce Deputy Minister, Raj Modi, Minister of State in VP Chiwenga’s office, Evelyn Ndlovu, leather sector captains of industry and senior government officials also attended the event.

Traditional Leaders Salute First Lady’s Program

10 APR, 2021 - 00:04  

First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa talks to elderly women who were teaching girls, while handing over groceries to them after the Nhanga/gota/ixiba session at Chief Nekatambe homestead’s in Dete yesterday. — Pictures: John Manzongo.

Tendai Rupapa in Matabeleland North for the Zimbabwe Herald

FIRST LADY Auxillia Mnangagwa’s Gota/Nhanga/Ixiba programme is a timely intervention to equip boys and girls with the necessary information to stay healthy, be morally upright and grow into responsible citizens, traditional leaders in Matabeleland North province have said.

Speaking on the sidelines of the programme held at his homestead yesterday, Chief Charles Nekatambe of Mulonga, said the programme was critical in moulding boys and girls into responsible citizens.

Dzidziso yaAmai muNhanga/muGota/Ixiba yevachirikuyaruka is meant for both girls and boys.

In the dare for boys was Minister of State for Matabeleland North Provincial Affairs and Devolution Richard Moyo, Chiefs and elderly men from the community.

Chief Nekatambe spoke strongly against womanising which he said had contributed to the collapse of many marriages.

“When you get married, stop womanising and be content with your wife. This dare was built for you to come and learn what is expected of a man. Today I woke up with you to milk cows but some of you did not even know how to do it something that every man should know. A man should be able to perform many tasks at the home,” he said.

Another chief said mazondo soup was necessary for boys to grow up strong.

“In our days, there were some days when we would go to the chief’s court to eat mazondo and other natural herbs,” he said.

16-year-old boy Cedrick Nyoni asked whether or not the consumption of herbs to enhance masculinity did not fly foul of Christian values to which he was told the charms were not harmful and that even Christians were married and needed strong backs.

Elders who were present said boys should know how to conduct themselves and understand the rites of passage from boyhood to manhood.

In the nhanga, the First Lady was assisted by the Chief’s wives and elderly women that included gogo Marita Nekatambe, mother to Chief Nekatambe.

In her teachings to the girls during the session, the First Lady said: “I have come so that we teach you what is expected of the girl child. Are you aware that you are important? We are looking at the respect that you accord elders, your dressing and the way you walk. All of us with your grandmothers here, we have come to talk to you and mould a girl child we want as parents, a morally upright daughter. We hope as you leave this place you would have learnt a lot that would help you in future.

“Feel free to ask all you want to know because this will help you in future. As a daughter, how far are you with your manners and education? We did not say after learning from us you rush to get married, we want you to preserve your body and treasure your education. If you combine education with good morals, you will have a bright future. As mothers we will be very proud because we would have managed to groom a morally upright daughter. We say no to those who rush into sexual relationships with boys.”

The First Lady’s words were reinforced by Gogo Marita Nekatambe who spelt out the need to train girls from a tender age.

“We want you to learn to fear men when the time is not ripe. You must view men as lions and run away until you have matured. When I was married I was a virgin as we respected the counsel of our elders. When you enter into marriage you should be dignified and submit to your husband, respect him, prepare food for him and iron his clothes. When giving him food you should show respect,” she said.

Gogo Maria Nkomazana weighed in saying it was essential for girls to observe chastity and not to rush into multiple sexual relationships.

“Do not behave like a wild fruit tree which is frequented by everyone. Respect your body. If a man fondles you inappropriately, report to the elders with immediate effect. Learn to dress properly and putting on dignified clothes. A boy who impregnates you might deny paternity if he sees you dealing with many boys like a wild fruit tree,” she said emphatically.

The wife to Chief Nekatambe underscored the need for children to be respectful at all times and when they get married.

“While we were growing up, we were advised to respect our in-laws. You should be a respectful daughter-in-law who shows that she came from a good family. Children of nowadays do not want to be taught by elderly women and instead accuse them of practising witchcraft. You will never see them sitting down with the elderly,” she said.

Among the Chiefs wives was Mrs Regina Shana who said; “We were taught that if you play with boys and proceed to prepare food for the family you affect your mother’s backbone or legs. I think diseases that are affecting most parents today are caused by their children’s mischief.

“It is joyous if you grow up morally upright and get married in a respectable way. Nowadays girls have lost morals. Even in buses you see a child seated while the elderly woman is standing. That was not allowed during our time. We want children with respect,” she said. 

In her remarks, the First Lady said both boys and girls who went through yesterday’s teachings were now ambassadors of the programme and had to share what they had learnt with their peers in schools and communities. 

She gave the children her personal mobile number so that they would communicate with her on what they would have done in spreading the teachings for the benefit of all the youths.

First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa talks to one of the boys during the Nhanga/gota/ixiba session after handing over a school bag with books and other goodies to him at Chief Nekatambe’s homestead.

The ambassadors would then invite her for her to see the progress they would have made.

“With what I saw while we were teaching the girls, I saw that here you still preserve our culture. Our girls are still observing ubuntu. They performed household chores with so much ease, a sign that they are being taught and I was happy with what they did,” she said. 

She bemoaned that most children of today were being swayed from their culture by Western influences.

“Children these days have been influenced by western cultures and discard our values, which is why I came to chiefs and their spouses so that we counsel our children. We have been ignoring our culture for a long time, but now we are saying, it’s time we revive our norms and values of old. Nhanga/gota/Ixiba has always been there but it was cast aside. Our morals begin in the home. In the olden days it was taboo to see a girl drinking beer, puffing a cigarette. A girl would not be away from home in the dark and never put on skimp clothes. 

“To you girls do not be sales managers of your body. As mothers it does not bode well for us,” she said.

The First Lady implored the boys and girls not to take what they had learnt as a joke and to follow the teachings.

