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World ‘nowhere close’ to needed coronavirus herd immunity: Live | News

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  • The World Health Organization has said the planet is nowhere near the amount of coronavirus immunity needed to induce herd immunity, where enough of the population would have antibodies to stop the spread.

  • South Africa relaxes lockdown restrictions allowing bars, restaurants, gyms and places of worship to reopen.

  • The number of people diagnosed with COVID-19 around the world now exceeds 21.8 million, and more than 774,000 people have died, according to Johns Hopkins University. Nearly 13.9 million people have recovered from the disease.

Here are the latest updates.

16:55 GMT – COVID-19 pandemic causes mental health crisis in Americas: WHO official

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a mental health crisis in the Americas due to heightened stress and use of drugs and alcohol during six months of lockdowns and stay-at-home measures, the World Health Organization’s regional director said.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a mental health crisis in our region at a scale we’ve never seen before,” Carissa Etienne said in a virtual briefing from the Pan American Health Organization in Washington.

“It is urgent that mental health support is considered a critical component of the pandemic response.”

What’s the psychological cost of the coronavirus? | Inside Story

16:40 GMT – Pandemic-hit Chile GDP plunges 14 percent

Chile’s GDP plunged 14.1 percent in the second quarter, the Central Bank has said, after the coronavirus pandemic mauled economic activity with the exception of the vital mining sector.

Among the worst-hit sectors were manufacturing, construction and the hotel and restaurant sector. In the first quarter, Chilean GDP had increased slightly by 0.2 percent.

“In the second quarter of the year, economic activity decreased by 14.1 percent compared to the same period last year,” the Central Bank said.

16:25 GMT – Poland’s health minister resigns after virus response criticised

Poland’s Health Minister Lukasz Szumowski has said he was resigning from his post, the second resignation in two days from the ministry, which has faced growing criticism for its handling of the coronavirus crisis.

Szumowski’s approach in the early stages of the pandemic made him Poland’s most trusted politician in April, but his image has been dented by scandals surrounding the purchase of ventilators and masks.

Szumowski has denied any wrongdoing.

16:10 GMT – Lebanon reimposes lockdown amid COVID-19 spike: ministry

Lebanese authorities have announced a new lockdown and an overnight curfew to rein in a spike in coronavirus infections.

The new measures will come into effect on Friday and last just over two weeks, the interior ministry said, adding that they would not affect the clean-up and aid effort following the devastating August 4 Beirut port blast.

The airport is expected to remain open and all traffic to and from is allowed if passengers can show authorities a ticket from their trip.

Lebanese authorities have announced a new lockdown [File: Joseph Eid / AFP]

15:55 GMT – Tennis-Individual tests positive for COVID-19 at US Open bubble

A non-player has tested positive for COVID-19 within the controlled environment that will host this year’s Western & Southern Open and US Open in New York over the next month, the United States Tennis Association has said.

The individual is asymptomatic and has been advised that they must isolate for at least ten days, while contact tracing has been initiated to determine if anyone else must go into quarantine, the USTA said in a statement.

15:40 GMT – UAE sees ‘alarming’ increase in coronavirus cases

 An increase in the number of coronavirus cases over the past two weeks is “alarming” and may herald further increases in the near future, the United Arab Emirates’ health minister has said.

The UAE registered 365 new cases and two deaths over the last 24 hours, the government said, bringing the total number of COVID-19 infections in the Gulf state since the start of the pandemic to 64,906 with 366 deaths.

15:25 GMT – Merkel rules out easing coronavirus rules as German cases spike

Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned there could be no further relaxation of coronavirus restrictions while Germany grapples with a surge in new infections.

She urged Germans to follow the rules on hygiene precautions and reminded travellers returning from risk areas that quarantine was not an option “but a must” so long as they could not show a negative test.

“We are seeing that an increase in mobility and closer contacts are leading to a higher number of cases,” Merkel told a press conference in Duesseldorf.

15:10 GMT – UK records 1,089 new COVID-19 cases

The United Kingdom has recorded 1,089 new positive cases of COVID-19, up from 713 on Monday, government figures showed.

A further 12 people died after testing positive for the coronavirus within 28 days. The UK has recorded more than 1,000 daily cases on eight out of the last 10 days.

14:55 GMT – Dozens of Kenyan doctors strike over lack of PPE, delayed pay

Dozens of doctors in at least two of Kenya’s 47 counties have gone on strike over delayed salaries, inadequate personal protective equipment (PPE) for handling COVID-19 patients and lack of medical insurance, a union official told Reuters.

