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Biden orders review of US intel on origins of coronavirus | Coronavirus pandemic News

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President Joe Biden says the US will press China to participate in a ‘full and transparent’ investigation into coronavirus origins.

United States President Joe Biden has instructed US spy agencies to review classified information about the origins of the coronavirus, including whether it came from contact between humans and animals, or from a research laboratory in China.

In a statement on Wednesday, Biden said the US intelligence community has “coalesced around two likely scenarios”, but has yet to reach a definitive conclusion as to where the coronavirus originated.

It also does not have high confidence in its current conclusions, and remains divided on which is most likely.

As a result, Biden said he has asked US intelligence agencies “to redouble their efforts to collect and analyse information that could bring us closer to a definitive conclusion” and report back to him in 90 days.

“As part of that report, I have asked for areas of further inquiry that may be required, including specific questions for China,” the US president said.

A World Health Organization (WHO) study released at the end of March concluded that transmission of the virus from bats to humans through another animal was the most likely scenario and that a lab leak was “extremely unlikely”.

Questions persist, however, about the level of access WHO investigators had during a fact-finding mission in Wuhan, China, as well as earlier reports of illness among researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

A group of 14 countries raised concerns about the WHO report, citing delays and a lack of full access to data, while the WHO chief also called for further investigation into the theory the outbreak was the result of a laboratory leak. China has strongly rejected that accusation.

US intelligence agencies, meanwhile, have been examining reports that researchers at the Wuhan virology laboratory were seriously ill in 2019, one month before the first cases of COVID-19 were reported.

But US government sources cautioned earlier this week that there is still no proof the disease originated at the lab.

A still-classified US intelligence report circulated during former President Donald Trump’s administration alleged that three Wuhan Institute of Virology researchers became so ill in November 2019 that they sought hospital care, sources familiar with the US intelligence reporting and analysis told the Reuters news agency.

It remained unclear whether the researchers were hospitalised or what their symptoms were, said one of the sources, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity.

China’s foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said on Monday that the reports were “completely untrue”.

Meanwhile, Biden said on Wednesday that “the United States will also keep working with like-minded partners around the world to press China to participate in a full, transparent, evidence-based international investigation and to provide access to all relevant data and evidence”.

White House Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the president’s directive should not be interpreted as a US rejection of the WHO study, but rather aimed at providing the best US information and resources to resolve ongoing questions.

“The WHO doing their thing and the [intelligence community] doing what they’re doing currently is not mutually exclusive,” Jean-Pierre said.

“This is something that could happen at the same time,” she told reporters at the White House.



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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Explainer: What is the Delta Plus variant of COVID-19? | Coronavirus pandemic News

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Scientists worry the mutation, coupled with other existing features of the Delta variant, could make it more transmissible.

India on Wednesday said it has found about 40 cases of the Delta coronavirus variant carrying a mutation that appears to make it more transmissible, and advised states to increase testing.

Here is what we know about the variant.

What is Delta Plus?

The variant, called Delta Plus in India, was first reported (PDF) in a Public Health England bulletin on June 11.

It is a sublineage of the Delta variant first detected in India and has acquired the spike protein mutation, called K417N, which is also found in the Beta variant first identified in South Africa.

Some scientists worry that the mutation, coupled with other existing features of the Delta variant, could make it more transmissible.

“The mutation K417N has been of interest as it is present in the Beta variant (B.1.351 lineage), which was reported to have immune evasion property,” India’s health ministry said in a statement.

Shahid Jameel, a top Indian virologist, said the K417N was known to reduce the effectiveness of a cocktail of therapeutic monoclonal antibodies.

Where all it has been found?

As of June 16 (PDF), at least 197 cases have been found in 11 countries – Britain (36), Canada (1), India (8), Japan (15), Nepal (3), Poland (9), Portugal (22), Russia (1), Switzerland (18), Turkey (1), the United States (83).

India said on Wednesday about 40 cases of the variant have been observed in the states of Maharashtra, Kerala and Madhya Pradesh, with “no significant increase in prevalence”. The earliest case in India is from a sample taken on April 5.

Britain said its first five cases were sequenced on April 26 and they were contacts of individuals who had travelled from, or transited through, Nepal and Turkey.

No deaths were reported among the United Kingdom and Indian cases.

What are the worries?

Studies are continuing in India and globally to test the effectiveness of vaccines against this mutation.

“WHO is tracking this variant as part of the Delta variant, as we are doing for other Variants of Concern with additional mutations,” the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a statement sent to Reuters news agency.