For their practical lessons the girls prepared millet sadza, dried vegetables, road runner and stewed fish which they prepared the way it’s prepared in their culture.

The fish was prepared atop millet stalks so that it does not stick to the base of the pot. They also cleaned and cooked offals and pounded millet.

Chiefs, their wives and elderly women and men who conducted the lessons were given food hampers by the First Lady while the children who were drawn from all the districts were given school bags, stationery and food hampers. Chief Jonah Shana, chairperson of the Provincial Assembly of Chiefs from Matabeleland North said from what they were teaching the boys they saw that there were many missing links.

“From what we were teaching children in the dare, we noticed that they did not know how we grew up. We want to thank Amai for spearheading this programme and also taking us back to our traditional foods. We are going to work with our village heads and go to schools and ask to train the children, that way we will catch them young. As Mat North we have welcomed programme this programme with open hands and we promise to carry it forward,” he said.

Minister Moyo praised the First Lady for her educative programme which he said is of benefit to the nation.

“By holding these teaching sessions throughout the country’s 10 provinces you are leading by example, you want to encourage parents and guardians to take time to communicate with their children and enlighten them about their culture. This is important if we are to safeguard our traditional values and breed a young generation that is patriotic and proud to be Zimbabwean.

“I believe that if our children are rooted in Ubuntu, they will desist from indulging in most of the illicit social vices that we are now witnessing in our society,” he said.

Most children, Minister Moyo said, no longer respected their elders, were involved with drugs and engaged in sexual relations at an early age.

“The Second Republic under the leadership of President Emmerson Mnangagwa wants to raise well-rounded young people who will become entrepreneurs and spearhead the development of our economy. This has resulted in the adoption of Education 5.0 in our institutions of Higher Learning. Education 5.0 is designed to nurture a job creator mind-set, and this type of mind-set will only thrive if our youths are disciplined and respect their cultures.”

The First Lady aims to ensure the country’s youths return to the days of old when they were imparted with wisdom by elders to grow into responsible citizens.

This comes as youths are now being affected by western influences resulting in a surge in immorality, promiscuity and a lot of other reprehensible behaviour.

Vaccines: Leaving Naysayers Behind

As he launched the second phase of the vaccination programme, President Mnangagwa reiterated the World Health Organisation call that ‘No one is safe, until everyone is safe’.

Fungi Kwaramba Political Editor for Zimbabwe Herald

IN the resort town of Victoria Falls, where the mighty Zambezi River roars into the world famous water falls, everything looks as beautiful as ever, minus of course the human factor as the tourism sector has been stripped bare by the ravaging effects of Covid-19.

For slightly over a year now, the sector has been bleeding, ravaged by the effects of Covid-19, a global plague that has seen many countries imposing national lockdowns that among other factors limit travel.

Consequently, service providers have been singing the blues.

Alone with no tourists, workers have been laid off, shops have closed and business hasn’t been roaring like the mighty Zambezi River as it plunges into depths of mother earth, creating a sensation that lures the world to its evergreen rain forest.

However, it is not all gloom and despair after President Mnangagwa launched the second phase of the vaccination programme in the resort town as he continues with his drive to ensure that Zimbabweans are vaccinated against Covid-19, a flu-like disease that has killed just over 1 500 people in the country since March last year.

In the campaign against the pandemic, President Mnangagwa has been leading the way as he rallies the nation to embrace vaccination, that experts say is likely to become a passport for  the world to return to normalcy.

Under the second phase of the vaccination programme, the country is targeting school teachers, religious leaders, security forces, the elderly, and people with chronic diseases, but in Victoria Falls, the Government made an exception as all the 110 000 residents were invited to take the jab.

As he launched the second phase of the vaccination programme, President Mnangagwa reiterated the World Health Organisation call that ‘No one is safe, until everyone is safe’.

“I therefore challenge all of us in our respective communities to accept the vaccination programme and to shun vaccine hesitancy, misinformation and the negative conspiracy theories. Getting vaccinated is a personal and a family responsibility as well as a national obligation.

“Vaccination further advances our country’s global obligation to combat the continued spread and negative socio-economic effects of Covid-19 pandemic in line with the United Nations and African Union expectations,” he said.

Just like all world nations Zimbabwe is trying to turn the tide and restore normalcy so that everyone can get back to their lives, children continue school and efforts towards achieving Vision 2030, to become a middle-class economy are pursued with vigour and determination.

In his latest campaign, the President was accompanied by dozens of opposition leaders, including the country’s biggest opposition party in terms of parliamentary representation, the MDC led by Mr Douglas Mwonzora.

While Zimbabwe made history as it came together to fight a common foe, some chose to stay behind, again missing the chance to move along with the times. 

It will of course turn into another ‘what if’ moment for Chamisa and his hangers-on.

Following the successful launch of the vaccination programme, Zimbabweans are making a beeline  to vaccination sites festooned across the country to get their shots. 

So far the uptake is encouraging as more than 60 percent of the targeted group under phase two were inoculated.

To achieve herd immunity, Zimbabwe is targeting to vaccinate 60 percent of the population.

However, the naysayers, or rather the “jecha” brigade wouldn’t let that historic event pass without their characteristic scorn and disdain for anything that is home-grown and that bears the success of the Second Republic’s foreign policy in a global village that is in danger of collapsing under the bane of misplaced nationalism on  Covid-19.

Zimbabwe has so far received Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines from China, but the MDC-A, whose funders are in Western capitals, would rather Zimbabwe get the vaccines from their masters, never mind the defects therein.

Thus the MDC-A, with habitual belligerence to anything home-grown, and in its quintessential puppetry inclination to anything that is Western, has been trying to dissuade the masses from getting the jabs, while in the wee hours of the night the leaders visit Western embassies to get the vaccines.