Kenya has a total 30,636 confirmed infections, with 487 deaths, according to health ministry data.

Healthcare workers say they have not been given adequate PPE, but the government has said it has distributed enough to go round.

14:40 GMT – Brazil greenlights human trials for J&J’s potential vaccine

Brazil has approved human clinical trials for a potential COVID-19 vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson, the fourth candidate to trial in the Latin American country that has become key to the global race for a vaccine.

Health regulator Anvisa said it had given the green light to the study which will see 6,000 people in Brazil volunteer to trial the vaccine contender of Johnson & Johnson’s pharmaceutical subsidiary Janssen.

With the world’s biggest coronavirus outbreak outside the United States, Brazil has become a hub for mass clinical trials of potential vaccines.

Will Brazil’s president be forced to take the coronavirus seriously? | Inside Story


14:35 GMT

Hello, this is Elizabeth Melimopoulos taking over the live updates from my colleague Hamza Mohamed in Doha.


Tuesday, August 18

12:35 GMT – France says masks to be made compulsory in most workplaces

Masks will be compulsory in workplaces in France, apart from individual offices where only one employee is present, the French employment ministry said on Tuesday, as the government looks to fight against a resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ministry added in a statement that working from home would remain its recommended option for employees.

12:05 GMT – Namibia warns about elephant dung cure for coronavirus

The Namibian government is warning its citizens not to trust claims on social media that elephant dung can cure COVID-19, as coronavirus infections rise more rapidly.

The Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism spokesman, Romeo Muyunda, told Reuters the government had observed that elephant dung was increasingly being touted as a COVID-19 cure.

Health Minister Kalumbi Shangula said COVID-19 currently has no known cure.

NAMIBIA - 2019/11/29: African elephant (Loxodonta africana) mother and baby in the Huanib River Valley in northern Damaraland/Kaokoland, Namibia. (Photo by Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Image

Some traditional healers say elephant dung has healing properties, including for treating headaches, toothaches and blocked sinuses, but claiming it can cure COVID-19 is a new trend [Getty Images]

11:25 GMT – Study links COVID-19 to rise in childhood type 1 diabetes

Cases of type 1 diabetes among children in a small UK study almost doubled during the peak of country’s COVID-19 epidemic, suggesting a possible link between the two diseases that needs more investigation, scientists said on Tuesday.

While the study is based on only a handful of cases, it is the first to link COVID-19 and new-onset type 1 diabetes in children, and doctors should be on the lookout, the Imperial College London researchers said.

Karen Logan, who co-led the study, said previous reports from China and Italy had noted that children were being diagnosed in hospitals with new-onset type 1 diabetes during the pandemic.

Diabetes educator Cristofor teaches how to perform a blood sugar test at the Nicolae Paulescu National Institute for Diabetes, Nutrition and Metabolic Diseases in Bucharest

The study, published in the Diabetes Care journal, analysed data from 30 children in London hospitals diagnosed with new-onset type 1 diabetes during the first peak of the pandemic – around double the cases seen in this period in previous years [Radu Sigheti/Reuters]

10:30 GMT – South Africa eases coronavirus restrictions

South Africa, which had one of the world’s strictest anti-coronavirus lockdowns for five months, relaxed its restrictions on Tuesday in response to a decrease in new cases.

The country loosened its regulations to permit the sale of alcohol and cigarettes, and the reopening of bars, restaurants, gyms and places of worship, all limited to no more than 50 people.

Schools will reopen gradually starting August 24.

outside image - south africa

South Africa has recorded more than 589,880 cases and at least 11,982 deaths [Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters]

09:55 GMT – Philippines reports 4,836 new coronavirus cases

The Philippines’ health ministry on Tuesday confirmed 4,836 novel coronavirus infections, the seventh straight day of reporting more than 3,000 cases, and seven additional deaths.

In a bulletin, the ministry said total confirmed cases had increased to 169,213, while deaths had reached 2,687.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday eased the strict coronavirus lockdown in the capital Manila and nearby provinces to reopen the economy and help struggling businesses, despite the country having the highest number of infections in Southeast Asia.

09:20 GMT – French side Marseille confirm three more coronavirus cases

Olympique Marseille have confirmed three more cases of coronavirus at the club, taking the total to four before they open the new Ligue 1 season at home to St Etienne on Friday.