“For the moment, this variant does not seem to be common, currently accounting for only a small fraction of the Delta sequences … Delta and other circulating Variants of Concern remain a higher public health risk as they have demonstrated increases in transmission,” it said.

But India’s health ministry warned that regions where it has been found “may need to enhance their public health response by focusing on surveillance, enhanced testing, quick contact-tracing and priority vaccination”.

There are worries Delta Plus would inflict another wave of infections on India after it emerged from the world’s worst surge in cases only recently.

“The mutation itself may not lead to a third wave in India – that also depends on COVID-appropriate behaviour, but it could be one of the reasons,” said Tarun Bhatnagar, a scientist with the state-run Indian Council of Medical Research.



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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EU citizens in UK to be given 28 days to apply for settled status | Brexit News

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People who miss the June 30 settlement scheme deadline will be issued warnings to apply or risk losing their rights.

European Union citizens living in the United Kingdom will be given a 28-day warning to apply for post-Brexit settled status or face losing some of their rights from next month, the government said on Tuesday.

The UK’s so-called settlement scheme for EU and European Economic Area (EEA) citizens, which opened in early 2019, closes on June 30.

It allows Europeans in the UK to retain the same residence, travel, employment and healthcare rights they had before Brexit.

The rules around the UK’s departure from the bloc, which came into force at the beginning of this year, ended the reciprocal freedom of movement.

About 5.6 million people and their dependents have applied for settled status under the scheme since it was introduced.

But about 400,000 cases still require processing, while many are rushing to submit their applications before next week’s deadline.

At the same time, messaging and outreach campaigns are targeting those who may not be aware of the need to apply by next week’s deadline.

Immigration minister Kevin Foster said anyone whose application was not filed by the deadline would not see their rights immediately withdrawn, as they were protected by law.

But he also ruled out extending the June 30 cutoff point.

“Put simply, extending the deadline is not the solution to reaching those people who have not yet applied, and we would just be in a position further down the line where we would be asked to extend again, creating more uncertainties,” Foster told members of a parliamentary committee.

He added that immigration enforcement officials would instead begin issuing 28-day notices to those yet to apply.

The UK’s Home Office, which oversees immigration, said that applications may also be submitted past the 28-day notice period in some cases.

“We’ll set up the support available and we’ll signpost people to make an application, but we do recognise that there may be some people who, after that 28 days, still haven’t been able to make an application,” a Home Office spokesman said, according to The Guardian newspaper.

“I think we would want to work with them to understand why that is the case, and then support them again to make the application.”

Foster said those who had missed the deadline on reasonable grounds will still be able to apply, citing exceptions such as children whose parents had failed to apply on their behalf, or individuals with a serious illness that had prevented them from filing their paperwork.

The government will also issue a “certificate of application” for those awaiting a decision, he added, which will act as proof of their right to work, rent property, obtain benefits and use the National Health Service.



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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Distribution of Mosquito Nets to Markets Traders Commences

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Government has on Wednesday started distributing mosquito nets to traders; starting with the Nakasero market.

The exercise was kick-started with 2000 mosquito nets from Quality Chemicals Limited (QCL).

During his last address to the nation on Friday 18th June 2021, President Yoweri Museveni announced a 42-day lockdown directive, and all food market vendors were asked to stay at their places of work to avoid spreading the disease.

“Food market vendors should revert to the Presidential Directive of March 2020 to stay in their places of work,” he said.

President Museveni also said that the food market vendors were to be provided with mosquito nets and polythene sheets for their protection.

Handing over the donation, Mr. Emmanuel Katongole, a director at Quality Chemicals Limited applauded the market vendors for the sacrifice made when they fled their homes to sleep at workplaces to earn a living for their families and provide food to our communities.

“It is therefore important to us to ensure that they are protected from the harmful mosquitoes that linger in the night. We have donated 2000 mosquito nets to the Ministry of Health who will supply them to the market vendors,” he said

Adding, “I applaud the president and the Ministry of Health for their role in the fight against covid-19. As Quality Chemicals, we decided to contribute towards government efforts in the fight against malaria.”

Upon receipt of the donation on behalf of the Ministry of Health, Dr. Diana Atwine, the Permanent Secretary applauded quality chemicals for a helping hand.

“The women who sleep in the market are about 5000 according to the number that was given to us by Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA). The ministry has also brought 3000 nets to ensure that the population is covered. The nets are to protect them from mosquito bites while you’re asleep,” she said.

She asked them to follow the Standard Operating Procedures to avoid the further spread of Covid-19.

The post Distribution of Mosquito Nets to Markets Traders Commences first appeared on ChimpReports.



Source – chimpreports.com

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