While some of the opposition leaders like Job Sikhala have received the Sinopharm vaccines, some in the opposition with no trace of medical literacy have tried their best to derail the programme.

It has failed to stick because it is never servile to accept kindly deeds, such as vaccines from China, especially at a time when some countries are seeking to profit from a virus that has led to a global economic contraction.

To malign such a kind gesture is disingenuous as it is misleading because the Government has, from the onset, made it patently clear that the administration of the new jabs will be carried out on a voluntary basis. No one will be forced to take the jab.

President Mnangagwa has made it clear that science will lead the way and so far we have been walking that straight and narrow guarded accordingly by experts.

Zimbabwe which is expected to vaccinate 10 million people, a figure that will ensure herd immunity will not be forcing anyone to take the antidotes.

But while it is conceivable that in the foreseeable future vaccines will be the passports in our every day life, the advent of this deadly pandemic should not be a passport for the “jecha” brigades and alarmists to send the wrong signals to the masses who stand to gain more when vaccinated than not.

Indeed, as the President said, vaccination is the gateway to a return to normalcy when people can go about their businesses without fear of contracting the disease.

A brief history of vaccines shows that millions of lives are saved each year by vaccines. 

They work by training and preparing the body’s natural defences — the immune system — to recognise and fight off the viruses and bacteria they target, such as Covid-19.

Kenyans Fume Over US$2bn Loan

09 APR, 2021 - 00:04  

NAIROBI. –  Angry Kenyans on Tuesday took to social media to protest a US$2,34 billion International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan to Kenya, arguing that the East African country is already overburdened with loans.

Over 160 000 Kenyans have signed an online petition, asking the IMF to cancel the recently approved loan as previous disbursements to Kenya have been lost in corruption scandals and remain unpaid. 

Saalim Gooner, a Facebook user, posted on the official IMF Facebook page, asking: “Why are you approving loans to this irresponsible government of Kenya? You are sinking our economy deeper.”

Finance Minister Ukur Yatani came out to defend the loan, saying that the money was needed to support small businesses and “forestall a greater humanitarian crisis”. – Anadolu.

After Delays, South Africa Announces Mass Vaccination Drive

By ANDREW MELDRUM and MOGOMOTSI MAGOME

Sinkameng Moilwa, a professional nurse in a dental department, receives a dose of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine from a health staff member during a vaccination day for healthcare workers at a vaccination centre at Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital in Johannesburg, South Africa, Friday, March 26, 2021. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — After a false start and an unconventional test run, South Africa on Friday announced the launch of its mass vaccination campaign against COVID-19 with a goal of inoculating more than 40 million people by February next year.

“We have now secured adequate vaccines and can move ahead with confidence with our mass rollout campaign,” Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said during a presentation to civic groups and others.

This week South Africa finalized the purchases of 51 million doses: 31 million of Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose vaccine and 20 million of Pfizer’s two-dose vaccine, Mkhize said.

South Africa’s vaccination campaign has been moving slowly but it will accelerate with deliveries this month of 3 million J&J doses and 6 million Pfizer doses, Mkhize said. Further deliveries will cover the bulk of the government’s aim to inoculate 67% of the country’s 60 million people by early 2022.

Criticism has mounted, from leading health professionals and ordinary South Africans, over the slow purchase of vaccines.

South Africa has by far the largest burden of COVID-19 in Africa. With more than 1.5 million confirmed cases, including 53,173 deaths, the country accounts for more than 30% of the 4.3 million cases reported by the continent’s 54 countries. South Africa accounts for nearly half the continent’s deaths from the disease.

Health experts warn that South Africa could face a resurgence of infections following the Easter holiday and as cold weather approaches in the Southern Hemisphere’s winter months.

The country’s 1.2 million health care workers are being vaccinated in the first phase.

To date, just over 283,000 health care workers have been vaccinated since mid-February, when the government began giving J&J doses as a large-scale test because the vaccine had not yet been approved for general use. The slow pace of just over 6,000 shots administered per day has been limited by the arrivals of J&J doses, which have come in small batches.

With the arrival of millions of doses, vaccinations will speed up to more than 300,000 per day with jabs being given at hospitals, clinics, doctors’ offices, pharmacies, shopping centers and workplaces, Mkhize said.

The mass vaccinations will begin in mid-May with the start of the second phase in which 16.6 million elderly, essential workers and others at risk will get jabs. In October, South Africa will begin vaccinating the remainder of its adults, about 22.6 million people, with the goal of finishing that in February 2022.

South Africa’s vaccinations got off to a rocky start in February when the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine was scrapped just days before it was to be given to health care workers, following the results of a small, preliminary test that indicated the vaccine was ineffective in preventing mild to moderate cases of COVID-19 caused by the variant dominant in the country.

South Africa later sold more than 1 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to the African Union, which sold them to other African countries where the variant is not dominant.

South Africa pivoted to J&J, which has proved in tests to be effective against the variant. Because the J&J vaccine had not yet been approved for general use by South Africa or any international health authorities, the vaccinations of health care workers began as a large-scale trial.

The Pfizer vaccine will be used in South Africa’s cities, which have the necessary freezers and logistics for the two-dose process, while the J&J vaccine is more suitable for rural areas.

Most of the J&J vaccines used in South Africa will be produced locally by Aspen Pharmaceuticals, in Gqeberha, formerly Port Elizabeth. The company will receive large batches of the ingredients and then blend them and put them in vials, a process known as filling and finishing. The firm has the capacity to produce 300 million doses of the J&J vaccine over a year, of which about 220 million will be sold to other African countries, according to the company.

The vaccinations cannot come soon enough for, Tumelo Serage, 27, who works at a Johannesburg gas station.

He said he is concerned that he is exposed to many customers at work.

“We wear masks and sanitize all the time, but many people got infected even when they were doing that. Some of my colleagues here got infected, luckily they recovered,” he said. “At this point, the safest way is to get the vaccine as soon as possible.”