Marseille said in a statement on Tuesday that testing on Monday did not reveal new cases but confirmed three suspected cases from Sunday.

Friendly Match - Bayern Munich vs Olympique Marseille

Marseille cancelled a pre-season friendly with Bundesliga side VfB Stuttgart last week due to a positive test for COVID-19 [Christof Stache/Reuters]

Last season’s Ligue 1 was abandoned due to the global pandemic though Paris Saint-Germain were declared champions.

08:45 GMT – Indonesia reports 1,673 new coronavirus infections

Indonesia reported 1,673 new infections on Tuesday, bringing the total number of cases in the Southeast Asian nation to 143,043, data from the country’s health ministry showed.

The data recorded an additional 70 deaths, taking the total to 6,277.

08:15 GMT – Foreign residents still need permission to return to Dubai

Foreign residents of Dubai who have been overseas still need permission to return to the city, the emirate said.

The United Arab Emirates in March suspended the entry of non-citizens as part of measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease. Residents have since gradually been allowed to return, either after being granted a special exemption or by registering online, though many still remain overseas.

Last week, a federal policy requiring overseas residents to seek approval before they returned to the Gulf state was lifted. However, Dubai still requires residents to apply for an entry permit, the emirate said in a statement.

Those travelling to the UAE need to obtain a negative COVID-19 test before arriving.

The UAE Adjusts To Life Under The Coronavirus Pandemic

The UAE has recorded 64,541 infections and 364 deaths [Francois Nel/Getty]

07:45 GMT – Russia confirms 4,748 new cases

Russia reported 4,748 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, pushing its nationwide tally to 932,493, the fourth largest in the world.

The country’s coronavirus crisis response centre said 132 people had died of the disease in the last 24 hours, bringing the official coronavirus death toll to 15,872.

outside image - Russia coronavirus

Only the US, Brazil and India have recorded more cases than Russia [Pavel Golovkin/AP]

07:30 GMT – UK retailer Marks and Spencer to axe 7,000 jobs

Marks and Spencer, the British retail chain selling clothing and food, is to cut about 7,000 jobs as the coronavirus pandemic keeps shoppers away from its stores, it announced on Tuesday.

The job cuts, to be carried out over the next three months, include losses from its central support centre, in regional management and in its UK stores, M&S said in a statement.

07:20 GMT – Indian minister back in hospital after recovering from COVID-19

India’s Home Minister Amit Shah was hospitalised again on Tuesday after complaining of fatigue and body ache, four days after he said he had recovered from COVID-19.

Shah, a close aide of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the virtual number-two in his cabinet, was admitted to the government-run All India Institute for Medical Sciences in the capital New Delhi, the hospital said in a statement.

“He is comfortable and continuing his work from the hospital,” it said, adding he had now tested negative for COVID-19.

In this file photo taken on February 1, 2020, India's Home Minister Amit Shah gestures as he arrives at the Parliament House in New Delhi. India’s powerful Home Minister Amit Shah -- Prime Minister Na

Shah is the highest-profile Indian politician to have been infected with the coronavirus [File: Prakash Singh/AFP]

India has reported the world’s third-largest number of infections after the United States and Brazil, with cases topping 50,000 every day since July 30.

07:00 GMT – Russian minister to join OPEC meeting after testing positive for COVID-19

Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak will join an OPEC ministers’ video meeting on Wednesday despite testing positive for coronavirus while on a work trip in Russia’s far east, the energy ministry said.

“The minister feels good. He has no symptoms,” a ministry spokeswoman told Reuters news agency.

Novak is in Russia’s far east as part of a government delegation headed by Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin, who had contracted the novel coronavirus in late April.

Victory Day Parade in Moscow

Novak will continue working remotely for the time being, energy ministry spokeswoman Olga Golant said [Maxim Shemetov/Reuters]

06:15 GMT – More than 680 people die of COVID-19 in Brazil

Brazil recorded 684 coronavirus deaths in the last 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 108,536, the country’s health ministry said.

At least 19,373 more people have contracted the virus, the ministry added, taking the total to 3,359,570.

With a population of 46 million, Sao Paulo remains the hardest-hit region in the country with 702,655 cases and 26,899 deaths.

outside image - Latin America

More than 2.48 million people have recovered from the disease in the South American country [Tarso Sarraf/AFP] 

05:45 GMT –

Hello, this is Hamza Mohamed in Doha, Qatar, taking over from my colleague Kate Mayberry in Kuala Lumpur.

