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Coronavirus surges in Quito after Ecuador eases lockdown | News

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Struggling to breathe, Luis Gualotuna arrived before dawn Wednesday at a coronavirus testing site in the Ecuadorian capital of Quito, which has experienced an alarming surge in COVID-19 cases since the government started to reopen the economy last month.

Hours later, Gualotuna was still in a long line, waiting.

“My throat hurts, my body hurts. I have general discomfort, and I came here to find out if I have COVID. There is nothing left to do but wait,” said Gualotuna, a 34-year-old unemployed carpenter.

The new coronavirus first tore through the port city of Guayaquil in March and April, killing hundreds and horrifying people around the world with scenes of bodies left in the street as authorities struggled to cope with the pandemic. The situation in Guayaquil has since stabilised, but now, hospitals in Quito are filling up and the crematoria at funeral parlours are pushed to keep up with demand.

There have been 82,300 confirmed infections of the new coronavirus in Ecuador and about 5,600 deaths from the disease that it causes, COVID-19. Another 3,353 deaths are believed to be linked to the virus. The country has a population of more than 17 million.

People waiting in line to get COVID-19 tests, outside a health clinic in Quito, Ecuador [AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa] 

Quito has registered 12,747 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 605 deaths. On June 30, it had reported about half as many cases and 464 deaths. The health crisis has been compounded by the relaxation of social distancing measures as Ecuador tries to get its economy moving again, and by the arrival of the seasonal flu.

“The public is very afraid of the slightest respiratory symptom,” said Dr Marco de la Torre, graduate professor at Central University in Quito. “Queries have exploded for fear of COVID-19, although many have the common flu.”

In past days, hundreds of people with breathing problems have been waiting in line to get coronavirus tests at medical attention sites installed by the municipality. Military tents, some hooked up to an oxygen supply, were erected outside some hospitals to serve a growing number of patients.

Ambato, Cuenca, Santo Domingo de los Colorados and some other cities in Ecuador face a similarly difficult situation, said Health Minister Juan Carlos Zevallos. But he said the government was managing the situation and that “they do not compare in any way to what is happening in the rest of Latin America.”

Brazil, Mexico and Peru, among the hardest-hit countries in Latin America, have reported a combined death toll from COVID-19 of about 150,000. The virus has killed more than 660,000 people worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University, which keeps a daily tally. The actual numbers are likely to be higher.

Some Ecuadorians are flouting social distancing protocols, selling items in close proximity in the street, or organising parties and informal sporting events.

Ecuador 3

The Ecuadorian capital has experienced a surge in COVID-19 cases since the government started to reopen the economy last month [AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa] 

There are “pockets of disobedience that can trigger infections at a time when we need more control,” although most people comply with the guidelines, said government minister Maria Paula Romo.

For now, many in Quito are waiting – for a better economy, for coronavirus test results, for news of hospitalised relatives.

Marcos De la Cruz stood outside a state hospital in southern Quito on Wednesday. Inside was his brother-in-law, 37-year-old Eddy Rodriguez.

“He can no longer walk, we must hold him from both sides, and he tested positive for COVID,” said De la Cruz, his voice breaking with emotion. “We do not know what will happen.”



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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Yellen: Private funds also needed to tackle climate change | Climate News

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The cost of achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 could climb to $2.5 trillion over 10 years for the US alone, according to one estimate.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said private financing, and not just government spending, will be needed to tackle the “existential threat” of climate change.

The overall cost of achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 — in line with the 2015 Paris Agreement that the U.S. has rejoined — could run to $2.5 trillion over 10 years for the U.S. alone, according to one estimate, Yellen said in a speech to a virtual conference Wednesday organized by the Institute of International Finance.

“It’s going to be tremendously important for the financial services industry to marshal and allocate capital that’s needed to make the transition toward net-zero” emissions, she said in a question-and-answer segment that followed the speech. “Massive investments are likely to be needed and the bulk has to be private.”

The Treasury chief also highlighted the need to strengthen financial risk disclosures — making them more reliable, consistent and comparable across markets and countries — so investors can accurately gauge risks and opportunities.

Yellen pledged that the U.S. will help developing countries that are especially vulnerable to threats from climate change, but stopped short of making any specific financial promises on that front.

The infrastructure-focused economic proposal that President Joe Biden unveiled last month, including money to address climate change, “will be the most significant public investment in America since the 1960s, dramatically reducing U.S. emissions by greening the electricity and transportation sectors,” Yellen said.

Biden Summit

Yellen’s comments come as Biden convenes the leaders of 40 nations, corporate executives and union leaders in a two-day virtual summit on the climate change, with a focus on how to galvanize finance in the endeavor.

While many recent international climate-change discussions have focused on the role of multilateral development banks and formal climate-assistance programs, the conversation at the summit will include a more expansive look at the role of private funds in propelling clean energy and building resilience, administration officials said Wednesday.

Yellen said the Treasury is involved in a number of initiatives aimed at removing hurdles, including efforts to improve financial reporting and increasing the reliability of climate-related disclosures.

The Financial Stability Oversight Council, a multi-agency body of regulators chaired by Yellen, will be the Treasury’s principal tool in attempting to minimize financial-sector risks associated with climate change, she said.

“It’s FSOC’s job to understand these risks, to coordinate across U.S. regulatory agencies in assessing the risks and, if necessary and appropriate, acting to mitigate risks to overall U.S. financial stability,” she said in the Q&A.

Global Harmonization

Yellen said U.S. officials will also work with the multilateral Financial Stability Board and other international bodies to make reporting requirements consistent and comparable across borders. She endorsed a “solid framework” for climate-related disclosures from an FSB task force chaired by Michael R. Bloomberg, founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.