Senegal, Spain Leaders Seek to Encourage Legal Migration

By BABACAR DIONE

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez speaks during a press conference at the Palace of the Republic in Dakar, Senegal, Friday, April 9 2021 after his meeting with Senegalese President Macky Sall. Sanchez is on a mini-tour to two African nations that are key in the European country's new push to bolster ties with the neighboring continent and mitigate the migration flows that many fear could increase as a consequence of the coronavirus pandemic.(Seyllou/Pool Photo via AP)

DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — Senegal and Spain signed a memorandum of understanding on Friday to discourage illegal migration that has been increasing amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“Spain wants to order migratory flows through legal channels,” Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said after meeting with Senegal’s President Macky Sall while visiting the West African coastal nation.

More than 41,000 people from Morocco and West Africa crossed to Spain in 2020, and more than half of them did it by embarking on flimsy boats to the Canary Islands, the Spanish archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean, off the northwestern African coast. Hundreds died last year after embarking on the deadly water route.

Spanish authorities are holding thousands of migrants, including potential asylum seekers, in camps set up on the islands, hoping to return as many of them to their home countries either voluntarily or through agreements with African governments. Part of that solution is to resume flights of forced returns to Senegal, a program that has been halted since 2018.

While the president did not mention a resumption of flights or the return of illegal Senegalese migrants, he did discuss the memorandum of understanding that would see seasonal migration trips to Spain.

“We can organize seasonal departures since Spain needs manpower,” Sall said. “We are working with the Spanish government so that those who have to return will be given priority.”

More than 71,000 Senegalese live and work in Spain, according to the two leaders.

“The solution for Africa is not to see children die in the ocean,” he said.

Sall said the government would create 65,000 jobs in Senegal, as well as promote enter entrepreneurship, vocational training and cooperation.

“This is how we can resolve the issue of migration. It’s not about leaving organized gangs that exploit these young people and let them die on the ocean floor,” he said.

The Spanish Prime Minister insisted on the fight against migrant smugglers.

“We discussed the importance of sending a clear message to traffickers. We need to send a clear message to fight human trafficking and illegal migration. We must give the opportunity for there to be a regular migration which could be beneficial for our countries,” Sanchez said.

The visit by Sanchez to Senegal ends his mini-tour to two African nations that are key in the European country’s new push to bolster ties with the neighboring continent and mitigate the migration flows.

He visited Angola before his stop to Senegal.

Sanchez is also scheduled to pay a visit to Spanish police working with Senegalese counterparts to crack down on human trafficking across the West African coast. The contingent comprises 57 members of Spain’s Civil Guard and National Police, two patrol boats, and a helicopter based on the port of Dakar.

Africa has proportionally reported fewer coronavirus cases and deaths than Europe. But officials in Madrid fear that the fallout of lockdowns in jobs and the shockwaves of the global economic slump could send even more Africans on the perilous journey to European shores, many of them via Spain.

Spain also hopes to increase its limited investment and trade exchanges with the neighboring continent as a way to lift African economies and dissuade potential migrants. Nearly one-fifth of Spain’s exports in 2019 went to Africa, amounting to 19 billion euro ($22 billion). Spain imports from the continent were worth 27 billion euros in the same period.

Sanchez, a Socialist leading a left-wing coalition, has said that he wants to turn 2020-2030 into “Spain’s decade in Africa.”

He will wrap his tour in Senegal on Friday by visiting a military base for Spanish and other international forces fighting extremism in the Sahel region and the center in Dakar that will host the first Cervantes Institute in sub-Saharan Africa for studies of the Spanish language and culture.

Djibouti Votes as President Guelleh Seeks a 5th Term

By HASSAN BARISE

Djiboutians queue to cast their votes in the presidential election, in the capital Djibouti city, Djibouti, Friday, April 9, 2021. The Horn of Africa country of Djibouti is going to the polls on Friday as President Ismail Omar Guelleh seeks a fifth term in the small but strategically important nation home to military bases for the United States, China and others. (AP Photo/Mahad Mohamed)

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — The Horn of African country of Djibouti went to the polls peacefully on Friday as President Ismail Omar Guelleh seeks a fifth term in the small but strategically important nation home to military bases for the United States, China and others.

The 73-year-old Guelleh faces just one challenger, the independent candidate and businessman Zakaria Ismail Farah, who halted campaigning early while asserting that he could not do so in safety. In protest, he appeared with his mouth taped shut.

The other opposition boycotted the vote. Final results are expected on Saturday. There was a heavy police presence around the polls.

Critics call the president a heavy-handed dictator, but others in Djibouti see him as a driving force in the country’s development and relative stability. The country is located on the Red Sea along one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.

Guelleh has been in power since 1999 after the death of his predecessor, Hassan Guled Aptidon, the country’s first president. Djibouti won independence from France in 1977.

The president is widely expected to win another team that should be his last, according the constitution, which limits the presidency to those under the age of 75.

Guelleh told reporters days ago that he was no longer interested in power but was merely responding to the will of the people.

“it is my people, the Djiboutians, who asked me to run again and not leave them for the sake of the prosperity of the nation,” he said.

After voting, the president said, “May God be praised, it happened in a peaceful way and thank God, the people have participated in a very good way.”

More than 205,000 people are registered to vote in Djibouti, which has a population of over 600,000. The country is a mix of ethnic Somali, Afar and Arab.

“In a beautiful way we’re appreciating the voting, every vote and every five years, and

UN Chief: Sudan-South Sudan Dispute Will Keep UN in Abyei

By EDITH M. LEDERER

The banks of the Tekeze River, on the Sudan-Ethiopia border after Ethiopian forces blocked people from crossing into Sudan, in Hamdayet, eastern Sudan, March 16, 2021. Ethiopia is at right, and Sudan is on the left. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has informed the Security Council that he couldn’t provide options to reduce and terminate the nearly 3,700-strong peacekeeping force in the disputed Abyei region on the Sudan-South Sudan border because of differences between the two countries.