05:30 GMT – South Korea braces for second wave, with cases linked to church services

South Korea reported 246 more cases of coronavirus – 235 of them locally acquired – on Tuesday, its fifth day of triple-digit increases.

Of the new cases, 131 were reported in Seoul and 52 in the surrounding Gyeonggi province. 

Scores of cases have been traced to the Sarang Jeil Church in the north of the capital, and authorities have urged people who attended an anti-government rally on Saturday to get tested because some church followers known to have the virus were at the protest.

05:15 GMT – Hongkong Post to test front-line workers

Hongkong Post says it will arrange COVID-19 testing for about 3,800 staff responsible for mail delivery, outdoor duties and counter service.

The tests are scheduled for August 20 and 21 and Hongkong Post expects the process will be completed within two days of taking a specimen. 

04:55 GMT – China’s Sinopharm promises vaccine will be affordable 

China’s state media is reporting that a potential vaccine being developed by a unit of China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm), will cost no more than 1,000 yuan ($144.27) for two shots.

Sinopharm says its vaccine – currently in late-stage human trials in the United Arab Emirates – could be ready for public use by the end of this year.

“It will not be priced very high,” Sinopharm chairman Liu Jingzhen was quoted as saying by the Guangming Daily.

More than 200 vaccines are currently in development with more than 20 in human trials.

04:00 GMT – WHO says younger people increasingly driving pandemic

The World Health Organization’s regional director for the Western Pacific says younger people – those in their 20s, 30s and 40s – are increasingly driving the pandemic.

Takeshi Kasai told a virtual briefing that many were unaware they had the disease.

“This increases the risk of spillovers to the more vulnerable: the elderly, the sick people in long-term care, people who live in densely populated areas and underserved areas,” he said.

03:40 GMT – Mutation of virus could be a ‘good thing’

A prominent expert in infectious diseases says the mutation of the coronavirus into a more infectious strain could be a “good thing” because it appears to be less deadly.

Paul Tambyah, a senior consultant at the National University of Singapore and president-elect of the International Society of Infectious Diseases, says the D614G strain increasingly found in Europe – and this week reported in Malaysia – told Reuters viruses tended to become less deadly as they mutated.

You can read more on that story here.

03:20 GMT – Shenzhen steps up procedures to check frozen goods

While New Zealand may have ruled out frozen food imports as the source of its latest outbreak of coronavirus, Chinese state media reports the southern city of Shenzhen is setting up a warehouse specifically to handle such imports.

All imported frozen foods will have to go through the facility, where they will be disinfected, before they can be processed, stored or sold in Shenzhen. Samples will also be taken for nucleic acid testing.

02:50 GMT – New Zealand rules out link to frozen food and freight in recent outbreak

New Zealand has ruled out frozen food and freight as the cause of the recent coronavirus outbreak in Auckland.

Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield told the media that investigations showed the virus did not come through chilled foods or materials arriving from overseas at a cold storage facility where one of the people diagnosed with the virus worked.

Auckland is in lockdown until August 26 and investigations into the origin of the outbreak are continuing.

02:20 GMT – Coronavirus on agenda as Democrats open convention in US

The Democrats in the US have begun the convention that will officially nominate Joe Biden as the party’s candidate in November’s presidential election.

Actress Eva Longoria opened the event – held virtually because of COVID-19 – by saying that the pandemic had “affected us all”.

Later, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo addressed the convention saying that the administration of incumbent President Donald Trump was “dysfunctional and incompetent” and had failed to tackle the coronavirus. 

You can follow our live updates on the convention here.

02:00 GMT – Rio mayor scraps beach app reservation plan

Rio de Janeiro’s mayor has scrapped plans to launch an app for people to reserve their space on the beach after public ridicule.

Marcelo Crivella was inundated with criticism and a flood of memes on social media after announcing the proposal last week.

The mayor’s office now says the app will be scrapped and sitting on the beach will remain banned.

People have been allowed to swim in the ocean since the end of last month. 

Brazil - coronavirus

An installation on Rio’s Copacabana Beach to honour the people who have died from COVID-19 in Brazil [Antonio Lacerda/EPA]

01:30 GMT – New Zealand reports 13 new cases

New Zealand’s reported 13 new cases of coronavirus over the past 24 hours.

