The World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has said that a WHO team in China is working with producers of the Sinovac and Sinopharm vaccines for potential emergency use listings.
"I'm pleased that a WHO team is in China currently working with producers of the Sinovac and Sinopharm vaccines to assess compliance with international quality manufacturing practices ahead of potential emergency use listing by WHO," Tedros said at a recent media briefing.
He noted that WHO continues to ask vaccine manufacturers from around the world to move swiftly to provide necessary data that will allow the organization to consider them for emergency use listings.
"While we are hopeful about the safe and effective vaccines that are being rolled out, we want to see this sped up and vaccines allocated equitably in the coming weeks," Tedros said.
Researchers from the University of Milan have recently found that a woman in the northern Italian city was infected with COVID-19 in November 2019, according to media reports.
Also read: Covid-19 immunity may lasts for years: Study
Through two different techniques on skin tissue, the researchers identified in a biopsy of a 25-year-old woman the presence of RNA gene sequences of the SARS-CoV-2 virus dating back to November 2019, according to Italian regional daily newspaper L'Unione Sarda.
"There are, in this pandemic, cases in which the only sign of COVID-19 infection is that of a skin pathology," Raffaele Gianotti, who coordinated the research, was quoted by the newspaper as saying.
Also read: Global Covid death toll nearing 2 million
"I wondered if we could find evidence of SARS-CoV-2 in the skin of patients with only skin diseases before the officially recognized epidemic phase began," said Gianotti, adding "we found 'the fingerprints' of COVID-19 in the skin tissue."
Based on data in the world literature, this is "the oldest evidence of the presence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in a human being," said the report. Enditem
Malaysia’s king Tuesday approved a coronavirus emergency that will suspend parliament at least until August and halt any bids to seek a general election in a political reprieve for embattled Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.
Muhyiddin assured citizens in a televised speech that the emergency was “not a military coup and curfew will not be enforced.” He said his civilian government will remain in charge during the emergency, that will last until Aug. 1 or earlier depending on the situation.
The emergency declaration came as a surprise just a day before millions of people in Malaysia’s biggest city Kuala Lumpur, the administrative capital Putrajaya and five high-risk states return to a near-lockdown for two weeks.
It also comes amid threats by the United Malays National Organization, the largest party in the ruling coalition, to withdraw support from Muhyiddin to force an early general election. Many in UMNO are unhappy that the party is playing second fiddle to Muhyiddin’s own Malay party.
Muhyiddin said the national parliament and state legislatures will be suspended and no election is allowed during the emergency. He pledged to call a general election once the crisis has eased and it is safe to hold polls.
Oh Ei Sun, a senior fellow at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, said most people could understand the need for movement curbs but an emergency declaration appeared overblown as it is unclear how that could help slow the virus spread.
“It’s very clearly a political move from the Muhyiddin side to preempt political challenges from both his rivals in his ruling coalition as well as the opposition,” he said.
Malaysia last declared an emergency in 1969 after bloody racial riots that killed hundreds. The king, who can declare a state of emergency that allows the country to be governed through ordinances that cannot be challenged in court, had in October rejected Muhyiddin’s request to declare an emergency.
King Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah said at the time that existing laws were sufficient to halt the virus spread. But in a palace statement Tuesday, the monarch said he took into account public safety and the country’s best interest in giving his consent after meeting Muhyiddin late Monday.
The king said he was worried as the pandemic has rose to a critical level and at the same time, some parts of the country are struggling with floods that have displaced thousands.
Malaysia’s virus cases have spiraled from just over 15,000 three months ago to 138,224, including 555 deaths, in a fresh outbreak triggered by a local election.
Muhyiddin, in announcing the lockdown Monday, warned the country’s healthcare system was at “breaking point.” He said daily coronavirus cases, which have consistently breached 2,000 in recent weeks, could jump to 8,000 by the end of May if nothing is done. The health ministry also said it has identified the first case of a highly contagious U.K. variant in the country.
Separately, Home Minister Hamzah Zainuddin became the third Cabinet minister in days to test positive for the virus, his office said Tuesday.
Under the renewed curbs from Wednesday, social gatherings and interstate travel are banned and movement is limited within a 10-kilometer (6-mile) radius, similar to a national lockdown in March 2020. However, certain sectors in manufacturing, construction, services, trade and distribution, and plantations will be allowed to operate with strict guidelines.