The U.N. chief said in a letter obtained Thursday by The Associated Press that because of the different positions on the future of the force in Abyei, known as UNISFA, “no options that would be minimally acceptable to the parties could be formulated.”

Both Sudan and South Sudan claim ownership of the oil-rich Abyei area. The 2005 peace deal that led to South Sudan’s independence from its northern neighbor in 2011 required both sides to work out the final status of region, but it is still unresolved.

UNISFA has been in Abyei since 2011, and when the Security Council extended its mandate last November it asked the secretary-general to hold joint consultations with Sudan, South Sudan, Ethiopia and other key parties to discuss an exit strategy and develop options for its reduction.

Guterres said joint consultations could not be held because of the COVID-19 pandemic so he held separate meeting with senior officials in the three countries.

He said Sudan’s government expressed the view that despite the security situation remaining volatile in the Abyei area, UNISFA had played an important stabilizing role.

Sudan indicated that a reduction in UNISFA’s strength could be considered immediately, “but should proceed gradually over a one-year period” to allow time for both countries to comply with a 2011 agreement on temporary administrative and security arrangements, he said. It would also enable both sides to consult with the African Union and the regional group IGAD on successor arrangements.

More than 62,000 refugees from Ethiopia’s embattled Tigray region are now in Sudan, and Guterres said the Khartoum government indicated that should tensions remain high with Ethiopia, it would ask that Ethiopian troops be withdrawn from UNISFA and be replaced with a multinational African force.

Guterres said South Sudan insisted that security concerns in Abyei and in neighboring Western Kordofan warranted UNISFA’s continued presence.

South Sudanese officials cited as examples the assassination of the Ngok Dinka tribe’s paramount chief in 2013, and the killing of civilians in January and April 2020, by Sudan-allied Misseriya nomads who go to Abyei to find pasture for their cattle, he said.

“South Sudan rejected the establishment of joint institutions with the Sudan, arguing that previous attempts had resulted in two wars in 20078 and 2011 due to a lack of trust between the parties,” Guterres said.

He said Ethiopia believes the premature withdrawal of UNISFA would likely lead the security situation in the Abyei area to deteriorate -- a view echoed by the African Union.

Guterres expressed hope that Ethiopia and Sudan resolve their tensions, which would enable UNISFA to maintain its current strength and continued to focus on Abyei’s security and stability as well as monitoring on the border.

If not, he said, UNISFA’s ability to implement its mandate “would be negatively affected with significant consequences on the stability in Abyei, as well as serious implications for the relations between Sudan and South Sudan.”

The secretary-general said a safe and complete end to UNISFA’s mission would require “good neighborly relations between the Sudan and South Sudan and the parties reaching an agreement on the final status of the Abyei area with the support of the region, the African Union and the United Nations.”

195 Arrested in Vast International Human Trafficking Sweep

PARIS (AP) — Interpol says police in Africa and Europe arrested 195 people and rescued nearly 500 victims of human trafficking in a vast crackdown on criminal networks led by the France-based international law enforcement agency.

Interpol said in a statement Friday that Morocco hosted the March 28-April 2 operation, which involved 24 countries exchanging intelligence and support from the International Organization for Migration and other international groups.

The 195 people arrested were accused of human trafficking, migrant smuggling, document fraud, drug offenses or other crimes.

Interpol said the y included people in Sudan suspected of trafficking migrants to the Middle East and exploiting children in factories, people in Spain suspected of smuggling Africans to Europe, and Chinese citizens in South Africa suspected of exploiting Malawian migrants.

Duke University to Require Vaccines by the Fall

Associated Press

Employees work at the Delpharm plant in Saint-Remy-sur-Avre, west of Paris, Friday, April 9, 2021 in Paris. The Delpharm plant started bottling Pfizer vaccines this week as France tries to make its mark on global vaccine production, and speed up vaccinations of French people amid a new virus surge. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena, Pool)

DURHAM, N.C. — Duke University will require all new and returning students to present proof of vaccination to student health officials before they can enroll for the fall semester.

Duke President Vincent Price said in a statement Friday that the policy will cover all undergraduate, graduate, and professional students in all degree programs who intend to be on the Duke campus for any period of time starting with the fall semester.

Price says documented medical and religious exemptions will be accommodated.

Officials urged current students and employees who have not yet received a vaccination from Duke to schedule an appointment as soon as possible.

Other universities including Brown, Cornell, Notre Dame, Northeastern and Rutgers have announced plans for similar vaccine requirements.

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

NEW ORLEANS — Bars in New Orleans are doing their part to battle the coronavirus pandemic.

Local media reported that two of the city’s bars are holding events where patrons can get the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

The Dragon’s Den, which is located near the beginning of the music club-lined Frenchmen Street, posted on its Facebook page that Friday evening people could come and get the vaccine and then a complimentary shot.

The vaccines are being administered in front of the bar by a federally qualified health center.

Dr. Jason Halperin, an infectious disease expert with the health center, told the Times-Picayune / The New Orleans Advocate that the bar was footing the bill for the booze.

“It’s so New Orleans unique — drinks on us for getting a vaccine,” he told the newspaper.

Kermit’s Treme Mother-in-Law Lounge also said on its Facebook page that they would be offering the Johnson & Johnson vaccination on Saturday during the day. It was not immediately clear if a drink incentive was included.

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NEW YORK — Drug giant Pfizer and its partner in developing the first COVID-19 vaccine that received emergency authorization in the U.S. want to allow more adolescents to receive the vaccine.

New York-based Pfizer and BioNTech SE of Germany have asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to expand the emergency use authorization for their vaccine to include adolescents ages 12 through 15. Back in mid-December, the two-dose shot received emergency clearance for vaccinating people ages 16 and up.