Twelve of the cases are linked to an existing cluster that forced the lockdown of Auckland – the country’s biggest city.

00:30 GMT – Protests in Argentina against extension of coronavirus restrictions

Thousands of people have taken to the streets in cities across Argentina to show their opposition to President Alberto Fernandez and his plans to extend coronavirus restrictions in the region around Buenos Aires.

Demonstrators gathered in the centre of the city shouting “freedom, freedom”, waving flags and chanting anti-government slogans. 

Argentina has recorded nearly 300,000 cases of the disease and 5,750 deaths. About 90 percent of the cases have been in Buenos Aires where the coronavirus curbs have been extended until August 30. 

00:10 GMT – Hopes rise in Victoria that outbreak easing after lowest cases in a month

The Australian state of Victoria has reported its lowest number of coronavirus cases in a month, raising hopes that the second wave outbreak in the state is slowing.

Victoria reported 222 cases of the disease in the last 24 hours.

It also reported a further 17 deaths.

Australia Melbourne

A man walks past a billboard in Melbourne reminding people that face masks are compulsory [William West/AFP] 

00:00 GMT – Museum of Modern Art in New York to reopen on August 27

New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) will reopen – with fewer visitors allowed, timed ticketing and mandatory face masks – on August 27.

MoMA has been closed for five months because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is due to open on August 29, while the Whitney Museum of American Art will reopen on September 3.

—-

Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. I’m Kate Mayberry in Kuala Lumpur.

Read all the updates from yesterday (August 17) here.





Source – www.aljazeera.com

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IAE issues ‘dire warning’ as CO2 emissions set to soar in 2021 | Climate News

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The IAE predicts that carbon dioxide emissions could rise to 33 billion tonnes in 2021 – the second largest rise in emissions ever.

Global carbon emissions are set to jump by five percent marking the largest single increase in more than a decade as the economic rebound from the coronavirus pandemic is “anything but sustainable” for the climate.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) published on Tuesday its annual Global Energy Review predicting that carbon dioxide emissions would rise to 33 billion tonnes this year, up 1.5 billion tonnes from 2020 levels.

“This is a dire warning that the economic recovery from the COVID crisis is currently anything but sustainable for our climate,” IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said.

Birol called the Leaders Summit on Climate to be hosted by US President Joe Biden on Thursday and Friday a critical moment for nations to pledge immediate actions before the UN Climate Change Conference set for November in Glasgow.

“Unless governments around the world move rapidly to start cutting emissions, we are likely to face an even worse situation in 2022,” said Birol.

In early March, the IEA’s chief stressed that the level of carbon emissions in December was higher than the same month the previous year as economies started reopening following coronavirus lockdowns, a figure that the IEA’s chief said was a “stark warning” to leaders around the world.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged countries on Monday to back up their commitments to fight climate change with “concrete immediate action”, including making as their “absolute priority” that no more coal power plants will be built.

Last year, when power use dropped due to the COVID-19 pandemic, energy-related CO2 emissions fell by 5.8 percent to 31.5 billion tonnes, after peaking in 2019 at 33.4 billion tonnes.

The IEA’s annual review analysed the latest national data from around the world, economic growth trends and new energy projects that are set to come into action.

Global energy demand is set to increase by 4.6 percent in 2021, led by developing economies, pushing it above 2019 levels, the report said.

Demand for all fossil fuels is on course to grow in 2021, with both coal and gas set to rise above 2019 levels.

The expected rise in coal use dwarves that of renewables by almost 60 percent, despite accelerating demand for solar, wind and hydro power. More than 80 percent of the projected growth in coal demand in 2021 is set to come from Asia, led by China.

Coal use in the US and the European Union is also on course to increase but will remain well below pre-crisis levels, the IEA said.

The IEA expects both solar and wind to post their largest annual rises ever, at around 17 percent.

It expects renewables will provide 30 percent of electricity generation worldwide in 2021, their biggest share ever and up from less than 27 percent in 2019.

China is expected to account for almost half of that increase.

While demand for oil is rebounding strongly, the IEA expects it to stay below the pre-pandemic level as the aviation sector struggles to recover owing to a slow and patchy vaccine rollout.





Source – www.aljazeera.com

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Victims of Syrian gov’t chemical attacks file case in Sweden | Bashar al-Assad News

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Four NGOs have filed a criminal complaint against members of the Syrian government for deadly attacks in 2013 and 2017.