Muhyiddin assured investors that “Malaysia is open for business.”
“This period of emergency will give us much needed calm and stability, as well as enable us to focus on economic recovery and regeneration,” he said.
Muhyiddin took power in March after instigating the collapse of the reformist alliance that won 2018 elections and joined with the opposition to form a Malay-centric government. But his government is shaky with a razor-thin majority in Parliament.
Josef Benedict, a researcher with rights group CIVICUS Monitor, said the emergency appeared to be another bid by Muhyiddin to “hold on to power, block elections and to remove parliamentary oversight” rather than seriously addressing the pandemic.
“A dark day for democracy,” he tweeted.
The FBI is warning of plans for armed protests at all 50 state capitals and in Washington, D.C., in the days leading up to President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, stoking fears of more bloodshed after last week’s deadly siege at the U.S. Capitol.
An internal FBI bulletin warned, as of Sunday, that the nationwide protests may start later this week and extend through Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration, according to two law enforcement officials who read details of the memo to The Associated Press. Investigators believe some of the people are members of extremist groups, the officials said. The bulletin was first reported by ABC.
“Armed protests are being planned at all 50 state capitols from 16 January through at least 20 January, and at the U.S. Capitol from 17 January through 20 January,” the bulletin said, according to one official. The officials were not authorized to speak publicly and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.
The FBI issued at least one other bulletin — they go out to law enforcement nationwide on the topic — before the riots last week. On Dec. 29, it warned of the potential for armed demonstrators targeting legislatures, the second official said.
“While our standard practice is to not comment on specific intelligence products, the FBI is supporting our state, local, and federal law enforcement partners with maintaining public safety in the communities we serve,” the bureau said in a statement. “Our efforts are focused on identifying, investigating, and disrupting individuals that are inciting violence and engaging in criminal activity.”
The FBI said it wasn’t focused on peaceful protests but “on those threatening their safety and the safety of other citizens with violence and destruction of property.”
Army Gen. Daniel Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, told reporters Monday that the Guard is also looking at any issues across the country,
“We’re keeping a look across the entire country to make sure that we’re monitoring, and that our Guards in every state are in close coordination with their local law enforcement agencies to provide any support requested,” he said.
The riots followed weeks of online calls for violence in the nation’s capital in the waning days of Donald Trump’s presidency. There have been several arrests, and at least two Capitol police officers, one who took a selfie with rioters, and another who put on a Make America Great Again hat, were suspended. At least a dozen more are under investigation, according to lawmakers.
A tweet in which Trump promised that last Wednesday’s event in Washington, D.C., “will be wild” fueled a “month-long frenzy of incitements, strategizing, and embrace of violence against lawmakers,” according to a research group that tracks online extremism activity, In a report issued Saturday, the SITE Intelligence Group also warned that the Capitol attack has emboldened Trump-supporting extremists.
Also read: Capitol Police says officer dies after riots
“No matter how all this plays out, its only the beginning,” posted a user on TheDonald message board, according to the report.
Mark Pitcavage, a senior research fellow at the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, said authorities in state capitals and other major cities besides Washington should prepare for the possibility of violent protests next week.
“A lot of people were energized by what happened last week,” he said. “State capitals are a natural place where people might want to show up, especially assuming that they think there might be a huge presence of police and military in D.C. because of what happened last week.”
Pitcavage tracks militia, white supremacists and other far-right extremists, but he said the Capitol siege demonstrated the emergence of a new movement of ”Trumpist extremists, so caught up in the cult of personality around Trump that they may be willing to break the law or engage in violence purely in support of Trump and whatever he wants.”
The talk of armed marches next week isn’t limited to “radicalized” Trump supporters. State capital events on Jan. 17 appear to be promoted by supporters of the anti-government, pro-gun “boogaloo” movement. Boogaloo followers advocate for a second civil war or the collapse of society, and they don’t adhere to a coherent political philosophy.
Posts on social media sites also have promoted a “Million Militia March” on the day of Biden’s inauguration. Pitcavage said the event, apparently organized by a promoter of the pro-Trump “QAnon” conspiracy theory, appears unlikely to draw a massive crowd.