Pfizer and BioNTech said they are working closely with the FDA and regulators in other countries to get emergency or conditional authorization as quickly as possible for kids ages 12 through 15.

The companies noted in a statement that preliminary results through March 31 from late-stage testing in that age group found the vaccine safe and 100% effective in blocking infections. They said side effects were consistent with those from testing of volunteers ages 16 through 25: pain and swelling at the injection site, fatigue, headaches, fever and nausea.

All participants in the study of 12- through 15-year-old volunteers will be monitored for two years, starting after they received their second dose, to watch for any safety issues and determine how long the vaccine protects recipients.

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GENEVA — European regulators are reviewing Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine for unusual blood clots similar to the possible risk from another vaccine, the one made by AstraZeneca.

Earlier this week, the European Medicines Agency cited a possible link between the AstraZeneca vaccine and a rare clotting disorder. The J&J vaccine is made with a similar technology, prompting questions about the possibility of similar side effects.

The European group said Friday that it is investigating four reports of unusual clots, one in a J&J study and the others during the U.S. rollout of the one-dose vaccine.

Before clearing the J&J shot for U.S. use, the Food and Drug Administration investigated the clot that occurred during testing. At the time, the FDA said it would monitor for any red flags as the vaccine was used more widely.

Earlier this week, the European regulators said there have been three additional U.S. reports of clots with “some similarities,” out of almost 5 million vaccine recipients.

The EMA on Friday reiterated that it’s not clear if the small number of J&J reports are linked to the vaccine, which is expected to roll out in Europe in a few weeks.

In a statement Friday, J&J said “no clear causal relationship has been established between these rare events” and the vaccine, but that it continued to work closely with regulators to assess the data.

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MILAN — Italy recorded 718 COVID deaths on Friday, the highest in months, but health officials say the spike from 487 a day earlier is due to a backlog of deaths being reported in Sicily.

Italy’s death toll has remained stubbornly high as the very contagious British variant became prevalent and as the vaccination campaign for the most vulnerable population has lagged.

Italy has recorded 113,579 deaths in the pandemic, second in Europe to Britain’s 127,233, where the vaccine campaign is much more advanced.

The president of Italy’s National Health Institute, Silvio Brusaferro, told reporters that the new contagion has reached a “plateau” in Italy, with 18,938 new cases on Friday. They began dipping below 20,000 last week.

Much of the country remains on partial lockdown, with a 10 p.m. curfew and high schools only partially open.

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SANTA FE, N.M. — Health officials say New Mexico is moving faster than any state in the U.S. toward herd immunity, with one-third of adult residents now fully vaccinated.

Health Secretary Dr. Tracie Collins said Friday that milestones such as this show that the state’s vaccination campaign is working.

Overall, state data shows more than half of residents 16 and older have received at least a first shot. That puts the state in the lead when it comes to vaccine distribution nationwide.

New Mexico has seen a slight uptick in COVID-19 cases in recent days that has pushed the seven-day rolling average up, but health officials said vaccinations by far are outpacing the number of new confirmed cases and that has helped the state to meet nearly all of its benchmarks.

Still, officials said they have concerns about emerging variants and will be monitoring developments in neighboring states.

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BOSTON — Product manufacturer 3M has filed a trademark and fraud lawsuit against a Florida company that’s accused of selling counterfeit surgical N95 masks to a Massachusetts hospital.

The suit alleges that MM Medical Supply sold tens of thousands of counterfeit 3M masks to South Shore Health System this year. The company led the hospital to believe it was an official 3M distributor, the suit says, and sold the masks at “exorbitantly inflated” prices.

The suit was filed March 31 in federal court in Florida. It says the issue came to the attention of 3M after a worker at the Weymouth hospital noticed that the masks seemed off. He contacted 3M, which confirmed that the masks were fakes.

A message seeking comment was left with MM Medical Supply, which is based in Tarpon Springs, Florida.

The suit accuses the company of “pandemic profiteering,” saying it “not only jeopardizes the health and safety of those fighting the pandemic on the front lines, but also seeks to divert precious public and other funds from the purchase of genuine personal protective equipment.”

3M is seeking to have MM Medical Supply barred from selling fake products and to turn over all profits from fraudulent sales. The suit says the money would be donated to COVID-19 relief efforts.

It’s one of more than 30 similar suits 3M has filed during the pandemic.

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NEW ORLEANS -- Last call is coming later at New Orleans bars. The city announced Friday that bars and restaurants in the city can sell alcoholic beverages until 1 a.m.

The later hours represent the latest easing of COVID-19-related restrictions in New Orleans. The previous shutdown-time for alcoholic drink sales had been 11 p.m.

The city has recently eased restrictions on building occupancy, the size of public gatherings and live music. Officials say new confirmed cases in New Orleans are averaging below 50 per day, and the rate of positive tests is running under 1%.

Also, 37% of the city’s residents have received at least one vaccine dose with 25% considered fully vaccinated.

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LOS ANGELES — The Hollywood Bowl will reopen for the 2021 season with a limited-capacity audience due to COVID-19 concerns.

The Los Angeles Philharmonic Association announced Friday that concerts will resume in May with capacity for about 4,000 people based on current public health guidance. The association said it expects the number to increase later in the summer as guidelines evolve.

The reopening will begin with four free concerts for healthcare workers, first responders and essential workers.

The Philharmonic said its other outdoor venue, The Ford, will also open with a 15-week run beginning in late July.

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CUMMMING, Georgia -- Health officials in the U.S. state of Georgia are temporarily stopping use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at one site in north Georgia after eight people experienced “adverse reactions” on Wednesday.

At least three other states — North Carolina, Iowa and Colorado — have reported adverse reactions in people who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at some locations.