Four NGOs have announced they have filed a criminal complaint in Sweden against members of the Syrian government, including President Bashar al-Assad, over chemical weapons attacks in 2013 and 2017.

In the complaint filed with Swedish police, the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM), Civil Rights Defenders, Syrian Archive (SA), and the Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI) accuse Syrian officials of chemical attacks using sarin gas, in Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib probvince in 2017 and Ghouta near the capital Damascus in 2013.

“By filing the complaint, we want to support the victims’ struggle for truth and justice,” Hadi al-Khatib, founder and director of Syrian Archive, said in a statement.

“We hope that a Swedish investigation into these crimes will eventually result in trials and convictions of those who ordered and carried out these attacks. Sweden can and should contribute to putting an end to the current state of impunity in Syria,” he added.

Allegations of war crimes can be investigated by Swedish police regardless of where they were committed.

The Syrian government denies ever using chemical weapons against its own civilians in the course of conflict with rebel forces.

The conflict, which began in 2011, has largely subsided with Assad having regained control of most key territory with Russian and Iranian military support.

According to the complaint, the Syrian government used chemical weapons in attacks on the opposition-held towns of Ghouta in 2013 and Khan Sheikhoun in 2017. Hundreds of civilians, including children, were killed.

“In the ten years since the first assaults on pro-democracy protesters in Syria, the government has used chemical weapons more than 300 times to terrorise the civilian population,” said Steve Kostas, a lawyer at the Justice Initiative.

“Swedish authorities can join their counterparts in France and Germany to jointly investigate the use of chemical weapons in Syria and demonstrate that there will be no impunity for the perpetrators of these crimes,” he said in a statement.

Syria has rejected the allegations

A United Nations-commissioned investigation to identify those behind chemical attacks in Syria concluded in 2017 that Syrian government forces had used chlorine and sarin gas.

The first trial of suspected members of Assad’s security services for crimes against humanity, including torture and sexual assault, began in a German court in April 2020.

Meanwhile, the world’s chemical weapons watchdog will decide this week whether to impose unprecedented sanctions on Syria for its alleged use of toxic arms and failure to declare its arsenal.

Member states of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) will weigh a French proposal to suspend Syria’s “rights and privileges” at the body, including its ability to vote.

Damascus is accused of failing to answer key questions after an OPCW probe last year found Syria attacked a rebel-held village with the nerve agent sarin and the toxic chemical chlorine in 2017.

Syria has rejected all the allegations and said the attacks were staged.

Damascus and its ally Moscow have accused Western powers of using the OPCW for a “politicised” campaign against them.



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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Project Force: Silent killers – 21st century submarines | Technology News

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New designs, new technologies and new weapons are shaping the submarines of the future, which are being manufactured right now, in response to global demand for more potent and flexible designs.

Old Cold War fleets are being replaced and conventional subs – smaller but still useful – that can remain underwater for weeks are being built.

Non-nuclear submarines use combustion engines that need oxygen to work. These are fine on the surface but, submerged, they must rely on battery power to operate. Depending on the battery type, submarines cannot submerge for long and need to resurface to recharge their batteries, putting them in a vulnerable position and open to detection by the enemy.

Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) is a technology which solves that problem and allows a submarine to remain submerged and relatively safe for extended periods – weeks instead of days.

First invented in Sweden in the 1990s, AIP is now used in most non-nuclear submarines by 20 navies.

A U-31 submarine goes for its first check-up run at Kiel Bay, northern Germany, in April 2003 [Heribert Proepper/AP Photo]

Only a few countries can afford to run nuclear-powered submarines. Extremely expensive to produce, the reactors of these submarines allow them to stay submerged almost indefinitely.

They can desalinate water for the crew to drink and produce oxygen from seawater for the crew to breathe. Their range is virtually unlimited, allowing them to travel anywhere in the world’s oceans, loaded with their apocalyptic cargo of nuclear missiles. They remain hidden, a guarantee that if an enemy were to strike the home country in a surprise attack, the sub would be able to deliver a retaliatory blow, a nuclear second strike.

With that in mind, attack subs also prowl the oceans, acting as a line of defence. Fast and sleek, they are designed to sink other subs, especially high-value enemy missile submarines. This endless, deadly game of cat and mouse is played out daily under the surface of the world’s oceans as each side hones the skills needed to destroy the other in the event of war.