Javed Ali, a former FBI senior intelligence officer who teaches courses in counterterrorism at the University of Michigan, said it can be challenging for law enforcement to identify the line between people exercising their constitutionally protected rights to bear arms and free speech and those who pose “a real operational threat.”
“The FBI just can’t passively sit in websites and forums and social media platforms, waiting to see who’s going to present a direct threat versus just someone who is being highly radicalized,” he said. “There has to be an investigative predicate for the FBI to then start even the lowest form of an investigation.”
David Deitch, an attorney who was a prosecutor in the Justice Department’s counterterrorism section from 2003 to 2007, said law enforcement must recognize a “tenuous balance” between protected free speech and speech that intends to incites violence.
“It’s a very fact-based, case-by-case determination,” he said. “There’s no one factor that’s going to determine all of it. It’s certainly going to be a judgment call on the part of law enforcement about whether and when to intervene.”
Experts from the World Health Organization are due to arrive in China this week for a long-anticipated investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, the government said Monday.
The experts will arrive on Thursday and meet with Chinese counterparts, the National Health Commission said in a one-sentence statement that gave no other details.
It wasn’t immediately clear whether the experts would be traveling to the central Chinese city of Wuhan, where the coronavirus was first detected in late 2019.
Negotiations for the visit have long been underway. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus expressed disappointment last week over delays, saying that members of the international scientific team departing from their home countries had already started on their trip as part of an arrangement between the WHO and the Chinese government.
China’s government has strictly controlled all research at home into the origins of the virus, an Associated Press investigation found, while state-owned media have played up fringe theories that suggest the virus could have originated elsewhere.
The AP investigation found that China’s government is handing out hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants to scientists researching the virus’ origins in southern China. But it is monitoring their findings and mandating that the publication of any data or research must be approved by a new task force managed by China’s Cabinet, under direct orders from President Xi Jinping, according to internal documents obtained by the AP.
The culture of secrecy is believed to have delayed warnings about the pandemic, blocked the sharing of information with the WHO and hampered early testing. Australia and other countries have called for an investigation into the origins of the virus, prompting angry responses from Beijing.
After Tedros’ statement, China’s Foreign Ministry said that the country was open to a visit by WHO experts, but that it was still working on “necessary procedures and relevant concrete plans.” China’s disease experts are currently busy with multiple small-scale virus clusters and outbreaks that have been reported in the past couple of weeks, ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said.
“Our experts are wholeheartedly in the stressful battle to control the epidemic,” Hua said.
There was no immediate comment from the WHO on Monday’s announcement, but U.N. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric had earlier told reporters at U.N. headquarters in New York that Secretary-General Antonio Guterres “is fully supportive of Dr. Tedros’ and WHO’s efforts to get a team in there.”
“It’s very important that as the WHO is in the lead in fighting the pandemic, that it also has a leading role in trying to look back at the roots of this pandemic so we can be better prepared for the next one,” Dujarric said. “We very much hope” that China’s reported comments that it is working with the WHO and looking for a smooth visit “will happen.”
The virus’ origins have been the source of intense speculation, much of it centered around the likelihood that it was carried by bats and passed to humans through an intermediary species sold as food or medicine in traditional Chinese wet markets.
Also Read: WHO working with Google to combat virus misinformation
China has largely stemmed new cases of domestic transmission, but said Monday that scores of people have tested positive for the coronavirus in Hebei province, bordering Beijing.
That outbreak comes amid measures to curb the further spread of the virus during next month’s Lunar New Year holiday. Authorities have called on citizens not to travel, ordered schools closed a week early and conducted testing on a massive scale.
China has recorded 87,536 total cases of the virus, including 4,634 deaths. Hospitals are currently treating 673 people for COVID-19, while 506 others are in isolation and under observation after testing positive without showing symptoms., officials said.
Also Read: Whole country now at low virus risk: China
The Hebei outbreak has raised particular concern because of the province’s proximity to Beijing. Parts of the province are under lockdown and interprovincial travel has been largely cut off, with those entering Beijing to work having to show proof of employment and a clean bill of health.
Beijing has also seen a handful of new cases, prompting authorities to lock down some suburban communities and require residents to show negative test results to access grocery stores and other public spaces.