One of the eight people at the vaccination site in Cumming, Georgia, was evaluated at a hospital and released, the Georgia Department of Public Health said Friday. The others were monitored and sent home.

Georgia health officials have not said what the adverse reactions were. In North Carolina, health officials have said that multiple people fainted after receiving the vaccine.

The state is putting the Johnson & Johnson vaccine on pause in Cumming “out an abundance of caution,” health officials said in a statement.

There’s no reason to believe there is anything wrong with the vaccine, and people who have received it should not be concerned, said Dr. Kathleen Toomey, Georgia’s health commissioner.

The agency is looking into what may have caused the reactions, “including the conditions at the fairgrounds such as heat and the ability to keep the site cool,” Toomey said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating the incidents in Georgia, Iowa, Colorado and North Carolina, health officials said.

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MEXICO CITY -- Many private-practice doctors, dentists and health care workers in Mexico are protesting that they have not been prioritized in the government-run coronavirus vaccine program even though they are exposed to possible infection at work.

The private health care workers blocked Mexico City’s streets while staging protests this week. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador defended the vaccination program on Friday, saying it had to focus on people over 60 years old to prevent deaths.

As he often has done in the past, López Obrador attributed the protests to a “very perverse” campaign by private media outlets against him.

“Let them wait...until we all get it,” López Obrador said, referring to the country’s age-based vaccination system.

That means private practice doctors would have to wait for their age group to get shots. The president said vaccines for people between 50 and 60 should start this month.

The president also said the next stage will be to vaccinate the country’s 3 million teachers, regardless of whether they teach at public or private schools.

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LANSING, Mich. — Faced with the highest rate of new coronavirus infections in the United States, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is strongly urging a two-week suspension of in-person high school classes, all youth sports and indoor restaurant dining.

Whitmer stopped short of ordering restrictions Friday, instead asking for voluntary compliance to slow the spread of COVID-19.

“We have to do this together. Lives depend on it, ” she said said during a news conference, again urging residents to be vaccinated. “We’re going to have some tough weeks ahead. So I’m asking everyone — please, take this seriously.”

The Democratic governor also renewed her call for the federal government to send additional vaccines. The Biden administration will provide extra resources but not doses.

As of Thursday, Michigan had the worst rate of new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. over the previous two weeks. Related hospitalizations had more than quadrupled in a month and were 88% of the statewide peak from a year ago.

The governor has resisted reinstating past restrictions such as a stay-at-home order or bans on indoor dining, in-person instruction and youth contact sports that were criticized by Republican lawmakers and others.

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ROME — Italian prosecutors formally accused a top World Health Organization official of lying to them about a spiked U.N. report into Italy’s coronavirus response, revealing private communications Friday that are likely to embarrass WHO.

Prosecutors in Bergamo placed Dr. Ranieri Guerra, WHO’s assistant director general, under investigation for allegedly making false declarations to them when he voluntarily agreed to be questioned in November.

Guerra was WHO’s liaison with the Italian government after Italy became the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in Europe last year.

Prosecutors are investigating the huge COVID-19 death toll in Bergamo and whether Italy’s lack of preparedness going into the pandemic played a role. Their probe expanded to include the related scandal over the spiked WHO report into Italy’s virus response because it revealed that the Italian government hadn’t updated its pandemic preparedness plan since 2006.

The U.N. health agency pulled the report from its website May 14, a day after it went up, and never republished it. Its disappearance suggested that the WHO removed it to spare the Italian government criticism, embarrassment and liability.

When asked at the time whether Guerra or the Italian government had intervened to spike the report, WHO said it was removed by its regional office in Copenhagen because it contained “factual inaccuracies.”

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ATHENS, Greece — Greece’s national vaccination committee has announced it is recommending the AstraZeneca vaccine continue to be administered to people 30 and older, saying the risk of serious illness or death from COVID-19 far outweighs that of someone developing an extremely rare blood clotting disorder due to the vaccine.

The committee’s announcement adds to the varying advice regarding the AstraZeneca vaccine coming from different European countries. The European Medicines Agency has not advised on setting any age restrictions on use of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The vaccination committee in Greece said Friday it was recommending “the continuation of the vaccination program with every available vaccine, including the AstraZeneca vaccine, in people aged 30 and over.”

Greece has reported a record number of new daily cases several times in recent weeks, but has also been conducting a record number of tests.

But hospital admission rates have been increasing as well, and intensive care units in many parts of Greece are at or over capacity, despite the country being under lockdown-type measures since early November.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told North Carolina health officials that it’s safe to continue administering Johnson & Johnson vaccines at three vaccination sites that said they’d stop giving out the doses due to an increase in reports of adverse reactions.

As of 11 p.m. Thursday, one of the more than 2,300 people who received a shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at PNC Arena in Raleigh earlier that day remained in the hospital, while three other people hospitalized were released. Fourteen more people experienced minor reactions that were able to be treated on-site.

The CDC performed vaccine lot analyses in North Carolina and said it did not find reasons for concern.

Wanting to inform over 2,000 people with Friday appointments which vaccine they would receive, Wake County public health officials said they would administer the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at PNC Arena and allow those who prefer the single-dose Johnson & Johnson shot to reschedule their appointments.

Two UNC Health clinics plan to resume appointments for the J&J vaccine on Saturday after the CDC informed them on Friday morning that it “found no evidence of a safety concern for the J&J vaccine after looking at cases in NC and other parts of the country.”

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GENEVA — The head of the World Health Organization said that over 87% of the more than 700 million doses of coronavirus vaccine that have been administered worldwide have been given in wealthier countries.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that on average, one in four people in rich countries have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, compared to only one in 500 people in low-income countries.

“There remains a shocking imbalance in the global distribution of vaccines,” Tedros said during a media briefing Friday.