The non-nuclear U-31 submarine is seen during a first check-up on the Kiel Bay, northern Germany in April 2003 [Heribert Proepper/AP Photo]

Submarines have unique features that make them deadly, the chief one being their stealth. Able to travel undetected underwater, they can strike without warning, the most powerful among them containing missile arsenals that could single-handedly destroy a continent.

The quieter a sub, the stealthier it is. Sound is everything under the sea and billions have been invested into acoustic properties that will muffle a submarine’s engine, as well as in better hull designs which allow water to flow more quietly over the sub’s surface. These hulls are made of materials designed to absorb sonar waves – a sonic version of underwater radar – rather than reflect them back, making them more readily detectable.

Such technological advances allow subs to remain undetected but constant developments in anti-submarine technology are keeping pace – with new, improved ways to detect submarines, making them vulnerable to destruction.

The Komsomolsk-on-Amur, a Project 877 Paltus diesel-electric submarine, takes part in a naval parade marking Russian Navy Day in Vladivostok, Russia on July 26, 2018 [Yuri SmityukTASS via Getty Images]

I can hear you

It is getting harder and harder to hide under the ocean. Underwater sensors can now pick up a submarine’s acoustic trail with greater ease. These sensors can be released from helicopters or planes over an area where a sub is suspected of lurking. The sensors pick up the sub’s sound profile and send the information back to the waiting aircraft. Torpedoes are then dropped into the sea with the intention of homing in on the submarine – now stripped of the one thing keeping it safe – and destroying it.

Anti-submarine warfare is as old as submarines themselves, with designers continually inventing new ways to destroy these potent weapons. Sensors are not just dropped from aircraft; surface ships are also equipped with ever more powerful and sensitive sonar suites that can pick the minute sounds that subs, despite their best efforts, end up making. Some countries have strung whole chains of sensors together across likely approach ways.

The atomic submarine USS George Washington, loaded with 16 Polaris missiles, sets sail from Charleston Harbor on its maiden voyage somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean near Charleston, South Carolina, in the US on November 15, 1960. It was the world’s first nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine [Rudolph Faircloth/AP Photo]

During the Cold War, for instance, the United States installed one called SOSUS, or Sound Surveillance System, across what is known as the GIUK gap; the area of the Atlantic Ocean between Greenland, Iceland and the United Kingdom. This was and still is the likely approach route for Russian submarines heading from their bases in the Kola Peninsula near Murmansk into the North Atlantic. This impressive system, covering hundreds of kilometres, was able to detect even the best Soviet submarines at the time, providing the US with vital information about their location and direction of travel. The SOSUS nets were extremely effective during the Cold War at picking up submarines moving in and out of the Atlantic.

Russia still uses this route. Last year, it sent 10 submarines through this gap which, while 1,500km wide, is still considered a choke point for naval vessels. In one of the biggest Russian deployments since the end of the Cold War, the exercise was designed to test whether they could be detected by NATO. The resulting detection by Western navies showed Russia that they were still vulnerable to potential destruction.

An aerial view of the K-549 Knyaz Vladimir Borei-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine at the Sevmash shipbuilding enterprise, a subsidiary of the United Shipbuilding Corporation, in the city of Severodvinsk, Russia [Sergei Bobylev/TASS via Getty Images]

Russia has spent billions upgrading its antiquated fleet with new designs that make already quiet submarines even quieter. The new Borei-class subs are faster, more manoeuvrable, with their new pump jet propulsor systems which have replaced traditional propellers, making them even quieter. There are now better missiles which carry multiple warheads, with greater ranges, allowing the subs to hit targets thousands of kilometres away. The Russian Navy plans to build 12 of them, with half going to the Northern Fleet and the other half to the Pacific.

The developments do not stop there. A new class of Russian submarine, the Khabarovsk, will be fitted to carry the giant superfast autonomous nuclear torpedo, Poseidon, in effect an underwater nuclear-powered drone, capable of speeds of up to 180km/h (112mph) and armed with a huge, multi-megaton nuclear warhead. The torpedo’s range is virtually unlimited and is designed to destroy ports, coastal cities and large fleet concentrations.

The Poseidon nuclear-powered and nuclear-armed unmanned underwater vehicle during the final stage of testing  [TASSTASS via Getty Images]

Future plans

Russia is not the only country upgrading its submarines. France, the UK and the US are all developing and building the next class of missile and attack sub. They can dive deeper to avoid detection and advances in engine design mean they are even quieter and therefore stealthier than previous generations. Many of these designs have already been fielded, while others are near completion.

