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Blinken raises US concerns with China about Xinjiang, Hong Kong | Coronavirus pandemic News

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‘Genocide and crimes against humanity’, erosion of ‘democratic norms’ cited by Washington in call with Beijing.

United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a phone call with China’s top diplomat again voiced US concerns about the “ongoing genocide and ethnic cleansing” against Muslim Uigurs in China’s far western region of Xinjiang and “the deterioration of democratic norms” under China’s rule in Hong Kong.

Secretary Blinken spoke on Friday with Yang Jiechi, the Chinese Communist Party’s top foreign affairs officer, to discuss a range of thorny issues confronting the two major powers including North Korea’s nuclear programme, a State Department spokesman said.

Blinken’s comments to Yang follows the release on June 10 of a report by Amnesty International showing Xinjiang has become a “dystopian hellscape” where Uighurs and other predominantly Muslim ethnic minorities face systematic and state-organised “mass internment and torture amounting to crimes against humanity”.

Blinken’s conversation with Yang further comes as challenges posed by China figure in discussions now under way among leaders of the Group of Seven industrialised democracies in the United Kingdom and attended by President Joe Biden.

China has cracked down on pro-democracy advocates in Hong Kong, a former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997 under an agreed principle of “One China, Two Systems” that was to have allowed continuing democratic freedoms in Hong Kong.

In addition to “the need for the United States and the PRC to work together for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” Blinken and Yang discussed other “shared global challenges” including Iran, Myanmar and the climate crisis, State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.

Blinken called for more “cooperation and transparency” from Chinese authorities in the World Health Organization’s continuing inquiries into the origin of the COVID-19 virus.

On the call, Yang expressed to Blinken Beijing’s serious concern that some people in the US were spreading the “absurd story” about the coronavirus escaping from a Wuhan laboratory, Chinese state media said.

Beijing firmly opposed what Yang called “abominable actions” over the pandemic, which he said were being used to slander China, state broadcaster CCTV said, according to the Reuters news service.

The US’s top diplomat called on Beijing to “cease its pressure campaign against Taiwan and peacefully resolve cross-Strait issues”, Price said. Yang told Blinken that Washington should handle Taiwan-related issues “carefully and appropriately,” CCTV reported.

Washington should work with Beijing to put ties “back on track,” Yang said, according to CCTV.

The US and China have been engaged in an increasingly tense diplomatic exchange since Blinken and Yang met face-to-face in Alaska in March. At the time, the US expressed “deep concerns” about actions by China, and China pushed back as “firmly opposed to US interference in China’s internal affairs”.

Bonnie Glaser, an Asia expert at the German Marshall Fund think-tank, told Reuters that although the agenda included potential areas of cooperation, the conversation appeared dominated by contentious issues.

She said Yang’s call for Washington to work with Beijing to put ties “back on track” indicated that China was still putting the onus on the US for the problems in the relationship.

Notwithstanding the diplomatic tensions, China’s largest ride-hailing company, Didi Chuxing, filed on Thursday for an initial public offering of stock on US financial markets in what is expected to be the world’s biggest IPO this year, Reuters reported.

The company is backed by Asia’s largest technology investment firms – SoftBank, Alibaba and Tencent. Sources familiar with the matter told Reuters that it could raise around $10bn and seek a valuation of close to $100bn.

At that valuation, Didi’s listing would be the biggest Chinese share offering in the US since Alibaba raised $25bn in 2014.



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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