He called COVAX, the U.N.-backed initiative to distribute vaccines fairly, “a strong mechanism that can deliver vaccines faster and more efficiently than any other mechanism.” He noted that COVAX so far has delivered about 38 million doses worldwide, or enough to cover about 0.25% of the global population.

Tedros criticized countries that plan to donate vaccines directly to other nations instead of going through COVAX.

“These bilateral arrangements run the risk of fanning the flames of vaccine inequity,” he said, without explaining why donations that bypass COVAX were problematic.

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MADRID — A senior Madrid region health official is blaming “confusion” over who should have AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine for a drop in the number of people showing up for their jab appointments.

Antonio Zapatero said authorities planned to vaccinate around 32,000 people Friday after opening a third mass vaccination center in the Spanish capital, but only 45% of them had confirmed by Thursday night that they would show up.

On Thursday, fewer than 11,000 of the 29,000 called to two mass vaccination centers received their shots, Zapatero said.

Spanish health authorities said Wednesday night that they would give the AstraZeneca vaccine only to people over 60-years-old, due to possible links between the shot and extremely rare blood clots in people younger than 60.

On Thursday night, officials announced that people between 60 and 69 would get the jab.

Zapatero blamed the uncertainty for the low turnout.

He belongs to Spain’s opposition Popular Party, which is competing in a regional election next month. Among its opponents is the Socialist Party, which runs Spain’s government and sets national health policy.

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PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron acknowledged the U.S. “won the bet” on coronavirus vaccines by investing massively and moving fast with experimental treatments.

He urged his compatriots to join a “national war effort” to administer and make vaccines. Macron visited a French factory Friday that started bottling and packaging Pfizer vaccines this week. He promised France would produce 250 million vaccine doses this year for domestic and global use.

Amid frustration in France that no French company has produced a leading vaccine so far despite a powerful pharmaceutical industry, Macron pledged “24/7” efforts to boost vaccine development and production at sites like the Delpharm plant he visited west of Paris.

France is under a month of new restrictions to ease strain on hospitals fighting a new surge of virus patients. Macron stressed the importance of speeding up vaccine injections and wants “all our country mobilized for vaccines, morning, noon, evening and night.. to administer doses but also to produce them. It’s really collective, national war effort.”

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BERLIN — Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokeswoman says Germany will draw up legislation to ensure that restrictions are imposed uniformly in regions with high coronavirus infection rates.

In highly decentralized Germany, the 16 state governments have far-reaching powers to impose and lift restrictions. Merkel complained recently about what she saw as some states’ backsliding on previously agreed to restrictions in places where infections are rising.

Germany, like many other European countries, has seen a resurgence of confirmed cases as a more contagious variant first detected in Britain has taken hold.

Even as new infections and hospital admissions rise sharply, some state governors have continued to back limited reopening steps, while others advocate a stricter shutdown.

Merkel spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer said Friday that the federal and state governments have agreed to draw up nationwide legislation spelling out what restrictions have to be imposed in areas where there are more than 100 new cases per 100,000 residents over seven days. She said Merkel’s Cabinet will consider the legislation on Tuesday.

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TEHRAN, Iran — Iranian officials said the daily death toll from COVID-19 rose by 155, putting the country’s total at 64,039 as of Friday.

Health Ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari said 22,478 new confirmed cases were registered since a day earlier, bringing Iran’s total in the pandemic to 2,029,412.

At least 2,567 people were hospitalized with the virus, she added.

On Saturday, Iran will start to impose 10 days of restrictions in 257 cities. The closures include all parks, restaurants, beauty salons, malls and bookstores.

Iran has more than 800 cities and towns. Only 11 cities are considered entirely safe in terms of infections and have no restrictions, while the rest have varying degrees of restrictions.

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ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey has posted record daily numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases for the past 10 days, including 55,941 new infections reported late Thursday.

Keen to minimize the pandemic’s repercussions for Turkey’s ailing economy, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan eased infection-control measures in early March. The recent spike forced him to announce renewed restrictions, such as weekend lockdowns and the closure of cafes and restaurants during Ramadan, starting on April 13.

Turkish medical groups say the reopening in March was premature and that the new measures won’t go far enough to curb the surge. They have called for a full lockdown during the holy Muslim month.

“Every single day the number of cases is increasing. Every single day the number of death is increasing. The alarm bells are ringing for the intensive care units,” Ismail Cinel, head of the Turkish Intensive Care Association, said.

The Health Ministry has said that around 75% of the recent infections in Turkey involve the more contagious variant first identified in Britain.

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PARIS — France says people under age 55 who received a first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine should get a different vaccine for their second shot because of an extremely rare risk of a blood clotting disorder.

At the same time, French authorities insisted Friday that the AstraZeneca vaccine is safe, and they continued recommending it for older populations, as the country’s hospitals battle a new surge in virus patients.

“It’s an effective vaccine,” Dominique Le Guludec of France’s High Authority for Health told reporters. “If we want to win the battle against the virus, we must use all weapons at our disposition.”

More than a half-million French people under 55 received a first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine before reports of rare blood clots emerged. Since March 19, France has only offered the vaccine to those over 55.

France’s High Authority for Health said Friday that younger people who have already received the first dose should get booster shots from Pfizer or Moderna vaccines instead.

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ISLAMABAD — Pakistani authorities will restrict inter-city transportation on weekends starting at midnight Friday as part of measures aimed at containing coronavirus cases and deaths.

Bus terminals in the capital, Islamabad, and elsewhere in Pakistan will remain closed for inter-city transport on Saturday and Sunday.

The restriction will not apply on cargo, ambulance service and supply of medical equipment.

On Friday, Pakistan reported 105 virus-related deaths and 5,312 new confirmed cases in 24 hours,, one of the highest daily case numbers in recent months.

Pakistan is in the middle of a third wave of infections. The country has reported a total of 15,229 deaths among 710,829 confirmed cases.