China and India are also working on their own improved nuclear sub designs in an effort to dominate their own seas and keep up with regional competitors. There can be setbacks. India’s first nuclear-powered missile sub, the INS Arihant, was damaged when a hatch was left open, allowing water to partially flood the sub. The design has since been finalised and a second missile sub, or SSBN, INS Arighat is undergoing trials.

It is not all about nuclear propulsion. Improvements in Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) now allow non-nuclear submarines some of the advantages of their nuclear cousins.

Able to stay submerged for weeks at a time, these cheaper submarines give middle-ranking naval powers an affordable way to enhance their naval firepower, while also using their stealthy abilities to gather intelligence and land special forces teams ashore, their mission flexibility giving their commanders more options.

A Marlin-350 unmanned remotely operated underwater vehicle during an anti-sabotage military drill held by a special unit of the Russian Northern Fleet [Lev Fedoseyev/TASS via Getty Images]

Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUVs), are also starting to make their presence felt. These robot subs can gather intelligence, lay mines and sweep the seas around them for enemy vessels. The US navy is planning a whole range of them, such as Boeing’s Orca, with other navies following suit. Able to operate autonomously, they can stay at sea for months at a time, sending valuable data back to their headquarters while remaining hidden. At least that is the idea. No country has publicly claimed a robotic submersible that was found a few years ago by a Chinese fishing vessel in the South China Sea. It was capable of satellite communications and recording images, and was suspected by the Chinese authorities of being used to spy on Chinese naval activity in the area.

China itself is developing its own fleet of unmanned AI-controlled submarines that, once completed, will be capable of a wide variety of missions. Without having to worry about keeping a human crew safe, these robot subs can be smaller, stay at sea almost indefinitely and operate at greater depths as they can be built differently to withstand the incredible pressures of the very deep sea.

Even minor nuclear power North Korea is researching how to turn small, yet quiet diesel-electric subs into missile carriers for its fledgeling nuclear weapons arsenal. Pyongyang is keen to develop its own invulnerable second strike retaliatory capability, ensuring the survival of the country.

This September 2019 photo made available by the US Coast Guard, shows crew members of the cutter Valiant as they board a self-propelled semi-submersible in international waters. The US Coast Guard says a cutter seized a ‘narco’ submarine carrying cocaine worth a street value of more than $165m while patrolling in the eastern Pacific Ocean [US Coast Guard via AP)

Narco-subs

The advantages of staying undetected are not lost on crime syndicates and a new class of drug-smuggling submarine, or “narco-sub”, is being discovered by the Peruvian and Colombian authorities.

Often built on the banks of remote jungle rivers in South America, narco-subs have increased in size and sophistication allowing larger and larger payloads of drugs to be smuggled undetected.

Initially towed underwater by a surface vessel, they now have their own propulsion systems and can travel further and further, smuggling tonnes of drugs at a time up the coast and also, on occasion, rendezvous with merchant vessels far out to sea, transferring their cargo away from prying eyes. These are not true submarines in the sense that they can dive deep underwater as they stay just below the surface, avoiding the attention of coastguard vessels and naval patrols.

Soldiers stand on a seized submarine in the jungle region of La Loma in Ecuador on July 3, 2010. DEA officials said that the diesel electric-powered submarine was constructed in a remote jungle and captured near a tributary close to the Ecuador-Colombia border and is capable of transporting tonnes of cocaine. Ecuadorean authorities seized the sub before it could make its maiden voyage [AP Photo]

For submarines generally, the future is looking increasingly automated. Submarines will be able to do more with smaller crews or, in many cases, no crews at all.

As detection technology develops, so, too, will the stealthy abilities of subs as opposing navies try to outwit each other. These silent killers are able to watch and report on enemy activity and, in some cases, destroy their targets without anyone detecting their presence.

With enhanced weapons like hypersonic missiles being developed, submarines are growing deadlier with each new generation. While major powers are sticking with nuclear propulsion, other countries are investing in cheaper, yet capable alternatives.

New advances in fuel cells mean that these new, non-nuclear subs can stay underwater for weeks if not months. Developments in sensor technology and design allow them to run with far smaller crews while still increasing the range of missions they can undertake. In short, subs are here to stay and underwater warfare is about to enter a new and important phase.



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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