Yellen didn’t offer any specific new pledge of additional U.S. government funding to help developing nations adapt to a warming planet or build clean-energy projects.

Rich countries promised in 2009 that by 2020 they’d collectively devote $100 billion annually to climate finance, but have fallen far short. As the world’s No. 2 emitter of greenhouse-gas emissions, the U.S. is under pressure to loosen its purse strings.



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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‘Chad is not a monarchy’, rebels warn interim president 

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Gen Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno

Gen Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno

The son of the late President Idriss Deby Itno of Chad has been named interim president of the central African nation by a transitional military council.

Wednesday’s announcement comes a day after 37-year-old Gen Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno was named head of the 18-month council as the army announced the death of his 68-year-old father from injuries sustained while visiting troops on the front line.

A rebel force known as the Front for Change and Concord in Chad, known by its French acronym FACT, has advanced from the north in recent days toward the capital, N’Djamena. The group had been based in neighbouring Libya. The rebel group released a statement Tuesday vowing to take the capital and depose the younger Deby.   
 
“Chad is not a monarchy,” the statement read. “There can be no dynastic devolution of power in our country.”
 
A day before his death, the elder Deby was declared the winner of Chad’s April 11 election with 79 per cent of the vote, giving him a sixth term in office. Most opposition groups had boycotted the poll, citing arrests and a government ban on opposition rallies.  

Deby had ruled Chad since coming to power in a December 1990 coup, making him one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders. Opponents called him an autocrat and criticized his management of Chadian oil revenue. In 2008, a different rebel force reached N’Djamena and came close to toppling Deby before French and Chadian army forces drove them out of the city.
 
In the West, however, Deby was seen as an important ally in the fight against Islamist extremist groups in West Africa and the Sahel, like Nigeria-based Boko Haram.
 
The Libya-based FACT had attacked a border post on the day of the election and then moved hundreds of kilometres toward the capital. On Monday, the Chadian army said it had inflicted a heavy loss on the rebels, killing more than 300 of them.



Source – observer.ug

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COVID vaccine scarcity and fake doses hamper efforts in Americas | Latin America News

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Amid a limited supply of vaccines, COVID-19 cases have been on the rise across the Americas, PAHO officials said.

Amid a scramble to secure enough coronavirus vaccines in the Americas, there are reports of fake doses proliferating on the black market in several countries in the region, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said on Wednesday.

“We have received some information from Mexico, Argentina and Brazil that some doses have been offered through social media, illegal markets offering vaccines that probably are falsified,” Jarbas Barbosa, assistant director of PAHO said during a weekly news conference.

“They are not real vaccines or maybe they are stolen doses from a health facility that no one can assure that they were properly stored,” Barbosa said.

A woman receiving a dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine, during a vaccination day campaign in Duque de Caxias near Rio de Janeiro, Brazil [Ricardo Moraes/Reuters]

On Wednesday, The Wall Street Journal reported that Pfizer had identified counterfeit vaccines in Mexico and in Poland. According to the report, 80 people in Mexico had been jabbed with fake doses in a clinic, after paying $1,000 per dose.

According to the report, the people who received the fake vaccines were not adversely affected. Citing authorities, the report said in Poland the fake vaccines were seized before they were administered.

During Wednesday’s news conference, PAHO Director Carissa Etienne said the organisation was also concerned about vaccine hesitancy. She said “insidious rumours and conspiracy theories” were “inspiring fear and costing lives”.

She said PAHO was working with tech companies to tackle misinformation that has quickly proliferated on the internet and on social media sites.

“Because unreliable information spreads quickly, PAHO is collaborating with tech companies like Twitter, Google, and Facebook to address fake news and ensure the public can easily find accurate information,” she said.

The reports of fake vaccines and vaccine hesitancy in the Americas came amid a scarce supply of vaccines in the region, and a rising number of COVID-19 cases.

Brazil has so far vaccinated 11.6 percent of its population and Mexico has vaccinated 8.7 percent. Other nations in the region are lagging behind [Ricardo Moraes/Reuters]

“Latin America is the region that currently has the greatest need for vaccines,” Etienne said, “this region should be prioritised for distribution of vaccines.”

“No one will be safe until we are all safe.”

Nearly half of the world’s coronavirus deaths during the weekend were in the Americas, Etienne said, adding that nearly every country in Central America is reporting a rise in infections. Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, she said were the worst hit.

“Over the weekend, the world reached a tragic milestone – more than three million have lost their lives to COVID, and nearly half of these deaths happened right here in the Americas,” Etienne said.

Chile is seeing a plateau in cases, while Brazil is reporting a drop. But despite the drop, Etienne said, cases in Brazil “remain alarmingly high.” Argentina ranked third regionally in the weekly number of new cases. Colombia, Venezuela, Bolivia and Uruguay were also seeing a worsening. And Mexico, after weeks of decline in new cases, is seeing a slight increase.

Regionally, the United States and Chile have made the most progress in their vaccination campaigns – both have vaccinated about 40 percent of their population – according to Our World in Data.

Uruguay has inoculated more than 30 percent of its population while Brazil has so far vaccinated 11.6 percent and Mexico has vaccinated about 8.7 percent. Other nations in the region are lagging behind.

During the news briefing, officials said most of the region’s countries are relying on the global COVAX mechanism, which aims to equitably distribute vaccines to developing nations.

Etienne said more than 4.2 million vaccine doses have so far been supplied to 29 countries in the Americas through COVAX, and more doses are on the way.





Source – www.aljazeera.com

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